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12VDC Plant

One of the things that makes life difficult for the average geek is the quantity of wall-warts one has behind their computer area.  If you’re like me, you’ve got this huge tangle of bricks, connected by an alarming amount of daisy-chained power strips.

The worst part?  Have you actually taken a good hard look at most of those power supplies?  The vast majority of them are standard voltages.  Upon closer inspection, I found that almost 60% of the supplies in my computer area were powering 12VDC.  Another 38% were 5VDC.  The rest were all over the road.

High-output switching power supplies for 12VDC are available at places like RadioShack.  These switching power supplies are like the power supply in your computer: they are rock-solid, efficient supplies.  Wall-warts are notorious for being inefficient (as much as 60% of the power they use is waste heat), and prone to failure.  Additionally, they are consuming some power even if the device you want to power it with is turned off, or even unplugged!  This “phantom load” of wall-warts can be quite substantial.

The best way to get started is to evaluate just how much 12VDC you need.  Take all the wall-warts, and look for a rating on them in mA or A, and add them up.  This is how “big” of a 12V supply you will need to get, measured in amperes (or amps).  mA are “milli-ampereres”, so you’ll need to multiply up or down just like you would to go from milliliteres to liters.

So, you figure out how big of a power supply you need. What I will do then is cut all the wall-warts off the power leads and wire them up to the One Power Supply to Rule Them All. If I’m really bored, I’ll put Anderson PowerPoles on them and use a distribution brick for PowerPoles. Goodbye wall-warts.

At one point I had even wired up my basement with surface-mounted 12VDC outlets (although for this I used “cigarette lighter” style sockets).