It’s been a challenge to get all the bits of the AC current monitor ready, but the last hurdle has now been taken.
In a nutshell: the AC current monitor is a small unit based on a JeeNode Micro, which periodically broadcasts information about the current consumption of an attached appliance. It’s hooked up to 230V, so it’d be a bit silly to run it off batteries. It would be equally silly if it were to draw lots of power, and since it has to be permanently on, I wanted to get its power consumption really, really low – under 0.1 Watt. That goal has now been reached.
According to this calculator, the following setup draws only 12 mW @ 230V and will supply 0.3 mA @ 3.3V:
Here is the schematic:
It’s a transformer-less capacitive power supply, combined with an LT1121 low-power 3.3V linear regulator. C4 can be omitted. This regulator has a shutdown pin, which is tied to the input voltage via a voltage divider. As a result, the output of this supply switches on only once the 100 µF reservoir capacitor has charged up to 6V (it’ll continue charging to 12V, at which point the zener diode kicks in). Here is the power-up behavior w/o D2, and no load:
The blue line is the voltage over the reservoir cap, and the yellow line is the regulated output. If you look very closely, you can even see the 50 Hz cycles “pumping up” the reservoir once every 20 milliseconds.
By itself, this isn’t good enough yet to drive my test JeeNode (no bootstrap, brief wakeup activity every 10s):
Very odd behavior, as the regulator and the RFM12B start pulling more current than is coming in, preventing the output from ever reaching more than 1.8 V (I used a 470 µF reservoir cap in this test).
The final trick was to add a diode from the regulator output to the shutdown pin. This positive feedback causes the regulator to very quickly snap out of shutdown mode. So once the reservoir cap reaches about 6V, the regulator switches on, at which point the shutdown pin is quickly pulled high to finish the job and keep it on:
This is running from 150 VAC using the new AC power box. At lower voltages, the trickle current becomes too weak to reliably turn on. At 230V, on the other hand, the whole startup process is even quicker and very robust.
I have not yet been able to measure the power draw of this supply. Due to its design it will always draw the same amount (predicted to be 12 mW), regardless of load. The feed capacitor (C1) is a 10 nF X2 type.
Here’s the final proof – a JeeNode, powering up in a few seconds and sending out a test packet every 10 seconds:
Many thanks to martynj – his weblog comments and great suggestions by email made this result possible.
Good – now I can sprinkle dozens of these around the house and still use no more than one Watt extra!