When searching for the ideal energy source for any system you need to power, you have two main options: linear vs switching power supplies.
Each has its own unique advantages and disadvantages that are important to consider when choosing the best power supply for your needs. But, this decision can get overwhelming - particularly for those who aren’t the most power supply savvy. Fortunately, we are - and we’re here to unpack everything you need to know.
In this article, we will explore the topic of switching vs linear power supply to help you find an answer to the question: which is better linear or switching power supply? First, we need to explain what each of these is before comparing and contrasting them against each other.
What’s the Difference Between a Linear vs Switching Power Supply?
So what’s the difference between a linear vs switching power supply?
When looking to power your devices, linear and switching are the two main types of power supplies available. Both work by converting AC or DC mains electricity into a low-voltage form that those gadgets can use; however, their efficiency, cost, size, and performance vary drastically.
But before we expand on this topic, what’s the difference between AC and DC power anyway? And is household electricity AC or DC? AC and DC power differ in their direction of current flow. In Alternate Current, the charge continuously changes its path, whereas with Direct Current it moves only one way.
The frequency of household AC electricity typically varies depending on the nation - 50 Hz or 60 Hz being most common across many countries. This form is preferred due to its capacity to be easily changed into higher or lower voltage via a transformer.
For electronics, DC power is much more popular due to its predictable voltage levels and ease of control. AC power is normally necessary for transforming DC energy from batteries or other sources into usable electricity initially.
With all that said, let’s now take a look at each of these two power supplies to uncover the right choice for your home.
What is a Linear Power Supply and How Does it Work?
Linear power supplies have been around for some time. They use a transformer to decrease the input voltage until it reaches the preferred level and then smooth out any extra energy by using a series-pass transistor that dissipates this excess in heat form.
Voltage regulation within these linear types of power is attained by modifying the resistance of the particular transistors, so as to keep an even voltage across itself at all times.
Linear power supplies offer benefits such as low output ripple and noise levels that make them the perfect choice for high-precision applications which require minimal sound.
Nevertheless, their efficiency is lower than switching power supplies since they dissipate surplus energy in form of heat. This can lead to bulky and heavier units - an issue when space must be maintained at a minimum.
What is a Switching Power Supply and How Does it Work?
Unlike linear power supplies, which simply dissipate any excess energy as heat to regulate the output voltage, switching power supplies employ a different method.
This approach utilizes a high-frequency switch circuit that modulates the input voltage on and off at an incredibly rapid rate in order to generate your desired level of output voltage.
And with this technology comes tremendous power supply efficiency gains - since they don't waste extra electricity by converting it into thermal energy like their linear counterparts do. Switching power supplies are truly revolutionary devices that can help cut manufacturing costs while providing superior performance.
Switching power supplies are ideal for applications where there is limited space because they are smaller and lighter than linear power supplies. Plus, their higher efficiency means that producing them can be more cost-effective in the long run.
On the other hand, switching power supplies tend to generate more noise and ripple in their output voltage than linear power supplies. This poses an issue for applications that necessitate high precision or low noise.
Moreover, these types of power supplies usually require additional components and can be relatively difficult to set up for beginners.
Which is Better Linear or Switching Power Supply?
So which is better linear or switching power supply? When it comes to recognizing the best power supply for your specific application, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Choosing between a linear or switching power supply can be tricky due to the advantages and disadvantages of each type of device - meaning that you must consider all factors before determining which option will yield optimal performance.
Pros and Cons of Linear Power Supplies
Linear power supplies can be a good option for certain applications, offering several benefits and drawbacks to consider:
- Low output ripple and noise, making them well-suited for applications that need high precision and low noise.
- A straightforward design with fewer components leads to more reliability and simpler repair.
- Lower price tag for lower power requirements.
- May not be as efficient as switching power supplies, resulting in more heat generation and bigger size.
- Limited power output, making them unsuitable for higher power needs.
- Power supply voltage regulation may not be as precise, necessitating larger and pricier components.
Pros and Cons of Switching Power Supplies
Now let’s take a look at the pros and cons of switching power supplies:
- Higher efficiency, resulting in less heat dissipation and smaller size.
- Higher power output, making them suitable as high-voltage power supplies for larger applications
- Lower cost for high-power applications.
- Can introduce more noise and ripple into the output voltage than linear power supplies.
- Higher cost for low-power applications.
When Should You Use a Switching Power Supply vs Linear Power Supply?
When it comes to high-power applications that call for both efficiency, compactness, and affordability, switching power supplies are typically the superior choice. Such applications range from computers to consumer electronics and telecommunications equipment.
Linear power supplies are the optimal choice for low-power needs where you want minimal noise, the utmost precision, and a convenient layout. These types of applications include audio systems, medical equipment measurements, and test instruments.
So, Which is Better: Switching vs Linear Power Supply?
So when comparing switching vs linear power supply, which is better?
Overall, switching power supplies are generally the better choice for most applications due to their higher efficiency, smaller size, and lower cost for high-power applications.
However, for low-power applications that require low noise and high precision, a linear power supply may be the better choice.
It is important to note that regardless of the type of power supply used, proper power supply sizing and selection are critical to ensuring proper operation and avoiding bad power supply symptoms.
Additionally, it is important to understand UL listed vs UL recognized power supplies to ensure safety and compliance with regulations.
Other factors to consider when choosing a power supply include open frame vs enclosed power supply and class 2 vs class II power supply. These all play a role in the final choice of power supply and should be taken into consideration before making a purchase.
Get Efficient, Long-Lasting Switching Power Supplies at Bravo Electro!
Now that we've discussed linear vs switching power supply in detail, you can confidently make the right choice for your specific application.
Bravo Electro is your trusted source for high-quality and efficient AC DC power supply. We partner with only the best of the best manufacturers and staff on-site engineers to provide a streamlined shopping experience.
Why Shop With Us?
At Bravo Electro, you'll get the quality and reliability you need for all your power supply needs. Our salespeople are experts and can help you find exactly what you need. Even if you have no idea what type of power supply you need, we can help.
We offer competitive pricing and fast delivery for domestic orders, plus all of our products are certified and come with a manufacturer's warranty.
It's all part of our top-rated customer service experience designed to make your shopping experience easy and enjoyable. The better question is why wait?
A Few Different Types of Power Supplies We Carry
At Bravo Electro, we carry a variety of different power supplies for all your needs.
Whether you are looking for an enclosed power supply, open frame power supply, DIN rail power supply, or LED driver power supply, we have it all. Other companies simply lack the selection that we have. And the quality of our power supplies can’t be matched.
Parting Thoughts on the Linear vs Switching Power Supply Conversation
With today's technology, both linear and switching power supplies come with their own unique set of advantages and disadvantages.
When considering which type of power supply to use for your specific application, there are many factors to take into consideration such as power requirements, noise level, size, and cost.
Overall, switching power supplies are usually the better choice for most applications due to their higher efficiency, smaller size, and lower cost.
We understand that choosing the right power supply can be a tricky task. That's why we carry a variety of 12V power supplies, 24V power supply, and even 48V power supply to suit your needs
And as we said earlier, our salespeople and engineers are always available to answer any questions you might have and provide expert advice so you get a reliable and quality product for your project.
We also have insightful guides on topics like bad power supply symptoms and explaining what exactly a modular power supply is.
So don't wait - shop with us at Bravo Electro today for all your power supply needs!