Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Low power breakthrough

I've made a few battery powered projects since I've started, and the one constant in all of them is that none of them had a power switch. All of them (that had a microcontroller), went to sleep and used either a button interrupt or a timer to wake up again.

I've discovered that all of this time I was missing a crucial power-saving step.

One of the things I'd been doing in setup() was turning off all of the excess peripherals in the PRR - the Power Reduction Register. It turns out, however, that this is insufficient to turn the A/D converter off completely. You also must (first) clear the ADEN bit in ADCSRA. Not doing so wastes around 250 µA. It doesn't sound like a lot, but for the blinky earrings, which are powered by a CR1225, that is enough to kill the battery in about a week rather than allowing it to sit powered off basically for the shelf life of the battery. In the Crazy Clock, it's enough to reduce the (estimated) battery life from 18 months or so down to 3.

So... Before you put an AVR to sleep, clear the ADEN bit in ADCSRA and then set as many bits as you can in PRR.

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