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Release Less Magic Smoke, With a Bulb Limiter

As electronics have moved lower in voltage, it’s perhaps less common to work on live-mains equipment. Thus particularly among younger hardware hackers it sometimes seems as though such work is viewed as so dangerous as to be only for the foolhardy. In practice it remains safe, so long as appropriate precautions are taken and a few pieces of useful safety equipment are present. One of those mains bench essentials is something less common in 2022, a mains current limiter using a set of switched incandescent light bulbs. [Donna LaRocco] shares a modern take on the idea, incorporating a digital mains voltmeter.

The idea is that a mains device under test is connected in series with a light bulb of a suitable wattage to let through enough current to run the device in normal operation, but to light up and bring down the voltage if the device draws too much. It’s an extremely simple but effective tool. Traditionally these are built using household electrical fittings on a board, and this one is no exception. The voltmeter comes from the RV market where voltage drop is an issue, no doubt giving European readers a chance to chuckle with their 230 V outlets.

If mains safety needs your attention, it’s a subject we’ve addressed in the past.