Home » Assorted Circuits » How to Calculate Transformerless Power Supplies

Have a Question?

Please feel free to ask any circuit related question and get a quick solution from me.

How to Calculate Transformerless Power Supplies

We all know how Ohm’s law works and how to use it for finding the unknown parameter when the other two are known. However, with a capacitive type of power supply having peculiar features and with LEDs connected to it, calculating current, voltage drop and LED resistor becomes a bit confusing.

How to Calculate and Deduce Current, Voltage Parameters in Transformerless Power Supplies.

After carefully studying the relevant patterns, I devised a simple and effective way of solving the above issues, especially when the power supply used is a transformerless one or incorporates PPC capacitors or reactance for controlling current.

Typically, a transformerless power supply will produce an output with very low values but with voltages equal to the applied AC mains (until it’s loaded).

For example, a 1 µF, 400 V (breakdown voltage) when connected to a 220 V x 1.4 = 308V (after bridge) mains supply will produce a maximum of 70 mA of current and an initial voltage reading of 308 Volts.

However this voltage will show a very linear drop as the output gets loaded and current is drawn from the “70 mA” reservoir.

Transformerless Power Supply Calculation

We know that if the load consumes the whole 70 mA would mean the voltage dropping to almost zero.

Now since this drop is linear, we can simply divide the initial output voltage with the max current to find the voltage drops that would occur for different magnitudes of load currents.

Therefore dividing 308 volts by 70 mA gives 4.4V. This is the rate at which the voltage will drop for every 1 mA of current added with the load.

That means if the load consumes 20 mA of current, the drop in voltage will be 20 × 4.4 = 88 volts, so the output now will show a voltage of 308 – 62.8 = 220 volts DC(after bridge).

For example with a 1 watt LED connected directly to this circuit without a resistor would show a voltage equal to forward voltage drop of the LED (3.3V), this is because the LED is sinking almost all the current available from the capacitor. However the voltage across the LED is not dropping to zero because the forward voltage is maximum specified voltage that can drop across it.


From the above discussion and analysis, it becomes clear that voltage in any power supply unit is immaterial if the current delivering capability of the power supply is “relatively” low.

 For example if we consider an LED, it can withstand 30 to 40 mA current at voltages close to its “forward voltage drop”, however at higher voltages this current can become dangerous for the LED, so it’s all about keeping the maximum current equal to the maximum safe tolerable limit of the load.

While calculating series resistor values with LEDs, instead of using the standard LED formula directly, we can use the above rule first.

That means either we choose a capacitor whose reactance value only allows the maximum tolerable current to the LED, in which case a resistor can be totally avoided.

 If the capacitor value is large with higher current outputs, then probably as discussed above we can incorporate a resistor to reduce the current to tolerable limits.

Example: In the shown diagram, the value of the capacitor produces 70 mA of max. current which is quite high for any LED to withstand. Using the standard LED/resistor formula:

R = (supply voltage VS – LED forward voltage VF) / LED current IL,
= (220 – 1.5)/0.02 = 11K,

Therefore the value of the resistor for controlling one red LED safely would be 11K.
The above theory of How to Calculate and Deduce Current, Voltage Parameters in Transformerless Power Supplies has been assumed and deduced by me, I am not very sure about its feasibility, though


  1. Hello Dada
    If I want To create 5V 500mA output, can I connect 5 250v 225K capacitors in parallel because they have 100ma and 24V output voltage?

    • No you cannot do that, unless the output load operating voltage doesn't match the input mains level, adding caps won't work, rather would become dangerous for the LEDs.

  2. Sir,
    Please explain what type calculation behind "220v X 1.4=308v",why we using and where we get 1.4 here to multiple, any standard or calculation.

    Thanking you,

    kumaran muthu

    • Hi Joni, It will need to be calculated as per the specifications of the load that you intend to connect at the output

      you can use Ohm's law for calculating the parameters

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *