For a project, I made an environmental sensor system, consisting of an Arduino Pro Mini 5V (with ATmega328P microcontroller), a data logger module and three sensors.
To save power between data logs I used several techniques I read about online, including turning off the power to the sensors using a MOSFET (I used the IRLB8721PbF).
Recently, I started reading a bit more about MOSFET's and turning off external devices with Arduino's, and I realized that since my sensors only use about 4mA, I could have used the a I/O pin (set to output) on the Arduino instead.
As I was curious to see if there were any difference in current draw between the two methods, I tested the current draw when using the MOSFET vs when using the I/O pin to turn the sensors on. When using the MOSFET, the current draw increased with 4 mA when the sensors are turned on, corresponding to the sensor draw. However (!) when using the I/O pin the current draw first shortly increased with 6 mA, after which it settled at a 4 mA increase. These differences would suggest that it is more power efficient to use a MOSFET, even with low current draw apllications.
Now my question is (1) why do I see this short spike to 6 mA increase in current draw when using the I/O pin to power on the sensors? (2) And is it more preferable to use a MOSFET even with low current draw applications and why?
Another thing related to this: I recently read that a resistor in series with the gate is necessary when using a MOSFET, however I have been using the MOSFET for my application without a resistor and I have had no problems whatsoever for more than 6 months and counting. (3) Could someone explain why it has been working fine for my application? Does it have something to do with the fact I use the MOSFET to switch a low current draw load? Or does it have something to do with the type of MOSFET I am using (the IRLB8721PbF).
Lot's of questions, I'm kinda new to electronics...
Thanks in advance for taking the time to answer!