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I have a few 12v LED lights that run off cigarette adapters. I wanted to be able to use my 18v drill batteries so I pulled the guts out of an old charger and added a cigarette socket. The lights work fine on 18v and are rated 12v-24v. My question is would adding a regulator to limit the voltage 12v give me longer battery life or just be wasted as heat?

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If you use a switching voltage regulator you will give you about 40% longer battery life.

A linear regulator will not. 30% of the battery energy will be wasted (LEDs may be brighter).

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How much you extend the battery life depends upon the voltage and current draw.
When the battery is fully charged the efficiency is nearly 90% for the chip used in this example circuit. It is important to use a regulator that is tuned to your requirements for maximum efficiency.

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