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That means I will have a 5 Volt, up to 40 milliamp output signal to switch the 12 Volt, up to 5 Amp power supply line to the device. [...]Another idea was to use an automotive relay, [...] the control signal needs to be 12 Volt, and 150 milliamps, neither of which the Arduino can put out. So I thought of using a transistor to switch the lights and other devices. But I guess I would need an optoisolator to protect the Arduino. And I cannot find any circuits to do quite what I need. That is, use a 5 Volt, 40 milliamp on/off signal to switch a 12 Volt, 5 Amp power supply line. Any advice on how best to approach this? Particularly, any transistors you can recommend that will do the job?
Don't know if it helps (or the quality of them), but a couple of days ago, I spotted some sockets for automotive relay - a wire ended socket and one for PCB mounting.
You will have to keep them somewhere out of the weather though
Here's another alternative:[...]They have these boards in 2, 4 and 8-relay configurations. They can switch up to 10 Amps, and up to 30 Volts DC. You can hook them directly up to an Arduino output pin.
The coil in each relay uses about 380 milliwatts to keep the relay closed. I think that is pretty comparable to the power dissipated by a power MOSFET. But I am not sure.
Very clever product.
I need to switch 16 lights or other devices, so I'm going to use 4 different approaches. Then I can compare them.