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Voltage regulators are designed to maintain and stabilise voltage levels. Regulators are found in most electronic devices, and can be used to step-down and control voltage outputs from a high voltage source, dissipating excess energy as heat. This is great for applications where you need multiple discrete voltages for different devices, as you can use voltage regulators to step-down from a single higher output source!
This is the TO-220 version which means if fits perfectly into breadboards and is great for projects. This voltage regulators also features internal current limiting, thermal shut-down protection and a nice clean 4% regulation. It has a voltage drop of ~2V, which means the input voltage must typically remain 2V above the output voltage (5V), so you'll need to provide at least 7V's to obtain a clean output.
A common ground is required between the input and the output voltages, and if the regulator is situated more than 25cm (10 inches) away from the power supply you'll need to add capacitors to the input (0.33uf) and output (0.10uf) to filter noise on the line. Both these capacitors can be omitted if you aren't too concerned with how much line noise there is e.g. if you're adding a few LEDs with resistors. However, if you're building something like a mobile phone charger, you'll want a nice clean line so we would recommend including the capacitors!
Please be aware, the higher your input voltage and required output current, the more heat your regulator will generate. You can use the regulator's datasheet, and this online calculator to work out if you need heat-sinking. However, as a rule of thumb, the higher the voltage input, the more likely you will need to use heatsinking, and if it feels too hot, it probably is too hot! We stock clip-on TO-220 heat sinks here!