Today, you are looking for solar powered portable chargers for your cell phone. Back in the mid-1980s when the first cellular phones were developed, the largest phone company at the time, AT&T, made the fateful decision to not invest in this new unproven technology.
Its fears were rooted in the short-sighted belief that the cost of producing the bulky and inefficient batteries and other components, the difficulty with maintain coverage, and overall operating costs were simply too burdensome to ensure profits were made.
Fast-forward to today and we can see that reality is very different than what AT&T had envisioned.
Cellular phones and WI-FI connections are everywhere and have never been cheaper to produce or operate, even in the most remote corners of the world.
The exact same debate is taking place now with regard to solar energy. The same arguments are being used now: the technology is too expensive and too inefficient, that operating costs cannot be lowered to ensure profits are made, that government subsidies are the only way to ensure health in the industry.
They too are wrong for solar energy will become as ubiquitous as cell phones have become.
Solar energy is the base for almost all of nature’s processes including human life. It provides us with abundant, clean, freely accessible energy now and into the following millions of years. The complete exploitation of solar energy is a necessary step towards sustainable energy supply and to protect our planet and its health for the following generations.
Unlike fossil sources, sustainable solar energy is a long-term solution catering to the planet’s energy needs due to its constant presence in nature. Every year the Sun provides as much energy to the Earth that we would get by burning 60 billion tons of petroleum.
If we only utilized 1% of it with a mere 5% efficiency, every person on Earth would have access to as much energy as citizens of the developed countries. It’s time for you to collaborate with the Sun.
Why choose a solar-powered portable charger?
Solar power can be used in different ways especially in households. You can use it for lighting, cooking, heating the house, and many others. Every solar system has solar panels that collect sunlight and converts the energy of the sun into electricity. If you have many gadgets at home (as I have), you can use electricity to charge them or they can be stored for later.
Imagine, camping with RV can be a lot more fun if you have a solar charger with you. Solar power is no longer limited to homes, offices, and other bog establishments.
Walking around the city park will be a healthy and useful activity because it is already possible to carry solar power anywhere you go. Solar power is clean and renewable so you can stay out as long as you like without worrying about energy consumption.
You can also find lightweight and portable units that generate solar power. There are flexible panels that can be carried to your work and you will just spread them on the ground where there is direct sunlight.
The generated power is enough to charge any laptop. Special backpacks collect the sun’s energy and convert them into electricity which can be used to recharge your iPod, camera, and cellular phone.
Choosing the right solar-powered portable charger for your device
Solar chargers for mobile phones are simple. They support USB 5-volt output from the solar panel or the power bank (built-in or plug-in your own), at 1 amp (5 watts) or 2 amps (10 watts). This works because almost all new phones can be charged from a USB port.
Solar chargers for laptops are more complicated. A laptop draws 10 to 20 watts or more (the supplied battery will be rated at a higher wattage, so don’t use that as your laptop’s power rating), at voltages ranging from 12 to 19 volts. Current solar products for laptops are well developed – you don’t need to mix and match your own solution.
Solar Power Configurations
There are many system configurations to choose from.
Sun —> Solar Panel —> Laptop
This is what most people will have in mind when they think of a solar charger. While such a system can work, the solar panel will have to be powerful enough to power the laptop directly and have the correct output voltage (and electrical connector – plug or tip).
Many solar panels output voltage that is unregulated, that changes depending on the brightness of the sunlight. If you do choose this configuration, check the solar panel’s output voltage, and that it is regulated.
Sun —> Solar Panel —> Solar Battery —> Laptop
Electrical power from the solar panel is weak and varies depending on how much sunlight the panel gets (depending on the time of day and the cloud cover). The solar battery stores or concentrates the electricity from the solar panel over the course of the day, so that it can push out the stored energy at high power when you need to charge your laptop.
The solar battery’s output will need to match the laptop’s input voltage (and have the correct electrical connector – plug or tip – to fit your laptop).
A “solar” battery is a normal rechargeable battery, we’ll call it a solar battery to differentiate it from other batteries.
Sun —> Solar Panel —-> Solar Battery —> Inverter —> Battery —> Laptop
If your laptop’s input voltage is not the same as the solar battery’s output voltage (usually 12 volts), you’re going to need an inverter to convert to AC volts, then plug in your laptop’s AC power brick.
This isn’t ideal because the extra equipment eats up some power and adds weight, but often you don’t have a choice. This is the most flexible configuration, useful when you need to power more than one type of laptop. This is not a system you’ll want to carry in your backpack every day but does make sense on a vehicle or a rural outpost.
Portable solar panels are typically the size of a DVD cover or a sheet of paper when folded. They contain 2 to 4 panels that fold out to cover a larger area. There are built-in solar batteries as well. They are often paired with the manufacturer’s own solar battery but as they have a 12 to 15-volt output, you can use most lithium-ion batteries. Rated power ranges from 4 to 24 watts and higher.
If your laptop draws 20 watts, a 10-watt solar panel should theoretically be able to charge the solar battery for 1 hour of laptop use for every 2 hours of sunshine. Actually, you won’t always get 10 watts from the solar panel, and there will be some power loss when charging the laptop’s battery. A margin of 50% should be safe – 1 hour of laptop use for every 3 hours of sunshine in the example above.
With the rapid development in green technology and the rate at which solar panels have become more efficient, we’re able to do quite a lot of things we weren’t previously capable of.
But there are quite a few in the market so let me take a look at five of the popular ones.
Anker 24W 3-Port USB Solar-Powered Portable Charger
Not the smallest option but they’re definitely one of the best options for people who are interested in hanging out in relatively extreme environments. The materials used as well as the design make them durable, reliable, and user-friendly at the same time.
When it comes to power banks, Anker’s are considered one of the best on the market. You simply need to find and ask the right people, most people who play Fortnite on their mobile phones have had the issue of their smartphones and tablets not having enough battery life to keep up with all their activities. Anker’s product is the first choice.
- This portable solar charger gives up to a 12W charge to your phone, tablet, or GoPro
- This charger provides a smoother charging experience as it automatically resumes charging if the weather conditions change
- Flexible with built-in CIGS technology that is a type of thin-film solar material that offers durability
- You can charge 3 mobile devices at the same time
AUKEY’s 21W Dual-Port Solar Powered Portable Charger
Relatively small in size, AUKEY’s power bank provides a unique solution to the issue of not being able to use solar chargers while the Sun is out, it simply comes with an internal battery that can be charged directly via the solar cells.
This allows travelers to make full use of the sunlight, being able to charge their devices while also storing power for use through the night.
- The high solar conversion efficiency of up to 23.5% provides fast charging speed
- Dual USB ports that automatically detect and adapt to your USB powered devices
- PET laminated solar panels with strong PVC fabric for harsh weather condition
XDragon Port USB Solar Powered Portable Wireless Charger
The X-Dragon 20W solar powered foldable charger proved to be the most effective one in our review.
In good conditions, solar cells can generate enough juice to charge cellphones and iPad at the same time. This charger has a high-efficiency power conversion rate with solarIQ technology as it can automatically adjust the current and voltage to achieve maximum power. The power conversion rate increases up to 22-25%.
As for the design, there won’t be much difference between most of the solar charger products on the market.
- The efficiency of solar panels are up to 23.5%
- SolarIQ technology delivers the fastest charge up to 2amps per port or 3 amps overall under direct sunlight
- Dual USB ports
BigBlue’s 3 USB Ports 28W Solar Powered Portable Charger – Upgraded
It’s easy to be folded to the size of a magazine, can be put in your bag, as a portable direct power to carry. There are 4 buckles attached for putting on camp or hang tightly on your backpack, tent, or even a tree.
At 28W with three USB charging ports, it’s probably the best value for the price (within this product category). It’s worth noting that this product is NOT 100% waterproof. The weatherproof sleeve over the solar cells is what keeps the functioning components from making contact with water.
- 3 USB ports with smart charging technology (it can provide optimal charging speed vary with different devices)
- Highly efficient solar cells convert up to 21.5-23.5%
- PET cover protects the device from rain and fog
- All the ports are covered by a rubber cover to protect them from dust or water damage
Dualpow Portable Solar Powered Portable Charger With Power Bank
Small in size with a built-in battery, it’s recommended to charge these directly through a charger before leaving your home, the solar panels and their ability to charge the battery should only be used as a last resort.
Similar to other products with this design, it’ll work as a perfectly fine power bank but if you’re looking for a solar charger then you may end up disappointed, although the solar panels work perfectly fine and will charge the battery while out in the sun, though you shouldn’t expect it to be fully charged within an hour or two.
- High capacity built-in 30000mAh battery
- Dual USB charging ports allow you to charge 2 devices simultaneously
- A flashlight and a hook applied to the device
Anker’s Solar Charger vs. The Solar Charged Power Banks
When it comes to performance and the ability to charge your phone with sunlight alone, Anker’s solar chargers are some of the best on the market, they have one drawback in that they are unable to store power that is produced.
On the other hand, most of these small solar power banks will still function perfectly as power banks while also letting you use them as really slow solar chargers.
This isn’t because the solar cells are of bad quality or anything, it’s simply because of their size, Anker’s solar cells are several times larger than most of the smaller products on the market and therefore they can make several times more power comparatively.
You can use Anker’s solar powered portable charger to charge a traditional power bank and it’ll be much more effective than buying a solar power bank, although it’ll be a hassle, if you’re going for a trip outdoors and space is an issue, then the smaller ones will do you just fine. The batteries can always be used as an ignition source in cases of emergency and most of them have built-in torches