On my desktop there is an image that says,
This is one of those old quotes I think we can all relate to in our own unique way. From the domestic daddy (such as myself) to the corporate exec, life is accomplished in a series of little steps.
For someone who is passionate about solar power, this simple truth is incredible! Just think about it. Every single solar panel produced and mounted in the sun somewhere, is taking a small bite out of fossil fuels.
To quote another old saying, using solar panels is ‘death by a thousand cuts’ to something that is hurting the ecosystem we call home.
Knowing this, for someone like me who spends countless hours on a laptop every day, wouldn’t I being doing something notable if I were to charge my laptop with solar power?
In my particular situation, our home is off-grid, so I already am powering my laptop by solar. But what about those who haven’t made the move to solar? Is there a way to invest small and start taking those small steps to a big difference?
To know the answer to this, one must first look at the numbers.
How Much Power Does A Laptop Use?
Solar panels are rated for the power they produce over the course of an hour. So for the sake of simplicity, we are going to look at how much power it would take to completely charge the battery of a laptop in one hour.
To be clear, this is not a totally accurate assessment as it does not factor in variables such as power demands according to the individual user or imperfect solar charging conditions. This is merely an example meant to illustrate the relationship between your laptop and solar panels.
# Variables #
- Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 as chosen by PC Mag as the Best Business Laptop Overall 2022.
- The battery in this laptop is rated at 57Wh.
Watt hours (Wh) can be thought of as unit of measurement for the electrical field of science. For example, my LED bulbs that light my bedroom are rated at 8 watts a piece. If I ran 1 bulb for 1 hour, then I would need 8Wh of electricity.
If, however, my light fixture had 3 of these 8 watt bulbs, then I would need 24Wh of electricity – as there are 3 bulbs each consuming 8watts a piece.
(For more on this please read, ‘How to build a solar powered house’)
Considering that we know the battery for this laptop is rated at 57Wh, then we can assume that in order to fully charge this battery we must have a solar panel that is rated to produce at least 57 watts over the course of an hour.
One solar panel package found on Amazon that advertises such performance is the Jackery SolarSaga 60W.
According to the company, this type of setup, operating in ideal sunlight conditions, would be able to completely charge your laptop in one hour.
Theory Vs. Practice
In order to not oversell the capabilities of solar, I feel it is prudent to add a well-earned dose of reality.
My family and I have been living on off-grid solar power since 2015. And I can tell you, the sun does not always offer ‘ideal’ conditions. Some days it rains, some days it snows and some days it’s just too cloudy.
This is no fault of the manufacturer, it’s just the way things go.
So if you are considering using solar to power your laptop please keep this in mind and plan accordingly. There are two things you can do to ensure that you have adequate power to finish your work/play endeavor.
- Go BIG – Remember, the battery in the mentioned laptop is rated at 57Wh. There is no reason that a larger solar panel, with the proper charger, couldn’t provide the power you need.
In other words, instead of using an array rated at 60Wh, try one rated at 100Wh or even higher. So long as the charger bring things down to the appropriate charging level, having extra power generation capacity will only help you.
- Energy storage – Having some sort of external battery to go along with your panels really takes things to a whole different level of usability.
Battery packages can store energy generated by your panels, quite often allowing you to ‘quick charge’ your laptop without having to connect directly to the panels. This allows you to set the panels in their ideal location, while you work on your laptop somewhere else.
Is It Worth It?
This question can really only be answered by you and your definition of worth.
If your goals are strictly financial, then buying a separate solar power package simply to charge your laptop doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
In Hawaii, where electricity is more expensive, the price was (at the time of this writing) $0.38 for 1kWh (1000Wh). This means you could charge the above laptop about 17 times for $0.38. It would be very difficult to recoup the costs of a $200 solar package when competing against pricing like this.
However, $200 on a $1500 laptop for work might be more appealing if you know that you can get your business done, regardless whether the utilities are available or not.
For people in mobile and demanding vocations, going solar could be well worth it.
*** Disclosure ***
I am not employed by any of the companies represented above. Nor can I speak for the performance (good or bad) of any of the above mentioned products. Their inclusion in the article was simply by chance.