Whether you’re an avid backpacker, a camping socialite or just someone who wants to help the environment in every possible way, the world of portable solar has a solar phone charger for you. And this is obvious by the plethora of solar chargers available on the market.
But with so many options out there, how does one know which one to buy? Are all solar phone chargers essentially the same or are some of them more gimmick than function?
No one likes to pay money for something that does not perform – and this applies to going too cheap and not getting enough function or paying too much for options that you latter learn really don’t matter for your specific situation.
When choosing a solar phone charger there are three main characteristics that should be identified:
- Energy storage
- Energy production
If you can stay focused on these three things, then the best choice for your charging needs should present itself.
Solar Phone Charger: Device Compatibility
A solar phone charger that is not compatible with your specific mobile device is essentially a very snazzy waste of money.
For this reason it is imperative that you know your specific device can be charged by the solar charger in question.
Fortunately, when it comes to smaller devices such as smart phones and tablets, USB ports are generally an option for connecting to your solar phone charger. Power demand for these types of devices are typically low and is easier to establish charging than say a laptop with a plug.
However, it should not be assumed that just because your mobile device has a USB plug that a successful power transfer will occur. Always check to see if your specific device is compatible with the solar phone charger.
Solar Phone Charger: Energy Storage
As you shop for your solar phone charger, you will undoubtedly encounter ones with their own internal battery. There is good reason for this.
While most people understand that solar panels can provide energy from the sun, there is very little understanding between the actual relationship of power production and panel size/capacity. Part of this is due to the phenomenal rate of change in solar technology and some of it to the lack of practical experience.
Regardless, most people would find it surprising just how little energy their solar phone charger produces when compared to a home electric outlet.
For this reason, designers will often include an internal battery in an attempt to bridge the gap between what might be an unrealistic expectation and the real world need for performance.
In practical terms, this means that your ‘unplugged adventure’ can begin with a fully charged solar phone charger (topped off ahead of time with a plug) and then have the included solar panels extend charge capacity even further as they pull power from the sun.
Solar Phone Charger: Energy Production
As discussed in the article, ‘Do Solar Chargers Work Through Windows?,’ just because a solar phone charger has a lot of good reviews, this does not automatically translate to a device that meets your needs.
So while I always recommend looking at what other buyers are saying, in this environment where there is a very real lack of experience on the part of solar power, I would not recommend prioritizing reviews over specs.
Case in point, there is a very large market for solar phone chargers that have only one small solar panel included. As someone who lives on off-grid solar, it is my opinion that power production from this singular small panel will be anemic at best.
Please understand, there are many variables that must be ‘just right’ for solar panels to perform at optimum. So while I recognize the appeal of a small self-contained unit, you will most likely be better served to purchase as much panel capacity as your budget allows.
Otherwise, you risk the very real possibility of being out of power before you’re out of vacation time. In this case, the idiom, ‘go big or go home’ completely applies.
Solar phone chargers are, quite frankly, an awesome inclusion in any unplugged adventure. Between their capacity for energy storage and energy production, the power requirements of your hand-held can usually be met multiple times – eliminating the need for an onsite power plug.
If careful consideration for solar panel size, placement and exposure time is given, you should be able to enjoy some of the home-style conveniences you are accustomed to, while being far away from a world that is plugged in.