If you’re going to be going on a long trip or a holiday, or if you’re just someone who finds themselves constantly running out of power on their smartphone or laptop, then you might benefit from a solar charger.
A solar charger, as the name suggests, is a device that you can use in order to charge your devices using power from the sun. This means that you can carry back-up power with you for sending texts, getting work done and playing games, and in theory you should never find yourself unable to make a call or find your way around with your GPS.
A solar charger does not however include a battery of its own. That of course means that you will need to find other ways to store the energy that you are collecting, or you will need to use it directly plugged into your device. In this post, we will examine your options in this regard as well.
We’ll look at the best solar chargers and look at how to get the very most from them.
How a Solar Charger Works
So precisely what is a solar charger, how does it work and how can you use one?
Essentially, a solar charger is a device that will act like a powerbank and store charge that it has collected from the sun. It does this using a small solar panel, which in turn uses a process called ‘photovoltaic’. Photovoltaic energy works using light from the sun rather than heat (which we call solar thermal) and generates a current by exciting an arrangement of electrons on the surface of a solar panel.
The electrons area arranged in such a way that they will begin to move when they hit by photons and this movement is what we call a current. This energy will then be converted by an inverter and stored in the lithium ion battery in your smartphone or computer, ready to then be drained again when you plug in your device.
The Best Solar Chargers
Now let’s round up the best solar chargers. These solar charger reviews will help you to find the best chargers for your needs and will help you to know what to look for if you decide to go with another product not on this list.
Solarpod Solar Panel 120W
This solar charger is a powerful and highly compact piece of equipment. It is capable of generating around 300-300wh in a single sunny day, which means you can conceivably charge a smartphone nearly a hundred times!
There’s five meters of cable too, so the solar panel can be kept anywhere around the home and the whole thing looks and feels really nice with a premium metal chassis and a convenient carry handle.
With a device like this, you can save a lot of energy at home, or take it with you for use on trips.
Waterproof 15W Solar Charger
This solar charger is a fairly large and powerful option for those that need to power a phone, laptop or power bank. The charger folds down to become roughly the size of a laptop and then unfurls in order to take up a good amount of space. There’s a cable about a meter long, which is very handy as it means you can be working at the table in the shade while the charger collects sun on the lawn nearby.
What makes this charger so impressive is that it is capable of delivering 15W of power. That’s roughly equivalent to what you might expect to get from a mains supply and it’s also capable of charging multiple devices at the same time. This is pretty impressive as it means you can in theory use your laptop all day, as long as you have access to a window!
And what makes the device all the more impressive is the additional waterproofing, which of course means you don’t need to worry if you should get rained on, or if your device should take an accidental fall into a puddle!
Teryei Portable Power Bank
The last two solar charger reviews we looked at were very much aimed at the more stationary gadget lover. With waterproofing and long cables respectively, these are devices you can leave in your garden and plug into when you’re around the house.
But for truly on-the-go power, this solar charger is perhaps the best choice. This is a pocket-sized device that looks a little like a smartphone and that is designed to be highly rugged and weatherproof. Waterproof and with padded corners, this is a great choice for those that want to charge their phones while trekking, exploring and adventuring. A handy carabiner is perfect for attaching to a belt or keyring and the orange color means you can find it easily if you drop it. Affordable too! Plus it has an impressively large built in power-bank – 15,000mAh
It’s slower and less powerful than the bigger models on this list, but still very impressive.
Sokoo 22W 5V 2-Port USB Portable
This is an great folding solar panel that can be used to charge phones, tablets and a range of other tech. There’s no built-in power bank, but this is something you can easily add separately.
Being a solar-panel only though means it is light and portable and can be folded down to store easily inside a rucksack. It’s also quite durable, being waterproof and offers decent dual charging with a 2-port USB t 22W and 5V.
Voltaic 6W Charger
This is a solar charger that is ideal for hikers with its clasps for attaching to a rucksack. From there, the magazine-sized panel will have exposure to the sun all-day long where it will be able to charge your smartphone or laptop in your bag. The device features a zip-up compartment on the inside designed to store your gadgets while keeping them out of the sun. There’s a V15USB battery and micro-USB cable included.
When choosing a solar charger, there are a number of different factors to take into account.
One, is that you will be likely to want a power bank to go with your battery. In some cases, including one option we covered in our solar charger reviews, you will be able to find a solar charger that comes with a power bring built-in. In other cases though, you will need to buy the power brick separately, which can mean you’re taking up more space and need to find room to store that item.
So, think about the the capacity of your power brick and the speed at which it will charge. This may be written as milliamp hours – which actually has nothing to do with the number of hours that the battery lasts for!
Consider that your typical smartphone will have a battery inside that is about 3,000maH. The very biggest battery you are likely to find in a smartphone is 4,000maH, while the smallest ones might be around 2,500maH.
That means that if you are looking for a solar charger/battery pack combo that will be able to give you a full charge to replenish your smartphone, then you will want something that is able to provide at least that number. The best solar chargers though will give you several full charges for your devices in most cases. If you look into other power packs which work by plugging into the mains outlet, then these will often provide you with 40 or 50K maH, which is enough to get multiple charges on a device or even to power a full laptop in some cases!
Getting solar chargers that are this large is uncommon, but the best solar chargers can give you a few charges or at least one full one.
Note that the bigger capacity, of course that means the bigger the device. Some solar chargers can actually get quite large, which can be counterproductive if the plan is to carry them so that they are always on you and available if you should run out of power unexpectedly.
It may in fact be that for your purposes, you don’t necessarily need a full charge. For instance, if your main concern is that your phone might run out of battery while you are out and about, then it may in fact be that you only need a small top up in those situations to avoid your phone powering down. In turn, that means you can likely make do with just a small solar battery. That way, you can top up your battery when it is running low and get just a couple more hours – which for an average working day will hopefully be enough to get home!
Can you use a solar charger without the battery component? Of course – but in this case, you will need to feed the power straight in. Unless you have a large solar charger that can mimic a mains power outlet, then this will likely mean you need to keep your device off while you’re charging it. That in turn will mean you are getting less use from it.
More Considerations When Choosing Solar Chargers
There are many more things to consider when you choose a solar charger. For instance, you need to consider the length of the cable that you are going to be using. Keep in mind that most of us prepare to use our technology away from sun and away from the elements. Using a laptop in direct sunlight means that you will have to cope with glare on the screen and it means that you will need to cope with dust and wind affecting the keys and affecting the performance of your machine. Technology as a rule doesn’t like to be in direct sun and this can even cause it to overheat!
With a long cable, you can that way sit indoors or under shade, while still keeping the actual solar panel/solar panels in a position where they can absorb direct sunlight. This may come down to whether you intend to use your solar charger from home or not. If you are using the solar charger at home, then you might want to use a long cable so that you can sit at the table and charge outdoors. This can be enough to offset your energy bill and actually save some money! But of course a long cable is less important for those using their chargers as backup, portable power supplies.
Another thing to think about is the number of ports and how many items can be charged at once. If you would like to be able to charge two phones at once for instance, then you will need a powerful enough charger as well as more than one USB port.
If you hope to charge a laptop from your solar charger or power bank, then keep in mind that you are going to need to have the right ports on the laptop itself. In particular, you will need a USB Type-C or ‘thunderbolt’ port. These are ports that can act as USB ports for data transfer but also double as a power source in order to provide your device with power. If your laptop wasn’t made in the last year or two, then chances are it won’t have this port. In that case, the only way you will be able to charge a laptop from solar panel will be with a portable solar generator from the likes of Goal Yeti.
Finally, think about other features. If you want a solar charger to live outside so you can conveniently avoid using mains power, then you’ll need it to be waterproof. If you want your solar charger to fit in your pocket to come on long trips, then you’ll probably need one that is foldable and not too heavy. Consider the likes of power gauge LEDs that will show you when your device is fully charged and how much longer you need to wait etc. If you are interested in finding the best portable solar charger for you check our guide.
How to Make Your Computer or Phone Last Longer
The best solar chargers will help to top you back up when you need it, but better yet is to avoid needing the top up to begin with!
Whether you’re on the go and trying to conserve energy a bit longer, or whether you’re looking into ways that you can save energy while enjoying media at home: using any form of digital entertainment will place a strain on your battery packs unless you are smart about your approach to energy management.
So as well as carrying a solar charger around, what else can you do to get more life from your devices?
Brightness, Color and Contrast
When you want to save energy on your smartphone what do you do? You turn down the brightness of course! Despite this though, it’s not very often that we make the connection and realize that turning down the brightness on our TV sets can also save energy. Tune down the brightness, the color saturation and even the volume and you’ll find that your gaming costs you that much less!
These days ‘second screening’ is a common phenomenon. In other words, we look at more than one screen at once because we’re so wired that it’s not enough for us to simply play a single computer game – we also need to be checking Facebook and playing Angry Birds and generally doing 20 other things at once.
This isn’t just bad for your brain but it also a) means you’re wasting more energy than necessary and b) not enjoying the game as much because you won’t be so fully immersed in what you’re doing.
Don’t Leave it on Pause for Hours
Just as you shouldn’t leave your phone on standby for ages, nor should you leave your game on pause for hours on end. If you’re going to make a cup of tea then it’s fine of course to pause the action so that you can pick up immediately where you left off. On the other hand though, if a friend calls and it’s going to be an hour long conversation, or if you decide to pop out and get milk… then you should turn off. As long as you save it’s not going to take you that long to get back to where you were, so you may as well just turn off and save some energy (as well as avoiding potential fire hazards). You can make your life more easier, take a look at our accesories and see what suits your needs.
Turn Off Peripherals
It’s not just important to save energy that comes through the wall, but also energy that you buy in the form of batteries.
Games consoles like the Xbox can be pretty bad at gobbling up batteries and especially if you leave them on when you’re doing things like watching DVDs or pausing your game. You can turn off your controller without turning off the console so when you’re not inputting commands, do that.
There are also other ways you can save batteries for your controllers too. One is to get rechargeable batteries and the other is turn off features like vibration which have never been all that useful anyway. That said, even rechargeable batteries will cost you energy in some sense because you’re still having to plug them into a power outlet or a computer in order to lend some juice.
The same is also true of any other peripheral. Take Bluetooth headphones for instance: these require energy to power and you might find yourself regularly recharging them from your phone or computer. Turn them off when not in use, and ask yourself whether you really need to use that power-hungry ‘noise cancellation’ feature…
This is also one that will help with that whole ‘beer belly’ thing! Every now and then, it’s time to put your phone in your pocket, or your laptop in your bag and just to smell the roses and be a bit more mindful of your surroundings. Too many of us are slaves to our technology and it’s ruining our health, our wallets and our planet! Take some time to just enjoy where you are, to talk to your friends or to read a good book.
Choose the Right Software (and close the unnecessary apps)
If you take a look at all the apps running on your smartphone right now, you’ll likely be surprised to find that old games of 1010! are still playing in the background and that things like calculators and calendars are open. This is usually fine, although some of those will use up some resources just to maintain their state.
Worse are the background and foreground services that use your phone’s power even when you’re not interacting with them and often run ‘silently’ in the background.
On your PC, having lots of tabs open in Chrome will drain your battery. In fact, using Chrome full stop drains your battery! If you choose something like Edge browser instead, you’ll significantly extend your battery life. Likewise, keep in mind that things like
Follow this advice and get the best solar charger and you may be surprised by just how much energy you can save on a daily basis and how easily you can save yourself from trouble the next time you find that your battery is running low. The only question is why more people don’t own solar chargers!