Tired of being tethered to the outlet? Set yourself free with an off-grid charger.
Editor's Note: This is a guest post by Rebecca Keller of AndGeeks.com.
As a writer, I depend on my 14 inch laptop and take it with me everywhere I go. However, lately I've become interested in greener alternatives when it comes to my electronics usage. That’s why I decided to invest in a solar charger to charge my laptop—as well as my other small electronics, like my digital camera and my cell phone.
Solar chargers work by drawing electric energy from the sun via a small solar panel—kind of like the solar panels that folks isntall on their roof to provide energy, except this one is much smaller. The solar charger I chose is specifically for small, portable electronic devices so I just tuck this one in my overnight bag or laptop bag and take it with me wherever I go.
The great thing about a solar charger is that it doesn't need an outlet, just add sun and power up. Not only does it save me money on my utility bill, it’s also really handy in areas where electricity isn’t available—for instance, when I’m camping, travelling by car or train, etc., or in countries where my plug isn’t compatible. I took my solar charger with me to France this past year and was able to use it wherever I could get access to direct sunlight. I even bring it with me on hikes when I’m camping so I can access the sun’s rays and juice up my cell phone and camera when I get back to my campsite.
How handy is that?
Now that you’re familiar with the way that they work, here are some simple tips for choosing a quality solar charger to power your portable electronics…
1. Do your research
Of course, a little research can go a long way when choosing a solar charger that’s compatible with your electronic device(s). For instance, there are 3 important factors you’ll need to consider before purchase:
- Solar panels—which come in two types—crystal silicon solar cells, which will give you an electrical current but are limited in low light and amorphous silicon solar cells, which can conduct an electric current over a larger range, but tend to be more expensive.
- Battery conversion rate—or where solar energy is collected in the charger to power your electronics efficiency. Obviously the higher power the solar charger’s battery conversion rate—the more efficiently it charges.
2. Ensure the charger is compatible with your device(s)
My portable solar charger is a universal style model. It simply connects to my electronic devices directly via a collection of cords to transfer power over. Most universal models come with a series of power transfer cords so you just choose the one to fit your specific electronic inputs so they’re compatible with the majority of electronic devices. However, it’s important that you check the packaging to make sure or talk to a salesperson to ensure the charger will work with whatever portable electronics you wish to power. A universal solar charger, like the one I purchased, can be used to power a variety of devices.
3. Test the charger before you throw out the packaging and receipt
I would recommend testing the solar charger to make sure it works to power your portable electronics. That means, keep the packaging as well as your sales receipt and test the charger to make sure it works before making a firm commitment. For example, a high-quality solar charger should be able to charge a laptop or digital camera many hours beyond their original battery limitations. If it doesn’t cut it, return the charger for a full refund. I recommend looking for a solar power charger that has at least 0.75 watts or more otherwise the charge current will be too small to charge even a small calculator efficiently.
About the author: Rebecca Keller is a graduate of the Arts and Technology program at the University of Texas. An admitted tech-junkie, freelance writing about Android devices for AndGeeks.com offers the perfect outlet for a tech geek like Rebecca. When she's offline, which isn't very often, Rebecca enjoys volunteering for her local animal shelter and off road mountain biking.
Top image via cogdog/Flickr