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Do portable solar power chargers actually work?



4 minute read

Recently, many smartphone accessory manufacturers have branched out towards a new range of portable solar power chargers. When I first heard about them, I was immediately suspicious.

Can a portable charger with a tiny solar panel really be enough to charge up your smartphone on the go?

I wanted to find the real answer to this question, so I researched the topic further. If a portable solar power charger could actually work as well as they are made out to, such a product could be a life saver.

How Do Portable Solar Power Chargers Work?

Firstly, let’s take a look at the technology behind the most popular portable solar power chargers.

There are two main designs that are commonly used. The first design is like a fold-up belt of solar panels. An example has been provided below.

Portable solar charger belt

The second design is shaped similarly to a traditional portable charger, but there is a solar panel built on top. Here is a look at the second design.

Portable solar power bank

Both designs harness energy from the sun and convert it into electricity, but the way electricity is used differs on both designs.

The first design essentially works as a portable charging outlet. There aren’t any batteries built in, so you’ll need to lay it out in the sunshine and plug in devices to charge them up right there and then.

USB connections allow you to charge your smartphone, tablet, portable charger, or anything else capable of charging via USB.

The power output is understandably relative to the sunlight the product gets, but under direct sunlight these chargers can often output 2.4Amps per port or 4.8Amps on a single device.

You can learn more about amps and charging here, but typically the output for the charger you plug into the mains is 1-2Amps.

The second product works a little differently. It’s a portable battery that charges up when in direct sunlight. This means it’s possible to store up juice on sunny days and have it ready for when your smartphone or other devices need charging up.

Usually, there are different outputs slots on these chargers that are used for different devices. Because power is stored first and then delivered via the powerbank to your device, the output will remain consistent at a designated amp.

This is in contrary to the first design which can go ‘up to’ certain outputs depending on the available sunlight.

So which design is best, and do either of these designs actually work as intended?

Portable Solar Power Chargers - Which One Is Best?

Solar charger outdoors

From what I can understand, the first design is more efficient at charging - there are more solar panels which means more surface area for gathering energy.

Secondly, the energy isn’t converted and stored. Instead, it’s used straight away, which means no power is lost so it’ll be faster to charge up your devices than using the second option.

Another issue with the second design is that the charge time is horrendously slow. To fill up this entire 25,000mAh battery, you’d need about a week out in the sun. If you’re on holiday in a hot country, this might not be a concern, but it’s an issue if you are stuck in dreary England.

Ultimately, it seems the best option is the first design. It can work well and charging times for your device are in line with standard wall charger speeds without fast charge.

If you aren’t too worried about carrying extra gear with you, you could also take the first design and a backup non-solar portable charger. You can then charge up the portable charger for emergency power.

So, in summary, the first design is a reliable piece of kit, but the second design is somewhat unreliable.

Another thing to consider is the practicality of both of these designs. Unless you can rig up a portable charger to something like what’s shown in the image below, you’re forced to set up base somewhere to allow the charger to gather enough energy from the sun.

Portable solar charger on a backpack

Unfortunately, portable solar power chargers aren’t the end-all solution for endless battery life, but they will make it easier for you to charge on the go, or just save electricity whilst you are at home.

If you plan to go on a trip somewhere and you need to rely on your smartphone, you must still plan ahead even when using a portable solar charger in the most optimal conditions.

To finalize this blog - yes, portable solar chargers do actually work, but if you’re looking for an ultimate charge on the go solution, a portable solar charger may not be able to meet all of your needs.

What are your thoughts on portable solar chargers? Could a product like this help you in times of need?

Written by zerodudex333

Ollie is a big mobile/tech fan. Follow his Twitter and his Instagram travel account