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  • Solar laptop and mobile charger

    I've seen some backpack chargers on the market. What do you think of them? I'm new to solar energy. What's the best place to go to learn more about solar energy and how it works with small electronic devices?

    Thanks,

    Mark S.

  • #2
    Originally posted by mtschus View Post
    I've seen some backpack chargers on the market. What do you think of them? I'm new to solar energy. What's the best place to go to learn more about solar energy and how it works with small electronic devices?

    Thanks,

    Mark S.
    The problem is that solar panels are small and need to be aimed at the sun to produce - the farther they are off perpendicular to the sun the less power produced. Not often one is always walking directly away from the sun.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

    Comment


    • #3
      Voltage support is the test

      Originally posted by mtschus View Post
      I've seen some backpack chargers on the market. What do you think of them? I'm new to solar energy. What's the best place to go to learn more about solar energy and how it works with small electronic devices?

      Thanks,

      Mark S.
      You ask a good question, and you are correct in being cautious about chargers you see on the market.
      The biggest issues with powering laptops from solar are:
      1. adequate solar power production to support reasonable laptop run times
      2. sufficient power storage to support reasonable laptop daily run times
      3. voltage support for the specific laptop you are using
      4. connectors... you ultimately need to connect your laptop to the system!

      One other sidebar note: DO NOT use an AC inverter if you can avoid it. An AC inverter (the box that creates a household AC plug from a 12V battery or your car) will waste anywhere from 15-30% of your battery power in the process of creating AC power which your laptop will ultimately convert back to DC for its own use anyway. When you are in the power desert, you don't go wasting/spilling electrons!
      Plus, most people nowadays want to use a lithium battery pack with their solar equipment in order to minimize weight, and aside from the Goal Zero Sherpa models, lithium battery packs WILL NOT support AC inverters.

      So, back to the task at hand...
      1. Figure out how many hours a day you want to run your laptop when you are without power
      for example, I find most people want about an hour each day. As the previous person noted, normal solar maps do not account for the variation in daylight exposure that backpacks see. So, allowing for that, and knowing what most laptops in power safe mode consume, you would need at least a 10W panel to offset an hour of laptop use during summer months (in North America).

      2. Store the power in a battery pack that offers multiple voltage settings, and multiple connector options to support laptops. I recommend looking at the Brunton models (Sustain, Impel), and the Tekkeon MyPower All 3450 models.
      www.bruntonoutdoor.com
      www.tekkeon.com
      Both of these battery systems can support a magsafe connector option for MacBooks (use the Apple airline adaptor with the Bruntons, and a MagSafe connector is available for the Tekkeon batteries).
      The battery pack should be at least 50 Watt-Hours in capacity to properly support the 1-hour run time, and serve a long life.

      Now, that being said, Voltaic Systems just released two backpack products that have everything integrated already...
      Voltaic Fuse 10
      Voltaic Array backpack
      Both of these offer a decent amount of solar power, plus a built-in multi-voltage battery pack that supports laptops & other devices. Voltaic does really good work, and their products are exceptionally well built. www.voltaicsystems.com

      I would provide a direct link to my site, but I will respect the spam rules!

      Lastly, and this might seem strange after writing all this, but I would urge you to consider leaving the laptop at home, and either take a smart phone along instead, or at the most one of the new tablet computers like the iPad. These options use far less power, do as much as most people need, and a power system to support USB and even the 2.1A USB are less expensive and more portable than the full-power laptop-supporting systems that I described above. Only take a laptop if you have specific data-crunching needs that only a laptop can provide.

      I hope all this helps. Please feel free to write, comment, and ask more questions. If you want feedback on any particular product you are considering, let me know.
      Cheers!
      - Graham
      Graham Morfitt
      Owner at ModernOutpost.com
      "For Today's Pioneer"
      Remember... whether you think you can, or think you can't... you're probably correct

      Comment


      • #4
        Small electronic devices via solar

        Originally posted by mtschus View Post
        I've seen some backpack chargers on the market. What do you think of them? I'm new to solar energy. What's the best place to go to learn more about solar energy and how it works with small electronic devices?

        Thanks,

        Mark S.
        OK, I was thinking about another question when I wrote my last reply... sorry... that was more than what was needed.
        Here's the scoop for small electronics...

        iPods, PDA's, and smart phones have on-board batteries of approx 3-8 Watt-Hours, so a solar charger must have at least 3 watts of solar panel power to properly keep up with a daily battery drain on these devices. I am allowing for mobile variation in solar exposure, and for summer months in North America & Europe only (May-Aug).
        I see a lot solar gadgets providing 0.3 or 0.4W panels, and these really are frustrating, and not much more than gimmicks. They will offset only about 15-20% of an iPhone battery for example, and that is even when exposed to the sun religiously all day.
        I would suggest only considering solar charger products that offer at least 1 Watt of solar panel power to avoid disappointment/frustration
        Here are a few examples of good quality, and good power...
        Brunton Restore
        Powerfilm USB+AA charger
        Voltaic Amp
        Voltaic Fuse
        Voltaic solar backpacks

        Most small devices can be connected using USB ports, and most small solar chargers will provide these. Use your device's USB connector cable.
        Apple products, and some others like Blackberries, can be fussy about the USB ports they accept. I try to highlight which ports are 'universal' on my site, but as a rule, if it doesn't specifically state: 'Apple Compatible', it aint. Even if they say 'power your iPod', they may mean mp3 players in general, and this is misleading.

        Cameras are tricky. Small 'point & shoot' cameras can have their batteries charged via small universal USB chargers like this one...
        http://www.modernoutpost.com/shop/ba...ersal-usb.html
        dSLR cameras are usually 7.4V battery packs, and so require a battery system that provides at least 8.4V, so this means going with a full-size power system like I outlined in my last post.

        Hope that this post is more helpful than my last one!
        Cheers,
        - Graham
        Graham Morfitt
        Owner at ModernOutpost.com
        "For Today's Pioneer"
        Remember... whether you think you can, or think you can't... you're probably correct

        Comment


        • #5
          Solar for small electronic devices

          Graham,

          Outstanding information!!. Do you have a newsletter I can subscribe to? Are you a solar engineer by trade? Truly, outstanding information.

          So in your opinion, is current research working to improve the solar panel efficiency? Is the focus more on battery improvements? Probably both. Do you see any breakthrough coming on the horizon? Are there better materials coming out? I'm fascinated by solar power. I'm most interested in the portable solar, but the whole industry is interesting.

          I also wondered how big a solar panel do I need to charge an iphone or other smart phone. Really, how small could it be? Are there brands that are more efficient per square in or cm? How small can the battery pack be?

          Thanks for your help,

          Mark Schuler

          Comment


          • #6
            I Built a solar charger for my sony PDA back in the day.

            I built a solar charger for my sony PDA and Cell phone back in the day using scrap solar cells. It worked fine for small devices. I would imagine the commercially available products would be more than adequate for charging small electronic devices since the efficiencies have gone up.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by mtschus View Post
              Graham, Outstanding information!!. Do you have a newsletter I can subscribe to? Are you a solar engineer by trade? Truly, outstanding information. So in your opinion, is current research working to improve the solar panel efficiency? Is the focus more on battery improvements? Probably both. Do you see any breakthrough coming on the horizon? Are there better materials coming out? I'm fascinated by solar power. I'm most interested in the portable solar, but the whole industry is interesting. I also wondered how big a solar panel do I need to charge an iphone or other smart phone. Really, how small could it be? Are there brands that are more efficient per square in or cm? How small can the battery pack be? Thanks for your help, Mark Schuler
              You would want the solar panel to provide the voltage and current of the device. You can get the voltage fro looking at the battery the device comes with and the current from the name plate on the inside of the device when you remove the battery. area is 8" x "8 inch. depends on the device really.

              Mod note - Welcome to Solar Panel Talk but forget the links
              Last edited by russ; 02-20-2012, 08:30 AM. Reason: removed link

              Comment


              • #8
                my to go pack-2 pieces

                C&G foldable mono panel 42watts 12"x10"x2" folded plugs directly into energizer P18000 power pack:18Ah@5v lithium weights 5.6oz.

                Energizer has three outputs: USB, 105V and 19V. includes a ton of adapters for various devices. works with all of my families devices: cell phone, ipad2 and new iPad, nintendo ds, etc. Energizer has built in charge controller and charging indicator so many different solar panels can plug directly into it. Input voltage is 19V but it does well with my solar panel that typically varies from 14+ to 17+ volts.

                I am not connected with any company or product: retired.

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