Are Solar Power Banks worth it?

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Solar Power Bank

Whether you’re a person that has to make long trips on a routine basis or are living in a situation where getting the time to charge up is an issue, you may have thought about getting a battery bank to power up your device especially when you need it to run along with you until the task at hand is over with.

This need is best addressed with solar power banks. Solar power banks are basically similar to power banks and come with generally the same charging capacity range as traditional battery banks but with the obvious distinction of the added source of energy being the Sun besides the socket electrical input.

So let’s start with the questions that trouble us the most when it comes to considering whether or not to buy a solar power bank.

Why go Solar in the first place?

There are a number of reasons that could change your mind about solar power banks such as

Efficiency: You may think that solar-powered battery banks are too slow to be compared to traditional battery banks. This isn’t necessarily the case. How the bank charges up isn’t always connected to how fast it can charge up other devices. In fact, the standard solar-powered battery banks may be able to charge your device faster than the traditional power bank. The best manufacturers who make some of the most outstanding 10000 mAh power banks are supposed to charge fully in about 4-5 hours which is faster than some of the top-tier traditional battery banks.

Versatility: You may think that somehow solar power banks are less flexible than traditional power banks i.e. they may store less energy or that they may too fragile or weakly constructed but that’s not the case in standard solar battery banks. A number of solar power banks come with a whole batch of protection features and have to pass QC tests of military standards so that they’re able to handle being dropped quite a few times when you’re out and about, getting soaked or being over-charged.

Manufacturers also provide warranties ranging up to 2 years besides many power banks being waterproof, shockproof, dust resistant, anti-explosion, over-charging and over-discharging proof, etc. All these features make them more suitable for outside activities and add even more versatility to their use along with the fact that they don’t have to be plugged in anywhere in order to charge up.

Application: A lot of battery banks along with having multiple types of output ports like USB-C and micro USB, offer fast charging or ‘Quick Charge’ capabilities just like traditional chargers. Solar power banks can be used to carry as much juice around as you could with traditional battery banks and are compatible with a number of different types of devices like camcorders, tablets, laptops, etc.

 

Types of battery banks

There are two types of battery banks based on their design:

Multi-panel foldable battery banks have a number of panels connected to each other and feed the battery simultaneously. Folded up, they may look like standard phones in their covers.

Block design battery banks resemble the traditional battery banks as they are essentially just big batteries. The difference is that these battery banks have solar panels on their backs and can charge along as you go, provided they are exposed to sunlight.

Although multi-panel battery banks are safe enough as they are, block designs are naturally more compact and seem to be relatively ‘bust-proof’, so to speak. Some of the standard designs offer military-grade quality checks like being shockproof and also feature anti-explosion protection.

How does a solar power bank work?

How do solar power banks work

Solar power banks pretty much work on the principles that you may expect them to. They use solar panels to trap energy from sunlight and use it to charge batteries for use later on.

A number of things come into play in deciding how good a solar power bank is, like the battery and the solar panels. The standard power banks have lithium-based batteries that may either be lithium-ion or lithium-polymer(the difference being the electrolyte being used in them).

As for the solar panels, efficiency doesn’t really go sky high in this corner of technology for now. But considering we’re not really wasting anything while using solar power but rather utilizing energy that was most likely going to be ‘wasted’ anyway, any number is good. The most efficient solar panels are by the widely recognized company ‘Sun Power’. Their most efficient model, the X22, is a mono-crystalline panel about which they claim:

“Our X22 has a record-breaking efficiency of up to 22.8 percent, making it the best performing panel on the market today.

 

How to charge a solar power bank?

In the simplest words, with a ton of Sun.

Sunlight has an obvious effect on the quality and the quantity of charge you gain by putting your power bank in the Sun. Natural circumstances or weather play a great role in how quickly you can charge your power bank. Standard multi panel 25000 mAh power banks are advertised to gain full charge in about 25-30 hours on sunlight charging. Once full, such a power bank should be able to hold enough charge to charge a normal smartphone around 12 or more times while the best 10,000 mAh power banks are supposed to fully charge up in about 5 hours. This is proportionally faster than the bigger devices.

As for the block design power banks, the time to charge up is naturally much higher than multi-panel power banks with a point average of around 70 hours of sunlight for the complete charge-up of a 20000 mAh power bank.

You can also charge your power banks with the traditional electric input. It’s useful to think of solar charging capability of power banks as more of a strong backup in certain circumstances rather than an all-time alternative to socket input.

What size power bank do you need?

This depends on how many devices you need to have charged up and how long you’re going to be out and about.

Naturally, a bigger power bank will be able to support bigger devices more easily. If you have anything bigger than a phone that you may have to charge up like tablets or laptops then getting a bigger battery bank is probably useful in the long term. The biggest available battery banks commercially available seem to be 50,000 mAh.

A standard 10,000 mAh solar battery bank which can fully charge up in 4-5 hours under ideal solar conditions and in 3.7 hours from an electrical supply is supposed to be able to charge up an ordinary cell phone around 4-5 times.

While a bigger 25000 mAh multi-panel foldable battery bank which can fully charge up in 25-30 hours of sunlight is supposed to be able to:

  • Recharge an iPhone 8 more than times or
  • Samsung S6 for a little over 6 times or
  • iPad Mini 4 for a little over 3 times

Are solar power banks good for camping?

Solar power banks are for situations like camping. If you have essential devices with you and need them charged regardless of where you are, there’s really not much to look for except a power bank.

The fact that the nature of solar power banks makes them suitable for situations like camping is probably what’s given companies the incentive or motivation to introduce ‘anti-bust’ measures like shock proofing, waterproofing and dust resistance, etc. For protection from over-charging in the Sun, some power banks also come with over-charging protection and anti-explosion features.

Advantages and Disadvantages of solar power banks

Advantages

  • Versatility The type of situations that solar power banks are designed for don’t really have a wide number of efficient solutions in place for you to apply. Whether you’re going camping or in a disaster struck landscape or any circumstance where electricity isn’t readily available, the most efficient solution is a power bank.

Now you could do with a traditional power bank in some situations but for how long? If you’re going to be camping for longer periods of times with a number of people that can borrow your power bank for ‘just a little charge-up’, you may end up being in exactly the same situation that you bought the power bank to avoid i.e. traditional power banks have a charge limit on them and can’t go on without some source of electricity.

So what do you do? Buying a power bank that isn’t dependent on direct electrical supply is the solution here. People don’t usually go camping in soggy weather for too long so it’s only natural that there will be sunlight available for the battery bank to charge-up on.

No one is saying that solar power battery banks are to replace all traditional battery banks in all circumstances. If the need arises, even solar power banks will be more efficiently used by plugging into them into a socket for a quicker charge up. But charging on the go was never easier or more convenient. The point is that you’re not dependent on sockets and a constantly available supply of electricity with such a device.

  • Protection: There may be a notion of fragility attached to the solar panel aspect of this type of battery bank. Manufacturers have gone the extra mile to ensure no such notion becomes reality for their users.

The numerous protective measures that manufacturers feature in their devices include anti-shock protection so that the bigger battery banks don’t get damaged on use when they’re used in situations like the ones considered above like camping and hiking etc. Manufacturers are even producing models with IP67 protection standards which essentially means that the device is dust resistant and can withstand submersion in water up to 1.5 meters deep.

  • Sustainability As always with devices that can run on renewable sources of energy, going green is a plus with solar-powered devices. You can ease your mind with the reduction in energy consumption.

Savings on the bill may not be that sharp when you start using a battery bank but look at it this way. You’re gaining energy from a source that is always giving off energy. This is energy that we don’t always utilize so you’re essentially saving energy from being lost up into the atmosphere. That should be recognized as a plus in everyone’s books. Wasted energy and wasted opportunity being utilized in devices that we may so frequently need is a step towards better standards of consumption and efficiency.

  • Ease of keeping the bank topped up: If you were using an ordinary power bank on a camping trip, there could inevitably come a time when the juice is all drained. There isn’t much you would be able to do to charge up your device except of course going someplace that has electricity and will allow you to charge up.

But if you had a solar power bank, the chance of the power bank being drained is greatly reduced because of how easily you could keep the bank charged up. You can just leave it in a safe place while you’re busy and just go and pick it up when you need it or when the sun goes down.

Disadvantages

  • Charging time The only down point associated with solar power banks, for now, is the amount of time they take to fully charge-up on sunlight.

Since sunlight is simply too dispersed in order to get a lot of wattage flowing by using small panels like the ones on block design battery banks, the charging time for the battery bank is slower for when it’s being charged on sunlight than when it’s being charged on direct electrical input.

But it’s useful to remember the fact that sunlight charging isn’t the only option on solar-powered battery banks, it’s an exclusive add-on along with traditional socket charging. So when you’re planning on going out and about, you could just charge the power bank on electricity, and then when you’re out in the open with plenty of sunlight, you can use the sun to keep the bank topped up. The bank gets energy for you just by sitting there and that’s not a bad deal on any account.