We realize that when you are browsing through the products on PhotonBuzz.com it can be confusing. Portable solar technologies for personal energy are fairly new to the consumer market. Like any electronic device, it can take some time to understand the essence, key components and characteristics of these products. Most people like to learn about the product before making a purchase...and rightly so. With that said, here are a few short buying tips to review before buying a solar recharger or solar panel charger product.
First, it's important for you to keep in mind that solar recharge devices and solar panel chargers on PhotonBuzz.com typically come in three common configurations. They are:
A. Solar Panel Independent and Separate for Power. In this configuration, panels are independent devices in either a rigid, semi-rigid, or flexible options. The panels capture the sun and then transfer the converted energy to a controller that governs the electrical output. The controller may be integrated into panel or sold separately. The controller may be designed to clip onto a battery for trickle charging. Other controllers are more advanced with power management technology and a USB port for connecting to a phone or USB type device.
B. Solar Panel with Integrated Battery for Power Storage. This configuration is extremely popular with many of the solar recharging products sold on PhotonBuzz.com. Consumers enjoy the fact that the panel, controller and a rechargeable battery are designed and integrated together into one unit making operation and use very simple. Whether you have a two panel "flip" open design or a single rigid panel integrated into a portable light or weather radio, this configuration is reliable and straight forward for most people to understand right after opening the box.
C. Independent Solar Panel with Independent Battery for Power Storage. This popular configuration combines an independent panel and controller with an independent battery pack for power storage. During the daylight hours, the solar panel can be working to trickle charge a small or larger battery for use later. Some batteries are small and very portable. Other battery packs are much larger with power capacity to charge multiple devices for long periods of time.
Considering the configurations above, what are some other variables to think about when shopping for a portable solar power system?
1. Charging Duration. Solar panel efficiency is getting better and better and more efficient the panel the quicker it will charge your device or battery.
2. Solar Panel Surface Area. Whether you are comparing weather radios or portable solar devices, the larger the solar panel, the more sunlight it collects. When a solar panel is larger it also is able to convert the light to electricity faster for storing in your battery or charging you device directly. Smaller panels are much easier to pack and lighter, but they may take a little longer to charge a battery. When sunlight is limited by clouds, there is lower intensity light, or low angle light late in the day, keep in mind that a larger solar panel surface area performs better in these conditions.
3. Charge Times. Charging times vary based on the amount of light, size of the panel and efficiency of the panel. Times can vary from 4 to 16 hours of sunlight for the same battery, depending on surface area and light conditions.
4. Power Output. One key technical factor to gauge panel power is power output. Solar panels are rated in watts (e.g. 5W or 0.5W). The higher the output watts, the more electricity is generated during a given time period.
5. Panel Construction. Different panel construction types (rigid, semi-rigid or flexible) may offer positive or negative benefits for your needs. For example, semi-flexible solar panels can be folded or rolled up for easy transport and open up in a larger area to provide a greater surface area than many rigid panels.
6. Portability Features. Make sure you look at the panel's attachment options and capabilities so you can securely roll, hang or attach it to your backpack, bike, kayak or tent.
We hope this primer has helped get your mind thinking about solar panels, solar rechargers and your personal energy needs. Tells us what you've noticed about your solar panel charger or portable solar device.