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what would you call this? - a solar charger I might have dreamed or might be real  RSS feed

 
master steward
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I'm looking for a thing.  I don't know if it's a real thing or something I dreamt. 

It is quite small and compact.  It's a battery but it has solar panels that fold out.  I can charge devices with it, like a phone.  But also I can run USB devices from it like a fan or light, or a pet rock

It also has a plug where I can add more solar panels or a wind generator to give it more power.



I'm looking today but can't remember where I found it.  I found lots of phone charger power packs, with solar panels, but the solar panels aren't the main source of charge. 

this is the closest I can find today, but the one I thought I found last night was smaller and simpler, but also had the ability to add more power charging options to it. 

What search terms would help me find this?
 
pollinator
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I'd say it doesn't exist given you said "small and portable". I'm assuming small like putting it in a purse or taking it on a plane trip.

Small like that would mean a very small battery. You can only upgrade (wind/solar) based on that little batteries ability to accept it.

I always consider solar panels a battery charger, so the battery has to power the device. The solar panels recharge it. When you think in these terms you can see where battery size is important.

If it doesn't need to be ultra small portable i would get a 12v marine battery and a solar charger like an automatic gate opener would have. If you want bigger and expandable,  get a real solar panel and an upgradeable charge controlller. With that starting point you can add to it and get real use.
 
gardener
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Third world telephone charging often involves a small solar panel and a power bank. They are sold separately  and don't have to be of the same brand.  Mine can run a phone but it could also run a laptop for a short time .You place the panel facing the Sun and then put the Power Bank in the shade of the panel. In this way you don't have to sit out in the hot sun, making calls. They often come with a regular plug that goes into the wall. Power outages are common, so sometimes the panel must be used.

I visited three different solar stores in Kenya. All were fairly small and although large panels for houses were available, the big sellers were small portable devices. Some were meant just to power gate lights, and most seemed best suited to electronics. The largest arrays were being promoted as a way to ensure aeration of fish ponds. People who rely on the grid only, will almost always lose power when it's most needed.
 
raven ranson
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The one I was thinking of was small is - like the size of a thick paperback book - maybe 9x6x2"

We've got a bigger system in the henhouse to play with.  Going to try hooking wind up to it this winter.

I'm looking for something smaller that can do more than just charge a phone.  There seems to be a lot of things that run on USB cables now.  Maybe something like this

The one I thought I saw specifically said we could run devices off it, not just use it to charge gadgets.  This one also says that the solar panels are back up and we should charge it from the mains.

The one I thought I saw said that the primary way of charging was solar and we could add more panels if we needed it to charge faster.  But that might have been a dream.  But pretending it wasn't a dream, what would be the search phrases I would use to find something like that?

 
Dale Hodgins
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Compact portable solar collector. Or something like that. I think you will find that many come with a plug and they're meant to use solar in a pinch. That way the panel can be very small, and people lie to themselves, thinking that the solar part of it has done more than it actually has. Many of these smaller products are very gimmicky and low-quality. It's pretty easy math, to look at the area of one of these things and compare it to the output of a full size panel. Then, if the quality is also lower, it probably won't be as efficient for the amount of area covered.

We have a guy running around Victoria with a couple of panels on the roof of his landscaping trailer. He is selling the idea that his tools are powered by those panels. I use the exact same tools, and can go through much more power in a day, than his two panels could ever deliver. There's a plug on the side of his trailer, meant for topping up the batteries each night.
 
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r ranson, I have been surprised at how much power it takes to charge a smartphone or a cell phone.  Even my car charger takes a long time.  

A panel the size you are mentioning would barely be able to bring in enough wattage to do much.   The phone would have to be turned off for all of the charging power to go into charging the battery.  Otherwise the battery is using power as it idles there, or if you talk on it, or check it, text or check social media.   

If you find a product I hope it has more than 100 reviews, and read the negative ones.   Be sure to find out how many watts per hour it will bring in, then do the math at how many hours it would take to charge, and how much power your phone is using when it's on.  That's that really annoying math question we all groaned about in high school, about the water coming into the tank and water going out of the tank, how long does it take to fill.  
 
raven ranson
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I don't have a phone.

I was thinking about using it for USB devices like lights, fans, and things like that.  Probably a 2 to 4 hours use a couple of times a week. 

Our solar system in the henhouse runs two lights for up to 6 hours a day on winter sun and one, 1food square panel.  The battery is a bit larger, but it's older.  It holds more electricity than these little ones seem to. 

My limited understanding is that most solar panels are rated on 'efficiency' right now.  The more efficient ones seem to bring in more electricity in bright sun, but less in indirect sun.  The less efficient ones, bring in more in indirect sun, but less in direct sun.  I want to try hooking up some inefficient panels to the henhouse and see if they provide more power since we seldom have direct sun - or any sun - in the winter.

 
Cristo Balete
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r ranson, I've been using solar for 20 years and haven't heard of anything about "indirect sun."    I don't think there are any panels that can somehow get more wattage out of "indirect sun."  Not even sure what "indirect sun" might possibly be.  Do you mean shade or overcast or 50/50 sun and clouds?

Panels might be more efficient these days, but that's more about their not having to be as big as they were.  The specs involving a solar panel are very specific, and haven't changed as far as I know.  

There used to be panels that if one part of it got shaded, the whole thing stopped bringing in wattage.   Most panels now are designed so if there's a part of it that's shaded, the rest of the panel will send some wattage to a controller and battery, but not as much as the whole panel could send.   You can tip panels up at an angel in the fall/winter/spring to face a sun that's lower in the sky.  But that's not about the type of panel.   If there's shade or overcast there's just fewer watts going in.

Either way, it's still a matter of wattage into the battery, and wattage out of the battery going to the appliance.  Whether something runs on a USB connection or a 3-prong electrical connection wouldn't change the wattage the appliance uses or the wattage coming in through the panel from the sun.  A USB connection is just a type of wiring. 



 
Cristo Balete
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I just thought of something, if you want to keep a low-wattage bulb on in the winter, and it's windy enough where you are, could you add a small wind turbine to your existing setup, that could be sending power to the battery even at night, even when there is a cloudy day in the winter.  There would need to be a controller and a place where the wind wouldn't be blocked by trees

Boats have setups for small wind turbines, and I imagine there are small ones for hobbists.
 
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I think you are looking for a solar charger. Today, all the new gadgets are equipped with rechargeable batteries. A solar charger employs solar energy to supply electricity to devices or charge batteries. All devices from laptops to iPads and cell phones can connect to these chargers. These chargers do not follow the one-size-fits-all policy. Instead, they are available in different voltages and you can buy one according to your gadget power requirement. Most portable solar chargers come in battery capacities of 12, 24, and 36 volts. You can reap a countless numbers of benefits of solar chargers such as portability, connect number of devices, no harmful emissions, cost efficient, etc. If you are looking for the best solar chargers, then this blog can help you – https://www.sunpowersource.com/top-5-portable-solar-chargers
 
Cristo Balete
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I am always amazed at how just sticking the word "solar" in front of just about anything these days and it's supposed to do exactly as somebody's imagined.  The only thing a "solar charger" could be is a panel connected to some kind of battery, with some kind of controller keeping it from overcharging the battery. 

But what the panel is rated as is always what matters.  How many watts does that little, medium or big panel bring in?  Doesn't matter how it looks.  Doesn't matter what kind of a clever box lid it might be attached to.  It's still a panel that has some real limitations, and requires doing the math to run whatever appliance someone wants to run.

And, oddly enough, a solar panel requires sunshine that is actually on the panel!!  Real, bright sunshine!!  :-)
 
Cristo Balete
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I've been wondering, after reading forums where people make claims about solar things in general, is the notion that if there's light outside, if one could take a book outside and read a page, that that kind of light level is what some folks think can be used by a solar panel?  

If we had a 300 Watt solar panel in direct sun,that relies on photons to hit the solar cells in it, when the most photons are hitting it, it can send 300 Watts to a battery in an HOUR.  Not in a moment.   The time during a day when the most photons are likely to be on the panel is between 10:00 AM and maybe 3:00 or 4:00 PM in the summer.   Lower light levels in the winter would narrow those hours down.  Shade narrows those hours down. 

So if a computer screen or a TV screen uses 300 Watts an hour, yet we have them turned on for many hours, that's where the solar cannot keep up with our draining the system by using appliances.  Most kitchen appliances use 1000-1500 Watts an hour, coffee pots, microwaves, blenders, a one-burner electric cooktop, an electric water heater -- anything that makes heat or has a small motor.  We may not have them on that long, but together they add up and drain the system faster, especially in the winter. 

Luckily we have led lights, and those make it possible to have lights that don't drain the system so much. 

I have enough panels to give me 1,000 Watts in an hour.  It's not a big system.  However, if it's foggy or cloudy they can generate 25 Watts an hour, all of them put together.  Doesn't matter if it's noon, if the photons from the sun are being blocked by clouds or fog. 

So that ought to help us appreciate how efficient the human eye is, and how it can use the photons in miraculous ways, much better than a solar panel can.



 
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"Solar generator" seems to be the misnomer used to market these things.

Unless your goal is to charge personal electronics in the field these toys will generally be futile for home power on a cost to performance comparison.

2 golf car batteries, one 300w mono, a simple charge control and an inverter or switching power supply for around $650 will out-perform most any of the plug and play (key word play) appliances out ther by 10 to 100 times, dollar for dollar.
 
frank li
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Cristo Balete wrote:I've been wondering, after reading forums where people make claims about solar things in general, is the notion that if there's light outside, if one could take a book outside and read a page, that that kind of light level is what some folks think can be used by a solar panel?  

If we had a 300 Watt solar panel in direct sun,that relies on photons to hit the solar cells in it, when the most photons are hitting it, it can send 300 Watts to a battery in an HOUR.  Not in a moment.   The time during a day when the most photons are likely to be on the panel is between 10:00 AM and maybe 3:00 or 4:00 PM in the summer.   Lower light levels in the winter would narrow those hours down.  Shade narrows those hours down. 

So if a computer screen or a TV screen uses 300 Watts an hour, yet we have them turned on for many hours, that's where the solar cannot keep up with our draining the system by using appliances.  Most kitchen appliances use 1000-1500 Watts an hour, coffee pots, microwaves, blenders, a one-burner electric cooktop, an electric water heater -- anything that makes heat or has a small motor.  We may not have them on that long, but together they add up and drain the system faster, especially in the winter. 

Luckily we have LED lights, and those make it possible to have lights that don't drain the system so much. 

I have enough panels to give me 1,000 Watts in an hour.  It's not a big system.  However, if it's foggy or cloudy they can generate 25 Watts an hour, all of them put together.  Doesn't matter if it's noon, if the photons from the sun are being blocked by clouds or fog. 

So that ought to help us appreciate how efficient the human eye is, and how it can use the photons in miraculous ways, much better than a solar panel can.





Actually it IS 300w in a moment!

Watt hours is the term to grasp and i dont do joules because nobody produces or sells at that rate in north america unless you are a scientist!
 
garden master
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Raven: if you are still thinking on this, look up "camping solar power." I think I have possibly seen what you are thinking of (possible) and there's a lot of interesting options showing up when I added the word "camping" to the search term.  This place Earth Tech Camping Solar Power  looked like a good start.
 
frank li
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Pearl Sutton wrote:Raven: if you are still thinking on this, look up "camping solar power." I think I have possibly seen what you are thinking of (possible) and there's a lot of interesting options showing up when I added the word "camping" to the search term.  This place Earth Tech Camping Solar Power  looked like a good start.



Pricey$$!
 
Pearl Sutton
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frank li wrote:

Pearl Sutton wrote:Raven: if you are still thinking on this, look up "camping solar power." I think I have possibly seen what you are thinking of (possible) and there's a lot of interesting options showing up when I added the word "camping" to the search term.  This place Earth Tech Camping Solar Power  looked like a good start.



Pricey$$!



Oh I agree, I was looking at concepts for her to look at.
That site just had a lot of good ideas.
 
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