Are you planning to buy an accessory that could provide energy in case of emergency or when you don’t have access to a power outlet? Don’t pick up solar power banks.
The concept of a power bank that’s equipped with a solar panel or panels seems almost perfect: you have the accessory that can deliver power anywhere, and the only condition is sunny weather.
I have bought two solar power banks in recent years. The benefit was strong and clear: solar panels will recharge the power bank so that it could recharge my smartphone in case when I most need it.
Unfortunately, the product’s performance doesn’t follow the idea. From my experience, solar recharging of such power banks is a sheer overpromise. The solar panel in a device that small simply can’t serve its purpose.
To put it simply: solar power banks are a highly disappointing product category. They are expensive, not reliable, and don’t give peace of mind.
I am still using them, but as regular – not solar – power banks.
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Reasons not to buy a solar power bank
1. Recharging via solar panels brings disappointing results
When you take out the solar power bank from the box, you notice a LED light that starts blinking. “Oh,” you think, “the solar panel is working and the power bank is being recharged.”
And you assume that the solar charging process is similar to plugging the device to the power outlet. You assume that in a predictable time your power bank will be recharged using only the solar energy.
The fact is that the blinking “solar charging in progress” light is totally misleading. It’s true to say that there is enough solar energy to make the light blink, nothing more.
I failed to recharge any of my power banks from 10-20% to more than 50%. And I was keeping them in the bright sun for days.
You have to assume that charging the power bank through the built-in solar panels will take ages to bring any effect: make the power bank accommodate enough energy to recharge any connected device.
Generally, you will have to assume that you will need between 2 and even ten days of full sunlight – and your power bank optimally exposed to sun – to fully recharge it.
2. You will have to charge the power bank from a power outlet anyway
Relying fully on solar recharging is asking for problems.
This kind of recharging takes ages, and will never recharge the power bank to its full capacity. And the bigger capacity the power bank has, the more it takes to recharge it.
Never ever take the solar power bank with you without taking the regular wall charger and a cable with a compatible plug.
No matter where you are going, I’m 100% sure you will have to plug your solar power bank to the power outlet.
3. Don’t expect it to work when you most need it
A promise solar power banks offer is that you can be fully independent from power outlets.
You believe that when you go for a mountain trip, you can stay in mountain cabins with no electricity, and even when your solar power bank runs out of energy, you can have a little break, direct the solar power bank to the sun, and be able to recharge your gear.
The almost empty solar power bank is one of the most unreliable devices I have ever had. Every time my phone was dying, I pulled out the solar power bank and it didn’t recharge.
Waiting for the power bank to recharge to the level that’s sufficient to recharge your smartphone is guaranteed to be highly frustrating.
If you want to buy a solar power bank to have peace of mind, hear this: solar power banks don’t give peace of mind.
4. It’s not reliable, because it’s too complex
The more complex the device is, the less reliable it becomes.
Solar power banks take energy from two sources: the energy network and the sun. The process of recharging is being corrupted every time you expose the power bank to sun lights. The energy input is irregular.
It all makes the solar power bank unreliable, for instance, when it comes down to showing the energy left.
One of my power banks comes with a foldable 4-part solar panel. In theory, it should be more efficient in recharging from solar energy, as the total recharging area is four times larger than in a power bank that sports the panel that’s the size of the device.
This 4-panel power bank was not much quicker in recharging from the sun (actually, I haven’t noticed any difference). And it was continuously unable to recharge my iPhone when there was still 25% of energy left.
The thing is that the producers of solar power banks admit these products are unreliable. Here are some excerpts from product descriptions:
Please kindly note that solar charging is an additional feature and please take the solar charging option as a backup solution.
As the charging speed is subject to sunlight intensity, solar panel size, and panel conversion rate, which may take a long time to charge.
Please make sure the solar charger power bank is fully charged before your trips.
We recommend that the main way to charge the power bank is via USB.
5. Solar component raises the price
Solar power banks are usually 50-100% more expensive than regular power banks. At the time regular 20000mAh power banks had the price of around $20, the solar ones were offered between $30 and $60.
Obviously, the prices go down, and you can now buy the 20000mAh solar power bank for about $20.
So, the solar component makes you pay even twice more for the power bank without getting twice more value or benefits. The solar component is just a useless gimmick.
Solar power banks – the conclusion
I don’t recommend buying a solar power bank, but there are other ways to be independent from the energy network.
1. Get a power bank with a higher capacity
Instead of getting the 20000mAh solar power bank for $50, but can get for roughly the same price the regular non-solar power bank that offers 40000mAh capacity.
2. Get a portable solar panel
A foldable solar panel offers a much larger charging area. It is simple: it doesn’t collect energy, but passes it to a connected device immediately – on condition it’s enough sunlight.
Keep exploring. Here are other tips and lists:
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