Solar technology is an investment that will save you money over the life of the product. This is true of large solar arrays that are installed at home, but what about smaller solar chargers?
Charging your cell phone costs you less than a dollar a year, so a solar charger will not save you money. A solar charger can charge as much as the battery pack and weather allows, and it can do so without being connected to the traditional power grid.
We have solar chargers because we frequently lose power at my home. I like the idea of being less reliant on the traditional power grid to charge my phone in an emergency.
Our area has predictable sun most of the year, so it is important that I keep my batteries changed when the weather is good. Those batteries will keep their charge for months stored in our kitchen junk drawer.
We just had a storm come through and I was able to charge my phone with our combination solar charger/battery pack. When the power came back on I charged the device with wall power and put it back in the drawer where it would be ready next time I need a charge.
Some people use a solar charger to charge devices every day. If you use a solar charger to charge phones, laptops, cameras, drones, tablets, and other personal electronics every day with a simple solar setup, you may save money over the course of years, but not weeks or months.
How Long Does it Take a Solar Charger to Pay for Itself?
A high-quality solar charger will cost between 30 and 100 dollars, the cost to charge your phone is about one dollar a year. If you charge your phone, and 4 others it will still take more than 10 years to break even on your investment.
Solar chargers are great for having a way to charge a phone or battery bank without shore or wall power.
They are a great tool to have if you are in a location that frequently loses power for days, or if you want other options for charging your phone away from the traditional power.
The best solar chargers have a large solar panel. We have this small combination solar charger that has a very small area of solar panels. My husband charged it for 9 hours yesterday and only the first light was lit. It is really difficult to charge.
The best, most effective solar chargers are fold-out panels that have a large surface area of solar panels. These cost between $50 and $100.
If a loss of power could result in a hotel stay, then a solar charger or a smaller solar generator, like a Jackery with a Solar charger would save you money faster!
I have been eyeing the one Amanda uses here:
Solar chargers are great backups, and I have one and I use it, but it does not save me money.
Are Solar Battery Chargers Worth It?
Solar chargers are a great way to charge your phone, camera, drone, iPad, or computer when off-grid, if you keep an adequate battery bank they will give you reliable power for days.
Solar chargers are a great backup if you lose power frequently, or you do not want to rely on the traditional power grid. A high-quality solar charger is a good investment for
If you have regular wall power available to you most of the time, you do not need a solar battery charger.
You can buy backup battery banks and keep them charged, and stored in a safe place. They will hold their charge for many months without losing their power.
Do Solar Chargers Really Work?
High-quality solar chargers work well to charge battery packs in full and partial sun. When you position the panels in direct sun, portable solar panels can produce as much as 250 watts, depending on the size of the panels and the weather conditions.
This is enough power to charge most small electronics:
Electronics and appliances with a battery are the best to use with solar. Use solar to charge the batteries and you are likely to have uninterrupted use of those devices no matter the weather.
Solar chargers charge batteries. If you have a device that you would like to run on solar power, but it requires a lot of energy, like a fridge? The limiting factor is your batteries.
Almost anything can run off of batteries, but some things will need a very large battery.
If your power needs are very high, I recommend the Jackery generator and the solar setup they offer. This setup will give you a lot of power. Plenty to run laptops and cameras, with plenty left over for a coffee maker or other small appliance. This is a good solution for portable charging when car camping or full-time off-grid lifestyles. It is too heavy for hiking.
How Much do Solar Chargers Cost?
A great solar charger can be purchased for under $100. These chargers have fold-out solar panels and they are easy to carry but have a great output.
You have probably seen this charger:
It is one of the first solar phone chargers that come up on Amazon. This is the one that I have, it costs less than $40. This is a combination unit, meaning it is a solar panel with a battery bank permanently attached.
These are the lower quality units, they are not as effective because the panels are not as big. They also tend to be heavier.
A very reliable, well-reviewed unit is the Big Blue 3. It is a fold-out solar charge, it costs less than $80, and weighs a bit over one pound.
This is a great value for the money. It works well and is a well-respected brand. One friend of mine has been using theirs for 2 years almost daily as their main source of power! That is pretty incredible.
How Can I Find How Much Energy my Electronics Need?
When you begin to do the solar math you will need to find the electronic needs of your stuff.
I found this great tool through Energy Star. They have a great database that is designed to help you shop for the most energy-efficient appliances and electronics.
Use this database to search your items.
When you go to the database, choose the Find Products tab at the top. You will land on a page that lists all kinds of things you can browse; categories like Computers, Clothes Dryers, Lighting.
I chose laptops to search for my computer.
It is organized by brand, but you can filter if you are looking for appliances to buy or search directly to find the things you already own.
These are the most energy-efficient notebook computers.
I hope this helps you make the best decision about choosing a solar charger.
What size solar charger you need will depend on what you are trying to power up. It’s important to make sure you have a big enough solar panel to supply enough juice to charge your batteries. If not, you could be waiting days to charge a battery that lasts five minutes.
Solar chargers are great during power outages, on hikes, or when camping off-grid. However, the technology isn’t advanced enough to save you much money. For something like charging a phone, you may save as little as $1 per year! Overall, your ROI will take over 10 years on a best-case scenario, which is NOT a good investment.
Plan to buy a Solar charger for its convenience, and its usefulness NOT to save money.