We live in a very digitally connected age. Everyone is constantly texting, tweeting, and surfing on their mobile devices. But what do you do when your battery runs out? If you don’t have access to an outlet, you’re probably out of luck.
My only digital camera is my iPhone 4S and I rely on it to have power when I want to capture a moment with a photo. I brought my iPhone on the GORUCK Ascent and managed to extend the battery life as long as possible by turning it off when I wasn’t using it but I could have gotten more photos had I brought some sort of a charger.
One of the most common methods of creating your own energy right now is solar. Solar panels seem to be on everything. I’ve recently found one solar charging device that I really enjoy, is easy to use and has a few tricks up its sleeve.
The Changers Starter Kit does all the usual stuff. It collects energy from the sun and stores it in a battery pack to use later. They say that one fully charged battery pack has enough juice to bring two dead iPhones back to 100%.
The battery pack keeps tabs on how much energy you are generating. When you plug it into your computer, it uploads your usage. That would be cool on its own but it gets better. The more you use it, the more credits you receive. The more credits you receive, the more you can redeem for real life merchandise.
Yup. They just managed to incentivize personal power generation.
The process of setting up the system is incredibly easy. Actually, you just plug the power cord from the solar panel into the battery pack and aim at the sun. That’s it.
Once you have gathered enough solar energy, just plug your USB device into the battery pack and it will start charging. You can even keep the solar panel plugged in at the same time if you want.
Using the website is also very simple. Just download the program from the website. They have a walkthrough to guide you through the process. You even get to name your charger, which is really handy if you plan on getting more than one or just feel sentimental. I named mine Eva.
Direct sunlight works best but not many people can sit outside and keep angling the panel towards the sun. Oh and when I say ‘direct’, I mean ‘aimed as directly straight towards the sun as possible.’ You can tell if you are doing it right by how fast the green light blinks; faster blinks means its charging faster.
I’ve gotten good results when the panel placed on the inside of my home (and even car) windows allowing the sun to just follow its natural course. Yes, I know that the sun isn’t actually moving and that the Earth is, but the sun has the appearance of moving left to right across my backyard.
If you want to use this in the car, the suction cups are strong enough to affix to the outside of the window but you have to be smart. Highway speeds or high winds may knock it loose and it would suck trying to reel the panel in while driving. Also, if using it inside of the car, depending on your direction of travel, you may have to reposition the panel multiple times so this really works best if you’re not driving.
When tested in my specific office building, the results were horrible. But that’s all to blame on the windows here. They have a very extreme tint and block all (useable) light for generating energy. Even in place all day, I could not pull together 1 Wh of energy. On the rooftop, in direct sun, I was able to get over 3 Wh in just an hour.
While it doesn’t have all the kinks ironed out and more features are on the way, the site is great. Overall it’s well designed both architecturally and aesthetically. Being able to see your watts generated and CO2 savings on a graph is great for a visual learner such as myself.
You can also follow and interact with other users, commenting on their activity (energy & CO2 savings). Oh and they even have an ‘Award’ section that, by doing special things, can unlock ‘achievements.’ Just another good way to incentivize use.
Even though I can’t use it very easily when at work, I still bought one for myself. It makes generating energy for my iPhone fun and once they get the credit system up and running, I’ll be able to trade my charge time with real world rewards. This kit would be a great companion to take on a road trip or hike and I’m sure once you get yours you’ll end up competing with yourself trying to grab more and more sunlight; it’s addicting!
When I used it while hiking I stored the battery pack in my ruck. I noticed that the cable kept dislodging itself, which stopped any active charging. It seems very easy for the cable to release. Having some sort of twist lock would certainly be an upgrade in my opinion.
I would also like to see some sort of collapsible metal stand (similar to a wire coat hanger) that can be used for angling the solar panel directly to the sun. This would make setting the panel up outside a lot easier, especially in windy conditions.
- Price: $149
- Battery pack charges in about 4 hours.
- Battery pack can fully charge an iPhone twice.
- Battery pack weight: 5.7 oz.
- Solar panel weight: 3.7 oz.
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