Are Solar Power Banks Worth It? - SolarPowerGenie.com (2022)

As we continue to move forward digitally, wefind ourselves with more and more portable electronics. Some items like a phoneor a laptop seem necessary these days, and oftentimes, when you are travelingor even just moving about day-to-day, we need a way to charge it all. Solarpower banks and solar chargers have become increasingly popular with businessprofessionals and outdoor adventurers alike. So, it begs the question…

Are solar power banks worth it? In short,solar power banks and portable solar chargers offer convenience for theconsumer. While they are energy-efficient, they may not always be amoney-saving option. So, their worth will largely depend on their applicationand consumer preference.

Are Solar Power Banks Worth It? - SolarPowerGenie.com (1)

Solar power as a whole has been growing inpopularity, and the applications of solar power systems seem somewhat endless.Between convenient portable and fully off-grid household systems, there are anumber of considerations to take into account when deciding if a solar powerbank is an appropriate purchase for you.

Are Solar Power Banks Worth It?

Deciding if a solar power bank is worth it foryou with will depend on a few relatively minor things. You will need tounderstand the energy efficiency, overall cost, and lifespan of the battery.Then, you should move forward to consider when and why you will be using apower bank.

The efficiency of your solar power bank willdepend on the overall quality of the device you purchase. The two primaryfactors that will influence the efficiency of your solar power bank are thebattery capacity and the correct solar panel specs. These will also help you todetermine which power system fits your needs.

There will be mentions of larger solar powerbanks throughout this article; however, the focus will be on portable systems.If you are looking to invest in a system large enough to power a house or to gooff-grid, much of the information here is applicable, just not specific to thatlarge of a system.

Cost of an Energy Bank

As with most electronic items on the market, itseems as if the more money you spend upfront, the longer the item will last.Now, this isn’t always the case, but when it comes to investing in a solarpower bank, you need to look for overall product quality.

The larger the battery capacity and the moreoptimized solar panel output, the more expensive the system will be. Beyond thebattery capacity, the brand name and solar panel technology will factor intothe cost as well.

Within the range of 10000-20000mAh for bank batterycapacity, your price will be between $20-40 USD. If you are looking forcapacity larger than 20000mAh, then you will be looking at a higher costaltogether. As far as compact travel solar power banks go, you should be ableto get a good quality product for $60 USD or less.

Now, if you are looking for a larger solar“generator” type bank or portable power station, then you will likely bespending between $200-3000 USD. Certain brands, like GoalZero, carry powerstation products that are designed to run with the power of a gasoline stylegenerator but are charged by solar instead.

All in all, the cost of your solar power bankwill be up to you. If you are just looking for a simple, convenient traveloption, you will not be spending over $60 USD. However, if you are looking fora back-up power source or something to bring on long car camping trips, then alarger portable power station may be a better investment.

What Can I Charge With A Solar Power Bank?

Since the primary purpose of solar power is havinga power source anywhere that you happen to be, the battery has to be smallenough to easily transport. With that in mind, the smaller the battery, theless energy storage it will have.

All of the portable solar system models are alittle bit different in size and power capacity, but for the most part, aportable solar power bank will be able to charge

  • Tablets
  • Smartphones
  • Laptops
  • Cameras
  • GPS Systems
  • Headphones
  • Portable Radio and/or Speaker
  • Other Battery Packs

Some of the larger solar “generator” systemswill have the capability to run small appliances, and can also be used as aback-up for household items. What you can charge off of your power bank will bedetermined by how much energy it can store at any given time.

How Much Energy Will Be Saved?

Unless you plan on installing a solar energysystem for your entire house, then you will not be saving an exponential amountof energy by using a portable solar power bank. While all electrical devicesuse up some amount of energy, smaller devices like phones and tablets use lessthan powering all of the energy eating appliances in our homes.

Portable solar power systems and storage wereinitially designed for emergency purposes and for backcountry or off-gridapplications. These systems were not designed to power large power grids oreven to be used that often in general.

Average Solar Bank Lifespan

Now, we are not talking about how long thecharge lasts here. We are talking about how long the battery itself holds upover time. Once again there are a lot of variables to consider when answeringthis question, and how long your solar bank lasts will largely be determined byhow often you use it, how well you care for it, the type of battery it is, andthe initial quality of the equipment.

It is also important to note that portable power systems will more than likely last longer than solar batteries used to power a home. In a solar system designed to power the average household in the United States, you will have to replace the battery storage system within 5-15 years. This is somewhat troubling due to the fact that the photovoltaic system (PV system) usually lasts at least 30 years.

If you have to replace a power bank that isbeing used daily, then once could assume that it would take a number of yearsbeyond that estimated amount to require a portable power bank replacement. Ifyou do use your solar power bank every day, then you will be looking atreplacing it within 5-15 years’ time.

Some companies will have specifics in regards toreplacing batteries in the solar system. Always follow closely to themanufacturer’s guidelines in regards to battery care and lifespan.

How Solar Banks Work

A power bank of any kind can be defined as aportable storage device that can supply power from its built-in USB port. Now,a solar power bank isn’t much different than that, the primary differentiationthat must be made is a solar storage unit produces its energy from the sunlightit collects.

Most solar power banks are designed to be aportable source of energy. While there are larger generator style power storagesolutions powered by the sun, the most commonly used ones are small and compactrenewable energy sources.

They store the energy from the sun using smallsolar panels then convert their solar power into stored energy in the batterypack. This battery can then be used to charge other devices such as a mobilephone or tablet. Usually, the connection point will be via a USB cable, but onlarger generator style power banks, it will include multiple outletoptions.

Charging

How long your solar power bank takes to chargeand how long it lasts while it is charging one of your devices will vary bymodel depending on the battery capacity and method used to charge the powerbank. One general observation that can be made is the larger the batterycapacity, the longer it will take to reach a full charge.

That being said, manufacturers have come up witha simple equation to allow for estimated ranges of charge time:

Time to Charge = (Battery Capacity) / (Solar Panel Power)

When you are looking to purchase a solar powerbank, the manufacturer should have already done this leg work for you. Withinthe packaging or on the company website, all of their solar power packagesshould estimate the time it takes to charge via solar panel and poweroutlet.

So depending on the solar panel used to charge a20000mAh power bank, manufacturers generally put out the required time range of60-70 hours of charge time vs. 5-6 hours charging on a power outlet. Now, wealso have to remember that the intensity of the charge will be determined byclimate and weather conditions. So, if it isn’t a sunny day, you will behard-pressed to get much of a charge, if any at all.

Since predicting that actual amount of time itwill take to charge via a solar panel is so subjective if you have a largersolar power bank that you will rely on for a number of days or for a tripyou’re taking, it is recommended that you charge the power bank via poweroutlet before you leave. This will ensure that your power bank has a fullcharge from the start, and then you can leave it plugged into your solar powersource when you are off-grid.

Holding a Charge

How long your power bank lasts off of a fullcharge will depend on the battery capacity and how much it is being used. Ifyou are strictly using it to charge a smartphone once a day, then the batterywill last much longer than if it is being used to charge multiple devices atthe same time throughout the day.

If you plan on using the power bank for multipledays, you should be charging it via solar panel the entire time. This willallow it to continue to hold a charge throughout the entirety of yourtrip.

Solar Power Bank vs. Solar Charger

When searching for a solar power bank online,you will likely also come across solar chargers. While their function issomewhat similar, they serve different purposes overall. A solar charger issimply that, a charger. When you plug your device into a solar charger, it mustbe in direct sunlight in order to charge the device’s battery.

A solar power bank, on the other hand, is ableto store the energy collected in its personal battery. This allows you tocharge the power bank in the sun and have a fully charged power source nomatter the time of day.

Most solar power banks do not strictly acceptsolar power either. You are usually able to charge them with an alternativeform of energy. The solar charging system that connects to the solar power bankis usually a convenience or emergency option.

Choosing the Right Power Bank for your Device

There are a number of factors that need to beconsidered when deciding which purchase option to choose from. First, you mustdetermine what you will be using it to charge and how you plan on charging thepower bank as well.

Tips for choosing the right solar power bank foryour needs:

  1. Battery Capacity
  2. Solar Panel Specs
  3. Portability
  4. Charging Ports
  5. Battery Type
  6. Additional Features

Battery Capacity

This was discussed very briefly when we talkedabout charging the power bank and holding a charge. However, in order todetermine what battery capacity is right for your needs, you will need to knowwhat you will be using the power bank for.

When discussing the battery capacity in thecontext of a solar power bank, we are talking about the amount of energy thatcan be stored. When referring to the battery capacity, the energy stored in thebank is usually referred to in mAh (Ampere-Hour) or Wh (Watt-Hour) units.

One problem with measuring the battery capacityin mAh is that this unit of measurement is designed to tell us how much powerthe battery can put out at a given time. This is an issue because we areusually in search of the amount of power the device we are charging isdraining. Overall, the higher the mAh number on the power bank, the more youwill be able to charge on a full battery.

The table below gives a brief overview of mAhbattery capacity and charging capabilities.

mAh What It Can Charge
< 3000 mAh One Smartphone
3000 – 10,000 mAh Phones and Tablets
> 10,000 mAh Phone, Tablet, Laptop, and other small electronics

As you can see from the table above, batterycapacity lower than 3000 mAh will only be enough to charge your phone one time,and sometimes it may not even charge your phone completely. Knowing what youwant to use your power bank will help you determine which one to get and alsoif it will be a worthwhile investment at all.

Solar Panel Specs

While virtually all of the solar power banksystems can be charged with a standard power outlet, the main draw is that youdo not have to depend on the power grid completely. You can store power usingthe sun!

When determining the quality of your solarpanels, you will want to examine both the panel cells along with the panelsize. It should seem like the size of the panel would be the only concern, as alarger panel should mean it can collect more sun, but that’s not always thecase.

Look at the specs of all the solar panels youare considering. Find out what the power output is as well as the generalefficiency in collecting and converting solar energy. As with the power bank,sometimes you will need to pay just a little bit more in order to achieve thehighest efficiency.

It is also important to consider how large of apower bank you are charging via solar panels. If it is simply a source of powerfor your phone on weekend trips, your solar panels will be small and compact.Whereas panels that are intended to power a battery that can run a blender or asmall fridge will need a larger panel to collect more sunlight.

System Portability

Once you know what you want to use your solarpower bank for, you will need to consider how portable it is. If you want itstrictly for backpacking trips where you need to charge your GPS, then you willbe looking for something lightweight and panels you can strap to your packwhile you’re hiking.

If you’re looking for a car camping power sourceor even a power source for a campervan, then you will be looking at somethingthat you can move around, but aren’t expected to carry. Many of the highercapacity power banks will be the size of or just slightly larger than a carbattery.

It is also important to remember that we aretalking about the entire solar system here, not just the battery. Some solarpanels are foldable, or some of the smaller banks have the panels built ontothe battery. As mentioned before, this will be up to the consumer’s needs, butkeep in mind what you will be doing and if that power bank system as a whole isconducive to your needs.

Charging Ports

As with the battery capacity and portability,how many charging ports you need will be up to you. If you want to be able tocharge multiple phones or tablets at a time, look for power banks that havemultiple USB portals.

Some larger power banks will allow for a varietyof plug-in options ranging from USB, standard outlet prongs, or even anauxiliary option. These banks are more suitable for people looking for back-upat home for emergencies or families looking for an off-grid car campingsolution.

Battery Type

The majority of the solar power bank batterieson the market today are lithium-ion polymer. There are variations, such as alead-acid or saltwater battery. Major factors to consider when you are decidingon the battery type of your solar power system is the depth of discharge andthe overall lifespan of the battery itself.

The depth of discharge is referring to theamount of the battery’s full storage capacity that can be utilized ordischarged. It is an alternative method used to indicate the battery’s state ofcharge.

Lead-acid batteries are a more traditionaloff-grid solar solution. The main draw that they hold is that they willgenerally have a lower depth of discharge and a shorter lifespan than otherbattery options. A lead-acid battery will usually only be an option when youare looking at converting your entire household energy system to solar, and itcan be a good option for homeowners on a budget when going solar as they arethe least expensive storage solution.

Saltwater batteries are most often a homemadeDIY solar solution. It is considered a newcomer in the solar energy storageindustry, only because they have just started to hit the market. Since theyrely strictly on saltwater electrolytes, there are no heavy metals, which makesit a more eco-friendly option. The lack of heavy metals makes it easy torecycle, unlike lead-acid and lithium-ion. The major downfall is that sincethey’re a newer technology, there is not as much data available on theireffectiveness and longevity.

Lithium-Ion Polymer batteries will be the mostcommon battery you will come across when researching portable solar power banksystems. If it isn’t a lithium polymer battery, then it will be some sort oflithium-ion chemical composition. A lithium-ion polymer battery will have alonger lifespan and a higher depth of discharge in comparison with otherbattery types. Their effectiveness makes them a more expensive battery option,but you will be paying for quality.

Additional Features

Other features that are often worth consideringwhen shopping for a solar power bank include:

  • Durability
  • LED Light
  • Aesthetic Design
  • Clips, hooks, and hoops forhanging
  • Foldable panel options
  • Waterproof or Water REsistant
  • Cables and AdaptorsIncluded

When shopping for a new gadget, it can come downto the little things when making your decision.

Top Rated Solar Power Banks 2019

If you’ve made it this far in your research, youmight as well look into a few of your options. We’ve picked out five of ourfavorite solar power banks on the market today. It is hard to choose just fourwith so many options today, but this can be a good place for you to jumpstartyour digging.

The four best solar power banks ranging fromsmall compact batteries to portable power stations:

  1. BEARTWO 10000mAh
  2. ZeroLemon 26800mAh
  3. FEELE 25000mAh Solar Power Bank
  4. GoalZero Yeti 400 Lithium Portable Power Station

BEARTWO 10000mAh

This power bank is for those strictly lookingfor an economical option for charging their phone. With the small, compactdesign, it makes this a perfect option for a traveler or backpacker looking fora lightweight option to clip on and go.

Not only that, but even with its waterprooftechnology, you will only be paying around $25 USD for a portable solar powerbank.

Specs: 10,000mAh battery capacity, 4-5 hours tocharge via solar, weight of 7.4 oz

ZeroLemon 26800mAh

Similar to the last option, the ZeroLemon is acompact easy to travel with a power bank. It does, however, have a much largerbattery capacity allowing you to charge multiple devices or one device multipletimes.

This article is owned by SolarPowerGenie.com and was first published on November 21, 2019

Designed to be clipped to the exterior of abackpack, the ZeroLemon design has an adventure in mind. Beyond the awesome LEDlight built-in for convenience, the case is designed to protect the bank fromshocks and damages, making it the perfect outdoor companion.

With the added battery capacity and additionalfeatures, this brings the price up a bit more, but still affordable at around$60 USD>

Specs: 26,800 mAh battery capacity, weight of19.86 oz

FEELE 25000mAh Solar Power Bank

Moving into larger options, this FEELE SolarPower Bank will be larger due to the foldable solar panels. This is to matchthe larger battery capacity and to allow for a more efficient solar collectionand conversion when charging.

With the high battery capacity, it will beheavier than the earlier options but has the ability to charge most devices upto 12+ times on a full battery. Keep in mind that in order to reach a fullcharge, it can take up 25-30 hours using strictly solar to charge the powerbank. While that may seem like a long time, this is actually one of the mostefficient power banks in its solar charging abilities.

This article is owned by SolarPowerGenie.com and was first published on November 21, 2019

This will run around $40 USD making it amid-range purchase option for travelers that aren’t worried about weight.

Specs: Waterproof, 25,000mAh battery capacity, 4solar panels 5W 1A current, weight of 1.18 lbs

GoalZero Yeti 400 Lithium Portable Power Station

Moving onto the big guns, GoalZero has a lot tooffer in the form of solar power systems, and their portable power stations aresome of the best on the market today. With a range of sizes and abilities, youcan mix and match to find the perfect combination for your power needs.

The Yeti 400 comes with a replaceable lithiumbattery and versatile powering options, including three USB ports, two ACoutlets, and 12V output. If you’re looking for an emergency backup power for afew hours or something to bring car-camping. You will be able to chargeanything from your phone, laptop, camera, or table multiple times and can runsmall appliances off of it as needed. This is a great option running at about$600 USD, but keep in mind that price is only for the power bank, it does notinclude solar panels.

Although it has a high battery capacity, it onlytakes about 7 hours to charge via wall charger and between 4-32 hours,depending on the capabilities of your solar panels.

This article is owned by SolarPowerGenie.com and was first published on November 21, 2019

Specs: 428 Wh battery capacity, weight of 16.3lbs

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