Tag Archives: Solar

A Tale of Two USB Battery Packs With Integral Solar Cells – One is Worth It and One Is Not

These days it is hard for me to go long without a phone. Whether it is checking email or researching something – I need a phone. What does that also mean? I need a way to recharge the phone and the traditional approach woud have been to hoof around a spare USB battery pack. Now, add my wife and multiple devices into the mix plus no easy access to a charger for the battery pack itself and life gets interesting.

I’d seen USB battery packs on Amazon that had integral solar sells and decided to buy two different models to see which met my needs better. During a recent family trip we were able to really put the two units to a real world test and want to share the results with you.

First Up: The Soxono F16W

The F16W is a sleek looking unit with two USB charger pots, a light and integral wireless charger. There is also a pretty rugged rubber cover that seals the ports from water.

Here’s the top of the F16W
Here’s the back. There is an LED light at the top and the black circle is the wireless charging pad.

Here are the specs:

Model: F16WCapacity: 16,000mAH
Solar: 5.5v@280mAHInput USB-C: 5v@2.0A
Output USB-A1: 5v@2.1AOutput USB-A2: 5v@2.1A
Wireless output: 5WTotal Output: 5v@2.1A
Dimensions
LxWxH: 6.7″ x 3.3″ x 0.87″
Thickness: 0.92″
Weight: 0.78 pounds (12.5 oz)
Voltage and capacity data obtained from the back of the unit and not independently verified.

This was my first unit to try and it served fairly well as a battery back. My normal pack is a 10,000mAH Anker and I feel that the Anker lasts longer. We charged/topped off my Note 8 a number of times plus my wife’s S10+ once. We were taking a ton of photos and sending them so we were draining the phones quickly.

During the heaviest day of use it got down to one lit LED on its gas gauge and I can’t really say the solar panel made a huge difference for the amount I used it. If you notice, the output is really tiny at 280mAH, which is why it really didn’t help much. It does help some no doubt but it is a trickle compared to how fast you will likely use the battery. Would it be better than nothing? Yeah, but it’s going to take a looooong time to charge that battery depending on the amount of sunlight and temperature.

Now please note something, there are a lot of vendors out there putting a relative few solar cells on the top of their unit and charging a premium. With as small of output as those cells can generate, it would take any brand quite a long time to recharge the battery.

On the plus side, it was decidedly smaller than the next unit and the wireless charging was nice but I switched to cords once I realized the battery seemed to discharge pretty quick. Wireless charging on a battery doesn’t make a ton of sense if you are trying to get the most out of your battery because it is inherently less efficient than charging with a cable. Sure, there is the convenience of not needing cables and if that matters to you then fine and it does work on this unit.

Would I recommend it? No. Get an Anker charger if you don’t care about solar charging and just want a good reliable battery. The solar cells on top really don’t make a difference. If you do want solar, check out the next unit.

By the way, I highly recommend Anker batteries. I’ve literally used them for years and a number of different models. You can choose based on your preferences for size, capacity and number of ports.

Next up: The Hiluckey Outdoor HI-S025

Let me lead with: It’s bigger, it’s heavier and it absolutely did the job. It’s a Chinese product made by Dongguan Jili Intelligent Technology Co., who is a very prolific manufacturer of these types of solar chargers.

Here’s the top of the unit with the solar panels unfolded. Note, the fabric encases the edges of the solar cells. One small area had the adhesive let go during a hot day in the sun and I pushed it back down. In looking at it right now at my desk, I can’t tell where it happened.
A simple but effective snap keeps the folded panels closed.

Here are the specs:

Model: HI-S025Capacity: 25,000mAH
Solar: 5v@6.0WInput Micro USB: 5v@2.0A
Output USB-A1: 5v@2.1AOutput USB-A2: 5v@2.1A
Wireless output: NoneTotal Output: 5v@2.1A
Dimensions
LxWxH: 6.1″x3.35″x1.37″
Unfolded Solar Panel
Width Becomes: 13.9″
Thickness Folded: 1.33″Main body Thickness: 0.86″
Solar panel thickness: 0.177″Weight: 1.29 pounds (20.64oz)
Voltage and Capacity data obtained from the back of the unit and not independently verified.

When I got this out of the box I really was put off by the size just to be honest. I wanted something that would fit in my pocket and the size and weight of this really meant it was better off going in my pack. You know what? It’s worth it.

First off, you have a pretty big battery in terms of capacity – 25,000 mAH and solar cells that generate enough output (6 watts is 6,000 mA by the way and 21.4x the solar panel output of the above unit). That’s not enough to keep up with a device drawing 2.1 amps (10.5 watts) but it is going to help and it is going to recharge the battery faster.

The smaller Soxono F16W is in the front and the larger Hiluckey HI-S025 is in the rear. The visible orange button on the Soxono controls the LED light and wireless charging.

We used this battery extensively over a full day and only lowered the charge from 5 LEDs to three. We did deploy the solar panels a few times and the only cosmetic issue I noted was that the adhesive holding the fabric to the face of one cell got soft and separated. I pressed it back down and it stayed put. It was 93F outside so combine that with being in the sun, that panel was pretty hot.

So, the bottom line is that it is bigger and heavier than a traditional battery-only pack but it worked. I topped my Note 8’s battery a number of times and my wife’s S10+ once with no problems.

Another Option: Dedicated Separate Solar Panels

There is another option that I plan to test – having separate solar panels that have a USB output for charging devices. This would seem to be the best of both worlds – a larger folding solar panel that can charge faster but it is separate from the USB battery that can still go in your pocket. I did some reading of reviews and bought the following unit and forgot to bring it on the trip … yeah, I left it right on the corner of my desk.

In Conclusion

I’d recommend Anker brand batteries for folks needing compact power. I would not recommend the Soxono and I would recommend the HiLuckey HI-S025 to folks who need a big battery that can actually recharge with an attached solar panel. I’ll report back how things go with the dedicated panel when I have time.


Dongguan Jili Intelligent Technology Co

A quick parting comment – I’ve never heard of Dongguan Jili Intelligent Technology Co. before but they make a number of models and brands of batteries and solar related products on Amazon. They all seem to get very good reviews:


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Use Wired and Solar Lights To Improve Home Security

Defending your home and family takes some thought. In general. the more layers of defense you add, the lower your risk is. For example, lights, security alarm, security cameras, dogs, radio running, etc. You can’t eliminate risk but you can certainly lower it to a level you judge as acceptable. An easy deterrent for you to add or improve is outdoor lighting and the reason is simple – people with malicious intents prefer the shadows and don’t want to be lit up for everyone to see.

Hard Wired Lights

When I say “hard wired”, I am talking about lights that are connected to the premises electrical power, such as 120 volts AC in the US. Most folks have at least porch lights and perhaps garage lights. Run them. These are deterrents – if people up to no good see a well lit home, it reduces their interest. Note that I did not say it makes 100% of them skip your home but the cost is trivial these days. If you are worried about cost, install LED bulbs – they seriously cut down power use. It used to be that LED bulbs cost a fortune but you can now routinely find them on sales for $1-2/ea.

Don’t want to run your lights all the time – 24×7? Granted you are wasting money and the lights running may signal “nobody is home”. We do not run out lights around the clock for both reasons – just dusk to dawn.

There are light sensors that simply screw in between the light and the lamp receptacle. Want timers? You can go with timers that flip the switch, timers that replace the switch and even smart programmable switches that connect to your WiFi and you can load schedules, etc. There are even programmable lights that have speakers in them to extend smart home sound systems — remember that an LED light element is going to last a long, long time all things being equal so it’s not as weird as it may sound.

Solar Lights

If you look at your property, odds are there are a lot of dark spots at night – we do. Running power to these areas wasn’t realistic but at the same time I wondered what I could do to light some of them up strategically. The short answer is solar security lights – not just the very dim walkway lights you see in garden centers. These lights range from dim to incredibly bright.

It turns out there are a ton of different model lights that can turn on dusk to dawn (or until the battery drains) or have a motion sensor that trips for some period of time (say 10-30 seconds) and then reset. You have options in terms of the brightness, how broad of an area is lit up, and so forth. I have a variety now.

You know what, these are pretty cool. The lights on the house are on all the time but these motion activated security lights not only give you light when you move around at night but they also serve like tripwires – a person (or deer) goes by and the light comes on startling them and they take off.

Here are some of the lights that I use. They all have motion sensors and have survived at least one Michigan winter including the -20F cold spell we had.

To the left you see a real bright solar security light with the motion sensor up top. A nice thing about this model is that long charging cord from the solar panel to the light. The side of the house where the light is located is in the shade. The side of the house where the panel is gets afternoon sun and recharges. This unit is about 3-4 years old and works great. You can see the garage light above and to the right of the solar panel. It is a dusk-to-dawn model. It has compact fluorescent bulbs currently but when they fail, I will replace them with LEDs.
You can see the small solar light just above the split in the doors. It’s small but does a great job – the solar panel is in the top of the unit. This Baxia BL-SL-101 light has a motion sensor, 28 LEDs, 400 lumen and comes in a four pack. This is one of my go-to lights when I just need a medium amount of light.
This is a Lemontek unit with 62 LEDs and the thing kicks out 2,000 lumen. It has a number of settings including dusk to dawn and motion sensor. We have a number of these and they do a great job. It is one of the models I use when I want a lot of light. You’ll notice a Baxia light back in the recessed area. The Lemontek covers a very broad area and the little one is just for the gate.
Here’s an example of one of our Baxia lights set up in a dark area of our yard. It has started a ton of deer when it has turned on unexpectedly at night due to its motion sensor.
This is an Aootek solar light with 48 LEDs, broad 180 degree illumination thanks to the angled panels, and while they don’t advertise the lumen (brightness), I can tell you it kicks out a lot of light.
This is a 4 year old Hallomall light. They stopped selling these when they introduced a new design so I switched to the Baxia brand. These came in a three pack and all still work. They sell other models that I have not tried.

The cheapest place I have found to buy these is Amazon and I read the reviews. Some have a ton of legitimate reviews and others have none at all – go with the model with more good reviews as opposed to fewer and taking a gamble. If you get a piece of junk, Amazon does have really good customer service but treat that as your safety net and try to buy the best you can. Note, some lights are sold individually and others come in 2, 4 or even larger quantity packages and it pays to do the math and see what is cheaper given the lights you need.

Solar lights do need sunlight to recharge so factor that into your plans. Also, they use batteries. I haven’t needed to open one up yet to replace them but I suspect some of them I will be able to replace the battery and others I will just need to replace the light due to age and oxidation of the solar panel and lens over the LEDs.

Smart Home Systems

Another category of lighting is taking off and those are the ones that are linked to smart home systems such as the Amazon Alexa. You can use voice control to turn on and off lights, set timers and much more through connected switches, outlets and other accessories. We use an Alexa in the kitchen and have a few Dots in other rooms. They are really handy once you get used to them.

Summary

Light up your property to deter vandals, burglars and trespassers. You have so many options using lights running off AC power to the tons and tons of options using solar. I use the AC light so people can see the area around the house is lit up and then I use solar lights to trip as needed and light up dark areas. Look at your property and consider how you might combine them with other security elements to reduce your risks.


If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.