How to choose a solar battery for your gadget

How to choose a solar battery for your gadget

The simplest battery chargers on photovoltaic panels are comparable to the USB output of a computer, and some models can even feed the TV.

Industrial solar power (generation of electric or thermal energy from solar energy) has long ceased to be technical exotics. Most often, such technologies are used either in giant power plants or in systems that ensure the energy independence of a private house or hotel far from civilization — in the mountains or on the seashore. But the efficiency of photovoltaic cells is constantly growing, which means that the size of solar cells is decreasing. So today, no one is surprised by the small panels on the pole, supplying energy to the parking meter or providing illumination of a road sign. And in the meantime, devices for charging gadgets from a star called the Sun appeared on the market: solar charges are becoming familiar both in a city apartment and in a tent in the forest.


The cost of the simplest devices of an unknown, often Chinese manufacturer, with indistinctly described parameters starts from 5-10$. With a total of 10-20$ you can find a “clamshell”, equipped with a battery, voltage switch, a set of connectors that can produce up to 12V of output voltage. The cost of devices with high-quality photovoltaic plates and capacious batteries, capable of charging both laptops and more voracious devices, starts from 30-50$.

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Even if you do not understand how a volt differs from an ampere, you will have to deal with some technical tricks in order to choose the right device for yourself and not overpay.

POWER. Models that can deliver about 3.5 watts of power are similar to the familiar USB port on a computer. Such parameters can provide a photovoltaic panel with a size of 20 x 15 cm (half a sheet of writing paper).

The 10 W panels support the output voltage of 12 V, which corresponds to a car cigarette lighter – they will be useful with active use of the phone / smartphone, music players, GPS navigators, LED flashlights. Models with a capacity of 20 watts should be considered if you need to charge tablets and laptops. However, the value of 20 watts is still at the limit of the possible – even in netbooks, power supplies have power, as a rule, from 30 watts. This means that the current produced by the panel is clearly not enough to charge such devices.

But the household solar battery with a power above 50 W is suitable even for powering a TV, laptop and any charger. True, these devices are quite large and weighty. It is convenient to install them at dachas or in stationary camps, but you will not take a hike with you. In general, the solar charge of the initial level charges its own battery or the battery of the average level of the phone for 8-10 hours.

VOLTAGE. To charge only mobile phones and other electronic trivia, stop at devices whose output voltage does not exceed 9 V.

If you need to feed the tablets, netbook or laptop, choose values of 12-19 V (there are also models that require even 24 V).

To obtain the desired output voltage just perfect monoblocks, in which the combined photovoltaic panel and battery. Often such models have an output voltage switch.

EQUIPMENT. It is better if the photovoltaic panel is stored in a strong, waterproof container. Often, an impressive set of tips for various types of phones, netbooks and laptops comes to the charger. Most likely, one will be used. But what to do with the rest? After all, they can be useful at any time. In this case, you can fold all the accessories in some kind of case or pockets in the container.


Recall that the term form factor is used to describe the shape and size of devices.

In the most general form, solar charges are divided into two types: monoblocks containing a photovoltaic panel and a storage battery (the necessary device is then charged), or “just” solar panels that directly connect to the gadget. The disadvantage of the latter is that they can be used only in daylight, and positive quality – less weight.

With regard to solar charging, the simplest option is a rectangular socket in a case. Simple and relatively cheap. True, this design suffers from bumps and bends. There are other suggestions.

“COT”. Complete analogy with mobile phone. Opened such a “little book” and in the light of day there appeared two panels, at another time securely covered with a case.

FLEXIBLE PLATES. They are often attached to bags, backpacks, clothes.


  • MATERIAL. In the production of photovoltaic panels, monocrystalline and amorphous (polycrystalline) silicon is used. Devices on polycrystalline modules are cheaper. But the annual loss of efficiency in them will quickly reduce cheapness to zero. A case in point is inexpensive solar garden lanterns. Every season they shine worse. And the problem is not in batteries or the number of clear days: just the efficiency of an inexpensive socket is constantly decreasing.
  • GLASS. Photo cells on the panel are covered with glass. Ideally – tempered (for durability) and textured. Because inexpensive batteries, where not glass was used, but a laminating film, are very sensitive to cold. In the cold, such a coating shrinks, depressurization occurs, and the air gap reduces
  • Efficiency Smooth glass reflects too much direct sunlight and most of the scattered light. Textured glass increases the input radiation power by 12-15%.


Maximum efficiency can be achieved if the panels are perpendicular to the rays (so that they look at the sun). However, do not show fanaticism in this matter, otherwise the charging position will have to be corrected every quarter of an hour. With a small, up to 20 ° angle to the rays, the power does not drop very much, and at 45 ° it continues to produce half of the maximum, which should be enough to charge small gadgets.

If such a charger is used in a house or car, then it is desirable to locate it outside: window glass reduces the received power by 20–40%, and beyond double-glazed windows, the parameters are even worse.

Turn off the charged gadgets. This in itself reduces the amount of energy that the photovoltaic panel should provide. In addition, there are models of smartphones that, when connected to any power source, leave the power saving mode and consume energy faster than this type of charger can provide.