Tuesday, June 7, 2011

USB Solar Charger

Quite often people think that there is nothing they can do since they cannot afford a $15,000 PV solar roof array.  Actually its quite the opposite, there are thousands of low tech and inexpensive opportunities for you to save the environment and your wallet.  Do not be a pessimist, any sort of action will make a difference.

I had recently ordered a Solar USB Charger from Brown Dog Gadgets after hearing about them on TreeHugger. 

Most of the packages from Brown Dog also come disassembled so if you happen to have a love for using your hands, a soldering iron you can build your very own USB solar charger.  However if you are not the adventurous sort you can order the final package, most products are fairly inexpensive around $30 for 7V.  The solar chargers work with all devices, and until recently were not able to support Apple products (As usual Apple leads the way in being very anti open sourced and physically make their products unable to work with other non-apple products).  If you are getting one of these for an Apple product, make sure you get the proper version.

Brown Dog also has the cool idea of housing the devices inside a recycled Altoids tin.  I decided to take the plunge and assemble my own device.  The package was fairly simple parts wise; two AA rechargeable batteries, a USB component, some wires, 7V solar panel, and a diode.  I must warn you than if you are constructing your own solar charger that these packages do not come with the Altoids tin for whatever reason, however luckily I found a soft case that will house my charger. 

The construction was fairly easy, it only took me 2 hours max, with a total of 6-8 solders.  And it worked!  I plugged in my Nexus S smart phone and it was charging.  I have however not had the chance to completely charge a device with the solar charger, the website however states that a full charge takes several full days of sunlight, and they were able to run an Ipod of just the incoming solar power, as well as make a call. 

This device will be very handy for myself, as I will try and strap it to the outside of my backpack as I walk around while travelling.  This way I will always have an backup source of power and can always make a phone call.  The device is also small, which is good for the ultimate portability.  Most devices now a days can all be connected via USB, so this device has the ultimate adaptability.  On top of all of this, the device also charges two AA batteries.  After the batteries are charged you can take them out and place them in another device (GPS, radio, flashlight), and substitute two uncharged batteries.


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