Author Topic: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?  (Read 5434 times)

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Offline BikingBrian

Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
« on: June 21, 2013, 12:10:34 pm »
I'll be riding the Oregon coast in a couple of weeks would like to keep my iPhone and Garmin Edge 500 charged up. I've been thinking about getting a solar panel, but I'm wondering if it's more trouble than it's worth, any thoughts? I have a USB charger that can use 4 AA batteries, and I have an external battery pack which can be charged by AC power. So that may be enough of a backup if I'm away from AC power.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
« Reply #1 on: June 21, 2013, 03:45:02 pm »
I'd skip the solar panel.  You will find lots of places to plug in, especially if you plan to eat a diner meal here and there.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2013, 05:57:29 pm »
There isn't anyplace in the U.S. where you will be away from AC power for very long. Of course, you may find yourself sitting around some power plug for longer than you want while waiting for stuff to charge.

Offline mdxix

Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2013, 08:17:46 pm »
I have tried the Solio and did not have much luck with it. I would much rather carry extra USB batteries and USB charger. Each of these USB batteries bring the iPhone or the Garmin Edge 810 to about 50%.

The solar charger had to be in direct most optimal sunlight. Anything else would not charge the iPhone: change of angle, clouds, shade, and direction.

Offline BikingBrian

Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2013, 12:01:35 am »
I ended up getting this, because it was pretty cheap and had a built-in battery. I will probably have AC much of the time, but this is small enough to have "just in case". If it works out well, I'll post back here.

http://www.instapark.com/solar-power-panels/mercury-4s-ultra-slim-portable-solar-usb-cell-phone-charger.html

Offline freightbike

Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
« Reply #5 on: June 29, 2013, 08:58:04 pm »
The solar panel is a bit iffy. I recently attempted to start a tour on the west coast in WA and OR using a very large solar panel that was to charge up a battery pack to power a C-PAP device. The panel was flexible enough to drape over my BOB trailer but because of cloudy, rainy and heavy woods, I was not able to get more than two or three hours run time on my C-PAP. The panel measured 21"x 30". Maybe it would have worked better east of the coastal mountains.
May the wind at your back always smell like home.
                  MORG

Offline paddleboy17

Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2013, 12:32:59 pm »
The solar panel is a bit iffy. I recently attempted to start a tour on the west coast in WA and OR using a very large solar panel that was to charge up a battery pack to power a C-PAP device. The panel was flexible enough to drape over my BOB trailer but because of cloudy, rainy and heavy woods, I was not able to get more than two or three hours run time on my C-PAP. The panel measured 21"x 30". Maybe it would have worked better east of the coastal mountains.

This is not a fair comparison from my point of view.  Your CPAP batteries are huge (3x+) in comparison to what the iPhone and GPS combined need.  CPAP batteries would be much more difficult to charge from solar, whereas one could charge some AAs and an iPhone.  With new iron phosphate batteries being so much cheaper than they used to be, I would just get a 10 or 15 AH battery and plan on AC charging for your CPAP.  I have 10AH x 12VDC NiMH batteries, but this is the last season that I am going to use them.  Recharging wastes half of the input power as heat.  Lithium ion batteries are so much more efficient at charging, and iron phosphate batteries ( 1 of 3 different lithium ion implementation) are a better approximation for the lead acid cells that a CPAP machine was designed to run on.

I do agree with your outcome though.  You have to bring AC chargers for cloudy days anyways, and AC charging should be available.  In a pinch, alkaline AAs can be bought for the GPS.  And rechargable NiMH AAs are going to waste half of the input power as heat.  I carry a POWERGEN external battery which should easily give you 3 full charges to your iPhone.  So as desirable as solar charging is, I just don't think it is quite ready for prime time yet when it comes to bike touring in the USA.
Danno

Offline conifir

Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2013, 10:51:17 pm »
I wanted to eliminate the daily search for batteries...  Or to be looking where I could plug in my chargers.... An after many many moons of :-) disappoint with what is out there....  Last year I bought a solar charger that does it all....   GOALZERO NOMAD    it is worth every penny.      Good luck

Offline aggie

Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
« Reply #8 on: July 02, 2013, 05:38:02 pm »
Like mdxix I tried a Solio.  It just never seemed to get a full charge while I was riding.  If I stopped for a day and left it out I got a full charge.  This particular one may not be the best for charging on the back of your back.  I use an AA battery charger when I can't find an outlet to recharge my stuff.

Offline rcrampton

Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
« Reply #9 on: July 06, 2013, 09:24:48 am »
I'd skip the solar panel.  You will find lots of places to plug in, especially if you plan to eat a diner meal here and there.

I had no shortage of places to plug in along the OR coast. We stopped for snacks at a convenience store a couple of times per day and ate lunch on the road. If I were using a phone with GPS running all day and needed more juice then I'd personally go with a dynamo hub with a USB port. Expensive, but it would be worth the money over the solar solutions for me.
 

Offline kmwoley

Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
« Reply #10 on: August 10, 2013, 04:37:52 am »
I took a solar panel on my last tour and found it moderately useful - mostly for the days camping where I had it stationary in the sunlight in the morning/afternoon before leaving camp. It did alright on the back rack of the bike, but I generally was near a plug every other day so I could recharge everything so it wasn't truly needed,

(this was the solar panel: sCharger-5, http://www.amazon.com/sCharger-5-Performance-Sunlight-Extremely-Reliable/dp/B003ZFQUWO)

The most useful thing was this: Tekkeon MP1580
MPhttp://www.amazon.com/Tekkeon-MP1580-TEKCHARGE-Battery-Charger/dp/B006FXUS1C/

It's a AA battery charger. But it also and lets you recharge other devices off of rechargeable or normal AA batteries. Worked great to charge the cell phone, bike light, or charge the AA batteries for my Garmin Oregon 450.

On my next tour, I'll likely leave the solar panel behind and just take the MP1580 and 6 Eneloop AAs.

Offline bogiesan

Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
« Reply #11 on: August 13, 2013, 01:25:53 pm »
Just returned from Ride Idaho 2013, 400+ miles, six days, northern Idaho panhandle, 370 or so riders. Lots of solar panels this year. By far, the most popular device was the Goal Zero 7. I counted 12 of them in camp. The ham radio operators had 5 more at their fee-based charging station (along with a Honda generator and one of Goal Zero's huge survival-grade solar collectors). This model 7 produces enough power to directly push an iPhone but still requires a bulk storage system to push a tablet.
Why was this the most popular model? The answer I got from several folks: it's available at Costco in a package that is aggressively priced to move.

I took along my little GZ 3.5 and the 4-AA batt pack. The pack only moves the iphone battery charge indicator about 25% even when the pack is completely topped off. So if the phone drops below 70% or so, it will never come all the way back to 100%. Running without the GPS apps and powering down preserved the iPhone but it usually got below 50% by night time. The battery pack only pushed it back to 60-70% so I poached AC mains power couple of times.

I rode with the phone off most of the time but the ipHone was also my camera so that complicated things. Next time I'll take a separate camera, probably equipped with an Eye-fi card to upload directly to the iPhone via wifi.

Sheesh. I just reread that last statement. I just committed to a stupidly complex system.
I play go. I use Macintosh. Of course I ride a recumbent

Offline SlowAndSlower

Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
« Reply #12 on: August 13, 2013, 11:48:25 pm »
Just returned from Ride Idaho 2013, 400+ miles, six days, northern Idaho panhandle, 370 or so riders. Lots of solar panels this year.

Just out of curiosity did you note anyone using hub dynamos and usb charging ports on them?

Offline bogiesan

Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
« Reply #13 on: August 14, 2013, 09:26:00 am »
Just returned from Ride Idaho 2013, 400+ miles, six days, northern Idaho panhandle, 370 or so riders. Lots of solar panels this year.

Just out of curiosity did you note anyone using hub dynamos and usb charging ports on them?

Negative.
Ride Idaho is a fully supported tour event and 99.9% of the riders are running high zoot racing bikes. The rest of us are on Bike Fridays, recumbents, mountain bikes, fabulously tricked out touring steeds or freak bikes. There were a few touring bikes with dynamo hubs but they were older systems used only for headlights. I saw none of the newer, USB-style hub dynamos.
I play go. I use Macintosh. Of course I ride a recumbent

Offline Steve All

Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
« Reply #14 on: September 10, 2013, 02:57:23 pm »
I was asked to share my experiences with solar (AA/AAA) battery charging in another post, so here's the link:

http://forums.adventurecycling.org/index.php?topic=11969.msg61110#msg61110