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Posted by Sirena Rubinoff | Feb 14, 2010

Are Solar Electronics Chargers Worth It?

Getting off the grid has financial and environmental advantages, but it requires careful planning and some backup.

Solar-powered electronics are quickly becoming a part of mainstream electronics sales today. They are easy to use and environmentally friendly. However, solar electronics require specialized solar plates to recharge. These solar electronics chargers may have people wondering whether they're worth it due to the issues that arise when depending on the sun for energy. Our cost-benefit analysis will tell you the ups and downs of solar-powered electronics and then lets you decide if solar electronics are right for you.

How Solar Electronics Chargers Work

Solar electronics chargers have two main components: solar plates and a storage unit. When exposed to sunlight, the solar plates capture sunrays and convert the sun's energy into low-voltage DC electricity. This electricity is then stored in the charger's storage unit or used immediately if the charger comes with a cord that plugs directly into the solar electronic appliance. Oftentimes, solar chargers are used to recharge batteries for portable solar-power electronics. Solar electronics chargers come in a wide variety of sizes and power levels.

How To Choose the Right Solar Charger

If you are charging a solar electronic appliance, it should say the number of watts required for full use on the box or in the manufacturer's directions. In this case, you will simply need to buy a matching wattage solar charger. However, if you are trying to convert from using regular electronic chargers to solar ones, you will need to calculate to find out which solar charger is necessary. In order to do this, you need to know how many amp hours or watts your electronic appliance uses to function. Solar-powered electronic output is measured in watts, so you may need to use the following formula to convert between watts and amps: 15 watts will create about 1 amp per hour in direct sunlight. (For a more detailed conversion table, check out this Solar Calculator.)

Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Chargers

High-quality solar chargers are financially beneficial because they can last up to 25 years. Another main advantage of solar chargers is that once you have the charger, you save money on utilities since you are no longer dependent on using grid electricity for your appliances. On the same note, being free from the grid means that you can charge your solar electronics anywhere you go - on the beach, in the mountains or on the street. You are no longer tied to electrical outlets to maintain functioning solar electronics.

However, solar plates require direct sunlight to charge. So, if you find yourself in overcast weather conditions or in places with shade, your solar charger may not be able to charge, or will take longer to do so. For this reason, we recommend always over-budgeting the amount of time you plan to charge your solar chargers. Also, keep in mind the placement of your charger so that it receives the most amount of direct sunlight throughout the day, and remember that direct sunlight hours are shorter and harder to come by in winter than summer.

Solar electronics chargers can cost anywhere from $30 to $300. It depends on how much energy you need the charger to harness. Lower-wattage chargers will cost less and higher-output chargers will cost more. Brand names and quality manufacturers will also add to the price of your solar electronics charger.

Now that you know the basics of how solar chargers work and how to calculate the wattage of your solar charger needs, we recommend heading to your local electronics store and looking at the different options yourself. And if you do decide to go solar, let us know how it goes by writing us in the comments section below. Good luck!

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