Pros: A perfect solar panel charger for cell-phones, portable-gaming, USB devices, and 5-volt battery packs.
Cons: Not perfectly designed for 12 volt systems.
This is a portable solar panel. It is designed for 5 volt systems such as USB devices. It also has a 12 volt output so you can use car adapters. You can even use the USB output and the 12 volt car adapter output at the same time. But your recharge times will be longer.
I really wanted a solar panel that was portable and I could use while camping for extended periods of time. Before I would have to charge my devices through my truck 12 volt outlets. But I get worried that I will excessively drain the truck battery to the point I needed a jump start (yes I have done that once.) So with this I can leave the truck off for a few days and just use this adapter. At least that was the idea.
What is great about this is it is lightweight and small. This makes it very portable. Perfect for backpacking and small car camping. It is an ideal solar panel for USB devices.
It will charge at a rate of 5volts and 500 mA an hour. So a typical smart phone battery could be charged in as little as 2 hours. (yes I did test it with a multi-meter) In reality it is much longer due to clouds and angle of the sun.
I don’t have a number on the mA of the 12 volt connection, but it is considerably smaller. I'm guessing around 300 mA. I have a 500 mA AA battery charger that does not work, so keep that in mind when you shop for car adapter accessories. But Goal Zero has a AA recharger accessory that will solve this problem. I have also used my Targas USB battery source with descent success.
The device has three panels when opened up. The two panels are the solar panels. The third panel contains a pocket for the guide 10 as well as the female ports for USB and car adapter port.
Now for my tests.
I went ahead and plugged it into a 7 AH sealed battery and it basically charged 1.5 volt a day. I did not move the solar panel during the day and it only got light for 60% of the day. It just took too long for me to call it effective. And it did not charge more than 7.5 volts.
I then plugged it into a large marine battery and it had the same results. I left it on for over a week and it just did not increase the voltage beyond that point. But the Marine battery is old and that may be part of the problem.
I went ahead and plugged a 12 volt car adapter battery charger in it. This charges 2 or 4 AA batteries. It did nothing while the clouds were out and it worked intermittently while the full sun shines. In short, it did not work. I bought this charger specifically for the solar panel. Oh well, I’ll buy the 13.5 watt one in a year or three that I am confident will work with this charger.
I plugged in my 4AA Tekkeon USB charger on my second camping trip since I bought it from REI. I use it as an emergency charger for my phone. It can also be charged by USB. Now this worked. It took about 6 hours to recharge in intermittent clear and cloudy weather, but it worked.
I also charged my powerskin for the Droid X, through the USB connection. This worked well. I will also take 4 or more hours to charge. If conditions are perfect then you can charge it in 2-3 hours. But you have to perfectly align it with the sun every 15 minutes to get the 2 hour charge.
After looking at this and trying it out on some 12 volt batteries, I realized I bought the wrong solar panel for my intended usage. This is not a powerful solar charger. It really is designed to charge AA batteries and smaller battery operated devices. So for Cell phones, portable gaming, and 5 volt battery packs (like 4 AA usb packs) this devices works perfectly and is awesome. If that is all you do then this is perfect. If you are someone that wants to charge a sealed battery or lead acid battery, then you need the 13.5 watt model. This will do the job if I read the description right.
I did make a mistake in buying this. I should of spent the extra 100 and got the 13.5. But looking at it now, it will be nice having the two for both types of devices; 12 volt devices and USB charged devices. I like using sealed batteries because they don't leak harmful gas and can be stored easily. I have even soldered a female car adapter to an old 12 volt sealed battery on it and it was an awesome battery pack for hand held radios and such.
Goal zero does have a number of accessories. From battery packs, to inverters. Accessories you would want for the causal outdoors-person to those individuals that like living off the grid person. The guide 10 is an optional battery pack for this solar panel that is an option. I don't own it so I cannot vouch for it. There is also some portable speakers. Goal Zero sells.
Durability seems good. It has gotten wet from my sprinklers and I have seen no problems. The screen can be scratched but once it is folded close it won't be scratched (unless rocks or sand get inside it.) You cannot submerge it. The person I e-mailed said that a drop from three story building will most likely break it, but normal wear and tear should not be a problem. I have bent and twisted it with no problem. Because of this flexibility it will give in certain situation. The more flexible the object, the greater chance it won't break. That is why plastic has less of a chance of breaking that glass.
I emailed them several times and they have been great at answering my questions in a timely manner. I was wondering about the efficiency of the solar panel. They said it was 17% efficiency and the state of the art is around 40% efficiency. So just less then half the efficiency is fine with me because I know the cost for 40% would be out of my price range. This is a portable solar panel for the masses. And from looking at the online reviews, it seems to be the best out there. Other solar panels have not received good reviews which is why I have waited so long to get a portable solar panel. Once I saw those positive reviews I knew this was the one I wanted.
If you want to plug it in a DC to AC adapter then you need to limit it to a 1-2 w inverter. Not worth it in my opinion.
Keep in mind that if you use a USB splitter, or both the 12 volt and USB port, you will not be able to charge your devices very fast. But it will still work.
If you want the optimum energy charging capacity you will have to angel and move the solar panel every 15-30 minutes. You don't have to but efficiency will be somewhat reduced.
Some data from the website.
Ultra-Compact Power for the minimalist on the go The Nomad 7 delivers an ultra-compact yet powerful solar panel that enables you to charge your handheld devices directly from its USB and 12 Volt DC charging ports. 30% smaller than comparable panels and 14 times more powerful than closest competitor. Use with Guide 10 to power your devices when solar is not available.
•Collect 7 watts of power from the sun
• Use solar power with USB or 12V devices
• Solar charge cell phone is 1 to 2 hours
• Protect devices with built-in pocket
Foldable rugged design
And it has a 30 day money back guaranteed
It comes with a car adapter (cigarette adapter with a length of about 3 inches). So if you don't use it (because you just use USB) you just leave it at home.
Weight and dimensions
Weight: 0.8 lbs
Length: 6.5 inches
Width: 9 inches
Height: 0.75 inch
Length: 6.5 inches
Width: 19 inches
Height: 1/8 inch to 1 inch at side
© Alan Lake's Kitchen 2011
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