Portable Solar Chargers Information

Patriot power cell solar power bank

WARNING: Patriot Power Cell Review + The 4 Top Alternatives

WARNING: Patriot Power Cell Solar Power Bank Review + The 4 Top Alternatives

Patriot power cell solar power bank

Oliver

Written by Oliver. Last updated:

Overall Rating 6
Portability 5
Compatibility 6
Durability 4
Ease of Use 7
Value for Money 5

Table of Contents

As solar technology becomes more mainstream, we are starting to see an increasing number of portable electronics outfitted with fixed and fold-out solar panels.

One type of electronic device that has really embraced solar technology is the portable power banks and chargers. Today, solar power banks are essential for outdoor enthusiasts and a trusty tool for urban commuters who rely on their smartphones and laptops to get them through the workday.

These convenient devices store and generate electricity so you can charge your portable electronic devices daily, even when you do not have access to an AC power outlet. For others, a solar power bank is an essential emergency preparedness device that can charge electronics during natural disaster situations and power outages.

Patriot Power Cell Solar Power Bank: What You Need to Know

While all of this sounds straightforward, the truth is, solar power banks are now available in different styles from a wide variety of brands, which makes choosing the right solar power bank a fairly complicated decision.

To help you choose the right option for your needs, we are going to take an in-depth look at one of the best-selling options on the market today – the Patriot Power Cell from 4Patriots. Once we have determined whether or not it is worth the hype, we will also examine some of the best alternatives.

In-Depth Review of the 4Patriots Patriot Power Cell

Patriot power cell solar power bank

4Patriots has a well-established reputation for offering survival food kits and emergency preparedness equipment. Even though it is not a specialized solar equipment manufacturer, its Patriot Power Cell is one of its best-selling products.

Part of the reason for the Patriot Power Cell’s popularity is its affordable price point. To purchase one device, you would be looking at spending roughly $30. However, 4Patriots also promotes a bundled option where consumers purchase four units for just $100, which brings the price of each unit down to $25.

While affordability is always an important factor, it is not the only thing you should consider when researching solar power banks. We need to take an in-depth look at the Patriot Power Cell’s internal components and specifications to see how they compare to some of the other power banks and solar chargers out there.

Patriot Power Cell: Key Specifications

Battery Capacity 8,000 mAh
Solar Cell 1.5W
Estimated Wall Charging Time 6 hours via micro-USB charging port
Estimated Charge Time Through Solar 40 hours with bright, unobstructed sunlight
Input DC5V / 1.6A
Output DC5V / 1A, DC5V / 2.1A
Total Life Cycles 500 charges

Patriot Power Cell Capacity and Shelf Life of the Internal Battery

Battery Capacity: 

The Patriot Power Cell’s internal battery has a capacity of 8,000 mAh, which should be enough to charge a typical smartphone roughly two to four times. While this may sound impressive for a portable and compact power bank, it is fairly poor compared to the industry standard.

Shelf Life: 

In terms of shelf life, the Patriot Power Cell should hold a charge for three months. In other words, a fully charged unit can be left untouched for roughly 12 weeks before you will have to charge it again.

For perspective, some of the more rugged options, like the Lion Energy Prowler, have a shelf life closer to six months. Shelf life is particularly important if you plan on using your power bank as a source of emergency electricity. While the integrated solar panel can give you the option to charge the battery during a grid failure, this will only work if the sun is up and you have adequate time.

Ideally, your power bank would be able to retain a charge for a long period, so you could pull it out of a glove box or storage closet and immediately begin charging your electronics. Unfortunately, the Patriot power cell’s three-month shelf life falls a little short.

Patriot power cell solar power bank

Patriot Power Cell: Charging Capabilities and Output Ports

Charging the Patriot Power Cell:

When it comes to charging the internal battery, you have two options: either charge it through a micro-USB input port or with solar power by using the built-in solar panel.

Charging the Patriot with AC power takes roughly six hours, which is really very slow. Some solar power generators pack massive 1,260Wh deep cycle batteries that only take 2 hours to charge. To give you an idea of how large that battery is, that is enough power to charge a typical smartphone well over 100 times!

If you think that is bad, solar charging the Patriot’s internal battery can take up to 40 hours! That also refers to 40 hours of peak, uninterrupted sunlight. In other words, the solar panel is not going to do much to charge the internal battery. While it can be useful for topping up the battery in remote, off-grid situations, do not count the solar panel to be an adequate or reliable source of electricity. The truth is, the built-in solar panel is not efficient or powerful enough to be a practical power source.

For those that have experience using solar equipment, a 5” solar panel with a low power rating seems more like a gimmick than anything else.

Output Ports:

In terms of the Patriot Power Cell’s ability to charge electronic devices, it features only two USB Type-A ports, which is pretty limited, even when compared against the industry standard. Most portable power banks feature at least four USB ports. Most contemporary battery banks will also feature USB-C ports, which are required to charge the latest iPhones, tablets, and Android smartphones.

In this sense, the Patriot Power Cell is a bit dated. While you might be okay using an older phone or tablet, those with newer smartphones may need to purchase an adapter.

Our Overall (Honest) Impression of the Patriot Power Cell

Patriot power cell solar power bank

If you examine the Patriot power cell within the context that it is an inexpensive and fairly simple device, the Patriot Power Cell can be somewhat useful. It is small enough to fit in a glove box or backpack and can carry a large enough charge to keep your smartphone topped up throughout the day, but charging the internal battery through a wall outlet or computer can be very time-consuming.

In regards to its solar capabilities, the Patriot Power Cell is extremely limited. Charging the battery with the built-in solar panel would take multiple days, and that is assuming you live in an area that receives plenty of direct sunlight. Essentially, the solar panel is barely functional, and it is more of a gimmick than a practical feature.

What we did like about the Patriot Power Cell was some of the extras, like the fact that it has a water-resistance rating of IP67 and features a built-in LED flashlight. It also has a fairly rugged, rubberized exterior, which is great if you are clumsy.

Overall, we simply cannot recommend the Patriot Power Cell. In terms of performance and practicality, it lacks just about every department. With that said, it is inexpensive, so it is not an overly risky purchase; however, we would always recommend going with a more capable solar power bank from a recognized solar company. Spending the extra on a higher quality unit will ensure you have power when you need it.

Pros

Cons

While the Patriot Power Cell does have some things going for it, namely its affordable price, it lacks the storage capacity or charge capabilities to be considered a serious solar power bank.

We feel confident that there are better options out there that you should consider before buying the Patriot power cell.

The Best Alternatives to the Patriot Power Cell

Now that we have given our overview of the Patriot Power Cell, we can take a look at some more practical alternatives that offer superior performance:

While the Lion Energy Prowler does not feature a built-in solar panel, it beats the Patriot in just about every category. It features a much more robust internal battery that has a rated storage capacity of 74Wh – 20,000 mAh.

Despite its much larger internal battery, it only weighs 1.5lbs with a fairly slim and discreet profile.

Where the Prowler stands out is its charging capabilities. Like the Patriot, it features dual USB-A charge ports; however, it also has a USB-C charging port, so you can quickly and easily charge the latest electronic devices. On top of that, it has wireless charging capabilities, which means you can effortlessly charge any Qi-enabled smartphone, speakers, watches, and more.

You can recharge the internal lithium-ion battery using a micro-USB cable or via a USB-C cable which is much faster. The rugged exterior withstands drops, spills, and scratches, so it is the perfect device for campers and other outdoor enthusiasts. A powerful 9-LED flashlight is also a nice feature.

Overall, it is a great portable power bank that outperforms the Patriot in every category. While it does not feature a built-in solar panel, the Patriot’s is so inefficient and impractical that this really should not be seen as a slight against the Prowler.

Where to Buy

Check Out the Lion Energy - Prowler Portable Charger and Power Bank

Even though it features four separate solar panels, this portable solar charger from Hiluckey is still compact enough to be a practical on-the-go power solution. The internal Li-polymer battery offers 25,000 mAh of power, charging most smartphones eight to 10 times.

Where this charger stands out is its four foldable solar panels, which give you the ability to charge the battery from even the most remote locations. Unlike the Patriot, the Hiluckey’s solar panels can charge the unit’s battery within a day. It also features a built-in LED light and dual output ports.

If you are looking to go off-grid, the Hiluckey is a much better option than the Patriot Power Cell.

Where to Buy

Check Out the Hiluckey - Portable Fold-Out Solar Panel Power Bank

The BLAVOR has a similar design as the Patriot Power Cell, but it offers some much-needed upgrades. Not only does the internal battery have a slightly larger capacity (10,000 mAh), the unit features a USB-C output port, dual flashlights, and a Qi wireless charging feature.

Essentially, you are getting a more modern take on the Patriot Power Cell for roughly the same price. In that sense, it is the superior option.

Where to Buy

Check Out the BLAVOR - Portable Solar Power Bank

For Those with Greater Solar Power Needs

If you find that a handheld power bank cannot store enough power to meet your needs, you might want to consider a portable solar generator.

The EcoFlow RIVER delivers a 288Wh deep cycle battery with an average shelf life of over a year. What makes the RIVER such a remarkable little solar generator is how incredibly versatile it is. With various output ports and the ability to charge up to 10 electronic devices at the same time, you will not have to worry if your device is compatible or not.

The RIVER features three standard, wall-style AC outlets, a variety of USB and USB-C outputs, and a 12V car-style charging port. The unit’s impressive 1,800W power inverter means you can even power some fairly demanding electric appliances.

The RIVER’s charge rate is also incredible. Due to EcoFlow’s unique X-Stream technology, you can fast-charge the internal battery from 0% to 80% in as little as an hour. Given that the Patriot’s tiny battery takes 6 hours to fully charge, the RIVER’s charge time puts it to shame. You also can charge the unit in as little as 3 hours using two 100W solar panels. For those on the go, you can also charge the battery in your vehicle using a 12V charge plugin.

Where to Buy

Check Out the EcoFlow RIVER 600 Portable Power Station

While you might assume that all of that power and versatility would mean that the RIVER is large and bulky, it only weighs 11lbs and has similar dimensions to a basic toaster. A rugged exterior and a convenient carrying handle complete the package and make this an excellent, budget-friendly option for anyone that needs portable backup power.

Final Words

While the 4Patriots brand does offer some high-quality survival gear, their solar equipment is fairly dated. When it comes to both performance and value for this portable solar charger, you are much better off going with a device made by a specialized power storage company as opposed to the Patriot power cell.

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image showing a solar battery charger connected to a mobile phone on the beach

How a Solar Battery Charger Works

How a Solar Battery Charger Works

Aniket

Written by qualified solar engineer Aniket. Last updated:

A solar battery charger works by using photons in the sunlight to make electrons in the solar cells flow in a circuit, thus causing current and charging a battery in the solar power bank. By using direct sunlight as its source of energy, a solar battery charger proves to be one of the best solar gadgets, as it charges devices while being away from the grid.

At a basic level, solar battery chargers work like any solar power system, but are much more compact and meant for smaller devices such as mobile phones and tablets. An important difference from typical solar systems is that solar battery chargers are entirely DC devices, meaning there is no mechanism to give AC power output.

Components and Their Workings

A solar powered phone charger is a simple electronic appliance. It consists of a solar cell/panel that generates the energy required. A battery stores this energy and some supporting electronic hardware to make this process safe, optimal, and efficient.

image showing a solar battery charger connected to a mobile phone

Let’s have a more detailed look at each of these components and how they work:

Solar Panel

Today, solar energy powers many appliances of different sizes, from solar garden lights to entire home systems. When it comes to portable chargers, the solar panel is the power generating component of the chargers and the most distinguishing feature from standard battery chargers. As the name suggests, they harness solar energy and convert it into electrical energy.

Currently, the best solar cell material in the market is silicon. Today, the best solar cells in the market are also commercially feasible are monocrystalline cells, which are the most preferred choice for portable solar chargers.

This is done when photons (particles of light) in sunlight strike the solar cells’ surface and cause electrons to break off from their orbits. This phenomenon is called the photoelectric effect. Electricity is the flow of electrons through a circuit, whether it is power flowing through car battery chargers or a power station.

To amplify this effect, two regions are created in the solar cell – one with excess electrons and one deficient of electrons. The electrons cannot pass from one region to another due to a closed border known as the ‘depletion layer’. They must travel in an external circuit to reach the other layer, which is the other end of the cell.

working of a solar cell

Working of a Solar Cell (Source – PBS)

The above image is a simple representation of how the cell works. The green region is the n-region (excess electrons), and red is the p-region (electron-deficient). The more photons that strike the surface, the higher solar energy is utilized, meaning more power generation. Hence, phone chargers work best in direct sunlight.

In the case of a solar battery charger, this external circuit charges the battery inside, bringing us to our next component in the list.

Rechargeable Battery

Some solar chargers work without a built-in battery, but they can be used only during hours of sunlight. Thus, a battery is essential if you want to use the charger at any hour of the day. Batteries are chemical devices that can store energy and supply it whenever required.

Portable solar chargers usually have a lithium-ion battery in them, which allows to pack more battery life per unit volume – one of the major benefits of solar battery chargers. These batteries are usually rated at 3.6 V, while regular cell phone chargers work at 5 V.

Good quality chargers can have batteries with a capacity up to 20,000 mAh, meaning a full charge can carry enough energy to charge several smartphones. For a large battery, however, it will take longer to charge from solar. They also have a longer battery life, with thousands of charging-discharging cycles.

Voltage is the electric potential difference between two points, like water stored at two points of different elevations. It will always flow from the higher potential to the lower potential.

Hence, the solar panel needs to be at a slightly higher potential than the battery to charge from the sun. Batteries of portable solar chargers usually come at around 3.6 V; hence the solar panel should be around the same range – not lower than that, but not too high to avoid damage.

The image below shows the inside of a portable solar battery charger. The first thing we see is the large slab of the rechargeable battery inside. In the picture here, the battery (silver) occupies most of the volume and weight inside the charger casing, similar to standard battery chargers.

On the left side, a portion of the solar panel can be seen. Two wires connect the positive and negative to the printed circuit board (PCB), which then connects to the battery.

image of the inside of a solar battery charger

Technically, solar panels can charge your battery directly. However, for optimal and safe battery charging, some electronics need to be in place too. For a small device like this, a small PCB is sufficient. Let’s have a look at what it does.

PCB

PCB stands for ‘Printed Circuit Board’, which as the name suggests, is a board that connects several small electronic items and mechanically supports them electronically. These include resistors, diodes, LEDs, etc. A solar phone charger works flawlessly thanks to this small, flat piece of technology.

Following is the image of a PCB from a solar powered phone charger. There is quite a bit of circuitry, and hence complexity involved in how solar battery chargers work. But from a higher-level perspective, it is simple to understand how it works.

PCB inside a solar battery charger

PCB inside a solar battery charger (Source – Steemit)

The wires are soldered to the points that say B, L, and SUN, which stand for battery, LED, and solar, with the positive and negative markings. Poor quality chargers might have weakly soldered wires, making physical shocks a serious problem.

Almost every charger will have one or more LEDs to indicate either a dead battery, full charge, or battery charging in progress.

The two large metal pieces on the top are USB ports, which will connect the charging wire for your device. In the center, a micro USB port can be seen. Thanks to this, you can charge from the sun and another electrical source – your wall unit at home, which is a handy feature. Your regular phone chargers work well in this case. It is also faster with a wall unit to fully charge the battery.

The remaining circuitry includes a boost converter, which steps up the 3.6 V to 5 V, since our phones or tablets have batteries rated at 5 V. As stated before, solar chargers work perfectly with standard cell phone chargers. Some components also protect the battery from possible surge currents.

Should You Buy a Solar Charger?

With lower cost and reliable brands, solar chargers are rapidly gaining popularity. The best solar chargers can pack more battery life, have higher efficiency cells, and a more durable casing. We have an excellent guide to using a solar charger that you can check out.

Unlike bulky systems such as battery chargers for cars, solar powered portable chargers are easy to carry even in a pocket. They are an extremely useful device for anyone who loves the outdoors and hates a phone with a dead battery.

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a man that has a solar battery charger hanging on his backpack

How to Use a Solar Battery Charger

How to Use a Solar Battery Charger

Aniket

Written by qualified solar engineer Aniket. Last updated:

Remember that time when you were on a train station and your phone battery was running low? And then you found a public charging kiosk. What a relief! We have all been there. Do you also remember the time you went hiking and had very low juice in your phone or iPad, and you wished there were public charging kiosks everywhere – even in the mountains?

Well, there actually are, with a small catch! Solar battery chargers allow you to charge your devices anywhere, all you need is some sunshine. They can be used to charge anything from cellphones to car batteries. Below we explain how to use a solar battery charger.

Understanding Solar Battery Chargers

There is a wide variety of solar chargers available in the market. Before we dive in to how to use them, let’s understand what these types of portable solar battery chargers are, and they are made up of. Solar battery chargers, as the name suggests – are devices that use solar energy to generate electric current that can charge portable devices such as a cell phone.

Solar battery chargers can be divided into two main types:

  • Without an in-built battery
  • With an in-built battery (a power bank with attached solar cells)
Solar battery charger without in-built battery
Solar battery charger with in-built battery

Solar chargers are portable and ideally lightweight devices which have solar cells encased into a durable structure. This can be made up of fabric, plastic, or both. In some cases, there are eyeholes that allow hanging the chargers in tents or backpacks.

As you might have figured by now, there’s not much rocket science involved in how solar battery chargers work. There are solar cells that send power to a battery or a junction, from which the power can be used to charge mobile devices.

How to Use a Solar Charger

It is a simple procedure to use solar battery chargers. The following is a stepwise guide to using solar powered battery chargers:

Place the charger:

Unfold the charger (for foldable units), place it on a flat or slightly tilted surface. The charger should be placed in a way that the sun’s rays incident on the charger should be at or around 90 degrees. This helps harness maximum possible solar energy.

This may sometimes require placing the charger at an angle to the ground. In such a case, the eyeholes provided to some of the models can help secure the charger in place. Since these units do not come with mounting structures like traditional solar panels, you will have to work your way around them.

Connect the device:

a) For chargers without built-in batteries:

Place your cell phone/tablet on a flat surface near the charger and plug the USB cable into your charger’s output plug and the phone’s charging port. While the charger is supposed to sit in bright sunlight, avoid placing your phones or tablets under direct sunlight for long durations, especially when they are charging.

This might overheat the devices and possibly damage the electronics inside. Ideally, placing the charger near shade is best as the phone or iPad can then sit in the shade. But since that might not always be possible, a simple hack is to place the phone under the charger.

b) For chargers with built-in batteries:

These solar chargers do not need to be connected to the phone while in the sun. They can charge their built-in battery and the energy can be stored in the battery until being transferred to the phone or iPad.

Although in some cases it is possible to connect the phone to the solar power bank while it is generating power, it is not advised since the electronics are not optimized to charge batteries of cell phones and tablets directly.

Charging started:

a person charging his cell phone with a portable solar panel

Make sure your device shows that the charging has started. Try unplugging and plugging in the USB cable again if it hasn’t.

Monitor charging:

Since the level of solar energy is not always constant, it is a good idea to check the device for the level of charge after a few minutes. If the charging seems unusually slow, try realigning the charger so that the cells can receive direct sunlight. Do the same if the device stops charging. Clean off any dirt on the light collecting surface.

When charging devices of higher battery capacities, it may take a considerable time, in which case it makes sense to realign the charger as the sun moves throughout the day in the sky.

Wait until completed:

Leave the device connected until its battery is fully charged.

Best Times to Charge

As stated earlier, the solar charger will charge the fastest when it is exposed to maximum sunlight at a direct angle, just like regular solar panels. Obviously, the charger will not work during the night. But even during the day, charging during peak sunshine hours – usually 11am-4pm gives the best possible charging speeds.

It is also important to make sure to not use the charger during overcast or rainy conditions as diffused light can seriously reduce the power generation potential of the solar chargers.

Using a Solar Car Battery Charger

Some solar chargers can be used to charge car batteries. This can be particularly useful for off-road or remote driving where there is not much chance of assistance if the car battery runs low. Here’s a short guide on how to use solar car battery chargers:

  1. Park your car in a sunny, well ventilated spot.
  2. Attach the negative terminal/alligator clip of the charger to a ground location, such as the car frame.
  3. Connect the positive clip to the positive terminal of the battery.
  4. Make sure the solar panel/collector surface is placed in a way that it directly faces the sun.

Solar cells/panels generate direct current, meaning they can power batteries directly without the need of an intermediate device like an inverter.

Tips to Make the Most Out of Your Solar Battery Charger

Besides correct placement of the charger, there are a few other tips that will ensure you will get a good amount of charge for a longer period of time.

  • Keep the surface of the cells clean and new – dirt, smudges and scratches reduce the light absorption and solar power generation, slowing down the rate of charging.
  • Avoid placing the charger directly on hot surfaces like concrete or rock. Heat reduces the efficiency of solar energy production and affects the charger’s lifespan.
  • For chargers with built-in battery banks, make sure the battery does not sit without use in fully empty or fully charged condition for long durations.
  • Use an undamaged USB cable to ensure fast charging.
  • You can always test a solar battery charger occasionally using a multimeter to make sure it is not degrading faster than the manufacturer states.

Choosing the Right Solar Battery Charger

Solar chargers come in a variety of sizes and charging capacities. While selecting a charger, it is important to understand your requirement. For example, people relying on the solar charger to charge larger or multiple devices should choose one that has more solar cells and a higher charging capacity.

portable solar panel on the ground charged a cell phone

Someone wanting to travel light, such as a backpacker, should opt for portability and light weight. A relatively small solar charger might suffice in this case – such as a basic, non-foldable solar power bank. Similarly, someone subjecting their solar charger to the elements more often should prefer a rugged and waterproof model.

References

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