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Using Solio for power hungry devices June 16, 2008

Posted by jupiterorbit in Solar Energy.
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When I first bought my Solio solar powered battery charger, after one month of use I came to the conclusion that you would never in your right mind need to or even want to use such a device if you lived in a modern city environment where access to electricity was available everywhere. Well this blog entry sees me eating humble pie or put another way, eating my own words.

I’ve recently started to use my Nokia N82 and N95 extensively for data and power intensive uses. I’m quite hooked on Nokia’s sports tracker software which enables you to track your walks, jogs, bus and train journey where ever you go using assisted GPS and the 3G network. Any phone that has GPS turned on and 3G going at the same time will struggle to give you more than half a days worth of battery power. In general, I’ve found that on the Nokia N82, I get about 4 hours of continuous use of Nokia sports tracker on a fully charged battery before it gives up on me and the N95 is just a total disaster with under 2 hours usage. Add to all this the fact that I’m now constantly taking photos on my mobile phone and uploading throughout the day to Flickr and also using Nokia’s OVI social netwoking community more and more which means I have further reasons to drain my mobile battery very rapidly. In these situations, especially when you’re on the movie and not close to a power socket, I’ve found the Solio to be an instant life saver. I can effectively double the battery life of my N82. After just 20-30 minutes of charge from a fully loaded Solio, I’ve bought myself 4 more hours of usage. The more I get in to power hungry applications on my Nokia, the more I am appreciating the benefits of having a portable charger such as the Solio.

Often, solar chargers are touted as money saving devices. I’m not entirely buying in to this, purely because if I was to seriously impact my electricity bill as home, I’d have to be constantly charging my mobiles up on the Solio and this is not very practical given the fact that even on a sunny day, assuming you constantly keep the Solio pointing directly at the sun (something I often forget to do) it takes up to eight hours to charge up the Solio to full capacity. Given that quality sunny days in the UK are quite similar, this means I usually charge my phones every night off mains and then use the Solio as an emergency backup when I’m on the move. If, however, you own just one mobile phone and you live somewhere where you don’t have access to high speed networks or don’t talk often on the mobile, then s full days charging of your Solio, followed by over night recharging of your mobile may work out perfectly for you. That’s also assuming that where ever you live the sun shines all day without a cloud in site. A tall order for even the sunniest of climates, would you agree?

Conclusions after one month May 28, 2008

Posted by jupiterorbit in Solar Energy.
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It has now been one month since I started using the Solio portable solar charger. I’ve used it at home, taken it on holiday with me and had a good chance to play around with it and charge a number of devices. In conclusion, I would have to say that such a device is mostly a frivolous purchase for someone who lives in a city with access to constant mains electricity. It’s a great thing to have if you regularly run out of power on your mobile phone live in a very summary climate, however, in the UK when the sun rarely shines, I have found it a pain to keep the Solio constantly charged up. In average UK weather, which is mostly cloudy, most of the time, it takes about a week to charge the Solio up about half way (if you’re lucky).  On the odd occassion when we do get very sunny weather, you can boost the battery up to full charge in about one to two days of constant sun.

If you happen to be going on holiday to a sunny climate where you know access to mains electricity will be sparse then the Solio is a great device to own. You could leave it charging in a south facing hotel room, or if you’re climbing/walking/mountain biking you could also hang the Solio off the back of your backpack.

Ultimately, when you’re in a city, with constantly mains power and going from home to office, there’s no real use for a Solio when you can always just plug in most of your devices in to the socket at home or at work. For all those in this situation who still run out of power and need emergency backup then SHAME ON YOU FOR BEING LAZY! 🙂

Five flashes of the LED May 12, 2008

Posted by jupiterorbit in Solar Energy.
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Oddness. Although I had four flashes of the LED on the Solio day before yesterday, meaning that it was in theory 100% charged, I actually managed to get it to flash five times yesterday! I had left the Solio out in my garden for most of the day to collect some energy. I’m going to have to look this up in the instruction manual! Maybe I’ve got my intepretation of the number of LED flashes totally wrong? Anyone know?

[UPDATE]

Ah ha! According to the instruction manual:

x1 flash = 20% charged

x2 flash = 40% charged

x3 flash = 60% charged

x4 flash = 80% charged

x5 flash = 100% charged

Now you know, and so do I!

Solio: half day on charge May 7, 2008

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Today was a very sunny day. Unfortunately my office is North facing so I don’t get any direct sun-light at my desk. I decided to go up to the west end of the building and place the Solio in direct sun light on a balcony. I left it there between 1pm to 6pm in direct sunlight.

Solio charger on balcony

I picked up the charger at the end of my working day and checked the charge. After five hours of direct sunlight it was charged about 50%. The red LED flashed twice. I used the Solio in the evening to charge my Nokia N82 which was totally dead. I found that the Solio, on half charge, could only give my phone about three bars of energy. I noticed that charging stopped after about ten-fifteen minutes.

Experiments with Solio May 5, 2008

Posted by jupiterorbit in Solar Energy.
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I’ve been toying with the idea of buying a Solio solar charger or almost two years and I finally gave in to temptation and bought one a few days ago. I thought I’d blog about my experiences with this nifty looking solar powered charger. The Solio charger came out a few years ago and has developed since its release through user feedback and further innovation and product development by Bette Energy Systems, the company behind the Solio charger.

Solio charger

The first day I used the Solio turned out to be quite sunny. The internal lithium battery was already half charges so during my journey in to work I placed the Solio in direct sun light whenever I could. To the left you can see a picture of the Solio on a bend at a train station basking in full direct sun light. There’s an LED on the underside which turns red when panels receive enough direct sunlight to start charging the inernal battery.

Through the day I managed to catch some direct sun but when I got home the battery was still only half charges.

I decided to charge my Nokia N82 off the Solio. I was down to three out of six bars on my phones battery life. Charging was simple. I attached the Nokia tip to the power cable, plugged one end in to the Solio and the other end in to the Noka N82 and pressed the red LED button. There was a short pause for about five seconds and then my phone lit up and went beep. The battery started to charge.

When I next looked at my phone the battery appeared to be fully charged – at least the phone screen showed six bars which indicates maximum charge. This took about half an hour to achieve off the Solio. I checked the charge left in the Solio and it must have been almost empty as I only got one flash of the LED. The LED flashes once for almost empty, twice for half full, three times for two thirds full and four times for completely full.