on October 27, 2008
I like this panel, I like it a lot. Right now I use it to charge a all of my electronics. It folds up nicely, and doesn't weigh much. I agree with the other posters on the positive things about these panels.
These panels as individuals (not linked) are serving me and my teams very well in Iraq. We use them to power everything from MP3 Players and cell phones to advanced GPS tracking systems.
There's only one problem I have, and that is linking more than two panels together. The instructions and box say it can be done, and the box says it includes a linking cable, but there is nothing that says how. You are supposedly able to link up to three panels together, but I am unable to accomplish this no matter how I configure the cables. I've written directly to Brunton's service department for guidance, but after a month I've only gotten the read receipts from them. No answer so far. No one on any blog or forum can tell me how this is done. They are expensive, so finding someone that has bought more than one is rare.
All three panels came with the exact same cables, so I don't think I'm missing anything. There are two connection ports on each panel (it will charge two small items at the same time). As far as cables go you get one with clamps (like the kind that connects to a car battery), one female car cigarette lighter-style outlet, and another cable that has four adapters on one end and a single adapter (for plugging into the panel) on the other.
You have to use the four-ended cable to link panels. The problem is that when you plug the end with four ends into a panel there is no more room to plug in another cable. The two prongs sticking out of the sides prevent this.
Anyone with one panel could see what I mean. Try plugging both ends of your linking cable into your one panel, as would be the case on the middle panel in a series of three. Then consider how you would link three of them together.
I would love to hear from anyone that has accomplished linking more than two of these together.
Linking them together would allow us to power (real time) our field laptops and mini-satellites, we could even recharge our military satcom radio batteries. Unfortunately this isn't the case yet.
The panel is excellent and I like it a lot. I gave it a three star rating because it claims to be able to do something that it cannot (link three panels). The instructions are also lacking in this area. Brunton's customer service also leaves something to be desired, which should be your only negative consideration if you're buying only one.
I finally got a reply from Brunton concerning linking the panels. Here it is:
"To your question... The four-pronged linking cable can make the
connection between panels a bit tight. Admittedly, the design isn't the
best, but I've got three of our 26s here, hooked them up, and read
increased amperage. On the panels where you're forced to use both the
single and multi-tipped wire, I've found it's best to turn the four-tip
plug perpendicular to the flat ground, making it easier to fit the
single wire. I'll be the first to say it isn't pretty. It creates a
slight fold in the panel, and doesn't allow it to sit completely flat,
but it does make the connection, and since there's no solar receiver
over the output, it doesn't affect the efficiency.
As I said, the multi-prong cord isn't the best design. It's something
I'm trying to get them to change in the development department. Keep in
mind that hooking multiple panels together doesn't increase the total
voltage coming out of your last panel, but rather simply increases the
Update * Click on "See customer Image" underneath the main product pic to see what this looks like *
So I broke out my panels and gave it a try. Yes, by bending the panel you can make the two fit. This causes me some real problems. My initial intent was to take some cord and tie the panels down (using the nicely grommeted holes in each corner). I can't do this because the corner that's bent can't be tied down tightly. When I pull on the corner that's bent down (see pic), you can hear the plastic under strain. The four prong outlet tries to straighten out with no where to go, when you do this. I wouldn't want to tie the panel down tightly for fear of breaking something.
The answer to this of course is to make your own single male-male cable. In the rest of the email the service rep offered to send me some cables and cords that I could splice together.
One other thing I noticed is that the female cigarette outlet is completely smooth on the inside, there are no ridges or insets. Any male connector you insert into it will not "lock" into place. There is some resistance that will keep it from just falling out, but it doesn't take much to come loose. I don't think this would be a problem if the panel were laying flat. I imagine that if it were hung up the weight of some cables could cause it to come out. I've had no problems at all with powering any device using this outlet.
Update: * Added another image showing the hook up to an EEE ASUS*
I also own an Asus Eee PC 900 16G. One of the prongs on the four ended cable will fit directly into the laptop. It being such a small laptop the panel WILL run it real time while charging the battery (just like it was plugged into the wall).
According to Brunton the panel kicks out 26 Watts, and says it's at 12 Volts. This means that
12 Volts X 2.2 Amps = 26 Watts
(i'm rounding slightly up on the Amps)
The EEE ASUS Power pack says it has an output of :
12 Volts X 3 Amps = 36Watts
There's obviously a little play in here, but the Brunton panel is using the same Volts at less amps, so it's safe to plug it into your EEE PC. In testing this personally it did in fact run the laptop real time and charge the battery at the same time.
I would raise my review to four stars (I can't modify it), because the panel does do what it says it will do, but it has a design flaw that makes it hard to deal with.
For some reason all the pictures I uploaded months ago are now gone. I don't know if that's an Amazon thing, or what. I'll try to replace them.
Might as well say something about the panel....
It's been over a year and a half and it's still holding up, no problems with wear and tear. I'm very pleased.
8 year Update (Feb 20 16':
The panel is still holding up and working as well as it did when I started using it. I don't carry it around any more, though. It hangs in the window of my house and keeps my USB charged flashlights full. The reason it doesn't go with me is the cables; to get to USB you have to use their specific cable that ends in a female car charger. Into that you plug a usb charger. Into that you plug your USB cable. I have smaller panels that have direct USB ports that fit my needs. I'm just tired of carrying around a bunch of different stuff to serve one panel. Loss or failure of cables that are only used by this panel means they all shut down. Getting spares is a pain, and carrying them even more so. I like the power output, to size, to pack-ability of this panel but it is not worth it to me to have rolls of cables just in case.
Everything I own is based off the micro USB / USB cable. I have one kind of cable and one cable for each device. I could lose half my cables and still be able to use all of my devices one way or another. They are also available everywhere and easy to buy.
I am a nature photographer, and spend significant intervals a long ways from a power outlet. I recently used this solar charger to keep lithium ion batteries charged for my digital camera. I am pleased to report that it works even better than specified. I was able to charge two Olympus BLM-1 batteries simultaneously, in a couple hours in sunny conditions and in six hours in cloudy conditions. Even when the temperature fell as low as 25 F, the charger worked just fine.
The units folds up into a small comparatively small bag. You wouldn't use it for ultralight backpacking, but it worked fine for me, and is comparatively light in relation to my camera gear. The charger got rained on, got mud splashed on it, and was stepped on my a small child, and survived it all just fine.
Sturdy, durable, portable, powerful and effective. Highly recommended.
(I saw one review complaining the unit wouldn't power a laptop computer. That's true. You'd need two. It won't power a refrigerator or a dishwasher, either. But if you need to charge batteries, this works great.)
on August 20, 2011
I like to make some comment and report an issue.
First, since I bought this, I thought it was expensive but the price kept going up. This is a good product but I do not feel it worth that
I use this on my bicycle. I rigged my bike to add "top" to it to provide support for this solar pannel (see pictures). In this way I can charge my laptop
battery while riding very long distance. I am glad to report that the pannel work well (even in the rain). It takes about 8 hours to
charge my Sony Vaio laptop battery. The pannel seems rugged. It takes the beating in the rain and winds and got some wrinkle and still
Now the issue: I found that the cylinderical plug the came with this pannel is broken. The copper wire inside broke I think. If I wiggle
it a bit, it disconnect. After replacing the cable, it works fine. I found disapointing that this happen with such an expensive product.
Ok I have experimented enough with this 26W Solar Array to give a more meaningfull review. First this is a great product!. I love it!.
The main issue I have with it is the instruction manual. It is not much of an instruction manual. For some application, you will
need to know (not much, very little) a little bit of the basis about Solar Array. For example depending on what you want
to charge, in a few cases, you may need a battery, a solar controller and the right adapter. This information should be mentioned
in the manual or even in the product description. I do not expect this product to come with every possible adapter or anything like
that, but you should know that this product may or may not be plug-and-play, depending on what you want to do.
First, a few warnings:
1) Do not directly plug this or any Solar Array, to a raw battery (like a lead acid one) without
a solar controller. The Solar Array voltage is not constant and osillate wildly and this may cause
problems, especialy if the battery voltage is less than that of the Solar Array.
2) Do not directly plug this or any other Solar Array, to a electronic device that does not have an
internal rechargeable battery. A solar array by itself is not much uses without a battery.
3) If you need to make your own plug by splicing together plugs that came with the Solar Array and stuff
from Radio Shack, make sure you check the polarity with a volt meter. Otherwise you may get realy confused result.
4) If you plug your devices directly into the Solar Array and the charge light rapidly blinking, do not
leave it in this state for too long. Discontinue the charging process right away.
Second Do not bother try these things: It will not work.
1) If you try to charge a notebook or anything bigger, like a laptop via a car plug adapter, it will not work.
I own a Asus Eee PC 900 notebook and a Sony Vaio Z weries laptop and I also have car plug adapters that is
specificaly designed to work with each of them. I found that when I connect the Solar Array to my notebook/laptop
via the car plug adapter, I do not see the charge light. It will not charge.
2) If you have a general purpose 12V car plug adapter with a USB and an AC outlet, you will find that the AC
outlet will not work when you connect the car plug adapter directly to the Solar Array. Only the USB
port will work in this case. In order to make use of the AC outlet, you will need a battery and a solar
controller. The solar array will charge the battery with the help of the solar controller, and the battery
will power the AC outlet of the car plug adapter.
Third, you Can try the following things. They will work, but some will be a litle risky - so excercise care
1) You can plug small USB devices to the Solar Array via a 12V car plug adapter, it will work safely with
no problem. However if you buy this 26W Solar Array for the sole purpose of charging small USB devices like
cell phone and MP3 players, it is a bit over killed. You can do the same thing with a much smaller Solar Pannel,
although somewhat slower. With this Solar Array, you should be able to charge some serious electronics like
camping equipment or a laptop.
2) You can plug a notebook or a laptop (or even some Li-Ion battery pack) directly into the solar array Without any adapter, including car plug
adapter, and it will charge your notebook/laptop. However you need to be carefull here. This may not be the safest way to charge your laptop.
Also if you are making custom made plug for this purpose, make sure you have the correct
polarity. In addition, if the charging light is blinking rapidly, discontinue right away. Lastly, I have not tried to power up a laptop
while it is directly connected to the Solar Array. It may work that way but I DO Not recommend that.
Finaly, the following is the proper way of doing things and will be safe as long as you take care to connect
and disconnect properly and in the right order.
1) Buy a battery and a solar controller that is appropriate for your application. Also buy some adapter,
like a car plug adapter that is specificaly designed to work with your eletronics (like laptop) or you can use a general
purpose car plug adapter with an AC outlet and use the AC adapter that came with your electronics.
The solar array will charge the battery with the help of the solar controller to prevent overcharging.
The battery, in turn, will power or charge your electronics. What size of battery or solar controler or
should you use one or two solar array will depend on what you are trying to do.
This Solar Array is realy great but in some situation, it is not a plug-and-play product. You need to know
a little (not much) bit about charging with solar pannel and stuff like that. But the nice thing about using a battery is
that you can store the energy (if you use a big battery) for later used when the sun is not available.
To help those who are trying to find the most portable way to charge a big laptop using this Solar Array, I have prepared the
following which is a very specific example of what I use to charge the Sony Vaio Z series laptop.
I will describe several options:
I bought the following (with the goal of high portability in mind):
1) A SunSaver-6 Morningstar Solar Controller
I choose this solar controller because it is very small: 11.7 cm length (or 15.3 cm length including hind) 5.6 cm width 1.6 cm thickness
Also it is light: 0.7 lb
Comment: you can get a cheaper Brunton Solar Controller but it is bigger
2) A small Werker WKA12-5F 12V 5Ah battery
Size: 8.8 cm length 6.8 cm width 10 cm height
Weight: 3.6 lb
Comment: battery felt quite heavy, not good option for travel
3) A PWR+ car plug charger with DC 19.5V 4.7A laptop adapter and power cord designed to work with the Sony Vaio laptop VPCZ114GX/S
Size of box that came with it: 17.5cm length 13cm width 5cm height
Weight: 0.7 lb
Comment: another option is using the AC outlet of a generic car plug adapter, but this is not efficient.
Also you can order a car plug adapter that is designed specificaly for your laptop.
4) A female Car Plug with clamps at one end - This item is optional and is required only if you don't want cutt off the barrel plug end of the
female Car Plug that came with the Brunton Solar Array.
5) Of Course the 26W Brunton Solar Array
Weight: 1.9 lb
1) The Brunton 26W Solar Array came with a cable that has a 5.5mm x 2.5mm barrel plug at one end and clamps at the other end.
Take this cable and cut off the clamps. What you have left is the cable to make the connection from the Solar Array to the
2) Get some electrical wire (you can use some power cord that you will throw away otherwise). Solder (or connect in some way)
the clamps, that you cut off in the previous step, to the electrical wire to obtain a cable with clamps at one end. Note: What you are trying to make
in this step is same as in step 1) above but instead of cutting off the clamps, you cut off the barrel plug end instead.
this will be your connection between the Solar Conntroller and the battery.
3) Next you need to make the connection between the male car plug laptop adapter and the battery. For this you can use the female
car plug that came with the Brunton 26W Solar Array. There is only one problem, this female car plug has a barrel plug at
the other end that you don't need. You can remove it but in my case I decided to buy a female car plug with clamps at the other
When I tried out this setup, the one difficulty I had was with the Solar Controller. It has a green LED that in the bright
sun light, it was difficult to know if it is on to indicate charging taking place. But I was able to comfirm the green LED
on the Solar Controller and the charging light on my laptop. According to the Solar Controller instruction, the green LED
will turn red to indicate Solar Controller is disconnected. I assume this will happen when charging is finished. But I was
unable to wait long enough to see this happen (there's no reason why it should not work though) for something else was interfering.
Anyway, the total weight of the setup, not including the laptop is somewhere between 6.6 lb to 7.0 lb.
For option 2), Instead of using the lead acid Werker WKA12-5F battery, you can buy 10 D cell rechargeable batteries
and some D cell battery holder to make yourself a 12.5V battery pack. In my case I got 10 Powerex rechargable D cells
,11000 mAh batteries. Together this make a 12V, 11A battery pack. The 10 powerex D cell battery have the
same weight as the Werker WKA12-5F battery so it does not improve the setup in terms of mass or volume. But the
reason you may want to choose this option is if you are traveling, for it may be more complicated to check in a lead
acid battery at the airport. Beside the Powerex D cell battery pack is twice the size of the WKA12-5F in terms of energy storage.
I have tried out this battery option and I did not see any immediate problem. I started out with the ten D cells totaly discharged.
Then after a few hours of charging with the Solar Array, I was able to comfirmed significant increase in charge. It seems the the solar controller does not care what battery you are using as long as it is above 6V. But again I did not wait for the whole process to completely finish so
I can not be absolutely sure there will not be any problem down the line but I feel confident, it should be fine.
By the way this battery option is about five times more expensive than the lead acid battery option.
Using AA rechargeable:
If you are realy desperate for light weight and portability like me, you can use AA rechargeable instead of D cells. To make a 12V battery pack
you will need at least 10 AA cells connected in series (+ to - and - to +). However 10 AA cells will give you too little current, so you need to at least double that or, 20 AA cells.
Make sure you get the heighest mAh possible or 2700 mAh (for example Powerex cells). After connecting the first and second 10 AA cells in series to get two 12V-battery packs, you will then connect the two packs in parellel (+ to + and - to -) to obtain a single 12.5V and 5400 mAh battery pack. Please Please be very carefull with the battery polarity (never, never short circuit a battery), otherwise you can burn yourself,
damage the battery, or worst burn down your house :). If you have never dealt with wiring battery together or you don't know what short circuit
mean, don't try this.
Here, I need to say a little more about choosing the AA battery holders. For this application, there are 3 types of AA battery holders you can use. 4AA, 6AA and 10AA battery holders.
For 20 AA cells, you can use two 10AA battery holders, however it is difficult to find 10AA battery holders (I found it but the site only sell 5 at a time and the shipping
cost is a bit high). Thus what you can do is use two 6AA holders and two 4AA holders to pack 20 AA cells.
To attach the AA holders together, you will need to buy the 9V Battery Snap Connectors from Radio Shack (the AA holders are made for 9V Battery Snap Connectors). About 10 Snap Connectors should be enough. By the way I used the Pilmore battery holder.
Of course you still need the solar controller but I like this arrangement because it is very light weight and small compared to the 10 D cells.
The whole battery pack, 20 AA cells and battery holders weight 1.2 lbs. Compare this with the 3.7 lbs pack made with 10 D cells. Also it is much cheaper than the 10 D cells, but the energy content is only half. With this option, the total setup weight is 2.5 lb lighter.
By the way, some battery shop -- like Batteries Plus will custom made a battery pack for you using shrink wrap and they will weld the electro to the batteries. This process is permanent and can not be undone. If you don't mind this then good, but I prefer the battery holders because it facilitate portability. With the holders, you can still take the batteries out for other uses, when you are not using the pack. Thus you don't have to bring as manny batteries. Finnaly with this option, you can even get rid of the car plug adapter if instead of packing a 12V battery pack,
you pack one with the same voltage and Amps required by your laptop; so that you can plug it directly to the laptop. However this usually means
add more battery so in terms of weight, this only make sense if the car plug adapter is heavier than the added battery weight.
A third option for battery (If you do not want to make your own) is to find yourself a 12V Li-Ion battery pack (with perhaps a few amps), that you can charge and used at the same time. I have not been able to find such thing. I found a AAXA Super battery pack that is used to power the
P2 Pico & M1 Micro Projector, but you can not charge this battery and connect a load to it at the same time. If I can find
such battery pack, I can significantly reduce the total weight of my setup and I may even be able to get rid of the Solar
Controller (and the car plug adapter) too because such battery pack can be directly connected to the Solar Array.
Correction: Someone told me that Brunton made such battery pack but they are quite expensive; cost more than the 26W Solar Array.
For the time being, I have to be content with making my own pack.
Note: for comparison, the cost of making your own 20AA-cell 12V 5400 mAh pack is the same as the price of the 12V 3A AAXA Super battery pack mentioned above. But the 20AA-cell pack you make has almost twice the power.
Finally, the fourth battery option is to buy a stand alone, external charger for your laptop battery. Usualy these are made in Taiwan and they
come with a 2.1mm x 5.5mm plug and AC adapter. In this case you can make yourself a female 2.1mm x 5.5mm jack to allow you to connect the laptop
battery pack to the solar controller, without the AC adapter ofcourse. But this means you will need two batteries
for your laptop so you can let one charge while using the other and swap them out. I have not tried out this option, and this is the lightest option but it means that you can not charge one battery and use it at the same time.
In my case, the only on-line site that has my laptop battery is "jcbarn.com" but they are a bit flaky -- it took 12 business day to get my
battery but it did arrive -- I think they may have shipped it from Asia. I am still waiting for a suny weekend to try this out. If it is true the solar controller does not care about the battery type then this should work fine.
OK I got two of these, both were ordered from Amazon.com. The first was sold by Price Pros at $330 and the second was sold by Amazon.com at $244.
They are both the "same" product made by the same company but they don't look the same. The more expensive one has a transparent coating on each
solar array and the fabric is softer. It felt like a better quality product. However although it is more expensive, the product packaging and
the shipping packaging was lousy! my package came all beaten is almost open.
The second cheaper one sold by amazon.com has better product and shipping packaging but the solar arrays don't have that slick transparent coating
and the fabric felt a little rougher - it just felt a bit cheaper - which is what it is.
OK now to the testing. For this I will first describe what I have. I have two laptops:
An ASUS Eee PC 900 notebook that requires 12V DC input and max 36W and a Sony Vaio Z Series laptop that requires 19.5V DC input and max about 90W
I also ordered three car-plug adapters
1) Car Charger for Asus Eee PC 900 / 1000 - [..]
2) Sony Car Charger DC Laptop Adapter Power Cord for VAIO - [...]
3) PROMOTION BESTEK 75Watt 12 Volt DC to 110-120 Volt AC Power Inverter With USB Adapter MRI711C-3 --- [...]
Note: adapter 1) and 2) are design for the laptops. One end has a car-plug, and the other plug into the laptop power input.
adapter 3) is a general purpose car-plug adapter. It has an AC outlet
On a summer day at 12:00 noon southern US, I tested this solar array using Adapter 1) to charge the Asus Eee PC 900 - it did not work.
I then used the Asus Eee native power adapter in conjuction with adapter 3) that has an AC outlet - that did not work either.
In each case I even connect the two Solar array together to get a total of 52W output - that did not seem to work either
Finaly I connected the solar array directly to the Asus Eee Notebook without any adapter at all and it worked. I can see the charging
light turned on. However after about a minute or so the charge light turned off for a time and then come back on - this happen with both
Solar array - I don't know if this is a problem with the power cable or what?
Note that in all these tests I only want to charge the laptop battery so I did not power the laptop on.
Also I have not carried out these tests with my Sony Vaio laptop because at the time my Sony Vaio battery is fully charged.
I plan to do that next (and write another update) but from my experience with the Asus Eee PC 900 I don't think the adapter is going to work.
I am rather disapointed! I don't know why the car adapter should not work. I did see the adapter power light turned on. I just did not see
the charging light. I think maybe the solar array was generating too much voltage and this cause the car adapter to shut down. But this does
not explain why it work when I connected to the laptop directly?
Does anyone on here has any insight on this?
Over all I give it 4* because it will charge your laptop if you connect directy, but I am not happy that it does not work with the car adapter.
I came with a car plug female so there is no reason why it should not work. I am a little concern about connecting directly to the laptop because
the out voltage from the Solar Array can go up as high as 25V and that is much more than what the Asus Eee PC 900 can handle. Maybe that explain
why the charging light goes off an on?
on May 25, 2010
First, thanks to the few reviews that had detailed reviews up for this item. Really made my decision easier.
I was very, very surprised on how light and portable this item is. The very low weight and flexibility of this makes for easy backpack carrying.
Tested it this last weekend with several 12v accessories I have around the house cell phones, portable DVD player, DeLorme GPS, and was even able to directly power a ULV laptop directly from the panel (25W TP). Also tested it for charging both NiMH batteries through direct 12v and USB adapters, as well as some CR123 and 18650 lithium ion recharables, with no issue. Finally hooked it up to my newly purchased Xantrex XPower Powerpack 400 Plus Portable Backup Power Source (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000157TP8/ref=oss_product) and it was (as expected) able to provide a charge for that gel battery backup. Not sure how long it would take to completely fill its power reserve, but it was able to charge up several 10% blocks in a few hours.
I would have liked to have gotten the 52W version of this, but it was sold out. You can supposedly link two 26W panels, however, as other reviewers have pointed out, it is not a terribly easy process, and should have come with an extra or dedicated cable to work for this feature.
Overall I am quite pleased with this purchase.