Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: PowerFilm 5W F15-300N Foldable Solar Charger
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on January 6, 2012
Hands down, no emergency supply kit should be without a solar charger: to re-charge digital communication devices, re-chargeable NiMh batteries, portable GPS units, even car engine batteries.

For me, the PowerFilm solar panel chargers more than fit the bill. Plus, PowerFilm is a U.S.A. company, and manufactures its solar panel chargers in the U.S.

What follows is a preliminary review, which I'll update with photos and more details in the coming months.

But, thus far, my use of the 5-watt PowerFilm (PF) foldable solar-panel charger has been so good, that I don't want to hold up information that may be useful to other people.

Test Frequency: so far, I've separately tested two 5-watt units, two times each.

Test Conditions: indoors, under mild sunlight through a lofty skylight, during peak sunlight hours in my region (11:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.).

Battery Results: using a GoalZero AA/AAA battery re-charger (which connects to a PF unit, and is sold separately), each of my 5-watt PF units fully re-charged four of my (Eneloop) NiMH AA batteries in approximately 4.5 hours. To me, that's impressive. (I used a battery meter to measure and confirm the results, itself an indispensable device.)

Cell Phone Results: an Android 2.0 Motorola cell phone was successfully re-juiced with the 5-watt PF panel (with a separate cell phone adapter* connected to it). I didn't record the re-charge time, though, and will do so when I test the unit on an iPhone as well. Unless mistaken, I recall it taking about 4.5 hours as well, maybe less. *I use the "Philips DLM2264/17 PowerPack AC and DC Adapter for iPod/iPhone," model DLM2264/17; there are other adapters out there, this is just one.

Considering that even clear window glass (including untinted auto windows) can partially diminish the intensity of sunlight, I found that the PF units performed well under the above, indoor conditions. These units got the job done. (The GoalZero battery re-charger units are sometimes inconsistent, though.)

Caveat: under the above indoor conditions, I did have to move the solar panels several times, to keep them in line with the sun. But, if AC power is ever not an option, I'll be grateful to have any alternative power source. So, I have no complaints.

Under more optimal conditions (outside in direct sun, at a camp site, strapped to a backpack or bike rack, or through a larger window or on a dashboard on a sunny day), I would expect that this task would be leave-it-and-go convenient, and that re-charge times would be significantly faster. This is why I'll be conducting repeated, comparative tests in both stronger indoor and outdoor sunlight in my region's spring and summer seasons ahead.

Overcast Days: the PF solar panels are said to work, albeit at a much slower re-charge rate, even on overcast days. I've yet to test that claim, but will do so.

Daisy Chain: for higher watt output, I'll be connecting my PF solar panel units together, with a PF daisy chain, to see how much faster the re-charge times might be. (One of my PF panels is a 7.5-watt version, which was/is specially manufactured for, and sold via, Boy Scouts of America. The 5-watt unit has six rectangular panels; the 7.5-watt unit has 8.)

Other Solar Panel Chargers: I spent months researching various solar panels available. Most were priced beyond my budget, were too bulky for my portability needs, and/or had too few or sketchy user reviews. This is not to cast those other panel chargers in a negative light, because I've tried none of them myself. It's just that, based on my research, the PF units seemed a more reliable, affordable risk for me.

Affordability: Like most everything else these days, the price of PF panel chargers has gone up in the last year, at least on Amazon.com. My first purchase of a 5-watt unit, via Amazon.com, was less than the current price listed. My subsequent purchases of PF items were all at sale prices - some at deep, deep discounts (as much as 70% off). So, keep an eye out. Hopefully, you'll find some good deals.

Conclusion: for price, compactness, lightness of weight, and reliability (so far), I could not be more pleased with the performance of the PF units. In fact, I'm thrilled.

In addition, someone I know uses the 5-watt PF unit in his car, leaving it on the dashboard during peak sunlight hours, to re-charge his cell phone and NiMh batteries. He is also very pleased with the results. (He uses the "BESTEK 75w DC AC Power Inverter...," model MRI711C-3.)

The PowerFilm Company: I've spoken directly with some of the PF staff. Each has been very helpful, polite, courteous, friendly, and well-informed. The company seems to be in this market for the best of reasons and principles: developers, engineers, and entrepreneurs who are designing and manufacturing an affordable, reliable, natural-energy efficient, applied technology that is eminently practical. Apparently, the company doesn't have a lot of frills, and a bare-bones-to-non-existent marketing budget. So I'm happy to help them spread the word.

Because, who knows, these devices could help get you out of a serious jam. At the least, they reduce your carbon footprint, and will make your life and work a lot easier and less disruptive during an electrical power outage. When most everyone else will be scrambling around without auxiliary power (to communicate by phone, to re-charge batteries for radios, flashlights, etc.), you'll be set.

Non-Affiliation: in no way am I associated with the PF company. I get no kickbacks for my review. I'm an individual customer who has paid, in full, for every one of my PF items. But, when a company and its people do such a standout, conscientious job to provide smart and much-needed products for ordinary folks, I'm sincerely grateful, and readily volunteer a good word.

Suggestions:

a) Be sure to do your homework before laying on unreasonable expectations of any solar panel recharger. For example, how much current does your particular device (cell phone, etc.) minimally need to re-charge? Will it need more than 5 watts? Because the more wattage needed, the bigger/heavier the solar panel typically will have to be. Or, you might have to daisy-chain two panel chargers or more to get the job done.

b) Various cell phones and other small digital devices require different adapters to connect to the PF solar panel chargers. Identify the right one(s) for your needs, check user reviews and, if need be, contact the manufacturer (whichever brand you're leaning toward) for assistance. This technology is still in a relatively early phase, and solar panels are still expensive, making it tough for developers to price down. In other words, don't expect these puppies to fly you to the moon and back. It's advisable to learn about the power needs of devices you use and depend on daily, so that when the convenience of AC power is not available, you can be as self-sufficient as your knowledge, know-how, and auxiliary tools and resources make possible.

c) Try out any solar panel charger as soon as you receive it, to make sure it has no defects and works for your needs.

Hope this helps folks decide which solar-panel chargers are best suited for their purposes and budgets.
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on November 23, 2010
I received the charger just days after ordering, way to go Amazon! The units primary responsibility is to charge a combination of AA/AAA batteries for expedition flashlights, Steripens, GPS, Cameras, etc. But I am thrilled it has enough juice to recharge my flip-phone even while talking on it.

The Bottom line: It is currently the best value in its class on Amazon. The 15-300 at approx. 5 watts is more than twice as powerful as the competing powerfilm charger that only charges AA/USB. The 15-300 is also currently listing at $20 cheaper than the AA/USB model. With over 15 volts this little guy also has the ability to slowly recharge a car battery.
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on May 26, 2010
Just opened up the box put it outside and measured .292 amps at around 19.8 volts. So it does at least 5 Watts, and its pretty light. I might try to come up with my own connector / cabling due to what seems an overly hefty cigarette lighter adapter + cable. I will also probably try to build or find an adapter that regulates the voltage down to 12 or 5 volts.
The label on the product lists it to be .3 amps at 15 volts, but there is a little more according to my nice fluke multi-meter. Very impressed, effective layout / configuration, looking forward to getting it in the field.

I bought this item at $76.95 on Amazon.com
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on August 9, 2011
I bought this solar panel to help keep my smartphone charged while on an extended backpacking trip (in Virginia in July). The bottom line is that it functions, but not very well, and instead of this panel you should buy the Goal0 12301 Nomad 7M Solar Panel for $8 more.
The good: The Powerfilm panel is light and fairly compact. It has a car charger adapter, so you can plug in anything you can plug in to your car.
The bad: To charge my phone, I had to attach the included car charger adapter, then find a separate car-charger-to-USB adapter, then a separate USB-to-micro-USB cable, so it's a fairly ridiculous contraption. Also, it's meant to run at 12V to charge batteries, so much of the potential is lost on phone charging. Even in full, bright sunlight, my phone takes about 4 hours to get a full charge (1500 mAh). It is impossible to charge for that long at once, though, because this panel really only works within a couple hours of solar noon. Morning or evening sun is useless. Setting up the panel to face toward the sun can be a pain, because it is made up of so many panels with nothing to stiffen them, but it's manageable. Forget trying to move it around while charging, though--there is little or no capacitor to buffer the current, and the slightest interruption in direct sunlight causes everything to reset, disrupting the charging and often causing the device being charged to spontaneously turn on. This also means that you shouldn't leave it out in intermittent sunlight, such as clouds moving past. Worse, sometimes when I unplug the phone it doesn't notice and drains most of its battery. Lastly, after a couple weeks of use the fabric that the panels attach to had started unraveling, and I wouldn't be surprised if the whole thing eventually falls apart.
The solution: my dad bought the Goal Zero 7W panel for the same purpose, and it solves almost all the above problems, plus charges much faster even in intermittent sunlight and while hiking through partially-shaded forest. True, it's somewhat larger and heavier, but definitely worth it.
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on June 16, 2011
I received mine yesterday evening and was able to test it in my car this morning. One quick note about the product: the solar panel comes with a female cigarette lighter plug so you can start using it to power all the devices that you typically charge in your car. In order to use the solar panel to charge the car battery, you will need to purchase a separate male cigarette lighter plug or wires to connect to the car battery directly. If you have a USB/cigarette lighter adapter, then you are pretty much covered.

I had planned to place the panel on the interior tray under the moonroof to power up a small USB fan to draw the cool air in when the car is parked. However, the moonroof of my car is slightly tinted (factory tint) and the tint substantially blocks the amount of sun that the panel can absorb. Along the way of my 55 mile commute, the USB fan did not move at all, even though the power indicator light was on and it was all sunny and bright outside. Before heading back, I placed the panel on the dash with its edge touching the windshield. Right away the fan started turning so fast that I had to shut it off when I re-positioned the panel. There is no tint on my windshield and the car was facing the sun with no shade. It is amazing how responsive the panel is: when there was full sun, the fan worked in full force; when there was shade, the fan slowed down; when the car went under an overpass, the fan stopped and resumed immediately when there was full sun exposure again. One note about leaving it on the dash: try to place the panel on the passenger side dash because the grid lines of the panel project onto the windshield and can become distracting.

4 stars because I have not yet put it to test on devices that run on 12 volts. It would be awesome if it can power up my portable stove or hotpot for camping trips.
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on November 19, 2011
You must remember that this is not the best case scenario, if you are charging your phone or batteries on solar you must be away from a plug that works, correct? So when using solar you must do the math and find out what your needs are then your demand and find out what panel will meet that need. for example, and i am not an expert, i have a 7Ah battery i use for my amateur radio. This 5W panel puts out less than one Ah of power at optimal use so i am prepared to let the battery sit on charge all day in good sun light. if you have questions i advise you Google and call Powerfilm and they can give you official instructions on how to use this product to the fullest ability. I recommend that you over buy your demand so you have enough power when your panel is not in the best sun.

That said i love my panel and i went and got a second one. I charge Sealed lead acid batteries, amateur radios, FRS radios, 12 V AA/AAA battery charger, Iphone 3GS and Iphone 4, will update on Iphone 4S when i get it later this weekend. I recommend them to all my friends and to all who read my review. Just as everything else do your research and know what you are getting. The review that said he cant wait 4 hrs to charge his phone better start caring a gel cell battery so he can store power and charge when he can. just remember we are all dependent on power and we are spoiled that we can just plug in and have constant good power in the US but when you go out to the woods you have to understand you are compromising and using solar to fill the gap, you cant expect it to be the same as at your house in the city. Also i HIGHLY recommend you try the product before you NEED it. when you unbox set it on your patio and make sure it does what you need, if not send back to powerfilm and go bigger
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on July 29, 2010
This is the first solar panel product I have bought, and I am very pleased with it so far. I live in Atlanta, and at 1:00PM on a hot sunny day, it was producing 17.6 volts. I bought this product mainly to recharge batteries. The solar panel included the 12v female cigarette adapter, so I also bought an inexpensive Targus TG-CH5000 AC/DC Rapid Charger so I could plug the battery charger directly into the solar panel. Looking forward to experimenting with the panel further.
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on July 23, 2011
I tried to charge my Ipod and Droid, but neither would show a charge\did not charge at all. I tested it with a voltmeter and it showed very strong voltage (19). After doing some research, I found that some new devices must have certain minimum current. SO, it works very well, just make sure your device will work with a lower charge or daisy chain it to other panels.
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on June 27, 2011
I bought this specifically to charge an iPhone 4 on an extended backpacking trip. I tried on multiple occasions in mid-day ultra bright light. I left the iPhone 4 plugged into it for 1hr with no difference in the battery % meter on the iPhone. I tried charging for an hour with the phone off and the battery meter dropped 6%! I give it two stars because it probably charges AAs - but the manufacturer specifically said it would charge an iPhone.
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on August 1, 2010
Just got this b-4 a week and half bicycle trip. Worked great and was able to keep cell phone, 2 bike lights, and Ipod chraged providing they did not die all @ one time. My brother had one as well and is pleased with it. I am looking forward to using on a fall trip to BWCA and will take some tunes and GPS system that charges off it as well. I already used it a little on the Garmin but ended up not using the Garmin much on the bike trip. Great price @ $60.00.
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