Solar speakers, solar lights, solar chargers ...

... are they any use?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The answer here must be manifold for it depends where they are used and how but ... and here come the but ... they only really are efficient in countries where there is lots of sunlight.

I have made that experience with the BOGO Light. The MKI is perfectly OK charging in UK light conditions, bar in winter, but the MKII really needs much more direct sun and lots of it.

Also, and that is what many manufacturers, vendors and writers don't tell you is that when it comes to the lights and chargers they don't just run on the solar; they charge internal batteries. And yes, that also applies to many of the cell phone chargers and such. Some are just solar panels but others do have back-up batteries in them and the charge goes via them to the phone, for instance.

Recently one vendor stated that he wished that everything would be solar powered now that the government has introduced a way of making solar panels pay for themselves, especially toys, cameras and phones.

He then continues: “Apparently we use over 600 million batteries every year, but we're rubbish at recycling them. Since February of 2010, by law, battery retailers have to take old ones back, which is good news, because they are pretty toxic.”

While this may be thus the problem is also that solar, as indicated, does not always work and what does he think the power actually comes from in the end? Rechargeable batteries built into the device often, and that in such a way that they cannot even be replaced.

When it comes to flashlights it has occurred to me that standard rechargeable batteries are much better than any fancy solar lights and if one does need an alternative way of changing them, let's think of one.

One thing to remember when we talk about rechargeable batteries and flashlights; the batteries lose charge over time when they are not used and rechargeables are not much use for long-term storage emergency flashlights as you may find them drained when you need the light.

Crank-handle flashlights also, by the way, have a battery or batteries in which to store the charge and the reliability of them still leaves much to be desired of both the lights and the batteries that are built into them especially. Again, the batteries are built-in and cannot be removed or replaced. Obsolescence of the device factored in again and the lifespan is about twelve to eighteen months, if lucky.

If you want to use solar or crank-handle power for recharging then, in my opinion, recharge removable batteries and use those. They can, at times, in the UK, gotten cheaply at Lidl stores, for instance and the next time they have them again I shall buy a whole load of them. I missed out on that last time.

© 2010