Solar chargers are hitting the mainstream, and on many college campuses across the United States, you can be certain to see at least one student sitting in the grass somewhere working away using the power of the sun to keep his laptop battery charged. Solar chargers for laptops are a relatively new product, and thanks to a great deal of competition from a number of companies offering green and sustainable products, the price for a solar charger for your laptop battery has gone down significantly.
One of the most attractive aspects of buying a solar charger for your laptop battery, outside of being able to work on your laptop while camping or otherwise away from available electrical outlets to charge your laptop battery, is that solar chargers for laptops and other rechargeable electronic devices (such as iPods and cell phones) are incredibly lightweight and easy to pack. Most come in very sheets that are perforated and fold easily to conveniently stow away in your laptop bag or backpack. When you're ready to use your solar charger to power up your laptop battery, all you have to do is whip it out, unfold it, and let the power of the sun do the work. If you're like me and you've used cheaper folding versions of solar power for electronic devices such as your laptop battery, you were always a little worried that you would lose it or it would get damaged. Both of these are very real possibilities. When I eventually (as discussed below) bought the Notepower 22 watt solar charger for my laptop battery, this potential problem was solved as my solar charger was part of my case.
Personally, after looking around and seeing that I was going to be spending around $200-$300 for a solar-powered laptop charger, I came to the conclusion that since it would get so much use (I travel long distances on my bike and often camp in the middle of nowhere) I should splurge a little. Being a careful consumer as always, I read a few blogs about these devices that use solar power to recharge a laptop battery and found that the best solution for my needs was an all-in-one laptop carrier and solar charger for my laptop battery. The one I purchased came from Sierra Solar and was (gulp) around $400-way more than I expected to spend but for my purposes, it was necessary. I got the Notepower 22 watt model, which is a nice case (although it's really plain, it's highly functional) that opens to reveal solar panels. With this, there is no opening and refolding of the panels, which are things you always want to be careful with as they are far more delicate than they might seem. The Notepower 22 has suited my needs and while it doesn't always compare to charging my laptop battery with an electrical outlet, it works fine and allows me the freedom to travel with a constant source of electricity. Now, if only it would help me pick up a wireless signal from space too (which by looking at it, you'd think it could).
When using a solar charger like the Notepower 22 from Sierra Solar for your laptop battery, you will want to remember to that you still need to conserve power. Oftentimes, your computer is already set to reserve power and dim the screen but if doesn't and you don't require your screen to be at full brightness, try to save power and reduce the number of times you need to charge this way. Also, you will want to be very careful with the panels and make sure you don't scrape the edges of your laptop against them when you take your laptop out of the solar charger case. One of my complaints with this model of solar chargers for laptops with the carrying case though is that they don't have a lot of sizes to choose from. My laptop doesn't fit very well and moves around a lot since it's big enough to accommodate all sizes. Hopefully, in the future, all companies that manufacture laptops will include the option of having a solar charger for the laptop battery with a case that is made specifically for the model. Using a solar charger for your laptop battery is a great way to stay mobile. If it's important to you to have power on the road between charging points, it will be well worth the expense.
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