Being off grid on a narrowboat and keeping all electrical devices charged is a challenge that we prepared for by purchasing a few USB battery packs and a stand alone solar panel.
We have two different battery packs – 1 x 20,000mAh pack and 2 x 10,000mAH packs. The smaller battery pack also has a solar panel built in.
The description for the product on Amazon says that it will take 20 hours of full sun to charge the pack. Which I thought was reasonable. I haven’t had the opportunity to expose them to that much sun so far this year so I’m still unsure if this claim is true! It says the solar panel is 3.75W which is obviously a lot smaller than a roof top panel.
The pack when full will probably charge our phones 4 times (not 2 like I said in the vlog). We predominantly have one plugged into our mifi device to keep the internet going so again I haven’t really tested how many full charges. It will charge two things at once – which I have tested – and will also charge from a single USB port if you find yourself somewhere with on grid power.
The other battery pack that I have is double the capacity. I’ve had it for about 2 years now and found it really useful when we travel. It will charge up to 4 devices at the same time which is handy. Due to the large capacity it does take a while to charge fully but this is sped up if you use the dual USB input. Now we are “off grid” full time, I wanted to be able to charge this on the move so I bought the solar panel.
The solar panel I bought is 20W and has 2 USB sockets for output. I also have a power monitor which will help me position the panel to get maximum output. This panel will charge anything that can be charged from a USB cable – so phones, cameras, battery packs, etc. As most phones have a low voltage cut out, if the panel goes into shade, charging stops until the cable is removed and reseated. This is a pain so I stick to charging the battery packs as they don’t have the cutoff feature.
The power monitor will tell me how many amps are generated real time and keep a track of how many have gone into my device. This is handy just to check it is actually working!
I was going to get a higher Wattage panel but I didn’t want to spend a lot of money – this was the compromise.
The downside I’ve found is that if any of the panels go into shade, charging stops. This is a pain if we are moving along due to bridges, locks, etc but we are still getting free power so its all OK in the end.
I will do more testing and data gathering over time and let you know how all the gadgets go and if I would recommend buying them. In the mean time, why not check out the vlog and see us talk about theses things instead: