In a scenic mountain range, taking a much-deserved rest from your exhausting ascent, you lay out a solar panel you bought online. You then grab a battery bank purchased on clearance with a name that seems more like a series of consonants than a brand. Finally, you pair the two with a cord purchased on eBay from a seller whose online store no longer exists.
A few hours later, you walk to your hodgepodge solar system and pack everything back up.
You plug your phone into the battery bank, and it charges for a few minutes before shutting down.
How is this possible? There was plenty of sunshine available, and you did everything right!
But did you?
When I think of the word efficiency, many things come to mind. The first is getting things done in the least amount of time. I also think of a device or system working at a peak level.
What had never crossed my mind was that efficiency is just as much about minimizing losses as it is about maximizing returns.
With this in mind, I spoke with PowerFilm president Frank Jeffrey about the LightSaver, its efficiency, and what sets this new portable solar charger apart from a flooded market that gets increasingly convoluted daily.
I consider myself a relatively knowledgeable consumer of electronics (it’s one of the few things I will spend large amounts of money on), but what I wasn’t aware of was just how much power you lose with a solar charging system that wasn’t designed to “work together.”
When asked why the LightSaver exists in the form factor it does, Jeffrey responded that the systems on the market would be heavier, bulkier, and less convenient due to the lack of integration.
These systems add significant weight to a hiker’s pack and make what should be a streamlined and efficient process clunky and difficult to work with.
Jeffrey filled me in on why most systems throw away a massive amount of the energy they generate.
In generic chargers, the energy generated goes through a series of electric conversions before reaching the battery. The solar, charge controller and battery weren't designed to work together, resulting in lost power.
Jeffrey concluded that after you get through this “chain of losses” using the least expensive separate systems, you can easily throw away 50% of your power.
After laying out why most systems are very inefficient, Jeffrey noted that this was the driving force behind the design of the LightSaver.
The solar and the battery were designed specifically to perform most efficiently together. This minimizes losses and means that you are getting the most power possible.