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Solio Extended

Several months ago I purchased a solar panel recharger with the lengthy description of “3, 6, 9, and 12 Volt Solar Panel With AA and 9 Volt Battery Charger (Model No. ES884)” at Harbor Freight. This odd device is the result of a mad scientist’s frankenstein effort infected with feature creep. The panel comes with alligator clips, 5 DC-style plugs, a 9-volt battery charger, and the ability to charge AA batteries. Singularity was not in the design of this device.

My original experimentation with the ES884 was to just try it out and perhaps charge up some batteries. However, I have finally found better use for it. Fortunately, one of the various DC jacks included plugs into the DC port on the Solio Classic-i. I set the ES884 to 6V and stuck the panel in bright sunlight. With the Solio not exposed to the sun, but linked up to the ES884, the red LED on the Solio lit up, indicating that it was getting enough power for a charge.

Encouraged by the success of this experiment, I looked at other solutions to assist in charging the Solio.  One of the accessories which comes with the Solio Classic-i is a USB-to-DC adapter, which can charge up the Solio from a computer’s USB port.  Since a USB port typically gives out a maximum of 5 Watts of power, I was curious if I could create a system which could generate at least 5W of power to be able to charge up devices via USB (Solio, phones, etc.).

I already had a 2W Coleman solar panel, but that wouldn’t produce enough power for this experiment, so I picked up the larger variation of this solar panel, the Coleman 6 Watt Solar Battery Trickle Charger at Menards for around $50.  (Note: This solar panel is marketed by Coleman, but produced by Sunforce.)  The Coleman panels come with “Quick Connect Cables” which allows for easy switching between different cable ends (12V male car adapter plug, alligator clips, etc.).  I went to Batteries+ and picked up a 12V female car adapter for around $8.  With the female car adapter connected to the solar panel’s cable, I was able to take a typical 12V-to-USB converter and plug it in.  I initially picked up a $12 RCA 12V-to-USB adapter, but it made an odd buzzing noise which concerned me.  I then found a Belkin adapter I already had.  What I am currently using is the AT&T car charger for iPhone, which also contains a USB port on it.

  • 6 Watt Solar Battery Trickle Charger ($50)
  • 12 Volt Female Car Adapter ($8)
  • 12 Volt Male to USB Car Adapter ($12+)
  • Solio Classic-i ($70)

With the addition of the 6W solar panel, I can easily fully charge the Solio’s battery in a day or two, depending on how much sun was available that particular day.  Disregarding the Solio Classic-i, the set up cost around $70 USD.  If the solar panel is getting hit by direct sunlight, it is also possible to connect up other devices to the USB port.  I have also powered up an iPhone 3GS, a 2nd generation iPod touch, a Samsung Flight phone, and the 2010 iPod nano.

The design of the Solio is wonderful, but it takes several days of consistent direct sunlight to charge up the internal battery.  Fortunately, the Solio was designed to get a little extra boost when necessary, and connecting another set of solar panels can help store more energy, which makes the Solio useful on a day-to-day basis.  Considering that I need to charge up my phone every day or two (depending on how much I use it), having a perpetually charged Solio makes it a more ideal device for me.

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Categories: Coleman, ES884, Solar, Solio, Sunforce
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