Solar power banks are useful devices that harness the sun’s energy to charge your cell phone, laptop, or tablet. Once your device’s battery is fully charged, the solar power bank no longer needs to be exposed to the sun to charge – at least until the battery runs low. However, solar power banks have quite a few disadvantages despite their usefulness.
Disadvantages of solar power banks include requiring constant sunshine to charge your device. They don’t always show an accurate battery percentage, charge slowly, and can be costly. Other cons are their unreliability, inability to charge large devices, and large size.
This article will examine the disadvantages of solar power banks, making it a helpful guide if you’re considering investing in one. It will also explain what to be cautious about when choosing a solar power bank. Let’s get started!
1. Solar Power Banks Require Continuous Sunshine To Work
If you’re new to using solar power, you might believe that a solar power bank and a solar charger are the same things. However, they are different devices, and the primary difference is that solar chargers can only charge a device when the sun is out. On the other hand, solar power banks store solar energy in the battery for you to charge your device whenever you need it.
With this in mind, it’s easy to believe that solar power banks are superior to solar chargers. However, a solar power bank has a distinct disadvantage if you rely on it for long-term use.
For instance, let’s assume that you want to use a solar power bank for an extended camping trip. If you have one sunny day followed by five cloudy days in a row, the battery pack won’t last through the five cloudy days. You will, without a doubt, need more sun to recharge the battery.
This makes it inadvisable to rely solely on a solar power bank to charge your devices on an extended trip because no one controls the weather.
If you want to use a solar power bank for an extended period, use it as you usually would but consider bringing extra power banks (or alternative charging methods) with you. For example, investing in a second cell phone or laptop battery might be more useful to you than buying a solar power bank.
2. They Don’t Always Show an Accurate Battery Percentage
Battery discharge is common among solar devices. Essentially, battery discharge is the process of the battery losing energy while not in use. This is a normal protection mechanism for many batteries, but it creates its fair share of issues, particularly for a solar power bank.
Solar power banks don’t always show an accurate battery percentage because they don’t account for battery discharge unless the difference becomes significant. For example, you might have charged your solar power bank battery to 100% but don’t use the battery for two
days because you’ve charged the device in advance for a long trip.
After two days, you’ll likely assume the battery is still at 100%, or at least close to that. You will probably look at the solar power bank’s battery lights, which will likely show you that the battery is still fully charged.
However, when you start using it, you may notice that the battery appears to drain significantly faster than it should. This happens because the battery has already experienced some discharge, but you weren’t notified. Thus, when you begin charging your device, you may start with 85% rather than 100% power.
Solar power banks not showing an accurate battery percentage can make it challenging to manage how you use your mobile devices on an off-the-grid trip, and you may end up running out of charge.
3. Solar Power Banks Take Up Significant Space
Solar power banks need a decent amount of space to charge the battery. Like all solar panels, they must be spread out in the sunlight to absorb UV energy. Most people consider a solar power bank’s size before buying it, and it doesn’t typically cause major issues.
However, it can be a problem if you have limited space while stationary or traveling. Whatever your scenario, you must have sufficient space to accommodate your solar power bank.
Your solar panels need to be laid out in direct sunlight when charging the battery, and they also need to be well protected. This is often impossible when using a solar power bank at an event with many people. In crowds, it can be near impossible to find adequate space to charge your power bank consistently.
In addition, if you’re traveling with the power bank, you’ll need to account for additional carrying space. Many solar power banks fold up to be more compact. However, they can still be challenging to carry around with you while in transit.
4. Solar Power Banks Charge the Battery Slowly
On average, a solar bank takes up to fifty hours to fully charge the battery. This makes them impractical because most people don’t have enough time to wait for their devices to charge.
While one can argue that the amount of use you get from the battery once it’s fully charged pays for the charging time, it’s worth remembering how much value you get largely depends on what you’re charging.
If you’re only charging a cell phone, it may last longer. However, with larger devices, such as laptops, the energy will be pulled significantly faster, and unfortunately, it doesn’t even out with the charging time.
Another factor discussed below is that you often must remain stationary when charging the solar power bank. The purpose of using a power bank like this, at least for most people, is to remain mobile at all times. Stopping for more than a day to charge your solar power bank can be incredibly inconvenient if you’re on a camping or hiking trip.
Of course, some solar power banks are better quality than others, and they may not always take this long to charge the battery to completion. In these cases, they’re usually an excellent option.
5. They Require You To Stay Still While Charging (In Most Cases)
Solar power banks have solar panels that absorb sunlight to charge the internal battery. Ideally, you could set up the panels on the back of a backpack or something similar and charge the battery while in motion. This is why solar power banks are popular with campers, backpackers, and hikers.
Unfortunately, however, solar power banks don’t always operate as advertised – at least when it comes to charging the battery while on the move. Instead, you’ll often need to move the solar panels into the sun and remain stationary for some time.
This isn’t a big deal if you use them at a campsite for a few days. However, if the goal is to have a portable charging device while on the move, you may encounter some problems.
However, this doesn’t always happen, and you can sometimes be on the move and still have your solar power bank charging in the background. Because they need direct exposure to the sun to charge, it can be challenging to know the correct direction you should move to. If you change direction, the panels may no longer receive direct sunlight, so they won’t charge as effectively.
6. Solar Power Banks Can Be Costly
While you can purchase a solar power bank for under $50, a good quality one can cost quite a bit more. You can expect to pay over $200 for a solar power bank with excellent charging capabilities and a high voltage.
With the time it takes to charge, it’s not always worth the price. However, a good quality solar power bank can be a lifesaver in a difficult situation, and there are plenty of times they are worth the cost./p>
Ultimately, it depends on what you’re using the solar power bank for and whether you feel like a certain model is too expensive.
7. They Require You To “Chase the Sun”
One of the biggest disadvantages of solar power banks is that you need to keep them in direct sunlight. While the device will partially charge in indirect sunlight, it’s not likely to be enough to power you through more than an hour or two.
Because solar power banks require direct sunlight to charge adequately, you may constantly find yourself “chasing the sun.” As it moves across the sky, you’ll find that you need to move the power bank repeatedly.
Unfortunately, shadows come with sunlight, creating major issues, especially if it’s a partially cloudy day. Of course, if you’re in an area with high amounts of sunlight (such as Arizona or New Mexico), you’ll likely be good to go when using a solar battery pack.
Even in these areas, however, you can expect shadows to come, which may require you to move the solar power bank around frequently.
8. Solar Power Banks Aren’t Compatible With Every Location
Solar power banks can only be used in places that receive adequate sunlight for at least part of the year. For those who live in heavily clouded areas (for example, in some parts of Washington state), they will be practically useless.
It’s unfortunate, but solar power banks don’t charge well, if at all, without direct sunlight. This puts you at risk, especially if you rely on the solar power bank to ensure your devices are charged for emergencies while traveling.
Another problem, particularly for hikers, is the solar power bank won’t charge in the woods. This means you must find meadows or openings in wooded areas along the way to your campsite and charge your solar power bank. This can be frustrating and often results in delays and a situation where you greatly lack battery power.
Most areas receive at least some direct sunlight, and most often, solar power banks can be used during the warmer months when there is adequate sunshine. This means that, while this is a disadvantage, it isn’t a major issue for most people.
However, this is something to consider if you live in an area that doesn’t get very much sunlight and if you’re going to use it for hiking purposes.
9. They Can’t Always Charge Larger Devices
How much charge you get out of your solar power bank largely depends on what you charge. Some basic solar power banks may not adequately charge larger devices, such as laptops.
While the solar power bank may be semi-useful for charging a cell phone or two, it won’t be helpful for anything larger.
Given that many people buy solar power banks to help power computers, portable stoves, and more, this can rapidly lead to issues and frustration.
Many solar power banks will charge larger devices, and it’s worth researching before deciding on a particular model. However, be aware that even if the power bank charges a larger device, it’s likely draining the battery significantly faster than you’d like it to.
10. Solar Power Banks Can Be Unreliable
The final disadvantage I want to discuss is that solar power banks aren’t always reliable. Unfortunately, various factors are involved when working with the sun.
With the issues we discussed earlier, such as a solar power bank not always showing you exactly how charged the battery is and the dependency on suitable weather conditions, it’s no surprise that solar power banks can’t always be considered reliable.
There are times and situations when these devices can be incredibly reliable and helpful, and under the right conditions, they’re an excellent option.
With this in mind, if you’re purchasing a solar power bank, be aware that it may be hit or miss when using them. You may have days when they’re enormously helpful, but you may also have times when they aren’t worth the purchase at all.
Overall, solar power banks are a good option for a quick portable charge, but they definitely have things you should consider moving forward.
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