Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Waka Waka! Solar Power Cell Phone Charger Review

Unique Solar Charging Device Hopes To Power "Quarter Of Humanity'

LABELLE, FL. -- Waka Waka, meaning "shine bright" in the Swahili language is a brand fighting to abolish energy poverty throughout the world introducing a high-tech, low-cost solar powered charger and a dual LED flashlight.

The company uses a patented technology harnessing the sun to provide a 7-ounce device the size of a cell phone that puts out one amp of charging power at five volts, enough to charge a cell phone or other small USB enable portable devices as well as provide dual LED lighting at four different power levels.

The company producing the device, Off-Grid Solutions explains that 1.5 billion people have no access to electricity, about one quarter of the world. The solution they say is to provide sturdy, highly efficient, sustainable solar-powered devices around the world.

Off-Grid says kerosene lamps are widely used around the world, but are inefficient, dangerous and expensive, along with having health and environmental issues. The company proposes using solar-powered lights that also can be used to charge portable devices such as cell phones.

I've been using one provided by the company to me for testing, the Model WWP70, and it seems to work as advertised. It came in the mail with it's battery about 50% charged. I put it outside for about 6 hours to fully charge it.

There is no supplied USB cable but when a portable device is connected to the USB port the Waka Waka automatically switched on the power and an indicator light turns on, and the device puts out about 1.5 amps of electricity through the USB port.

The Waka Waka Power device contains a 2200 mAh Lithium Ion Polymer battery (3.7 volts)  that charges in about 10 hours when placed in direct sunlight. A battery status indicator tells how much charge is in the battery and also an LED light will show how fast the unit is charging.

Depending on the power needed by a cell phone to recharge, the device may run out of battery power in about 1.5 hours if the phone draws the full 1.5 amps (1500 mA) to charge itself.

In the absence of direct light, it can also be charged in about 4 hours through it's micro-USB port when connected to a charger.

The unit has a built in stand that ratchets to different position for using the flashlight or for pointing the solar charging cells into the direction of the sun. It did seem to even charge at the slow rate when I was inside a building with the unit sitting next to a window in indirect light.

I would suggest the manufacturer have some directions printed on the device case instead of referring to the printed instruction sheet. Who would know, for example, that holding the power button down for two seconds switches on an SOS flashing beacon in emergencies.

Suggested also is to have all the technical information found on the box, included on the instructions as well, since many are going to dispose of the box after opening.

The LED lights can last from 10 to 150 hours depending on which of the four brightness levels are chosen. The Waka-Waka will charge a cell phone in two to three hours, depending on make and type of phone.

Why A Lithium Polymer Battery?

Usually Lithium Ion batteries are found in small portable devices including most phone and pads, and computers. However, because the Waka-Waka is going to be setting in the sun for many hours recharging, the safety issue mandates a Lithium Polymer battery be used.

Lithium Polymer batteries can have very small shapes even resembling a credit card profile, and by using a gelled electrolyte eliminates a metal shell while making the battery more resistant to overcharging and having less chance for electrolyte leakage.

But, Lithium Polymer batteries have a lower energy density compared to Lithium Ion, and a decreased charging cycle count before they go bad as well as being more expensive to manufacture.

The manufacturer didn't provide any information on the average life of the battery or the maximum discharge rating to enable the longest life of the Waka Waka. Normally an average life might be 300-400 charges. Long term battery life can be extended when not in use by placing it in a refrigerator and not allowing batteries to go much below about 50% capacity when in use and to avoid hot locations for storage.

Waka-Waka says on it's instructions the device is good for use in temperatures up to 175 degrees F., although high temperatures will surely diminish the battery life. The device is not waterproof so remember that when it's outside charging. And probably it should be stored with the solar panel down do it won't continually be charging.

(Video above: Waka Waka Solar Charger and Flash Light)

Price: WakaWaka Power - Model WWP70 about $65 from Walmart and others.

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