I love solar energy. And I guess my dog loves it as well – basking in it to stay warm. The sun is seemingly a limitless source of power. It only needs to be harnessed. With the proper equipment, you can be ready for just about any situation, a camping trip, an emergency or a way to simply save on your electrical bill. And as we get more and more devices that require precious energy, we need to begin to think about saving the planet in the process. While much of the energy that comes to our homes is getting “cleaner” (of course that depends on where you live), the sun still remains much more environmentally-friendly than carbon-burning energy production. This is where GoalZero Solar Products come into play.
For the past few weeks, I have been experimenting with the GoalZero Boulder 15 solar panel and the Escape 150 power pack. Before I go into these products, let’s talk a bit about GoalZero, the company. Goal Zero has been around for many years, creating innovative solar products that are portable and designed for all types of environments. Their products can charge devices using USB, AC and DC power and are designed to work in conjunction with each other. You could get a large solar panel to charge up a smaller power pack (although I wouldn’t recommend the opposite). Remember, the larger the solar panel, the more surface area there is to capture the power of the sun. As I have seen with other solar power innovators, the roots of the company comes from experiencing first hand, the communities who do not have access to regular, reliable power. Many of these areas are severely impoverished and have minimal infrastructure. But they all have something in common, the sun. To that end, Goal Zero donates a portion of its proceeds from revenue made from Goal Zero products to TIFIE (Teaching Family Independence through Enterprise) – an organization devoted to fostering economic development via “establishing sustainable business enterprises that produce goods and services and create lasting jobs.”
If you want a quick overview of the Boulder 15 and the Escape 150, take a look at the quick video below (also available directly on YouTube):
Sometimes it is a bit difficult to figure out what to talk about first – sort of a chicken and egg thing. Without a solar panel, there isn’t much you can do with a power pack (actually that is not quite true and I will explain why), but without a power pack, your solar panel is pretty much useless.
The GoalZero Escape 150 Power Pack
So, let’s start with the Escape 150 power pack. This is a fairly large device (not something that you would want to be carrying in a backpack), but if you are doing some car camping or want a battery pack for emergencies around the home, the Escape 150 is for you. The important thing to remember about any of the GoalZero power packs is that this is essentially a battery in different sizes and shapes. Obviously, the bigger the battery, the more you can charge (and sometimes the higher the power output – think computers instead of mobile phones).
The Escape 150 will pretty much power any small device, from cellphones to radios to laptops. And there are 3 ways that you can suck the power out of it, via USB (for smartphones and tablets), 12V (car) and AC (like plugging into the wall). Depending on the power consumption of the device you are using, you can really do a lot with the Escape 150. GoalZero says that you can keep your laptop running an extra 6-10 hours and for a mobile device, upwards of 150+ hours.
Now back to that comment about which to talk about first (chicken or egg). You can actually use the Escape 150 as a big portable battery (what it actually is) and you can use it without the solar panel. You can recharge it from the wall in about 5 hours, from your car (12V) in 6 hours – you need a separate 12V charger – or using the glorious sun power in about 5-20 hours depending on the size of the panel. It is, though, the solar panel that gives you the freedom to take your power on the go.
Here’s the thing to keep in mind when considering the Escape 150 – it weighs about 13 lbs. which means, as I said, you won’t want to be carrying it around that much. But, if you have it for emergencies or for car trips, the weight shouldn’t be a factor. It outputs at 110V AC, 11-14V via 12V port and 5.0V via the USB port.
There is an LCD indicator on the front that tells the level of the battery. When charging, it shows what percentage is charging via a flashing level bar so you always know how much is left in the battery. There is also a switch on the side to turn on or off the 110V switch.
The GoalZero Boulder 15 Solar Panel
Now let’s look at how to juice up your Escape 150 using the sun. This solar panel is a bit large but captures 15 watts of power from the sun. It measures 11″ x 18″ x 1″ so it is a bit too bulky to put in a backpack, but a good enough size to capture enough sun to charge the Escape 150 in about 10-20 hours.
The frame is made out of metal which adds to its durability and weather resistance. You could potentially leave it out in the elements, hung to a wall, for example. It is built to withstand rain and obviously sun.
On the back, you have the ability to daisy-chain other solar panels to make a larger array. This means that you could upgrade your solar collection to be able to charge up the Escape 150 in much less time.
Solar chargers are the future. The sun is largely untapped and technology is making it much more affordable to capture and covert solar energy and then store it for later use. Obviously, the sun is only out for part of the day so you do need to have a means to store the energy that you capture so I believe it is important to have a larger storage device like the Escape 150 which could potentially power your devices for quite a number of hours.
Whether you are going camping and simply need a means to power a light or a portable DVD player to keep your kids amused when it is dark, or you want to have a device that is ready to handle an emergency like a power outage, solar energy is really the way to go in these situations. The GoalZero Escape 150 retails for $160 (available on Amazon currently for $160) and the Boulder 15 retails for $125 (on Amazon currently for $126). There are even some bundles on Amazon for both of these products for about $285 called the Adventure Kit. While a bit pricy, with just a few uses, these devices will start paying for themselves pretty quickly. And the power from the sun is free!
These are easy to use and set up. Point the panel at direct sun (I have it even charging through a window). And when you are ready to use the power, plug in your devices and flip the switch. That’s it!
Disclosure Text : I have a material connection because I received a gift or sample of a product for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was/am not expected to return this item or gift after my review period. All opinions within this article are my own. More information can be found in my About page as well as here.
HTD says: The Sun is Ready for You! Capture, Store & Use it with GoalZero Solar Products!