With many different types and capacities of portable chargers out there in the market, it can really get confusing for a new-bee to find the right power supply for themselves. A portable charger, a.k.a. power supply, power bank, or power station is basically a battery box that can store electrical power; you can then use this power at any time later when need be. Most people use a portable charger when going for camping trips to power-up their electronics and gadgets, on long road trips to
run their in-car appliances, in homes as an emergency backup power option in case of unexpected power blackouts, for patio and BBQ parties, and on several other occasions.
G500 Portable Power Supply Charger. via overlandjpn
A portable charger is now becoming a necessity; with the increasing amount of mobile devices in our lives, keeping them up and running at all times is becoming a big challenge. A power supply can come handy in such conditions. It will get your device powered-up when you are off-the-grid, but the question is, what kind of portable charger do I need to buy? Is there an overall-best power station in the market? what are the factors to consider when buying such a device?
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The most important part of buying a portable charger is the capacity of the battery. Consider how and when are you going to use your power station. Estimate how much total power would you need and the minimum power you might need, at any given moment when running different devices from the battery pack. This will then give you a good idea of what capacity device to buy. Remember, your appliances are rated for watt-hours, that is the energy they require to operate in one hour. Overall for phones and tablets, a battery with around 200-watts is more than enough and for campings and other adventures, anything between 400-watts or above is ideal.
Notice that most companies advertise their battery capacity in watts-hours, however, remember that the "watt-hours" is the total energy a battery can exert in an hour. E.g. despite having a 1000-watt battery, it may be designed to generate 2000Wh and at full capacity will only last for 30 mins. Also consider the peak power, which is the instantaneous power a power station can generate to kick start your appliances; it then reduces the power to continuous power, which can then be provided constantly until the battery lasts.
Portable chargers come in two major types, the lithium-ion battery, and the lead-acid battery. The lithium-ion battery of the same capacity as that of the lead-acid battery is much lighter in weight. Therefore, always consider buying Li-ion batteries. Although they might cost you a bit extra, the weight difference will cover up on the additional cost incurred. After all, these devices are designed for off-grid power, so the ease of portability matters a lot.
Lightweight and compact S270. via hito_yada
If you are just looking to power up your phones, tablets and other small electronics from the portable charger then a good weight range is about 3 to 5 pounds. For heavy-duty functions like running all your utilities on a camping site, a weight range of about 20-25 pounds is acceptable. Note: Never buy a power supply with wheels, as the wheels are already a demonstration of its heavyweight.
Most of the modern portable chargers are capable of being charged from AC, DC and PV power sources. As the AC and DC power source is usually constant throughout the region, therefore the charging speed via these sources is constant, the battery type does play a role in this, but not enough for us to consider it at this stage.
G500 solar charging capability with the MPPT controller. via rosalin0708
Therefore the next important factor is the solar charging capability of the device. It is important that you opt for a power supply that can accept a large quantity of power from solar panels. More PV power intake equals less charging time, and thus you can quickly recharge it on your trips even when you are off-the-grid for days. Check if the power station has an MPPT solar charge controller, which is vital for safe and efficient recharging of any device via solar panels.
When spending hundreds of dollars on this product, you expect them to run for a long time. However, lithium-ion batteries don't really last for a lifetime. A typical lithium-ion battery would last for about 300-500 cycles or about 2 to 3 years, whichever one reaches first.
The type of battery affects the number of charge cycles and the overall life span of any portable charger. A charge cycle is the energy drainage from 100% to the DoD (depth of discharge) level which is usually set around 10% to 20% of the maximum power. Most lithium-ion batteries have about 500 charging cycles in a lifetime.
Several different outputs allow you to power up multiple different devices simultaneously. Starting with the AC power, look for more AC ports and consider the size of the inverter installed in the portable charger. Many companies although advertise for 1000Wh power, but the device itself only has a 300Wh or 500Wh inverter thus giving you only that much of continuous AC power. So keep an eye on that. The quality of the inverter is also another important factor, some inverters generate modified sine wave while others generate the pure sine wave. The pure sine wave is safer for your sensitive electronics and makes all AC powered appliances work more efficiently.
The DC charging ports can be used to charge your laptops, phones, lamps, electric portable fans, and other devices. The DC charging ports also usually comes with a cigarette lighter socket extension to run your in-car appliances. Some devices also have USB charging ports with QC 3.0 fast charging ability and a type-C PW protocol charging port specially designed for iPads and MacBooks.