Solar cells really shine at charging your batteries at remote location or on a boat. They are also useful for maintaining a charge on a 12V battery, such as a car battery. The best (and most expensive) solar battery chargers are flexible, thin-film solar cells. These cells can be folded and packed away easily.
Sunforce Solar Battery Chargers
You can find get basic solar charger for under $25, such as the Sunforce 1.8 Watt Solar Battery Maintainer. These solar charger are good for trickle charging or topping off the charge of a 12 V battery. Sunforce chargers get good reviews from owners at Amazon.
You can plug the Sunforce 1.8-watt solar charger into your vehicle’s 12-volt lighter socket and position the panel to pick up the most daylight possible. Or, if you prefer, use the alligator clips to connect it directly to the battery, so you can keep your lighter socket open for cell phone chargers or other accessories.
A higher wattage charger will charge your battery more quickly. When in doubt, opt for a higher power charger because owners are often disappointed with the charging times of lower wattage chargers. Sunforce offers a 5 watt charger, a 15 watt charger and a 60 watt charger. However, once you got over 15 watts, rigid solar cells start to get bulky, so you might want to opt for a flexible solar charger (see below)
Another good range of solar charger is the Coleman solar chargers, which are similar to the Sunforce chargers.
Brunton Solaris 26 Fleixble Solar Battery Charger
The Brunton makes a good range of flexible, portable solar cells. Brunton solar charger use CIGS (Copper Indium Gallium diSelenide) instead of the usual silicon.
The entry-level Brunton charger is the Solaris 6, which produces 6 watts of power. However, most remote users opt for the Brunton Solaris 26. This flexible solar charger that generates 26 watts but measures only 21.5” by 37.5″ and folds down to 11″ by 8.5” by 1”. The Solaris 26 is available from Amazon for around $425.
Solaris chargers can charge a laptop, video camera or 12V deep cycle battery. They are often used to charge marine batteries. It takes between 1 and 2 hours to charge a small device using the solar cells. It takes between 4 and 8 hours to fully charge a laptop computer. Brunton’s chargers operate well in low-light conditions such as overcast days.
Brunton Solaris 52 Solar Battery Charger
Brunton also offers the Solaris 52, a 52 watts solar charger. It’s available from Amazon for $891 .
The Brunton Solaris 52
Portable Power Station
A useful addition to a solar charger is a portable power station. A power station will store energy generated by the solar cells, so it can be used when needed (like at night). Brunton offers the Solo series of lightweight power stations. These units can be recharged by plugging them into a USB port, household outlet, vehicle DC outlet (cigarette lighter socket) or by using Brunton’s solar panels.
Brunton’s lightest power station is the Solo3.4, which weighs just 12 ounces. It has a 3.4 Amp/H lithium-ion battery inside, and it can be used to charge a variety of small electronics. It comes with adaptors for iPod, mini USB Motorola, Nokia, Sony Ericson cell phones, and Playstation PSP.
It’s available from Amazon for around $38.
In November 2008, Brunton will be releasing the Solar 7.5 and Solar 15, which will have larger power storage capacities.
17 thoughts on “The Best 12V Solar Battery Chargers”
Thank you for the great product reviews. From solar powering your home or RV to using solar lighting for your landscape, each of us can counter the effects of global warming, leaving future generations a better world to live in. Go Green Go Solar!!
Certainly, but people need to realize that adding Solar in their property is an asset which will improve the actual worth of their house if / when they decide to sell. With the environment the way it is going we simply cannot dismiss any system that delivers 100 % free electricity at no cost to both the customer and more importantly the environment!
Nice product reviews here, everyone needs to start thinking about solar energy and how we can use it with our everyday products, saving the planet one solar energy product at a time!
Why 12 volt? Automotive standard? If we scale voltages and cell sizes to the items commonly charged, What then? Or have we? is this it? !2 volts? Seems not to fit what i want to charge/operate with Solar at all! Am I so different?
I bought my solar 14 roll from the internet with the vision of charging my laptop off the grid while traveling. After initial test I identified that it was unable to charge my laptop. I contacted Brunton and we arranged to exchange for another. After my second solar roll 14 arrived from Brunton, you can imagine how disappointed I was when testing identified that this solar roll 14 was also unable to charge my laptop. Bottom line is that if you are intend purchasing the solar roll 14 to charge your laptop in the sun (as the product description implies) then be prepared for disappointment. I have had 2 and neither of them have been able to charge a laptop. ..brian
a laptop usualy needs more than 18 volts to recharge, and again, usualy more than 3 amps, which is not the case of this sollar pannel.
I have 3 2×4 solar panels on my motor coach , for some reason they do not seam to be charging my batteries any body whom might know what my problem might be?? please e-mail me thank you..
thanks for this info
Hey EfficiencySeeker.. If you want to learn more about solar battery chargers or ssolar panels, call Earthtech Products.. they are very experienced in solar and really know they’re stuff.. I would suggest calling them.. They’re number is 877-548-3387
So everyone here knows how to use solar panels but me?? lol
If these products are meant to make us “greener” then we need to know more about what it took to make them. From energy to what by-products/fumes they produce during manufacturing/mining; How long they are expected to last; And any disposal issues.
I live in the Northwest (i.e. fairly cloudy) and it’s difficult for me to know if going solar is greener or not.
Great post Justin and very helpful info. .. had the same idea to review some battery chargers. It’s nice to read that You posted some chargers I’ve liked too in the Solar Chargers Comparison Chart
I would like to try a solar panel but I don;t know anything about it. I would like to use it to charge a cellphone, toothbrush and digital camera. Do I need some other components or will the solar panel have a place to plug all these things in?
Here is by far the coolest Solar Charger for Laptops, Cell Phone, Etc.. and is so much more portable. It’s called the Solar Gorilla Solar Laptop Charger.
You can find this item at: http://www.earthtechproducts.com/solargorilla-solar-charger.html
thanks much, dude
While I haven’t personally tested any of the Solaris line of solar chargers, I personally own a SolarRoll 14 Watt it is truly amazing! I’ve used it to charge my laptop while at the park and it’s also great for smaller electronics as well.
There’s more info here: http://ecogeekliving.com/solarroll14.html
Thanks for this review.
Were you able to test the Brunton Solaris charger yourself?
I’ve been testing a few products myself at 1GreenProduct.com and have thus far been satisfied with only 1 of the 3 products tested.
(Although in all fairness to the manufacturers, my testing takes place in an indoor environment with only moderate sun exposure.)
– Aaron Dalton, 1GreenProduct.com