Solar Powered Radio
We should all be aware by now that the world’s atmosphere is already heavily damaged. What with all the harmful fumes and greenhouse gasses coming from industrial facilities that utilize electricity, it’s only a matter of time before climate change finally forces action. As the global heat index continues to climb fast, we are now starting to fully experience the damage we have inflicted on the environment.
Lately, we have been experiencing the wrath of Mother Nature through natural calamities such as heavier storms, powerful earthquakes, and now different types of viruses. During such calamities, one of the first things that get hit is our electrical power grids, which can result in days of living without electricity. So, what do we do, and how do we get to safety when we can’t watch TV or Google the answer using the internet during these emergencies?
A few decades ago, before we had unlimited access to information through the World Wide Web, people used to turn to conventional AM/FM radios to catch the news of the day. Radios have been part of our lives for such a long time. They don’t only bring us the news but also provide entertainment.
Although most radios are have used electric power to function ever since they invented, did you know that in the 1950s, the first solar radio was created by General Electric (GE)? This radio consisted of transistors, photovoltaic cells, and a battery. What started as an experiment suddenly turned out to be a pioneer of greater solar inventions. Who knew the sun could provide such power to aid our lives?
What Is Solar Powered Radio?
So far, we have solar heaters for swimming pools, RV solar panels, and even solar-powered Christmas lights. But there’s one device that stands out, and that is a solar powered radio. But what is one and why is it a must-have? Back in the day when people didn’t have any other means of entertainment or information dissemination, they used to tune the dials on their AM/FM radios where they could listen to both the latest news and the most popular songs of their time. This is the exact reason why radio became an essential item in every household and they still are today.
So how different is a solar radio from the old radio that we know? A sun-powered radio looks and functions just like a conventional one that we are already used to, except that it doesn’t need batteries and it doesn’t have to be plugged into an electrical power source to work — all it needs is a lot of sunlight. This type of radio is completely portable, meaning that you can take it with you anywhere you go. People who love the great outdoors will find this device invaluable since it works without batteries, eliminating the hassle of having to bring a battery charger which, by the way, still needs electricity to function.
Not everyone lives in an area where there’s full access to electricity. There are still some people out there who live off the grid, whether it’s their choice or not. Having a device such as a radio that’s powered by the sunlight can be of great use for getting important information, especially during emergencies or national calamities. But this radio is not only for those who are living off the grid; it is also for those who often experience power outages in their area. It is imperative that one has a stable means of communication during these times.
How Does Solar Radio Work?
Wondering how a solar-powered radio works? It’s much simpler than you would think. There are two basic methods by which solar energy is converted to electricity. Let us help you understand how the systems work.
The first method of using solar power is through photovoltaic cells, or simply solar panels. These panels are made from either monocrystalline or polycrystalline cells that are connected to semiconductors. When the panels are exposed to the sun, they collect and absorb the sun’s light energy. The light particles, or photons, are then converted to electric power once the semiconductors have removed the electrons from the light particles’ atoms. The converted electric energy is what powers up the radio.
There is another method but it’s not commonly used because it doesn’t garner much solar power compared to the conventional solar cells. This method involves metal reflectors, mirrors, and panels. This method works by using the reflectors to direct the sunlight to an insulator to produce enough heat and power a turbine that in turn, generates electricity.
Although most PV paneled radios do not require batteries, some have battery slots so that it can store enough electric charge, that way the radio can be used even when the weather is overcast or during nighttime.
How to Choose Best Solar Powered Radios
There are at least a hundred types and variants of solar-powered radios out there. So how does one choose if there are so many choices? Here, we give you a few points to ponder on to help you decide which one to get in case you want to give this device a try.
If you’re the kind of person who listens to the radio while going about your daily schedule, then it is best to get a radio that’s long-lasting and fast-charging. This way, you won’t miss a single detail of the news, or if you’re a music lover, then you will be able to catch that song you’ve been aching to hear all day. But if you only switch on the radio when you’re bored, then the standard ones should work for you.
For those who are particular about the brand of their stuff, then you can always get a radio that carries the brand that you prefer. Most of the time, branded items are made from parts of high-quality which make them more durable. Some of the popular brands that produce solar radios are Kaito, FosPower, Esky, CrazyFire, and Midland, etc. Who doesn’t want quality devices which can give you your money’s worth?
Purchasing a solar radio is good enough, but it will be a lot better if it has additional features that go beyond its main purpose. There are ones that can be used not only as an AM/FM radio but as a flashlight as well. There are some which can even be used as a power bank to charge your phone or tablets. If you’re looking for a radio that is multi-purpose, then you can always look for the ones that suit your specific needs.
For people who love and enjoy the adventure that the great outdoor brings, then a waterproof, sun-powered radio might be the one for you. Although not all of the radios are created to resist water, some are specifically made for outdoor use. You won’t have to worry about your radio malfunctioning or breaking when you’re at the beach or even if it rains cats and dogs.
This depends on what the brand offers. Most radios generally have twelve months of warranty with free replacement of damaged or broken parts, while some companies offer a lifetime warranty. If you’re planning to go green by starting with a basic item such as a radio, then it would be best to get one that has a lifetime warranty. It may not be cheaper, but you can be sure that whatever happens, your radio will be repaired or even replaced anytime it malfunctions.
Choosing a radio that has multiple power sources is a good rule of thumb because it provides you with other options when charging your device. There are ones that have batteries that can hold a charge even when the sun is hiding. There are also some which can be charged via USB or those that require the user’s effort to create a charge, like hand-crank radios. All these power sources make it easier for you to keep the radio working during the absence of sunlight.
This factor is essential since a solar-powered radio should be able to withstand storms, heavy rain, or general bad weather. When looking for a solar panel radio, you should consider one that’s at least shockproof, waterproof or both. This gives you the assurance that no matter where you take your device, you won’t have to worry about it breaking if it gets hit by something, falls on the ground, or dropped into water.
Top 5 Best Solar Powered Radios
We understand that it takes long hours of extensive research to find the best radio to suit your needs, so we have made things easier for you by jotting down what we consider the best sun-powered radios we could find.
5. RegeMoudal Emergency Solar Hand Crank Radio
This radio is something that you can rely on during emergencies or calamities. The radio’s dimensions are 5.7 by 3.0 by 2.0 inches and it weighs just 0.66 pounds. It features AM/FM/WB bands and the radio can be switched on by turning the volume dial clockwise. It also provides light in two ways: as a flashlight, and also as a reading lamp.
The device can be charged in four ways: by using solar panels, hand crank, USB, and by rechargeable batteries. The radio can also be used as a power bank that can charge small electronic devices with a 2000mAh battery. The battery provides light for up to 12 hours and a radio time of four to six hours.
- IPX3 water-resistant
- Multi-purpose with multiple power sources
- Offers National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather alerts and SOS alarm
- Works great for emergencies and calamities
- The signal may weaken from time to time depending on the location used
4. FosPower Emergency Solar Hand Crank Portable Radio
FosPower’s solar-power radio is also another good option if you’re looking for a device that not only functions as a radio but is also useful for other things as well. It can be used as a power bank that provides 2000 mAh of charge and can charge any phone or tablet. This emergency radio also has full access to AM/FM bands as well as NOAA alerts to keep you updated on the latest weather forecasts.
Another great feature of this device is that it has an SOS alarm to help you get out of difficult or unsafe situations. Its dimensions are 6.2 by 9.2 by 2.1 inches and it weighs just 310 g. The manufacturer offers a limited lifetime warranty which makes it a worthy buy.
- Has two light sources
- Three power sources – hand crank, solar panel, and rechargeable batteries
- Rain resistant
- Handy and durable with its rugged shell design
- Some issues with longevity
3. Midland – ER310, Emergency Crank Weather AM/FM Radio
If you’re looking for a solar radio with other additional features, then this might be the one for you. Midland ER310’s product dimensions are 9.61 by 2.95 by 6.85 inches and it weighs one pound. This radio has three main power sources which are a PV panel, a hand-crank, and a 2600 mAh rechargeable battery. You can also use back up power from two AA batteries.
What’s unique about this product is that it has an SOS strobe beacon and a Bright Cree LED light of 150 lumens that can be used to signal for help. Another feature is an ultrasonic dog whistle which can be useful during search and rescue operations, as rescuers try to locate missing individuals or animals during emergency situations.
- Has weather scan and weather alerts
- Power bank feature
- Morse coded emergency flashlight
- Has a USB port for charging small gadgets
- Solar panels are unable to charge when the weather is overcast during cloudy days
2. RunningSnail Emergency Hand Crank Self Powered AM/FM NOAA Solar Weather Radio
Looking for a device that’s multi-functional but has value for money? RunningSnail’s emergency solar radio is just that. It has basic features such as AM/FM bands and NOAA weather alerts to keep you safe and updated during bad weather situations. It has a three-way charging system using either the solar panel, hand crank, or through micro-USB.
This radio has a 1000mAh power bank with a micro-USB cable that can save you from missing that important call or text from your loved ones. The item weighs 7.8 ounces and its dimensions are 5 by 1.8 by 2.4 inches. With its compact and portable design, it can easily fit in your backpack allowing you to take it anywhere with you.
- Compact and user-friendly
- Can charge both Android smartphone and iPhone
- Comes with a 12-month warranty
- Not specified if waterproof or water-resistant
1. Kaito KA500 5-way Powered Solar Power
Perhaps the most popular brand of all the ones that we’ve mentioned, Kaito’s Emergency radio is at the top of our list for a number of reasons. This product’s dimensions are 8.25 by 5 by 2.25. Kaito’s solar radio offers a comprehensive AM/FM/SW band choice and also has 7 pre-programmed NOAA weather channels.
Not only that, unlike the other radios which have 3-4 power sources, but the Kaito KA500 also has 6 power sources — solar panel, hand-crank generator, rechargeable AA batteries, a 5 volt USB input, built-in NIMH rechargeable battery, and a 5V AC/DC input with power adapter. Talk about versatility, right? This radio has an antenna that can be extended up to 14.5 inches for better reception, so you won’t miss out on anything important even when you’re always on the go.
- Impact and water-resistant
- Adjustable solar panel
- High-sensitivity reception
- Perfect for emergencies and outdoor activities
- Isolated issues with quality control
Pros and Cons of Solar Radio
As scientific experts continue to try to find more devices that can use solar energy, going green is definitely the future that we’re hopefully heading toward. Solar radios are becoming more popular these days as more people discover their great benefits.
Not only are these gadgets useful for emergencies and continuous communication, even off the grid, there’s no denying that the additional features make them worth buying. But it wouldn’t be fair if we only discussed all the good things that solar radios bring as there are still a few disadvantages to them. Let us help you clear things up by providing the pros and cons of using a sun-powered radio.
Since we’re aiming for a greener environment, the option to use a solar power radio is a good way to start. A solar radio is undoubtedly economical as it doesn’t need to be plugged into an electric power outlet, and as a result, electricity consumption can and will be reduced.
As mentioned, as long as we have the sun that can serve as an energy resource, we can rely on solar radios, or other solar-powered devices for that matter. Solar energy is free; as long as the sun rises and sets every day, we will have a continuous supply of a renewable and sustainable energy resource.
- Great value for money
Most devices that make use of solar power usually last longer compared to the electronic ones since they don’t have complicated mechanisms. A longer-lasting product means and future savings earned. Who doesn’t want that?
- Portable and compact design
You can carry the radio with you wherever you go as it is small enough to fit into your backpack. Traditional radios tend to be bulky and heavy, and solar radios are the opposite of that. They don’t take up a lot of space, which makes them convenient for backpackers or travelers.
- Excellent during emergencies or calamities
Sun-powered radio devices are made for emergencies. When there are power outages due to heavy rainfall or storms, this type of radio can still provide useful information needed to stay safe from imminent harm.
- Sole reliance on the sun
This is on the only con that we can think of. While this doesn’t sound that bad, the only problem is that during winter or on cloudy days where the sunlight is limited, there is no way to sustain the radio’s power if it doesn’t have enough electric charge. This means that it has to have continued access to the sun’s rays to keep it functioning well.
Our concern for Mother Nature has now grown stronger than ever, which is why we’re always on the lookout for better ways to live sustainably without leaving any more carbon footprint on our surroundings. That being said, moving from electric-powered to solar-powered radio is one step closer to our goal, which is to help sustain our resources while still enjoying the comfort it provides. The use of solar radios might not seem such a big deal, but it’s better to do something than to continue doing what’s harmful to the environment.
What we do now will greatly affect what will happen in the future. So why not start by unplugging your stereo from the power outlet and use a solar-powered radio instead? Something as functional as this device will definitely be worth every penny. Who knows, you might enjoy it even more, knowing that you’re one of the few people who are fighting for nature’s cause? What an amazing advocacy that would be.