Product Review: Changers Solar Charger System

The Changers solar panel is large in surface area, but incredibly lightweight. Great for backpacks! Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
The Changers solar panel is large in surface area, but incredibly lightweight. Great for backpacks! Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Apparently I’m the “solar charger” GeekMom, because I’ve had the opportunity to review my third solar charger this year! Today I’ll be discussing the Changers solar charger system.

The Changers system is more than a solar charger and accompanying battery. Changers gives you the opportunity to upload data about how much solar energy you’ve taken in and outputted to their website at Changers.com. It’s a social network for CO2 reduction efforts.

Changers is a German company with a distribution center in Palo Alto, California. On the social network, the preponderance of users (and CO2 savings data) came from Germany and Switzerland.

First I will discuss the physical components to the Changers system, then will briefly walk through how to upload the data to the Changers.com website and see where your CO2 savings stands in the Changers community.

What Comes in the Box

I received the Solar Charger Starter Kit, which includes two main components and eight connector cables that are designed to work with everything except Apple devices (you can use your standard Apple USB charging cables).

  • Quick start guide.
  • Maroshi Solar Charger Panel: This is a large, flexible panel, at 7.5″ x 15″. It’s incredibly lightweight, coming in at only 3 1/2 oz. But beware, there are advisory labels throughout the packaging warning against bending the panel too much: “The Changers Maroshi is flexible but not unbreakable.”
  • Kalhuohfummi Battery Pack: Unlike the other chargers I’ve reviewed, this one transfers the energy to a separate, smaller battery pack. The battery can then be stored in a smaller purse, backpack pocket, or even your jeans’ back pocket. This is about 3″ x 4″ and weighs about 5.5 oz.
  • 1 x mini USB cable: This connects the Kalhuohfummi with the computer and then can double for all of your mini USB devices.
  • Another cable that allows for the following interchangeable tips:
    1 x LG KG80
    1 x Nokia 2mm
    1 x Sony Ericsson
    1 x Samsung D800
    1 x Sony PSP
    1 x Nintendo DS/GB
    1 x Nintendo DS lite

Where did those component names come from?

The quick start guide has a couple of paragraphs about the inspirations for the names of their components. The Maldivian people had built a ship in the 16th century and named it the Kalhuohfummi. The ship’s sail was made on the island of Maroshi, just as the solar panel serves like a “sail” to the solar charger. The ship was used in an influential battle against the Portuguese, and the Changers company likens that battle to the human race’s conflict with climate change.

The philosophy behind the Changers company is to inspire their customers to think of their solar panels as a way to embrace living “off the grid.” By keeping device charging “CO2 neutral,” their community is helping save fossil fuel energy.

No matter what you think about climate change/global warming, every human should strive to reduce their use of fossil fuels and this is an ideal way to do so.

The Kalhuohfummi battery pack has indicator lights to show how quickly the battery is charging, and how much charge it has. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
The Kalhuohfummi battery pack has indicator lights to show how quickly the battery is charging, and how much charge it has. When half the strip is illuminated, it has approximately 50% charge. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Ease of Use

It’s very easy to use: Plug the Maroshi charging panel into the Kalhuohfummi battery and place the panel in direct sunlight. The battery will blink a green light to indicate it’s charging. The faster the green blink, the more incoming sunlight is being received and the faster the Maroshi can collect energy.

Press the round button to see how much charge is in the battery pack: There are four green lights in the horizontal bar, which loosely correlate to 25% increments.

Straight out of the package, it took eight hours in direct sunlight for the battery pack to reach a full charge. In the winter, in Colorado, it was difficult for the panel to receive direct sunlight. It was several days before I had a cloudless sky with eight hours available to charge.

Once you’re finished collecting solar energy, you can disconnect the solar panel from the battery and put the panel away. To use the battery, connect one of the USB charging cables and give it time. A green light will blink at a constant rate to indicate that it’s dispensing energy to your device.

I found that the charging speed on our devices has been comparable to using a standard AC power cable. I was very happy with this. For my iPhone 4s, it gains about 20% charge every 30 minutes. My son’s Kindle Fire charged even faster: about 25% every 30 minutes.

I really like this charger design. I can collect the energy I need for the battery ahead of time, then just pack the smaller battery for my hiking, skiing, or running adventures.

The Changers.com Community

Your Kalhuofummi battery pack is collecting more than just the energy needed to charge your devices. It’s also keeping tabs on the grand totals of your solar power intake. When you plug it into a computer with your mini USB cable, you can upload the data to the Changers.com community and help the group get an idea of how much energy has been collected using Changers products.

First download the Changers software which is free from Changers.com. You will need a Changers.com account—which can be tied to Facebook—to continue.

ChangersDataUploadScreen
Image: Patricia Vollmer.

Then when the data is submitted it will then be shown as individual tabulations as well as group tabulations.

Every time you want to upload the data to the Changers.com website, you will need to open the Changers software on your computer. Downloads are available for Windows, MacOS, and Linux.

Lists of the top users and the top geographic communities are available, and from there you can continue to explore the page. Feel free to make some friends, comment on users’ data, and so forth.

The Changers social network takes the best of Facebook, Foursquare, and Instagram. Comment on friends' energy use and earn badges as you pull in more solar energy. Image: Patricia Vollmer.
The Changers social network takes the best of Facebook, Foursquare, and Instagram. Comment on friends’ energy use and earn badges as you pull in more solar energy. Image: Patricia Vollmer.

Conclusions

Of the three solar chargers I’ve reviewed so far, this one has the best design and has a device-charging performance comparable to the Solar JOOS Orange I had reviewed in April. The idea of having the panel semi-permanently mounted to my window and just plugging in the battery pack as needed is more convenient for shorter trips away from a power source. The lightweight panel is easy to transport, but users just need to be careful to not snap the panel in half.

The Changers Solar Charger Starter Kit retails for $179.99 and is available through the company’s website or through Amazon. I think it makes a great gift for someone who wants to make a difference in the world…or is an outdoor activity fan.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

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Patricia Vollmer is the proud mother of two emerging geek sons, ages 12 & 14. She serves part time as a meteorologist with the Air Force Reserve and is currently assigned to the U.S. Air Force Academy. Patricia blogs about her family's nomadic military life at Ground Control to Major Mom. Home is always where the Air Force sends her family, which for now is in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Hobbies include running, despite no one chasing her, sharing her love for Disney and Star Wars, and exploring the world with her boys. Ask her why the sky is blue at your own risk.