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Alternative methods to charge your laptop

23 Oct 2015  | Cabe Atwell

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Until such time our valiant engineers find a way to develop power sources that will never run out, we need to accept the fact the we need to keep on recharging our mobile devices, more and more frequently I might add. Mobile devices are notorious for bleeding power. Laptops are no exception when it comes to power drainage, even if in standby mode.

The question arises, though, as what to do if you're in an area with no electrical outlet, or worse yet, forgot the charger and the laptop battery power is on the brink of being depleted? The answer depends on how creative the user is (and if they can rely on all those episodes of MacGyver to get them through).

In this roundup, we look at some unusual alternative solutions laptop users have devised to power or charge their devices without the advantage of using an electrical socket.

Car battery

The first alternative on our list is likely the most well-known, the car battery, which can be tricky and detrimental depending on how it's approached.

Wiring the laptop directly to the battery is risky depending on the laptop as most newer models draw 18.5V and most car batteries are rated at 12. The laptop's battery needs to be taken into account as well. For example, if it uses an 18.5V NiCd, it will typically draw at 4.2V per each of the six cells, making it able to power off of the 12V car battery, albeit with significant power bleed.

The more efficient way of adapting the power from a car battery to charge or power a laptop is to use an inverter, such as TBS' Powersine series PS600-12, which generates AC current from a DC source and can output from 12V to 24V depending on the requirements. These can be wired through the vehicles cigarette lighter or directly from the car battery and have the added benefit of being able to charge other devices such as audio/video equipment or even other mobile devices.

TBS Powersine PS600-12

The TBS Powersine PS600-12 is an excellent choice when it comes to powering a laptop using a car battery.

Solar charging kit

Another popular alternative to powering and charging laptops takes advantage of solar energy through the use of solar panels and battery kits. Unlike car battery alternatives, solar kits don't rely on bulky power storage or large inverters to garner power, but harness the power of the sun.

Most of today's solar technology has been refined to produce smaller, more efficient, and flexible photovoltaic cells, making them ideal for adaptation into portable folding panels that are capable of harvesting enough energy to charge an 18V laptop.

GoalZero's Sherpa 100 Solar Kit is one of those devices that can not only charge a laptop but also store enough energy in a portable battery to recharge devices multiple times, in the case of the Sherpa 100, twice. There are some drawbacks to using this method, most notably the solar harvest time, which takes about 10 hours to completely fill the charging pack, as opposed to the three-hours time an electrical outlet would have. Another drawback is cloudy days, which tends to increase the charging rate exponentially.

GoalZero's Sherpa 100 Solar Kit

The GoalZero's Sherpa 100 Solar Kit allow users to collect renewable power, store it via batteries, and use it on-demand when needed.

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