Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Waka Waka Power: Solar Battery Pack/LED Lamp that Actually Works


                                      WakaWaka Power Charging Unit  $62.19

The idea of a battery pack for recharging cellphones and other electronics combined with a solar charger has always been an interesting concept. To be able to both store power for when needed, and at the same time charge the battery bank with solar power sounded like a dream solution for when dealing with power outages and different kind of disasters, especially those of long term duration. The problem seems to be that although the idea sounds great, the actual execution is generally poor: In my experience, solar chargers just don’t work as well as we’d hope and they perform poorly in less than ideal weather conditions. 

The Waka Waka Power changed that for me. Originally a kickstarter project, the idea was to provide a lighting solution for those that live without electricity or have been affected by disasters. It is maybe because of this objective that the WW Power works as it is supposed to. You can charge it during the day, use it to recharge a phone or other electronic gadget (within the limits of its 2200 mAh LiPo battery) and still have enough power to run the LED lantern. 

The Waka Waka Power also hasa humanitarian side to it: For every unit sold, another unit is financed so as to be provided for free where people need it. Thousands of units have been given to Syrian refugees, and disaster victims across the globe such as Haiti and Philippines. The company’s website keeps updating on where they are helping out.

Solar Panel: Does it actually work?

For me that was the big question. Battery banks are great. I already have a good one and like it but how well does the Waka Waka Power actually charge when the sun is all you have? I can say I was pleasantly surprised. Of course a nice sunny day is ideal, but even during a rainy winter day it would still charge when placed next to the window. The solar cell (22% efficiency Sunpower cell) blinks three times when charging at full capacity, two times at medium and blinks one time when charging at low speed. With a rainy and cloudy day I wasn’t expecting any miracles, but at the end of the day it had charged two out of four lights, between 25% and 50% of the battery, and enough to charge my phone some to make a few phone calls or go online for a while and run the LEDs for several hours.  Given the bad weather and how well it performed I couldn’t have asked for more. In theory you will need a sunny day worth of charging, about 8 hours, to fully charge the battery pack. Although this varies between latitudes and weather conditions, for most practical terms I’d say you need closer to two days for a 100% charge, but what matters to me the most is that even if it is a cloudy day and raining, about half a day worth of charging would allow me to revive a drained smartphone and get to use it during an emergency.

A nice LED Lantern

Besides the solar panel charger that actually charges, the other pleasant surprise was the double LED lantern.
Many battery banks have a little LED somewhere so as to work as a flashlight, but the Waka Waka Powerblows them all away because it is made specifically to work as a desk lamp/lantern. It has two 0.5W Seoul Semicon, 120 lumen/watt LEDs. These LEDs are very unusual. I’ve never seen ones like them in any flashlight. The yellow part in the center that you see in most flashlight LEDs is huge, like a big rectangle six to eight times bigger than a normal Cree LED. The weird looking LEDs are clearly designed for flood effect, spreading nicely across a room if placed in a corner. Thanks to an adjustable plastic lid, it can be used as table lamp using a pile of books or a bottle of water, or hanged in different positions. With four power modes and a SOS strobe when the button is pressed for 3 seconds it can be used for gral. illumination and emergency signaling.


I like the Waka Waka Power. It just works, does what its supposed to do and does it pretty well. The 2200 mAh LiPo battery isn’t that big, although it makes sense given that that’s the maximum power you would be able to recharge during a full day of sunlight exposure and it is enough for some gadget charging and plenty of illumination. You have a USB port for connecting your phone charger and a micro USB port for charging the battery pack with a normal phone charger. It does not include cables or charger, so you need to get those if you don’t have them already (though most people with a phone would have them). The instructions are very simple, mostly using graphics to explain the simple use. Since these units are likely to end up where people talk a number of dialects or some don’t know how to read  at all it does make sense.
The Waka Waka Power  is a solid unit, works well and the company has a noble social purpose I am happy to support.


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