Wednesday, February 10, 2010

GoBe – Solar Power

We purchased a GoBe solar briefcase and power hub for use in emergencies and outings.  So far, we’ve enjoyed its form factor and service.

The GoBe power hub is not designed to run large loads for extended periods of time, but for light loads, such as a 13-watt fluorescent light, charging electronics and smaller loads, it is great.  The power hub will keep the light burning for about 10 hours.

Recharge time for the hub is about 12-hours of direct sunlight or slightly less when plugged into a wall socket.

The form factor is excellently designed and includes rubber edging on both units.



As you can see in this photo, the system can power a laptop and charge small electronics at the same time, although the user must be careful to manage loading.

The power hub contains a six-cell, 14.5 amp hour AGM battery.






Setup only takes a second.  Slide the two latches on the solar panel, extend the support legs on the back of each panel and plug the power supply cord into the power hub.  One minute – maybe two max.


Adjust the angle of the support legs so the surface of the panel is approximately 90 degrees from the plane of the orbit of the sun.  If it is a windy day, you may want to add an additional support because the panels will act as sail even though the panel is wrapped in a non-skid rubber edge.


Accessories included in the power hub package include 12 volt male and female cigarette lighter connectors, a 120 volt / 12 volt transformer brick for home charging and a 3 pin to 2 pin adapter plug.


When the solar panels are opened to light, a flashing blue indicator light in the bottom right corner of the panel flashes.  When I opened the panels in our kitchen under fluorescent lighting, I was surprised to measure a 12-volt output.  I haven’t measured the output in direct sunlight but assume it will match the 12 to 13-volt output noted on the GoBe fact chart.


The power hub offers three outlets.  120v -- Because it has a built in 80-watt inverter, one of the outlets will support normal 120v plugs, but the losses associated with the voltage conversion will reduce the length of the charge duration.   A 12-volt outlet accepts either of the cigarette lighter adapters and lastly, a USB power outlet rated at .5A.  The configuration is well designed. 




The use of the 12-volt outlets will extend the life of the charge because the voltage transformation losses are absent.


















My wife quickly sewed a small draw string bag to hold the power adapters which we keep attached to the power hub.


















The support legs for the panels snap into holding slots on the back of each panel for storage.


The panel is about 1” thick and secured by two latches and a piano hinge on the back.


The GoBe is much easier to use than our other solar panels but lacks the advantage of deep cycle marine batteries that we use with them.  However, the GoBe is our choice for travel and quick setup when relatively low loads will be used.  If our house was on the ground in the days after an earthquake, the Gobe would keep our Ham radios, phones and entertainment handsets in service along with providing the equivalent of 60 watts of light at night.  The other panels and batteries would take a lot longer to setup, especially if we had to lug them to a remote location on foot.

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