Despite rising awareness of renewable-energy sources—and the rising need for them, too, as average temperatures tick upward—using solar energy at home can still feel pretty far-flung. From a logistics standpoint, you first need to own your home in order to install solar panels, and commit to the price tag of installation (which, although it can pay for itself with energy savings over time, is not negligible). But now, for the more than 44 million folks in the U.S. who rent, as well as anyone who lives in an urban setting without roof access or much space, there’s a new and easily accessible way to dabble in sun-powered energy: the GroupHug window solar charger.
This nifty, 13-by-10 inch solar panel is about as user-friendly as possible: You suction it to any window that gets ample sun just like you would a metal caddy to a shower wall. The panel soaks up the sun’s rays, and turns them right into electricity that you can use to charge any small device by simply hooking it up to the USB port at the bottom of the panel. That’s it. It’s essentially the reusable water bottle of solar power, and just as instantly gratifying to use.
After you’ve hung up the window solar charger and it's getting good sun, it takes about 10 hours to fully charge the built-in battery—but once it’s juiced, you can use it to power up devices day or night. And it’s particularly helpful in the event of a power outage, as it, of course, doesn’t rely on any electrical plug-ins to work. A yellow LED light indicator in the bottom-left corner shows when the device is getting adequate sun exposure to work, while separate lights indicate when the battery is more or less than 50-percent charged.
Because of its size, sustainability expert Ashlee Piper, author of Give A Sh*T. Do Good. Live Better. Save the Planet., recommends using the window solar charger for small devices. Think: Your phone, earbuds, portable speaker, smart watch, or (yep) your vibrator. While it’s certainly not going to have the eco impact of a roof’s worth of solar panels or even a single full-sized one, it’ll still cut down on some energy usage—and, of course, the more people who see it in your home and pick up one of their own, the bigger the overall savings. “I think items like these are important in the market because they create a positive user experience and add to the proliferation of more renewable-energy technology,” says Piper.
In keeping with its eco promise, the window solar charger itself is also sustainably and responsibly made, as Piper points out: “The product is meant to be repairable, which means you can always get replacement parts if need be, rather than tossing it in the trash if any singular part breaks.” (That said, you’re not likely to encounter any issues, as the panel has been rated to last for 20+ years.)
While it’s minimal and chic enough to keep hanging on a window at all times, it’s also incredibly lightweight, so you can pop it off and bring it with you on a camping trip, road trip, or anywhere else you might find yourself without an outlet (and in need of a charge).
As part of a give-back program this holiday season, the company behind the charger, Grouphug, is also donating a portion of all proceeds to Native Renewables, an organization that offers affordable energy access to Native American homes currently without grid-tied electricity. So, any purchase contributes, in part, to a much bigger eco goal—in more ways than one.
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