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Gadget of the Week: Take your solar with you

Solar panels are traditionally glass-like devices that are fixed to a roof, but EcoFlow has changed the picture, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

EcoFlow has transformed the traditional concept of a solar panel by moving beyond the panel format. Its new 220W Bifacial Solar Panel is a fold-up unit that feels like fabric rather than glass, and can be carried around in the back of a car, or on foot, thanks to a useful carry case.

It plugs into most EcoFlow portable power stations, making it a solution for anything from a small flat or apartment to a temporary power outage in an office to a camping trip.

It is made from high-quality materials and construction, making it durable and weather resistant. An IP68 rating means it is both rain- and dust-proof, and it can withstand fairly harsh outdoor conditions. It is made of tempered glass, while the solar cells are made of monocrystalline silicon, a photovoltaic, light-absorbing material. All of that brings its weight to 9.5kg. That’s not light, but it is portable.

We paired it with an EcoFlow River 2 Max, a 500W portable power station weighing just 6.2kg, meaning it is as portable as the solar panel. We were able to fully charge the unit’s lithium-ion batteries in less than 2 hours, and then use it to run a mini fridge, computer, WI-FI router and fibre access point for several hours – enough to cope throughout a stage 4 loadshedding slot.

The beauty of the panel is that it can then recharge the portable power station regardless of whether the Eskom grid’s power comes back on or not. It was a lifesaver during a recent substation failure when our suburb went without power for three days.

In short, the EcoFlow Solar Panel converts sunlight into energy at a high rate. However, the charging drops substantially when it becomes overcast. It can still charge in low-light conditions, but at a far slower rate.

It comes as a one-sided and two-sided unit. In the Bifacial version, the front delivers 220W, and the rear 155W Rear Side.

In normal, everyday use, taking into account wattage limitations, there were no disappointments whatsoever. It was a delight to use.

What does it cost?

The EcoFlow 220W Bifacial Solar Panel costs R10,684 at Geewiz and R11,499 directly from EcoFlow, at

The EcoFlow River 2 Max Portable Power Station costs 12,999 from

Why does it matter?

Solar panels are regarded as a high-cost investment, requiring inverters, storage batteries and expert installation to wire the panels to a home or office’s electricity supply. A portable solar panel, with portable power station, can come in at a tenth of the cost, and can be taken anywhere. It is especially useful for people living in small flats or apartments, as long as they have a window that lets in sunlight.

What are the biggest negatives?

  • It’s not cheap, but shop around for the best prices.
  • Not suitable for high-powered devices. Check the wattage of connected devices carefully.
  • Can be bulky when folded up.

What are the biggest positives?

  • It is durable and weather-resistant.
  • It is delightfully portable, for a solar panel.
  • It is delightfully easy to use. Simply unfold the panels, connect them to a device, and the sun does the work. 
  • Did we say it was a delight? This is one of the great gadgets of the year.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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