While dinner by candlelight sounds like a romantic evening, having to eat Coco Pops by the light of your smartphone night after night isn’t exactly what we had in mind.
Yes, load-shedding – it’s been the bane of our existence since things went south at Eskom, and we as South Africans have been dealt the bad hand, whether we like it or not. As a result, people are coming up with some pretty handy ways to survive the almost-daily visit to the Stone Age. Gas generators are a go-to option, but we’ve come across something that’s arguably the shining light in the endless darkness.
Local online eco store Sustainable.co.za has introduced the Elbro portable Solar Suitcase, which is a eco-friendly multi-purpose power supply that uses solar panels and natural sunlight to recharge. We got our hands on the 20 watt SPS (solar powered suitcase), and off the bat, let’s be clear that this isn’t something that’s going to provide power to your whole house and TV, but rather give you a power source to charge your personal electronics and a few other things while you’re without electricity for a few hours.
Inside the case are two 10 watt solar panels. On the side is a small flap, which when opened, exposes the variety of inputs and outputs available. It features 2 USB ins (to charge mobile phones, laptops, tablets), a 230 V AC input and output connection, and a 12 V DC connection (portable devices, such as fans or external lights).
The case even features a port to add an additional solar panel into the mix, if you have one lying around, of course.
The recommended usage for the SPS is to allow it to charge via sunlight for 13 hours. We did so and it juiced up the battery to 100% as promised (shown by a handy little LCD screen). When load-shedding hit, and we were in need to charge up our laptops (in order to bring some awesome MenStuff content to the public), it was as easy as flicking the power switch of the SPS and plugging straight in (of course, you need to make sure your device uses the right voltage).
Using the USB ports was as easy as you’d imagine, and the SPS provided some charging to keep our smartphones and tablets alive throughout the blackout.
It must be said that the 230 V AC input features a European female plug (the cases are designed in Switzerland), so you’ll need to make your own adapter or pick one up from a travel or electronics store if you’re planning to use that port.
Overall, the Elbro Solar Suitcase is a viable option for when the lights go out across SA. Priced at just over R5,000, the case itself is a slightly pricier option than a low-range petrol generator, but it is a more sustainable and eco-friendly option, and of course less noisy.