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Having just gone through four days without power, heat and water thanks to Hurricane Sandy, I can’t express how happy I was to see the latest gadget delivered to my home. Several months ago I backed the Fenix ReadySet Solar Kit on Kickstarter with a $199 pledge and the device is here. That’s good timing too as we’re expecting another storm with high winds to barrel through the area tonight. The ReadySet won’t help me with heat or water in an emergency, but it will provide renewable power for small electronic devices, tablets, phones and even light bulbs.
We wrote about the ReadySet back in June, but if you missed our coverage, let me explain what the product is. Essentially, this is a a portable battery housed in a case with two charging inputs and several outputs.
The ReadySet comes with a small (17-inch x 11-inch x 0.9-inch), weatherproof 15 Watt solar panel that can fully recharge the internal battery with roughly eight hours of direct sunlight. You can add more solar panels to reduce the charge time. Also included is an AC adapter that will charge the ReadySet battery in about four hours. A single button press shows how much juice is in the battery and there’s an LED indicator to show when the ReadySet is charging.
Once you get power into the battery, it’s ready to help you charge up or run devices. There are two USB ports on the front of the ReadySet, allowing you to charge up phones, tablets, or any other device capable of charging over USB. Additionally, there are two 12v Car Lighter Adapter ports that supply power to compatible cords and devices. Fenix includes a bulb adapter and a 3W LED bulb to provide instant light for roughly 30 hours on a full charge. The 54 WHr (12V, 9000mAh) battery is user replaceable, can charge an iPhone(s aapl) approximately 10 times or completely charge an iPad once, says Fenix.
Even though it’s a bit cloudy here as we’re expecting the next storm, I’m already getting some charging capability through the solar panel. And since we have 41 large solar panels on the roof — we generate more electricity than we consume with this configuration — I can leverage my larger solar panel array to charge the Fenix ReadySet through a traditional electrical outlet as needed.
I like how the wires attached to the solar panel are quite long; at least 20 feet in length. This is helpful because you can keep the ReadySet nearby or inside while the solar panel can be off in the distance gathering energy. And the little light bulb adapter with included LED bulb is handy too. We have plenty of candles and flashlights in the in the house, but this is a nice extra.
Obviously when we lost power last week, we didn’t have access to our fast 75 Mbps FiOS connection as the Wi-Fi router wouldn’t run without juice. With the ReadySet, however, I think we have a nice workaround to stay connected if needed. A portable hotspot or MiFi could be plugged in to one of the USB ports and while service won’t be as speedy, we’d at least be able to get information from the web. I actually use one of my phones as a hotspot, so this will work nicely.
Perhaps the best part is that the battery can be recharged again and again even in the event of a multi-day power outage. Sure you’ll need some sunlight to make that work, so if it’s stormy and overcast for days, the battery won’t be charging that fast. However, the point is that it can be charged even when the electric grid is down and to me, that’s worth every penny I paid for the Fenix. And in a pinch, we might be able to charge the battery ourselves: Fenix is working on an adapter that charges the ReadySet by pedaling a bicycle!
While Kickstarters like myself are now receiving our ReadySet orders, Fenix isn’t yet selling the products directly to the public outside of Uganda and Rwanda. You can, however, check here to see when orders begin.