Here at UtahPreppers we try to keep an eye on prepping topics, trends and products from all over the country and often the world. Even though we try to keep a global focus we still like finding and supporting local businesses that fit into the prepping niche. We recently met up with a Bluffdale company to take a look at some of their innovative solar products.
Goal 0 has been showcasing some of their portable solar products at Northern Utah Costco locations which is how we initially found out about their company. After talking with them about their products, company goals and outlook we quickly determined that this company produces products that fill a distinct gap in most of our current prepping equipment. Goal 0 currently has three distinct product lines of solar collecting and storage products, plus a catalog of accessories that will work with whichever product line you choose.
We’ve covered solar power a bit in the past. See Connor’s excellent article here. Generally though, we’ve found that determining what you need and what components are required to support your needs can be difficult. Most emergency power solutions provide their power capacity in Amp Hours while most devices we want to power use Watts. Determining how many Amps a device uses can be tricky as you need to determine both Peak Amps and the number of Amps to just keep running. A device like a Kill A Watt can help, but again this can still require some research and math.
Goal 0 solves this by using watt hour ratings on their devices. This makes your calculations as simple as saying a 60 Watt like bulb can be powered by a 180 Watt Hour device for 3 hours. No other complicated calculations are needed. Another benefit to this is that their power ratings are real world power ratings rather than “Peak” or “Theoretical” ratings. Often times manufacturers will display a peak rating as the power output for a unit. In practice however, the sustained output is much lower so with peak ratings you can sometimes end up buying something unsuited to your actual needs. This is particularly useful on their solar panels as their listed watt outputs and charge times are based on real world experience. Many other solar panels are rated at theoretical output or output before the final glass is attached. Neither provide an indication of what you might expect in everyday usage.
One consideration with Goal 0’s products that needs to be mentioned is that they are not generally meant to be whole home or large appliance power backups. Rather, they are meant to do things like provide emergency lighting, power laptops, cell phones, portable DVD players and other smaller but often essential electronic devices. Their current product offerings wont keep your freezer running, but they will allow you to see in the dark and use those electronic devices we have all become addicted to.
One of the key benefits to the Goal 0 products is that they are entirely Plug and Play. Everything “just works” since the components are designed with the system in mind. With other products I’ve found that determining what product to purchase to complete the system or how to attach it to the system has taken some research. Goal 0 has solved this issue. Each of their product lines provides power in the following formats: USB, 12 volt and 110/220 volt AC via inverter for powering plug in devices.
While all Goal 0 products are generally interchangeable with other Goal 0 products, there are some exceptions. Here is a quick summary of the three basic product lines that Goal 0 offers.
These are all in one light weight backpackable power sources that use lithium ion batteries for power. Per the Goal 0 web site, these are some of the uses: Day Use, Backpacking, Camping, Outdoor Outings, Hunting & Fishing, Photography, Expeditions, Extreme Activities
The power packs come in 50 watt hour and 120 watt hour portable power packs. Foldable flexible solar panels in 7 watt, 13.5 and 27 watts and a new product is a 4 AA or AAA battery pack that can be charged from a solar panel or one of the Sherpa power packs. Plus, the charger can be used to power a 12 volt or USB device using the AA or AAA batteries in it. AC power can be provided by a Elite specific add on inverter.
The Escape products are centered around an cylindrical power pack that provides 150 watt hours of power using a more traditional non LiOn battery. Hence, it is much heavier than the Elite kits. It features built in 12 volt, USB and AC outputs which provides for a one stop power source. For emergency purposes, this unit is typically meant to remain plugged into the wall where the charge controller keeps the battery at top performance. Should a power outage occur power is instantly available via the energy stored in the unit’s batter.
Per the Goal 0 web site, these are some of the uses: Day Use, Emergency Preparedness, Beach, Family Camping, Outdoor Outings
This range offers two different solar panel options, a 15 watt hard panel and a 30 watt foldable briefcase panel with built in stand.
The Extreme range is built around large (and heavy) 350 watt hour battery packs that include Anderson Power Pole connectors which make them particularly handy for HAM radio power and for other devices that use these connections. The inverter for this system provides the USB, 12 volt and AC power outputs in this range. Per the Goal 0 web site, these are some of the uses: Emergency Preparedness, Cabin, RV, Photography, Expeditions, Hunting & Fishing, Base Camp, Field Hospital
The recommended solar panels for this series is a 30 watt solar panel.
**Note however that any Goal 0 solar panel can be used with any Goal 0 power pack. These seem to be only recommended panels based on the expected use for the unit. There is no reason you couldn’t use a foldable panel from the Elite range with a power pack from the Escape or Extreme range.
The two main accessories I want to mention are the 12 volt Light-a-Life lights and the Estrella lights. Both are highly efficient 3 watt lights that put out an impressive amount of light and simply plug into the 12 volt output on any of the power units. Each light is also daisy chainable, meaning you can plug one light into the power source and then subsequent lights into the preceding light. Each light also features an independent power switch. This means you can turn off one light while the other lights remain on. This is a very nice feature as many other products are either all or nothing, or turning off one light means that all the other lights “downstream” from the power will also turn off. With this solution you have light where and when you need it.
The Light-a-Life lights are made to more or less replace a 45 watt light bulb. Each unit has a large number of white LED bulbs surrounded by a protective white plastic shroud that also serves to diffuse and distribute the light. An innovative sliding clip is attached to the power cord which allows you to hang each light and position it where you need it.
The Estrella light is also 3 watts, but uses a CREE LED bulb to produce a very powerful beam of light like a small spotlight. While the Light-a-Life lights are great for providing general lighting, around a camp for example, the Estrella would be perfect for areas where you need more direct light such as over a table or work area. These lights feature a flexible power cord that is meant to be used to help position the light and keep it in that position to put the light exactly where you want it. In practice however, I found that the light was heavier than the cord could support so it tended to droop.
We’ll use subsequent posts to allow our authors to describe what Goal 0 systems they purchased, why and what they think of them so far. As most of us purchased our systems before the New Year, we’ve had some time to use and get acquainted with both the good and the bad in each system.