Charge AA Batteries – And More – With A Portable Solar Panel

How To Charge AA Batteries With A Solar Panel

You will need the right smart charger with a USB power input, and the right solar panel with enough power output.

The AA size battery is the most common. Off-grid charging for this battery (and other sizes) can be accomplished with a combination of the right portable solar panel and battery charger to get the job done.

When might this be useful? While off-grid, camping, hiking, a remote location, or simply for your own preparedness.

  • Communications devices
  • Portable radios
  • Flashlights
  • Headlamps
  • Handheld GPS
  • Etc..

While on the go, out in the field or backpacking, the following are two system recommendations for off-grid charging equipment specifically for (AA, AAA). And the other for (AA, AAA, C, D). Yes that’s right, even D size!

(JUST UPDATED for latest technology solar panel and chargers to get the job done)

Off-grid Charging System For AA, AAA Batteries

The following off-grid charging system includes two components:

A folding solar panel
A complimentary battery charger for AA & AAA batteries.

Note that this will only charge “rechargeable” batteries (had to say it…).

[ Read: Best AA Rechargeable Battery ]

Portable Folding Solar Panel For AA USB Charger (and more)

This is the latest update of my recommendation. A new model:

I watched a video where several of the popular high power folding solar panels were tested for efficiency. The Big Blue 28-watt solar panel tested to be the most efficient. It has also won a number of “Editors’ Choice Awards” on various testing sites.

28-Watt Folding Solar Panel with Triple USB output
(view on amzn)

Folding solar panels come in many sizes, shapes, and various electrical specifications. Here’s a picture from the manufacturer site which gives you a good relative idea of the Big Blue 28-watt solar panel relative size when unfolded.

This 28 watt solar panel is portable, folds up, and provides the correct output operating voltage and minimum current requirements to power the chargers listed below. That is, under full sunlight.

Since it has USB output, it can be used to charge your other devices too (e.g. cell phone).

ONE BEST THING ABOUT THIS SOLAR PANEL (IMPORTANT)

Lots of people don’t realize this when looking for a USB solar panel to recharge their phones, batteries, etc…

Most of what I’ve seen out there have this issue (though it also depends on the device you’re charging). If a cloud passes overhead to the extent the output drops below the capacity to charge the device — the charger may not recover to full output when the sun comes back unless you manually unlplug-replug the device you’re charging (e.g. cell phone). Otherwise it remains at a slow charge rate which will take a lot longer.

Charge Interruption Recovery

“One of the coolest features that our Editors’ Choice has is the ability to recover from an interruption. Whether you are charging on a partly cloudy day, or the sun angle changes to cast a shadow over the panel while you are charging, the BigBlue has an auto-restart function that makes reconnecting to your device a smooth affair.”

Again, I’ve also read that this may depend on your device too. So check your specific device after cloud cover returns to full sun…

I strongly recommend that you get yourself a USB amp meter. This will help optimize the panel position while charging, and also reveal if it’s charging properly after returning to full sun from cloud cover…

USB Amp Meter
(view on amzn)

Big Blue 28-watt Solar Panel Specifications

  • 3 USB charging ports (Each 5 volts / 2.4 amps Max)
  • Folded Dimensions (11.1 × 6.3× 1.3) inches
  • Unfolded Dimensions (11.1 x 33.1) inches
  • Weight (20.6 ounces)
  • SmartIC Technology – detects device type for optimal charging current

AA USB Smart Charger

You need a charger with USB input for its power source. That way you simply connect to a powerful-enough solar panel (a good example shown above).

If you will only be charging AA or AAA batteries, the following recommendation will get the job done.

Tenergy 4-Bay AA/AAA Charger with USB Input
(view on amzn)

It has a micro-USB input which will connect with the solar panel shown below.

A benefit of this charger is that you do not need to insert batteries in pairs. It will accept from 1 to 4.

Each battery slot is independently monitored and uniquely charged according to the state-of-charge of each battery.

Smart chargers also have more sophisticated charging and sensing circuits improving charge quality and promoting longer battery life.

USB Charger For AA, AAA, C, D Batteries

This USB charger is unique! How’s that? Well it can actually also recharge C and D size batteries. Not everyone may need this capability. But if you do, it’s a nice solution with the solar panel above.

EBL 8-Bay Charger
(view on amzn)

Store Solar Energy In A USB Battery Pack

Another use for this solar panel… Charge up a USB battery pack. That way you could use the battery pack later, any time, when there’s not enough sun to charge your device(s).

Although it will take awhile to charge up a USB battery pack (depending on its capacity), it’s a great way to store energy.

I have been using one of the “Anker” external batteries for many years with great success. The current most popular model is this one:

Anker PowerCore 10000
(view on amzn)

[ Read: A Good Solar Power Battery Charger from C.Crane ]

[ Read: How To Keep Your Cell Phone Charged During A Power Outage ]

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6 Comments

  1. I have a couple 60watt solar panels, and a few 850 ah deep cycle rv batteries. I also have a Goal Zero guide 10 with the AAA and AA charging module, that works pretty decent can plug a usb into it as well, my backup charger plan is using the big batteries and a 1000w inverter. I can plug my chargers into the inverter to charge AAs, AAAs, D, C cells of witch i have a good supply of Tenergy and eneloop batteries. Mainly for lighting in emergency situations.
    The cell phone, i could care less, when it goes dead ill toss it, but flashlights, head lights, and some other small stuff like my Kestrel or radios, those are important.

    1. You can also get and would be worth getting rechargeable CR123 and other similar batteries and the corresponding chargers, even for pancake batteries, well worth it, optics, range finders etc all run on these oddball batteries, all can now be found rechargeable.

      1. Thanks Kula
        I didn’t know that they had those “oddball” sizes in rechargeable format. We can’t forget we need to get a charger for those batteries. I’ve never seen one of those chargers. I’ve got a few AA and AAA chargers and even an old one that also charges C and D batteries.
        Cool beans

  2. the USB amp meter looks like it will be good to have. i didn’t know that they made one. i have ordered one.
    also if someone has a link for rechargeable pancake batteries and chargers i would be all in for that.
    i have looked, but have not found any. those small batteries are what most medical devices run on, thermometers, blood sugar monitors, etc. you wan’t them to stay up and running, just in case
    i have a goal zero 30 watt portable to augment my small (400 watt) primary solar set up.
    solar yard lights for inside the house at night, kerosene lamps, wicks, and 150 gals of kerosene.
    i may not be able to do a lot of things, but i won’t be in the dark doing it !

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