This post is by Bernie Carr,
I have been interested in having solar power for my apartment since I started writing Apartment Prepper in 2010. Back then, my searches for a solar power unit for an apartment yielded very little results, and the ones I did find were very expensive at around $1500. That’s why I was very excited to find out about BioLite’s Prep Kit – Apartment Edition, when the folks at BioLite invited me to test and review their product.
I should point out I am not financially affiliated with BioLite in any way, and this is a completely independent review. The possibility of having solar power backup in the event of an extended power outage is a huge benefit for apartment dwellers everywhere so I wanted to see if this is a good product to recommend.
What does the Prep Kit include?
The Prep Kit-Apartment Edition is available only for September 2019, National Preparedness Month. It is an emergency bundle, that can provide power, light and safe water in case the grid goes down. Ideally, it will serve two to four people at home or in an emergency shelter. The kit includes:
- SolarHome 620: microgrid provides light & charges gear
- AC Adapter for SolarHome 620 charging pre-blackout
-  HeadLamp 330s for hands-free illumination
-  Stuffsacks that turn HeadLamps into lanterns
-  SunLights for self-recharging candle alternatives
- Lifestraw Classic provides personal potable water
Reviewing the bundle
Since there is so much to cover, this is Part 1 of a 3 part series.
Part 1: Today, I will cover the Solar Home 620.
Part 2: I will cover the Sunlights.
Part 3: I will review the Headlamps and Stuffsacks that turn the Headlamps into lanterns.
I have already reviewed the LifeStraw in a previous article – check it out here.
My impressions of the SolarHome 620
The entire kit came in a mid-sized box and it was very lightweight.
Within the main box (shown above) is a shoebox sized kit containing all the components of the SolarHome 620, which is comprised of:
- Solar Panel, Control Box
- 2 Hanging Lights
- 1 Security Light
- 18ft of cord between lights
- 21 ft of cord between solar panel & control box
- Owner’s Manual
It only weighs 3.46 lbs (1.57 kg) and has everything you need to set it up.
Here is a photo of all the contents of the SolarHome 620.
I read the entire manual prior to learn how the how thing fits together.
The manual includes instructions to show you how to set up the solar panel on the roof, connect it to the control box as well as the hanging lights and security light.
Testing the kit
The first items I took out were the solar panel and the control box.
What the control box does: The control box is multi-purpose.
- First, it tells how how much charge it currently contains, the sunlight level. It is also an FM radio, and has an antenna.
- The control box is also a light itself
- Has USB charging ports so you can connect the hanging lights and the security light when you need them.
- Charge your small electronics and even has a has a shelf for your smart phone.
First I set up the correct time and date on the control box by following instructions in the manual.
Because I live in an apartment, and prefer not to get the leasing office involved, I did not set up the solar panel on the roof, nor did I run any wires across my unit. Instead, I placed the solar panel outside, attached it to the Control Box with the wire the comes with the solar panel. I left the Control Box on the shelf of my barbecue grill.
The manual indicated the rate of charge depends on the sun and weather conditions in the area. Because it’s the middle of summer I am confident I will not have any issues. The panel shows how much sun the unit is getting-93%:
The solar panel can be left outside even when it’s raining.
At 37% power, which was the level when I started, the light and radio already work.
With the antenna partially unfolded, the reception for most of our area radio stations was clear.
I left the solar panel out in the direct sunlight for four hours. As the sun moved across the sky, I also moved the solar panel to receive the maximum rays.
Once the control panel showed 100% power level, I brought it inside.
Powering the Lights
As soon as it got dark, I tested the hanging lights and security lights. Again, the manual does have instructions on setting it up lighting in different rooms but I prefer to set it up as needed. For this test, I place the light on a wall hook, and connected it to the control box.
I turned it on and it gave a white light that was nice and bright. There are three settings if you want to make it brighter. Here is a photo of the solar powered light:
Next, I set up the security light which is a motion sensor. It worked perfectly. As soon as you create movement near the light, it immediately turns on.
The manual’s instructions were easy to follow and setup of the solar panel and control box was very simple. Each item was well constructed.
The Prep Kit-Apartment Edition bundle is reasonably priced at $359.55 normally, but they are currently offering $50 off so the discounted price is only $309.55. Considering all the items that are included in the Bundle: solar power, radio, multiple lights, motion sensor light, charger, radio, and water purifier, it is well worth it.
I think having BioLite’s SolarHome 620 is a great to have for backup emergency power, especially for apartment dwellers who do not have a lot of space. The setup is easy to follow and can be used without making any changes to your space.
Join me on my next post, (Part 2) where I will be testing the Sunlights, the solar powered portable lights that comes with the kit.
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