Share the light


As the local power grid was overloaded one extremely hot January day this year, the neighborhood lost power, as it does once or twice each summer.

Unfazed, I reached for my trusty, D Battery powered flashlight under my kitchen sink, which only makes an appearance during these summer blackouts.

And you guessed it, batteries were dead and I was left fumbling in the dark, tripping over the dog.

Brewing my morning coffee at work the next day, I recounted the evening’s power outage to a co-worker [with increased dramatics of course] and he suggested I get myself a solar powered light for these emergencies.

There are many green, eco-friendly options to be found when searching online and I was looking at them all. And they all seemed to be the same.  And then I stumbled onto the Waka Waka site …and my first thought was “What ‘s a Waka Waka”.

Waka Waka Solar Led Flashlight

Is there a site dedicated to Shakira’s World Cup theme? Or for the noise a Pac Man makes when he eats or Fozzie the Bear’s catch phrase from The Muppets?

Thankfully, it was not any of those three.

I was immediately drawn in to the images of their solar powered light.

Not only did this light look different from all of the others [the colour, the design and its versatility], but this is a product with a conscience.

The company promotes a “share the sun” philosophy/mission statement that mirrors the same sort of “feel good” shopping experience as US based companies as Toms  [who will donate one pair of shoes and/or glasses for every pair that is purchased] and Warby Parker  [who will make a monthly donation to their nonprofit partners, based on the number of glasses sold].

Solar Powered LED Flashlight

It’s a simple and basic model: Buy one, send one.

For each unit that you purchase, a solar powered light [that produces 80 hours of light on a full battery charge, that takes 5-10 hours of sun to fully charge] to a family living through a humanitarian crisis. This simple business model has had a worldwide impact on 45 countries.

It’s simple hand-held design, also allows for table top presentation or even mounted on the neck of a long, tall bottle.

Selfishly, all I wanted was a renewable household light for future power outages to prevent me from tripping over the dog in the dark and I ended up having a positive impact on a family in Haiti that has survived a natural disaster.

BTW, “Waka Waka” means “shine bright” in Swahili, just in case you didn’t already know!


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Understanding Batteries

Off-Grid Systems

For some households a battery system can be of great benefit and minimise a home’s reliance on the grid. However, it’s important to understand for a battery to be useful your solar system needs to be generating excess energy for the battery to store, which you can then use at night or when the sun is not out.

When selecting a battery, you’ll want to invest in a system that is most suited to your home and can drive the best return on investment (ROI). Despite a larger upfront cost, a higher quality battery may significantly increase your ROI.

    Battery systems start from $6,000 and costs can vary greatly based on the following factors:

  1. Cycle Life-Time

    The number of times a battery can fully charge and discharge.

  2. Battery Power (kW)

    How fast it can be charged or discharged.

  3. Storage Capacity (kWh)

    The maximum amount of energy a battery system can store.

  4. Battery Management System (BMS)

    An electronic ‘smart’ system that gathers data and manages the battery ensuring it does not overload or operate outside of its safe functioning zone..

  5. Inverter

    Battery systems require their own inverter if your solar system does not have a hybrid inverter.

  6. 'All-In-One Unit’

    A system which includes the battery, BMS and an inverter all in one unit.

  7. Warranty

    Length of time or cycles the battery system is under guarantee.

  8. Blackout Protection/Backup

    It’s important to note this is not a common feature of a battery system and could cost thousands of dollars to include. Blackout protection not only requires additional components but also a specialised installation and rewiring. For grid-connected homes, the cost for blackout protection can outweigh the benefit.

Additionally, if your purpose for adding battery is to go Off-Grid and become completely independent from the grid you will need to ensure your solar system can generate enough energy to power your home and your battery system is large enough to store this energy. For homes in metro areas going Off-grid is not cost effective and is only recommended for those in remote areas with limited access to the grid. Off-grid solar systems with battery start at approximately $30,000.

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