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Arlo Solar Panel Deep Dive Review
How does it perform in the shade, in a storm, and in the sun?
So you have your new Arlo camera, and you're tired of changing those batteries. You're looking into the solar panel, but is it worth the $80 investment? Let's find out!
Arlo has two different versions of the solar panel—here we're just covering the Arlo solar panel with the magnetic connections, which is currently compatible with the Ultra and the Pro 3 cameras.
Arlo Solar Panel
Arlo Ultra, Arlo Pro 3
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Changing batteries turned out to be a bigger hassle for me than I predicted, so I was excited about testing this solar panel.
Every battery eventually dies, especially if you have your cameras up really high. I know that some of you have commented that you want to put your cameras up high in a tree or on the second story of your house, somewhere not easily accessible, so that's another reason to be interested in getting this solar panel.
One of my first questions was does the solar panel work with certain features that require AC power? For example, activity zones and the 3-second look back function. Both of those require the cameras to be plugged in, so how will that work with this solar panel?
Before we get to the details, let's start with the design.
The design of the Arlo Solar Panel
The solar panel design is pretty straightforward.
If we look inside the box, it really just comes with two things: the panel itself and an 8-foot charging cable.
We've got the magnetic mount on the other side.
It also comes with a wall mount. This is a heavy-duty wall mount, not like the one that came with the camera, which seemed to be pretty cheap and plastic. This one is all metal and a lot heavier duty.
How does the Arlo Solar Panel perform in low-light conditions?
One side of my house receives very little sunlight. It's the first side of my house to get full shade. I would say the amount of sun per day, depending on the season, is anywhere from maybe two to four hours of sun. Will that be enough power to keep the camera topped off?
Let's actually go outside and find out.
I have a camera above my front door on the side of the house that gets the most shade. I would say it currently gets about three hours of sun a day. I mounted the solar panel on this side of my house, hooked it up to the camera, and recorded the performance throughout over time. You can see all that in the video.
I'm happy to say that after testing it, the Arlo Solar Panel took on enough sun, even on this shady side of the house, to keep the camera topped off.
In fact, there's enough residual light in the area that it is actually still providing some power to the camera even though it is in the shade, which I was really impressed to see. Granted, it is probably a very small trickle, but at least the panel is getting something.
When I started this test, the camera had been up for about six weeks, and the battery was all the way down to 53%. Within the first day of testing I got a 13% bump in battery life, and it took a total of three days to get this camera all the way up to 100% with three hours of sunny day. I loved seeing that.
How does the Arlo Solar Panel perform in stormy conditions?
There was a scenario when we had about a week and a half of a storm roll in. It was rainy, it was windy all the time. The table cover in my backyard whipped in the wind and set off motion notifications in the backyard camera that actually drained my battery all the way down to around 35%. It was not getting any sun because of all the rain.
What I ended up doing because of the storm was actually just turning that camera off. I was tired of getting all the notifications, and I knew that was just draining the battery. Once the sun came back out and the storm was gone, I turned the camera back on, and it took about two days to fully charge the battery in the backyard.
Keep in mind if you're dealing with a storm or windy weather, you may have to turn the camera off just to prevent it from just going completely dead.
How does the Arlo Solar Panel perform in sunny conditions?
Unsurprisingly, not a lot to report here: the solar panel charges about 2x faster in a sunny location. To show you, let's move to the backyard, which is much sunnier, so the camera back here is getting a lot more sun. It took that camera, which was at about 50% battery strength, about a day and a half to get all the way up to 100%, so about as twice as fast as in the shady setting.
The solar panel will not power AC-only features
As awesome as these panels are in terms of charging power and speed, do they provide me with those extra features that require the camera to be plugged in?
The answer unfortunately is no, and I talked to Arlo about it and asked if maybe there was just something wrong with my setup. Arlo said that unfortunately this does not provide enough power to be able to turn on the feature for activity zones or that 3-second look back, so don't count on those features using the solar panel.
Recap: Is the Arlo Solar Panel worth it?
Overall, I have been using these solar panels now for, I think it's nine months and I have not had to change the battery at all.
Other than the storm I mentioned above, I haven't had any issue with them. They've been awesome at keeping everything powered up. I'm happy with them, but without the AC-only features, I'm not sure they're worth $80 each.
What do you think?