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Free Light solar-recharged LED flashlight, retail US$20.00
Manufactured by AVEXA AG (see below for info)
Last updated 09-23-08
At the risk of sounding like yet another old, tired infomercial, I'll say it anyway:
Are you tired of not having a light when you need one? Frustrated at finding your flashlight doesn't work because the batteries died inside? Struggling and straining to drag that heavy garbage can to the curb, filled with all those dead batteries? Wish you could have a light anytime and anywhere and never have to buy a battery for it again? Well now you can, thanks to the revolutionary new Free Light!
This remarkably slim and compact white LED light uses an internal lithium vanadium battery and a special solar panel to provide you with a reliable, very usable light without the hassle of finding batteries for it or changing them once you do. Now, before you start thinking "Who's stupid idea was it to make a SOLAR POWERED FLASHLIGHT anyway?!?", sit down and have a quick listen to some of the benefits:
Never, ever have to change a battery again.
Never, ever have to change a bulb again.
White LED bulb never yellows as the charge runs down.
Have a handy-dandy little light that always works when you need it.
Live in the Arctic or don't have any south or west facing windows? Then just stick it under a lamp and recharge it that way.
Automatically stops charging when full; no risk of overcharging and wrecking the battery.
(Note: This picture is of a Multifunction Free Light; but it is exactly the same size and shape as this one.)
The Free Light comes ready to use right out of the box. As far as I'm aware, they are pre-charged at the factory. Since the battery's self-discharge rate is only 2% a month, even a long period of storage in the dark or in a store box won't run the unit down any significant degree. But I always like to be sure I start out fresh, so whenever you get a chance, pop it in a sunny window, brown side up, for a few hours just to be sure it's topped off and at its peak power.
To turn the Free Light on, press & hold the blue button on its top (or bottom?). Letting go of the button turns the light off.
Recharging the battery is as easy as setting the light down someplace bright, such as near a window or under a lamp.
Set the Free Light in a sunny place so the solar panel faces up like you see in the picture, and that's it. To recharge a fully dead battery, the recommendation is to leave it in a sunny area for a full day. By this, they mean 8-10 hours of sunlight, not a full 24 hour day. Alternately, you can just set it under a lamp in the evenings when you're home, and grab it in the morning on the way to work or whatever. That'll do the job.
The run-time on a full charge is said to be approximately two hours. While this may not seem like much, you'll probably have a hard time using that all up in one night unless you jimmy rig something to hold the button down. This isn't meant to be an always-on flashlight; it's meant for things like reading menus, looking for dropped items, finding keyholes, as an emergency light to use when the power goes out, and other duties where the light is only being used for a few minutes at a time.
The self-discharge rate of the battery is a very low 2% per month, so it won't hurt the Free Light at all if it's forgotten in a purse for a few weeks or packed in a suitcase for a trip and subsequently not needed. You don't have to go to the trouble of putting it in the sun each and every day if you aren't using it a lot - that simply isn't necessary.
The Free Light appears to be well-made and reasonably durable. The only really fragile component is the glass solar cell; which is slightly recessed so it shouldn't break if the light is dropped. Attacking a defenseless Free Light with an ice pick or a hammer will probably kill the poor thing though, so please try and play nice.
The unit is sealed and cannot be opened. It is also splash proof and submersible, but I don't know how far you can submerge it before it springs a leak. With the form factor, the rubber pushbutton, and the glass thing in its side, I'd guess 10 feet. I'll have to investigate this some more.
The Free Light uses a circuit that regulates the solar cell's current to prevent overcharging and also to prevent overdischarging when the light is being used. The battery is supposedly rated for 10,000 charge/discharge cycles before you have to throw the Free Light in the garbage can. In ordinary use, you may never have to throw the light away. Truly, a light to last you a lifetime.
Freelight (L) compared against the Arc-AAA limited edition (R).
Measured 10,400mcd at 12".
Spectrographic analysis of the LED in this flashlight.
USB2000 spectrometer graciously donated by P.L.
The Free Light uses a standard "R" rank white Nichia LED, which by today's standards, rates at 6400mcd when properly driven. The Free Light does not appear to overdrive its LED to any noticeable degree, but being a sealed unit, LED current cannot be measured. A built-in DC-DC converter regulates the LED power and allows it to reach full brightness from the 3 volt lithium vanadium battery.
Test unit was received 05-01-02.
Manufacturer: AVEXA AG, CH-9630 Wattwil (Switzerland)
phone + 41 71 988 41 22, fax +41 71 988 41 24 Web page (Click blue button on image of Free Light that comes up)
I've been trying all summer to destroy the Free Light by leaving it out all day, but I don't get enough sun exposure here to do it any damage. In another month, I won't see a glimmer of sunlight at all again until April 2003 (six full months of relative darkness). So, the end of September is when the real test begins: to see if the Free Light dies along with most of my houseplants for lack of sun in the fall and winter. :p
The light intensity at the window in mid-winter at noon local time is approximately 1% of the intensity of mid-day summer sunlight due to the window's direction and the obstructive nature of surrounding skyscrapers. Will that be enough for the Free Light?
The Free Light spent all autumn and winter attached to the handle of a bag in a dark part of the room. But I was in the hospital all fall and some of the winter, so I never got to use the Free Light during this time.
When I took it off the bag to check it against a new style Free Light I received in mid-June 2003, it was just as bright then as it was last September (2002), so I'm going to say once again the low self-discharge rate of its internal battery was a very good thing. I popped it in a sunny window along with its newer brother to top it off, so the Free Light is once again ready to go!
I received a rather disturbing report from a user of this product this last Sunday.
Here is the contents of his message; his name & email address were omitted to protect his privacy:
I have had one of the SwissLight FreeLights (Blue button and lanyard) ever since they came out in 2002 or so.
Sadly when I could have used it the most, it seems to have failed.
The battery holds next to no charge whatsoever even when left in broad daylight for days on end.
Prior to the hurricane it received very little use at all.
After 6 years, the battery chemistry has gone south.
As an emergency item, the money would have been spent on a bag of 99 cent keychain lights.
Never, ever have to change battery or bulb.
More environmentally friendly than other lights.
Reasonably durable construction.
Can charge under a lamp if no sunlight is available.
Some possibility of breakage due to glass solar cell.
A bit dimmer than some LED lights, though not unusably so.
PRODUCT TYPE: Solar recharged LED keychain light
LAMP TYPE: LED, 5mm white
No. OF LAMPS: 1
BEAM TYPE: Medium spot with soft perimeter
SWITCH TYPE: Momentary pushbutton
BATTERY: Internal lithium vanadium secondary type
CURRENT CONSUMPTION: Not able to measure
WATER RESISTANT: Yes
SUBMERSIBLE: Yes, depth unknown (est. <10')
ACCESSORIES: Short lanyard
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