Monday, February 8, 2016

PowerPot V : Review and Demo

Wouldn't it be nice if there were a way to convert wood-stove or campfire heat into electricity for phones or other USB appliances? We thought so! Our research on thermoelectric generators (TEG's) led us to a few available products in the online market, including the BioLite -and a few other slapped-together peltier module units. Initially, the BioLite seemed like a neat idea, but what about for indoor use too? After this previous blizzard knocked the power out at our main cabin, the novelty of a TEG seemed to transform into something more practical. And that's exactly where I'm headed....

Our search led us to the PowerPot V, made by PowerPractical.

Simply stated, the PowerPot V (when filled with cold water) generates 5V of up to 5W at 1A electricity using heat from a stove, campfire, or any significant heat source. (great for charging phones, mp3 players, usb battery banks, led lights, and other usb powered devices)

Quick Specs:

-Constructed of hard anodized aluminum
-Lid/bowl included
-1.2 Liter filling capacity
-capable of up to 5W /1A power output
-heat resistant USB output adapter & cable
-LED charge indicator gauge
-carrying bag included


The PowerPot uses the temperature differential between cold fluid and a heat source to generate electricity. As we confirmed during our use of this product, the colder the liquid and the hotter the fire (or greater difference between the cold and heat) – the more charge is generated. The PowerPot charge controller will fluctuate between 1W and 5W of power depending on this temperature difference. We've been using snow and cold stream water so far, and both those seem to work best for us (usually around 3W).

The included instructions provided a basis of information as to how to properly use and operate this device for maximum efficiency. A more thorough explanation “how” thermoelectric generators work can be read at this page on Power Practicals website:

Because the difference between hot & cold temperature is required for operation, the water in the PowerPot needs to be replaced with fresh cool water after it comes close to boiling.

Devices plugged:

-my iPhone 4s
-my RCA Cambio hybrid tablet (which can charge via micro-usb)
-my wife's iPhone 5s
-a usb-powered fan
-a usb battery bank

Xtreme Elements Test: ~Read on below! 

Precautions and Xtreme usage:

As shown in our demonstration video, the PowerPot will generate electricity fast when used according to the manufacturer's operating instructions. The PowerPot can be used on virtually any heat source, but should not be engulfed in flames. While the unit and cords are “heat-resistant” they are not fireproof. The PowerPot also needs to be handled with care as to not damage its internal components from temperature shock after use. This means allowing a proper “cool-down” period after removing from the heat source.

With that noted, we opted to break the rules and see what this unit can really handle! ;)
Against the manufacturer's recommendation, we made ourselves a little direct flame campfire out in the snow. We engulfed the PowerPot V in flames while feeding it fresh snow. Immediately upon setting the snow-filled pot on the flames – we had 3W of power to my iPhone. I continued this Xtreme element test for about 20 minutes, feeding the pot with fresh snow when the charge would drop to 2W – and mindlessly removing the pot from the flame and setting it on an ice cold rock >>>

Besides some intense soot buildup on the bottom of the pot unit, everything remained functional (however, I have no way of knowing how much -if any- damage I may have incurred on the internal components of the PowerPot by abusing it like this).

After Thoughts:

The PowerPot V is precisely what I had hoped it to be for being able to take heat from my wood stove and generate a charge for my USB devices. While some might be offset by the price (direct from PowerPractical at $99), it certainly is a practical tool to have handy for these winter weather power outages, as well as a way to keep one's usb devices charged when off the grid or while camping. And after this recent blizzard that left 3ft of snow and regional blackouts in our area, I'm glad to have this PowerPot standing by.

Disclosure: Work'n Man's Life received a sample PowerPot V from Power Practical for this review. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and have in no way been influenced by or reflect those of Power Practical.

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