For some reason, my mother’s power is always going out. She lives in suburban Wisconsin where I spend half the year helping my sister and extended family care for her. While the area isn’t especially well-known for high winds or storms, the power completely cuts out every few months, typically for anywhere from 2-12 hours.
Not only are constant power outages annoying and inconvenient, they’ve also caused us to lose thousands of dollars’ worth of food over the years—we’ve repeatedly tossed the contents of our fully-stocked refrigerator and basement freezer—which prompted me to search for a power station or generator that could charge devices and keep appliances humming when the grid failed.
When I began looking into the BioLite BaseCharge 1500, I was primarily considering how helpful it would be to plug in our fridge and freezer during a power outage while my sister, who suffers from sleep apnea, could use her CPAP machine through the night. My niece and nephew, on the other hand, could charge their phones so they wouldn’t miss a minute of whatever they’re binging on YouTube these days.
But the more I thought about it (and the more I looked into the device), the more excited I was to use the power station on outdoorsy roadtrips and adventures. The BioLite website featured amazing shots of digital nomads using a BaseCharge system to run workstations in the middle of some dreamy landscape, and I wanted to be that digital nomad.
While the BaseCharge 1500 seemed like the perfect product for both home and life on the road, I wasn’t quick to get my hopes up. Only real-world use could determine if it was worth the investment.
BioLite BaseCharge 1500 Power Station: Technical Specifications
Price: $1,699 | Battery: 1,521-watt hour lithium-ion | Inputs: Wall/solar input at 400 watts, USB-C PD at 100 watts | Outputs: (3) 110-volt outlets, (2) 12-volt barrel ports, (2) USB-C ports, (2) USB-A ports, 10-watt wireless charger | Dimensions: 4.4 x 12.2 x 8.2 inches | Weight: 26.5 pounds | Warranty: 2 years
- Versatile charging ports for around the home (and beyond)
- Price matters (it’s more expensive than a gas generator)
BioLite BaseCharge 1500 Functionality: Power Options Abound
The BioLite BaseCharge 1500 is a 1,521-watt hour rechargeable lithium-ion power station that’s designed for use around the home or off the grid. In addition to a wireless charging station on top of the power unit (assuming your mobile devices are wireless-compatible), the power station packs two USB-A ports, two USB-C ports and three 100-volt AC outlet ports, all of which can be used simultaneously. Want to run a circular saw outside while streaming a movie on your laptop, making smoothies in a blender and charging your cell phone and headphones? I’m not sure why you’d need to do all those activities at once, but it’s all possible with this beast of a power station.
As my primary motivation for getting a power station was to back up our refrigerator and basement freezer, I plugged it in upon delivery to see how long it could power the freezer. Considering how much energy our old, horribly inefficient freezer consumes, I was pleased to discover that the power station kept it running for nine hours, which is approximately how long our power goes out for at any given time.
A few days after the device arrived, my sister and I took it on a camping trip in northern Wisconsin where we used it to power two cell phones, headphones, a laptop, smart watch and a CPAP machine. We kept the BioLite unit in the trunk where we could easily charge everything, and moved it to the backseat so we could plug it into BioLite’s 12-volt car charger on short drives.
The following week, my sister planned a camping trip in the glorious Door County region of Wisconsin where she rented a small RV. While she was pleased to discover that the RV’s battery could power the overhead lights and various appliances, she worried that her CPAP machine would consume a lot of power over the course of three nights. Fortunately, she took the BaseCharge station along and found that it could power her sleep machine, phone and watch with ease—after three days of constant use, the unit still contained a bit of juice.
While I love the various ways by which you can charge and power external devices, BioLite makes it just as easy to charge this beast up when it runs dry: via a 110-volt AC power outlet, USB-C PD, 12-volt DC port (compatible with a car cigarette lighter) or with solar panels via the HPP input. The BaseCharge can also be charged simultaneously through a wall outlet and a USB-C port to expedite charging times, which will get you to about 80% full in approximately 3.5 hours. That said, users should be wary of exceeding the maximum wattage for charging. For the BaseCharge 1500, this is 400 watts and for the smaller BaseCharge 600, it’s 100 watts. If you begin to exceed charging wattage, the unit’s digital display and messaging center will communicate how to restart the charging process.
Obviously, charging it in a wall socket is the easiest and fastest option, but because that’s not always available, the ability to charge it via a car’s cigarette lighter and/or solar panels (sold separately) is available. Though we were mostly plagued with clouds and rain on our trip—the absolute worst conditions for solar panels—we did have one afternoon of partial sun that we took advantage of to break out BioLite’s SolarPanel 100 array that connects to the power station. I got about a 4% charge from the solar panels during six hours of charging and on another cloudy day, I got a 6% charge during 10 hours of charging. And while 6% might sound like a measly amount of power, that was enough to fully charge my phone’s battery from dead.
It’s worth noting that BioLite designs their own solar panels, but they also make an adapter cable to connect the BaseCharge to solar panels built by other brands should you already own (or choose to purchase) another panel. The adapter cable can also be used with BioLite solar panels if you want to use more than one set of panels at any given time.
BioLite BaseCharge 1500 Design: Sturdy, Strong And Simple To Use
Considering how user-friendly BioLite’s website and accompany instruction manual is, I had zero issues setting up or learning how to use the power station. Though I tested a pre-production model that was sent to me before some other supportive features launched, current models now come with a handy QR code that you scan to be redirected to a helpful instructional video.
Note that while this is a strong and sturdy unit, it’s not intended to be used in wet, dusty or extremely hot or cold environments. Cold temperatures drain lithium-ion batteries of power while hot temperatures reduce their longevity. (For reference, BioLite claims this device should be used in conditions between 30 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit). And don’t even think about taking it out on sub-zero adventures and wrapping it in a thermal blanket—doing so could compromise the battery’s ventilation system.
The power station has grab handles on each side that make it easy to transport and at less than 27 pounds, it’s easy for a single individual to haul it from one destination to the next. For reference, it feels sort of like carrying a small, dense home office printer, but the handles make it much easier to carry than any printer I’ve ever hauled around.
BioLite BaseCharge 1500 Drawbacks: The Display Isn’t Entirely Accurate
The only thing that frustrated me about this device was the digital power display’s inaccuracy. When the power station is charging a device, it will display an “hours to empty” figure, indicating how much time you have left to juice up whatever you’re charging. When the BioLite unit is being charged (be it via a wall outlet, USB port or solar panel), the timer then switches to “hours to full,” indicating how much time is required for the battery to reach 100%. If you add on or take off devices, the display will recalculate the hours to full or empty.
When I first plugged our basement freezer into the fully-charged power station, the control panel read “18 hours to empty” but that figure quickly dropped to 5.5 hours. While this could be explained by the large surge that most devices experience when initially plugged in, it doesn’t explain why the estimated 5.5 hours to empty wound up nearly doubling to 9 hours (a pleasant surprise to be sure, but not the most helpful in terms of planning).
When my sister first plugged her CPAP machine into the power station, it read “7.5 hours to empty” but when we unplugged the CPAP, moved it to another location and plugged it in again (just 2 minutes later), the “hours to empty” had somehow dropped to 3.5 hours, which is about how long it lasted.
As frustrating as the inaccurate reading was, I’ve experienced similar discrepancies when using other devices around the house. The battery on my e-bike acts in a similar fashion, as it does its best job at guessing how much battery is left based on my current speed and usage, but it’s often inaccurate. I’m also hoping that, because I tested a pre-production model, BioLite has resolved this issue. According to recent reviews on their website, it would seem they have.
BioLite BaseCharge 1500 Verdict: A Versatile Power Solution
Overall, I’ve been incredibly happy with this power station and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a strong and sturdy power supply for home or off-grid use. While the BioLite BaseCharge 1500 is perfect for my family’s situation and lifestyle, BioLite also offers a BaseCharge 600 model, which is a bit smaller, lighter and half the price, making it an excellent option for simpler tasks.
At some point, I plan to get this bad boy out to some dreamy desert so I can become a digital nomad influencer but until then, I’m happy using it to power refrigerators at home and laptops on the road.
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