NowLight illuminates off-grid darkness with handmade power
Off-grid lighting innovator Deciwatt is back with a new manually powered light to illuminate unwired spaces, ranging from remote villages, to campsites, to backyards. The NowLight drops the weight of Deciwatt's previous gravity-based design, leaving a more streamlined path for creating electricity to power the light. The linkable multi-lamp design brightens an expanded space from a single power source charged by hand, solar or mains power.
The folks behind Deciwatt got started over a decade ago on a mission to create a viable replacement for the kerosene lamps used in the developing world. It debuted the GravityLight prototype in 2012, evolving and improving it over the course of three years into the GravityLight 2.
The original idea was to source gravity as a cheap, omnipresent form of energy, eliminating the need for expensive solar panels and batteries. But after piloting the GravityLight 2 in Kenya, Deciwatt found that users wanted more light and enough power to charge mobile phones.
Deciwatt went back to the drawing board, reshuffled priorities and came up with a new design. Batteries are now in, specifically a 3,200-mAh LiFePO4 battery large enough to charge a smartphone. The new NowLight still relies on kinetic motion to create energy but instead of the lift/slow-drop of the GravityLight, a looped cord makes for a smooth, continuous motion. The user simply pulls the cord to keep it rotating for quick, simple energy generation.
The NowLight was designed to fully charge its battery in under half an hour of working the cord, and Deciwatt says that just two minutes' work creates enough power for more than an hour and a half of light at 20 lumens. The small display on the light's face shows a readout of how much runtime is available, providing motivation for the person generating energy and a warning when power dips to critical level. The NowLight can also be charged via the 3-W solar panel or DC-to-USB cord.
The NowLight offers six individual light settings, ranging between a 5-lumen "night light" and 160-lumen full-brightness mode. It also includes a USB outlet for powering or charging portable devices such as mobile phones and radios. Those looking to spread the light can link up to four small, orb-like SatLights together to a single NowLight. Each SatLight includes a 16.4-foot (5-m) cable and its own six-mode brightness adjustment.
In addition to providing a simple, versatile light solution for developing areas that lack electricity, the NowLight has a lot of potential uses in developed areas, too — camping, lighting up a storage shed, and providing a flexible, self-powered light source just about anywhere one's needed. While the threaded hanging hook won't work for every use case, it appears easy enough to hack something from the likes of string, bungee cords, carabiners and other common gear. The lights have a "showerproof" IP33 water-resistant rating for use outdoors, but Deciwatt doesn't recommend leaving them outside permanently.
Deciwatt got the first NowLights out to backers of its 2018 Indiegogo campaign earlier this year and has launched preordering for its next production run. A full kit with NowLight, SatLight, solar panel and DC charging cable costs US$109. For $60, buyers can also donate a kit (minus the DC cable) to a family displaced by natural disaster or conflict. Deciwatt hopes to begin deliveries in June.