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A Great Idea to Help the Third World

Updated on June 28, 2017
jackclee lm profile image

Jack is currently a volunteer at the Westchester County Archives. Jack has worked at IBM for over 28 years.

Introduction

Every so often, a product comes along that is so innovative, I have to publicize it. While on vacation this spring in Rhode Island, I came across this inflatable solar light called a Luci. It is an elegant solution to a worldwide problem. It was invented after the Haiti earthquake. I bought one to try it out and put it through the paces. I must say it is as good as it claims. It is something everyone can use on camping trips. More over, it is a great product to donate to third world nations where electric lighting is expensive or unavailable. It is one of those win-win situations that just makes my day. In full disclosure, I have no connection with the company that came up with this product and I have no financial interest in MPOWERD. I support what they are trying to do because I believe it is a winner.

- May 2015

Luci Specifications

The latern is approximately 5" in diameter and inflatable. It weights only 4 oz.

  • Solar powered with rechargeable battery
  • 10 LED lights 65 Lumens (enough to cover 10 square feet of space)
  • 3 mode switch (low, high and blinking)
  • 8 hours full charge time (sun light or incandescent)
  • up to 12 hours of light in low mode
  • waterproof and will float
  • straps for hanging (both sides)
  • 1 year warranty

By the way, the name Luci is derived from the Spanish word for firefly. It was named by the inventor's young son. You can read about the whole story from the inventor's site in the link below.

My Experience

I am a skeptic when it comes to solar power. I have bought lawn ornaments that is fine for decorations but not bright enough for any useful purpose. Some stop working for no reason after a short period of use. They also don't last as long as claimed. The Luci lite is different. First of all, it is bright and enough to read a book. Second, it is long lasting. Finally, it is portable and very light weight. You can deflate it when packing and blow it up when ready to use. The control push button really works well and it gives tactile feedback. The only outstanding issue is long term reliability. I only had it for a week and so far so good. According to the manufacturer, the rechargeable battery has a life cycle of minimal 300 uses. This product also has a warranty period of 1 year compared to most all other electronics only 90 days. The bottom line, this is a great product and it cost $15.

The other great story of this product is the charity aspect. Lately, we hear in the news some of the negative stories of charitable foundations that misuse their funds. It is often hard to decide which charity is worthy. This is a great way to give. It is something tangible and it will be put to use right away. I just love it. Please read the full story at the MPOWERD website.

For the green conscious, this product is totally renewable. All it needs to operate is the sun. I recommend it highly - 5 stars.

Luci - Bright Enough to Read By

Luci Lanterns Summary

I have discovered that REI carries several models of the Luci lanterns. They are a major retailer in the camping and recreation sports market.

After 9 month of use, I can testify that this product lived up to all expectations. I have used this light almost everyday. On sunny days, the lamp is fully charged. Using the lamp as a night light, on the low setting, it lasted till morning. On cloudy days, the lamp will only last a few hours.

Another usage is taking it along my daily walks at night. It is better than a flashlight and a great safety feature and light weight.

One Year Update (March 2016)

It's been almost one year since I got the Luci lamp. I've been using it almost everyday. I must say it has lived up to it's promise. I charge it outside during the day and use it as a night light by my bed. It lasted through most of the night. So far, it is holding it's charge. A great product That works as advertised.

Some News (June 2016)

New model of Luci has a couple of improvements. First, there is an indicator on the amount of charge stored. Second, one model has added a reflector on the bottom of the Luci which will give a more even distribution of light.




5 inches round mirror

Update on Luci Lantern after over One Year 7/2016

I have been very satisfied with this product. I use it daily and it has served me well this past year. Most days, I take it on my walks after sunset. I also use it as a night light by my bed. I discovery a small improvement by placing a mirror under the Luci. It help diffuse and reflect the light more evenly throughout the room. The mirror is a simple 5" mirror with a plastic frame.

I place the mirror on a flat surface. I then place the Luci lantern facing down right on the mirror surface. You will notice the improved lighting...











The Latest Model Last Longer Aug. 2016

I just bought a new Luci lantern. It last up to 12 hours per charge but it cost $18. It appears that all the models have seem a price increase about $2. This new model has a button that shows how full the battery is charged. There are 3 LED indicator lites.




Luci Original Design

New design

Sample LCD indicator bars

Design of New Luci - A Step Backwards Sept. 2016

After using the new Luci for about a month, I have some issues. The main problem is the location of the power on/off button. In the dark, I cannot find the switch easily. The original model had the switch in the center. I can always find it. Now, it is located around the perimeter. I understand the reason to relocate is to allow more space for the larger solar panel. All things considered, I would prefer to keep the power button in the center.

The second issue is the decision to use LED indicators for the power charging indicator. The 3 LED lights cannot be seen in bright sun light. A better design would be to use LCD indicators that are "on" all the time. These dark bars (four of them) can indicate when power is 25%, 50%, 75%, 100% charged. No Bars will indicate 0%. There is no need for a separate button. LCD is ideal for this because it is very low power and has high contrast in ambient light.

The two points I raised are usability issues. Human factors are key to a successful design. I hope MPOWERD is listening...

Night Light inside a Ceramic Bowl

Suggestions for Future Improvements

I have some ideas to improve the current design and features of the LUCI lantern.

One idea is to add a light sensor so that the lantern will come on automatically after dusk and shut off at dawn. This optional mode will allow the lantern to be used as a safety light by an entrance door. Aug. 9, 2016.

Update Dec. 29, 2016

My original Luci lamp suffered a leak. It seems after 17 months of daily use, it finally developed a small leak in the top seam. The air would leak out slowly but surely. Other than that, the lamp works great, long past the warranty period.

I came up with an easy fix. I submerged the lamp in a bowl of water and found the location of the leak. Next, I dried it off and applied a thin coat of Liquid Bandage. This seals the leak and it is now perfect again. I decided it to share it here with other owners.

A followup note. Unfortunatly, in attempt to locate the leak, I caused some water to leak into the electronics component. Also, it appears the top plastic cover layer has degarded due to sun exposure. It has started to crack and flake off. The unit is still working but just not water proof anymore. It lasted over a year and a half. I have no complaints. I still recommend this product highly.








Update 6/26/2017

My second Luci lamp has suffered a failure after 10 months of use. Apparently, the plastic housing developed a small hole and some water got into it. The power button stopped working. I contacted MPOWERD, the manufacturer and they were quick in their reponse. Since it is under the 1 year warranty, they are sending me a replacement. They also will recycle the old unit. That is great customer service.

© 2015 Jack Lee

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    • jackclee lm profile image
      Author

      Jack Lee 2 years ago from Yorktown NY

      Molly Layton - Thanks for checking in.

    • Molly Layton profile image

      Molly Layton 2 years ago from Alberta

      Jack, this looks like a very interesting light. It could be useful for third-world learning and first-world camping. The project looks cool.

    • jackclee lm profile image
      Author

      Jack Lee 2 years ago from Yorktown NY

      win-winresources - You are correct much more can be done on a larger scale. However, this simple idea is quick and help real people in need right away. This idea originated after the Haiti earthquake when much infrastructure was damaged. If students can use this to read and do homework, it will help them cope. The problem with many charity organizations is that they spent a lot of time and money studying problems and not so much solving them. In most cases, much of the funds donated gets lost or stolen. I support Luci lights because it is simple and there is no middleman. Thanks for checking in.

    • profile image

      win-winresources 2 years ago from Colorado

      Sadly, Jack-

      Helping one person at a time may feel good but is not particularly useful in addressing a nationwide problem. There are power solutions that can be implemented in a large, scalable fashion. Unfortunately they take money and infrastructure (which takes more money).

      Also, the most viable of the reliable power producers -nuclear- carries with it serious concerns of security and waste handling. A large solar array, which only works during the day, unless you have equally large and costly batteries, or windmills which need steady wind of a minimum speed, carry with them significant up front costs and less reliability.

      Perhaps if the World Bank would work with stable countries to fund their energy projects (without the all too common graft and corruption), small but steady steps could be accomplished.