The LuminAID is a solar-powered, inflatable light that you can charge on the go and inflate to create a lightweight, waterproof light. Pretty neat, right?
The light was designed to be used in post-natural disaster situations as an affordable, renewable light and was launched shortly after the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
Renewable lighting can aid those in situations where batteries are scarce and the electricity grid is disabled both immediately after a disaster and over an extended period of time, and as we’ve found out in our testing, this light also works well during everyday use.
It’s light weight, recharges fairly quickly, and can take a beating. Sometimes the light was too diffuse for our needs, but overall it’s a nice light.
Performance – 7
6-7 hours of direct sunlight from the high-efficiency monocrystalline solar panel will give you 8-10 hours of LED light on the HIGH setting, or 14-16 hours of LED light on the LOW setting. So with the low estimates 1 minute in the sun will give you 1.14 minutes of HIGH light or 2 minutes of LOW light. Pretty good.
As for the light output the LuminAID have no problem lighting up a small room or tent well. But for finer work or book reading you’ll want to keep it within a few feet to get enough light.
I took it out in the dark woods and it did light up a large area. I’d have no trouble spotting a charging bear many meters away, but by then it would probably still be too late. So no good for bear protection but good enough for most other things.
As for the battery, it’s a non-replacable Lithium-Polymer Ion battery with hundreds of recharge cycles, so you won’t have to worry about changing batteries.
Construction Quality – 7
The LuminAID is designed and engineered in the USA, and what makes this product unique is that you can actually inflate it like a balloon. The product was designed for maximizing the number of lights you could fit into a shipment, because when you ship out supplies to disaster areas it’s all a numbers game.
The folded LuminAID light fit snugly in my hand
Inflating the product makes it diffuse light like a lantern, it protects eyes from the glare of the extra-bright LED, plus it makes the LuminAID float when inflated.
On the other hand, inflating a thin plastic case makes it more prone to damage through puncturing than a hard case. Now, in case the plastic would get punctured beyond repair your light would still work, but you’d lose the waterproofing, light diffusion and the ability to float.
I’ve heard of cases where people have repaired it successfully with duct tape, and if you’re using this in a rough environment (e.g. outdoors) I would expect puncture damage during its lifetime.
At 3 ounces (85 grams) it’s not the most lightweight lamp in the world, but it still feels very light in the hand, and when folded it’s also small and fit in most smaller pockets in your pants or backpack.
The LuminAID has a Lithium-Polymer Ion battery (similar to your cell phone), and it can hold a full charge for over 4 months.
Ease of Use – 7
Short version: It’s very easy to use. You can switch between the OFF / HIGH / LOW modes on a single push button, and you easily inflate it through the mouth piece. You’ll also find an attachment point on the top of the light so you can fasten it to your backpack or pants when out in the sun, as well as fasten it while inflated and in use.
Charge in sun for 6-7 hours for up to 16 hours of LED light.
Inflate using valve. The inflation diffuses light like a lantern and protects eyes from any glare from the LED light source.
Illuminate with power switch once for LOW and twice for HIGH.
The LuminAID is water-resistant and can float.
Maintenance – 8
The LuminAID can hold a full charge for over 4 months. Before storing for an extended period of time, it is best to make sure the battery is fully charged. The team at LuminAID also recommend you charge your light every 1-2 months to keep the battery at optimum condition.
Brand Reputation – 7
The founders, Anna Stork and Andrea Sreshta, met while studying architecture and design in graduate school and shared an interest in solar lighting technology and a common belief that design and design thinking can be used to solve problems at a global scale, including improving access to basic resources such as lighting and power.
While on a school trip to Japan, they unexpectedly found themselves in the middle of the earthquake in March 2011. Having experienced first-hand how a disaster can negatively impact the lives of millions, they were motivated to make the LuminAID light a reality for those affected by disasters, crises, and conflict.
Thus LuminAID’s goal is to make portable lighting a part of the supplies commonly sent as part of disaster relief aid. With this in mind the LuminAID solar light was designed to fulfill the basic need for light in post-natural disaster situations.
Considering that their product has seen comprehensive use in India, Vanuatu, Nepal, Afghanistan, Tanzania, Uganda, USA, Rwanda, Laos, Haiti, Cambodia, Ethiopia, and Chad, they seem to have succeeded with their initial ambition.
Guarantee – 6
First, it’s worth to mention that LuminAID offers a no-questions-asked return/exchange policy, so if for any reason you are not satisfied with your LuminAID lights, they’ll issue a full refund at any point upon you contacting them.
Second, they offer a warranty for replacement of your product for up to 1 year after the date of purchase. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org anytime if you have any questions or issues with your LuminAID lights.
Sustainability – 7
Even though the LuminAID is mostly made out of plastic it could still be argued that it’s more sustainable than for example the traditional off-grid kerosene lanterns. The LuminAID is fueled by the sun and will last you for hundreds of recharge cycles, and that means a lot of savings.
And once the battery has given up, you still have a functional solar cell that you could put to other use if you know your way around electronics.
Self-Reliance – 7
For the people in areas stricken by disasters it’s easy to underestimate the impact a reliable light source can have. It provides you with a sense of security and comfort, plus it enables you to carry on living and working past sunset.
Naturally if you live in a home with electricity and other modern comforts then the LuminAID won’t be as much of a life changer but I can still see plenty of reasons for why it makes sense to invest in a solar-powered light, blackouts and camping trips into the great wild being two of them.
Value – 6
The LuminAID light is $19.95 on their website and you can also get it on Amazon. They also offer a $27.95 Give Light, Get Light package where you sponsor a light to be distributed through their Give Light Project.
If you live outside of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea then you may still be able to find distributors in your country.
So what other options for solar-powered lighting do you have in the same price range?
You’ve got the d.light S20 Area Lantern ($18.94 on Amazon) that will give you 8 hours of light on the low mode and 4 hours on the high mode, so it has shorter run times and it isn’t water proof but on the plus side it’s made out of more rugged materials and it can also be charged with a USB adaptor.
Another options is the Hybrid Light HL40 flashlight that we’ve reviewed previously, and you can get a 2-pack for about $22 on Amazon.
So is it worth $20? It’s no more expensive than other similar solar-powered lights so if this kind of light is what you’re after then it might be a good deal for you. If we compare it to lights with other power sources though, including batteries and hand-crank lights, then I think you can get more light for your money.
Excitement – 7
Overall, this is a cool development in solar-powered lighting and I’ll admit I’m excited to see what else LuminAID will come up with in the future.
I can’t help feeling extremely satisfied whenever I switch an old 45 watt light bulb for a 6.5 watt LED light yet still get about the same light output.
In 10 more years of technological progress, who knows what will light up our homes? I bet you that whatever it is, it will be better, more efficient, and more sustainable.
Weight: 3 ounces (85 grams)
Dimensions: 12.5″ L x 8.5″ W (when deflated)