Last year I published a video on portable power for QRP – 20 watts radios. That video was focused on the PowerFilm Solar, Lightsaver Max often seen in my portable videos. Based on feedback from the community, here is a list of compatible radios and charging notes, when powering or charging with the Lightsaver Max.
The PowerFilm Lightsaver Max is a lightweight portable power supply, often used for QRP Portable ops on the channel. It has a 5 amp max load, making it a great choice for many of the low power portable amateur radios available today.
In my humble opinion, the LSM has two key benefits for the off-grid ham radio operator. Firstly, it can recharge itself. The LSM has an integrated solar panel that can be unfolded and used to charge itself up while in use, or on the go. Secondly, the LSM has a 12-volt output port with a max load of 5 amps. This will power up to a 20-watt radio in the field, with a pack that won’t take up that much space from your rucksack.
The LSM can also use an external panel connected directly to its DC input port, without the need for an external charge controller between the two. The LSM has an integrated charge controller, making it an incredibly lightweight and easy to use system.
Finally, the PF Lightsaver Max does a great job of reducing the wire mess, we talk so much about on the channel. Integrated DC I/O, USB-C, USB outputs, integrated solar panel with the ability to augment with an external panel. Normally we would have wires between a charge controller and battery, battery and radio, and so on.
Since every radio has its unique quirks regarding external power and (or charging, here are my notes regarding charging or powering many of the popular QRP radios on the market today.
- Icom IC-705
The LSM will charge the IC-705 via USB for 5 watts output.
The PF Lightsaver Max can also utilize its 12v output, for a full 10-watt output on the IC-705.
The LSM will power the radio and charge the internal battery on the IC-705 simultaneously.
- Lab599 Discovery TX500
The LSM will power the TX500 to full output power.
When using the Lab599 piggyback battery pack, the LSM can charge the pack to 90-95% of full, since the minimum voltage for a full charge, is slightly higher than the LSM output voltage. When using the piggyback battery pack, use the LSM 12v output attached to the piggyback batteries input. This will charge the piggyback battery pack, and power the TX500.
- Yaesu FT-81x
Will power or charge the FT-817 or FT818 from PF Lightsaver Max 12v output for a full 5/6 watts output. The PF LSM simultaneously charge the 81x internal batteries, while fully powering the rig.
- Elecraft KX2
Will power Elecraft KX2 to its full output power, using the PF Lightsaver Max 12v output.
- Elecraft KX3
Will power Elecraft KX3 to its full output power, using the PF Lightsaver Max 12v output.
- Xiegu X5105
Will power or and/or charge Xiegu X5105 using the PF Lightsaver Max 12v output for a full 5 watts output. Will also charge the X5105 internal battery, while powering the radio. Note: The max output voltage of the LSM is lower than the X5105 charge voltage. Therefore, only an 85-90% charge can be achieved. My recommendation, disable external charging on the X5105 and use the LSM to power the rig externally. Then use the x5105 internal battery as a backup supply (or vice-versa).
- Xiegu G90
The LSM can power the Xiegu G90 to its maximum output power of 20 watts. The G90 does not have internal batteries, so we use the LSM as an external power source or portable power supply.
The LSM can power the mcHF to its maximum output power. I have not tested the version with an internal battery yet, but hope to get one here to test.
- Vertex Standard VX1210
The LSM can power the VX1210 to full 20w TX.
The LSM will not power rigs like the Yaesu FT-891, FT-991A, Icom IC-7300 or similar rigs. This is true even when dialling down the TX power to a compatible output level. The startup current for these radios is higher than the maximum output current of the Lightsaver Max. Reducing the output power is not enough to make these rigs “low power” or QRP, since they operate with higher current overhead than rigs specifically designed for low power operation. For QRO portable power options, check out my DIY battery pack series or portable power and solar generators.
For those of you who haven’t seen the portable power for QRP video yet, I did a video showcasing the Lightsaver Max, as a power supply for my portable amateur radios.
We often hear people using buzzwords like Off-Grid and Grid down, … while never actually leaving the grid for more than a couple of hours at a time. Don’t get caught in those marketing traps. There is no chance of getting a real sense of off-grid power capabilities or requirements, without spending a significant amount of time without the grid. Ultimately, we define off-grid goals as “grid independence”. A battery that can’t be recharged in the field is neither “off-grid friendly” or “grid-independent”. Once it’s depleted, it is just a boat anchor.
For the QRP field radio operator, the PF Lightsaver Max can be an all in one portable power solution. It can also be our solution for a fixed station power supply when using low power radios. With my station, the LSM easily powers the Icom IC-705 and Microsoft Surface Go 2, by splitting its output into two DC lines. One for the 705, the other for the Surface. The USB-C charging port on the Lightsaver max can be used to simultaneously charge the Lightsaver Max, while powering your QRP rig and tablet. It can also be connected directly to a 30-watt solar panel. It’s up to you!
The Lightsaver Max can be purchased directly from the PowerFilm website or from California PC who will also begin shipping the Lightsaver Max overseas.
– California PC: https://californiapc.com/Portable-Solar-Chargers/PowerFilm-Solar-LightSaver/PowerFilm-LSM-1.html
_ PowerFilm Solar: https://www.powerfilmsolar.com/oh8stn
On the PF website, use my call sign as the discount code.
For California PC, use “CPC10LSM1” without quotes.
If you have specific questions please feel free to leave them in the comments. I’ll answer them by updated the post with the question and the answer.
By me a rootbeer: https://paypal.me/oh8stn/1usd
Hi Julian, I love what you do; your content is both stimulating and thought provoking. A short note to let you know that both PowerFilm and California PC are not shipping out of the US (not even to Alaska or Hawaii, in the case of California PC). I know because I’ve just tried to place orders with both for shipment outside of the U.S. It is a major bummer for your followers who live outside of the continental U.S. 73 Garu
There’s a new revision of the lightsaver Max, which I’m evaluating right now. After that evaluation, the goal is to start shipping outside of the Continental US, later this year.
This not shipping abroad was almost a deal-breaker between myself and PowerFilm solar. I’m sure they’ll make it right.
Hi Julian, Thanks so much for all the amazing content you put out. I was wondering if you had any runtime numbers for the TX-500 (for different modes). Also would you know the weight of the lab599 battery pack?
Im new to QRP and trying to build out a setup for backpacking where weight is important. I’m not confident in how much power ill need so struggling to decide on a combination of battery / lightsaver / lightsaver max.
Runtime numbers are subjective at best. It really depends on which mode we are running, and how aggressively we are transmitting. I know that sounds like a non-answer but its the best I can do. As you may have seen during my trip to Lapland with Snapper last autumn, the LSM powered the TX500 for the entire trip, while running JS8Call constantly. Ofcourse I had a solar panel recharging during the day. That said, the only way to really know is measuring your station consumption in practice. Then you can get an average number of watt hours you’ll need for certain amount of time.
The Lightsaver itself is a USB Charger. It is definitely thte Lightsaver Max which you’ll want to consider. This versus a standalone battery, charge controller, and solar panel individually.
Hope this helpås
That doe help, Thanks!
First let me say how much I enjoy your blog and YouTube channel. Great Stuff!
When using the LSM with the Xiegu X5105 what type of cable / connectors are needed between the two devices? Are they barrel plugs (2.1mm? 2.5mm?) I like the LSM / X5105 combination, but seem to have missed the specific connectors needed. Thanks. 73
Hi Julian OH8STN, with the Power film lightsaver max with the ft857 I need a battery or what device to use it.-
The lightsaber Max won’t work with the 857, 891 or any of the high power radios. It’s better to use an external battery pack and stand-alone solar panel. The lightsaber Max only has 5 amps output.
If you daisy chain 2 LSM, could you now power the FT 891/FT 991a?
I don’t think so. These rigs still require a stable ~13.8v power source
Hi Julian, do you know how the Lightsaver Max’s 12V output behaves when the current draw goes above 5A? Does the output start to droop its voltage or does it shut off and then start back up after the current is below 5A? If the 12V output is shorted out, will it damage the Lightsaver Max?
It shuts down. It’ll shut down the port, then start back up when the load is removed.