Is It Worth Buying A Portable Solar Generator?

What is a portable solar generator?

A portable solar generator is a device that combines solar panels, battery storage, and an inverter to produce electricity on-demand for powering appliances and electronics when grid power is unavailable (Palmetto, 2021).

Portable solar generators work by using solar panels to collect and convert sunlight into DC (direct current) electricity that charges onboard batteries. The stored energy in the batteries can then be inverted into standard 120V AC (alternating current) power through the inverter and supplied to electrical devices via outlets and ports (Goal Zero, 2022).

The main components of a solar generator are:

  • Solar panels – collect sunlight and convert it into electricity to charge the batteries
  • Battery bank – stores the energy from the solar panels
  • Inverter – converts DC electricity from the batteries into 120V AC power
  • Outlets and ports – supply the converted AC electricity to devices
  • Charge controller – regulates the charging and discharging of the batteries

With these core elements, portable solar generators provide renewable, sustainable electricity anywhere the sun shines, making them ideal for off-grid use (Jackery, 2023).

Benefits of portable solar generators

Portable solar generators provide several key benefits compared to traditional gas generators or relying solely on the electrical grid:

Provide power during grid outages – Solar generators can provide backup power to your home essentials like lights, refrigerator, phone chargers, etc. during power outages. This prevents food spoilage and allows you to still use necessary devices when the grid goes down (Source).

solar generator providing backup power

Clean energy source – Solar power generates electricity through renewable solar energy, reducing your carbon footprint compared to fossil fuel generators (Source). Solar power emits no fumes or pollution.

Reduce electricity bills – Solar generators allow you to tap into free solar energy and reduce your dependence on the grid. Any energy needs met by your solar generator during peak daylight hours can save significantly on your energy bills (Source).

Power camping/tailgating/other outdoor activities – Portable solar generators provide off-grid power for RVs, camping, tailgating parties, and other outdoor activities where access to electrical outlets is limited.

Downsides of portable solar generators

While portable solar generators offer many benefits, they also have some drawbacks to consider before purchasing.

One of the main downsides is the high upfront cost. Portable solar generators can range from a few hundred dollars for smaller units up to several thousand dollars for large capacity models (https://www.bluettipower.com/blogs/news/the-pros-and-cons-of-solar-generators). This initial investment may be prohibitive for some buyers.

Another disadvantage is limited energy storage. The battery capacity in solar generators ranges widely, but even high-capacity models can only store so much electricity. Depending on your power needs, you may find the battery drains faster than it can recharge (https://solairworld.com/disadvantages-of-portable-solar-generators/).

Finally, solar generators are dependent on sunlight for recharging. Cloudy days or placement in shady areas will slow the recharge rate. At night or during storms, recharging stops completely until sunlight returns (https://www.solarreviews.com/blog/what-are-the-pros-and-cons-of-a-solar-generator). This can be problematic if power needs are constant.

Key features to look for

When buying a portable solar generator, there are several key features to consider that impact performance and determine whether the unit will meet your needs:

Solar panel wattage

The solar panel wattage indicates how much power the solar panels can generate per hour in full sunlight. Higher wattage panels will charge the battery faster. For portable use, panels around 100W provide a good balance of charge speed and portability (Source).

Battery capacity

The battery capacity determines how much energy can be stored. Typical capacities range from 500Wh to over 2000Wh. Consider how much power you need to run your devices to select an adequate battery size.

Inverter capacity

The inverter converts the DC power from the battery into standard AC outlets. The inverter capacity dictates the maximum wattage that can be supplied at one time. For running small appliances, 300-500W is common.

Outlet types

Most models have standard 120V AC outlets as well as USB ports. Some also include 12V DC outlets for running certain electronics or charging car batteries. Make sure the available outlets match your needs.

Size/weight

Portable solar generators range from under 10 pounds up to around 50 pounds. Consider how you will transport the unit to choose a comfortable size and weight.

Cost comparisons

The cost of portable solar generators varies widely depending on the capacity, features, and whether it’s DIY or pre-built. Here’s an overview of the pricing:

Entry-level models typically range from $500 – $1,000 and offer 300-500Wh capacity. Popular options in this range include the EcoFlow RIVER and Goal Zero Yeti 200X.

High-capacity models range from $1,500 – $5,000+ and offer 1,000Wh+ capacity. Top picks include the EcoFlow DELTA Pro and Goal Zero Yeti 1500X.

DIY solar generator kits provide the most flexibility and customization, but require technical know-how. Pre-built all-in-one units are pricier but offer simplicity and convenience. When comparing cost per watt, DIY kits can be 50-75% cheaper than pre-built alternatives.

Top brands

When shopping for a portable solar generator, some of the top brands to consider include:

GoalZero – Founded in 2009, GoalZero is one of the most established brands in portable power stations and solar generators. They offer a wide range of products for different uses, with a focus on rugged and durable designs. GoalZero solar generators like the Yeti 1000X are popular for RV and off-grid living (Source).

Jackery – Jackery is another leading portable power station brand, founded in 2012. They are known for high quality lithium batteries and efficient solar panels. Top selling models like the Jackery Solar Generator 2000 Pro provide up to 2,000 watt hours of capacity (Source).

Anker – Anker is a consumer electronics company that entered the solar generator market in 2021. Their portable power stations like the Anker 757 PowerHouse emphasize compact, lightweight designs. Anker solar generators are budget-friendly options good for smaller uses.

Bluetti – Founded in 2019, Bluetti focuses on large solar generator systems for off-grid living and emergency power backup. Models like the Bluetti EP500 pack up to 5,100 watt hours of capacity with advanced features like wifi connectivity.

EcoFlow – EcoFlow is a portable power station company founded in 2017. Their Delta series models like the EcoFlow DELTA 1300 are rugged, versatile designs focused on fast recharging from solar. EcoFlow emphasizes high quality tech and modular expandability.

Safety considerations

When using a portable solar generator, proper safety precautions should be taken to avoid potential hazards. Proper wiring and grounding is crucial – all connections should be secure, and the system should be properly grounded. As noted on the Bluetti Power blog, “Having a grounding rod driven into the earth and connecting your solar generator to it protects your devices from power surges that could potentially fry their circuitry.”

Adequate ventilation is also important, as these systems produce heat that needs to dissipate. The generator should be kept away from flammable materials and not covered or enclosed. As Market Business News advises, “Do not put the portable solar generator in an enclosed space, like a car trunk or confined area.”

It’s also essential to avoid overloading the system. Doing so can trip the built-in breakers, damage components, or in extreme cases cause overheating. Bluetti Power recommends, “Consult the user manual to find the continuous and surge wattage ratings for your solar generator. As long as you operate within those thresholds, you’ll be fine.” They add that quality generators like Bluetti have “features to prevent overloading.”

Maintenance best practices

Taking proper care of your portable solar generator will extend its lifespan and ensure it continues working efficiently. Here are some key maintenance tips:

Battery care – The battery is the heart of a solar generator. Store the generator in a cool, dry place when not in use. Avoid fully discharging the battery, and charge it regularly even when not used. Check the manufacturer’s guidelines for ideal charge levels. Some generators have replaceable batteries that may need changing every few years.

Source: https://www.bluettipower.com/blogs/news/a-guide-to-maintaining-your-portable-solar-generators

Cleaning solar panels – Dust, dirt, and debris blocking the solar panels will reduce charging efficiency. Gently wipe down the panels periodically with a soft cloth and mild cleaner. Avoid abrasive materials. Check that connections are free of corrosion.

Source: https://www.pointzeroenergy.com/taking-care-of-your-portable-solar-generator-ultimate-guide-to-maintenance/

Checking connections – Loose wiring can impact performance and be a safety hazard. Periodically inspect cables and connectors to ensure they are tightly secured. Check that protective casings are intact. Look for signs of wear or damage. Replace any deteriorating components.

Use cases

Portable solar generators are often used for emergency power situations, such as during power outages from storms or other disasters. The generators can provide electricity to power essential appliances and devices when the power grid is down [1]. This makes them a critical preparedness tool for many households.

Solar generators are also very popular for off-grid outdoor recreational activities like camping, tailgating, and RVing. Their ability to provide power away from electrical outlets makes them ideal for powering things like lights, small appliances, and electronic devices when enjoying the outdoors [2]. For many people, solar generators allow them to take modern conveniences with them while still being off-grid.

Additionally, some homeowners use solar generators to reduce dependence on the electrical grid. By pairing the generator with solar panels, they can collect sunlight during the day to charge the generator and then use that stored energy to run appliances and electronics. This allows them to reduce energy bills while still meeting their household power needs.

[1] https://www.bluettipower.com/blogs/news/solar-generators-applications
[2] https://www.goalzero.com/blogs/news/portable-solar-generators-101-how-they-work-types-why-you-need-one

Final verdict

In summary, portable solar generators offer a flexible and eco-friendly power source for off-grid activities, emergencies, and power outages. The key pros are portability, silent operation, and ability to recharge with solar. The cons are higher upfront costs than gas generators, lower power output, and reliance on sunny weather.

Portable solar generators make the most sense for:

  • Campers, RVers, and outdoor enthusiasts who want power while off-grid
  • Those who frequently experience power outages
  • People living in apartments or condos where a gas generator isn’t an option
  • Those wanting an emergency backup power source
  • People who value silent, eco-friendly power

When choosing a portable solar generator, look for:

  • Sufficient wattage and runtime for your needs
  • Quality solar panels that can fully recharge in 1-2 days
  • Inverter technology for running sensitive electronics
  • Enough outlets and ports for your devices
  • A reputable brand with good customer support

Taking these factors into account will ensure you select the right portable power station to fulfill your needs.

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