The portable solar generator is suitable for:
Although gas-powered generators can do the work they are loud, smelly, and pollute the environment.
Solar generators are clean, easy to use, and do not use fossil fuels to give you light.
They are becoming more and more affordable with passing time due to improvements in solar technology.
What are the best solar generators/power stations for outdoors?
I have researched the top 3 portable solar-powered generators in the mid-range that are capable of meeting your outdoor energy needs, and these are:
Goal Zero Yeti 1500x
More Power: This heavy solar generator comes with an inverter that provides 2000-watt output power to your appliances on a steady basis and 3500 Watts surge power allows handle the surge of heavy devices like full-size refrigerators, medical devices, power tools, etc with ease.
Multiple Ports: Yeti 1500x has 7 different ports that allow you to power a wide range of appliances simultaneously. Moreover, its 60W USB C power delivery port offers fast charging
Ensures maximum power under the sun: When you're outdoors, its integrated MPPT solar charge controller ensures that your battery gets the maximum power from the solar panels.
Remote Monitoring: It's Yeti App 3.0 enables you to monitor and control power usage through the real-time power consumption notifications on your smartphone.
Panel briefcase: It comes with 2x50 watts solar panels which are made of strong tampered glass and an aluminium frame with extra protection at the corners.
All this is packed in a canvas bag for easy movement when you are out.
Multiple charging options: You can charge your Yeti fully with Solar (4-8 hours with 2 x 200 watts solar panels), AC plug (12.5 hours), and car charge cable (11 hours)
You can recharge your smartphone (12 Wh) 125+ times, Laptop (50 Wh) 30+ times, DSLR camera (18Wh) 84+ times.
It is a simple MATH:
Just divide the capacity of Yeti that is 1516 Wh by the energy consumption of any device, you get the answer.
Similarly, it can power your portable fridge (25 Wh), Pellet Grill (60 Wh), Television (100 Wh) multiple times and makes your trip enjoyable.
It comes with a strong Li-ion battery with a pack capacity of 1516 Wh (10.8 volts, 140.4 Ah) with 500 cycles.
The shelf life of the battery is 3-6 months.
The Yeti 1500x weighs around 45.64 lbs (20.7 kg) comes with a warranty of 24 months.
What you'll get in the pack?
Jackery Explorer 1000 Portable power station
Jackery is a California-based company that pioneers in providing power solutions through its innovative products, improve the mobile and outdoor life.
Jackery Explorer 1000 has an inverter that can provide power up to 1000 watts on a steady basis and has 2000 watts as a peak rating.
Its pure sine wave inverter provides smooth electrical waves to your electrical appliances.
As a result,
they run without making noise, require less maintenance and have longer usable life.
Its multiple input/output ports let you power different types of devices simultaneously.
(*USB-C ports are small in size and usually carry more power than the normal ones. In short, you can charge your devices and transfer data much faster by using these ports. The beauty of these ports is that you won’t need to flip the connectors once or twice to find the right orientation. You can insert the cord in any way.)
Its 1002 Wh (46.4 Ah/21.6 V) battery capacity with >= 500 cycles is enough to power most of the devices like cameras, computers, electric grill, etc that are used when you're outdoors.
It has a very strong Battery Management System (BMS) that gives your unit:
You can check the charging and discharging status of the battery by looking at the LCD screen fitted in the unit.
The LCD starts flickering when the battery discharges to 20% and 10% of its capacity.
It only weighs 22 lbs (around 10 kgs), making it easy to carry and transport.
Its integrated MPPT technology allows you to charge the unit at a faster rate.
(The Explorer can be charged within 8 hours under good sunlight by using their 2 x 100 watts Solar Saga panels.)
*Please note that the charging time with solar panels may vary due to variation in sunlight because of changes in location, weather, and climate.)
The other 3 charging options that are available for you in addition to the solar charging are:
What is in the box?
Eco Flow Delta Power Station
This power station can power 13 wide range of devices simultaneously, making it the most versatile power station in the market.
Moreover, its patented X-stream technology powers it from 0% t0 80% within 1 hour, one of the fastest charging technologies available in the portable power stations market.
It's 4 x 110 watts Eco Flow solar panels can charge the unit completely within 4-8 hours depending on the sunlight.
You can also charge the unit completely in 10 hours using the car port
Its large inverter can power 1800 watts on a continuous basis with a surge power of 3300 watts and a battery capacity of 1260 Wh (lithium-ion), making it a strong contender for powering heavy duty devices.
The strong battery management system has given its battery a shelf life of 1 year with a life span of 800 cycles to 60%.
What is in the box?
The Comparison: Yeti 1500X vs. Explorer 1000 vs. Eco Flow DELTA
You can see in the comparison chart above that each solar power station has a unique set of features that have made them stand apart.
Yeti's high battery capacity, large continuous, and peak inverter power have made it handle high power devices with comfort.
Explorer's compact size and light-weight have given it a cutting edge in terms of portability.
DELTA's lead in terms of fast charging, wide operating temperature, and the number of ports has made it the most versatile solar power station in the mid-segment category.
Buying Guide for Users
What is Portable Solar Power Generator or Station?
The portable solar power station is an arrangement that stores sunlight in the form of chemical energy in the battery which is to be used later when no other source of light is available or during an emergency.
The portable solar generator has 4 main components:
Let's understand this 4-step process of electricity generation.
Step 1: The solar panel converts the sunlight into direct current.
When photons of light fall on the surface of the panel that is made of silicon cells, the electrons in the outermost shell absorb energy and get excited.
These excited electrons constitute electric current which is direct or in simple words has constant value with respect to time.
This direct current enters into the solar charge controller.
Step 2: The solar charge controller regulates the flow of current into the battery.
If the battery is empty or almost discharged, then the charge controller lets full flow of current from the panels into the battery.
When it sees that the battery is near to full, it reduces the flow of current.
And when it fully charged, it allows only a trickle charge to pass into battery to keep it in fully charged condition.
Also, during the night or cloudy weather conditions, it prevents the back-flow of the current from the battery to panels.
Step 3: The Battery stores the current in the form of chemical energy.
The benefit of this chemical energy is that it can be stored in potential form that can be used later when required.
During the night or bad weather conditions, the battery starts making current that goes inside the inverter.
Step 4: Inverter converts direct current into alternating current.
(Alternating current is a type of current that changes its value continuously with respect to time.)
This alternating current runs our light, fans, fridge, etc. and we enjoy smooth electricity.
Advantages of Solar Generators
i) Pollution-free: Solar generators take energy from the sun by using solar panels. This sunlight is clean and pollution-free.
Hence solar generators do not produce any pollutants that are harmful to the environment.
When you’re using solar generators, means you’re contributing to better environment.
ii) Free fuel that is sunlight: The traditional gas-powered generators need a constant supply of fossil fuels to provide you current.
This fuel comes at a cost that you need money to buy fuel for your gas-powered generator
On other hand, the fuel of solar generators is sunlight that is available to you free of cost anywhere in this world.
iii) Quiet and Low maintenance: Another great thing about solar generators is that they are quiet unlike traditional gas-powered generators which are loud, and smelly.
It means that they are not producing sound energy.
In other words, they are more effective in converting sunlight into the current.
Moreover, they require less maintenance when compared to gas-powered generators.
How to choose a Solar Generator?
People usually get confused with so many options out there in the market.
Choosing becomes easier when you start defining your requirements.
Step 1: How you want to use it?
When you require it for outdoor activities like camping, fishing, RV boating, and other outdoor activities then portable solar generators are the best options.
They are compact, light in weight, and effective enough to light several electronics/electrical devices like flashlights, Laptops, smartphones, and meet your energy needs very effectively.
If you want power backup for your home then we need solar generators with high wattage capacity that are capable of powering heavy electrical appliances like fridges, heaters, and other electrical appliances.
For that, you need a home solar power system and the first step of doing this is to estimate your home energy need.
Step 2: Size the Solar Power Station
The over-sized solar power station may increase the cost without fully utilizing its power
an under-sized system may not meet the energy needs that can give you a bad experience.
Therefore, it is very important to size the unit according to the energy needs to get the best utilization of your money and the power of the solar generator.
(a) Let's start sizing the battery of the solar power station.
The capacity of the battery is an important aspect of any solar generator.
In simple words, its capacity tells that how many hours you can run your electrical appliances when you are out travelling.
(An under-sized battery may spoil your fun and you may run out of power soon.)
The battery stores the solar energy in the form of chemical energy, a kind of potential energy that can be used later when required.
Let us understand with the help of an example:
# Energy requirement of individual appliances is calculated by multiplying values in column Power, Quantity and Usage.
# The total energy is calculated by adding all the individual energy requirement that is 892 Wh
# The total power is calculated by adding the individual power rating of all the appliances
You can see that the total power of the appliances is 733 watts and the total energy consumption is 892 Wh.
These 2 values will help us in sizing the solar power solution.
For battery capacity, I should look for the energy consumption value that is 892 Wh.
Therefore, I should pick the battery with an 892 w-hr rating
The Battery capacity is measured in ampere-hour, not in watt-hour
When the battery voltage is 12 volts then the Ampere-hr would be:
Ampere x hour = w-hr/volts
= 892 w-hr/12
= 74.33 ampere-hr
But batteries are not supposed to be discharged completely as it affects their life and performance.
I’m taking the DOD as 80%
It means one should not discharge beyond 80% of its capacity.
Dividing the above result by DOD:
= 74.33 amp-hr /0.8
= 92.92 amp-hr
The nearest configuration in the market is a 12 volts/ 100 amps-hr battery to meet the outdoor energy demands.
If you don’t want to go into Math calculation then keep the simple thing in mind that the battery capacity should be at least 1000 w-hrs
Lithium-ion batteries are generally used in portable solar generators because they are compact, light-weight, and have more usable cycles that their counterpart lead-acid batteries.
Although they are expensive than lead-acid batteries but their advantages over lead-acid batteries make them the best buy for outdoor applications.
(b) Choosing a charge controller: It is very important as it regulates the battery voltage and protects it from being over-charged.
It blocks the reverse current going into the panel.
There are 2 types of the solar charge controller are available in the market:
Although both are sophisticated technology what makes MPPT edges out over PWM is its ability to capture the voltage difference between the panel voltage and the battery voltage.
It converts that difference into an equivalent amount of amperage providing maximum power to the batteries thus reducing their charging time.
If you’re living in a low-temperature region and where sunlight intensity is less or variable then MPPT solar charge controller is a good option.
c) Inverter Sizing: Solar Panels product direct current but most of our appliances run on AC current.
There are several benefits of running your appliances on ac current.
That is why we need something that can convert direct current into alternating current.
This function is performed by the inverter.
It converts, amplifies, and step-ups the voltage that is required by the electrical appliances.
The inverters are designed to provide 2 types of power one is running power and another is starting or surge power.
For example, when you run a fan of 80 watts, it will withdraw 120 watts for first few seconds and then it will settle down to 80 watts.
The 2 ratings would be:
Peak rating is 120 watts (maximum power) that it can handle for a short period.
Continuous rating is 80 watts that the inverter needs to provide on a steady basis.
Now coming to its sizing:
The total power of the appliances is 733 watts
Add multiplier of 1.2 as a cushion, we get 1.2 x 733 = 879.6 watts
So, 880 watts would be the continuous power of the inverter and the peak power is 880 x 2 = 1760 watts.
Therefore, you should look for the power station that has an inverter rating of 880 watts (continuous power) and 1760 watts (peak or surge power).
d) Panel Size: We know that it converts sunlight into electric current.
It is the most important component in any portable solar generator.
The more efficient panel will generate more current in less area and would be less bulky.
When on out for camping, you would love to keep the luggage light and compact.
Therefore, looking for the most efficient solar panels is the right decision.
The output of the panel depends on the Peak Sun Hours in your region:
You can see in the chart above that the Peak Sun Hours in Arizona are 6.44.
the Peak Sun Hours in California are 5.73.
There are 2 main types of solar panels available in the market:
The Size of the solar panels depends on the energy requirements.
As calculated above, we need 892 Whr of energy.
Then the size of the solar panel would be:
Let’s say you live in Arizona where peak sun hours are 6.4
In that case, the size of the solar panels would be:
Take a multiplier of 1.3 as a cushion to compensate for the losses.
Now the real size would be 140 watts x 1.3 = 182 watts.
We calculated the battery capacity as 892 W-hr according to our energy needs.
To calculate the time taken by 182 solar panels to completely charge an 892 W-hr battery, simply divide the battery capacity by power of the solar panels.
We can do like this:
While 182 watts solar panels will take slightly more time to charge the same battery when placed in California.
As we don't find 182 watts panels in the market, therefore round it off to 200 watts.
Simple steps for sizing the solar power station:
1) Add the power of appliances that you want to run on the solar generator to get the total power of the devices.
2) Get the total energy need by calculating single device energy need (by multiplying the power of individual device with the no hours of usage) and then adding them all to get the total energy need.
3) Multiply the total power (you get in step 1) by 1.2 to get the continuous rating of the inverter.
4) Multiply the result in step 3 by 2 to get the surge/peak rating of the inverter.
5) Divide the result of step 2 by 0.8 (Depth of Discharge of the battery) to get the rating of the battery in W-hr.
6) Divide the result of step 2 by the Peak Sun Hours in your region and then multiply it by 1.3 to get the size of the solar panels.
You get the complete size of your SOLAR POWER STATION
Step 3: Assess your future needs
Although you have sized the complete solar power station considering present energy needs,
But it might increase in the future.
Therefore, if you foresee an increase in energy needs then it is advisable to buy a slightly over-sized solar generator now then to do it later.
Because adding extra parts later to re-size the configuration would be cumbersome, costly and the output may not be as smooth as you would be expecting.
Step 4: Consider the weight
It is obvious that when you're buying a solar power generator for outdoors then it should be lightweight, compact, and durable.
The weight of the generators starts from 4 lbs and can go as heavy as 200 lbs.
The ideal weight range for portable solar generators (mid-range) could be 20 lbs (9 kg) - 40 lbs (18 kg). A 10%-15% deviation is accepted, depending on your power needs.
Step 5: Predict the life-cycles of your battery
The life cycle of any battery is the number of cycles (1 cycle = 1 charge + 1 discharge) it can complete before losing its performance.
The battery should not be discharged beyond its DOD (depth of discharge) as it affects the life of the battery and its performance.
Assuming, you go for outdoor trips twice a week.
Every-time one complete battery cycle is utilized.
Therefore, in a month 2 x 4 (four weeks in a month) = 8 complete cycles are utilized.
In a year, it would be 8 x 12 = 96 complete battery cycles.
In 5-years, the MATH would 96 x 5 years = 480 complete battery cycles.
Therefore, you should look for a battery with at least 500 life cycles as it will take you 5 years to reach 500 life cycles.
So, don't worry about replacing them anytime soon :)
Step 5: Safety
Although, I'm mentioning it at step 5 but SAFETY should be your foremost requirement while choosing a solar power station/ generator.
Your Solar Power Station must have a strong Battery Management System (BMS) that enables short-circuit protection, voltage control, temperature control, over-charging protection, and other advanced safety features.
In addition to this, the unit should have the following certifications:
FCC certified: It means that the electromagnetic radiations from the electronic device are within the permissible limits as specified by the Federal Communications Commission.
RoHS certified: Restriction of use of Hazardous Substances like lead, mercury, cadmium etc in electrical and electronics equipment.
The RoHS compliant manufacturer will not exceed the allowable amounts of restricted materials based on the European Union's Directive.
UN 38.3 certified: It means that the lithium-ion batteries can be safely transported by air, sea, rail, and roadways.
CE certified: It means that the products have met the health, safety, and environmental standards that ensure consumer and workplace safety.
Step 6: Other convenient features
Your solar power station should have features so that you can operate unit easily and comfortably while on go.
Step 7: Quality and the Warranty
Your portable unit is built for outdoors and it should sustain the harsh weather conditions to power your devices when you're out for an adventure.
One way to do this is to look for the warranty of the unit.
A warranty of at least 24 months indicates that the unit is a quality product.
Important Safety Instructions
Following safety instructions will not only keep you safe but also will improve the quality life of the unit.
One should follow the following safety instruction while operating the unit:
Troubleshooting your solar power station
Troubleshooting is a process of tracing and then correcting the faults in the unit.
Let's see the most probable solution to the common errors/problems in the unit.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q1: How to know the working time of my device?
Ans: The working time can easily be calculated by knowing the battery capacity of the solar generator.
Assuming, the battery capacity is 1200 Whr with DOD of 80% and you want to run 60 watts TV.
Then the running time of the TV = (1200 Wh x 0.8)/60 watts = 16 hours approximately
Q2: Name some common devices and their power ratings that can be powered using a solar generator.
Ans: The common devices are:
Q3: How long the battery can store the full charge if left unused?
Ans: The battery is usually capable of holding a charge for about a year. But it is generally recommended to charge the battery within 3-4 months for its healthy performance.
Q4: Can I use and charge my solar generator at the same time?
Ans: Yes, now almost all the generators offer this option.
Q5: Can I plug in devices having power greater than the output power of the inverter?
Ans: No, you can't. It is a case of overload. The unit will shut down automatically.
Q6: Can I take my portable power station on a flight?
Ans: No, under FAA regulations you're not allowed to take any battery having capacity beyond 100 Wh on a plane.
Q7: Why charging time of the unit with the solar panels varies?
Ans: It depends on the sunlight. When the sunlight is good, your panels produce more current and the unit gets charged faster.
In cloudy weather, the sunlight is less, therefore, it takes longer for the panel to charge the unit.
The above are the top portable solar power station in the market.
However, your choice of the best one depends on your energy needs, lifestyle, and budget.