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We’ve all seen gas powered generators for homes, but now you can buy portable solar generators for camping, backpacking or as a backup power source. They’re available in different designs but all work the same way: the unit is charged with electrical power (via wall outlet) or solar energy (thru solar panels) and used to power electronic devices.
These solar generators are small enough to carry and make for an ideal companion for camping and outdoor trips. Solar power stations also make it easy to recharge smartphones and other devices.
A lot of people use them, but should you buy one? There are many reasons to buy a portable solar generator, but there are also some reasons not to. Keep reading and decide for yourself.
14 Reasons to Buy
There are many reasons why RVers, backpackers and solar users prefer portable generators. Let us go over the most pertinent reasons. If you don’t need any more convincing, here are the top 10 portable solar generators you can buy.
1. Sustainable Power
Solar energy is 100% free. With your generator you can charge your devices at zero cost, anywhere. If you’re in a remote location without access to a power outlet, just plug the cable to your phone and let the generator do the rest.
Do you want to explore the wild but afraid your phone will run out of charge? As long as you’re equipped with a solar generator you can go anywhere you want and recharge anytime. And it’s not just your phone as solar generators work with other electronic devices.
The difference between solar generators and gas powered generators is night and day. Solar generators give you free energy. Gas generators require fuel. Solar power is pollution free, while gas generators are huge pollutants. You can take portable solar stations anywhere, while gas generators are large, bulky units that have to remain stationary.
Soar power is sustainable and renewable. You can be anywhere and still charge with the sun. If your gas generator runs out of fuel and you’re in the middle of nowhere, it is useless.
2. Zero Noise Emission
Solar generators don’t make a noise like their fuel-based counterparts. Camping with a regular generator can be annoying with the sound, but with solar generators you can relax and go about your day without anything to distract you.
Portable solar stations are ideal for camping because they’re quiet. Getting back to nature is easy and you can have real peace time by yourself or with loved ones. It’s hard to do that with a bulky generator that is constantly whirring in the background.
3. Does Not Cause Pollution
Solar systems are pollution free and these generators are no exception. They are smaller than home solar systems but they run the same way. Solar panels can absorb the sun’s energy and store in the generator for later use. No pollution is produced during the process.
If you want to do your bit for the environment, going portable solar is one way. It’s not just the planet that benefits but you as well. A clean environment is good for everyone, and if you are a boondocker or frequent camper, pairing a solar generator with a solar panel makes a lot of sense.
4. Versatile Applications
When people think of portable solar stations, they see mobile phones being charged with sun power. But solar generators are not limited to these. You can use generators to power laptops, light bulbs, fans, radios and other electronic devices.
Solar generators are great for camping, but they can also be used for night time operations, agriculture, field study, scientific experiments, backup power and more. Even at home you can keep one to serve as backup in case of a blackout.
It is easy to overlook the many applications of solar generators. This is particularly true of portable models units because of their size. But solar power can be used for any electrical component. If a device runs on electrical power, that device can run on solar too.
5. An All in One Solution
With a traditional solar system, you have to buy the following components separately:
- Solar pane
- Battery bank
- AC DC inverter
- Charge controller
With a solar generator, you just need to buy the solar panel. The inverter, charge controller and battery are included. Once you buy a solar panel you just hook it up to the generator and it’s good to go. With a traditional solar system you have to connect the solar panel to the battery and other components..
Installing a solar system can be daunting for a beginner. With a solar generator, the process is greatly simplified so you enjoy the benefits of free energy right away. For simplicity and cost, it is hard to beat a solar generator.
If you are new to solar power, a portable generator is a good place to start. It is inexpensive and you’ll get an idea of what it can do. Take one the next time you go camping and give it a try. This gives you an opportunity to test its efficiency and if it meets your needs.
6. Comes with High Performance Lithium ion Batteries
Majority of solar generators are equipped with lithium ion batteries. Lithium ion batteries are superior to lead acid, with a longer lifespan and low maintenance. Lithium ion batteries for solar systems cost a bit more, but the smaller versions on solar generators are cheaper. Plus they come with the other solar components, saving you even more dollars.
Solar panels convert the sun’s energy into electric current, and it is stored in the battery. Without the battery you won’t be able to use this power. There are different battery sizes available for solar generators, so you should be able to find one that suits you.
7. Available in Different Specifications
Many solar generators are in the 120W to 200W range but large units are available. Some manufacturers offer 400W+ generators. Granted these are not as portable as the 120W version, but it only goes to show that when it comes to solar power, you have a lot of options. And the trade off between power and size may soon be a thing of the past. Solar power technology moves at a rapid pace, and it might not be long before we see several hundred watt generators in compact units available.
8. Efficient Energy Absorption
Today’s solar generators are energy efficient. The sophisticated designs limit the energy lost during the process, allowing the battery to maximize its capacity. MPPT charge controllers also optimize the process and speeds up charging.
Many solar generators have a voltmeter which lets you know how much is being stored and generated. It is a really useful tool especially if you use several devices. Most also have AC, DC and USB outputs so you have full control over its use.
9. Long Lifespan
Solar generators are built for long term use. Their warranties last for years and if taken care of, should last a decade or longer. Because solar generators don’t have complex or moving parts, there is less chance of something breaking due to wear and tear.
Price was one of the reasons why solar power couldn’t take off for a long time. These days you can buy a solar generator for less than $200. You can use it right away by charging it via electric wall outlet. You can also buy a solar panel so you can charge it with sun power. Some generators even have a built in solar panel.
Bundled components aside, the most important factor is durability. Solar power stations are way more durable than other electric power sources. Because they draw energy from the sun, there is no need for complex machinery. Just point the panel at the sun and nature does the rest. The battery is the only thing you have to care for, and if it’s lithium ion, maintenance is nil.
10. Compatible with All Kinds of Solar Panels
Solar generators are compatible with monocrystalline, polycrystalline and flexible solar panels. How much energy is stored depends on the generator and the panels’ capacity, but there won’t be any problems as long as the panels have an MC4 connector.
If you have never used solar power before, the various components might seem confusing. It isn’t, and with a solar generator it is even simpler. The fact that they’re compatible with all types of solar panels means you can just focus on the size.
We don’t foresee compatibility problems even as solar technology continues to advance. It all comes down to harnessing the sun’s energy so by its nature, solar power is simple and efficient. With the world relying more and more on renewable energy, solar based solutions will only get better.
11. Safe to Use
All the top solar generators today are UE and CL certified. These are the US standards for quality manufacturing, providing assurance of their quality and safety. You should always look or these safety / quality certifications for any solar product.
Fossil fuel based power sources always have risks. Short circuiting, explosions, exposed wiring, etc. You are limited in the locations you can use them and portability is difficult. You must always be near a power outlet. For homes it is all right, but for the outdoors it is impractical.
12. Easy to Use
Handheld solar generators don’t require complex installations. The battery and other essential parts are already set up. You just need to charge the unit via electrical power or solar panel and it’s ready for use. Their compact size also means you can take these generators with you practically anywhere without being slowed down.
With a solar panel, you can charge the generator when the stored power goes down. If you need to charge a phone or other device, connect it to the generator. That’s all you have to do. Every now and then you should wipe dirt from the panels and with that, the system should last you years.
There’s a reason why they’re called portable solar generators. They are light enough to carry and you can place them anywhere in your car, boat or RV. But you don’t lose much in terms of power so it’s as good a trade off as any.
14. Power Scalability
As stated earlier, solar generators come in various sizes. Do you need one primarily for phone charging? There are lots of options to choose from. Are you looking for additional power? Check the specs and you’re going to find more powerful solar generators available.
3 Reasons Not to Buy
We’ve explored the reasons why you should get a solar generator, Now let’s take a look at some reasons why you shouldn’t.
1. Power Supply is Limited
Solar generators cannot power an entire house. That is the trade off for the compact size. You also can’t use it to run a refrigerator, washer, microwave or AC. For something like an air conditioner or refrigerator, you’ll need a powerful solar panel and/or a high capacity battery.
These solar generators are meant for the traveler and camper who wants to charge their laptop and use some basic appliances. If you want to power your house or RV, you’ll have to get a large battery and an 800-1000+ watt solar panel.
Portable solar stations are useful, but they have limits. if you constantly need access to power hungry devices, these won’t suffice. Don’t buy a solar generator until you’re certain that it is exactly what you will need.
2. You Have Access to Other Power Sources
Some portable solar stations cost less than $200, so after a few weekend trips you should be able to recover that expense. But if you have access to other power sources, it doesn’t make sense to buy one. Solar power is for those who go into remote locations and places where electricity is limited or not available. If you don’t frequent those locations, there is no need for solar power.
For instance, suppose you go on long camping trips or even live in your RV. That sounds like a good candidate for solar generators. But it depends on your activities. If you’re happy with an electric power setup running your devices, stick with it. If your RV trips consist of moving from one RV campground to the next, a solar generator isn’t practical.
3. Recharging is Slow
Charging via solar is sow. Charging a phone via USB electricity might take a few hours if it’s completely depleted. But fully charging a portable solar generator could take 8 to 13 hours. How long it takes also depends on how much sunlight is present. If it’s a cloudy day, expect longer charging times.
Slow charges is probably the biggest adjustment you have to make. You won’t notice it with rooftop solar panels, but if your generator power goes down to zero, it will take hours to recharge to 100%. In this case, better recharge your generator with electric power as it is faster than solar.
The best way to deal with this is do short but frequent charges. Rather than wait for your generator to reach 0% then charge it to 100%, recharge it at 50% and charge until 85% This is quicker than a full charge, and it’s actually good for your electronics.
In the end, only you can say if a portable solar generator is something you will need. If you always have access to electrical power and don’t stray far from RV parks, a solar generator may not be worth getting now. But if you like to boondock and want to travel different places without giving up your favorite gadgets and essentials, it’s about time you start shopping for a portable solar generator.