Solar generators are great items to have on hand. However, they do cost a great deal of money upfront. It can be difficult to decide if having one is worth the investment.
Solar generators are worth the money because they provide consistent off-grid power, are low maintenance, and require zero additional expenses after their initial purchase. Solar generators receive a federal tax credit and, if connected to the grid, extra solar energy can be sold to your utility.
For more information on the Federal Solar Tax Credit, read my article reviewing the topic here: Are Solar Generators Tax Deductible? (Federal Solar Tax Credit).
Whether or not this system makes sense to buy depends on a variety of factors.
In this guide, we will go over things that can help you decide whether or not a solar generator is worth the money.
Read on to learn more about all that will influence whether or not you invest in this product.
Are Solar Generators Any Good?
Solar generators are good for several reasons, including reduced utility costs, reliable off-grid power, zero fumes/emissions, free solar energy, and nearly zero maintenance due to few moving parts within the system.
Some additional benefits include:
- Not complicated to set up
- Good for the environment
- Can be portable depending on the system you get
With that being said, perhaps other versions of generators are better for your circumstances.
What Can You Run On a Solar Generator?
Solar generators can run devices and appliances including smartphones, laptops, tablets, fans, refrigerators, and power tools for several hours. Due to the wide variety of solar generator options available, smaller models cannot power appliances while larger solar generators can.
I created an article putting three large solar generators to the test to see how long they could power four different full-size refrigerators. Check out my findings here: 3 Best Solar Generators for Your Fridge (With Run Times).
How Long Will a Solar Generator Last?
The longer a solar generator will last, the more valuable it is.
After analyzing ten popular solar generator models from various brands, I came upon the following three conclusions relating to the average overall lifespan of a solar generator:
- The average solar generator will last 6.52 years when using one battery lifecycle per day before reaching 80% of its original battery capacity. This means that it can last even longer than the stated years but its battery size will continue to decline over this period.
- On average, solar generators with LiFePO4 batteries will last 13.02 years (to 80% battery capacity) when using one battery lifecycle per day. At the same usage rate, solar generators with lithium-ion batteries will last 2.19 years on average.
- Although the solar generator’s solar panels will typically last from 25-35 years, the battery within the power station will likely last for a shorter timespan. The power station’s battery type and frequency of use will determine how long the solar generator as a whole will be functional.
The previous conclusions came from my calculations below.
Not everyone will use their solar generator in the same fashion as another, so I calculated two separate averages – one for frequent users (one cycle per day) and one for more moderate users (four cycles per week).
|Model||Brand||Rated Battery Cycle Life (Lifecycles) to 80% Capacity||Solar Generator Lifetime Using One Cycle Per Day (to 80% Battery Capacity)||Solar Generator Lifetime Using Four Cycles Per Week (to 80% Battery Capacity)||Battery Type|
|EP500Pro||Bluetti||6,000||16.44 years||28.77 years||LiFePO4|
|EP500||Bluetti||6,000||16.44 years||28.77 years||LiFePO4|
|Delta Pro||EcoFlow||3,500||9.59 years||16.78 years||LiFePO4|
|AC200P||Bluetti||3,500||9.59 years||16.78 years||LiFePO4|
|Titan||Point Zero Energy||2,000||5.48 years||9.59 years||Lithium-ion|
|Delta 1300||EcoFlow||800||2.19 years||3.83 years||Lithium-ion|
|Yeti 6000X||Goal Zero||500||1.37 years||2.4 years||Lithium-ion|
|Yeti 3000X||Goal Zero||500||1.37 years||2.4 years||Lithium-ion|
|Explorer 2000||Jackery||500||1.37 years||2.4 years||Lithium-ion|
|River||EcoFlow||500||1.37 years||2.4 years||Lithium-ion|
LiFePO4 Average: 4,750
Lithium-ion Average: 800
|Average: 6.52 years|
LiFePO4 Average: 13.02 years
Lithium-ion Average: 2.19 years
|Average: 11.41 years|
LiFePO4 Average: 22.79 years
Lithium-ion Average: 3.84 years
Now, we will go over the pros and cons of solar generators as a whole to help you understand if their benefits outweigh their downsides.
Pros of Investing in a Solar Generator
Pro #1 – They Provide Free Energy
One of the best parts of solar generators is the fact that they provide free energy.
There is the initial cost of the system, but from that point on, it provides you with power coming straight from the sun.
Having access to free energy means:
- A lower-cost overall: Without the need to buy fuel, the savings acquired over time from solar energy will be significant.
- Less hassle compared to gas generators: Gas generators require refueling which results in making sure you have enough fuel in case you need it.
- You can use it anytime: You can use this device anytime with the proper setup. Having the right solar panel setup is important for this benefit.
The ability to utilize power without worrying about locating a source of fuel is great for a reliable off-grid power system.
For additional information comparing solar and gas generators, I recommend reading through my brief analysis of the two systems in my post here: Gas vs Solar Generators – Which Makes More Sense?.
Pro #2 – They Are Low Maintenance
Solar generators do not require a lot of maintenance.
Gas generators require more maintenance than their solar counterpart because their engines have several moving parts that need to be working in unison while also being properly lubricated. The only moving parts in a solar generator are its cooling fans.
This means that virtually anyone can keep them up and running, no matter the experience level with using technology.
Maintenance required, if any, is minimal.
Some major maintenance benefits include:
- No oil changes: Since there are no moving parts in a solar generator besides its cooling fans, oil changes are not required. Nothing needs to be oiled to run more smoothly. This is simultaneously great for your pocket and the environment.
- Avoiding broken parts: With few moving parts, you don’t need to worry about buying spares if something goes wrong and a part breaks.
Pro #3 – They Operate Quietly
The cooling fans and sometimes the inverter within a solar generator are the only components that create sound when in use.
In addition to zero emissions, low levels of noise allow you to use these systems effectively indoors.
Quiet operation can come in handy if:
- You’re camping: Sometimes, a generator is needed in a camping situation. A gas-powered version can be loud and disturbing to both your party and those around you. The solar-powered generator is a quiet solution.
- You’re having a party: No one wants to hear the loud hum of a generator during a gathering, but sometimes it is necessary. A solar-powered generator allows conversations of all volumes to be heard!
- You’re using it at night: Sometimes the power goes out at night. You may need off-grid power, but you also need sleep. A solar generator will allow these needs when/if this occurs.
Pro #4 – They Can Be Portable
Portable power is a great advantage to anyone who is constantly on the go.
Many solar generator varieties are lightweight and made to be transferred from place to place easily.
If you are someone who constantly needs power on the go, this is perfect for you. The machine will be able to follow you wherever you are.
Portable solar generators vary greatly in size depending on the power output and battery capacity.
Below I show some examples of areas you can take a solar generator for portable use and link to articles I’ve written on those specific topics.
Here are some areas where you might want to bring along a portable solar generator:
Sometimes, you need a little extra power on a camping trip.
Whether it’s for your RV or your tent/campsite, you can find a portable generator that will be sized correctly for your camping needs.
I have an article for you to read for camping solar generators as it discusses systems ranging from 155-1,500Wh: Top 15 Best Solar Generators for Camping (Small to Large).
2. Off-Grid Cabin
You may need a portable power solution for your cabin depending on your current electrical setup within the cabin.
Having a solar generator that you can move around easily can keep your phones and other devices charged regardless of where you’re at on your property.
For a lightweight system based on my previous example scenario, I recommend the Jackery Explorer 1000 from my top five list here: 5 Best Solar Generators for Cabins (Plus Example Scenario).
3. In Your Car
If you keep the solar generator charged, you can keep it in your car for use in an emergency or for typical charging purposes.
I highlight these models and an additional generator in the middle of those two in my article found here: 3 Best Solar Generators for Your Car – What Can They Power?.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a large portable system that can supply as much power as possible, check out my article discussing the top solar generators that come with wheels for better maneuverability: #1 Solar Generator on Wheels (With Honorable Mentions).
Understand Your Intended Use
Portability means access to power even in places where there are no outlets.
In the middle of nowhere, you can carry your solar generator and bring life to your situation.
As long as you measure what you intend to use the generator for in terms of power consumption, you will be set for your next excursion off the grid.
Cons of Investing in a Solar Generator
Now that you are familiar with the pros of the solar generator, it’s time to go over the cons.
The poor aspects of investing in a solar generator are critical to understand as they can help you to see the bigger picture of what you would be getting yourself involved with.
Con #1 – The Initial Price Point
As with many items, the initial cost of a solar generator varies significantly depending on how large of a solar generator you intend to get.
The least expensive systems cost around $150-250, whereas the largest solar generators (that are typically used for partial home backup power) can cost in the thousands of dollars.
Some examples of great solar generators on Amazon and their price points include:
- Best Value (Small Size): The Jackery Explorer 240 ($200)
- Best Multipurpose: The Bluetti EB70 ($600)
- Best Value (Medium-Large): The Bluetti EB150 ($1,000)
The cost of the solar generator often depends on the size of the battery and overall power output, the number of panels it may come with, and the quality of the product you are purchasing.
For you, the price might turn you away. However, it is critical to see how the perks affect the price. Sometimes, a big investment will pay off for your pockets in the long run.
Con #2 – They Need to Recharge
A solar generator will need to recharge once the power inside its battery is used up.
This can take a long time depending on:
- How much power you use daily
- Sunlight conditions
- Whether you can use the system while it is recharging or not
- The solar panel maximum input
- Size of the battery
The recharging time certainly removes convenience as it can take multiple hours to fully recharge a solar generator’s battery.
It can be annoying, particularly if you are in a hurry and/or live in a location that has spotty sunlight.
To mitigate this issue, make sure to:
1. Use Its Maximum Solar Input
Every solar generator has a maximum solar input.
If you proportion your solar panel setup correctly, you’ll get the fastest possible charging time.
2. Use the Included Wall Charger
This applies mainly to portable solar generators where you’ll be taking the system with you on an adventure of some sort.
You can utilize its wall charger (in addition to solar charging) to speed up the recharging process before heading out.
EcoFlow has some of the fastest wall-charging solar generators – Check out the details of their systems as I compare them to Jackery’s power stations here: EcoFlow vs. Jackery – Full Solar Generator Comparison (With Specs).
3. Correctly Position & Prep the Solar Panel
Positioning is everything. Everyone knows to put the panel in good sunlight with no obstructions; however, the lesser-known tips are to:
- Angle the solar panel(s) perpendicular to the sun: Several solar panels come with kickstands. Using these or another object to angle the panels so they’re directly facing the sun will give you more power output.
- Spray some water on the solar panel surface: At the start of your solar recharging process, spray some water on the solar panel’s surface to temporarily increase the power intake of the panels.
Recharging can be an annoying process. If you need something instantaneous, this might not be the option for you.
Using it often is what makes the solar generator worth your money.
If you can’t spend the time to charge it, you likely will not get all that you can out of the power provided.
For some help in finding the fastest-charging solar generators, I created a list of them in my article here: Top 5 Fastest Charging Solar Generators (Via AC Outlet & Solar Panels).
Con #3 – They Can Be Sensitive to High Temperatures
Even though a solar generator uses the sun with its panels, the power station housing the battery is susceptible to high temperatures while in operation (typically anything over 104 degrees Fahrenheit).
This means that you will need to keep an eye on it if you decide to take it outside and put it to use.
Sometimes, the strain of operation in the summer months can cause it to temporarily shut down if its operating environment is too hot.
Due to this, it’s recommended to place it in a cool, dry environment where the air is circulated.
This will allow its cooling fans to work appropriately to keep the battery from overheating.
Con #4 – More Power Requires a Larger Size
If you’re looking for a generator with a lot of power (both in power output and battery capacity), you may have to sacrifice portability.
In general, the more output power desired, the larger the generator. This will cost more money and sacrifice many of the benefits that come from having a smaller system.
If you aren’t moving your generator to and from your home, this won’t be a problem.
However, if you need it for camping or other adventures that require movement, it will be difficult to maneuver.
The best portable power station when comparing its power output to its overall weight is the Jackery Explorer 1000.
It weighs 22 pounds and its AC ports can output up to 1,000 watts continuously.
If you’re looking for a system for use on the go but don’t want to sacrifice power, I recommend this system. Find my full analysis of it here: Jackery Explorer 1000 Portable Power Station – Review and Analysis.
Con #5 – Energy Supply Is Not Consistent
The reality of the sun is that it’s not always out. This can make it hard for the solar generator to always have power, especially if you live in an area where sunny days are just as common as overcast.
Ideally, if you want a solar generator, you should live in a place that has the following types of climates:
- Tropical: Tropical climates typically have an average temperature of just under seventy degrees throughout the year. This means that the sun is out more often.
- Sub-Tropical: A sub-tropical climate isn’t quite as warm as a tropical one, but it typically provides enough light for a solar generator to thrive.
If you live in a cloudy area, you might want to think twice about paying a lot of money for a solar generator.
If you have sun during the warmer months and will use it then, it makes sense.
If your location is overcast all year long and you need power, this item may not be worth it for you. You want to be able to get as much use out of it as you can.
A Solar Generator Can Be Effective In Cloudy Weather
Tropical and sub-tropical climates are clearly ideal for sunlight, but if your residence typically has cloudy or unpredictable weather, a simple (but more expensive) solution is to add more solar panels to your solar array.
For example, if you’re getting half of your average solar panel input during a cloudy day, then you should get twice the number of solar panels to make up for the difference in power received.
If you’re located in the Pacific Northwest or a similar location where cloudy cover is common throughout the year, this can be a solution for your off-grid needs.
For home solar installation, it’s always good to consult a professional in your area to help you determine what size system would work best for your climate type.
For more information on solar panel installation, I recommend reviewing my guide where I discuss tips for installing panels on your home and RV: Solar Panel Installation – Step-By-Step for Home and RV.
Is a Solar Generator a Good Investment?
A solar generator is a good investment because it provides consistent off-grid electricity while using free solar energy to recharge. A solar generator using a LiFePO4 battery will give you the greatest return on your investment as it will last longer than any other battery type.
In the journal titled Synthetic Metals, the benefits of LiFePO4 batteries over lithium-ion batteries are discussed in detail – with explanations regarding its increased cycle life and overall safer cell chemistry.
The best reasons that a solar generator is worth your money include:
- The money you will save: The solar generator will indeed cost you a bit more upfront. However, the repairs and gas that need to be purchased for a fuel generator can add up quickly. The solar generator just needs the sun, and so it will eventually save you money with long-term use.
- The variety of available options: From the small and portable Jackery 240 to the massive Bluetti EP500, there are a wide variety of solar generators on the market that can fit what you’re looking to get out of it.
Solar generators are an excellent option if you are searching the market for a consistently reliable off-grid power solution.
Though they are expensive upfront and require the right environment and solar panel pairings to work optimally, they will end up costing you less in terms of fuel and maintenance.
You still need to decide for yourself, but overall they are of high value due to their ability to work completely off the grid.
If you currently live in the United States and are looking into solar generators for your home, you can get up to a 26% reduction from the total cost of your system thanks to the Federal Solar Tax Credit.
My article on this topic discusses the benefits in more detail here: Are Solar Generators Tax Deductible? (Federal Solar Tax Credit).