Let’s face it. This is one question on the mind of individuals who have been seriously considering the adoption of solar generators in solving their electricity needs.
Taking a look at what the electricity situation was like back in a hundred years ago, it is a different story from what we have today. Back then, electricity was a luxury.
Even up to the 1930s, only 43% of American homes were even connected to the electrical grid. It is spectacular to see how power supply has transitioned from being a luxury then to a basic need today.
The quest for a safer, better, and more environmentally friendly power source gave rise to solar energy options, one of which is the solar generator. Since it became available to the populace for use, it has enjoyed an unprecedented level of acceptance for several reasons.
However, if you are worried because you don’t know exactly how effective it is, you need to understand its working principle from the basics. So that takes us to the question: How does a solar generator work?
Solar Generators: How Do They Work?
The idea behind a solar generator is quite simple. In fact, it is way more straightforward than the working principle behind any other known form of energy around.
Basically, solar generators make use of solar panels to trap photons from the sun and charge a battery in the generator. The trapped energy is in raw form and cannot be used. Therefore, it goes into an inverter that changes it from direct current to alternating current, making it usable for most appliances.
Basically, the inverter steps up the generator voltage rating from 12, 24, or 48 volts to the appliance voltage rating of 110 or 240 volts. Hence, the power is stored in the battery of the solar generator for usage at any time needed.
Solar generators are manufactured by several brands worldwide. Each of these brands makes sure to produce various models of solar generators.
These models have unique specifications and selling points designed to appeal to the needs of a targeted set of consumers. That is why solar generators vary in kilowatts, portability, durability, and all other qualities and components.
How Much Energy Can a Solar Energy Generator Supply?
The amount of energy provided depends on each device. Generally, solar generators sell at a storage capacity between 0.1 and 2 kWh. Therefore, a single solar power generator should not be expected to power large-scale systems.
What Is Generally the Powering Capacity of Solar Generators?
Taking a look at the design structure of a solar generator, it is easy to see that it was explicitly designed to take care of home appliances. Its usage also covers a reasonable number of industrial appliances depending on the generator’s capability and the power demand of the appliance.
Low power–consuming gadgets such as smartphones, tablets, and GPS can be powered fully several hundred times through solar energy. More power-consuming home appliances, such as a refrigerator, furnace/space heater, or AC unit, can run on a solar generator for a much shorter amount of time.
When it involves industrial equipment, there is a need to operate them with high-capacity solar generators.
Usually, they demand a great deal of power supply, and as you would expect, the number of hours of operation will definitely be lower than that of home appliances. More powerful equipment such as construction devices can only operate at low power through a solar power generator.
Qualities of Top Solar Generators
Definitely, all solar generators are not of the same grade and capacity. However, most of the top solar generators available in the solar generator market have a few things in common.
These give them an edge over the others, and they usually revolve around the subject of affordability. Others focus on efficiency.
- Sophistication Level: The first quality is the sophistication level. Fundamentally, complex technology is needed to drive top-notch generators. Their complexity makes for their efficiency; these generators are also easy to assemble. Manufacturers should provide a detailed manual of device assembly. A specification of each component should be included as well.
- Portability: The weight of a solar power generator matters a lot. Usually, solar generator needs exceeded usage within the house, especially for UV owners. There might be an outdoor event in which you will need to power a few devices to ensure that it runs smoothly. Lighter generators are quite preferable in this scenario as they are way more comfortable to carry around. However, most portable generators store less energy for usage—this one aspect that solar generator producers are still working around to find a solution.
- Inverter Grade: the inverter is a crucial component of a solar generator. It is responsible for converting crude photons of direct current to alternating current, making it ready for usage. Usually, a higher alternator wattage grade to rating is not always good for you. Every gadget you intend to power often has a maximum electrical threshold. Apart from converting direct current to alternating current, an inverter with the right grade or rating will stabilize the current being supplied to your gadgets.
- Battery Capacity: this is a significant determinant of how much energy your solar generator can store for usage. A lower-rated battery capacity solar generator will quickly run out of power supply. On the other hand, higher-rated battery capacity is ideal as it serves you longer and increases the chances of it being compatible with high wattage devices. Also, a good-quality battery prevents excessive charge (from the solar panel) from damaging the generator.
Categories of Solar Generators
Think of all the appliances that you know will need a power supply in your house. From your television to the refrigerator down to indoor lighting, all these are powered by a solar generator.
However, these solar generators are in several categories, and your needs will determine the type of solar generator you would want to acquire.
Backup Solar Generators
A combination of backup generators may be used with farm solar panels or near a power station system since the conventional electricity might not be available in such areas.
These generators are known to have the highest of alternator wattage rating to enhance their functionality. Most solar backup generators are designed to be used in an emergency during a power outage.
While the idea of a backup solar generator is not a bad idea, the main disadvantage of solar backup generators is that they are very heavy and can be difficult to move around.
Another downside of this category of the generator is the fact that they are quite expensive to purchase. That being said, individuals who can cope with these disadvantages can decide to adopt it for their usage.
Portable Solar Generators
As the name implies, these are generators that are quite small in size and weight. Much has been said about this solar generator type already. As you already know, the batteries are quite low in rating.
However, they are your best bet if all you wish to power are small appliances such as laptops, cameras, and the likes. Most of the time, a portable solar generator may come with a strap like a suitcase, making it easy for you to move it around.
Smart Solar Box
This type is not as common. Basically, it is a small solar generator with an automatic design. The automatic feature is made evident in the fact that it regulates energy according to its condition. It is designed from other components such as a car battery and a simple exterior to keep the battery safe.
Now, let’s take a look at some solar generator models and what they have to offer.
Goal Zero Yeti 200X Portable Power Station Review
With just a quick inspection of the Goal Zero Yeti 200X, a powerful little beast that can keep all your devices topped off, you are going to take note of a few things.
First, it is relatively compact compared to similar devices. Although you can’t exactly refer to it as pocket-sized, it is quite small, and you can refer to it as a micro-solar generator. To this end, it won’t take up much space in your vehicle if you decide to take it with you on a camping trip.
When it comes to its charging prowess, the Yeti 200X is not doing so badly for a solar generator of its caliber. It is equipped with a total capacity of 37,400mAh.
However, the casing of the solar generator also contains other essentials such as ports and wiring connections.
If you are looking for the easiest way to get this charged, it is via a wall outlet. You can charge the 200X fully in about 4 hours or thereabout when you use this method.
Another way to get this solar power kit charged up is through your vehicle’s cigarette lighter outlet. Charging through this outlet also takes about four hours.
Ultimately, you can also power the Yeti 200X via a solar panel. It tends to charge faster with this option depending on the solar panel’s capacity connected to it.
Like other solar generators, you need to ensure that it is maintained, especially when you don’t use it over time. This is because it is made from lithium batteries, and it will naturally lose its charge when they’re not in use. Due to this, the most reliable way to store it is to simply leave it plugged in even when it is not in use.
Temperature matters a lot when it comes to the usage of solar generators. For the Yeti 200X, it is designed to function well between 32 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
That said, users are warned against using it in extremely cold conditions. If you must use it in an extremely cold environment, you might want to keep it in a small styrofoam cooler placed in a protected space. Once you do this, the normal operation’s heat will quickly warm up the cooler and, by extension, the unit.
ROCKPALS 500W Portable Power Station (Small Solar Generator)
The Rockpals 500 solar power station is a 540Wh lithium battery solar generator that falls in the category of backup power supply solar generators as discussed earlier.
With 110V alternating current outlet, direct current port, car port, and Type C port, it has enough functions to win the hearts of individuals interested in boosting their power supply options.
In addition to that, it has an emergency light for camping outside the home. This is more than just a camping light. With the powerful LED light, this power station has two lighting modes: the first is the white light mode, which is typically used for lighting. The other one is basically designed to be used in the event of an outdoor emergency.
Here is a more comprehensive outline of its features:
- It comes with an LCD screen which is quite easy to read. There, you get to see information about the power system which includes the AC output power/load, battery capacity, over-temperature, fan, remaining time, and the likes.
- Recharging is done through photons trapped by the solar panel of 18V. This results in about 6-7 hours of charging to get the system fully charged. You can also decide to charge it using the wall charger, and it can be fully recharged within the same time-frame of about 6-7 hours. Another charging option is your 12V car charger which also takes within 6-7 hours
- It can fill in for the power-needs of a CPAP. This is basically done in two ways: the first is the 110V AC plug, and the other mode is the 12V car port plug.
- It is a reliable emergency power backup. Therefore, you can resort to it in times of a power outage for powering phones, laptops, CPAP, radio, and other low-power consuming home and outdoor appliances.
Jackery 1000 (Medium-Sized Solar Generator)
The Jackery 1000 Explorer power station is on a whole different level. It has escaped the mini solar generators’ league and is much closer to the big guys in the solar generator market.
It packs 1002 Watt-hour of power into a light and portable 22lbs. It is interesting how it is able to escape the rank of small solar generators yet still remain portable.
It is capable of putting out up to 1000W of power and at the same time, it can surge up to 2,000W when placed under a load of heavy appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines.
Going further, the Jackery 1000 is equipped with three AC sockets, dual USB-C ports, two USB Type-A ports, and one 12V carport. With these features, it is capable of charging laptops, power-sapping electrical devices, and mobile phones.
With solar fast-charging MPPT technology, the rechargeable battery on the Jackery 1000 can be fully charged in just 9 hours. This seems long. However, when you compare it with the battery capacity, you will spot the value it offers.
Titan Solar Generator
This is basically the biggest of the reviewed solar generators. Not only is it the biggest, but users claim it is the most versatile, expandable, and powerful portable solar generator available globally.
This is not an exaggeration. The fact that it has a battery expansion capability shows that the claims are true. The lithium-ion batteries on which it runs can be padded up two 2,000 watts in solar panels. This solar generator runs on a 3,000 watt and 120V inverter; what a great capacity it has!
It is also interesting to note that it can serve up to 10,000wh in battery capacity. As expected, it uses a 24V battery setup instead of the lower 12V as seen in other units.
The fact that its battery life cycle is rated to be a little over 2,000 shows that you are not likely to have a reason to replace it anytime soon. With this specification, it is not surprising that it supports simultaneous charging such that you can make use of multiple charge ports at once.
Users of Titan solar generators have testified to their efficacy as they basically have almost no cause for complaint—there is little wonder why the manufacturers are confident enough to slam a warranty of 2 years on the product.
It is clear to see that solar generators can be really effective. All you need do is identify your power needs and go for a solar generator that can take care of them effectively. Before purchasing a solar generator, do your research. There are lots of great options out there.