Since the advent of electricity, for obvious reasons, the quality of our lives has improved, and this is hardly subject to any debate.
Stable electricity is vital to almost every career, business, and organization, and as little as a few minutes of an outage can potentially lead to the loss of millions of dollars.
Well, not just that, occasionally we may need to spend time with our friends and/or family away from the hassle of ‘public space,’ behold beautiful mother nature, and sometimes meet our cravings for some privacy. It is during these outings that electricity usually fails us.
It’s hard to imagine an outright replacement or alternative to electricity in the modern world, but there are indeed backups. Whatever you do, wherever you stay or go, and whoever you are, you surely need a backup for electricity.
No matter how reliable power supply has become, a power outage is much more a question of ‘when’ not ‘if’. Hurricanes and strong winds are the most likely source to cut off your power grid supply. Equipment failure is also a common occurrence amongst other unforeseen circumstances that may arise, causing power outages.
In addition, hunting experiences, hiking, and camping are among the many wonderful experiences where electricity is not readily available. Thus, having a backup source of power is essential to our lives.
Since the advent of solar cells in the mid-20th century, they have ‘evolved’ into solar panels and solar generators.
What is more interesting is that solar energy has been proven as having the potential to sustain the whole universe in the near future, and rightly so. Thankfully, we can and are indeed getting a foretaste of this. Solar panels may not be all too familiar, but this review should help you understand the prospect.
Solar energy proves to be the most reliable back up to conventional electricity. Fossil fuels, particularly petroleum, are not so environmentally friendly. And in comparison to solar panel systems (which also has its own pros and cons), the cons of fossil fuel usually outweigh the pros.
Our energy needs are different, be it at your home, on a vacation or camping, at work, on a remote location or on a getaway picnic, your best bet for backup electricity when conventional sources fail is a solar generator.
The invention of solar generators has even been improved by the fact that there are now power stations (at least that’s what they are called; a well-deserved moniker nonetheless.) These power stations could be fixed or movable.
The fixed ones have a relatively lesser utility value, especially considering that power outages in most cities and towns are not usually more than an hour. Although, in whirlwinds, catastrophic windstorms, and hurricane-prone areas, power outages are a lot more common.
But aside from rare equipment damages, routine maintenance, and weather conditions, it is very unlikely to experience a power outage in your home for some other reason, so a fixed power station may not be a desirable option.
Portable power stations give answers to our power questions, needs, and more. With most power stations efficient enough for routine ‘extra-curricular’ power as well as weighing under 30lbs, you can carry electricity everywhere you go. Oh wait, there is the FAQ: ‘How much does it cost?’ That is the essence of this piece.
Two very similar Rockpals products that both have a capacity of 500W are just below $500, which is very budget-friendly considering the fact that it uses a more expensive lithium (Li-ion) battery and the recent upward change in prices of power stations.
Of course, there is not a single product without cons. Apparently, producers can never come up with a ‘perfect product,’ or more accurately, customers can indeed never be satisfied. We reviewed these two power stations to give good working knowledge on what they can do and how they work.
So, let’s review two budget-friendly solar generators that suit your every need.
ROCKPALS 540WH AND 520WH PORTABLE POWER STATIONS
These Rockpals Portable Power Stations are both great, powerful solar generators. Interestingly, these power stations do not rely solely on solar panels to recharge them; they can be charged with a 12V car cable.
For lovers of camping, hiking, hunting, adventure, and outdoor experiences, these are simply a delight. Do you dislike heavy power stations? Say no more. These Rockpals Power Stations are designed for your ease and easy carriage. The 540Wh version comes with a size of 10.24″ x 6.7″ x 6.28″, portable as well as light, weighing around 12lbs (5.5kg), which is around the size of two small Chihuahuas or a medium-sized electric guitar.
You should certainly not have to worry about extra baggage load, and of course, this size is relatively lighter compared to other products of the same capacity. The 520Wh version weighs just about two extra pounds at 14.33lbs (6.5kg) and it is also far less in weight compared to products of similar capacity.
Both power stations do not emit fumes and you should have absolutely no worries about where to keep this generator as it can be placed even inside your tent, safe from spills.
These power stations use built-in 540Wh and 520Wh lithium batteries; both with a peak of up to 1000W. Of course, lithium batteries are arguably the best kind of batteries for solar generators, with longer battery life and nearly 100% efficiency, which means battery charge time is faster.
You would also need fewer solar panels with the Li-ion battery. Lithium (Li-ion) batteries are very reactive since lithium loses electrons more readily. With current easily flowing for your use, you get exactly what you should.
With a lithium battery, you do not need to worry about self-discharge, they have little or no self-discharge as compared to lead-acid, nickel, and other batteries.
Quick and Flexible Charging. During a camping or outdoor event, there is the possibility of low or no intensity of sunlight, leaving you somewhat stranded when your solar generator runs down.
There is a need for flexibility, and you can charge these generators from your car if it’s parked around the corner, or at a nearby wall socket at the shed or resort.
Both of Rockpals’ Portable Power Stations can be charged in a couple of hours, and by various means. As little as a 100W Rockpals Solar Panel can be used to charge both solar generators.
You may even charge in your car with a 12V car charger or with a simple wall socket of 110V, 90W AC Adapter. For the 540Wh model, any means of charging usually takes around six to seven hours. The 520Wh model takes an hour or two longer to completely recharge.
Using a 12V car charger or a 110V wall outlet takes around seven to eight hours, while a solar panel (6A max) should fully charge the 520Wh unit in eight to nine hours.
Variable charging means of the Rockpals 500 (top: 540Wh model; bottom: 520Wh model)
Easy Display. A backup should be a backup, and it could prove frustrating to ‘suddenly’ experience the failure of your backup when sometimes a gentle reminder will do.
Knowing how much longer you need to charge your power station or how much power you have left can be quite ambiguous. With an easy-to-read charging and discharging display on both solar generators, you are always informed when to charge and when not to recharge your power station.
A battery life status display also ensures better maintenance of the unit. Both solar generators also give you an alarm/beep when your battery status runs at 10% and below, so you can arrange for a recharge.
The Rockpals 500 has a user-friendly (monitoring) display during use and charging.
User and Device Safety. Sensitive devices such as your TVs, laptop, or even Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines might be at risk with modified sine waves, but these power stations use pure sine waves.
This means that the use of the pure sine waves saves you the possible cost of needing to replace your valuable electronics or appliances after a camping exercise, picnic, party, power outage, or a storm. Both models also come with an effective battery management system that ensures the battery is safe and efficient to use.
The power stations are environmentally friendly and do not emit any fumes. Electromagnetic radiation (EMR) is negligible with respect to tolerance limits.
Multi-Purpose Power Station. Both models have the capacity to charge your phones, tablets, walkie-talkies, GPS, iPads, laptops, cameras, drones, rechargeable lamps, and bulbs of various kinds.
If you are an outdoor enthusiast, observing and photographing the scenery around you or taking pictures with your drones may be an important part of your experience.
These power stations have got you covered. They can charge your multiple devices, such as phones, up to 40 times. They can also power a mini-cooler or a mini-fridge to keep your food and drinks cool. So far, your gadgets do not surpass the 500W need.
You should find them extremely helpful and of great utility. These are also enhanced by the multiple output ports on both Rockpals 500 units.
Multiple Output ports of the Rockpals 500 (520Wh model)
Medical Emergencies. Routine needs as well as unforeseen circumstances could mean a CPAP machine coming in handy. These power stations are capable emergency sources of power for your CPAP machine while you enjoy your sleep (the 540Wh generator works well if your CPAP machine is less than 100W, while the 520Wh unit can work with CPAP machines of up to 120W.)
Super Bright LED Flashlight. At night, flashlights are necessary for routine activities. Carrying a flashlight around or using a headlight can sometimes become stressful.
With an in-built, super bright LED flashlight, you have access to light at any time you need it. It also comes with an SOS feature useful for calling attention. The LED flashlight uses a meager 1W to 4W, meaning it can last for up to 100 hours.
That is four days of uninterrupted lighting when fully charged. You can also reduce or increase the brightness and intensity of the LED flashlight on both generators.
The super bright LED flashlight of the Rockpals 500 (540Wh model)
Overheating Protection. Overheating: we all dislike devices that overheat upon prolonged sessions of use. From phones to laptops, overheating devices (at least in modern-day technology) can be really dissatisfying.
Even after hours of use, both power stations do not overheat, and you should be sure of a temperature below 65℃ for the 540Wh power station and its 520Wh counterpart at under 40℃.
Battery Management System. This feature on both solar generators ensures that there is voltage control and temperature regulation (balancing high and low temperature). The BMS also protects them from overcharge (which may spoil the batteries quickly) and balances overvoltage and undervoltage to give you voltage control while in use. There is also a short circuit protection feature on the BMS.
Lifecycles. The in-built batteries are rechargeable. The 540Wh model has a rechargeable lifecycle of up to 500 cycles, and the 520Wh model has a lifecycle of up to 1000 cycles.
- They come with low battery alarm, to remind you when your battery runs down
- Functional BMS with numerous advanced safeguards
- Overload Protection
- An in-built MPPT charge controller
- Short Circuit Protection
- Output of 110V, 500W with peak surges of up to 1000W
- Four USB ports (One Type C port, Two 2.4A ports, and One QC3.0 port)
- Find more details in the 540Wh User Manual
PROS AND CONS
- Recharge time of 6-7 hours, with power usage and battery status display that tells you exactly how much power you are currently using and how much is left
- At 12 to 14lbs, each weighs less than half of conventional car batteries, which is as good as it gets
- Portable and easy to handle
The easy-to-grip handle of the Rockpals 500 (520Wh model)
- Variety of recharge means, no over-reliance of solar panels
- Durability is relatively high, and it comes with a 24-month warranty
- Four DC ports with up to 12A including a 3-prong port and a cigarette socket
- Safe pure sine waves, suitable for running mini-fridge, egg cooker, TV, projectors, Wi-Fi routers, laptops and printers without any damage or risk of damage
- QC 3.0 fast charge USB port for your smartphones
- Installation is quick and easy, no user manual needed for installation
- Rockpals have an excellent customer care service. Should you have any issue with their products or other malfunction and damages, you can get a refund or a warranty.
- Cannot be used to power devices and appliances that are more than 500W, such as hair dryers, drills, rice cookers, electric kettles, microwaves, etc.
- Does not automatically shut off until after 10 hours of inactivity.
- They only work properly with a CPAP of less than 96W. CPAP machines requiring more power can only work with a DC converter. To ensure any capacity of CPAP machine, you might just need to get an S9/S10 DC Converter.
- They come with irreplaceable batteries. After completing their recharge cycles, efficiency is reduced to 80%.
Both versions of the Rockpals 500 are similar; here are a few differences between them.
The Rockpals 500W/540Wh Portable Power Station
STATS AND SPECS OF THE ROCKPALS 540WH AND 520WH SOLAR GENERATORS
|Feature||Rockpals 540W Model||Rockpals 520W Model|
|Battery Capacity Equivalent||150,000mAh||140,400mAh|
|Life Cycle (before 80%)||Approx. 500 times||Approx. 1000 times|
|Battery Charge Time (avg.)||6.5 hrs.||8 hrs.|
|Max Temp. While In Use||65 ℃||40 ℃|
|Dimensions (L by W by H)||10.24″ x 6.7″ x 6.82″||12.05″ x 7.87″ x 6.93″|
|Weight||12.13 lbs. (5.5kg)||14.33 lbs. (6.5kg)|
|CPAP Compatibility||96W max||120W max|
Both products are remarkably similar, and the differences are negligible. The 540Wh generator recharges faster and weighs less, but it works with lower-powered CPAPs and has half the battery longevity of the 520Wh version.
Although the 520Wh version takes longer to charge and weighs more, if you are considering a more frequent use of your power station, the 520Wh version has more battery lifecycles and should serve you longer.
Both power stations are very efficient. Proper use should ensure three to five years of optimum use at the least, beyond the two-year warranty. Like any other gadget or device, routine maintenance is necessary, and you should ensure that you regularly clean the power station(s) to avoid dust, and immediately clean up in the event of water spills.
Other Maintenance tips:
- When not in use, you should not charge the power stations via your car. Charging the power station with your car cigarette lighter is only appropriate when your car engine is started and in use, to avoid power loss of your car battery.
- For better efficiency, do not use your power station to power or charge any device while you are also charging it. It is best to perform only one of these at a time.