Solar Generator vs Battery – Which Is Ideal?


Solar generator next to a large battery

What is a home without a power supply? Incomplete! Right? That is the reality of the time we live in. The demand for power supply is drifting at a fast rate towards conservative forms of power supply. This refers to energy sources from the sun.

In the United States, for example, solar panel systems have become one of the fastest-growing sources of energy.

In fact, the Solar Energy Industries Association claims that the solar market is expected to double in size by 2023, which will see its market worth rise to a mind-blowing $4.5 billion by then. The sun’s discovery as a source of power for humans changed the game in unprecedented ways.

This trend of expectation is not surprising. It became a viable alternative to other sources of energy that were expensive to maintain. Also, the rising concern about some sources of power supply that are not friendly to the environment influenced the trend. These and some other factors made solar energy the power “messiah.”

A more in-depth look at solar energy shows how it has also split into different categories, one of which is solar generators. Also, the idea of obtaining a solar battery and then separately acquiring all other devices needed to make it a source of power supply appeals to some.

Companies like Tesla are paying attention to the manufacturing of batteries that can be installed with solar panels to create “solar-plus-storage” systems for home-usage.

The difference between solar generators and batteries used with solar panels is that a solar generator has all the necessary components for self-sustaining power and it is also portable. Batteries used with solar panels (for example, on someone’s home) require a connection to the grid along with a few other components for a seamless system. These systems are obviously not portable, but many individuals create DIY solar generators, which include all the components necessary for portable power.

When comparing a solar generator vs a battery there are a few factors to consider. The first is utility and the second is cost. A solar generator has a battery inside it and requires little set up to power electronics/appliances. A battery requires external components to bring power to whatever it is that you need to power. Because of this, solar generators are usually more expensive than a battery.

Using a battery (with a solar array set up) instead of a solar generator essentially means that you will either be creating a DIY solar generator or you’ll be installing a solar panel system throughout your RV or home. Installing solar panel systems is a complicated process when installed on an RV or home. However, creating a DIY solar generator is not as complicated due to its simple layout.

For individuals who are thinking of an alternative source of supply, there is a bit of confusion when making choices with regards to this. This article is designed to give you all the information you need to cross this bridge if you are going that route. To start with, let’s see how solar batteries work.

Similar: The Truth about Living Off-Grid with Solar Power

Solar Batteries for Power Supply: How Exactly Do They Work?

Basically, everyone knows that batteries are used to store an electric charge capable of powering electrical gadgets. The uniqueness of solar batteries comes from the fact that they need to be accompanied by other equipment to make them function normally.

It is more like a solar PV system that needs solar panels, an inverter, equipment to mount the panels on your roof, and a performance monitoring system that tracks electricity production.

Basically, the solar panels collect energy from the sun in the form of photons and turn them into electricity. The acquired electricity is then passed through the inverter for conversion from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) and converted into a form that you can use to power your home.

Solar panels on roof of home

How Is Solar Energy Stored in Batteries?

Solar batteries work by storing energy produced by your solar panels for later use. In some cases, solar batteries have their own inverter and offer integrated energy conversion. The higher your battery’s capacity, the more solar energy it can store.

In major parts of the world where solar panels are being used massively to generate electricity, the panels are connected to the electricity distribution grid so that excess charge from the solar panel will be sent to the distribution grid.

This sounds more like giving away an asset because you can’t preserve it. What if there was a way to store this excess charge and use it later when there is no electricity supply from the solar panel? That is why a solar battery is very important.

If your solar panels are producing more electricity than you need, the excess energy goes towards charging the battery instead of going out to the grid. Therefore, you might want to consider getting a battery if you have a solar panel system. That way, you can make use of the energy you stored earlier in your battery at night when your solar panels aren’t producing electricity.

To this end, it is crucial that you get a solar energy expert to calculate the amount of power being supplied by the solar panel system installed in your house. This will inform your decision on the type of battery you will buy in terms of storage capacity.

Alternatively, you can do the calculation yourself if you understand the concepts of watts, watt-hours, amps, and how the solar panel system works. If you don’t, it is advised that you seek the services of professionals in the solar panel industry to do the calculation and analysis for you.

Can Batteries Be Useful Without a Functioning Solar Panel and Inverter?

Multiple green batteries together animation

While batteries are typically paired with home solar energy systems, they can also be useful to homeowners without solar panels. Most batteries used with solar panels can also be powered with electricity from the grid to provide backup power. Therefore, you can also get a battery and have it charge up for later use.

This is fitting if you stay in an area characterized by an unpredictable power supply. You can always fall back on your battery for power usage in the event of a power outage.

If you have a solar panel system available and you have your battery connected to it, you can actually save money on power usage if you decide to buy a battery. However, this is a function of the way that your utility compensates you for your solar power.

Most power supply services offer total metering, meaning that you will receive a credit on your electric bill for every kilowatt-hour of electricity your solar panels produce. This means you won’t see additional savings on your monthly electricity bill if you install a solar battery.

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ADVANTAGES OF BATTERIES

  • They are relatively cheaper to purchase especially when you have all other components needed to make them function
  • They can help cut down on your electricity bill

DISADVANTAGE OF BATTERIES

  • You can’t readily use them outdoors

A lot has been said about batteries. What about solar generators?

The Build of Solar Generators on a General Note

Yeti 1400 Lithium with lid open

Solar generators are generators that make use of solar energy as a fuel in the production and supply of power to gadgets. They are unique in that they are a pack containing all the components needed for them to function all in one power pack.

This includes the solar panels, inverter, and the AC outlets, and the battery. Yes, the battery is just a component of a solar generator. You won’t get to see it because everything is packed together and housed in the pack labeled as a solar generator. Is the battery’s activity in a solar generator any different from the battery used exclusively for power storage?

What Does the Battery Do in a Solar Generator?

The battery in a solar generator is designed to conserve energy so that it is available when you need to use it. A solar panel is an unreliable energy generation source. Therefore, the energy generated needs to be stabilized before use. Batteries assist in doing this in connection with the inverter. What exactly does the solar inverter do?

The Role of an Inverter in Making a Solar Generator Work

Usually, the electricity that is produced by the solar panel is not suitable for usage directly. Therefore, it is produced and stored as a direct current.

The solar generator is configured so that the battery takes in the direct current. Then, when it is time to be used, the charge goes through the inverter, which converts it to alternating current.

Usually, inverters in a solar generator are pure sine wave inverters. Apart from the conversion exercise that they do, inverters are also in charge of stepping up the voltage from 12V, 24V, or 48V to the required voltage of either 110V or 240V.

Solar Generator vs. Battery – Which Has a Greater Lifespan?

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This is quite a sensitive point of consideration concerning these two powering options. There is no straightforward answer to the question; however, there are a few determinants of the lifespan of batteries and power generators.

Usually, whenever a solar generator or battery is manufactured, the manufacturing company indicates the number of cycles it is designed to go.

This simply refers to the number of times it is going to get fully charged up and go down to zero before its efficiency begins to drop. For example, Energy Apex’s battery has 2000 lifecycles.

This is a significant factor on which the lifespan of a solar generator and a battery depends. Remember, however, that solar generators have all their components in one package. In a sense, this enhances their life cycle.

There is a high possibility of combining a battery with an inverter that is not its right fit. Most likely, situations like this deplete the battery life cycle and make it lose efficiency faster than the manufacturer actually designed it.

It is also important to note that solar generators and batteries come in different sizes and carrying capacity (in terms of the amount of power they are designed to put out). However, it looks like a battery will start depleting earlier than a solar generator of the same capacity. This is obviously because it is more prone to the wrong combination of components required for it to function.

Similar: Gas vs Solar Generators – Which Makes More Sense?

Are Solar Generators a Better Option Compared to a Battery?

Solar generators seem to be the most flexible means of harnessing power from the sun.

When you think of the flexibility that comes from using solar generator models from top brands such as the Anker Powerhouse 200, Goal Zero Yeti 400 Lithium, Rockpals 500, and many more, with a little bit of research, you will definitely agree with the fact that these are some of the best solar generators needed to have an awesome camping experience.

You definitely cannot compare the experience with what you will have if you decide to make use of a battery. However, it is important to note that you will have to spend extra if you are going to be going for a solar generator in the place of a battery. The spending is justified by the benefits of its usage.

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ADVANTAGES OF SOLAR GENERATORS

  • They help you store excess solar charge from your solar panel instead of transferring it down to the power grid.
  • You have a power supply at night. 
  • Solar generators can easily be moved around, making them an ideal source of power for outdoor events. For example, solar generators such as the Jackery Explorer 240 solar generator make camping fun.

DISADVANTAGES OF SOLAR GENERATORS

  • They are relatively expensive. This is only expected considering the fact that they are a combination of a battery and other accompanying components required to make them function properly.

Conclusion

Solar generators are an all-in-one piece of equipment. In simpler terms, this means that they have the battery, inverter, LCD screen, solar panel inputs, and other outlets within the generator’s construction.

On the other hand, a battery, such as an AGM battery or lithium battery needs several other items to be useful to the person using it.

Also, using a battery instead of a solar generator means that there are several more steps needed to make the battery into a useful DIY solar generator. The use of a battery is way more complicated as it will mean that you have to connect separate working parts.

The use of solar batteries seems less expensive when compared to the cost of purchasing a solar generator. One good thing about the choice of the solar generator is that you can always use it for outdoor events if the need for it arises.

You can’t do that easily for a solar battery because it has too many separate components that could get damaged if not correctly handled while moving them around. Whatever the case may be, it is up to you to make a choice of what fits your personal needs, be it a solar generator or solar battery.

Continue Reading:

Top 15 Best Solar Generators for Camping (Small to Large)

Your Next Solar Generator – The Complete Guide

Solar Panel Installation – Step-By-Step for Home and RV

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