On and on goes the electricity evolution. Day by day, it gets more interesting as we get to see several innovations around renewable and environmentally-friendly energy sources. Undoubtedly, solar generators are at the forefront of solar energy usage, powering several in-house and outdoor appliances.
Basically, what a solar generator does is convert energy captured from the sun via solar panels into electric power.
This is then stored in a battery and then put to use through a functioning inverter. There has been a big quest for knowledge as to the effectiveness of solar generators in powering electric appliances and gadgets.
People realize that as much as solar generators are quite useful, there is a need to make sure that they make the right choice in the process of making a purchase.
The solar generator market is filled with various brands. These brands come up with many solar generator models with varying capacity and features. We are going to be considering major models from top brands, what appliances and gadgets they can power, and other major capabilities they exhibit. We will then discuss more details of what to look for in a solar generator specifically before considering purchasing one.
Jackery Explorer 240 Portable Solar Generator
This is a Lithium power station with a 240Wh battery capacity. Of course, it charges/re-charges devices and can power several types of electronics.
With its portable, compact, and lightweight frame, you can be sure you won’t have a problem traveling with it as it weighs 6.6 lbs. Just in case you are a little bit anxious about its power supply capacity, then maybe you should consider the Jackery Explorer 500 or Jackery Explorer 1000. It is designed to power general electronics, low voltage appliances, etc.
Another highpoint of this brand and model of the solar generator is its multiple powering options. This includes two USB ports, an AC outlet, and a 12V car output. Additionally, it is equipped with an optional 60W solar panel providing a sustainable power resource anywhere.
Jackery’s Explorer 240 Portable Power Station: What Can It Power?
With Jackery’s Explorer 240 portable power station, you can easily stay charged while you go about your outdoor activities. You can charge the following electronic appliances:
- Lights and lanterns
- Drone and camera batteries
Other Significant Features of the Jackery Explorer 240 Portable Solar Generator
Due to the low weight of this power generator brand, you can take it with you on trips of all kinds. It could be an excursion, an outdoor event, or a mini get together in the open somewhere close to your house.
All you need to do is charge the power station from an AC outlet, carport, or compatible solar panel. No matter the medium of energy required in the course of an outdoor event, this solar generator will always come to your rescue. With the Explorer 240 portable power station, you can easily stay charged while on-the-go.
With a U.S. standard AC outlet, power safety is guaranteed. The safety of the devices connected to your solar generator is boosted as it forges seamless compatibility with all your small appliances that draw under 200W at any given time.
Interestingly, the generator shuts off automatically after six hours of continuous functioning under 10W for power saving.
Another interesting feature of the Explorer 240 power station is its pure sine wave capability, which is designed to protect your sensitive devices. This is how it works; the Explorer 240 safely powers electronic devices by producing clean, stable electricity.
An unstable power generator will usually have Modified Sine Wave technology within it. This form of power transfer is not safe for all devices, as Pure Sine Wave is. This has been a significant issue for some cheap and poorly-constructed solar generator brands.
However, this issue is thoroughly addressed here and with the Explorer (and all of Jackery’s solar generators) this is not an issue.
Its ability to give a true reflection of battery operating status via the LCD screen is another impressive quality of the Explorer 240 power station. This puts users in the best position to decide how to make wise and effective use of the solar generator.
The Explorer 240 power station can be a source of power in the event of a health emergency. It can serve as an alternative power source for CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure).
Isolation centers who are taking care of COVID-19 patients need not worry about short power outages as long as they have an Explorer 240 power station or a similar solar generator.
This brand of solar generator is the perfect savior in the event of a natural disaster. After the occurrence of a hurricane, flood, or tsunami, there is often a wave of a massive renovation and a journey to recovery. Most times, the electricity in the affected area is completely damaged. Hence, there is a need for an emergency power supply for your lights, phone, laptop, radio, etc. to keep safe daily as life gets back to normal.
Gas generators are also good to have in the case of a natural disaster, but keep in mind that the gas will eventually run out, causing a dilemma. With a solar generator, you only need to have the solar panels intact to recharge your generator and have consistent power.
Goal Zero Yeti 400 Portable Power Station
When it comes to making top-notch generators, Goal Zero has been a brand to reckon with. This fact reflects in the making of the Goal Zero Yeti 400 Portable Power Station. Equipped with a 396Wh lead-acid battery, it is capable of taking care of the power supply of up to seven 33Ah at 12V devices all at once.
It is fortified with an informative LCD screen that allows you to know your power input and output, calculate how much time is left for it to run, position your panels appropriately and ultimately help you plan its usage. Also, its versatile array of power output makes its usage very convenient. You get access to options such as AC, 12V, and USB.
This brand of Goal Zero power generator is designed to be able to accommodate additional batteries. In essence, it can be co-joined with batteries cells of the same configuration. That way, you can secure longer hours of usage.
Goal Zero Yeti 400 Portable Power Station: What It Can Power?
It is capable of powering the following:
- Small appliances like an electric blanket
- Mini cooler
Inergy Apex Solar-Powered Generator: What Can It Power?
The Apex solar generator can power just about anything within the confines of its watt capacity. However, power time varies from one electric appliance to the other.
- It takes care of smartphones of 5-7 watts for a little over 100 hours
- It is capable of powering tablets of 25-40 watts for over 40 hours
- You can power laptops of 50 watts or thereabout for at least 20 hours
- Queen size electric blankets (which is around 65 watts) for use in the outdoor cold camp can be charged for about 16 hours
- This solar generator can power refrigerators for up to 24 hours
- Chest Freezer can be powered for up to 50 hours
- It can power a Sump Pump for a little over 2 hours
- LED Light of 6 watts can be powered for up to 183 hours
Details and Specs – Inergy Apex Solar Power Station
When you think of portable alternative power sources, you would only mention a few names before the Inergy Apex solar power station. Being a highly compact, lightweight, and easy-to-use plug-and-play source of renewable energy, this brand and model of the solar generator is in high demand in different parts of the world. The Apex weighs only 25 lbs. A more in-depth look into this shows that it is over 35 percent lighter than solar generators of the same functioning range.
(Example: The Yeti 1400 Lithium weighs over 40 lbs. and has a very similar power output to the Inergy Apex)
One other unique feature of the Apex solar-powered generator is the maximum power point tracking (MPPT) charge controller. This is responsible for a difference in the rate at which it charges. Also, it takes care of the safety of the charge.
This means that with its maximum solar input of 500 Watts, you can theoretically recharge the entire battery of the Apex in three hours! But expect slightly longer charge times due to the many variables in place when speaking of solar panels. This, in my estimate, would realistically equate to about 4.5 hours of recharge time with 500 Watts of solar in good sunlight.
The Apex solar power generator is estimated to be able to power up to dozens of devices and appliances wherever and whenever you need it. With 1,500 Watts of continuous power, a pure sine wave inverter, and 1,100 Watt-hours of battery capacity, it is good to go. You can even connect this solar generator to the Inergy Flex lithium battery for more battery juice.
Interestingly, you don’t have to worry about the noise. In fact, its noise level is as good as null. The only time it makes a noticeable sound is when it is overloaded or when the fan has to come up to neutralize the heat generated in the line of duty.
Goal Zero YETI 3000 Lithium Portable Power Station (with WiFi)
The YETI 3000 Lithium portable power station is a top Goal Zero model of solar-powered generators. Typical of other solar generators, it is a clean alternative to a gasoline-powered inverter generator, providing a whopping 1500W of continuous power and a 3000W surge for running high-powered devices.
One unique feature of this model is its WiFi connectivity, which means you get the chance to monitor your power usage right from your phone. All you need do is connect your solar power generator with the Goal Zero Yeti App to control ports.
Additionally, it features higher surge capacities for greater synergy with more power-hungry devices and the latest in USB-C Power Delivery (PD), capable of charging larger USB devices like laptops and iPad.
Stats - Jackery 240 vs Yeti 400 vs Inergy Apex vs Yeti 3000 Lithium
|Jackery 240||Yeti 400||Inergy Apex||Yeti 3000 Lithium|
|Peak Capacity:||240Wh (14.4V, 16.8Ah) 67,000 mAh / 3.6V||396Wh (12V, 33Ah)||1,100 Wh (90 amp hours, 12.6 volts)||3075Wh (10.95V, 280.8Ah)|
|Cell Chemistry:||Li-ion NMC||AGM Lead-Acid||Lithium NMC||Li-ion NMC|
|Lifecycles:||≥500 cycles to 80%||hundreds of cycles||Up to 2,000 Cycles or 10 Years||500 Cycles to 80% capacity (Discharge rate: 1C, Full charge/discharge, Temp: 25C)|
|Management System:||BMS, Over Voltage Protection, Short Circuit Protection||Charging and low-battery protection built-in||Over-charge protection, over-discharge protection, short circuit protection, thermal protection, battery balancing.||PWM charge controller, low battery protection|
Things to Think About When Buying a Solar-Powered Generator
To get a better understanding of what your solar generator can power, you need to understand some of its components and how they affect power consumption.
Surge Power Capability
Solar generators are different from other sources of power supply. There is a limit to a load of electric demand it can accommodate at any given time.
This is why it is important that you get to know about its surge power capacity. In fact, it is one of the most important things that you need to keep in mind at the moment of purchasing a solar-powered generator. This is also known as the pure sine wave inverter rating.
This is a measure of the maximum power capacity that the solar generator system will be able to supply to your power loads at a time.
Heavy appliances such as pumping machines, refrigerators, and the likes are known to induce an instantaneous electric current surge the moment they are turned on. The surge capacity of the solar power generator is usually indicated in the description of the product. Check the surge power demand of the fridge or small motor that you may need and verify that its power demand is rated below the maximum surge inverter rating.
Power Storage Capacity
Another essential factor to consider is the storage capacity of the battery of the solar generator. The battery is one of the most crucial components of a solar generator.
Usually measured in watt-hours, this will indicate the amount of time that your small appliances can stay connected at once or the number of times that an electronic device can get fully-charged again and again.
It will also determine the length of time required for the battery cells of your generator to be fully charged. It is vital to note that other factors contribute to the amount of time it takes for your solar generator to charge up.
For example, charging times will also depend on the weather conditions at a particular time (if charging with solar panels). It is safe to say you can expect a variation in charging time depending on many factors including the position of the panel in relation to the sun, if there are any clouds in the way, and how long the cables are that connect the panel to the generator. These are some of the many conditions that may affect charging times via solar.
Although solar-powered generators are majorly powered via solar panels, a high-quality generator should have other alternatives for charging.
In instances whereby the sunlight is not bright enough to facilitate proper charging of a solar generator, it is important that the station should be able to get charged directly from an AC source through power outlets.
If you will be using a car battery as an alternative source of power supply for your solar generator, make sure that your alternator is active when charging the power station; otherwise, you might end up with a dead car battery, which might get you stranded depending on your location.
Appliances that you can Power with Solar Generators
As you already know, the solar generator industry is not a case of one-size-fits-all. Some solar generators are not just right for your needs. Actually, it does not mean that the brand is awful, or the model is terrible. Instead, it only means that it has not been designed for the purpose that you want it to serve.
To this end, one of the essential details to keep in mind when you are about to get one is what you want it to charge and/or power. Therefore, no matter the brand of solar generator you are getting, make sure you go for one that can take care of all your desired electronics, devices, and appliances.
This knowledge will get you to consider some vital questions that have already been addressed; these questions are also important to help you accurately decide which solar-powered generator fits your needs, avoiding oversizing.
Some questions to ask yourself before finding the solar generator for you include:
- Which appliances can I power with the solar generator?
- How many devices can be connected at once?
- How long can you run the appliances for?
- How long does it take the battery of the generator to charge up?
What Makes Solar Generators Different from One-another
Manufactures of solar power generators tend to be innovative with their production processes. They do this by adding interesting and unique features to these models. These features fascinate users and make them anticipate their usage. For example, a Wi-Fi connector might be built-in with a solar generator to enable the easy monitoring of its battery.
Also, you will find that some portable solar generators will only be able to get charged through solar power and a wall outlet, while others will have three possible ways to get charged (solar, wall charger, and carport).
Moreover, additional features such as multiple USB outputs with a Quick Charging capacity, integrated flashlight, BMS protection, integrated fuses, and surge protection for the pure sine wave inverter. These are examples of interesting features that can be the difference between one product and the other.
Powering your Electrical Gadgets During a Trip: What Size of Portable Solar Generator Should you Get?
Usually, when you purchase a solar generator for outdoor usage, portability is a very crucial factor. This is a significant function to consider because if you need to camp in a rural area or a forest, you will want to take a generator with a small dimension and weight.
Think about the space that you will probably have available on the trunk of your car; this will be limited. Due to this, most portable solar generators have been designed to be easily transported. At the same time, they have to be effective enough to power the appliances that will be needed in the course of the journey.
What Equipment Can Be Powered by Solar Generators during a Camping Period?
There are lots of essential electric appliances you could need in the course of a camping expenditure. If there is one thing you can’t be without in campgrounds, it is a source of light; it could be a rechargeable torchlight or a bulb directly connected to a power source.
However, bright lamps are the most suitable as they are not stationary but mobile and very bright at the same time. Irrespective of your choice, a solar generator will come in handy as you will need to recharge or power your light source after some time of usage.
A source of light and other devices such as a mini-fridge, electric blanket, cell phones, and much more can get charged via an AC adapter or via a 12V DC plug-in.
It is not uncommon for solar generators to have lights built into them such that you can make use of it while navigating the camp area or brush. Also, the handle or lanyard, of which one is included with most solar generators, makes them easily portable.
A small electric stove is another essential camping item. A camp experience is never complete without nice meals during your stay away from home. Using the electric stove is safe, environmentally friendly, and has zero noise pollution.
As much as the sun is important to the needs of a solar generator, it can be a challenge in a camping environment. When the sun is out and shining, it will bring heat into the campsite and your tent. To mitigate the inconvenience this will cause, a mini fan can be of great help. The AC power outputs can serve as a power source for small fans as it is generally close to or under 40W.
A coffee machine is also good for an outdoor camp experience. However, make sure it is a mini coffee machine. Even at that, you can expect it to draw a good amount of power. Therefore, you will need a generator with a continuous power capacity of nearly 500W to meet the demand of the coffee machine. If you don’t have this, you just might want to drop the idea of a coffee machine or pack instant coffee to mix with hot water.
To this end, here’s a list of what a large solar generator could power in the event of camping or a trip out of town:
- Blender (smoothies, salsas, milkshakes, etc.)
- Camping electric stoves
- Electric cooler
Can you Power the Appliances in a Motor-Home Using a Solar-Powered Generator?
Having portable power in your RV or camper is a major plus. Essentially, a motorhome is likely to have a few basic electric appliances such as a mini-fridge, a low-energy-consuming television, a small heater, among other essential electrical appliances needed to make life comfortable.
A large solar-powered generator can power all of these. However, it is important to note that the amount of time that you can power these items will vary depending on the size of the power generator. Therefore, you will need to consider portable generators that are strong enough to keep them powered; preferably, one that has at least 400n watt-hours of energy capacity.
Other devices found in a motor-home that could be powered by power solar generators include benders, clock radios, can openers, desktop computers, printers, fans, shavers, stereo systems, etc.
You can be sure a combination of all these devices could get powered by a 400Wh solar generator at once. However, the more the power load attached to it, the faster the battery drains.
Should you Make Use of Solar Generators as a Backup Source of Power?
This is not a bad idea if you live in an area where the power supply gets faulty often. Also, if you run essential services like a healthcare facility that has a few types of equipment that need a constant power supply, you might want to back up with a powerful solar generator. Just make sure that the generator is capable of supplying your power needs.
Calculating the Number of Watts your Generator Will Need
By now, you already know there is a limit to the carrying capacity of your solar generator. Hence, there is a need to think of all the appliances that you want to power up before you decide which solar generator to buy.
To do this effectively, you must sum up all the power ratings of all appliances you are going to be using. Then, compare this power requirement with the brand and model of solar-powered generator you intend to buy.
If you discover that you will not be able to power all of those devices at the same time, two options are open to you. You either prepare a scale of preference for your gadgets and eliminate some gadgets from the list or start thinking of a more powerful model of solar generator.
If you plan to make use of your solar generator during road trips only, the demand for power will likely be relatively less as you will probably charge only low-energy-consuming electronics such as laptops, tablets, smartphones, drones, or speakers. A 150Wh portable generator should be big enough to do the job.
On the other hand, if you intend to use more power-intensive appliances like small fridges, coffee makers, electric stoves, or any other appliance that use a small motor, you will need to pay attention to the wattage consumption and find out which power generators can supply the required wattage demand; then purchase it. It is also important that you pay attention to the value that the generator will be able to supply in a long-term scheme. You do this by comparing this estimated total wattage consumption with the maximum AC continuous power rating of the generator.
Don’t forget the importance of surge power to the operation of your appliances. The surge power needed by the appliance may require all the peak power capacity of the inverter.
This, however, doesn’t mean you can’t put on any other appliance while using one that requires a high surge power. In most cases, the continuous power demand of the appliance is low enough as to be coupled with another device.
So, you can actually power it alongside other appliances at a later time. You must connect the appliance that demands the surge power first, and then, after a while, connect the other device. This is not recommended since it will drain the battery faster. But if your solar generator has a high output, then it is not much trouble.
Buying a solar generator can be a great choice if it suits your needs, whether that be daily or just during camping excursions. However, make sure you are armed with all the essential information before deciding on a brand and model to purchase so you can enjoy its usage to the maximum.