Today’s solar panels make the dream of free power from the sun a practical reality, but they need to be combined with one of the best solar generators to provide manageable power, and to continue delivering electricity after dark.
There are many different solar generators available. They vary from highly portable models that can run your personal devices while camping, to those that can supply high levels of backup power for the home in an emergency.
They are safer than traditional gas generators, they don’t need fossil fuels, and they don’t give off noxious fumes. However, they can be quite complex, and choosing the wrong model might be an expensive mistake. The following guide offers invaluable help in findingone of the best solar generators for free power wherever, and whenever you need it.
—Best Overall:Jackery Solar Generator 1000—Best Home:EF Ecoflow Delta Pro—Best Off Grid:Bluetti Portable Power Station AC200MAX—Best Portable: Anker Portable Generator—Best Budget:Goal Zero Yeti 150 Portable Power Station
We researched the principles of solar generator technology, and looked at models from more than a dozen manufacturers to ensure we had all the relevant information. We also took into account feedback from owners who have put these devices to the test in real-world situations.
Suitability:We didn’t just look for the most powerful solar generators, but rather for a broad selection. In that way we could discuss devices that would meet the needs of the widest possible group of people. As a result, we have included solar generators for camping, the best portable solar generator, and a solar generator capable of running home appliances in the event of a power outage with substantial Watt-hours (Wh).
Versatility:The number and types of outlets (or ports) has a major impact on how versatile the solar generator is, regardless of actual power output. Some work with mains connection from an electric power grid in addition to solar power. Even a small solar generator can usually supply power for more than one type of device. Those with limited provision in comparison with their performance don’t offer good value, and didn’t make the cut.
Brand and Price:One reason people buy a solar generator is for backup power in an emergency. Cheap solar generators might look attractive, but they aren’t a bargain if you can’t depend on them. All the models we chose are from well-known brands who have a reputation for reliability and durability.
Why It Made The Cut:The Jackery 1000 is light enough for easy portability, but also powerful enough to provide useful power on the go or basic emergency supply.
Specs:—Capacity:1,002Wh—Outlets:3 x 20A AC, 2 x USB-A, 2 x USB-C, 1 x 12V DC—Weight:Charger 22 pounds, panels 5.5 pounds each
Pros:— Versatile all-round solution— Good range of outlets— Solar panels included
Cons:— Panel charging slow— Not for high power devices— Light-duty casing
Given that people have such a wide variety of needs, choosing a single best solar generator is an almost impossible task. However, the Jackery 1000 takes our top spot because it comes as close as any to supplying the majority of power demands. The 1002Wh capacity can actually cope with startup surges (common with plug-in devices) of up to 2,000 watts. According to the company, the generator will provide eight laptop charges, 13 hours of TV use, and can run a grill for 50 minutes.
Two 100-watt solar panels are included in the package, so there are no problems choosing compatible units. In full sun, they will charge the Jackery 1000 solar generator in around 8 hours. They are water- and dust-resistant to the IP65 standard, but should not be left out in the rain. The Jackery 1000 can also be charged via 110V AC mains, or a 12V DC vehicle power socket. While not especially fast, pass-through charging means you can continue to use the generator while topping it up.
At 22 pounds, the solar generator is relatively light, though it doesn’t feel particularly rugged. While this generator isn’t necessarily fragile we would nevertheless treat it with care.
Why It Made The Cut:As a stand-alone unit, the EF Ecoflow Delta Pro is a powerful proposition, but what really stands out is the ability to add solar batteries for exceptional backup performance.
Specs:— Capacity: 3,600Wh— Outlets: 30A AC, 4 x 20A AC, 4 x USB-A, 2 x USB-C— Weight: 99 pounds
Pros:— Fast charging (from mains)— Can charge from EV stations— Unrivaled expandability
Cons:— Heavy— Expensive— Solar panels are extra
It isn’t easy to provide backup power for the home. Even the best solar generator has limits either in terms of number of devices it can power, or its run times. The problem is the same for all but the largest gas generators too. The solution? The EC Ecoflow Delta Pro is one of the most powerful solar generators currently available — and it’s expandable. You can add additional solar battery units, with the potential for a remarkable 25,000Wh in all. That’s enough to provide emergency electricity supply in the home for a week or more. In a small cabin or tiny home fitted with solar panels, it might even be a complete off-grid solution.
What’s more, the 3,600Wh EC Ecoflow Delta Pro can plug directly into most RVs. The ability to run power tools for several hours also makes it viable for site use. It comes with plenty of different outlets. Like all solar generators, it can be charged via solar panels, and EC Ecoflow produces their own high-performance model. Mains charging is another option, and fast at just 2.7 hours. It can also charge via 12V DC vehicle socket, and at any one of 35,000 EV (electric vehicle) stations around the US.
That said, at 99 pounds, the EC Ecoflow Delta Pro isn’t the most portable, though it does have wheels and a telescopic towing handle. And this kind of performance does come at a price, but for those making a serious commitment to green energy, it’s one of the most powerful solutions currently available.
Why It Made The Cut:The Bluetti Portable Power Station provides excellent performance, plus charging options for any device. The ability to add further units makes it a leading consideration for substantial off-grid installations.
Specs:— Capacity: 2,048Wh— Outlets: 1 x 30A AC, 4 x 20A AC, 2 x 12V DC (1x 30A), 4 x USB-A, 1 x USB-C, Wireless cellphone charger— Weight: 62 pounds
Pros:— Rapid charging possible— Wide range of outlets— Expandable to meet needs
Cons:— Dual charging connector extra— A little bulky— Solar panels extra
It’s practically impossible to find a solar generator that provides the right solution for all users. Choosing a lightweight, highly portable model invariably means sacrificing power, while high-performance solar generators are big and heavy. The Bluetti Portable Power Station comes close to being the ideal compromise. The 2,038Wh output allows it to power a wide range of devices, and the weight is manageable. However, it has several features that give it the edge over competitors.
First is the extensive range of outlets provided, which includes a wireless charging option for cellphones. Second, and perhaps most impressive, is the ability to expand the power available by adding up to two further Bluetti units, each providing an additional 3,072Wh. Finally there are options for rapid charging, where rather than just solar panel or mains, both can be used at the same time. There is also an option for using two wall outlets together. While both of these require an extra cable, they will recharge the Bluetti solar generator in just a couple of hours.
As a single unit, the Bluetti Portable Power Station offers versatile power at home or for RV use. It can also expand to provide power for long-term off-grid living. With appropriately-sized solar panels.
Why It Made The Cut:The Anker 545 is small enough to make it a viable option for family camping trips, yet has sufficient versatility to power mobile devices, lights, a mini fridge, etc.
Specs:— Capacity: 778Wh— Outlets: 2 x 20A AC, 1 x 12V DC, 4 x USB-A, 2 x USB-C— Weight: 18.3 pounds
Pros:— Compact and lightweight— Reinforced corners for strength— Integrated flashlight
Cons:— Somewhat slow charging— 500W maximum— Loses power if not turned off
The Anker 454 manages to be compact and highly portable, while still providing plenty of usable power, and a host of outputs to suit everything from cellphones and laptops to cooling fans and CPAP machines. Portability is bolstered by reinforced corners in the frame so that it can withstand the occasional knock during transportation. The ability to power a router and laptop at the same time, for example, could also make it a useful solution for home office use in the event of a power outage.
A wide selection of charging ports offers excellent versatility, and in theory the Anker 545 Portable Generator can charge or power up to 11 devices at the same time. However, although rated for 778Wh, the maximum wattage that can be supplied at any one time is 500 watts. This will reduce the occasions when both 110V outlets could be used simultaneously.
The Anker 454 solar generator can recharge via mains, solar panels, or 12V DC power socket. That said, reaching maximum capacity does take around 8 hours. It is also important to turn it off manually when not in use to conserve charge.
Why It Made The Cut:Frequent travelers, whether for work or leisure, will appreciate the Goal Zero Yeti’s ability to recharge their phone, tablet, camera or laptop wherever they go.
Specs:— Capacity: 168Wh— Ports: 1 x 20A AC, 1 x 12V DC, 2 x USB-A— Weight: 12 pounds
Pros:— Ideal for phones and tablets— Pass-through charging— Comparatively low cost
Cons:— 12V DC cable extra— No USB— Slow charging
The Goal Zero Yeti 150 is one of the most affordable high-quality solar generators available, and also one of the smallest. While performance is understandably modest, it still offers multiple charging options, and is a great all-rounder for personal devices like cellphones, tablets, and DSLR cameras. Thanks to its AC outlet, the Yeti 150 can even run a small laptop. Unlike cheap portable power packs, which are mostly a one-and-done solution that then needs to be recharged itself, the Yeti 150 solar generator can recharge most cellphones 12 times or more.
Goal Zero has experience making power units for all kinds of environments, so the Yeti is rugged enough for camping and hiking. The compact dimensions also make it an ideal companion in a car or RV, where it takes up minimal space but can recharge devices while traveling (a 12V DC cable is extra).
Although charging is quite slow (around 6 hours), the pass-through feature means the Goal Zero Yeti 15 can continue to be used at the same time.
People looking to buy their first solar generator can often be confused by the technical jargon and specifications. The following should clarify things, and help identify the best solar generator for your needs.
Assessing your power requirements is a key issue. Every electrical device demands a number of watts (W) to operate. A low energy light bulb uses about 10 watts, a laptop perhaps 80 watts, an air conditioner might need 1,000 watts or more. So the number of watts a solar generator delivers gives a good indication of the devices it can run.
However, the key figure isn’t just watts, but Watt hours (Wh) This tells you how long the solar generator can run the devices for. If it is rated for 1,000Wh, for example, the power source will run the light bulb in our example for 100 hours (10W x 100h = 1,000Wh), but it will only run the air conditioner unit for one hour. The built-in inverter produces smooth, sine-wave power that is safe for use with sensitive electronics, rather than the stepped power often produced by gas generators.
It isn’t difficult to find a solar generator that can provide power for a cellphone, laptop and a few lights for a campsite. However, the average home uses in excess of 5,000 watts, and few of the current solar generators have that capacity. It is often a case of considering which items are essential (sump pump and freezer, for example) and choosing a model that will power them in an emergency.
While your intention may be to connect the solar generator to solar panels to store free energy from the sun, the best solar generators offer other options. It is normally possible to charge it using a mains connection from an electric power grid, or via the 12 volt DC socket in your vehicle while driving. Each method charges the internal battery at a different rate, so this is worth investigating as it may affect your choice.
If you already own solar panels, their output will have a bearing on the size of solar generator that will deliver maximum performance. Those buying solar panels separately will want to check which combines best with a given solar generator for optimum performance. Generally speaking, this information is readily available from the generator maker.
The number and type of outlets (or ports) will also have an impact. It is common for USB sockets to be provided, but it is worth checking whether these are USB-A, USB-C or both. Solar generators frequently have 12V DC sockets that can power a mini fridge, and standard 20A, 110V AC outlets like those found at home. Larger solar generators may have 30A outlets used for high-demand devices like water heaters. It may be possible to plug it directly into an RV circuit.
When choosing a solar generator for house backup, size and weight are unlikely to be major issues. If it’s a solar generator for camping or site work, however, portability will be key. The lightest solar generator we found weighs under 20 pounds, the heaviest is around 100 pounds. However, the latter does have wheels and a handle to aid mobility.
There are two aspects to consider here. First is the structure of the unit itself. The brands that made our top picks all have established reputations for providing high quality equipment. Sadly there are numerous generators that aren’t so well made. Breakdowns are inconvenient at best so we always recommend investing in trusted manufacturers.
The second issue is the anticipated lifespan of the unit. The battery in any solar generator can only withstand a certain number of charge cycles (charge, drain, and recharge) before it fails. This can be anywhere from 500 to several thousand cycles. Generally speaking, lithium ion models last longer than lead acid/AGM. Individual usage will also have a big impact. Some solar generators might be used on a regular basis, and thus have a lifespan of a few years. Those only used for emergencies might last decades. The best solar batteries and best rechargeable batteries are also very helpful to have on hand.
A solar generator takes Direct Current (DC) produced by solar panels, and converts it to Alternating Current (AC) so it can be used for anything from recharging a cellphone to supplying electricity for the home. With the right connections, (we suggest professional advice), many can also work in tandem with wind turbines.
Solar generator costs vary enormously, but are generally in line with performance. Budget models can be found for a couple of hundred dollars, whereas those designed as home backups can be $3,500 or more.
Deciding which is the best solar generator will depend on individual needs. Each of our selections above comes from a well-known brand with a reputation for quality and reliability. So choice really comes down to which one delivers the necessary power for your requirements.
The Point Zero Titan is the most powerful solar generator we found during our research, though EF Ecoflow, Jackery and Goal Zero Yeti also produce high performance models.
How long a solar generator lasts largely depends on the cycle rating of the battery and how often it is used. Cycle life can be from 500 to several thousand, so the solar generator could last anywhere from 3 to 10 years or more.
While the Goal Zero Yeti 150 is a compact, go-anywhere model ideal for travel, the Jackery 1000 solar generator is our favorite for its tremendous flexibility. The inclusion of solar panels makes it a trouble-free purchase, and the 1,002Wh output allows it to power an enormous variety of devices whether you want to use it in the backyard, or the back of beyond. The EF Ecoflow Delta Pro delivers levels of performance that few can match. The ability to run two or more in tandem means it can compete with large gas generators often considered the main option for home backup.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.
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