10 Best Solar Generators in 2020 (Review)
Having a reliable backup generator for emergency situations, like the presence of a blackout or power outage, is essential. The same concept goes for fun activities like camping, fishing or even RV trips: for those, you will need a portable generator system.
Fuel generators may serve this purpose, but they have many disadvantages. They are noisy, contaminating, and they also depend on a nearby fuel source. Under critical situations like blackouts, floods, earthquakes or hurricanes, you may not be able to have access to a fuel source, making your generator useless.
Now, thanks to a new technology that combines lithium ion batteries with solar power, you can obtain a green energy backup source whenever you need it.
Here you will find all the information you need to know about the best solar generators in 2020.
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The Best Solar Generators
1. Jackery Explorer 240 Solar Generator
Equipped with lithium-ion technology, the energy capacity of the generator reaches 240Wh (or 16.8Ah at 14.4V). It can be recharged in 10 hours, assuming it has complete sun exposure, using a 50W solar panel. You can also use a plug-in connected to a car port, or with a power cube using an AC port. Both of these The Jackery generator power station is the best portable solution for the methods take 8 hours to charge.
Moreover, the Jackery Explorer 240 also has multiple outputs available. One of them is a single 12V output as a car cigarette lighter of 12V/10A, another one is an AC outlet that is connected to a pure sine wave inverter that provides surge and voltage stability protection under US standards. This AC 200W/110V outlet is suitable for charging laptops, AC lights, TVs, drones and even a small mini-fridge. Electronics such as smartphones, kindles, GoPros can also get charged through two USB outputs as well.
This product is perfect for any camping, fishing, or outdoor situation due to its lightweight and compact size design. Its high capacity also makes it perfect for emergency situations such as hurricanes or floods, where you might need a reliable power supply that can be used for CPAP machine purposes.
2. Jackery Explorer 500 Solar Generator
The Jackery Explorer 500 solar generator is an excellent option for those who are looking for extra power.
Jackery that specializes in providing clean energy and portable solutions for outdoor purposes brings this versatile option that has a pure sine wave AC outlet of 110W and capable of providing up to 500W, making it perfect for TVs, projectors, blenders, laptops and other related devices. This same outlet has a surge capacity of 1000W for those applications that need a little extra power for a limited period of time.
The unit also comes with a standard 12V/10A carport and up to three 2.4A USB ports intended to power and charge all your car appliances along with small electronics such as phones, coolers or car vacuums.
Regarding is charging capabilities, the Jackery Explorer 500 can be completely charge in 14hr by using a 100W Jackery SolarSage portable solar panel as you are living outdoors. The unit can also get charged by using the carport in just 16 hrs while you are on the road. Finally, you can also charge it in 8hrs by connecting it to an AC outlet.
3. Goal Zero Yeti 400 Solar Generator
The Goal Zero Yeti 400 portable power station is another common choice among solar backup generators. The brand is recognized for developing products that offer a reliable source of power.
In this case, the brand promotes 396Wh of energy capacity from a lead-acid battery that can power up to 7 devices at once using 12V and 33Ah. The device has been designed with a continuous 300W output and with up to 600W surge pure sine wave inverter that has two AC 110V outputs. Moreover, you will also find two 2.1A USB outputs and 120W power for 12V DC ports.
The Goal Zero Yeti 400 is a power cube that will allow you to charge phones, tablets, LEDs, laptops, TVs or even small fridges from RVs.
As with other solar generators, you will be able to connect to a portable solar panel via a DC input or with a wall plug. An interesting feature of the solar power station is that it comes with an LCD display that will show you everything from the watts of power that you are consuming or that are charging the solar-powered generator, to the battery capacity available.
4. Goal Zero Yeti 150
Finally, the most portable solution from Goal Zero is the Goal Zero Yeti 150.
With 168 watt-hours of lead-acid battery storage, the product is able to charge up to 5 devices at once assuming 14Ah at 12V. Using this energy capacity, the Yeti 150 is able to charge a smartphone around 15 times, a tablet around 6 times, and a laptop around two times.
Easy to carry and easy to set, the Yeti 150 solar generator is definitely the choice for the camper who wants a simple solution to provide power to simple devices.
The product features 80-watt continuous power with a 160W surge capacity for AC loads, along with two 2.1A USB outputs and 120W at 12V. Goal Zero lights can also be turned on using the 12V output. Using these power outputs, you can charge smartphones, tablets, cameras and other devices as well.
In this occasion, the Yeti 150 power cube can only get charged via AC power or via Goal Zero solar panels.
Truly among solar portable generators, you won’t find a more simple, and yet reliable solution for your camping trips.
5. Renogy Lycan Powerbox
The Renogy Lycan Powerbox is the new state-of-the-art solar generator from the brand. The device is equipped with a lithium-iron phosphate battery that allows up to 2,000 charge and discharge cycles across its lifetime.
Besides, it also counts with a large storage capacity of up to 1,085Wh, enough as to charge a smartphone over 100 times or a laptop nearly 13 times, more than enough in multiple outdoor or backup applications.
To charge these devices, the item has multiple universal ports including four 110V AC ports, four 5V/2.4A (up to a maximum 7A) USB DC ports, a 12V CIG port (with up to a maximum 150W) and finally three 12V DC ports that can provide up to 60W combined. The total capacity of the solar generator reaches up to 1,200W.
More than that, the solar power generator has three different ways to get charged. You can use AC power from a local outlet, you can also use the 12V car charging socket and you can also power it by using solar power (in which case you can use up to 300W solar power).
6. Renogy Phoenix 210Wh Solar Suitcase
Renogy is one of the most recognized companies in the portable solar power industry since it offers foldable solar panel kits, charge controllers, inverters and more accessories.
This time, the brand developed one of the best power sources for camping. The Renogy 210Wh/150W Phoenix Portable Generator is an all-in-one product that is suitable for emergency charging and for people that is looking for a camping power source.
The Renogy Phoenix 210Wh Solar Suitcase contains within a suitcase a Renogy 20W monocrystalline solar panel integrated with the product. However, the power output capacity can be extended by adding a 100W module or less.
Moreover, Phoenix is a valuable portable power supply for camping that can also get fully charged by AC power. The kit is integrated with a 16Ah Li-ion (NMC) battery (that can be replaceable) to supply loads such as smartphones, laptops, Ipads and other electronic devices.
One important tip to consider is not to leave the Phoenix outdoors in excessively hot environments (104°F+) for long periods of time since doing so could overheat the product.
7. Anker Powerhouse
The compact Anker Powerhouse portable station is the perfect solution for the customers that are looking for a solar generator for camping.
Easy to carry and easy to set, the Anker Powerhouse is designed as a lithium solar power station of 434Wh that will act as a portable power source to do all the activities that you may want to do while going camping. Charge your smartphones, laptops, mini-coolers, GoPro, and even a small cooking stove that can get connected to the AC output!
The PowerHouse has a 12V car socket output, a single 110VAC outlet that can charge devices up to 120W and also four USB outputs designed with PowerIQ for optimum electronic charging. The product also features a BMS for voltage regulation, temperature control and surge power protection as well.
The PowerHouse lithium portable power station can also be used as an alternative source of power for medical devices such as CPAP machines.
It is one of the smallest most beautifully designed products among other generators on the market, with an 18-month warranty.
8. Goal Zero Yeti 1400 Lithium
The Goal Zero Yeti 1400Wh Lithium (10.8V and 132Ah) is the most powerful solar generator in this list and on the market. The product acts as a lithium portable power station that can power up to 10 devices at the same time.
Moreover, the integrated pure sine wave inverter has two outputs of 120VAC and 10A with a maximum power capacity of 1500W and a 3000W surge capacity. An interesting feature of this product is that the inverter integrates multi-stage surge protection that adapts to the AC devices that you plug in to provide the ultimate compatibility and protection.
The product also has a line of [email protected] USB ports to charge electronic devices. Finally, you can also have access to a 12V DC output port that allows you to plug into a car cigarette lighter for instance, but also to small fridges as well.
The portable power station has an input section to get charged from the wall outlet or through solar panels as well. Moreover, the generator has an integrated PWM charge controller to effectively charge the lithium batteries through solar power.
Among other portable generators, this is probably the power station that you would like to have during a power outage, since it provides enough backup energy as to charge fridges, fans, smartphones, laptops, small cooking stoves, and other appliances and devices for some time. You can also consider it as a good solar generator for RV’s.
9. SUAOKI 400Wh
The Suaoki 400Wh portable generator power station has two 300W continuous AC power outputs with a 600W surge pure sine wave inverter suitable to charge laptops, fans, and other small AC appliances.
Integrated with a BMS to control voltage, temperature, and current that protects the battery itself and your appliances as well. Also features three ways of charging: using energy from the sun, through a wall socket, or via a 12V car charger.
Its 444Wh battery storage capacity and its lightweight (12.35 pounds) make it a reliable power source that is easy to carry and easy to transport to any travel that you want. You can take it for fishing, hunting or camping.
The Suaoki 400Wh portable power generator can also be used for CPAP machines as an emergency backup power source.
As with other solar power generators, there is no noise created as fuel generators would produce and there are two DC ports that can be used for lighting. Finally, up to four USB outputs are also available for electronic devices.
10. Paxcess 100W
The Paxcess portable power generator offers a beautiful and compact size solution for emergencies.
Integrated with an AC power output of 150-Watt peak power capacity, this portable solution offers guaranteed safety protection with its battery management system that performs voltage regulation, temperature control, and even more advanced operations. More than technical protection, Paxcess also offers a 1-year product warranty.
The 100-Watt portable generator power station can get easily charged through a wall outlet, via a 12V car charger or by using a 50Watt solar panel. Average charging times are estimated between 7 and 8 hours while using the wall outlet and between 7 and 12 hours while using solar energy.
By obtaining the Paxcess 100W power station you will also have three 12V DC ports with a maximum power output of 180W (ideal for small fridges and fans), two 110 AC power outputs (suitable for laptops or camping lamps) and two 5V USB ports perfect for electronic devices.
Use Paxcess as a valuable emergency solar generator that will provide you 155Wh of energy capacity at 3.7V. Maybe the most unique feature of this product is that Paxcess can also power a CPAP machine with its 12V DC plug or even with its 110V AC plugs.
5 Key Things to Think About When Buying a Solar Powered Generator
Surge Power Capacity
The first thing that you need to keep in mind at the moment of purchasing a solar-powered generator is related to the surge pure sine wave inverter rating.
This value will indicate the maximum power capacity that the solar generator system will be able to supply to you loads instantaneously. This applies mainly to motors or fridges, which have an instantaneous electric current surge that lasts only a few milliseconds.
Check the surge power demand of the fridge or small motor that you may need and verify that is located below the maximum surge inverter rating.
If the nameplate of the equipment does not show, then you must take the nominal wattage of the motor and multiply it by 2.5, that should give you a good reference of the surge power needed. Keep in mind this is an average value for typical applications in homes, other bigger electrical machines such as an induction motor may need up to 6 times the nominal value for surge power
Another important factor to consider is the storage capacity of the battery which is measured in watt-hours (Wh).
This will indicate the amount of time that your small appliances can stay connected (fridges, fans, mini-coolers) or the amount of times that an electronic device can get fully-charged.
It will also influence the amount of time that you will need to get the solar-powered generator charged. Built-in solar panels are not very common in these sorts of products, so if you are looking for an off-grid power supply totally independent from the grid that is suitable for camping or RVs, then you would need to purchase a solar panel in addition to the generator. Remember that charging times will depend on the weather conditions, as well.
Sometimes you may find the storage value expressed in ampere-hours (Ah). Although it is less common, it simply means a unit conversion. To obtain the value in Wh that can be compared with typical consumption from loads, you must multiply by the voltage output of the battery (typically 12V).
A high-quality solar-powered generator should have several options to get charged besides using solar panels.
Charging times using energy from the sun will vary according to weather conditions and Sun exposure as well. Sometimes, it might not be fast enough to charge the generator system. Therefore, the power station should be able to get charged directly from an AC source through power outlets, but also through the 12V car battery, suitable under RV and camping trips.
Remember to keep your alternator active when charging the power station, otherwise, you might end up with a dead car battery.
Appliances that you can charge
Not all solar generators are suitable for every application. It does not mean that the product is bad, it just means that it has not been designed for the purpose that you want to use it.
One of the most important details to keep in mind is what do you want to charge? What do you want to back up?
These questions are also important to help you accurately decide which solar-powered generator fits your needs, avoiding under or oversizing.
Evaluate which appliances you can get connected to the power station, how many devices can be connected at once, how much time can you run the appliances or how many times you can get them charged.
Something that never misses when you are selecting a new product among many is to take a look at what additional features is this brand or product offering that others do not.
You will find that some portable solar generators on the market will only be able to get charged through solar power, while others will have three possible ways to get charged.
Also, you will find that some power generators will also come with an integrated charge controller, essential for solar charging, while others will demand that you purchase it separately. Furthermore, some will have an integrated PWM chip while others will have an MPPT charge controller which maximizes solar energy yields and charges your generator kit even faster.
Moreover, additional features such as multiple USB outputs with a Quick Charging capacity, integrated flashlight, BMS protection, integrated fuses and surge protection for the sine wave inverter are all interesting features that can help you decide between two similar products.
What Size of Portable Solar Generator Should You Buy for Travelling?
Most portable solar generators have been designed to be easy to transport and easy to set in every situation.
To take a generator like this into the wild, you need to consider two aspects: dimension and weight. Think about the space that you will probably have available on the trunk of the car. If you are going camping it probably won’t be much.
That is why portable solar power generators need to be compact in size, but also effective enough as to power the appliances that you need.
Probably a 12 pounds solar generator would be the heaviest option that you might consider to go on a trip for camping. This weight should be enough to give you up to 400-watt-hours of energy capacity, in some cases such as the Suaoki 400Wh or the Anker PowerHouse solar-powered generators. Although, you may find it more common to see 150Wh options for this purpose.
What Pieces of Camping Equipment Can Be Powered by Solar Generators?
Many of them! Flashlights, for instance, cannot be missing in any camping experience. These devices can get charged via an AC adapter or via a 12V Dc plug-in. Actually, as you could see on this list, many solar generators already include a flashlight and a friendly handle that will allow you to easily carry it everywhere you go in the woods.
A small electric stove is another essential camping item. After all, who enjoys being in the outdoors without good food to share! Besides, not everybody is made to cook in an open-fire situation, it may look easier than it is (not to mention that a campfire is prohibited in many places). These electric camping stoves are generally connected to the AC output of the solar power generators. Unlike fuel or gas generators, solar-powered products will not create any noise and they won’t be dangerous either if you have any kids around.
LED lights to hang on your camping tent are also an important gear to consider. These can be easily powered through the DC output.
Moreover, any good camping experience should have some cold drinks around. A mini-cooler is another useful appliance to keep your drinks cold and that can be powered thanks to a solar generator. It can generally get connected to the 12V DC output of the portable power source.
Also, sometimes camping sites can get hot during the day, this can make the camping experience less attractive. However, a mini fan can help you overcome that short phase during the day to have a good time. Thanks to the AC power outputs, solar power generators can also power mini fans (generally close to 40W).
Finally, who does not like to wake up in the morning in the mountains with a nice cup of coffee? You may use a traditional fire-based coffee maker, but if you want to go for another option, you can also use a solar generator to power a small electric coffee machine. Keep in mind that this will draw a good amount of power, and that only a generator with a continuous power capacity of nearly 500W (Chafon generator system) will be able to supply the required demand for the coffee machine
So bottom line, what useful camping equipment can be powered by a battery powered generator?
- Camping electric stoves
- Coffee machine
Can you Power the Appliances in an RV Using a Solar Power Generator?
Absolutely! For instance, using a solar generator kit, you can power a small fridge (which is a very important RV item). The amount of time that you can power this item will of course vary depending on the size of the power generator. For this purpose, you will need to consider portable generators that have around 400-watt-hours of energy capacity to be able to power the small fridge around 7 hours.
Also, a TV can get powered by solar generators for at least 3 hours. Again, at least a 400-watt hours power station might be needed. Keep in mind that smaller portable stations might not have enough continuous power to turn on the LCD TV. Also, remember that old-style TVs demand more power, and even a 400Wh solar generator might not be able to supply the required demand. Choose an LCD TV for this purpose.
Can we power more devices? Sure! Let’s take a look at some.
- Clock Radios
- Small coffee maker machines (up to 500W)
- Can openers
- DVD players
- Desktop computers
- Stereo system
All of these devices can get powered with a 400Wh solar generator. You could expect to get them connected at the same time if you choose a bigger size like the Goal Zero Yeti 1400. However, do not ever think of adding a microwave, an iron, an electric blanket and much less an air conditioner, these appliances demand too much power.
Which Backup Solar Generator Should You Buy for Use in Emergencies?
If you are looking for a backup solar generator system mainly for emergencies, the Paxcess 100-watt station is a great option for you.
The product has been designed as an emergency power supply that is lightweight, compact and reliable whenever your area suffers a power outage. If you have any relatives that are connected to a CPAP machine, you can provide him/her with another power source.
The Chafon backup generator is another good option as well which can even provide more power and that acts as a UPS unit when a blackout occurs.
How Much Should You Expect to Pay for a Top Solar Generator Kit?
This is another crucial question for every customer. How much will I have to pay?
Prices change according to power capacity and brands as they do regularly with solar products.
Portable solar generators which have an energy capacity close to 150Wh have a lower capacity and usually have less features available. Therefore, price ranges should be located between $120 and $200.
On the other hand, 400Wh solar-powered generators have more capacity and will have price ranges located between $350 and $450.
Finally, solar generators with capacities over 400Wh can have prices between $600 and $1,500 depending on the size. For these sizes and the American market, there is truly no other brand that is more reliable than Goal Zero.
Goal Zero Yeti 1400 lithium power stations can cost around 1400$. Other available sizes for this brand are the Yeti 1000 (approximately $900) and Yeti 1250 (around $1,000).
For large backup purposes or for RVs, the best choice is to go with a Goal Zero Yeti 1000, 1250 or 1400 option.
How to Calculate the Number of Watts Your Generator Will Need
You need to think of all the appliances that you want to power up before you decide which solar generator to buy.
Here, you must sum up all the power ratings of your appliances: smartphones, laptops, tablets, small fridges, mini-coolers, electric stoves, fans, goPros, drones or any other device that you may want to cover with off-grid power.
You may realize that you will not be able to power all of those devices at the same time for a long time, therefore you must accurately make a selection of which appliances are the most important to you.
Generally, on travel trips you will expect to be able to charge electronics such as laptops, tablets, smartphones, drones, or speakers that have a low power consumption. With a 150Wh portable generator power station, you will be able to charge them.
However, you may also want to power other appliances like small fridges, coffee makers, electric stoves or any other appliance that uses a small motor. If that is your case, you will need to add the wattage consumption and find out which power generators can supply the required wattage demand.
Remember that you must compare this estimated total wattage consumption with the maximum AC continuous power rating of the solar power generators. This is the value that the generator will be able to supply in a long-term scheme. Do not get confused with the surge or peak power capacity, this value is intended to last only a few instants.
Keep in mind that fridges and appliances that use a motor will need a starting wattage which is different from the continuous consumption. This happens because the motor needs an instantaneous current value that can be located between 10 and 12 times the nominal electric current value.
After a few milliseconds, the motor will enter into a permanent regime which will demand its nominal current value. However, if the off-grid solar generator is not able to supply this electric current (or starting wattage if you refer to power), then the appliance won’t even turn on.
In order to know if the starting wattage can be supplied by the portable generator power station, you need to verify that the surge power capacity is located above the starting wattage of the device.
Keep in mind that the surge power needed by the appliance may require all the peak power capacity of the inverter. However, the continuous power demand of the appliance may be low enough as to be coupled with another device. If that is your case, and you want to power both items at the same time, you must connect the appliance that demands the surge power first, and then, after a while, connect the other device.
You can check the typical consumption values of multiple appliances that are used in an RV here.
How Much Power Does the Generator Need?
To charge these generators with solar power, you must know how many watts in solar panels you will need to use to properly charge them within a reasonable period of time.
To find this out, we must refer to the expression below for a quick estimation.
The expression above represents the nominal power (P) that a solar PV system must have to cover up specific energy demands. As an example, let’s take the Renogy Lycan Powerbox for reference. The battery capacity of this solar generator is stated at 1,085Wh. This represents our energy demands (Ed in the expression above).
The other parameters in the expression were deeply explained in the best solar portable panels article.
However, to obtain irradiation values you can now use a new tool for this purpose, the Power Data Access Viewer NASA application. By clicking on the Power Layer list icon below and selecting Direct Normal Radiation (DNR) as parameter, you will able to click on a space on the map and obtain the Irr value to be substituted on the expression above. This will give you simple and exact radiation values for your specific coordinates. Now, let’s assume you are located in Sacramento, California and that you want to charge the battery in a single day. The expression results in.
This represents the minimum wattage of solar power that must be available (nominal power of the PV system) to charge the battery in a day. However, since the value considers DNR, which assumes that the panel and the sun are perpendicular to each other all the time (case for tracking systems but not for fixed-tilt systems) then we would need to oversize the system between 10-15%, maybe up to 270-280W.
You must remember to keep in mind the limit solar power values for each solar generator which in the case of the Renogy Lycan is 300W. If the size needed would be bigger, then you must set it to the maximum possible value (300W in this case), it simply means that the generator will take more than a single day to get completely charged.