Solar Panels with Built-in Outlets – Do They Exist?
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With growing concerns about climate change, the ever-rising cost of electricity, and the instability of electrical grids around the world, it makes sense that more people than ever before are turning to solar panels as a source of free and renewable power.
If you are new to solar power and you are unsure where to start, we are here to help. One of the most common questions we are asked is whether or not it is possible to purchase a solar panel that has a built-in outlet. In other words, can you simply plug an electronic device directly into a solar panel to charge it?
So, is it Possible?
Unfortunately, plugging electronic devices and appliances directly into a solar panel is not possible at this time. While it may seem somewhat confusing at first, we are going to clearly explain why you cannot simply access power directly from a solar panel. From there, we will offer a beginner-friendly solution that will allow you to access clean, solar electricity, without having to install a large-scale solar power system.
While it may seem somewhat intimidating at first, getting started with solar is actually fairly simple, especially once you know the exact types of equipment you will need to purchase.
Can You Purchase a Solar Panel with a Built-in Power Outlet?
As mentioned above, it is not possible to plug an electronic device or appliance directly into a solar panel. While it would certainly be convenient if you could, there is a fairly simple explanation as to why this is not possible. To understand why, you have to take a few seconds to learn how solar panels actually work.
How Do Solar Panels Work?
In simple terms, a solar panel, or photovoltaic panel (PV panel), generates electric current by absorbing light particles from direct sunlight. These light particles are called photons. After they have been captured, they bounce around within the solar cells that make up the solar panel. As they move and bounce around inside the solar cells within the solar panels, they clash into electrons, which produces an electric current.
This current is then transferred to the solar panel’s terminals, so it can be used. However, before the electric current can be used, it must be converted from Direct Current (DC) to Alternating Current (AC), which is what your electronic devices and appliances need.
To convert the DC power that solar panels generate into useable AC power, the current must flow through a power inverter, which is a specialized piece of solar equipment that can efficiently convert the power into the current you need.
When you plug your electronics into a standard wall outlet, you are accessing AC power, which is why just about every electronic you will find inside your home will be designed to run off of AC power.
What Do You Need to Access Power from a Solar Panel?
A Sufficient Power Inverter:
As described above, you will need to wire your solar panels to a power inverter in order to convert the DC power they generate into useable AC power.
The exact power inverter you are going to need will depend on a variety of factors, including the type of solar panels you are using, as well as the electronic devices and appliances you are looking to run with solar power. Essentially, you need an inverter with a power rating that matches the amount of power your solar panels will generate, as well as the input power demands of the devices you plan on using that electricity to charge.
An Appropriate Deep-Cycle Solar Battery:
Another factor you will have to consider is the fact that solar panels cannot generate any power unless they are exposed to direct sunlight. In other words, once the sun has set, or the sunlight is even blocked by clouds and other impediments, the solar panel cannot generate power. This means you need to connect your solar panels to some sort of rechargeable battery if you want to be able to access solar power at night and during other situations when the sun is not shining.
These batteries are usually referred to as deep-cycle solar batteries, and they are specifically designed to accept solar power and be charged and discharged repeatedly.
An Efficient Charge Controller:
Not only will you need a battery to store the solar power your solar panels generate, but you will also need a piece of equipment known as a charge controller to regulate the flow of electricity from the solar panels to your battery bank. Without an appropriate charge controller, the power flowing from your solar panels could overwhelm your battery. Since charge controllers are designed to efficiently regulate the flow of electricity, they help to protect your battery.
They also prevent stored electricity from flowing from the battery back to the solar panels, where it would otherwise be lost. In other words, a charge controller and an appropriate solar battery are also essential pieces of equipment if you plan on storing solar power so you can use it at your convenience, rather than just when the sun is shining.
Solar Cables and Connectors:
Once you have acquired the three main components you will need in order to store and access the solar electricity that your solar panels generate, you will need to purchase all of the solar cables and connectors required to wire everything together.
If you are lucky, the components you purchase will come with the required cables, however, in many cases, these solar cables are impractically short, so they will not be adequate if you are planning to position your solar equipment indoors, while your solar panels are fixed into position outside.
So, is it Expensive to Use Solar Panels?
While it may sound complicated and expensive to purchase all of the equipment required to get your solar panels up and running, it is actually fairly simple and affordable, especially if you purchase a complete solar kit.
The best solar kits come packaged with everything you need to get started, including all of the cables, connectors, and brackets required for installation. If you know where to shop, you can even purchase a solar kit that is designed to be as beginner-friendly as possible, which means even those that have zero solar experience can easily install their own solar power system.
Where Can You Find Beginner-Friendly Solar Kits?
While there are quite a few online retailers that offer solar kits, you have to make sure that you are purchasing one that actually comes with all of the components required to generate, store, and use solar power.
Some kits will come with solar panels and a charge controller, but you will not get a power inverter, or an adequate solar battery, which means you will have to make additional purchases after you have ordered your supposedly “complete” solar kit. You should also make sure that any solar kit you are looking at actually comes with solar cables and connectors, otherwise, you will have no way of wiring the individual solar components together.
We have found that www.ShopSolarKits.com is one of the best options for those that are just starting out with solar power. As the name suggests, ShopSolarKits specializes in off-grid and grid-tied solar kits. Not only are their kits available at outstanding prices, they only contain high-quality components from some of the best brands in the solar industry.
As an added bonus, most of their solar kits are designed to be beginner-friendly, so they are ideal for beginners and DIY-enthusiasts. They even come with custom installation guides and wiring instructions. Once you have purchased your solar kit, you also get access to lifetime customer support and plenty of helpful resources, both of which can be incredibly valuable for beginners.
DIY Solar Panel Kits:
If you are unsure where to start, we recommend trying out their Solar Kit Sizing Tool, which will help you find the perfect solar kit for your specific power needs and budget. If you have a basic idea of what you need, you can also browse their DIY Solar Panel Kits. Their solar kits are designed to meet a variety of power requirements, so you simply have to choose the kit that satisfies your needs and budget.
No matter which kit you choose, you will receive solar panels, and efficient charge controller, a power inverter, a deep-cycle solar battery, and all of the cables and connectors you need. You also get custom instructions, so installation should be a breeze!
Solar Generators – The Ultimate All-in-One Solution
If the idea of installing a solar power system in a fixed location is not what you are looking for, we suggest taking a look at solar generators.
Essentially, a solar generator is a convenient piece of solar equipment that contains everything you need in one unit, including a charge controller, power inverter, and a deep-cycle solar battery. These all-in-one solar units also feature a variety of input and output ports, so they almost act as a self-contained solar power station.
You simply have to connect your solar panels to your solar generator and you can start drawing solar power directly from the generator’s output ports. In other words, a solar generator is about as close as you are ever going to get to a solar panel with a built-in outlet.
How Do Solar Generators Work?
Since a solar generator contains all of the necessary components required to convert DC power into useable AC power, you simply have to plug your solar panels into the appropriate input port on your specific solar generator.
Once the electricity flows from your solar panels to your solar generator, it will then be stored within the solar generator’s internal battery. This allows you to access that electricity whenever you need it.
Not only can you charge the solar generator with solar power, but most also have the option to charge the battery with AC power, which you can do by simply plugging the solar generator into any standard wall outlet.
As an added bonus, some units even support car charging, so you can just plug them into the DC port in your vehicle. This is a really useful option for those that enjoy road trips, as well as those that are looking to use a solar generator as a portable source of power in their RV or camper van.
How Do You Use a Solar Generator?
To pull power from the solar generator, you simply have to plug your electronic device or appliance into the appropriate output port, which should be located on the face of your solar generator.
Most solar generators will have an array of AC outlets that look just like wall-style plug-ins. They also tend to feature USB-A and USB-C output ports, so you can plug your portable electronics, like your smartphone, directly into the solar generator. With some units, you even get DC output ports, which will look just like the cigarette-style outlet you get in a car.
For added convenience, most solar generators will also feature a display screen, which will give you output and input power ratings, and tell you how much power is remaining within the solar generator’s internal battery.
The most advanced units also feature Wi-Fi compatibility, so you can monitor and control them through a smartphone or tablet by downloading the appropriate smart app. Basically, solar generators are designed to be as user-friendly as possible, which is part of the reason why they have become so popular.
What Do You Need?
Since solar generators are designed to be the ultimate all-in-one solar power station, all you need is the solar generator itself, solar panels, and the cables required to connect them together. Most solar generators will even include all of the cables you need, so they really are the ultimate plug-and-play solar power system.
Fortunately, ShopSolarKits also sells solar generator kits, which package a high-end solar generator with an appropriate number of high-quality solar panels. You also get a custom instruction manual and all of the cables required to charge your solar generator and keep it connected to your solar panels.
The more advanced kits will also include expansion batteries, so you can store an incredible amount of solar electricity in a convenient and portable solar power system.
If you are interested in a complete solar generator kit, we encourage you to browse their Solar Generator Kit Collection.
What Can You Use a Solar Generator For?
One of the key benefits you get by using a solar generator is versatility. Even the most powerful solar generators are still designed for portability, so they will feature built-in wheels and handles.
Off-Grid Power for RV and Camping Trips:
When you combine their portable nature with the fact that they contain everything you need in one convenient package, you really start to see why they are perfect for off-grid applications. Whether you are looking for a source of electricity that you can take with you on your next camping or RV trip, or you would simply like to have the ability to do some work in the backyard, a solar generator can give you access to electricity wherever you need it.
Many people will keep a few solar panels and a solar generator in their RV, which gives them the ability to access electricity, even when they do not have access to a power hookup.
Basically, you can generate and store your own electricity, which can give you the ability to explore off-grid locations that were previously off-limits!
Backup Power During Emergencies and Power Failures:
If you are looking for a reliable source of power that you can access during emergency situations, like lengthy power outages and natural disasters, a high-quality solar generator can be the ideal option.
With some of the latest solar generator models, you can even connect more than one unit together, which will increase the total storage capacity, as well as the output power. For example, the EcoFlow Delta PRO Solar Generator supports this extremely beneficial chaining function.
When you connect two Delta PROs, you can achieve a stunning output power rating of 7,2000W / 240V! If you are unfamiliar with what these numbers mean, it basically means that you can use the solar generators to keep heavy-duty, demanding electric appliances, like refrigerators, ovens, and air conditioners, running for days at a time.
Recommended Solar Generators
While there are numerous solar generators on the market these days, it is important to choose a high-quality unit that is manufactured by a reputable brand. The following are just some of our favorites:
There are plenty of reasons why the EcoFlow Delta 1800 is one of the best-selling solar generators of all time.
When it was first released in 2019, the Delta 1800 really stood apart from any solar generator that preceded it. For starters, it features a robust 1,300Wh deep-cycle solar battery, which means it can store enough power for a wide range of applications, including emergency preparedness, portable power for RV and camping adventures, and much more.
It delivers a powerful 1,800W inverter that can handle surges of up to 3,300W. While the impressive battery capacity and power inverter certainly turn heads, what really sets the Delta 1800 apart is its budget-friendly price.
The Delta 1800 also delivers some fairly impressive extra features, like a chaining ability, which means you can easily connect multiple Delta 1800s to increase its output power and battery capacity. This is really helpful if you are looking to store and use a significant amount of solar power on a tight budget. It also features an informative LED display screen, which makes it easy to read input and output information, as well as a straightforward estimate of the amount of power your Delta 1800 has remaining in its battery. Again, this is really helpful for emergency situations and blackouts, as it can help you budget your remaining power appropriately.
An incredibly fast charging rate also means that you can recharge the Delta 1800 from 0% to 80% in as little as one hour! 13 output ports and the ability to detect power outages automatically really put the Delta 1800 in a different class than the Patriot Power 1800.
All this plus a two-year manufacturer’s warranty and an affordable price point make it fairly obvious why the Delta 1800 has remained one of the most popular solar generators on the market.
Launched in late 2021, the AC200 MAX is one of the most exciting solar generators on the market today.
It offers two expansion battery ports, which means it can accommodate up to two BLUETTI B230 expansion batteries (2048Wh each), or two B300 expansion battery modules (3072Wh each). When you consider the fact that this means you can expand your AC200 MAX to a total storage capacity of 8,192Wh, you can really grasp how impressive this solar generator can be.
The AC200 MAX also features 16 power outlets, so you can run and charge all of your devices and appliances at the same time. On top of that, you can also re-charge the AC200 MAX’s internal battery and expansion batteries at the same time that you supply power to your electronics!
RV enthusiasts and boaters will also appreciate the fact that the AC200 MAX features a built-in 30A (“RV Plug”) – NEMA TT-30 rated outlet and a powerful 12V 30A DC outlet.
The AC200 MAX can also handle a solar input of 900W and a 500W input from AC power, which means the internal battery can be charged incredibly fast. It also supports dual charging, meaning you can use AC and Solar charging simultaneously. When doing so, you can achieve an input rating of 1,400W, which means the unit’s massive battery can be fully charged in less than 2 hours!
While it is more expensive than the previous two options, the Delta PRO completely blows the competition away. This is because the Delta PRO is the most powerful solar generator ever released.
This is because the Delta PRO was designed to be a whole-home battery system. When it is combined with expansion batteries, it can supply enough power to keep a full-sized home running for days at a time, which means it can help you achieve off-grid solar independence.
Not only does it contain an enormous 3,600Wh deep-cycle battery, it is expandable, meaning it can seamlessly connect to multiple 3,600Wh expansion batteries for a mind-boggling total battery capacity of 25,000Wh or 25kWh! This means the Delta PRO can almost double the power storage capabilities of a Tesla Powerwall 2!
Not only can the Delta PRO store an incredible amount of power, it also offers some of the most advanced features of any solar generator on the market today, such as Wi-Fi compatibility, the world’s fastest charging rate, and the ability to integrate it directly into your home’s power circuits with the EcoFlow Smart Panel Ecosystem.
Overall, this truly is one of the best solar generators we have ever seen and it certainly justifies its price tag.