Portable Solar Generators often have the misconception that they are not powerful and won’t power many devices.
This is far from the truth.
Whether you are car camping or preparing for a worst-case scenario, there is probably a solar generator that will fit your needs since they come in all shapes and sizes.
This article will explain what you need to know about solar-powered generators and then take you through some of the best portable solar generators on the market right now.
Table of contents
- What is a Solar Generator
- How Do Solar Powered Generators Work?
- How Much Power Will My Generator Provide
- Advantages & Disadvantages
- Additional Tips to Consider When Purchasing
- Best Solar Powered Generators
- Solar Powered Generator Bundles (With Solar Panels)
- Portable Solar Generators – Final Thoughts
What is a Solar Generator
When people talk about solar generators, they typically refer to a portable power system that uses solar panels to produce electricity stored in a battery for later use.
Solar-powered generators are often used in RV’s, boats, and backup sources of power for grid outages.
How Do Solar Powered Generators Work?
There are a few basic steps and components used in a common solar-powered generator.
- Solar panels attached to the generator collect and convert sunlight to Direct Current (DC Energy).
- The DC is passed through a charge controller, which controls the voltage of the energy going to the battery to be stored for later use.
- Once the energy in the battery is needed, it passes through an inverter that converts it to Alternating Current Energy (AC).
Most portable solar generators have AC Outlets, USB Ports, and 12 Volt Carports. This allows you to charge multiple devices or small appliances.
How Much Power Will My Generator Provide
This, of course, depends on the size of your generator and how long the sun is shining – meaning how long the battery is allowed to charge.
Battery storage is also important. Convert your amp hours to watt-hours and make sure you have the storage to meet your needs. Add 3 days for those cloudy days.
To get watt-hours from amp hours, multiply amps times volts. The watt-hour rating for a 12-volt 100 amp/hr. battery is 1200 watt-hours.
Take a look a the following appliances.
- Light Bulb = 60Wh
- Refridgerator = 900Wh
- Cell Phone = 40Wh
If you anticipate you will use 1,000 watt-hours each day, multiply this times 3 and you will need batteries to store at least 3,000 watt-hours.
Advantages & Disadvantages
Like any power source, solar-powered generators have their advantages and disadvantages. Before you say NO, it is too expensive, consider this.
They may be heavy, and they may be expensive, but they are probably going to last you 20-25 years, and when all other fuel is gone, you can sit this bad boy out in the sun and turn on the lights!
- Quiet – Nice when camping in the backcountry or wilderness.
- Clean Energy – no smelly or expensive fuels and pollutants.
- Less maintenance – there are not a lot of moving parts.
- Life expectancy – 20 to 25 years!
- Price is currently high, but as they become more popular and technology advances, prices will come down.
- Slow to Charge – they can take all day and are much slower than gas generators.
- Power Supply – they depend on the sun being out. Battery size is important.
Additional Tips to Consider When Purchasing
If you are thinking about purchasing a portable solar generator, there are a few additional things you should keep in mind.
- Inverters – Make sure your inverter is a Pure Sine Wave Inverter. This is the type of AC electricity your appliances and electronics use.
- Most solar-powered generators include a charger, inverter, and battery. They do not often include solar panels unless you purchase a kit.
- Batteries – make sure you have the right size and type of battery.
- Recharging times should be reasonable, especially in the winter or with volatile weather.
- MPPT Charge Controllers are more efficient. Keep in mind they are not 100% efficient.
- The charge controller determines how many solar panels you can add. Make sure the voltage input is not too narrow.
Best Solar Powered Generators
There are a lot of choices when it comes to solar-powered generators. I’ve read reviews, consumer reports, articles, and reviewed comments on manufacturing websites.
Based on consumer feedback, these are currently four of the best generators available at a reasonable price in both the small and mid-size categories. All of the generators below receive 4.5 – 5 stars and have hundreds or thousands of reviews.
Small Portable Solar Generators (100W – 600W)
My favorite generator in the small group is the AIMTOM. It provides exactly what I need to run small tools and electronics if I’m off-grid or on an overnight camping trip. Its 3x USB ports, 1x DC outlets, and 3x AC outlet give me the versatility to power what I need.
My second choice is the 240W Jackery. Jackery has good reviews and is a solid generator to keep everyone’s devices powered up when we are camping. This is also a great entry-level generator for camp @ only 6.6 pounds.
- AIMTOM Portable Power Station Rebel 440, 3x 440W AC, 100W USB-C PD, 12V Regulated DC, 2x USB, 403Wh Lithium Battery
- EF ECOFLOW RIVER 288Wh Portable Power Station,3 x 600W(Peak 1200W) AC Outlets & LED Flashlight
- Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 240, 240Wh Backup Lithium Battery, 110V/200W Pure Sine Wave AC
Mid-size Portable Solar Generators (1,000W – 2,000W)
You really can’t go wrong with any of the generators in this list, but I’ve always been a Bluetti fan. Jackery runs a close second, but the number of input and output ports/outlets provided by Bluetti is almost double that of Jackery.
Jackery takes the award for ease of use, but if I had to go with a runner-up it would probably be EF Ecoflow @ 1800W. The drawback is its lack of outlets, so you really have to decide what you are going to use your generator for – a true backup power source or keeping everyone on their handheld devices around camp.
- EF ECOFLOW Portable Power Station DELTA, UPS Power Supply 1260Wh Battery Pack with 6 1800W (3300W Surge) AC Outlets
- BLUETTI Portable Power Station AC200P, 2000Wh LiFePO4 Battery Backup w/ 6 2000W AC Outlets
- Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 1500, 1534Wh Portable Generator with 3x110V/1800W AC
Solar Powered Generator Bundles (With Solar Panels)
Many of the solar-powered generators come packaged as “bundles.” The “bundle” typically includes solar panels, and if you purchase them together, you get a discount versus buying them separately.
I’ve listed some of the bundles below. Before purchasing separate panels with your portable solar generator, though, check the manufacturer warranty. In some cases, you may find that they don’t guarantee the generator if you don’t use their panels.
Small Portable Solar Generator Bundles
- ROCKPALS 250W Portable Power Station and ROCKPALS 60W Solar Panel
Mid-size Portable Solar Generator Bundles
Portable Solar Generators – Final Thoughts
All of the solar generators I have listed are well-made and will provide you with the power you need when you need it.
Personally, I would charge them with solar panels, and you will be surprised at how quickly they can be charged if you string panels together.
If you are setting up one of the larger generators in camp, you can set the generator up during the day and have it fully charged and ready to power up your appliances and devices when you return at the end of the day.