Best Solar Generator 2020 – Complete Buyer’s Guide
By investing in a solar generator, you can make sure your home has that emergency backup power it could need. As technology keeps on advancing, access to green & renewable energy like solar energy is getting rapidly popular with each passing day.
This is due to the fact that green energy is a more reliable and cleaner power source compared with most of the other currently available sources, making it an environment-friendly and cost-effective means of energy provision. Usually, a solar generator works by converting sun energy, which is captured by solar panels, into electrical power, after which it then stores the power in a battery.
The stored power can be used later via an inverter. When you’re shopping for the best solar generator, you need to take some things into consideration, such as solar panels, weight, battery capacity & power rating, battery type, power inverter rating, and charge controllers.
We’ll take an in-depth look into these factors later in this post. First, let’s walk you through our picks for the best solar generators on the market:
Top 7 Solar Generators in 2020 – Our Selection
Jackery Explorer 500 Portable Solar Power Station
The Jackery Portable Power Station has proven to be a reliable tool in the backcountry & during front country emergencies, powering a good number of small and medium-sized electronics seamlessly. The machine can charge with an AC wall outlet, a carport, a generator, or Jackery’s 100W solar panel, making it easy to always use this power station whenever it’s needed.
The power station keeps your whole family charged during camping or supply emergency electricity during a power outage, occasioned by a hurricane or other natural disasters. The generator can keep a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine running for more than thirteen hours. This can be of great benefit for people that depend on the solar generator but also want to get outside.
Jackery exploits its top-class innovation and technology to design a power station, which is of superb quality. While most people often use it on camping trips, the model is also ideal for keeping your smartphones, computers, speakers, cameras, and other electronics all charged up.
Though it shouldn’t be used frequently as a flashlight owing to its bulky design, there’s one included on the side close to the handle.
The unit has balanced rugged looks, in addition to ample energy output as well as versatility for charging with ease. Perfect to power any piece of equipment under 500W, it’s recommended for you as a quiet alternative to a generator set when you’re out and about.
- 5 hours to completely charge using your regular AC cable
- Can power appliances using its 12V/10A carport & three 5V/2.4A USB power ports
- LCD Screen gives you updates of both power in & out
- Can power a small blender, TV, or grill for evenings outside
- Has rugged and sturdy build
- Comes with a two-year warranty and one-month money-back guarantee
- Features pure sine wave inverter that ensures safe charging for any device
- Cannot power devices over 500W
- Heavy, weighing 13.32 pounds
MAXOAK AC50 Power Station
The MAXOAK AC50 Power Station is a capable solar generator that’s whopping 500Wh highest capacity. So, if you seek maximum power output, this unit might be your best choice.
According to the manufacturer, a fully charged AC50 can recharge your mobile phone up to 36 times, your camera 80 times as well as a 45-watt laptop 9 times before it goes flat.
This device’s power output is sine-wave pure, meaning that you won’t encounter any issue when you plug in sensitive electronics. The controls on the solar generator are intuitive and easy-to-use. The unit has both DC and AC outputs, allowing you to plug in your USB devices, in addition to your regular AC cords.
Furthermore, the digital battery readout displays how much charge is left, and the unit comes with a wireless charging area. Also, there’s LED lighting, a really beneficial feature for camping.
The MAXOAK AC50 has racked up a lot of reviews from verified buyers, most of which are positive. Though the unit is quite pricey, the extra power and features justify the slightly higher cost.
If you need a high-powered solar generator, this option should definitely be on your shortlist.
- Industrial-quality battery (better than its rivals)
- Well-reputed for releasing reliable products
- Uses ramped charging for prolonging battery life
- Features USB and 12V, and 120 VAC power output options
- Has a quiet fan that keeps the battery extremely cool when running
- Supports a large range of solar panel voltages for charging
- Capacity display is in 5-bar format instead of a numerical display
- Charges only to 50 per cent via a car cigarette lighter but won’t reach 100 per cent if you’ve a 120 AC port in your car
Prymax Portable Station
Prymax features on our list of the best solar generators with the Prymax Portable Power Station. The battery itself requires 8hrs to charge regularly or as much as 10hrs using a solar panel.
Once it’s fully charged, it can charge a mobile phone fully more than 40 times, a laptop 7 times, and a continuous positive airway pressure machine for multiple nights based on your settings.
The generator, which weighs in 6.5 pounds and with the size of a bag of flour, can be packed easily for one week of camping or stored away for use when power outages and other emergencies strike.
It comes with an inbuilt, quiet cooling fan, which goes on when the station becomes hot. This option, working in conjunction with the gas-free power, makes it a safe machine to use inside small spaces, such as residential vehicles, tents, cabins, and the likes. This shows it’s an excellent choice for people in need of a means for powering medical equipment in the backcountry.
The portable power station offers the following charging ports: two AC (1 Pure Sine Wave), two USB, one 12V, one Type-C, one 24V, and one 18V/8A port (which is also called the cigarette lighter port).
Please, note that the AC out ports are not to be used when the generator is charging. However, all these power-out features allow for a variety of needs to be met using the Prymax Portable Power Station — a reliable, robust, and lightweight machine.
- Supplies steady 300 watts output, with 600 watts surges
- Has three ways to charge, via AC outlet, generator, or solar panel (this isn’t included)
- Has 2 pure sine wave outlets that ensure safe charging
- Lightweight design
- Offers large flashlight using SOS programming for emergency use
- Offers easy-to-read LED screen showing input, output, & battery life
- Could overheat with heavy usage
- Offers mid-range price point
- There are no quick-charge ports
Rockpals Solar Generator
Though looks have no effect on the actual output of this unit, the Rockpals 500W Portable Power Station is as nifty as it’s practical. It sports a large and scratch-resistant LCD screen that lets you monitor the power going both in and out, ensuring that you can be ready for trips to the cabin or during emergencies.
It can be charged via a 110V wall charger, an MC4 cable, or a 12V car charger. Each of these outlets can charge the machine fully in 6 – 8 hours, which allows for an instant turnaround if needed.
When on a full charge, the power station repower a MacBook Pro 7 times, a drone more than 10 times, or a projector for 6 or 7hrs. Using this solar generator, you can confidently go camping easily, and you won’t have to lose crucial electric-powered tools, such as your phone or camera.
Several people make use of this unit to stay connected when having fun, but the Rockpals Station is also perfect for natural disasters, power outages as well as CPAP machine use. The solar generator has an LED flashlight that can shine for more than 50hrs, which can keep you going during emergencies.
The machine is a good option for you when on a budget. But do note that it’s a 10-hr automatic shut off if the unit hasn’t been touched for that long. This could present some issues for CPAP users that sleep for long hours. For almost any user, however, the Rockpals is a dependable power station that’s worth every penny you spent on it.
- Has an 18-month warranty
- Offers pure sine wave power to ensure safer charging
- Comes with 10 different charging ports to plug into
- Quiet cooling fan
- Has no USB-C port
- Not waterproof
- At 7.3 pounds, it’s hefty to carry
Renogy Phoenix Portable Generator All-in-One Solar Kit
Are you looking for portable solar power on the go? Then, with the Renogy Phoenix Portable Generator, no need to look any further. Thanks to the 16Ah battery and 20W monocrystalline solar panels, you’ve an emergency backup power source within easy reach.
The Renogy Phoenix is in a class of its own, and it isn’t bigger than a briefcase. It looks just like a portable briefcase and weighs less than 13 pounds when closed. The tool is an ideal choice for on-the-move emergency power and features 10-watt solar panels for charging under the sun.
Also, it has a large handle for easy carrying and is quite user-friendly. The portable generator features a power switch for turning the unit on, in addition to individual control for setting AC or DC currents as required.
At the top of the device, you can check the display and assess the progress of the unit’s battery charge and the strength level of the sun’s rays that are charging the battery at any specific point in time.
The machine also offers you a wide selection of outlets for catering to different user’s needs, along with input ports that you can use for hooking up to additional solar panels. Its battery offers an approximate 1500 charge cycle life.
One issue to keep in mind is that the Phoenix takes slightly longer to charge compared with similar products on the market as it uses about 15hrs to attain a full charge via solar energy.
- Can be powered solely via solar energy
- Has extensive port options
- Great LED flashlight
- Cool choice for emergency power situations
- Features user-friendly display to monitor battery power
- Beeps whenever AC or DC switches get selected without any way to adjust
- USB ports on the unit could be more easily accessible
- Takes 15hrs for charging with only solar energy
- No visible way for dimming light display
ROCKPALS 300W Portable Power Station
The ROCKPALS 300W offers you instant power with just the push of a button. The device is completely silent and won’t disturb you or your neighbors, which is among its many benefits.
The unit has a lithium battery and can generate the large amount of power you require to power some appliances when you’re on a camping trip, or during a situation where there’s an outage.
Due to the 300W AC inverter, which this solar generator makes use of, there’s no need any longer for gasoline or cords. This makes the ROCKPALS one of the safest and most efficient generators currently on the market.
Also, none of those toxic fumes will be released into the atmosphere due to the multi-layer protection that this portable generator is equipped. So, by using it, you won’t be contributing actively to pollution.
There’s a battery level monitor, which is a cool feature that allows you to see when your generator is in need of charging. While most solar generators just produce beeping sounds when they’re running low, this unit offers you a display, which provides you with all the info you need to determine the performance of the generator as it runs.
- Lightweight, not bulky, compact, and easy to manage
- 3-way rechargeable
- Features pure sine wave output for protecting against damage to sensitive electronics
- 18-month warranty
- Friendly customer service
- Doesn’t display estimated hours remaining based on current wattage used
- No USB-C
- Features no carry bag, which makes it necessary for you to get your own pouch for carrying the included charging cables
- Its battery is not replaceable once the 500x lifetime charge cycle elapses
Wagan (EL2547) Solar e Power Cube 1500 Plus
The Wagan Solar e Power Cube Plus is also one of the best solar generators out there. It’s a portable device, featuring an all-in-one renewable portable solar generator, which is ready once it gets out of the packaging box.
The unit is user-friendly, requiring no connections. It’s quite adaptable and convenient since extra solar panels & batteries can be connected when you’re in need of more power. For such a purpose, the generator offers you 2 more terminals for solar expansion when necessary. Also, it gives you instant access to AC power.
- Easy-to-use as no connections are needed
- Has a 2-year warranty
- Has 2 terminals for solar panel expansion
- Quite heavy weighing 155 pounds (about 70.3kg)
- Its plastic body doesn’t last long
Buyer’s Guide to the Best Solar Generators
A portable solar generator can cater to your critical household energy needs when the lights go out. While a gas-powered unit is an option, it’s loud and dirty. And when you such a generator runs out of gas, you must get new fuel.
Solar generators work by harnessing energy from the sun for making electricity.
Not only are they clean, but also easy to use, requiring no reliance on fossil fuel. If you’re thinking of getting one as a backup power supply, but you consider the technology intimidating, this section will discuss all you need to know about how they work and tips to select the best solar generator for you & your family.
How solar generators work
While solar generator tech isn’t new, the notion of putting compact components in a portable unit is (at least relatively). These devices are similar in construction to large systems.
However, they’re small enough to just have on standby in case of emergencies or to take on the road when you’re unable to get an expensive backup power supply.
All solar generators come with the following basic components:
- Solar panels for converting sunlight into electricity
- A battery for storing power
- A charge controller for controlling the current flow to the battery
- An inverter for converting power from the battery into the type of current that’s required to power household appliances.
Tips to Select the Best Solar Generator
Making the best choice of a solar generator for your home or RV takes more than a price comparison and going through solar generator reviews. Due to the fact that the needs of everyone vary, rating a generator as the best is like comparing apples with oranges.
When trying to choose the best solar generator, the first step is to know how much power you require to run those devices, which are important to you during a power outage.
The average home in the US consumes around 25,000W of energy daily or 1000W per hour. A good number of solar generators can supply 900–5,000W of electricity each hour, which makes them appear capable of powering everything, including your freezer, TV, pool, etc. However, unlike gas-powered generators producing a steady supply of electricity so long the tank is full, solar generators can’t deliver power at that fast rate. They work on energy that’s stored in batteries, which have to be recharged between uses.
The important thing as regards getting the best solar generator (and generators generally) is to figure out how much power you require, your budget, and what specific features you consider the most crucial.
Things to Look For in Your Solar Generator
Whole home solar systems that come with many roof-mounted panels & large battery banks are able to keep things running around your home seamlessly.
What these do panels is to collect more energy for starting with, and as some of several batteries are getting drained, others are getting charged. This provides you with a reliable and consistent power supply, which can run everything your household requires.
There’s no portable generator that can realistically store enough electricity that can power every appliance in your house. However, for emergency use or on-the-go power, portable solar generators are relatively cheaper and easy to store.
Also, they can meet at least your most basic power-related household needs.
When shopping for solar generators, you need to take these factors into account:
Watts is also one of the units of solar panel energy production as the watt rating on your panel multiplied by the number of hours of sun exposure it receives daily will give the total number of watts that it can generate each day. For instance, a 150W solar panel receiving 6hrs of the sun will generate 900W of power for that day.
However, things aren’t so simple with the sun since day-to-day & seasonal sun exposure changes are noteworthy. Even the best solar panels produce only limited power during cloudy days.
3 types of common solar panels are available, and their efficiency will determine the number of watts they generate for their size. Here are these 3 types of solar panels:
- The most common type is monocrystalline panels. These are designed using single-crystal silicon wafers. They’re somewhat more efficient in comparison with the polycrystalline type. However, they’re slightly more expensive.
- Polycrystalline solar cells are produced from melted fragments of silicon. Since electrons move less freely between fragments, the solar panels come with a good yet slightly less efficient rating. The difference between monocrystalline panels and polycrystalline panels for most systems is statistically not significant.
- Thin film, or amorphous crystal panels that make use of relatively new technology. While these panels are light, flexible, slim, durable, and inexpensive, they’re only half as efficient as their monocrystalline counterparts and need twice the footprint for producing the same amount of power. So, they’re less useful for small portable generators.
Type of Battery
There are different styles of batteries. However, the 2 most common types are lead-acid and lithium-ion. Let’s take a brief look at each of them:
- Lead-acid batteries, like those utilized in your car, are the most common type. They’re also the least expensive. While they’ve a shorter life span, they’re a cost-effective option for home use. In some styles of battery, you’ll find the use of special gel for enhancing their lifespan & safety; however, the power performance is similar. Further, deep-cycle batteries, which can handle repeated heavy discharges, are longer lasting, and under nearly all conditions, they’re worth the additional cost.
- Lithium-ion batteries, which are the battery type powering the majority of cordless tools, are lightweight and compact. Also, they’ve a longer lifespan in comparison with lead-acid batteries. Lithium-ion batteries are increasingly popular in portable solar generators due to their size and weight, even though they’ve a higher price.
Power Rating & Battery Capacity
Battery capacity represents the total amount of electricity a solar battery is able to store but doesn’t show how much power it can generate at any given moment. For that, you’ll have to check the power rating of the battery.
Generally, a battery that’s a high capacity and a low power rating will offer you less electricity, but for longer periods. And the converse is also true.
Bear in mind that solar generators operate on stored energy, and a system can contain enough panels for generating a thousand watts of energy. However, if the battery only stores 500W, that’s the maximum amount of power you’ll get without adding more capacity.
Also, it’s pertinent to keep in mind that only the best solar generators come with batteries, which can be charged simultaneously while it’s in use. This feature is known as trickle charging. Unless you’ve multiple batteries that can meet your power needs over many days, you’ll need to consider this feature vital.
If your battery requires less than 8hrs to recharge, an average portable generator that features the trickle charging option should supply consistent power and replenish itself on only solar power. If the trickle charging capability isn’t available, you won’t have power for as long as it requires to recharge your battery.
The majority of portable generator components are sized for maximizing the capacity of each to aid efficiency. By expanding one component, you’ll usually have to upgrade others. However, the crucial part is, better systems are expandable for meeting changing needs.
Power Inverter Rating
This shouldn’t be confused with a battery’s power rating discussed above. Power inverters work by converting the direct electrical current (also called DC), which comes out of the solar panels, to the alternating current (also called AC), which your appliances require. AC is the same type of electricity coming from your wall outlet.
Inverters have a watt rating that shows the maximum power they can take. It should always be at least the max amount of power, which the system is able to produce.
While pure sine wave inverters are expensive, they’re more efficient and bring about less wear on certain appliances, such as televisions, microwaves, and CPAP machines. However, they’ve double the cost of modified sine wave inverters, and that may not be a cost-effective option for occasional use.
The weight of a portable solar generator varies from as little as 20 pounds to as huge as 200 pounds. Weight mainly comes from the panels as well as the battery.
You’ve to note that panel weight is hard to change significantly without getting lightweight frames. Also, other components compromising durability & lithium-ion batteries are much lighter in comparison with lead-acid, but they’re expensive.
The major point about portability more often lies in the manner the weight is distributed, instead of the individual components. You’ll find parts layered in a sturdy and wheeled box easier to manage than separate pieces. Also, solar panels, which fold like suitcases, reduce bulk. This makes them easier for you to handle at the same weight.
If you know that your system will be staying fairly stationary, you’ll have to always take weight into account, but it’s not much of an issue.
On the other hand, if you’ll be moving it daily, then note that lightweight systems will spare your back and will face less risk of getting damaged during moves.
What a charge controller does is to regulate the current from the solar panels in a bid to prevent your batteries from overcharging.
In the simplest controllers, the connection is simply disrupted between the battery and the panel when maximum voltage is attained. While they’re reliable, they’re not really efficient.
Models with 3-stage or maximum power point tracking (also called MPPT) handle current flow in a more effective manner, and they’ve the capability to squeeze more power out of the system.
To enjoy optimal performance, find controllers that are waterproof and come with an LED display, which provides you with basic info about the efficiency of your system. As you gain more knowledge about solar power, it’ll help you get the most out of your solar generator.
In a Nutshell
In the sections above, we’ve taken an in-depth look into the features, pros, and cons of the best solar generators on the market, which include the Jackery Explorer 500 Portable Solar Power Station, the Prymax Portable Station, the Rockpals Solar Generator, and 4 other products.
When you invest in a quality and dependable solar generator, you can make sure your home enjoys that emergency backup power it requires. As technology records more advances, access to green & renewable energy, such as solar energy, is becoming rapidly popular with each passing day.
When you’re looking to buy the best solar generator, you need to take some factors into account, such as solar panels, weight, battery capacity & power rating, battery type, power inverter rating, and charge controllers. We’ve discussed all these above to help you get the best out of your solar generator.