▷How to Choose a Solar Power Generator (2018 Update)

How to Choose a Solar Power Generator

Solar Power Generator Reviews and Information

Solar power has come a long way over the past few years and is now the prefered source of energy for millions of people across the world.  It’s much more eco-friendly than fossil fuels, quite easy to switch to, and best of all, it’s free!   The problem is that unless you know exactly what you’re looking for buying a solar power generator can be tricky.  But,  thankfully, that’s where we come in.  The following article will take you through some of the more important things to look for when looking for a solar power generator to help you make the right choice.    

How to choose the right solar power generator

There are many different solar power generators available to buy on the market right now.  And while they do all strive to get the same result, some offer better features and some are simply much more efficient.  It can sometimes be hard to find the right balance between price and performance when it comes to solar generators as they vary so much.  While some features don’t really seem necessary others are key to doing a good job. 

The following list is some of the key things to take in consideration before making your next solar generator purchase:

Use.  What do you intend on using the solar power generator for?  Are you more interested in having a backup supply for your home in the event of a power outage or just a secondary power source?  Or are you looking for a more portable solution for generating electricity as you’re on the move?  This is the first thing you need to consider when preparing to buy your solar generator as the answer to this will determine what type of solar power generator you should buy. 

The two main types of solar power generators are:

  • Solar backup generators:  These are more permanent renewable energy solutions that provide electricity for homes in the event of a backup.  They’re usually very high in terms of wattage capacity and will normally use multiple batteries to increase power storage.  While solar backup generators are good for powering the essentials within the home such as lights, TVs, and computers, it’s unlikely you’ll find one that will power everything.  So just bear this in mind when making your purchase.             
  • Portable solar generators:  If you’re looking for renewable energy while on the move then it’s a portable solar generator that you require.  Compact and efficient, these machines are great for use when camping, picnicking, and other outdoor events.   While these generators have a much lower wattage than solar backup generators, they’ve still got enough to power up and recharge various small electricals including smartphones, tablets, lights, and more.  

Battery storage capacity.  This largely ties in with what you’ll be using the generator to power.  Battery storage is what allows you to use your generator during times of limited sun like at night or during bad weather.  It’s also there to store any excess energy that you’ve managed to harness during the day.  Of course, the higher the battery’s capacity, the longer you can run the generator in between charges.  The amount of time this equates to will depend on the actual wattage each of your devices is demanding, but generally speaking, the higher, the better.  Beware of solar generators that have very little or no battery storage capacity as reliability and ease of use will be severely affected.    

Solar PV input.  This refers to the actual solar panels that are used to power the solar generator.  To stand any chance of having continuous power throughout the day you’ll need to have adequate solar PV input.   Some generators will have solar panels already built in, while others you will need to buy separately and attach.  Just be aware that if not already connected you may need to purchase additional components in which to do so. 

The other thing PV input has a direct impact on is the generator’s recharging time.  You can calculate the approximate charging time of any solar power generator by using one simple formula:  Take the capacity wattage of the generator and divide it by the total wattage of the solar panels.  The answer will be the number of hours charging time.  For example, if you had a solar power generator with a capacity wattage of 1000 and your total wattage of solar panels amounted to 200 watts, it would take around 5 hours to charge (1000/5).  Any solar power generator with a capacity less than 2500w/h should take no longer than around 6 hours to charge.  Anything longer is pretty inefficient and will begin to affect usability.                         

Inverter rating. The role of the inverter is to do what the name suggests and invert (or convert) low volt DC to standard 120 AC power.  Without an inverter, the generator would be unable to use any of the energy harnessed from the sun.  The way inverters are rated is by the maximum watts it can extract from a solar generator at any one time.  For example, a 1000 watt inverter can draw up to that in AC power.  As a rough guide, most decent solar power generators will have a usable watt-hours-to-inverter-rating ratio of around 1.5:1 (or 1500 watt-hours: 1000 watt inverter.            

Portability.  If you’re planning to use your solar power generator as a backup energy solution at home, this doesn't really apply to you.  If, however, you’re planning on moving around with your generator this is one of the most important aspects to consider.  Most of the weight of solar power generators comes from the batteries, which means if you want to make it more portable you will have to sacrifice some of the capacity.   However, systems with only one battery already weigh around 100 pounds, so maybe that won’t be too much of a loss.        

Overall quality.  This can be difficult to judge if you’re not physically with the item, but if you do get a chance to view before you buy, be sure to check out the quality of the components used.  Solar power generators take a lot of abuse, particularly if being used while on the road.  So for that reason alone, you need to ensure you buy a model that’s rugged and not going to fall apart after a couple of recharges.  A decent solar controller and inverter should last for at least 2 years.  Be aware of any solar power generators with little or no warranty as you will no doubt pay the price when it comes to quality.      

Why use a solar power generator over a gas powered one?  

A lot of people are quite happy to stick to their traditional, gas-powered generators simply because that’s what they’re used to and that’s what they know.  Unfortunately, these people are losing out.  Solar power generators are much more eco-friendly than their gas guzzling cousins.  No gas means no carbon monoxide is produced while it’s in use.  Plus, unless you’re camping in the middle of Alaska, you don’t have to worry about running low on fuel.  As long as the sun is shining, you’ve got power.  Another great benefit you get with solar power generators is that they’re essentially noise free, meaning you can use it any time of the day or night without upsetting any of your neighbours.   

Product Reviews 

With so many different solar powered generators available, it can be hard knowing which one to buy.  To help you make your decision, we’ve put together a short review guide to give you a quick rundown on some of the most popular models out at the moment:

Jackery Portable Generator, Powerpro 500Wh

Weighing in at just 12.5 pounds, this 500Wh generator is ideal for taking with you while on the move.  From an AC wall outlet, you can charge it in around 6 hours.  If using a 102w solar panel it will take around 7, but that’s still not bad.  

Portable Power Station, Jackery Powerpro 500Wh Portable Quiet Generator Lithium Battery Pack with 110V/300W AC Outlet,12V Car Socket,2 USB Output and LED Flashlight for Camping CPAP Emergency Outdoor

It’s fitted with a 100v AC outlet, two 12v DC 6MM ports, a DC cigarette lighter, and 2 fast-charging USB ports in which to charge all your electricals.  And, there’s a clear display screen to let you know how much charge is left in the battery at all times. 

Pros
  • High capacity
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    Multiple charging ports
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    Very well made
Cons
  • A little on the expensive side (but worth it nonetheless)
AIMTOM Portable Solar Generator, 155Wh

It may be little and weigh just 3.48 pounds, but this solar generator on offer from AIMTOM still packs a heck of a punch.  With 3 x USB, 3 x 12v DC, and a 110v AC outlet, this portable solar power generator is the perfect accessory to take camping or any other outdoor event.  

AIMTOM Portable Solar Generator, 42000mAh 155Wh Energy Inverter Supply, Emergency Backup Battery Box with Flashlights, Power Station for Camping, Home, CPAP, Car (110V AC Outlet, 3x12V DC, 3x USB)

Its 155Wh capacity means it's more than capable of powering your laptops, monitors, cell phones, and other electronics while on the move or in the event of a power outage.  And there’s even an SOS emergency LED flashlight to help you in your darkest hour.

Pros
  • Lightweight
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    Multi-charging ports
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    Excellent price
Cons
  • A little underpowered
PowerOak Powerhouse Compact 400Wh

If you’re less bothered about the size of the solar power generator and more concerned with its storage capacity, be sure to check out this model on offer from PowerOak.  At 12.3 pounds, it’s still very portable, and with a capacity of 400Wh, it’s one of the best performing in its price range.  

POWEROAK Powerhouse Compact 400Wh 12.3lb Portable Outlet, Power Source Generator Lithium-ion Power Supply for Camping Emergency Backup with Silent DC/AC Power Inverter, 12V Car, AC & USB Output

It can quite easily power any AC, DC, or USB device that’s under 220Wh and is the ideal solution to use when on the move or in a remote location.  There’s a clear LCD display to let you know how much charge is remaining and it even has a jump starter alligator clip cable should you car battery fail you at the worst time.

Pros
  • High battery capacity
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    Multiple recharging options
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    Clear LCD display
Cons
  • A little expensive
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    Bulky design
TELONGPU Generator Power Station, 200Wh

It may not be the most powerful of solar power generators, but the TELONGPU Generator Station is still worth a mention for sure.  At 200Wh it’s not a bad capacity, and there are still plenty of output ports in which to charge multiple devices.  To recharge the generator it takes around 6-7 hours using an AC outlet or around 8 hours using solar panels.  

Generator Power Station, 200Watt Portable Home Camping Emergency Power Supply for CPAP, Charged by Solar Panel/Wall Outlet, Outputs AC 110V 4USB ,2DC-12V/10A,Compass/LED Flashlight for Camping Travel

As well as a built-in LED flashlight, it also features a neat little compass just in case you do get lost on your travels.  And it’s so lightweight and well designed that you won’t even know you’re carrying it. 

Pros
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    Great lightweight and portable design
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    Inexpensive
Cons
  • Capacity could be higher
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    The case feels a little cheap
Poweradd ChargerCenter Compact 185Wh

When it comes to portability the Poweradd ChargerCenter has it covered.  Weighing in at 2.8 pounds, it’s one of the lightest portable solar power generators around at the moment.  It’s equipped with AC, DC, and USB charging ports and has no trouble at all keeping your small appliances charged while out in the great outdoors.  

Poweradd ChargerCenter, Compact 50000mAh Portable Generator, Power Source (DC 5V/12V/19V) with AC Power Inverter (100W/115V) for Smartphone, iPad, Tablet, Laptop, Fan, Mini Fridge and More

Another great thing about it is the quality.  For an item that’s pretty low price, it has some high-quality components.  But, that’s where the fun ends. The performance of this generator is shocking.  Although 185Wh isn’t the lowest capacity out there, it certainly does make a difference.  And unless you want to wait a year to charge your things, we recommend you choose a different model. 

Pros
  • Lightweight
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    Multiple charging options
Cons
  • Basic design
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    Poor performance

We hope you found the above information and product review useful and are now one step closer to getting the model that meets your needs.  Just as a quick reminder, if you’re looking for an all-around great solar power generator that works well, is easy to move around, and is likely to last a long time, the Jackery Portable Generator is the way to go.  It’s versatile enough that it can be used while moving around outdoors or as a backup power supply at home.  And while the price may be a little on the high side, it is a solid investment and, in our opinion, one of the best money can buy.