Top Solar Powered Generator in 2022 [Indoor & Outdoor]

what is the best solar power generator

Solar-powered generators are becoming more popular, especially as their battery capacity increases. As solar generators are the perfect source of backup power, every solar-powered generator has the potential to reduce your carbon footprint while providing you with backup power when you need it the most: on your camping trip, in your RV, or even during a power outage. Some of the best solar-powered generators today can cost quite a lot, so we are here to help you find the perfect solar generator for you. 

What is a Solar Powered Generator?

A solar-powered generator is a device that uses solar panels to produce power and store it in its battery. Unlike traditional, roof-mounted solar panels, a solar generator produces less power and takes a longer time to charge. However, once fully charged, it can provide you with clean backup power and power some of your devices, depending on how much power they consume. A much cheaper alternative to a solar array and a solar battery, this solar power station can provide less power, as the idea is to provide emergency backup power. 

So, why should you invest money in a solar generator if you can simply purchase a whole solar system and enjoy all the benefits that solar power has to offer? Well, even if you get the best solar deal, a solar array is very expensive, and the electricity in your area could be very cheap, to begin with. However, when the power is gone (during a power outage), you may need a backup power source – this is where solar generators come into play. 

As they are small and transportable, you can move them wherever you would like to power any device you want. They come with a solar panel (or a few of those) so that they can be recharged using solar power whenever it is available. Furthermore, to add to the diversity and practicality, most solar generator manufacturers also include the option of charging your solar generator via a wall outlet

Furthermore, as most solar generators can power multiple devices at once, they come with several outlets. An AC outlet and USB ports can be found on almost all solar generators n the market today. As the solar power generator charges your devices, it can itself be charged as well, especially as the solar panel keeps producing electricity for as long as your portable power station is in full sun. 

How Does It Work?

Your solar generator is a simple device. It consists of a solar panel, solar power storage, and an inverter. All these components are packaged neatly into a single housing that is portable, lightweight, and usually stylish as well. As solar generators have only a few components, they operate simply and are easy to set up. 

Your solar generator has three essential components: a solar panel (or solar panels), a solar inverter (sometimes also called a solar converter), and solar power storage or a high-capacity solar battery. Even the best solar-powered generators have these three essential components. Some additional components that your solar generator has included: 

  • AC outlet, 
  • USB ports (usually more than one), 
  • DC outputs, and 
  • An optional CiG connector. 

As sunlight reaches the panel, it produces solar electricity. This electricity is in the DC (Direct Current) form. This power is then used to charge your power station when not in use. If you have devices attached to it, it will charge those devices first, and then it will charge the inside battery. Once the battery is full, the charge cycle stops, and the device is ready to be used. 

Once you plug your device or appliance into the AC socket, the inverter starts doing its magic. It takes the DC power from the power station and converts it to AC (Alternating Current) that your device can use. Depending on how much power your portable power station stores and how much power your appliance needs, your AC outlets could provide power for upwards of one hour. 

Once the device is empty, it is time to recharge it. Simply unfold the panel(s) and leave the whole set up in the sun for a few hours. Depending on the power station capacity and what type, size, and efficiency the solar panel has, it can take up to several hours for the solar panel to fully charge the power station. 

As they are simple devices, solar-powered generators are easy to set up and start using. Once you’ve chosen among many solar generators on the market, it is necessary to know how to set up and use the device properly to ensure it serves you as long as possible. You can set up your solar-powered generator by following these steps: 

  1. Turn on your power generator, 
  2. Start charging your solar generator. This can be done in two ways: 
    1. By using your AC outlet – for backup power on the go and at home. In this case, simply plug the charging cable into the portable power station and then into one of the AC outlets in your home. Wait for the predefined time (which can be found in the manual), and then your device is ready to power other devices in the case of a power outage or a picnic. You can store the device with a charge for weeks and even months with little charge loss, or 
    2. By using a solar panel to charge it – in this case, connect the solar panel to the appropriate power input port, and place the panel in full, direct sunshine. Once the device is full, you can use it or store it, just as in the case of charging it through a wall outlet. Please bear in mind that charging your solar generator through solar panels will take considerably longer, as even the best solar panels have an efficiency of around 22%. 
  3. Once the device is full, disconnect it from the power source, 
  4. Connect the device that you would like to charge and wait until the device is charged to the desired level. Most solar generators can charge several devices simultaneously, but please be aware that the more devices you connect to it, the faster the portable power station will run out of power. They are intended to be used as backup power sources, 
  5. When the solar generator power runs out, simply recharge it. Some solar generators can simultaneously charge themselves and other devices, so make sure you read the manual and see what type of solar generator you have purchased. As solar-powered generators are not cheap, knowing how to use one is the best thing you can do to ensure long service life. 

Different Ways to Charge Your Solar Generator

Considering that solar generators are portable and are meant to be used in a variety of situations, your best solar-powered generator will come with several charging options. Most models today have three options to get charged: grid charging, solar panel charging, and car charging. Let’s dive straight in: 

Grid Charging

Grid charging is not the preferred way of charging your solar generators, especially if they come with solar panels. Your 110V AC outlet can charge your solar generator in as little as a couple of hours. If you purchase a model with a multi-phase charger, it will take longer, but you will get a complete charge, which cannot be said with ultra-fast chargers. 

Solar Panel Charging 

The best solar generators come with solar panels included. This way, you can generate green electricity and use it to power small appliances. If your solar generator does not come with pre-packaged solar panels, you will have to purchase those separately. When doing this, you have to ensure that your solar generator can handle the input coming from the panels. As most solar panels have a rated maximum voltage of between 13 and 48V, it is necessary to match these to your solar generator’s incoming power supply – overdoing it can burn the generator. 

Car Charging

12V car charging is also a possibility with all the solar generators that you can find in better stores. This way, you can charge your solar generator while driving and enjoy free power during the night. In most cases, you will probably be using a variety of energy sources to power devices, such as generators. 

Average Cost of Solar Generators

Solar generators do not come cheap. In general, they can cost thousands of dollars for the best solar generators. For this reason, knowing how much is enough power for you and which electronic devices you will be powering is essential before making the purchase. A solar generator works for you – by saving you electricity. However, if you only need to power small electronics, you’d better not overinvest. 

In general, solar generators cost between $1-$2 per Watt-hour of power they hold. While some simpler models, capable of recharging your phone, can cost around $100, bigger models that can power devices, such as a microwave or a vacuum cleaner, and can handle a surge power demand, cost more – usually between $1,000-2,000 for a 2kWh model. 

Things to Consider when Buying Solar Generators

As solar generators are not cheap, this purchase requires some thinking time. Even the best solar generator is not meant for everybody, so you should be aware of how much energy you need to store, what kind of small appliances you will be using it for and what kind of power supply serves your needs the best. There are also other factors to consider when buying a solar generator: 

  • Battery Capacity & Type, 
  • High Solar Input Wattage, 
  • Charging Speed, 
  • Number & Types of Outlets, 
  • Size & Weight, 
  • Price Tag, 
  • Warranty, and 
  • Company Reputation. 

Battery Capacity & Type

The battery capacity and type determine how much energy can be stored in your solar generator. The higher the battery capacity, the more power can be stored in it. Of course, batteries with a larger capacity are also bulkier and not as portable, but considering that the battery capacity determines how many and which small appliances and devices you will be able to power, you may want to consider this at first. 

Furthermore, a higher battery capacity means a longer battery life, as your power needs will be dealt with in fewer charge cycles. To power devices that consume more power, you will also need a bigger battery capacity. Some of the best solar generators that you can, for example, take on a camping trip, include lithium-ion batteries with up to 2,000 Wh of capacity, enough to run a TV for around 10 hours straight. On the other hand, there are small batteries, just large enough to charge your phone a few times. 

High Solar Input Wattage

Solar input wattage is another important factor to consider. The battery capacity is important, but to get your solar generators’ worth in usability, you also need a high solar input wattage. As every solar generator comes with solar panels, it is time to talk about the solar output of these solar panels. Namely, solar panels produce power that is stored in the battery pack. Having more solar panels means a shorter charge time. 

For example, a 200 W solar panel will charge your solar generator twice as fast as a single 100 W solar panel. However, solar generators with more solar panels cost more. Although this type of portable power station can provide you with higher power output, the higher price does not always mean that they pay off. It is a general rule of thumb that you should always go for a solar generator that can be fully charged in a day with its solar panels. This way, you will have a fully charged device every evening. 

Charging Speed

The number and the wattage of your solar panel will have a strong effect on the charging speed of your solar generator. This means you should always choose a generator that can be charged relatively quickly. Even the best solar generators take a few hours to be fully charged. However, investing extra money to bring down the charge time significantly does not always pay off. The fastest charging speed will, of course, be when you use your wall outlet to charge the solar generator, but this defeats its purpose except in some extreme situations. 

Number & Types of Outlets

All the solar generators in the market today have a certain battery power that is, depending on the type, capable of charging multiple electronic devices at the same time. For this reason, it is necessary to know the number and types of outlets your solar generator has. Unlike solar panels, which connect to your home mains and provide power to AC outlets, a solar generator usually has the following output ports: 

  • AC outlet, 
  • USB ports, 
  • DC outputs, and 
  • An optional CiG connector. 

Size & Weight

A solar generator is compact and portable. However, this does not mean it is small. Since not all solar generators have the same power supply, they vary in size and weight. Generally speaking, the heavier a solar generator is, the bigger its dimensions and battery capacity are. Power stations, in general, measure at least 7 X 4 X 4 inches and can weigh upwards of two pounds. 

Price Tag

Based on their size, capacity, and the maximum power output, as well as the power ports, solar generators typically cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. They are, in general, much more expensive than gas generators. However, a higher initial investment should not put you off purchasing one, as a solar generator is much cheaper, almost free, to run, unlike a gas generator. Throughout its lifetime, a good solar generator will have paid itself off many times. 

Warranty

As a portable power station or a solar generator is not cheap, you should be extra cautious with the warranty that comes with your particular model. Most manufacturers will give a 1-year warranty, while premium products will come with an 18-month or 2-year warranty. Depending on where you live, the warranty can be even longer, so you should always explore your options before purchasing one. 

Company Reputation

The final factor we recommend you check out before making your purchase is the company’s reputation or the manufacturer’s reputation. Even the best solar generators can break down (rarely, though, if you handle them the proper way), so knowing that a good company has produced your solar generator is a good place to start looking for your device. 

Things to Avoid in Solar Generators

However, not all is a fairytale when it comes to solar generators. These devices cost a lot of money, and with a battery capacity that goes up to 5 kWh, they can make your life much easier. For this reason, being able to avoid some common red flags and secure a reliable device that will serve you for years to come is necessary. The most common things to avoid in solar generators are lead-acid batteries and a poor power-capacity ratio. 

Lead-Acid Batteries

In general, you should avoid lead-acid batteries. These batteries are not as safe as other types, do not provide enough power capacity, and you need many of them to go through power outages or to make means for off-grid living. They are too bulky and heavy for camping trips and may take way too long to charge from an AC wall outlet. 

Going with lithium-ion batteries (LiIon) is the best thing you can do. They are perfect for camping trips and other outdoor usages. Easier to water-proof and more reliable than lead-acid, these batteries also pack in more power, as they can power many devices on USB ports for a longer time. Their compact design and no liquid to escape make them the perfect solution for all those looking for a truly portable solar generator. 

Poor Power-Capacity Ratio

In some cases, you will see a solar generator with a poor power-capacity ratio. What this means is that the device has a high maximum power output but a low battery capacity. This ends up in a device that can power large appliances but for a short while. Going with a higher power capacity and a lower maximum output is always a better option. 

Uses of Solar Generators

As a solar generator captures sunlight and turns it into usable power, any electricity that is not immediately used is stored in the battery. Once the battery is full, the charging stops, and you can use your solar generator to power other devices as well. There are many uses of a solar generator: 

  • Powering small devices and appliances, 
  • Charging your handheld electronics, laptops, flashlights, etc. 
  • Running bigger appliances (for a short while), 
  • Providing emergency power, especially in the case of an outage, and 
  • Providing power to remote, off-grid areas. 

Solar Generator LifeSpan

Generally speaking, your solar generator can last upwards of 20 years, depending on how often you use it. Bigger and bulkier models can last even longer, up to 35 years. As this is a device made to last, you should always take good care of it and ensure its longevity and good service. Here are some factors that can influence the lifespan of your solar generator: 

  • Battery capacity, 
  • Battery maximum rated power output, 
  • The number and wattage of devices connected to it, 
  • Presence of humidity and temperature fluctuations, 
  • Careful handling, and 
  • The frequency of use. 

Are Solar Generators Safe?

Yes, solar generators are safe. These devices can easily be used both indoors and outdoors. Unlike a gas generator, a solar generator does not produce any fumes or gasses that could harm your health. This includes both carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, a potentially deadly gas. This is the reason why gas generators should never be used indoors. 

On the other hand, handling your solar generator in a way that it was not meant to be handled, especially getting it wet or hitting it, can damage internal circuitry and cause an electric shock. It is always best to keep your solar generator in a separate room and out of reach of children. Any damage to the solar generator should be reported to a certified body, and they should also inspect the device to ensure that it is still safe to use. 

Solar Generators Vs. Gas Generators

If you would like to buy a generator and are thinking about going solar or purchasing a gas generator, it is worthwhile to make a small comparison. Namely, as the two types of generators use very different technology, their prices, specs, and performance are very different. Let’s have a deeper look. 

Firstly, the price of a solar vs. a gas generator is different. Solar generators are generally much more expensive than gas generators. This is because they have one additional component that gas generators do not have: the battery pack. As such, solar generators cost twice as much as gas-powered generators. 

However, since gas generators use gas to generate electricity, you should consider the operational costs as well. The solar option uses no fuel of any kind and is ready to be used whenever there is some sunlight. Gas generators, on the other hand, burn gas which costs money. In the long run, solar generators pay off and win. 

Furthermore, solar generators cost very little to maintain, as there are no moving parts, no pipes, or exhaust of any kind. A dry and dark place is all they need to stay safely stored (and charged) for months. The same cannot be said of gas generators, as they take regular maintenance and a yearly inspection. 

Benefits of Solar Generators

As solar-powered generators are a relatively new product on the market, it is necessary to get to know what advantages they have to offer. Portable solar generators are still on the pricey side (but still much cheaper than entire solar systems and a full-sized solar battery). As such, solar generators offer the following benefits: 

  • They are easy to operate, 
  • They reduce electricity costs, especially when compared to gas generators, 
  • They are virtually maintenance-free, 
  • They are very portable, 
  • They allow you to tap into the solar potential, 
  • They provide a continuous power output, especially as an emergency power source, 
  • They let you use renewable energy

Easy to Operate

The complex engineering and design of the solar generators mean that they are fairly easy to use. The entire operation process is as simple as charging your solar generator using a solar panel or a wall outlet and discharging it when charging devices or power appliances. There is no need for any cables or adapters, as every solar generator comes with several different output ports that you can use to power different small appliances and charge devices. 

Reduce Electric Costs

While a solar generator cannot keep your hot tub warm and bubbly, it can help reduce your electricity costs by giving you access to a limited amount of solar electricity. The stored energy can be used for a variety of purposes, especially with an AC adapter, which can power many small appliances. The savings are especially easy to spot if you use gas-powered generators, which cost more year after year as gas prices increase. 

Maintenance Free

Solar generators are almost maintenance-free. Keeping them dust-free and in a dry environment when not in use will ensure their longevity and access to emergency power when you need it for years to come. The output ports on most models have safety covers. Choosing the right solar generator, therefore, does not include any planning on the maintenance costs. 

Portability

As solar generators are small and lightweight (usually the size of a car battery), they are extremely portable. You can take one with you wherever you go: on a picnic, in your RV, or you can even use it at home. The portability of solar generators is their biggest con. 

Allows Access to Solar Energy

A solar generator is a smaller, more portable, and more affordable form of a solar array. The battery pack that is inside is enough to give you a taste of what solar power can do. Depending on how much energy you consume, it can help you better understand how solar energy works and on a small scale – all without polluting. 

Provides Steady Backup Power

Your solar generator provides a steady power output when you need it the most. This can include hiking trips and picnics, but it can also mean providing you with enough power to keep the essential devices up and running during a blackout. This is the primary reason for buying a solar generator. 

Renewable Energy

As every solar generator comes with one or more solar panels, you will be able to enjoy the benefits of renewable energy. Using renewable energy stored in the lithium battery of your solar generator means lowering your carbon footprint, helping mitigate climate change, and having access to emergency power that is clean and can be used both inside and outside (unlike gas-powered generators). 

Taking Care of your Solar Generators

Even the best solar generator needs some care. Most of them need to stay away from the elements. Subfreezing temperatures, very hot weather, and humidity (including rain), can prove to be very harmful to your device. For this reason, you should always have a dry and safe spot to keep your solar generator in. Keeping it away from sunlight is another thing to take care of, as sunlight can heat the device and reduce its efficiency quite quickly. 

Top 10 Solar Generators in 2022

As there are many solar-powered generators on the market, we’ve decided to do what we can to help you choose the right one. We’ve compared the existing models based on battery, output, max solar input, and solar charging time, to come up with the list of the top 10 solar-powered generators in the market today. Here is the list, starting with the lowest capacity: 

Solar Generator Battery Capacity Rated Output Solar InputMax Solar Charging Time Laptop Power Time @50WhFridge Power Time @115Wh
Jackery Explorer 10001000 Wh1000 W200W8 Hours20 Hours8.70 Hours
Goal Zero Yeti 10001000 Wh1,500W120W4.5 Hours20 Hours~15 Hours
EcoFlow Delta 13001250 Wh1,800W700W4 Hours25 Hours10.87 Hours
Bluetti AC200P Portable2,000 Wh2,000 W700W4 Hours40 Hours17.39 Hours
Jackery Explorer 2000 Pro2,150 Wh2,200W1,200W2.5 Hours43 Hours18.70 Hours
Goal Zero Yeti 3000X3,000 Wh2,000W1,200W6 Hours60 Hours26.09 Hours
Renogy Lycan 50004,800 Wh3,500W4,400W2.5 Hours96 Hours41.74 Hours
Bluetti EP500 5100 Wh/2000W5,100 Wh2,000W1,200W5 Hours102 Hours44.35 Hours
Jackery Explorer 500500 Wh500 W100W7.5 Hours10 Hours4.35 Hours
Goal Zero Yeti 500X500 Wh300W200W6 Hours10 Hours4.35 Hours

FAQs

What is the most powerful portable solar generator?

The GoalZero Yeti 6000X is the most powerful portable solar generator we have seen. With 6 kWh of battery capacity, this powerful device can run a space heater (very energy-hungry) for 3 hours straight. Alternatively, it can charge your phone and laptop hundreds of times before running out of juice and is powerful enough to take over, supplying your entire home with clean energy in case of a power failure. 

Is it worth getting a solar generator?

Yes, it is worth getting a solar generator. As generators store enough power to provide emergency power access in times of need, their use is more of a necessity than a luxury. A solar generator can provide enough power for small appliances, your laptop and WiFi router, as well as medical devices if the need be. 

What solar generators are made in USA?

Jackery, Grid Eraser, and Bluetti are the largest US solar generator producers. Besides these, Tesla also has power generators or solar batteries. However, they are not portable. By purchasing US products, you are helping the local economy, as well as ensuring that your hard-earned dollar stays in your country. 

Are Solar Generators noisy?

No, solar generators are not noisy at all. Most generators make no noise at all, while more powerful models may have a single low-voltage (and low-noise) fan to cool themselves. Besides the cost-efficiency, this is one of the biggest advantages of a solar generator, as opposed to a gas generator. 

Conclusion

If you are looking to switch your gas generator for some of the best solar generators in the market, you’ve come to the right place. With many powerable solar generators in the market today, having a source of backup power or continuous power output during a power outage is no longer out of reach. With a solid battery capacity, high longevity, and resilience, solar generators are becoming the norm, so use our solar generator purchase guide to find the best model for you. 

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