A solar generator is a device that can generate a large amount of usable energy from the sun. This will work via a process called ‘solar photovoltaic’, meaning that as long as the generators have a good line of sight to the sun, they will keep producing power.
Solar panels are becoming increasingly popular in residential settings as a way to reduce energy bills and to provide backup power sources in the case of a solar eclipse. After the users have paid back their initial investment, they can then ‘sell back’ their energy or use it to offset their overall usage and thereby start to turn a small profit/make savings.
Portable solar generators on the other hand are of course used in order provide solar power on the move – which is useful for those who enjoy camping, or who travel a lot. This way, you will never be left unable to charge your mobile phone or laptop and you can enjoy more modern conveniences like cooking appliances and even entertainment while you are away from home. Likewise, a portable solar generator will also have the benefit of being easier to transport if you should move home, or if you should want to bring your generator with you on a holiday.
The best portable solar generator is one that offers a lot of reliable power, while being small and light enough to easily move around. Often, these take the shape of a briefcase and provide numerous ports and plugs for users to charge their devices from.
In this article, we will look at the best portable solar generators and will discuss what you should be looking for when you make your choice.
Best Solar Generator Buyers’ Guide
Before you make an investment, it is first useful to know precisely what you should be looking at when you choose your generator. Here are some critical considerations to take into account when choosing your portable solar generator:
- Size/weight – How heavy is it? Can you easily transport it as needed?
- Power – How many watts does it provide? How much power can it store (Wh)? The bigger the battery, the more life you will get for your appliances and gadgets – but of course there is a trade off here as bigger batteries are also physically larger and heavier.
- Ports – How many outlets will your device give you? Does it have convenient options such as USB? Can it power multiple appliances at a time?
- Features – Some of the best portable solar generators will come with features such as music playback, torches, LED displays, storage and more.
- Solar panel – Does it come with one included? What type will you need?
- Durability – Is the generator rugged? Will it survive falls? Is it waterproof?
Portable Solar Generator Reviews
Our top portable generators of 2018 are
Goal Zero 23000 Yeti 400
The Goal Zero 23000 Yeti 400 Solar Generator is a popular portable generator that is well priced and provides a number of impressive features and great all-round performance. The device offers 40WH (Watt Hours) of usable energy, which can be accessed from numerous different outlets. These outlets include a USB outlet for convenient charging for mobile devices, a 12 volt outlet and a 300 watts pure sin AC invertor.
With these combined options, you should find that you can power a number of devices from TVs, to game consoles, to mobile phones. You can also chain the device with other generators from the brand, meaning that when one runs out, the other will kick in right away to pick up the slack.
Specifically, you can expect to get 3-5 charges for a regular laptop or 100 for a headlamp. It is nice to be given this information, as many products fail to list these precise details.
Note that solar panels are not included, so you will need to buy these separately. As an added bonus, the device can be charged from a wall-power outlet.
Also nice is an included LED display that will show you the input and output, as well as the charge status. The product is nicely designed. It has a rugged build-quality that should make it impervious to damage and it has a useful carry handle.
Renogy KIT-FIREFLY 20W
This is our pick for the best portable solar generator available right now! What makes this such a great portable solar power system is the excellent design combined with the huge power pack. The Renogy offers a significantly bigger battery that will provide 175Wh of energy. That gives you over 20 charges for a regular laptop.
And while that might conjure images of a hulking great piece of battery, the reality is quite different. This is a relatively svelte product that weighs only 12 pounds and has a great brief-case design that makes it feel like something that James Bond might carry for when his gadgets run out of juice. It’s easy to move around and also works effective as a back-up generator for the home and even includes a torch for seeing in the dark if you’re camping. There are plenty of plugs and the device is also waterproof when sealed – making it suitable for use outdoors overnight.
If you’re looking for mammoth amounts of juice, then this product will have you covered. This incredible portable solar power system is capable of providing 2,000W of energy and is even powerful enough to be eligible for the 30% federal tax credit (check your state laws). This is definitely an ‘upper end’ option however and will cost roughly seven times the price. It’s also considerably heavier and more difficult to transport at 75lbs, though it’s not beyond fitting into a car for use on a camping trip.
If you plug this into a laptop, then as long as it is able to get enough sunlight, it will act as a continuous source of power – meaning it will power the laptop indefinitely or until night!
Likewise, it is capable of powering a fridge for 13.5 hours, making it suitable as a backup generator for your home!
GOWE 10W Portable Solar Generator
This is another portable generator that comes in a slim form factor as a nice briefcase with premium-looking silver and steel accents. This is a highly convenient option for generating power on the move thanks and offers multiple ports and comes with multiple different wires and cables. It also has a number of other fun and useful features – including music playback (MP3), radio, a built-in AC charger for when the sun isn’t available and ‘fast charging’ meaning it will charge in just 2 hours.
This is a not the most powerful or longest-lasting portable solar generator system out there then, but it is certainly one of the more convenient and one of the options best suited for campers and others that are looking to provide entertainment and comfort while sleeping outdoors!
GOWE 20W Portable Solar Generator
You can upgrade the amount of power from this convenient and powerful charger however for only a small increase in price – and you’ll get double the longevity! Again, you get all the added features such as music playing and compatibility with your cigarette lighter. And like the 10W option, it will also offer quick charging via the mains for those times when the sun isn’t available.
Getting the Right Solar Panel with generator
So, you’ve seen our portable solar generator reviews and you’re now thinking of making a purchase to start enjoying getting more power on the move. Hopefully, you’ve chosen the best portable solar generator for your needs.
But before you can start enjoying that extra power while camping or travelling, you first need to ensure that you have also invested in a solar panel. Many of these options do not come with the solar panels included (this is important to check), so you’ll need to invest.
But what is a solar panel and how does it work?
An Introduction to Solar Panels
If you’re looking for a way to reduce your energy bill, to live a more sustainable lifestyle and to shrink your carbon footprint, then you may have heard of solar panels. By adding some panels to your roof, you can harness the energy of the sun and thereby power your appliances without relying purely on the mains. This can help to see you through a power cut, it reduces your daily energy expenditure and if you have any energy left over, you can sell it back to the grid!
But likewise, it can also be used in conjunction with a solar power generator in order to avoid the expense of adding panels to your roof.
So far so good! But if we dig a little deeper, what else can we learn? How exactly do solar panels work? What types are there?
Types of Solar Panel and Generators
There are actually two types of solar panels. These are ‘solar voltaic’ (or photovoltaic) and ‘solar thermal’. Solar voltaic are the kind that most of us are most familiar with and the kind that you can use to power your appliances. This is also – of course – the type you need to power a solar generator.
To operate, these panels rely on the ‘photovoltaic effect’. Here, the electrons in the panels are arranged in such a manner, that they become excited by exposure to light waves and begin moving to form a current. This can then be converted to AC for use around the house.
The other kind – solar thermal – is only really appropriate for heating pools etc. and works by heating up water stored in small tubes arranged around the panel.
What to Expect From the best solar generator
Of course residential solar panels have their limitations, like any form of energy. While they can vary in power, they will generally be rated at between 80-100 Watts. This is how much energy a single panel would put out while in direct sunlight. As the panels won’t always be exposed to direct sunlight, the total is actually somewhat less most of the time. On a sloped roof you can expect about 12 hours of light and 4 hours of direct light. The weather also plays a role.
That said, most solar panels will be arranged in an array, meaning that they can generate several times that amount when used together. Possibly then, you might be looking at several hundred watts of energy for a few days. To put this in perspective, something like a games console would use around 150-200 watts.
There is another limitation of using residential solar panels, which is that there is as-yet no way to store all that energy. This means that if you’re out during those peak hours of sunlight, you won’t be able to benefit from it. The goods news though is that you’ll be selling that energy back to the grid at this point, so you’ll still get to benefit.
But the better option? Get a solar power generator and that way you can store the energy – and you also won’t need to make the considerable investment of having solar panel arrays attached to your roof. Just make sure that you are getting the right size of solar panel for your needs and that it will work with your portable solar power system.
Should You Get Solar Panels/A Portable Solar Generator?
So, with all that in mind, should you invest in solar panels for your home generator? Well, that all depends.
From an eco-conscious point of view, solar panels are always to be encouraged. At the same time though, for most people it will take about 10 years to breakeven and recoup the cost of installation. Whether it’s a good financial decision then will depend entirely on how long you plan to stay in your current home, what your cash flow looks like and whether your local council are offering any subsidization. You can also find information about best solar inverter.
But for a portable solar generator, this is a great option. This way, you can enjoy the benefits of having power while camping/exploring but you can also potentially get benefit from your solar power around the home and even make some money back if you