Best Portable Solar Generator Reviews
Travelling and camping, in particular, are all about freedom. For limited periods of time, you pack the essentials and leave behind urban noise in favor of the peace of nature.
Still, you’ll probably need your phone, a tablet, a music player, or even your laptop, all of which require power in order to work. This is where the following portable solar generators step in.
Solar vs. Electric Generator for Camping
There are several reasons why you should consider solar power when you travel. By far the most important is that portable solar power systems do not require fossil fuels to run, which is why they do not produce harmful greenhouse emissions. Of equal importance is that solar energy is efficient and sustainable, which will save you a lot of money in the long run.
The pressing question is whether the best portable solar generator can go toe to toe with its electric cousin?
Electric generators might be cheaper and smaller, but they require fuel to run. Whether you’re using gas, diesel, or propane, these will cost you more than what you would otherwise invest in a solar generator. Moreover, fuel imposes additional space and safety requirements when you travel. Camping with an electric generator exposes you to life-threatening risks, so you must always take additional care to keep the fuel away from where you sleep and eat.
As you will find out from most portable solar generator reviews, unlike traditional generators, these products are 100% silent. This is particularly important when you’re going on a camping, fishing, or hunting trip. Most campgrounds restrict generator usage, while fish and other wildlife will hear you from miles away if you bring a gas generator with you.
The Essential Components of a Portable Solar Generator
Portable solar power systems have several basic components, including PV (photovoltaic) panels, a charge regulator, batteries, and an inverter. The panels capture daylight, convert it to electricity, and expedite it to the batteries through the charge regulator. Unlike traditional generators, nothing is actually moving in these devices, so their durability is exponentially increased.
Rechargeable Battery and Storage Capacity
Battery storage capacity is crucial for the best portable solar generators. At night, when there is no daylight to be converted into electricity, you’ll rely solely on these rechargeable cells to power your phone, laptop, or lights. The type of battery is significant to proper maintenance. For instance, lead and acid batteries should not be drained under 35% of their capacity. Lithium batteries are different, but tend to be more expensive because of their compact and lightweight nature. You can take them as far down as 10% without affecting their efficiency and life span.
Solar Panels and PV Input
A good solar PV input also defines whether a unit can be considered one of the best portable solar generators on the market. The more PV input you can get, the better, since this maximizes the amount of electricity absorbed during the day, while also lowering recharging times. There is great benefit in having portable or separate PV, since you can change their position throughout the day in order to get optimal solar input.
Solar Inverter and Inverter Rating
The importance of the solar inverter depends on how you intend to use your product. Inverter ratings dictate how much power can be drawn from the batteries at any one time. For this reason, many portable solar generator reviews specify inverter ratings in the titles of products. However, these are often misleading, since they do not indicate how much battery storage you get, but rather how much can be used at a time. It is ideal to but a generator with an inverter charger, as the latter will allow you to plug the portable solar power system into a regular power grid when available.
How Much Battery Storage Capacity is Enough?
As you read portable solar generator reviews, you’ll notice that batteries are commonly valued in Ah (amps hour), but Wh (watts hour) and kWh (kilowatt hour) are also used. The latter two are more helpful to convert to because appliances will usually be measured by their wattage. Here is an approximation to help you convert from one to the other:
- 100 Ah ~ 1200Wh (for a 12V battery) or 2400Wh (for a 24V battery)
- 1kWh = 1000Wh
To get an idea of whether a particular portable solar generator will be enough for you, consider what you intend to bring with you on your trip and whether these devices require a lot of power to be charged.
For instance, a typical smartphone will require 10Wh (or 0.01kWh) for a full recharge, whereas working on a laptop for one hour will demand approximately 40Wh (or 0.04kWh). A standard 0.4kWh of battery storage capacity should be enough to keep small electronics powered for an extended trip. However, if you want to take a small TV with you, your energy requirements will be much higher, somewhere in the lines of 150Wh (or 0.15kWh).
How Long Does It Take to Charge a Portable Solar Generator?
The charging time for a solar generator is proportional to PV input and the efficiency of the panels themselves. The best portable solar generator will yield around 140Watt PV input or more. Assuming the unit features a 0.4 kWh battery, the total charging time will be less three hours.
Although direct sunshine will ensure that this optimal performance is delivered, cloudy or rainy weather will not necessarily be a problem. Most people think that PV panels don’t work in these conditions, but this is certainly not the case. Solar generators continue to work during bad weather, but their efficiency is naturally less than ideal.
In order to compensate for extended periods of bad weather, you can recharge most portable solar power systems in other ways, such as by connecting them to an AC wall outlet or to your car’s battery. These alternative solutions depend on the make and the model, but they have generally become common features.
How to Choose the Best Portable Solar Generator for You
The right choice for a portable solar generator depends entirely on your needs. In order to make an optimal purchase, you need to ask yourself what you’ll be using the generator for – lowering your power bill at home, keeping your batteries charged on the go, or a combination of both?
Will you also use the portable solar generator at home?
If you’re looking for a portable solar generator that can serve as a backup solution to a power outage, you’ll need more battery capacity than a single system can provide. Alternatively, for those interested in something that can take a load off the traditional power grid, a higher solar PV input will maximize the amount of solar energy you can use throughout the day.
What devices do you usually bring with you on trips?
This is an important question that can help you figure out how much energy you’ll need to recharge essential devices. A 0.4kWh generator will be more than enough to power your flashlights, smartphones, and tablets. However, if you find that you need to take a laptop and a small TV with you for those rainy nights, something in the lines of 1-1.4kWh will be more appropriate.
How light do you travel?
If you’re trekking through national parks without a vehicle, your options in terms of portable solar generators are definitely limited to very light-weighted units. While a car does give you the possibility to carry bigger systems that boast increased storage, solar backpack systems are often enough to keep your phone and other portable devices fully charged.
Traveling outdoors can be a breath of fresh air if you spend most of your time working and living in the city. In order for these trips to remain as pleasurable as they are today, however, we must all do our part to protect our environment. A portable solar power system is a great first step in the direction of sustainability and, as you’ve already noticed throughout our portable solar generator reviews, there are plenty of options to choose from for an optimal purchase.