Whether you need backup in case of a power outage or unpredictable weather, or enjoy camping but do not want to miss out on all of civilized world’s comforts in the outdoors, a reliable source of power is a must have. Off-grid sources of electricity, however, can be expensive, cumbersome to operate and depending on what fuel is used, harmful for the environment.
Most inverter generators employ diesel, gasoline or propane. Of these, the first two release pollutants which can pretty much defeat the purpose of camping to get some pristine, clean air. While propane is a much cleaner fuel, it is also expensive and it is quite a task to lug around propane tanks on a trip where you’d rather spend time relaxing.
If you want to reduce your carbon footprint without compromising your comfort, portable solar generators are an excellent option. They are lighter in weight than gas-powered generators and are nowhere as polluting. Additionally, you don’t have to worry about carrying extra tanks of gas or propane, and since there is no combustion taking place, there is no noisy engine disturbing you and fellow campers on a quiet weekend in the woods. All you need is a bit of sun!
There are a wide range of portable solar power generators that can be used for a number of activities, from charging your phones to powering appliances in your recreational vehicle (RV). All solar power generators – static or portable – work on the same principle. Sunlight that falls on solar panels (made of numerous arrays of photoelectric solar cells) is converted into direct current (DC). The DC passes through an inverter which transforms it to alternating current (AC) which can then be used to power most of our devices and appliances. The generated electricity, if not consumed straightaway, can also be stored in the inbuilt battery.
The electricity generated is directly proportional to the area of the solar panel, so the larger the requirement, the greater the area of the solar panel. Thus, while a flashlight could be powered with a matchbox-sized panel, a refrigerator would require tens of square feet of solar panels to operate. It follows therefore, that a typical portable generator, while suitable for charging your electronic devices and running small appliances like electric kettles, won’t power an entire RV.
Another thing to note is that a solar power generator has a number of components. The usual equipment is comprised of solar panels, a battery, an inverter and power sockets. Some sellers do not sell solar panels, or the inverter in some cases might need to be purchased separately. You should therefore be careful while choosing a model, and check what components are included in the package to avoid any inconvenience later.
Portable Solar Power Generators: Our Top Picks
With these criteria in mind, here are five portable solar power generators that offer a range of features to choose from:
|Image||Solar Generator Reviews||Energy Storage (Wh)||Power (W)|
|Goal Zero Yeti 400||396 Wh||Continuous: 300 W|
Surge: 600 W
|Acopower 100W Foldable Solar Panel Kit||Battery not included||Unknown||Check Price|
|Kalisaya KaliPAK KP601||558 Wh||40 W||Check Price|
|Renogy Phoenix||190 Wh||Unknown||Check Price|
|Peppermint Energy Forty2||1000 Wh||Continuous: 900 W|
Surge: 1800 W
Goal Zero Yeti 400: The Best in Class Portable Solar Power Generator
From the market leader in portable solar power generators comes this gem that delivers clean, uninterrupted power to up to seven devices at once. The Goal Zero Yeti 400 Wh portable generator offers pure sine wave power that comes in handy when you’re off the grid but need your electronics to work, without the risk of their sensitive components being damaged by spikes in voltage.
It has batteries that serve for a long time once fully charged, but it is not advisable to draw power directly from batteries while they are charging. This is because the batteries take a good amount of time to recharge once they are depleted, and you don’t want used-up batteries when you are in urgent need of backup, during a storm for instance.
The Goal Zero Yeti 400 Wh is ideal if you don’t plan to move it around a lot. It is rather heavy and it can be a task to lug the machine around – especially when there are only a select number of devices it can power. But if you want to use it as a secondary power source for your low-voltage home appliances in the event of a power outage, this generator works wonderfully and is worth every dollar.
One downside is that the solar panels have to be purchased separately. On the plus side, however, you are provided with clean power without the noise and fumes of traditional generators.
Features of the Goal Zero Yeti 400 Wh Portable Generator
- 396Wh lead acid battery
- Offers 33Ah at 12V, which can be used to power up to 7 devices at once
- LCD display
- Pure sine wave inverter with 600 peak watts, 300 running watts output
- USB, 12V, AC ports
- AC charger included
- Can be chained with other 33Ah lead-acid batteries for more runtime
- Dimensions: 8 x 10.2 x 8 inches
- Weight: 29 pounds
Acopower 100W Foldable Solar Panel Kit: The Generator-Ready Solar Panels
You might find yourself in a situation where you have a battery that is compatible with solar panels, but you still have to burn precious fuel on a bright, sunny day because you did not plan ahead. It is for times like these that equipment like the Acopower 100W Foldable Solar Panel Kit can come to your rescue.
As has been mentioned earlier, portable solar power generating equipment can come in a variety of combinations. Equipped with solar panels, a charge controller and alligator clips to connect with the battery, this portable solar kit is ready for use straight out of the box. It is designed for simple assembly, easy portability and the ability to operate in all weather conditions.
This solar power generator kit addresses all your concerns regarding solar power. It is made with high quality monocrystalline photovoltaic cells, an aluminum frame that is light yet sturdy and comes in a nifty suitcase that makes transporting it extremely easy.
With a reassuring 25-year warranty on the solar panel and 3-year warranty on the charge controller, you can put your worries to rest, and let Acopower take care of all your power needs.
Whether you require emergency power on an outdoors trip or enjoy travelling in your RV, the Acopower foldable solar power kit is rugged enough to harness the power of the sun efficiently, while allowing you incredible ease of usage.
Features of the Acopower 100W Foldable Solar Power Kit
- 2 folding 50 watts high module conversion efficiency Grade A monocrystalline solar panels with 10A charge controller.
- Pre-installed stands and adjustable installation angle to utilise maximum sunlight.
- Alligator clips.
- Parallel charging by adding an additional panel possible.
- Equipped with corner protectors, Anderson plug, MC4 connectors, junction box with diodes, handle, latches, fuse.
- Comes in a suitcase for carrying.
- Aluminum frame.
- One year cable and component warranty, three years charge controller warranty, 25 years solar panel output warranty.
- Package Dimensions: 4.29 x 22.28 x 29.09 inches.
- Weight: 27.03 pounds.
Kalisaya KaliPAK KP601: The Smart and Sleek Functionality Portable Solar Power Generator
If you are looking for solid functionality on a budget, the Kickstarter-funded Kalisaya KaliPAK KP601 is a smart choice. For starters, it comes in the form of a complete kit – with solar panels and batteries included. In spite of this, it is portable, lightweight, and delivers tremendous power for its size.
Offering up to 590 watts, the KP601 also connects with your smartphone via Bluetooth. An app called KaliAPP lets you track the units consumed and other parameters so that you can economize on equipment usage.
For clean energy provided from a compact, easy-to-carry generator to power your basic essentials during emergencies or a quiet weekend in the woods, the KaliPAK KP601 gets an enthusiastic nod.
Features of the Kalisaya KaliPAK KP601 Portable Generator
- 558 running watts
- 40-watt foldable solar panels
- 38 Ah Li-ion battery
- AC/DC Power Adapter
- Car Lighter Adapter
- Wide comfit diagonal shoulder strap
- Outlets: Four USB ports, two 12V DC ports
- Remote system monitoring and control via KaliAPP- iOS and Android smartphone app
- Dimensions: 13.5 x 13.5 x 6.7 inches
- Weight: 14.3 pounds
Renogy Phoenix – The “All-in-One” Versatile Portable Solar Generator
All-in-one generators, while compact, also tend to be rather heavy, owing to all the components that find themselves packed together in one unit. That makes them functional as portable generators only if there are strong hands that can lug them around, or tilt the angle for the collectors every few hours without breaking into a literal sweat.
Enter the Renogy Phoenix Portable Generator All-in-one Solar Kit with Replaceable Battery. It offers everything you could hope for from a portable power generator, and then some. Sturdily built yet light and easy to handle, this generator delivers a decent 150 watts which is sufficient to power essential equipments during an outage, or keep you connected to the world even on long camping trips.
A feature of the Renogy Phoenix that gives it a great edge over the others is its rechargeable battery. A major issue that solar power generator users face is the inability to charge the battery through multiple means. With Renogy, your battery-charging woes are over as it connects to a host of AC and DC devices for charging. Thanks to the multiple outlets it provides, its small size notwithstanding, versatility is one advantage it has over other models. With a total of twelve input and output ports combined, charging the battery and in turn powering a number of small devices is a breeze with the Phoenix.
The Renogy Phoenix weighs a mere 12.8 pounds and at its longest, is a little over a foot. Its design thus makes it ideal for small apartments or RV campers where space is at a premium and compact devices are necessary. With the Phoenix, quite literally you have power in your hands, that too without compromising on efficiency, reliability and power quality.
Features of the Renogy Phoenix Portable Generator
- Monocrystalline Solar Panels with 20 watts output
- Expandable up to 120 watts with parallel solar panels
- Rechargeable with AC input, solar panels or cigarette port
- Output ports – one AC, one cigarette, two DC, 4 USB
- Input ports – one AC, one cigarette, two solar
- Replaceable 16Ah lithium-ion batteries
- MPPT Charging Technology
- Pure sine wave inverter
- Multi-mode 3W LED light
- LCD display
- Dimensions – 3.9 x 16.1 x 13.8 inches
- Weight – 12.8 pounds
Peppermint Energy Forty2 All-in-one Portable Solar Generator: The “Compact Powerhouse” Portable Solar Power Generator
Most generators we have discussed so far are suitable only for running several small electronic devices, or provide backup for maybe one domestic appliance during emergencies.
However, if you want to go all out and let a portable solar generator take care of a greater chunk of your energy needs, the Peppermint Energy Forty2 All-in-One is a must-have.
It is a major purchase, no doubt. But it is a true solar power generator, with the solar panels integrated into the compact machinery, that makes transporting it much more convenient than other generators with multiple constituents. What’s more, this model is actually powerful enough, with its 1000Wh battery, to run small refrigerators, medical equipment like CPAP machines, and desktop computers.
With a quick charging time (9 hours under no load), multiple outlets to plug in appliances and the provision to string up to ten inverters for extra output, the Peppermint Energy Forty2 is every bit worth the investment and can actually be used in tandem with more units to power entire households or workplaces.
The generator comes in three variants – Max, Pro+ and Pro which respectively give 2000Wh, 1000Wh and 500Wh of battery storage. The prices also vary accordingly.
Features of the Peppermint Energy Forty2 All-in-One Portable Solar Generator
- 180W solar collection, Li-ion battery
- 900 running watts, 1800 peak watts
- Outlets- two standard AC outlets, two USB ports, one 24V DC power out port
- Dimensions: 34 x 30 x 6 inches (Pro+)
- Weight: 63 pounds
What to Look for While Buying a Portable Solar Power Generator?
A number of criteria need to be considered before zeroing down on a solar power generator. Let’s take a look at some of them:
Because it is still an emerging area of renewable energy harnessing, solar generators will, as a rule, be more expensive than gas-powered portable generators for the same power output. However, the post-purchase expenditure for a solar-powered generator is negligible compared to that of a gas-powered generator, thanks to the constant expenditure on gasoline that the latter demands. Additionally, many solar power equipment manufacturers qualify for up to 30% federal tax credit. Hence, solar generators can actually save you money in the long run, while also saving the environment!
Depending on whether you need a generator for emergency backup at home or to power your camping trips would decide how much of a concern portability is to you. While generally lightweight (owing to the absence of massive fuel tanks and engines) some solar generators still have lead acid batteries or an expansive array of solar panels, which could increase the weight and affect portability.
The industry is yet to develop solar panels that are concentrated enough to power entire households with just a few square feet of solar cells. Since the demand is that of portable generators, there is a limit on how large the accompanying solar panels can be. Hence the output too, is limited. You won’t be able to find a portable solar generator that can power your entire RV, but there are many options efficient enough to run several large appliances.
Performance Across Seasons
There are weatherproof models, and there are other portable solar power generators which need to be protected from rain and snow. Depending on where and how you intend to use the generator, check for its suitability in those conditions before purchasing.
Ease of Operation
While solar power generators are generally easier to use, some models might require careful assembly or frequent repositioning of the solar panels to face the sun. There are some models that are integrated into one compact device and others where the solar panels tilt with the movement of the sun, so you can select a generator with features that suit your needs.
Some solar power generators are suitable only for charging smartphones and other small devices or might offer only DC, while others might offer greater functionality, but with separately sold components. Carefully ensure which components are included in the package, whether they cater to all your requirements, whether you will need to purchase some parts (like the panels or charging cords) separately and then place your final order.
As with all heavy equipment, solar power generators too require technical expertise to deal with bottlenecks now and then. You should ensure that the manufacturer you buy the equipment from offers timely customer service so that you are able to extract the maximum utility from the investment you made in the product.
Since this is a very nascent market, many of the manufacturers are relatively new on the block. In fact, many solar power generators are “home made” or “garage made”. So, ensure that you’re purchasing the product from a reliable manufacturer that can service your product in the case of any issues with the solar power generator.
The solar power industry is still an up-and-coming one, and there are new developments in this sphere on a daily basis. Investing in solar powered equipment might seem like a risky venture at present, but with the deteriorating environment, recurrence of natural or man-made catastrophes and increasing energy requirement, it appears to be more of a necessity than a whimsical alternative.
It is important to have a fairly thorough understanding of your energy requirements before investing in a portable solar power generator. But once you do your research and get the perfect set for yourself, you can be assured of reliable power during emergencies, and quiet, relaxed weekends on a pristine campsite!