Portable solar generators are devices you can use to easily generate power in your own home and provide several advantages over more traditional, gasoline-powered generators. For starters, portable solar generators are free to run and don’t require topping up with an expensive external fuel source.
Better yet, the free fuel source they do use (the sun) is available anywhere and is entirely renewable with no carbon emissions. That means you can feel good about yourself, knowing you’re keeping your carbon footprint to a minimum. It also means you’ll never be caught out without a source of fuel.
On top of all this, portable solar generators are also extremely quiet, don’t produce odors and are usually lighter to carry around (as they are not filled with liquid).
But there are caveats to all these benefits and of course no solution is perfect. In the case of a solar generator, it’s important to bear in mind that the amount of energy produced is very often going to be less than that produced by a gasoline generator.
This means you need to think carefully when choosing your generator and consider your specific energy needs and any other considerations like portability, or how long you’ll need the generator for. How many things will you be running off the generator at any given time?
The best way to answer these questions is to consider what your intended use is for your solar generator. Common uses include powering things around your garden for you on a regular basis. This may include lighting, or a swimming pool heater for example.
Another use might be as a backup generator. In this case, you need to think about how long you are likely to be ‘off the grid’ for and how much energy you’ll need in that time.
This may involve calculating the minimum requirements you have for that time – usually a few lights when you’re awake, heating and your refrigerator as minimums. Look for ratings on the generator that indicate the storage capacity, peak demand and recharge time.
Then again, you might even use a highly portable generator for camping or other forms of travelling.
Finally, generators might be used on work sites or for labor, in order to power tools, equipment and other utilities. This will dictate whether you want a solar generator that can be kept far away from the solar panels and how many ports you will need. Some even have direct USB connections for things like phones and laptops!
With all that in mind, let’s consider three of the best portable solar generators.
The Goal Zero 23000 Yeti 400 Solar Generator is a very popular portable solar generator that is well priced while offering a good balance of performance and features. The device is offers 40WH of energy via multiple outlets, include a 1.5 ampere USB outlet, 12 volts outlet and 300 watts pure sine AC inverter.
It can power most TVs, CPAP machines and light and can even be ‘chained’ with other Goal Zero Yeti generators in order to offer longer, seamless runtime.
The device also comes with a handy digital display to show input and output, as well as the charge status of the device. It is small enough and light enough to be taken camping and is perfect for powering laptops.
It comes with a convenient handle and a rugged design. It can also be recharged from a 12V adapter. Solar panel is not included but when connected to it should take anywhere from 10-80 hours to fully charge depending on the type of panel. It will take around 5 hours from a wall socket.
The Amazon listing offers a handy breakdown of the number of charges you can expect to get from the Yeti 400, including around 3-5 charges for a regular laptop and 100 charges for a regular headlamp.
All in all, this is a great all-round device that can be left in the garden to charge and then relied upon during a power outage, or when you’re camping. If you need a bigger generator, then there are other configurations including a considerably larger and more expensive 1250WH model.
This device feels like something from the future by combining the solar panel and generator together in a stylish, brief-case-like package. With a compact carry handle, useful LCD display and multiple outputs + LED flashlight, this is an incredibly practical gadget and especially for the price. Surprisingly, the entire package weighs only 12 pounds.
Adding to the practicality, this product is also waterproof when sealed. Despite the small size and mobility, you will be able to get 175Wh of energy from the model. And although two solar panels are built into the product, you can add external ones as needed for faster charge times.
Reviews of this product are very positive and users report it being effective as a back-up generator, as a means to power CPAP devices and recharging laptops. There is not as much information regarding the actual charge times when compared with the previous entry in this list however, which is something to consider when making a purchase.
This is another all-in one product that combines built-in solar panels and a portable generator, all in a single briefcase construction. The difference when comparing this product to the Renogy, is that the amount of power it can hold and provide simply knocks everything else out of the park. This product offers 2,000W/110V and is so powerful as to be eligible for 30% federal tax credit.
This is an expensive option, make no mistake. Compared with the Renogy, you will be paying somewhere around 7X the price. But with that in mind, it’s also important to consider that this is a great investment and can genuinely be used as a daily power source. With full sun, you can use this as a continuous source of energy for a laptop.
Likewise, it can be used to power a fridge for 14h and 30 minutes on a full battery, or again, continuously on a full charge. This could potentially save you a huge amount of energy, while significantly shrinking your energy bill. It’s a legitimate alternative to having solar panels installed on your roof that is much more versatile and much more practical.
And while this thing is not as portable as the other two on this list, at 75lbs it could provide a useful backup power source in a camper van.
Each of these three products is very different but each provides a number of significant and unique advantages. If you’re looking for a way to power your garden appliances, prepare for a power outage, or provide power while camping, then one of these solutions should do the trick.
And who knows; if you get a powerful enough generator then you might be able to reduce your energy bill in the process!