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Over the last few years, I have tried out some Jackery products. Overall I have been impressed with the quality of the power centers and the convenience offered by their portable solar panels.
The Jackery Explorer 500 is a 518Wh lithium Portable Power Station. At 13.32 lbs, it is one of the lightest and most portable rechargeable lithium battery generators available today.
- Lithium battery power:
- 518Wh/144,400mAh battery capacity,
- 500W Rated Power and 1000W Surge Power from the AC port.
- Easy to carry
- Simple to use
- Has a built-in LED flashlight on the side
With the Jackery you can power a standard 110 volt device of up to 500 watts.
With so many devices using USB charging, it is nice to have 3 USB ports on a power station of this size. The USB ports are rated for us to 2.4 amps at 5 volts.
A standard cigarette lighter style 12 Volt plug rated to 10 amps comes standard on the Jackery. As far as I can tell you could use an inexpensive splitter if you want to power multiple 12V devices at once. This is a simple way to increase the already impressive versatility of the Jackery.
The built-in LED light is helpful
I know that it is wise to have a lot of flashlights so when you need one, you don’t have to scramble. At the same time, most of us don’t have one within arms reach all the time. The Jackery 500 has a built in LED light on the side that can help out a lot while you are getting yourself set up when camping or during an emergency situation. No fumbling around, wasting time, or risking injury.
The Jackery 500 can be recharged using a compatible solar panel.
The charge time will vary based on available sunlight and daylight hours. You need to make sure that the panel you buy has the right input cord. If your panel does not, there are usually adaptors available online.
Standard Household 110V Outlet
Jackery claims the 500 can be fully charged in 7.5 hours when plugged into a standard outlet. I have not tested this because I try to make a habit of never letting a power center or battery get below 50% before recharging.
You can keep your Jackery topped off using your vehicle’s battery by using the 12V cigarette lighter charging option. We have 12V outlets in our house so we have the option of charging the Jackery off the larger solar system we have for lighting and backup power.
The listed time for a full charge is 16 hours according to Jackery. If you are like me and try to avoid draining power centers and batteries too much, you can probably top off the Jackery in half that amount of time.
What can you do with the 518mAh of power
It is important to point out that the Jackery use pure sine wave power so it is safe to use with sensitive electronics.
- Charge a Macbook 12″ laptop 9 times
- Run a 32″ LED TV burning 60 watts for 7 hours
- Recharge a drone 8 times
- Run an LED light for over 45 hours
The Jackery 500 should not be used for devices over 500 watts.
This is a good power center for camping and emergencies but it is designed to keep smaller devices going. If you are in doubt as to how much power something needs, then you should check the tag or info on the back before plugging it in.
There are power options out there for people that want to use high drain devices but this is not the power center for the job. I recommend taking a look at Goal Zero’s larger power centers designed for total household backup if you need a lot of power on demand during an emergency situation.
Good lightweight backup power
I have a Goal Zero Yeti 400 that is not lithium. It is a very well built power center but it is heavy enough that we don’t move it around much. It is great for putting somewhere for back up and leaving it. At the time we got it, lithium power centers were considerably higher priced so a lot of people just got the heavy lead-acid battery versions.
After using lithium battery power centers I have to say that I will not willingly buy a lead acid version every again because of the weight difference. The Jackery 500 is comparable to the Goal Zero in many ways but it weighs so much less. I am more likely to use something often if it is convenient to move around. The Goal Zero Yeti 400 I own weighs 29 lbs while the Jackery 500 weighs under 14 lbs. For older folks and smaller people, that want backup power at home, weight is a major factor and consideration.
Uses for the Jackery 500
- Source of backup power at vacation or bug out cabins.
- Power for elderly and disabled persons that live alone.
- Working remotely wherever you want.
- Power during weather events.
- Extra power for RV owners
- Portable power for events and festivals
- Lighting in odd places or during a power outage
How we use our power centers
Winter Weather Outages
Matt and I live on a mountainside at 3000 ft elevation. During the wintertime we sometimes find ourselves snowed in. Last winter we were snowed in for 8 days. That length of time is rare but it can happen. My Dad keeps a power center at his house and we have some backup power and solar panels at our house. This is enough to keep lights on and small devices like cell phones, e-readers, laptops, radios, and batteries, charged up and ready to use if the power is out for very long.
I have to say those power outages are actually very rare in my area despite the weather we can get and the elevation we are at so I have not been in a position where I had to rely on the Jackery for more than a few hours. It sure was nice to have during that time though and we had the peace of mind of knowing we would have power for a lot longer even if the power remained off.
Keeping Batteries Charged For Spraying Grapes
We have a 35-gallon skid style sprayer that uses 12V power. Since it takes us up to 6 hours to spray our vineyards, we try to keep our batteries topped off. Using a solar panel and power center allows us to have a cushion of power without having to keep the Kawasaki Mule going and burning gas too. In the past, we used our Goal Zero Yeti for this job but since the Jackery is so much lighter and easy to move around, we have started to use it instead. While out spraying, the Jackery performed well and despite us forgetting to totally charge one battery, we had enough power to get the job done.
Different sizes of power centers offer versatility and value
Just so we are clear, I want to mention that power centers come in a lot of different sizes to meet your needs. While this article discusses the Jackery 500, they also offer a Jackery 160 and 240 for those that want lighter options and that
- Solar charger with USB outputs:
Equipped with 2*5V/2A USB-A output ports, charging multiple portable devices at the same time, including smartphones, tablets, digital cameras, etc.
- Foldable design with a TPE rubber
handles and weighs only 5.5 lbs. Made from durable cloth, zipper and PET material, high-temperature resistant (The solar panel is not waterproof)
I think that the cost of the solar panel is too high for something that can be damaged if caught in severe rain. I love the idea of portable solar panels and until recently I did not have any panels that weighed less than 16 lbs. I would rather deal with the weight and have something that is durable and can handle rain than a panel that costs a lot and has to be protected. If you are car camping or similar than I guess that is okay but over the years it really seems like any panel is going to get some rain on it regardless of how careful you are and how well you plan.
I don’t care for the
This panel is a big investment, especially considering that a 100-watt solid panel can be purchased on Amazon for under $90. Yes, the panel weighs 16 lbs and not 5.5 lbs but that is enough of cost difference to consider if you really need something that is that lightweight to meet your emergency power needs. Even if weight is an issue you can get flexible portable panels for far less than the price asked by Jackery.
panel is nice and very convenient
On a semi-cloudy
To be fair we took the Jackery 500 out and plugged in our 16 lb 100-watt solar panel in full sun and got an input reading of 68 watts. We then plugged in the Jackery Solar Saga panel and got 64 watts. That is very similar but consider that the Jackery Solar Saga retails for $349.99 while our cheap 16 lb solar panel is under $85. You are paying a premium for reduced weight and convenience.
At the same time, the convenience of a folding and very lightweight panel is very nice. At 5.5 lbs it is about the lightest 100-watt panel I have seen. I imagine over time the price will go down a bit. I just wish that the panel was waterproof. It seems inevitable that you will forget your panel outside while camping or living off the grid.
Conclusion: The Jackery is a great power center but the panel is a bit costly.
If you want a lightweight backup power option, then the Jackery is a power station to consider. If the larger 500 model is more than you need then I recommend considering the Jackery Explorer 240 or even the 160.
When it comes to solar panels, I recommend that you consider your own specific needs before spending a lot of money. There are plenty of inexpensive panels out there that offer decent performance. The Jackery doesn’t have to have a solar panel for you to keep it charged so you can always add one later.
Here are the links to purchase your Jackery: