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For a lot of people, solar energy makes a lot of sense. Solar generators can provide clean, no noise energy for off-grid and emergency use. Read on for reasons why you should consider a solar generator and some options no matter what your power needs might be.
Easy To Get Started
You can simply buy a solar generator that is ready to go right out of the box and will allow you to plug in devices that use USB, standard 110V, and 12V. With a little knowledge, you can put together your own but if you just want a small generator you may just want to buy one. The power needs of a single person versus an entire family vary a lot.
Solar generators are more affordable than you might think. Part of the cost factor is how powerful a generator you really need. Do you need to run a whole house or do you just want some emergency power for a single person?
Some generators can be chained together if you don’t want to own a single heavy generator. Keep in mind that a lot of larger models have an attached dolly with wheels that make them much easier to move in a lot of places. If you just need a little backup power then don’t consider a generator that is going to be much larger and heavier than what you need.
Battery Storage Matters
You can use a generator to charge and store batteries but remember that batteries do not hold a charge indefinitely. You will need to recharge batteries occasionally regardless if you have used them or not.
Solar generators are often very portable so you can use them in a lot of places with ease. A lot of people hit the open road with their solar generator.
Solar Generators Can Back Up Medical Equipment
During an emergency, if you rely on medical equipment for some of your health needs, a solar generator can help you survive. A lot of people suffer or even die during extended emergencies. Having back up power for any loved ones that require power for medical devices is important!
Lithium Versus Lead Acid
Lithium batteries weigh a lot less but cost more. Solar generators that have a lithium option can weigh just a fraction of what lead acid battery generators weigh. If you want to go light then it may be worth it to pay the premium and get the lithium battery version.
Power rates are going up and solar generators can help you save money in the long-term
It is amazing how power rates have gone up in my area. A 15% increase is a lot for anyone to deal with. If your power bill is normally $100 then that means you are paying an extra $175 a year. That is a day or twos wages for a lot of people and that starts to add up when everything else you have to buy to make is going up to!
Goal Zero Yeti
I am a fan of the Yeti solar generators. First of all you need no special knowledge. You need solar panels and the right connecting cords. The display is easy to read and they have good customer service based in the USA. These are a major choice for travelers. You can get a unit for under $200 that provides back up power for some small devices while the larger units can be put to use for daily household needs or as a back up.
Goal Zero Yeti 150 Portable Power Generator
This is a good one for the nomad that wants to run their laptop, charge camera batteries, and have a light or two sometimes. This is a generator that is small enough to fit in a vehicle without being very noticeable. For the price is an easy option that is ready to get to work right out of the box. I like how the Yetis have a plug in options for standard power cords, USB, and 12V so you don’t have to worry about
Goal Zero Yeti 400 Portable Battery Powered Generator
This is the lithium version of Goal Zero’s Yeti 400. A while back I did a review of the Lead Acid version and I was pretty happy with it. The lithium version is better though because it is much lighter in weight and it really doesn’t cost that much more. At one time there was a larger price difference so if that was holding you back from the lihium version then now is the time to buy. If you want to read up more on the Yeti 400 check out “A Review Of The Goal Zero Yeti 400 Solar Generator”.
Shop Smart For Panels
Some of the panels that are made for generators like the Yeti are made to be super light or specific to the unit. They tend to cost substantially more and have less wattage overall. I am not saying they are not very good quality, just that you get more for your money by going with a different brand with a higher wattage.
Some generators limit how many watts you can be putting in at once with panels. Hooking up extras beyond this won’t help get you more of a charge. Always check the limits on any ready to use solar generators you buy. If you are buying panels to match what your generator can handle then you don’t want to buy something that is too large for what you are doing because that is just more money and weight.
SUAOKI 222Wh Portable Generator
Only 5.5 lbs!
This unit gets points for being small, powerful, and reasonably priced. You can choose between charging via solar, plugging into a 110 outlet, or 12V charging in your car. This easily works with USB devices to keep them topped off. The 60,000 mAh capacity is a major step up from the tiny 1,000 mAh battery banks that you may be used to when using a lot of gear.
This is an actual lithium battery unit too despite the low price. On a full charge, this unit has the capacity to charge a smartphone 50 times or a laptop 2-4 times. If you have a little folding solar panel then you can reduce the drain you are putting on it. For short camping trips or emergency use, this is reasonable to use. For those that have limited space, this fits in a tiny cabinet or a corner in the closet.
HY-PS5B ACOPOWER 400Wh Portable Solar Generator
Only weighs 12.2 lbs!
This is a more substantial solar generator that offers a bit more power than the smaller units meant for camping or road trips. The battery is high-density lithium-ion so it can hold a lot of power. I am impressed that you can get so much in such a small and compact unit.
Renogy Monocrystalline Solar Panel
This flexible panels may be more expensive but they are very lightweight and not as hard to move. They do tend to not have as long of a warranty on them as solid panels, so I suspect they may start producing less power sooner than the solid ones, but if you are very nomadic or want portability with the bare minimum amount of weight, then they are worth considering. This panel is a Renology. I have used their solid panels before and they seem to be just fine. 100 watts is usually the minimum size I buy because that is the point when you start getting the lowest price per watt.
Building Your Own Solar Generator Can Save Money
If you are a little handy and get a basic understanding of how solar generators work then you might try putting together your own. You can get a lot more generator for your money by purchasing the parts separately. This also gives you the most control over different parts of the setup. For more information on
how to build a solar generator or other power generators take a look at my post “DIY Power Generator Ideas”. The basic things you need for a solar generator are:
- A battery such as a deep cycle sealed marine battery
- Inverter. There are a lot of these out there so you will want to find one that matches the power needs you have.
- Charge Controller. Again there are a lot of these to choose from. A basic one is $20 but they go up in price as you get into those that are meant to take on more of a charge.
- Battery cables
- Battery Box. Make sure to get the right size for the battery you have.
The Trolling Power Station
MinnKota Trolling Motor Power Center
I really like these battery boxes because they have the terminals and charge controller all built in. All you need to do is add a battery and then a panel and a few cables. You can also add in a small inverter if you want but this unit has 12 volt power plugins. A small inverter like that you plug into a cigarette lighter in a car works great. Of course, you can also use this to power a trolling motor if you want a solar canoe!
BESTEK 300W Power Inverter
This is a reasonably priced inverter that offers 300 watts total consumption at once. This is plenty big enough for small solar generator setups where folks just want to be able to run some basic devices or keep a few lights going.
These are usually only practical for those that are truly off-grid or want enough power to continue running their household much as they normally would even during an outage. These units are quite an investment but they do offer some security to those that don’t want to 100% rely on the grid. Just look at what is still going on in Puerto Rico and you can see why someone would feel justified in having one of these units put back and charged and ready to go.