Solar Generators for Camping and Van Life
At Goal Zero, we’re big fans of solar power, but solar is only really useful if you have a way to store and use all that power you collect. That’s why we love solar generators. They combine the clean energy of solar power with the convenient portability of battery power stations so you can do more and stay out longer.
What is a Solar Generator?
A solar generator is a combination of solar panels and a power station. You can use solar panels to collect and convert energy from the sun. The power station lets you store the energy you collect and then use it to power your devices.
Choosing a Solar Generator
A solar generator is the perfect addition to your next camping trip or van build. And when you aren’t on the go, they’re great for home back up. There are three key factors to consider when deciding which solar generator is right for you.
Solar lets you recharge more or less indefinitely, but the capacity of your power station will impact how much you can run at a time, how long you can keep things running, and how often you have to recharge. For example, if you’re choosing a solar generator for camping, you can get away with less capacity than you’d need for home backup.
When considering capacity, you’ll also need to think about the amount of solar input you want. A larger power station has more capacity but requires more solar panels to fully charge it. This increases the cost of your solar generator and means it will take up more space.
Portability is a huge benefit if you’re taking your solar generator camping or on a road trip, but it may not be a priority if you’re installing it at your off-grid or in your home. All of our solar generators can be moved and taken with you, but the smaller solar generators are much easier to carry and move around.
The beauty of a portable solar generator is that you can use it however you’d like. If you want the option to run high-energy appliances in a power outage and the option to recharge your laptop while camping, versatility will be a priority. We offer solar generators that are light enough to move but powerful enough to run a TV, grill, or refrigerator for hours.
The Best Solar Generators for Camping
Our favorite camping solar generators are small and lightweight, making them easy to set up and move around.
Taking your solar generator camping lets you recharge phones, laptops, camera batteries, and other small devices, but it also gives you enough power to run a portable fridge and power cooking appliances so you can enjoy good meals throughout the whole trip. These solar generators are easy to move so you can set up near your cooking station in the morning, then move things over to your tent while you recharge your phone during a midday nap, and simultaneously also charge your portable speaker so you can listen to music around the campfire in the evening.
Yeti 200X solar generators for camping
The Yeti 200X is only 5 pounds, meaning even your kids can carry it as they help pack up the car. We offer it in 3 different solar generator bundles, depending on how much solar power you want to pair with it.
We think the Yeti 200X Boulder 50 is the perfect solar generator for camping because it’s incredibly portable and easy to set up. The Boulder solar panel comes with a convenient kickstand so you can set it almost anywhere. It can completely recharge your Yeti 200X in 4-8 hours.
Yeti 500X solar generators for camping
Upgrade from camping to glamping with a little extra power. Need a few more ports so you can blow up your air mattress and plug in the portable fridge at the same time as your grill?
Another favorite solar generator for camping is the Yeti 500X Nomad 100. You get the Yeti 500X which comes with more ports and more power plus the foldable Nomad 100 solar panel that weighs just over 10 pounds, making it easy to move around throughout the day to get the best sun.
The Best Solar Generators for Van Life
Versatility is key when choosing a solar generator for van life. Space is limited so it’s Smart to get something compact, but since you’re living there long term, you need something robust enough to run lights, fridges, power tools, and more while keeping your devices charged.
We offer a lot of great solar generator solutions, but one excellent van life option is the Yeti 1500X (4) Boulder 100. This gives you a power station that can run high-energy appliances and four solar panels you can mount to your vehicle roof or set up on the ground when you find a good stopping spot.
Solar generators can help you get more out of your next adventure whether you’re headed on a weekend camping trip or a month-long van trek. And when you aren’t hauling it around, they provide home backup power for emergencies. Choose from Goal Zero’s wide selection of solar generators to find one that’s best for you.
What are the pros and cons of a solar generator?
Whether you need to keep your lights on when the grid goes down or you want to charge your phone on a camping trip, solar generators are a great way to have extra energy on hand.
But how do portable solar power generators stack up compared to conventional gas-powered generators? We take a look at how solar generators work, weigh their pros and cons, and discuss if a solar generator is the right investment for you.
What is a solar generator?
Technically, a solar power generator is any system that runs on solar power. But what most people mean when they say ‘solar generator’ refers to a portable power station that uses solar panels, instead of fossil fuels, to provide electricity.
A portable solar generator uses solar panels to capture the sun’s energy and then stores that energy in a battery to be used later. Most solar generators are used for RV camping, boats, and as a backup power source in the case of a grid power outage.
How do solar generators work?
Solar generators have four major components:
The solar panels convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity that is then passed through the charge controller. The charge controller regulates the voltage of the electricity into the battery, where the solar energy is then stored for use later. Most solar generators sold today are lithium-ion batteries.
When you need to use the energy stored in the battery, the inverter converts the electricity into alternating current energy, or AC power, which is what most appliances and devices use.
Solar generators typically have USB ports, AC outlets, and 12-volt carports to allow you to charge multiple devices.
How much can you save with solar?
What are the pros and cons of solar generators?
|No fuel||Expensive upfront investment|
|Clean renewable energy||Slow recharging|
|Quiet and low-maintenance||Limited available power|
Free fuel from the sun
Traditional gas-powered generators require you to constantly purchase fuel. With a solar generator, there are no fuel costs. Simply set up your solar panel and enjoy the free sunshine!
Clean renewable energy
Solar generators rely entirely on clean, renewable energy. This means that not only do you not have to worry about the cost of fossil fuels to power your generator, you don’t have to worry about the environmental impact of using gasoline either.
Solar generators release no pollutants when they produce and store energy. You can rest easy knowing that your camping or boating trip is powered by clean energy.
Quiet and low maintenance
Another great thing about solar generators is that they are quiet. And unlike gas generators, solar generators don’t have any moving parts. This significantly reduces the amount of noise they produce while running.
Plus, no moving parts means the chances of solar generator parts breaking is low. This greatly reduces the amount of maintenance required for a solar generator as compared to a gas generator.
High upfront costs
Solar generators require a much higher initial investment than traditional gas generators. The average cost of a gas generator is around 1,000. Solar generators will usually cost about 2,000.
However, solar generators have much lower operating costs. So, you’ll spend less over the lifetime of a solar generator.
Solar generator batteries can only be recharged when the sun is out. And even then, it takes time for the solar panels to charge the battery. A solar panel with a power output of 100 watts would take over 9 hours to charge most mid-sized solar generator batteries.
Generators that run on fossil fuels can be refueled at any time, so you can get more power right when you need it without having to worry about the weather conditions or the time of day.
Limited power supply
The size of the solar generator battery will limit how much the generator can power, as well. A solar generator probably won’t be able to power your entire home. However, it can charge phones and laptops and keep small appliances running for a short period of time.
Gas generators aren’t as limited in what they can power and for how long since they can be refilled at any time.
What are the best solar generators available?
One of the most important things to look for when buying a solar generator is the battery capacity (or how much energy the battery can hold) in order to know if the generator will meet your power needs. This is usually measured in watt-hours (Wh).
The higher the capacity, the longer the battery will last. For instance, a 1,000 Wh solar generator can power a 60-watt lightbulb for almost 17 hours!
Some of the best solar generators on the market include:
|Goal Zero Yeti 1500, 100-watt Solar Kit||1,516 Wh||1,199.95||Buy now|
|Point Zero Titan||2,000 Wh||2,716.00||Buy now|
|Jackery Explorer||1,002 Wh||999.99||Buy now|
|Renogy Phoenix 300 Power Station||337 Wh||399.99||Buy now|
Most solar powered generators have all-in-one designs, so the solar charger and inverter will be included in the battery pack. However, not all solar generators include solar panels. These generators will typically just come with the battery and inverter.
Check out our list of the best portable solar panels that pair great with battery power stations.
What are the best uses for solar generators?
Solar generators are best used for charging devices and running small appliances. They’re a great source of backup power for a boating or RV camping trip because of their portability, plus they’re clean and don’t require you to keep lots of fuel on hand.
Solar generators can power some key appliances in your home in the event of an emergency. But no portable generator will be able to truly power your entire home off-grid.
Instead, you should consider installing a rooftop solar panel system paired with battery storage. Not only will this allow you to have backup power for most of your home in case of an emergency, it will help cut down your electricity bill all year long!
Use our solar calculator to get an estimate of how many solar panels you need to power your home and how much a home solar panel system costs in your area.
See how much solar panels will cost for your specific home
- Solar generators are portable power stations that use solar energy, instead of fossil fuels, to create electricity.
- Solar generators consist of four main parts: the solar panels, the solar battery, the inverter, and the charge controller.
- Some key advantages of solar generators are that they don’t require fuel, they run on clean renewable energy, and they require very little maintenance.
- The biggest drawbacks to solar generators are that they require a big upfront investment, they recharge slowly, and there is a limited amount of power stored and available for you to use.
Written Content Manager
Catherine is the Written Content Manager at SolarReviews. She has been researching and writing about the residential solar industry for four years. Her work has appeared in Solar Today Magazine and Solar Builder Magazine, and has been cited by publications like Forbes and Bloomberg.
Growatt solar generators deliver infinite green energy to power your devices, from off-grid adventures to home backup power during power outages. all while requiring no additional fuel as the gas generator.
In general, a solar generator technically refers to any energy system being powered by the sun. Growatt solar generator bundles typically include portable power stations with high-efficient solar panels. Such solar generator kit is an ideal portable and sustainable power solution to give you clean solar energy, lower your carbon footprint, and reduce your reliance on the grid.
A solar powered generator works by collecting energy from the sun via solar panels, storing the energy in its built-in battery (lithium battery), and converting the energy into AC power through an inverter before being used in household appliances and other electronic devices.
Growatt Solar Generator VS. Generator
Solar generators are ideal for both short-term and long-term power shortages. Traditional generators, on the contrary, do not last long unless they are constantly refueled.
Growatt Solar Generator Buyer’s Guides
Solar Generator VS Gas Generator. Choose the Best One for You
Solar Generator: The Best Choice for Your Next Camping Trip
Yes, Solar generators are worth the money. Because they are portable and simple to use, which requires zero maintenance and no extra fuel costs. They are reliable power source and backup power for home power outages and also works well for most outdoor activities.
Size here usually refers to capacity. Firstly, decide how many devices you want to power and how much total power you need. Secondly, you must consider how long you want to supply these devices and how much power you require each day before deciding which solar power generator to purchase.
Yes, safety is always our top priority. Our portable solar power station‘s built-in battery management system regulates key battery parameters to keep the batteries safe, secure, and built to last. It belongs to clean green energy and renewable energy, whether it is charging or using, it will not produce harmful gases like fuel generators.
Yes, but it must be based on the number of appliances in your home as well as the output power and capacity of the solar portable generator.
It depends on the wattage of your refrigerator and the capacity of your solar generator. For example, the Growatt INFINITY 1500 portable solar generator has a capacity of 1512 Wh, which can power a 150W refrigerator for approximately 8.5 hours. The reference calculation formula used is:
Working time (hour) = solar generator capacity (Wh) 0.85 / refrigerator operating power (W)
Yes! But not all. This is a relatively new technology, and manufacturers often state in their owner’s manuals whether or not their portable solar generators are UPS capable. Both Growatt INFINITY 1500 and INFINITY 1300 solar generators are equipped with an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) of less than 20 milliseconds, so you no longer have to worry about power outages at home or failure of important work during power outages. Everything from lights in heavily used rooms and refrigerators to medical equipment, computers and more will never fail.
Generally speaking, it is 5-15 years, but it mainly depends on the quality of the battery and how often you use it. For example, the Growatt INIFNITY 1300 solar powered generator uses a LiFePO4 built-in battery, which can have 3000 life cycles and can be used for at least ten years. Its built-in battery management system can also better optimize battery efficiency and help extend service life.
The equipment and appliances you can run depend on the capacity and output of the generator. A lower wattage generator like the Growatt VITA 550 (538Wh Capacity 600W Output) can power small devices like your laptop, phone, and fan. Higher wattage generators such as the Growatt INFINITY 1500 (1512Wh Capacity 2000W Output) can power your large appliances such as TVs, refrigerators and microwaves for longer.
Solar Generators: A Guide to Portable Solar Power
A solar generator is a portable power station that uses portable solar panels to charge a battery, and the stored electricity can be used to charge or operate other devices.
As climate change continues to impact our planet in the form of extreme weather, higher temperatures, rising sea levels, and more, we must look for sustainable solutions to more parts of our day-to-day life. This includes the move to using portable solar power generators to create and store renewable energy for all your backup power needs.
Not only do solar generators create reliable clean electricity from the sun, but they also reduce the emission of harmful greenhouse gasses associated with traditional portable generators. As a result, manufacturers are working hard to make solar backup generators better and more reliable than their fuel-powered counterparts. This mirrors the growth and popularity of home solar power systems as an alternative to powering your home with fossil fuels.
With this article, you will better understand what a solar generator is, why solar generators are worth an investment, how to shop for a portable solar generator that’s right for you, and why solar-powered generators should replace traditional gas-powered generators.
What Is A Solar Generator?
The term solar generator usually refers to the combination of portable solar panels, battery, battery charger, and inverter into a single device that allows you to capture, store, and distribute power from the sun.
Solar generators are popular for camping trips, boating, RV trips, and as emergency backup power.
Unlike a traditional generator, which is normally powered by gas, diesel, or propane and includes an engine, fuel tank, and alternator, a solar generator lacks any moving parts. They’re essentially comprised of four elements:
- Portable Solar Panels. Captures energy from the sun
- Rechargeable Battery. Stores the energy captured by solar panels
- Solar Charge Controller. Manages how much energy goes into the battery
- Solar Inverter. Converts the sun’s energy into usable electricity
Thus, a solar generator is basically a portable battery with some photovoltaic (PV) panels attached to collect sunlight.
A portable solar generator turns out to be a great power supply, whether you’re on the road, camping, or needing electricity during a power outage. Depending upon your situation, you might want a solar generator with a variety of outlets, especially in emergencies where you have multiple power-dependent devices and appliances.
Typically, solar generators have 12-volt sockets, AC outlets, and USB ports to allow you to charge different devices. The beauty of having several charging options with your portable generator is that you can get the power you need on your terms. For example, you can plug a smartphone directly into the USB port to charge, and then connect an extension cord to the AC outlet to power a set of string lights.
In most cases, you will have the option to buy components like solar battery storage and panels separately, though you can also buy them as a complete all-in-one kit. We recommend purchasing the accessories you need to generate and store enough electricity for your intended use.
How Do Solar Power Generators Work?
A solar battery generator works by creating electricity from sunlight and storing it in a battery for future use. Here is a more detailed breakdown of the process:
- Solar panels convert sunlight to DC electricity and pass it through the charge controller.
- The charge controller regulates the voltage of electricity before storage, ensuring the right amount of current goes to the battery.
- The battery stores all the solar energy for later use.
- The inverter converts the stored energy from the battery to the AC power that most appliances and devices use.
Who Benefits From Using Solar Generators?
Solar generators don’t burn fuel to generate electricity, making them ideal for anyone looking to reduce reliance on gas-powered generators, combat blackouts and other power outages, and have a reliable backup power source option in case of emergencies.
You can use the energy stored in a solar generator during a power outage, to charge your devices when camping, and as source of energy on an RV or boating trip. Essentially, a solar-powered backup generator is ideal for a range of real-life situations, meaning it’s useful to have around for more than just emergencies.
People Who Want to Make Eco-Friendly Choices
Traditional generators run on fossil fuels that pollute the environment. If you’re conscious of the danger these fuels possess, then a solar backup generator is ideal for you.
People Bothered by the Sounds and Smells of Traditional Generators
Traditional generators are noisy and stinky because they’re combustion engines running on fossil fuels. Over time and even with proper maintenance, they can become noisier and smellier. If you’re looking for a generator that creates zero sounds and smells, a solar power generator will not let you down.
People Who Enjoy Spending Time Outdoors
You will find solar power generators are helpful if you enjoy being outside, yet still want to bring along a few modern perks. For example, during a camping or boating trip, solar batteries come in handy to ensure you have continuous power access. You could string up lights after sundown, charge your phones, run small kitchen appliances, and any number of conveniences you had to do without in the past.
Key Factors When Shopping for a Solar Generator
Solar generators come in different sizes and shapes, so picking one that will address your personal needs should be your priority. Choosing a solar generator can be challenging, especially when you are presented with different options, so we created this shopping list as a good starting point.
Since not all portable solar backup power generators are the same, people need to know what the generator can and cannot do. Knowing how you intend to use your generator should help guide you to the right solution.
Some of the top brands to compare include Jackery, Goal Zero Yeti, Bluetti, EcoFlow, Point Zero Energy, Renogy, and Tacklife. Each company makes its products unique, so a closer look at what each one offers can help you make a sound decision.
Your Energy Requirements
The amount of electricity you need should be your top consideration for determining the size of your solar powered generator. For example, if you plan to use it outdoors, you should calculate how much energy your devices and appliances use when comparing the storage capacity of potential solar generators.
How Much Electricity The Solar Generator Can Provide
The longer a generator can provide power, the better. (This is usually calculated in watt hours.) Considering you don’t always know when you will have an opportunity to recharge it, it is best to have one that can run efficiently for a long time. That way, it will be easier for you to go about your daily activities or complete what you were doing, knowing you have enough backup power.
How Long The Solar Generator Takes To Charge
In addition to comparing the battery capacity of a solar generator, you should also pay attention to how long it takes for the battery to achieve a full charge. Some even have the ability to quick charge from a home AC power outlet. This will help with planning how much time you’ll need to be without power in the event a recharge is necessary.
What Features and Benefits are Included
You can do a lot with a solar generator that has helpful features. For example, more USB ports and power outlets give you the freedom to charge multiple devices at once.
Weight is another essential consideration, especially if you plan to use your generator for outdoor activities. Batteries can be heavy, so you might want to look for a solar generator that has focused on keeping the weight down if you plan to move it around a lot.
What the Warranty Covers
We recommend examining any benefits you might enjoy from the product warranty. The larger and more reputable the company, the more perks you will likely receive to support your solar power generator. The top options include replacement parts for any necessary repairs, as well as a longer length of time your solar generator is covered by the warranty.
Comparing Portable Solar Generators with Traditional Gas-Powered Generators
The Pros of Solar Generators
Investing in a portable solar generator is a good way of reducing your environmental impact and enjoying numerous other benefits:
Generally lighter than traditional gas-powered generators, solar generators are ideal for outdoor events, camping, emergencies, and general on-the-go activities. Some of them are even equipped with a luggage-like pull handle to enhance portability.
Wear and tear due to moving parts in traditional emergency generators can lead to high maintenance costs. Solar generators have no moving parts and don’t rely on gas to generate electricity. This design helps lower the possibility of having to pay for repairs.
Solar generators generate clean, renewable energy that doesn’t hurt the environment when running. Traditional generators run on fossil fuels which contribute to air pollution and climate change. As an added benefit, you can access solar energy freely instead of paying for pricey fossil fuels.
Solar generators are easy to use as they don’t require fueling, oiling, starting, and maintaining. Just turn it on, connect your devices, and draw power from it.
The Cons of Solar Generators
There are a few disadvantages to using solar generators that you should consider before making a purchase:
Higher Upfront Cost
Solar generators typically require a higher initial investment than traditional generators. However, the costs of operating are lower than traditional options, so you’ll save money over time.
Lower Energy Storage
Solar generators aren’t ideal if your power demands are too high. For instance, during a power outage, your generator may not be sufficient to operate all devices and appliances in your house. In most cases, they are best for operating a few devices at a time, such as lighting, a television, or a refrigerator.
Slower Energy Generation
Compared to traditional gas-powered portable generators, solar generators are not the best option when you need instantaneous power. If your battery runs out of power, you have to wait for it to recharge to get power to your appliances and devices, which can vary depending on the weather conditions. With a traditional generator, you simply need to add more fuel to generate additional power.
The Pros of Traditional Generators
Generators powered by fossil fuels do have some advantages, including:
Traditional options are available in different sizes, and there are smaller sizes that you can bring with you when traveling. Just remember that you also have to carry gasoline, so they aren’t quite as portable as solar generators.
Having been on the market for years, traditional generators are more familiar to some people. However, that market dominance also means the technology hasn’t been dramatically improved because of the lack of competition.
Traditional generators produce electricity as soon as they receive fuel, while a solar generator must be recharged to provide electricity. Hence, gas-powered generators are more convenient when you need instant power.
The Cons of Traditional Generators
Despite their popularity over the years, traditional generators have their shortcomings. Here are some of the reasons why people are ditching them:
Traditional generators rely on costly fossil fuels to run, which increases their long-term costs over the initial purchase price. You may also have to pay more to access that fuel if you aren’t near a gas station or other fuel source.
Traditional generators are notorious polluters. Each gallon of gasoline contains about 20.35lbs of carbon dioxide, and the average camping generator emits around 1-2 lbs of carbon dioxide per hour, even when running at 1/4 of the max rated load.
In addition to carbon dioxide, gas-powered generators can also release other harmful gases into the atmosphere, including carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides, and sulfur oxides.
Because of all the moving parts that make up a traditional gas-powered generator, they produce a lot of noise when operating. This is especially true for smaller portable generators, which are designed to prioritize size and weight over noise prevention.
You have to continuously pay to take care of your traditional generator if you want to keep it in good working order. That regular maintenance occurs because the generator uses moving parts to process fossil fuels into electricity, and those moving parts need to be cleaned, oiled, and replaced over time. In addition, the fuel can go bad if it sits unused for a long period of time. Those routine costs definitely impact the total price of owning a gas-powered generator in the long run.
Solar generators are growing in popularity, and with advances in solar technologies, people who like clean energy are increasingly picking them over gas-powered generators. Solar generators offer low maintenance, portability, clean energy, and sustainable living to combat climate change. The numerous benefits of owning a solar generator make it worth the investment.
Before you buy a solar-powered generator, make sure you analyze the key features of different brands to pick one that will address your power needs. Brands like Jackery, Goal Zero Yeti, and Bluetti make a wide range of different solar generators to match your needs.
If you want to store even more backup solar power than even the best solar generator can provide, you should consider solar battery storage that connects to your home solar panel system. While your home solar panels can definitely charge your portable solar generator so you have on-the-go power whenever you need it, solar generators are not designed to act as a home standby generator for your entire home.
If you’re shopping for backup power options, the experts at Palmetto can help you understand the long-term solutions that are right for your electricity needs and system requirements. Get started today with a Free Solar Savings Estimate, and then speak with one of our solar professionals on how you can always have the energy you need when you need it most.