Everything You Need to Know About Solar Power Charging Home Stations
May 9th 2022
Transport systems are the biggest emitters of greenhouse gas in the United States. Smarter transportation choices are required to help the globe achieve net-zero carbon emissions. Here is where electric vehicles enter the picture. When electric automobiles are refueled using renewable energy sources, they produce no carbon emissions. Because we cannot put a wind generator or a hydroelectric system at our house or business, the best choice is to use a solar power charging home station.
This helps you save money on gas and electricity while also boosting the green rating of your building. And besides, it makes perfect sense to charge electric cars using solar energy. Additionally, selecting energy companies that provide green energy reduces emissions, even more, when utilizing grid-based energy.
What Is a Solar Electric Car Charger?
A solar electric car charger (SECC) is a device that uses solar energy to charge your EV. This might be a standalone solar device or a regular EV charger connected to extrasolar system equipment. An SECC system typically comprises the following components:
- Solar panels: Made up of photovoltaic (PV) transforming natural solar light into direct current (DC).
- Inverter:Solar systems produce DC electricity, but electric vehicles require AC energy to charge. An inverter is a device that transforms DC to AC, which is required to power an electric car. The inverter is built into the EV supply equipment in specialized solar chargers.
- EVSE (electric vehicle supply equipment): This is how your car gets power from an energy source. It’s made up of software, interface, protocols, and electrical conductors that allow power to be safely delivered to your car’s battery. EVSE is divided into three categories. Levels 1 and 2 offer 120 and 240 volts of AC electricity, respectively. Level 3 EVSEs give 480 volts or more of fast-charging DC electricity.
- Battery storage: Your solar energy will not be wasted if you use a battery storage device, for example, you can take 12v lithium battery as your energy storage battery.
Benefits of a Solar Power Charging Home Station
car firms that previously solely built gasoline-run vehicles have turned their attention to producing electric automobiles for everyday usage, with Tesla setting the pace. If you own or want to buy an electric vehicle, having a convenient and efficient way to charge your EV battery at home is helpful and rewarding. You will decide whether to recharge the batteries off-grid or create a solar energy system to accomplish the same goal. EV owners will gain financially from installing solar power systems in their homes, among other advantages of residential solar systems.
If you currently have a solar system, extending it to meet the growing energy demands of your household appliances and charging your automobile might be a wise decision. Even a modest solar energy system with ten solar panels can charge an automobile’s battery.
Here are some of the advantages of having a solar-powered home EV charging station.
Are you concerned that you won’t be able to charge your vehicle’s battery throughout the day since you’ll be at work? Don’t be concerned! Net metering can still be profitable. This system works by letting you pump extra solar power into the grid throughout the day in exchange for comparable energy points whenever you need it off-grid. Assume your solar panels send 10 kWh of power to the grid regularly. When you go back home, you may use your 10 kWh of power from the electricity grid to charge your EV battery for free. You can sell the remainder to the electric grid for profit if the whole 10kWh is not withdrawn.
The average cost of power in the United States is 13.31 cents per kWh. And it’s expected that these rates will continue to rise! If you install home solar panel kits for your EV charging stations, you may easily reduce your monthly electricity expenditure by more than half. The long-term benefits of a solar system far surpass the installation expenses.
Reduces Carbon Footprint
Electric cars have been proven to substantially positively influence the environment compared to gasoline-powered automobiles. Though you utilize grid energy to power your automobile, you may be doing far less than you realize to lessen your carbon impact. How? So, between 40% and 60% of national grid electricity is generated from non-renewable energy sources. Installing a home solar EV charging point is thus an ecologically sound choice because it ensures a carbon-free footprint.
When you come across folks queued up waiting to recharge their cars at public charging points mainly if you live in a region with few of them), it might be inconvenient. Furthermore, a grid-connected home station is inconvenient when a power failure occurs. Solar power charging is suitable and flexible for charging your automobile in the comfort of your own home. Furthermore, you will not have to stress about grid failures. Installing a battery pack to store energy at home gives you complete freedom since an interruption at night won’t affect you.
Tax Credits and Government Incentives
Depending on where you live, you might want to look into state-specific tax credits and incentives. In any event, the sooner you go solar, the more money you’ll save on installations.
Increases Property Value
Homes with solar systems have a higher market value and sell faster as more buyers become aware of the benefits of purchasing a solar-powered house.
Types of Solar Electric Car Chargers
If you have an electric car and want to go off the grid, you could either set up an integrated charger or connect an inverter to a solar-powered home-charging arrangement separately.
Integrated solar electric chargers have an inverter to convert DC to AC. Some integrated chargers can redirect excess solar energy to your EV charging connection.
Others can accelerate charging by supplementing solar energy with grid power. Integrated chargers do not require any extra setup or wiring after installation.
If your household already has a solar power system but doesn’t have an EV, a separate installation is a great option. Microinverters would be an excellent choice in this instance. These are little inversion gadgets that you can put beneath each solar array to allow them to work independently. Using this inversion approach, you can raise the number of microinverters to support EV charging.
How to choose a solar electric car charger
If you are deciding to buy solar electric car charger(for instance you can choose a trickle charger for car), t here are a few things to think about before settling on a solar EV charging system:
First and foremost, not all power is made equal. Whereas the 120VAC from your home outlets can charge your electric automobile, the method is inconvenient. Based on your car’s storage capacity, level 1 charging can take around 8 to 24 hours on ordinary household AC power. Some limited-range EVs and hybrids, such as the Chevy Volt, can charge overnight, but vehicles with a more extended range, such as the Chevy Bolt, can charge incredibly slowly due to their considerably bigger batteries.
If you’re going to charge your EV at home specifically, you’ll want to go with Level 2 charging, which is significantly more popular and convenient. If your garage doesn’t already have a 240V connection, you’ll have to contact an electrician to fix one. Installation typically costs around 500, based on the work involved. However, given that Level 2 chargers can fully charge your vehicle in a short while, it’s a wise investment.
You’ll also have to invest in a specific charging point with a 240V connection.
Expertise is essential when deciding whether to implement a separate or an integrated system. Incorporating your inverter separately may provide you with more influence over your power distribution if you’re familiar with solar inverters and how to establish a solar power system for maximum efficiency.
Selecting an integrated EV charger may be preferable if you’d rather have a streamlined system managed by an installation firm. This is especially true if you’re installing a solar array and a charging station in your house at the same time. In this situation, an integrated alternative can shorten setup time and save money over the long term.
The existing solar electric vehicle charging alternatives rely on grid electricity to varying degrees. A separate-inverter configuration is more likely to fit your requirements if you’re especially interested in being entirely off the grid. If you’re OK with augmenting on-grid electricity with solar power, an integrated solution is a good fit.
Although many solar chargers are built to be firmly mounted in your driveway, choose one with a 240V NEMA 6-50 or 14-50 power socket that you can connect to any 240V socket. The installation cost will be similar, and using a plug-in model allows you to transport it if you move around a lot. Many Level 2 Chargers come with wall mounts for simple removal, and many come with locking mechanisms to keep the device secure when put in a carport or external wall.
Voltage is only one factor to consider. You should also match amperage to your preferred EV. It can take time to charge your automobile if the amperage is low. A 30-amp Level 2 charger adds roughly 25 miles of range per hour on average, whereas a 15-amp charger only adds about 12 miles. Specialists generally recommend 30 amps, with many newer chargers capable of 50 amps. Always verify your EV’s specifications to see what maximum amperage it can handle. Purchase the greatest amperage that your EV can safely support for the most efficient charging.
It’s important to note that your charger should be linked to a circuit breaker that can withstand more current than the solar car charger. You should use a 40-amp circuit breaker to link a 30-amp charger. A trained technician will take this into account and, if applicable, provide a quotation for installing a breaker.
Many of the newer electric vehicle chargers come with various Smart connectivity options, which can spare you time and frustration. Some monitor and control charging from practically anywhere using a smartphone app. Some companies will let you plan your car’s charging to occur around cheaper off-peak hours. Many will also allow you to track your EV’s power consumption levels, which is beneficial if you use it for business.
How to Make Use of Solar Powered EV Chargers
The most straightforward approach to using solar to run your automobile is to connect it to an EV station throughout the day. If the energy produced by your solar panels exceeds the amount required by your car, no grid power will be required. If this isn’t the case, you will utilize grid power to make up for the shortfall; keep this in mind while recharging your EV during the night or on a foggy day.
Solar battery systems using Smart technology may store energy and deliver it at a later time. There are EV units that can monitor solar power generation and regulate the electricity of your EV station autonomously. A grid connection is still necessary for periods when solar production is minimal and to prevent micro charging.
How Much Does a Solar-powered Charging Station Cost?
The cost of a solar home electric car charging system begins at 499, with setup expenses ranging from 300 to 1,000, based on the charger and any electrical improvements. Home charging points are available from Clipper Creek, Bosch, Leviton, ChargePoint, Delta, eMotoWerks, and Siemens. The state of New York and PSEGLI both give rewards for charging stations. The PSEGLI reimbursement is currently 500, roughly half the price of a fitted charger!
If you reside in Long Island or New York City, power costs 21 cents per kWh. Considering the levelized price of electricity, solar energy might cost as little as 8 cents/kWh. Owing to hourly fees, recharging at a public outlet can cost nearly twice as much as recharging at home, with all-in costs of approximately 50 cents/kWh or even more.
See other related articles at Renogy：
How Does A Solar Battery Work? | Energy Storage Explained
A solar battery can be an important addition to your solar power system. It helps you store excess electricity that you can use when your solar panels aren’t generating enough energy, and gives you more options for how to power your home.
If you’re looking for the answer to, “How do solar batteries work?”, this article will explain what a solar battery is, solar battery science, how solar batteries work with a solar power system, and the overall benefits of using solar battery storage.
What is a Solar Battery?
Let’s start with a simple answer to the question, “What is a solar battery?”:
A solar battery is a device that you can add to your solar power system to store the excess electricity generated by your solar panels.
You can then use that stored energy to power your home at times when your solar panels don’t generate enough electricity, including nights, cloudy days, and during power outages.
The point of a solar battery is to help you use more of the solar energy you’re creating. If you don’t have battery storage, any excess electricity from solar power goes to the grid, which means you’re generating power and providing it to other people without taking full advantage of the electricity your panels create first.
For more information, check out our Solar Battery Guide: Benefits, Features, and Cost
The Science of Solar Batteries
Lithium-ion batteries are the most popular form of solar batteries currently on the market. This is the same technology used for smartphones and other high-tech batteries.
Lithium-ion batteries work through a chemical reaction that stores chemical energy before converting it to electrical energy. The reaction occurs when lithium ions release free electrons, and those electrons flow from the negatively-charged anode to the positively-charged cathode.
This movement is encouraged and enhanced by lithium-salt electrolyte, a liquid inside the battery that balances the reaction by providing the necessary positive ions. This flow of free electrons creates the current necessary for people to use electricity.
When you draw electricity from the battery, the lithium ions flow back across the electrolyte to the positive electrode. At the same time, electrons move from the negative electrode to the positive electrode via the outer circuit, powering the plugged-in device.
Home solar power storage batteries combine multiple ion battery cells with sophisticated electronics that regulate the performance and safety of the whole solar battery system. Thus, solar batteries function as rechargeable batteries that use the power of the sun as the initial input that kickstarts the whole process of creating an electrical current.
Comparing Battery Storage Technologies
When it comes to solar battery types, there are two common options: lithium-ion and lead-acid. Solar panel companies prefer lithium-ion batteries because they can store more energy, hold that energy longer than other batteries, and have a higher Depth of Discharge.
Also known as DoD, Depth of Discharge is the percentage to which a battery can be used, related to its total capacity. For example, if a battery has a DoD of 95%, it can safely use up to 95% of the battery’s capacity before it needs to be recharged.
As mentioned earlier, battery manufacturers prefer lithium-ion battery technology for its higher DoD, reliable lifespan, ability to hold more energy for longer, and a more compact size. However, because of these numerous benefits, lithium-ion batteries are also more expensive compared to lead-acid batteries.
Lead-acid batteries (the same technology as most car batteries) have been around for years, and have been used widely as in-home energy storage systems for off-grid power options. While they are still on the market at.friendly prices, their popularity is fading due to low DoD and shorter lifespan.
AC Coupled Storage vs. DC Coupled Storage
Coupling refers to how your solar panels are wired to your battery storage system, and the options are either direct current (DC) coupling or alternating current (AC) coupling. The main difference between the two lies in the path taken by the electricity that the solar panels create.
Solar cells create DC electricity, and that DC electricity must be converted into AC electricity before it can be used by your home. However, solar batteries can only store DC electricity, so there are different ways of connecting a solar battery into your solar power system.
DC Coupled Storage
With DC coupling, the DC electricity created by solar panels flows through a charge controller and then directly into the solar battery. There is no current change before storage, and conversion from DC to AC only occurs when the battery sends electricity to your home, or back out into the grid.
A DC-coupled storage battery is more efficient, because the electricity only needs to change from DC to AC once. However, DC-coupled storage typically requires a more complex installation, which can increase the initial cost and lengthen the overall installation timeline.
AC Coupled Storage
With AC coupling, DC electricity generated by your solar panels goes through an inverter first to be converted into AC electricity for everyday use by appliances in your home. That AC current can also be sent to a separate inverter to be converted back to DC current for storage in the solar battery. When it’s time to use the stored energy, the electricity flows out of the battery and back into an inverter to be converted back into AC electricity for your home.
With AC-coupled storage, electricity is inverted three separate times: once when going from your solar panels into the house, another when going from the home into battery storage, and a third time when going from battery storage back into the house. Each inversion does result in some efficiency losses, so AC coupled storage is slightly less efficient than a DC coupled system.
Unlike DC-coupled storage that only stores energy from solar panels, one of the big advantages of AC coupled storage is that it can store energy from both solar panels and the grid. This means that even if your solar panels aren’t generating enough electricity to fully charge your battery, you can still fill the battery with electricity from the grid to provide you with backup power, or to take advantage of electricity rate arbitrage.
It’s also easier to upgrade your existing solar power system with AC-coupled battery storage, because it can just be added on top of an existing system design, instead of needing to be integrated into it. This makes AC coupled battery storage a more popular option for retrofit installations.
How Solar Batteries Work with a Solar Power System
This entire process starts with the solar panels on the roof generating power. Here is a step-by-step breakdown of what happens with a DC-coupled system:
- Sunlight hits the solar panels and the energy is converted to DC electricity.
- The electricity enters the battery and is stored as DC electricity.
- The DC electricity then leaves the battery and enters an inverter to be converted into AC electricity the home can use.
The process is slightly different with an AC-coupled system.
- Sunlight hits the solar panels and the energy is converted to DC electricity.
- The electricity enters the inverter to be converted into AC electricity the home can use.
- Excess electricity then flows through another inverter to change back into DC electricity that can be stored for later.
- If the house needs to use the energy stored in the battery, that electricity must flow through the inverter again to become AC electricity.
How Solar Batteries Work with a Hybrid Inverter
If you have a hybrid inverter, a single device can convert DC electricity into AC electricity and can also convert AC electricity into DC electricity. As a result, you don’t need two inverters in your photovoltaic (PV) system: one to convert electricity from your solar panels (solar inverter) and another to convert electricity from the solar battery (battery inverter).
Also known as a battery-based inverter or hybrid grid-tied inverter, the hybrid inverter combines a battery inverter and solar inverter into a single piece of equipment. It eliminates the need to have two separate inverters in the same setup by functioning as an inverter for both the electricity from your solar battery and the electricity from your solar panels.
Hybrid inverters are growing in popularity because they work with and without battery storage. You can install a hybrid inverter into your battery-less solar power system during the initial installation, giving you the option of adding solar energy storage down the line.
Benefits of Solar Battery Storage
Adding battery backup for solar panels is a great way of ensuring you get the most out of your solar power system. Here are some of the main benefits of a home solar battery storage system:
Stores Excess Electricity Generation
Your solar panel system can often produce more power than you need, especially on sunny days when no one is at home. If you don’t have solar energy battery storage, the extra energy will be sent to the grid. If you participate in a net metering program, you can earn credit for that extra generation, but it’s usually not a 1:1 ratio for the electricity you generate.
With battery storage, the extra electricity charges up your battery for later use, instead of going to the grid. You can use the stored energy during times of lower generation, which reduces your reliance upon the grid for electricity.
Provides Relief from Power Outages
Since your batteries can store the excess energy created by your solar panels, your home will have electricity available during power outages and other times when the grid goes down.
Reduces Your Carbon Footprint
With solar panel battery storage, you can go green by making the most of the clean energy produced by your solar panel system. If that energy isn’t stored, you will rely on the grid when your solar panels don’t generate enough for your needs. However, most grid electricity is produced using fossil fuels, so you will likely be running on dirty energy when drawing from the grid.
Provides Electricity Even After the Sun Goes Down
When the sun goes down and solar panels aren’t generating electricity, the grid steps in to provide much-needed power if you don’t have any battery storage. With a solar battery, you’ll use more of your own solar electricity at night, giving you more energy independence and helping you keep your electric bill low.
A Quiet Solution to Backup Power Needs
A solar power battery is a 100% noiseless backup power storage option. You get to benefit from maintenance free clean energy, and don’t have to deal with the noise that comes from a gas-powered backup generator.
Understanding how a solar battery works is important if you’re thinking about adding solar panel energy storage to your solar power system. Because it operates like a large rechargeable battery for your home, you can take advantage of any excess solar energy your solar panels create, giving you more control over when and how you use solar energy.
Lithium-ion batteries are the most popular type of solar battery, and work through a chemical reaction that stores energy, and then releases it as electrical energy for use in your home. Whether you choose a DC-coupled, AC-coupled, or hybrid system, you may be able to increase the return on investment of your solar power system and reduce your reliance on the grid.
Having the right system design is vital to making the most of your solar panels. At Palmetto, we have the expertise and experience to guide you on your clean energy journey. From solar power installation and service to system maintenance and monitoring, our solar professionals are here to help you take advantage of clean energy.
How to Connect a Solar Panel to a Battery: 5 Steps (w/ Videos)
Just so you know, this page contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on one, at no extra cost to you I may earn a small commission.
These instructions will show you, with step-by-step videos, one of the foundational skills of building DIY solar power systems: how to connect a solar panel to a battery.
By the end, you’ll be charging your 12 volt battery — or higher — with free solar energy.
(If that doesn’t get your blood pumping…I don’t know what will.)
Note: I’ve listed the sizes I used and linked to either the exact materials I bought for my setup or materials that are compatible with it. Feel free to copy my setup. Otherwise, adjust the sizes of your components for the amount of current that’ll be flowing through your system.
- 100 watt 12 volt solar panel
- 12 volt battery
- Renogy Wanderer 30A solar charge controller
- 12 gauge wire
- 12 gauge wire connectors
- MC4 solar adapter cables
- MC4 solar extension cables (if necessary)
- 15 amp MC4 inline fuse
- Inline fuse holder with 20 amp blade fuse
- Heat shrink tubing
- Safety glasses
- Wire stripper
- Wire crimper
- Wire cutter
- Heat gun
Step 1: Understand the Wiring Diagram
Here’s the wiring diagram showing how to connect a solar panel to a battery:
It’s important to understand the following:
- Don’t connect a solar panel directly to a battery. Doing so can damage the battery. Instead, connect both battery and solar panel to a solar charge controller.
- It’s recommended you fuse your system.Safety best practices, y’all! Place one fuse between the positive battery terminal and the charge controller. Place another between the positive solar panel wire and the charge controller.
Step 2: Make the Battery Cables
I didn’t have pre-made battery cables lying around. So I decided to save some money and make my own.
Turns out it’s pretty easy. Here’s how I did it:
Cut two pieces of wire to the length you want and strip both ends. (I made one a little shorter to account for the fuse I’m going to attach to it.)
Put the fuse in the fuse holder. Use our fuse size calculator to find the right fuse size.
Connect one of the fuse holder’s wire leads to your shorter battery cable with your wire connector of choice. (I used a 12-10 gauge butt splice connector.)
Shrink wrap the connector with heat shrink tubing and a heat gun.
Slide a piece of heat shrink tubing onto each battery cable (before crimping the terminal connectors…don’t forget until after like I did ).
Then crimp the battery terminal connectors onto the battery cables and shrink wrap the connections. Look at your battery terminals to know which size connectors to use. Mine uses 1/4″ ring terminals.
Now they’re ready to be connected. ⚡
Step 3: Connect the Battery to the Charge Controller
Note: At this point I put on my gloves and safety glasses because places like Advanced Auto Parts recommend wearing them when working with batteries.
Follow the instructions in your charge controller’s manual for connecting it to the battery. I’ll show you how to connect the charge controller I used, the Renogy Wanderer:
Connect the negative battery cable, the one without the fuse, to the “-” battery terminal on the charge controller.
Connect the positive battery cable, the one with the fuse, to the “” battery terminal. (Renogy recommends connecting the battery cables to the charge controller before connecting them to the battery.)
Connect the battery cables to the battery terminals — negative first, then positive. Before connecting the positive cable, I like to touch it to the positive battery terminal because sometimes there will be a little spark.
Your charge controller should turn on or light up to indicate the battery is properly connected. For instance, mine has a light that turns on.
The battery is now connected!
At this point, your manual may tell you how to program the charge controller for your battery type, voltage, etc.
Mine has a button which I can press to indicate battery type. It defaults to sealed lead acid, which happens to be the type I’m using. So I just kept it at the setting it was on.
Step 4: Connect the Solar Panel to the Charge Controller
Next up — connecting the solar panel!
Most solar panel cables come with pre-attached MC4 connectors. To connect a solar panel to a charge controller, you need MC4 solar adapter cables.
(These are basically a length of solar PV wire that has an MC4 connector at one end and is stripped at the other. For my setup, I made my own by assembling a male and female MC4 connector. I also bought MC4 solar extension cables. The extension cables are optional based on how far apart your solar panel and charge controller are.)
For the panel’s positive cable, connect the MC4 inline fuse, positive extension cable (if using), and then the MC4 adapter cable.
For the panel’s negative cable, connect the negative extension cable (if using) and then the MC4 adapter cable. Don’t let the exposed wires touch!
Follow the instructions in your charge controller’s manual for connecting it to the solar panel. I’ll show you how I connected mine:
First connect the negative solar cable to the charge controller, then connect the positive. Your charge controller should turn on or light up to indicate that the panel is properly connected.
Everything is now wired together!
Step 5: Put the Solar Panel in the Sun
Put your solar panel in direct sunlight at the best tilt angle for your location (this is easy to do with my 11 DIY solar panel mount).
Once you do, your charge controller should indicate that the battery is charging. Mine has a light that flashes when the battery is charging normally.
Just like that, you’re DONE.
Now you know how to charge a battery with a solar panel!
Sit back and let the panel collect all that free solar energy. The charge controller will stop charging the battery once it’s full.
How Long Does It Take to Charge a Battery with a Solar Panel?
Use our solar battery charge time calculator to find out. The answer depends on a lot of factors.
As an example, here are the specs for the setup I used:
- 12V, 33Ah lead acid battery
- 50% battery depth of discharge
- 100 watt solar panel
- PWM charge controller
According to our calculator, with this setup it’ll take about 4.5 peak sun hours to fully charge the battery.
But change any part of the setup — e.g. swap in a 50 watt solar panel, a lithium battery, or an MPPT charge controller — and the charge time will be different.
So yeah, definitely recommend the calculator for that question.
DIY Solar Power Projects You Can Build Now
What you effectively just built was your first solar panel setup. That’s a big deal!
Now that you’ve passed that milestone, here are some more projects I think you’d be interested in building:
Solar Car Battery Charger
By connecting a solar panel to a 12V battery, you’ve actually made a solar 12V battery charger. Car batteries are 12V batteries, so you could just as easily use the system you just made — or the near-identical one described in this tutorial — to solar charge your car battery.
DIY Solar-Powered 12 Volt LED Lights
These solar-powered LED lights use essentially the same system you just built. All you need to do now is connect some LED strip lights to your battery, and you’re good to go.
Solar Charger for an Electric Bike
You can build a modified version of the solar charging system you just made to solar charge an electric bike. Or, just connect an inverter to your 12 volt battery and plug the ebike charger in like normal.
How to Pick a Solar Panel and Battery Backup System
We’ve added information on extended solar and battery-installation tax rebates in the Inflation Reduction Act.
Everyone’s looking for a way to keep the lights on when the power goes out. With increasingly intense weather knocking the power grid offline for days at a time in some regions, traditional fossil-fuel–based backup systems—namely portable or permanent generators—seem increasingly unreliable. That’s why residential solar power combined with battery storage (once an esoteric niche industry) is rapidly becoming a mainstream disaster-preparedness choice, according to more than a dozen installers, manufacturers, and industry experts we interviewed.
For homeowners, multi-kilowatt batteries that charge from rooftop solar panels promise resilience in the event of a natural disaster—a reliable, rechargeable, instantaneous source of electricity to keep important devices and appliances running until the grid comes back online. For utilities, such installations promise a more stable and lower-carbon electrical grid in the near future. Here’s how you can set it up for your home. (Just brace yourself for sticker shock.)
Who should get this
Backup power in an outage is crucial for anyone looking to maintain basic comfort and communication abilities. Scale it up to a larger system, and you can go beyond the basics, backing up more appliances and tools for more time until the grid power returns. These solutions are too customized for us to recommend specific batteries, to suggest how many kilowatt-hours of storage you need to run your home when the grid is down, or to outline how much solar production you need to keep your battery charged. Keep in mind, too, that other variables—including your specific energy needs, budget, and location (just about every state and utility has its own incentive programs, rebates, and tax credits)—all factor into your purchase decisions. The federal Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 also contains incentives that may affect your decision to add battery backup to an existing solar system: Through 2032, you’ll be able to claim 30% of the project cost as a tax credit when you file with the IRS.
Our aim is to help you think through three things: the questions you need to ask yourself about the whats and whys of installing solar battery backup in your home, the questions you should ask potential installers when you meet with them, and the question of whether a battery-storage system primarily represents an investment in your own home’s resiliency or in the future grid as a whole. “That’s just like the first hour and a half of my conversations: telling people what they need to think about,” said Rebekah Carpenter, founder of Fingerlakes Renewables Solar Energy in upstate New York.
I can see why. I needed to put in hours of research just to wrap my head around all the ins and outs, reviewing installation examples and playing the role of a prospective buyer. And I empathize with any person making this investment. You’ll be facing a raft of major decisions—from your choice of contractor to the design and manufacturers of your system to financing. And all of it will be wrapped in layers of technical jargon. Blake Richetta, CEO of battery maker Sonnen, said one major challenge he faces is simply to translate this information for his customers, or, as he put it, to “make it palatable for regular folks.” There truly is no simple way to address the question of whether, how, and why you should adopt solar battery storage.
Why you should trust us
Before I began this guide, my only experience with solar power was getting zapped by sun-powered cattle fences on a ranch in the high desert. So to give myself a crash course in solar battery storage, I spoke with more than a dozen sources, including the founders or executives of six battery manufacturers; five highly experienced installers, from Massachusetts, New York, Georgia, and Illinois; and the founder of EnergySage, a respected “unbiased solar matchmaker” that offers free and detailed advice to homeowners on all things solar-related. (EnergySage vets installers, who can then pay a fee to be included on the company’s list of approved contractors.) In an effort to provide a breadth of views as well as depth of knowledge, I sought out installers in areas of the country not always seen as solar-friendly, as well as those of diverse backgrounds, including one who focuses on providing solar power to impoverished rural communities. Late in the process, just for fun, I joined a call between an installer and my brother and sister-in-law (prospective solar and battery buyers in Texas), to hear what kinds of questions a pro asked them (and vice versa) about planning a new installation.
What does solar with battery backup mean, exactly?
Solar panels with backup battery storage are nothing new: People have been using banks of lead-acid batteries to store solar power for decades. But those systems are bulky, require regular maintenance, rely on toxic and corrosive materials, and often must be housed in a separate, weatherproof structure. Generally, they’re limited to rural, off-grid applications. This guide focuses on so-called grid-tied solar systems, in which solar panels supply power to both yourself and the grid. So we’re talking instead about the modern, compact, high-capacity lithium-ion batteries that first appeared in the 2010s.
For many people, the first such system they heard of was Tesla’s Powerwall, announced in 2015. As of 2022, according to EnergySage founder Vikram Aggarwal, at least 26 companies are offering lithium-ion storage systems in the US, though just seven manufacturers account for almost all installations. From highest to lowest share, those manufacturers are Enphase, Tesla, LG, Panasonic, SunPower, NeoVolta, and Generac. You’re likely to encounter several of these names as you begin your research. But to ensure that you’re giving yourself the widest array of choices, it’s important to speak with multiple contractors, since most of them work with only two or three battery makers. (The differences between the batteries largely come down to chemistry, the type of input power they take, their storage capacity, and their load capacity, as described in the following paragraphs.)
Fundamentally, though, all of the batteries work the same way: They store power from rooftop solar panels as chemical energy during the day, and then they release it as needed (most commonly at night, when the solar panels are idle, as well as during power outages) to keep your home’s appliances and fixtures running. And all batteries charge only via DC (direct current) power, the same sort that solar panels produce.
But beyond that, there are many differences. “Batteries are not made the same,” Aggarwal said. “They have different chemistries. They have different wattages. They have different amperes. And how much amperage can be extracted from a battery at a given time, i.e., how many appliances can I run concurrently? There is no one-size-fits-all.”
The amount of power that a battery can store, measured in kilowatt-hours, will of course be a key factor in your calculations. If your area rarely experiences long blackouts, a smaller and less expensive battery may suit your needs. If your area’s blackouts last a long time, a larger battery may be required. And if you have critical equipment in your home that absolutely cannot be allowed to lose power, your needs may be higher yet. These are all things to think about before you contact potential installers—and those professionals should listen to your needs and ask questions that help you refine your thinking.
You have to consider a few other things, as well.
The first is whether you’ll be installing a new solar system at the same time that you install battery storage, or whether you’ll be retrofitting a battery to an existing system.
If everything will be new, you’ll have the widest range of options in both your choice of battery and your choice of solar panels. The majority of new installations use DC-coupled batteries. That means the DC electricity produced by your panels feeds into your home and directly charges the battery. The current then goes through a device called an inverter, which converts the DC (direct current) electricity to AC (alternating current) electricity—the type of power that homes use. This system offers the most efficient way to charge the batteries. But it involves running high-voltage DC into your home, which requires specialized electrical work. And several of the people I spoke with expressed reservations over the safety of high-voltage DC.
So you can instead opt for what are called AC-coupled batteries, and install a solar array that uses microinverters behind each panel to convert their output into AC on your roof (which means no high-voltage current enters your home). To charge a battery, integrated microinverters in the battery itself then reconvert the electricity to DC, which gets converted back to AC when the battery is sending power to your home. AC-coupled batteries are less efficient than DC-coupled batteries, because with every conversion some electrical energy is lost as heat. Have a frank discussion with your installer about the pros, cons, and relative safety of each approach.
If you already have a solar array and want to install a battery, the big news is simply that you can now do so. “I’ve been doing this for 20-something years, and being able to go in and look at a system and retrofit it is amazing,” said Rebekah Carpenter of Fingerlakes Renewables. “I remember when there was absolutely no option to retrofit a system. You just weren’t going to be able to use solar at all if the grid went down.”
The solution lies in hybrid inverters, which offer two key abilities. First, they take input as either AC or DC, and then they use software to figure out where it’s needed and make any conversions necessary. “It’s an either-or-and,” said Carpenter. “It’s using it to charge batteries [DC], it’s using it for the home or grid [AC], or if it’s got enough power coming in, it’s using it for both at the same time.” She added that what she terms “agnostic” hybrid inverters are of particular value for retrofitting battery systems, since they can work with batteries of several different brands; some battery makers restrict their hybrid inverters to working only with their own batteries. Carpenter mentioned Sunny Island as one maker of agnostic inverters. Sol-Ark is another example.
If you already have a solar array and want to install a battery, the big news is simply that you can now do so.
Second, hybrid inverters can generate what’s called grid signal. Solar arrays need to sense that the grid is online in order to work. If they lose that signal—which means there’s a grid outage—they stop working until the power returns; this means you are without power until that time too. (It’s a matter of safety, explained Sven Amirian of Invaleon: “The utility requires that you don’t feed back energy when there are [people] working on the lines.”) By generating grid signal, hybrid inverters let your existing solar system keep running in an outage, powering your home and charging the battery by day and using the battery to power your home at night.
In addition to storage capacity, measured in kilowatt-hours, batteries have load capacities, measured in kilowatts. The term continuous capacity refers to how much power the battery can send out under normal conditions, and it indicates a limit on how many circuits you can run at once. The term peak capacity refers to how much power the battery can put out for a few seconds when a large appliance, such as an air conditioner, kicks on and creates a sudden, brief need for more juice; such an event requires a robust peak capacity. Consult your contractor to find a battery that will meet your needs.
Lithium-ion battery chemistry is complex, but there are two main types used for solar. The more common ones are NMC, or nickel-magnesium-cobalt, batteries. Less common (and a more recent development) are LFP, or lithium-iron-phosphate, batteries. (The odd initialism comes from an alternative name, lithium ferrophosphate.) NMC batteries are the more power-dense of the two, as they are physically smaller for a given storage capacity. But they are more sensitive to the heat generated during charging and discharging (they have a lower flash point, or ignition temperature, and thus in theory are more susceptible to what’s called thermal runaway fire propagation). They also may have lower lifetime charge-discharge cycles. And the use of cobalt, in particular, is of some concern, since its production has been tied to illegal and exploitative mining practices. LFP batteries, being less energy-dense, need to be somewhat larger for a given capacity, but they are less sensitive to heat generation and may have higher charge-discharge cycles. Ultimately, you’ll wind up with whichever type of battery best fits into the design you settle on with your contractor. As always, however, be proactive and ask questions.
And that brings up a final point: Speak with multiple solar installers before you pick one. “Consumers should always, always comparison shop,” said EnergySage’s Aggarwal. Most installers work with just a few battery and panel manufacturers, which means you won’t get a full picture of what’s possible from any one of them. Keith Marett, president of clean energy services at Generac—a manufacturer of fossil-fuel backup systems that’s rapidly expanding into renewable backup—said that “the big thing for homeowners, really, is figuring out what they want their lifestyle to be during an outage, and building a system to support that.” Adding battery storage is a major investment and, to a big degree, locks you into a particular system, so don’t rush your decision.
What will this cost—and do you really need it?
I live in New York City, where indoor solar battery storage is not allowed because of the fire code, and outdoor battery storage means navigating a Kremlinesque bureaucracy (PDF). (The joke being that almost nobody here has outdoor space to begin with.) Nor could I install a battery even if it were allowed—I live in a co-op apartment, not a freestanding home, so I don’t have my own roof for the solar panels. But even if I could install a battery, researching and writing this guide made me question whether I would. It’s worthwhile to ask yourself some fundamental questions before you pull the trigger.
For starters, installing battery storage is inherently expensive. EnergySage’s data shows that in the last quarter of 2021, the median cost per kilowatt-hour of battery storage was almost 1,300. Of course, that means that half of the batteries on the company’s list cost less than that per kilowatt-hour (and half cost more). But even the lowest-cost battery maker on EnergySage’s list, HomeGrid, charges over 6,000 for a 9.6 kWh system. Batteries from the “big seven” (again, that’s Enphase, Tesla, LG, Panasonic, SunPower, NeoVolta, and Generac) cost from nearly one and a half times as much to over twice as much. “Currently it is for the well-to-do,” said EnergySage’s Aggarwal with a sigh. He added, however, that the cost of battery storage has long been on a downward trend, and he expects the trend to continue.
Do you really need to spend a ton of money to meet your needs in a power outage? There are less-expensive options than high-kilowatt solar storage, including portable gasoline generators, lithium-ion portable power stations, and small solar battery chargers aimed at keeping devices running.
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Those portable methods—even the rechargeable ones that are safe to use indoors—aren’t as convenient as plugging things into a wall outlet. Yet there are even ways to get household circuits working in an outage without a traditional rooftop-solar system. Goal Zero, which has had success selling solar generators to campers and RVers, also offers a home integration kit that uses those generators to power houses. In a blackout, you manually disconnect your home from the grid (a physical transfer switch is included in the installation work). You then run your home’s circuits on an external Goal Zero battery and recharge it with Goal Zero’s portable solar panels. In some ways, this Goal Zero kit splits the difference between the fully installed solar-plus-battery system and a more-basic solar battery charger. The use of a manual disconnection switch adds an extra step versus the automatic transfer switches used in grid-tied solar systems. The price? “We start at about 4,000 installed in your home for our 3-kilowatt-hour battery,” said company CEO Bill Harmon.
All of these options have their downsides and limitations. A solar device charger will allow you to keep in touch with loved ones and give you access to news alerts in an emergency, but it won’t keep the fridge running. Fossil fuels can run out, leaving you stranded, and of course a fossil-fuel generator is not environmentally friendly. “But, that being said, if you’re only going to run it twice a year, two or three days a year, maybe you can live with the impact for now,” Aggarwal said. Several battery makers have incorporated the ability to use fossil-fuel generators to charge their batteries in the event of an extended blackout. Sonnen chairman and CEO Blake Richetta said if your goal is maximum resilience after a disaster, “You really should have a gas generator—a backup for the backup.”
In short, it’s worth weighing your expected future hardships in an emergency against the cost of gaining resilience. I spoke with Joe Lipari, vice president for projects at Brooklyn SolarWorks (which, as the name suggests, operates in New York City, where, again, batteries aren’t yet an option), and he mentioned the great Northeast blackout of 2003. It was an unpleasant couple of days before the power came back on. But I’ve lived here for nearly 20 years, and it’s the only time I’ve ever lost power. Purely from an emergency-preparation perspective, I asked Lipari what I should take away from the 2003 outage—that is, was it a crisis to fortify against or a minimal risk to absorb? “People bring that up to us,” he replied. “Paying an extra 20,000 to get a battery storage system? Probably not necessary.”
How long can you run your home on solar battery backup?
We asked a lot of experts how long these systems can last in an outage, generally speaking. The short and conservative answer: less than 24 hours on a single battery. But claims vary so widely that the thorough answer to this question is less conclusive.
In 2020, according to US Energy Information Administration figures, the typical US home consumed 29.3 kilowatt-hours per day. A typical solar backup battery can store somewhere around 10 kilowatt-hours. “I don’t have to tell you that this cannot run your whole house for a day,” said EnergySage’s Aggarwal. Batteries are generally stackable, which means you can string multiple batteries together to increase your storage. But, of course, doing so is not cheap. For many people, stacking is not practical—or even financially possible.
But “how long can I run my home” is really the wrong way to think about solar storage in the context of a blackout. For one thing, you can expect your solar panels to both deliver power to your home and recharge your battery during the day—in sunny weather—thus continuously regenerating your backup power source. That adds a form of resilience that fossil-fuel generators lack, because once their gas or propane runs out, they’re useless until you can get more fuel. And that may be impossible in an emergency.
to the point, during an outage, how much energy you conserve is at least as important as how much energy you can store. In order to make your battery last as long as possible, you’ll need to cut way back on your usage. Having lived through Hurricane Andrew in Miami, in 1992, I turned the challenges of that experience—no power for days, rotting groceries—into a line of inquiry. I asked all of the installers and battery makers I spoke to the same question: Assuming I want to keep the fridge running (for food safety), keep a couple of devices charged (for communication and information), and keep some lights on (for nighttime safety), how long can I expect a battery to last without recharging?
Keyvan Vasefi, head of product, operations, and manufacturing at Goal Zero, said he and his wife have run multiple tests on their 3 kWh battery, and they typically can go for a day and a half with “fridge running, multiple phone recharges, and master bedroom and bathroom with lighting.” They have also done tests with their solar panels hooked to the battery. Even bearing in mind that Vasefi has an interest in selling this tech, I can say that he does make a compelling case for it: “We try to pretend it’s the end of the world and see what happens, and we can effectively get an indefinite run time” on those limited circuits, he said. “Batteries back to a hundred percent every day at 6:00 p.m. And we feel really good about that.”
A 10 kWh battery can typically run a fridge, some lights, and several device chargers for two to three days, said Sven Amirian, vice president of Invaleon, a Massachusetts-based installer. That timeframe was echoed by Aric Saunders, senior vice president of battery-maker Electriq.
When you get a battery installed, your contractor may ask you to choose a limited “emergency subset” of your home’s circuits, which they’ll then route through a subpanel. During an outage, the battery will feed only these circuits. (As an example, my dad has a propane backup generator at his home in Virginia, and it’s hooked up to one of his three air-conditioning units, the fridge, the kitchen outlets, an on-demand water heater, and some lights. The house doesn’t have TV, laundry, and other conveniences until the grid comes back. But having a partially cooled home and cold drinks has meant the difference between comfort and misery during the frequent summer blackouts.)
You can also manually shut off individual breakers in your panel to limit the battery to feeding only those you consider critical. And all solar storage batteries come with apps that show you which circuits are being used, helping you find and eliminate power draws that you may have overlooked. “In real time, you can change your habits and maybe stretch out an extra day,” said Amirian. Note, though, that customer reviews of the apps are the same kind of mixed bag that we find for every Smart-appliance app we test: Some people love them, while others are frustrated by glitchy performance and buggy updates.
Finally, battery makers are beginning to offer Smart panels. Through these you can use your app to toggle individual circuits on and off remotely and thus customize which circuits are in use at various times (say, disabling the bedroom lights and outlets during the day and turning them back on at night). And the battery’s software will also take steps to optimize your power usage, closing down circuits that aren’t needed. But Amirian cautioned that installing a Smart panel is not simple or cheap. “There’s a lot of customer education that has to happen, the pros and cons, costs and benefits, of ‘I want to be able to control every circuit’ versus ‘That’s going to be 10,000 of electrical work for a two-day blackout.’”
The bottom line is that even with limited solar recharging, you’ll be able to increase the time you can maintain power off-grid—but only if you demand less of your battery. This calculation was neatly described by Jonnell Carol Minefee, co-founder of Solar Tyme USA, a Georgia-based solar installer that focuses on rural, minority, and impoverished communities: “I understand we’re Americans, we love our whatever-whatever, but we have to learn how to exist without all our luxuries some of the time.”
How solar and battery backup could make the biggest impact
Although solar battery storage will keep important appliances and devices running in an outage, the manufacturers and some installers I spoke with all said they consider that to be a useful but secondary function. Primarily, they view such systems as a way for homeowners to limit their utility bills by practicing something called “peak shaving.” At times of peak demand (late afternoon to early evening), when some utilities raise their rates, battery owners switch over to battery power or send power back onto the grid; this earns them rebates or credits from the local utility.
But an even more important use for batteries is on the horizon. Utilities are beginning to upgrade their grid infrastructure to be able to use privately owned batteries as virtual power plants, or VPPs. (A few are already operating, and such systems are expected to become widespread over the next decade.) Right now, there’s so much rooftop solar and so many solar farms that they stress the grid during the middle of the day. All of the power they produce has to go somewhere, so it flows onto the grid, forcing the utilities to power down some of their big fossil-fuel plants, to keep electricity supply and demand in balance. It sounds great—cutting CO2 emissions is kinda the point of solar, right? But that sundown spike in demand arrives right as solar panels stop producing electricity. (The daily cycle of excess midday solar production and evening excess demand produces what’s known as the “duck curve,” a term you may run across in your own research into battery storage.) To meet the surge in demand, utilities are often forced to fire up “peaker plants,” which are less efficient than the main fossil-fuel plants but quicker to get up to speed. The result, on some days, is that the utilities’ CO2 emissions actually exceed what they would have been were there no solar panels at all.
Virtual power plants will help solve this problem. Excess solar power will charge up homeowners’ batteries during the day, and then the utilities will draw on it during the evening spike, instead of firing up the peaker plants. (Battery owners will enter legal agreements with the utilities, granting them the right to do this and likely earning a fee for letting their batteries be used.)
I’ll give Sonnen’s Blake Richetta the final word, since there’s no way I could better convey what a revolution VPPs represent:
“The swarm control of batteries, to respond, to breathe in and out to a grid operator’s dispatch, to provide generation that replaces a peaker plant’s dirty generation, to make the grid run more efficiently, to decongest the grid and create deferrals on the cost of grid infrastructure, to stabilize the grid and to provide, to be totally frank with you, a much cheaper solution to the grid on frequency response and voltage regulation, literally to take solar from being a nuisance to being an asset that adds value, and, to capstone it, even to be able to swarm-charge from the grid, so if there are tons of wind farms in Texas producing gigantic amounts of power at 3 o’clock in the morning, to swarm-charge 50,000 batteries and soak that up—this is what we’re really for. This is the use of the battery.”
This article was edited by Harry Sawyers.
Meet your guide
Tim Heffernan is a senior staff writer at Wirecutter and a former writer-editor for The Atlantic, Esquire, and others. He has anchored our unequaled coverage of air purifiers and water filters since 2015. In 2018, he established Wirecutter’s ongoing collaboration with The New York Times’s Smarter Living. When he’s not here, he’s on his bike.
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The 5 Best Portable Solar Laptop Chargers
Amber Nolan is a freelance writer for Treehugger who is passionate about sustainable living, nature, and outdoor adventure.
Working remotely using a laptop is becoming more and more common, and with it comes the challenge of keeping a computer powered up when electric outlets are scarce. Whether camping in the wilderness, on a road trip, living off-grid, or in a sudden power-outage situation, a portable solar laptop charger is a handy device to have.
Most portable solar laptop chargers function as mini power stations capable of charging other electronics like cell phones, cameras, drones, and tablets—to name a few. Now, with more options than ever to choose from, we’ve sorted through the latest solar devices to find our favorites.
Here are the best portable solar laptop chargers.
Jackery 1000W Peak Solar Generator SG550 with 100W Solar Panel
Founded by a former Apple battery engineer in Silicon Valley, Jackery Power Outdoors is one of the most well-recognized names in off-grid power supplies. The Solar Generator SG290 comes with a whopping 90-watt panel that folds shut and can easily be toted away using the carry handle. The 400-watt output can charge a MacBook four times before the power station requires a recharge, making it our top overall choice.
Another stand-out feature is the built in MPPT module that monitors voltage and output of the solar panel, adding up to 23% more solar recharging efficiency. There’s also an automatic power-saving setting to power down when not in use. The Jackery can charge up to four devices at one time.
Price at time of publish: 679
Solar Panel Capacity: 400 watts | Battery Capacity: 290 watt hours | Weight: 7.5 pounds | Output Ports: AC Output, Car Port Output, USB Outputs
Goal Zero Sherpa 100AC Nomad 20 Solar Kit
For an ultraportable laptop charger than can easily pack up and fit into luggage or a hiking pack, the Sherpa 100AC by Goal Zero weighs just over four pounds – for both the charger and the 20-watt solar panel. The Sherpa is ideal for charging laptops, cameras, tablets, and phones, plus it even has a wireless charging option.
The Nomad 20 panel can fold shut and comes with a kickstand to get the proper angle in the sun. It takes about 7.5 to 15 hours to recharge (so a full day in the sun), however, it can also recharge from another USB source (in eight to 10 hours) or from the car adapter or wall charger in about three hours.
Price at time of publish: 450
Solar Panel Capacity: 20 watts | Battery Capacity: 94.7 watt hours | Weight: Power bank 2 pounds, solar panel 2.28 pounds | Output Ports: Wireless Qi, USB-C PD ports, USB-A, AC inverter
Best for RVing
Patriot Power Sidekick
Specializing in emergency equipment such as water filters and ready-to-eat survival meals, the outdoor company 4 Patriots also makes must-have solar devices. The Power Sidekick is a reliable and efficient solar charger that’s designed for sudden power-outages, and is also a good addition to camping or RV gear.
Although it’s lightweight, the Sidekick can charge phones, laptops, medical devices, Wi-Fi routers, radios, and more with a capacity of 300 watts. The four foldable solar panels (connected) provide total 40 watts of power to recharge the Sidekick and can also directly charge any device that has a USB port. There’s a light on the back that’s useful in a tent or on the picnic table, and the clear digital display shows the charging levels and how many watts the laptop being charged is using.
The company supports active-duty military and veterans’ charities.
Price at time of publish: 497
Solar Panel Capacity: 40 watts | Battery Capacity: 300 watt hours | Weight: 8 pounds | Output Ports: Two USB, USB Type C, two pure sine wave AC output
Best Backpack Charger
Voltaic Systems Array Rapid Solar Backpack Charger for Laptops
A solar-charging backpack allows you to charge a laptop on the go, and the redesigned Array Rapid Solar Backpack Charger by Voltaic Systems is lightweight (5.4 pounds), durable, and powerful. UV and water resistant, the backpack is made from 33 recycled plastic soda bottles (recycled PET fabric). Inside is 25 liters of storage, a dedicated padded 15-inch laptop sleeve for added protection, and plenty of interior s.
The new larger capacity, 88-watt hour battery comes with USB-C to charge the latest devices. The battery can be recharged with the AC adapter or with the 10-watt solar panel that’s built into the rear of the backpack. It takes about six hours to fully charge a laptop.
Price at time of publish: 249
Solar Panel Capacity: 9 watts | Battery Capacity: 88.8 watt hours | Weight: 5.4 pounds | Output Ports: USB, USB Type C, and Hi-Voltage Laptop Output
SunJack 25W Portable Solar Charger Panel 2 Powerbanks
This portable solar panel and battery kit is designed for phones, tablets, and other smaller devices, but if your laptop uses a USB-C power cable, you can also connect it. The kit includes a folding, three-panel portable solar charger, and two 10,000mAh batteries, plus two fast-charging cables and carabiners.
This setup might not be ideal for powering work on your laptop for an extended period of time, but it can supplement your laptop’s internal battery enough to get it to boot up and check or send messages in the case of an emergency. At under 200, it’s a great value and considerably less expensive than setups with higher capacities.
Sunjack is a trusted name is solar panels, and its durable design is back by a one year warranty.
Price at time of publish: 120
Solar Panel Capacity: 25 watts | Battery Capacity: 90 watt hours each | Weight: 3 pounds total | Output Ports: One USB-A, one USB-C
Our top pick for a portable solar laptop charger is the Jackery Power Outdoors unit for its reasonable price and high functionality, but if you’re looking for a cost-friendly option, the SunJack Solar Panel and Power Bank set is an affordable, lightweight choice for charging laptops and cell phones in emergency situations.
What to Consider When Shopping for a Solar Laptop Charger
While some portable solar panel manufacturers claim they can charge laptops by connecting directly to the panel, it’s not a good idea. Voltage fluctuations can potentially damage devices, and portable solar panels are slower to charge devices than battery power packs. Not to mention, solar panels can only be utilized during daylight hours, while a combination of both (battery and panel) allows you to maximize power generation by using the battery in the evenings and recharging it on the panel during the day.
Although solar panels and batteries have both gotten way lighter in recent years, a battery system that’s large enough to keep a laptop charged for a meaningful amount of time is not going to fit in your Generally speaking, bigger, heavier batteries are going to charge a laptop for longer. These steps tend to be best suited for off-grid homes, car camping, or RVing. If you need a super lightweight system, you may want to consider if tablet and smaller battery pack can suit your needs.
Make sure the battery has output ports that you can plug your laptop’s power cable into. Many newer laptops, like the MacBook Pro, use a power cable with a USB-C connector. Older laptops will need an AC output port, the kind you find on a wall outlet.
Why Trust Treehugger?
The author, Amber Nolan, lives off-grid (most of the year) on a houseboat using almost entirely solar power, but she also relies on the Jackery portable solar generator when she’s traveling.