The Best Solar Panel Kit for Your Shed (Analysis Comparison)
I was browsing solar panel kits online to see which one I could easily install on a typical shed without needing to buy a bunch of extra parts.
I came across the Renogy 200W 12V Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit and realized it met my needs while costing less than similar systems.
This kit is designed in a way that makes it easy to install and run your solar energy system. Without a battery connected, the kit weighs 36.6 pounds.
- 2x Renogy 100W 12V monocrystalline solar panels
- 1x 30A PWM Wanderer charge controller
- 1x 20ft 10AWG MC4 adaptor kit(to connect the solar panel to the charge controller)
- 1x 8ft 10AWG tray cable (to connect the charge controller to the battery)
- 1x pair of MC4 branch connectors
- 2x sets of Z-brackets
With a simple 100Ah battery and inverter (not included), the starter kit can provide power to small appliances and devices like fans, bulbs, LED lights, and recharging your phones – as well as bigger power demands such as TVs, laptops, and refrigerators.
The two 100-watt panels have monocrystalline cells, which are more efficient than the similar polycrystalline cell type.
The Renogy panels can be used in different kinds of off-grid applications that include 12 and 24-volt setups.
This means that you can use 12V or 24V batteries depending on your power requirements.
Unique Features of the Renogy 200 Watt Starter Kit
- A corrosion-resistant aluminum frame – Designed for extended outdoor use. This allows the panels to last for decades.
- A TPT solar back sheet– Ensures smooth performance over a long period. A solar back sheet is the last layer at the bottom of a solar panel. It prevents degradation, ultraviolet radiation, and penetration of humidity or vapor.
- IP65 rated junction box – Provides complete protection against environmental particles, scratches, and low-pressure water jets.
- IP67 rated MC4 cables – This rating is even higher in water resistance than the junction box.
- 25-year power output warranty and 5-year material and workmanship warranty
Solar Panel Specs – Renogy 100W Monocrystalline
The package includes two 100W monocrystalline solar panels. Below are the specifications for each solar panel:
Renogy Wanderer solar charge controller.
The Wanderer charge controller is versatile as it can connect to several battery types. Below you’ll find its basic specifications.
Now, with HQST and Renogy remaining, the biggest visual difference between the two is the HQST controller’s LCD screen. The Renogy Wanderer doesn’t have a screen, so I compared the two systems from Amazon.
The Renogy Wanderer has a rating of 4.4/5 based on over 2,000 ratings. The HQST 30A PWM controller has a 4.3/5 rating from over 500 total ratings.
From the customer Комментарии и мнения владельцев on Amazon, they both have issues with lithium-ion battery charging.
The HQST controller has an advantage as it can display data through its LCD screen.
With the HQST having a better charge controller than the Renogy package as well as a lower price, there are two things that make me believe that the Renogy kit is the overall better choice.
First off, the Renogy Starter Kit has thousands of Amazon ratings averaging a 4.7/5, whereas the similar HQST kit has far fewer ratings with a 4.4/5 average.
Secondly, the Renogy controller has the ability to connect to an optional BT-1 Bluetooth Module (link to Amazon).
This allows you to use an app on your phone (seen below) that shows you all the data from the charge controller, including the battery, solar panels, voltage, amperage, and much more.
Renogy BT-1 Charge Controller Bluetooth Communication Port.
Although this comes at an additional cost, the BT-1 module gives you all of the data you need on your phone.
The HQST charge controller does not have this option, which limits its capabilities.
Verdict – HQST vs. Renogy 200W Solar Panel Kit
Overall, with a higher number of ratings, a higher average Amazon rating, and the option to have all data available via your smartphone from the BT-1 module, the Renogy 200W Starter Kit is the option I would choose for my shed.
The ratings tell me that the Renogy kit can be trusted to work as it says, and the lack of reviews and ratings from the HQST kit doesn’t give me the confidence to fully trust the product at this point in time.
Although the Renogy kit with the BT-1 module will cost about 90 more than the HQST kit, the added value from the BT-1 gives me confidence that I can reliably use and maintain my kit for several years.
Additionally, if I wanted to upgrade my system to a Renogy MPPT charge controller that will take in more solar and charge batteries more efficiently, the BT-1 module will still be able to work with it, as it is compatible with several Renogy controllers.
Installing the Renogy 200W Solar Starter Kit
Renogy’s Z-bracket mounting system is included in the 200W starter kit.
There are Z brackets to help hold the panels on the surface where they are to be mounted as well as screws, nuts, and bolts to secure the panels in place.
The entire setup is pretty much a DIY package. A guide is included, along with all the needed hardware. The pre-drilled holes on the back of the panels make for easy, fast, and secure mounting.
Even though installation will take time, it will save you installation costs from a third party.
Ideally, with little to average knowledge of electronics and connectivity, you can sort it out effectively.
There are several videos on YouTube on how to install solar, but the following video shows how to install a Renogy kit that is almost identical to the one I am reviewing now on an RV.
Although it’s not installed on a shed, it will give you a good idea of the tasks involved to put it together. Renogy Solar Starter Kit connection diagram.
The main components you’ll need for solar power in your shed include solar panels, a charge controller, a fuse box (for DC appliances), an inverter (for AC appliances), and a battery. Once these are connected in the right order with properly gauged wiring, the system is complete.
In any DIY solar-powered system, there will be some (or a lot) of room for customization.
In essence, you could add batteries as you deem necessary or increase the amount of power you store by adding more solar panels to what you have originally packed in the Renogy starter kit.
For example, you could extend the solar panels up to 400 watts from the original 200 watts by adding two extra 100-watt panels.
Renogy sells a kit like this and it is essentially the same as the 200W starter kit but with two additional solar panels. You can find it here on Amazon (affiliate link).
With this, you must be sure that your roof is capable of bearing the weight of the extra panels before mounting them.
In total, four Renogy monocrystalline panels will weigh about 70 pounds.
Renogy alone has dozens of additional kits to choose from. They have all sorts of charge controllers and solar panel configurations depending on how much power you need. You can browse all of their kits on Amazon here.
Complete Solar Power Kits for Your Shed
If you’re looking for complete solar kits with all necessary components for your shed, they should include some (or all) of the following:
- Solar panels
- Fuse box
- Battery or batteries
- Proper wires/cables
- Mounting brackets
Shop Solar Kits has several of these off-grid systems available on its website. You can browse their complete kits here (affiliate link).
An example of one of their kits is pictured below. You can clearly see that this kit has several more parts than the Renogy kits.
Shop Solar Kits’ Complete DIY Solar Panel Kit includes nearly all necessary components for off-grid power.
- 1 x 2,000W 12V Pure Sine Inverter – 120V Output
- 2 x 200 Watt Monocrystalline Solar Panels (12V)
- 2 x 12V Batteries – Choice of AGM or Lithium Batteries
- 1 x 60A MPPT Solar Charge Controller
- 1 x 10AWG Solar Extension Cables PV, approx. 50ft
- 1 x 4AWG Inverter Cable, approx. 3ft
- 1 x 4AWG Inverter Cable, approx. 1ft
- 1 x 4/0AWG Inverter Cable, approx. 3ft
- 1 x 4/0AWG Inverter Cable, approx. 1ft
- 1 x 4/0AWG Inverter Cable, approx. 2ft
- Fuse and Fuse Holders
- 1 x 15A inline fuse kit, MC4
- 2 x Solar Panel Z-Brackets
- Free System Schematic / Wiring Diagram
How Many Watts of Solar Do You Need for a Shed?
A shed typically needs anywhere from 200-1,000 watts of solar panels to effectively charge a battery or batteries for consistent use. The amount of solar panels needed for a shed is dependent on average sunlight conditions as well as daily power consumption needs.
As you increase the solar panel wattage on your shed, you should also make sure that your charge controller is capable of handling the total output from the panels.
I wrote a post about this because it can be confusing to find the right one for your exact setup. The type of controller depends on the number of panels, total wattage, and configuration (series or parallel). I explain all of this in my post and give exact models of controllers you can use. Check out here: What Size Charge Controller Do I Need? (50-400W).
Is It Worth Putting Solar Panels on Your Shed?
It is worth putting solar panels on a shed because they provide free off-grid energy, are low-maintenance, and last for decades. In addition to solar panels, a complete system includes a battery, charge controller, fuse box, and inverter.
Solar installations are quite easy to take care of and require little maintenance.
Still, periodic cleaning of the surface of the solar panels will keep off dirt and dust, which might affect performance. This should be done once a month.
The Renogy 200-watt 12-volt monocrystalline solar starter kit is a simple, powerful system making it a worthwhile investment of your money.
While it is not a big installation, it is great for off-grid power needs or a periodic substitute for high power bills.
If you want more power, you can install up to 400W of solar panels to your system.
Renogy also has several charge controllers sold separately as well as inside other kits if you’d like to expand your system.
How To Install Off-Grid Solar Power To A Cabin, Shed Or Barn With Ease
Let’s face it, installing an off-grid solar power system to a small cabin, shed or barn can be a bit of a challenge for anyone unfamiliar with solar power.
For starters, there is the task of figuring out how and where to attach the solar panels. And then of course, figuring out everything else – from batteries, to wiring, controlling the charge and more.
One thing is for sure, we certainly qualified as rookies when it came to installing solar power to our tiny cabin at the farm. ( See : Tiny Off-Grid Cabin Project)
Other than a few small solar lighting projects, we had never tackled installing “real” solar power.
And by real power, we mean enough energy to run indoor and outdoor lighting, a coffee maker, laptops, TV, and a few other small appliances when needed.
We knew although our system wouldn’t need to be huge, it had to contain the basics:
- Solar panels for charging
- A battery or battery bank for storage
- A charge controller to control the battery charge
- Wiring / electrical panel / outlets
And we also knew it would have to be easy enough for two “solar rookies” to figure out.
As you will see below, the project actually turned out to be quite simple to install. And that includes an easy and economical way to install solar panels to a roof as well.
The Answer To Installing Off-Grid Solar Power With Ease
Assembling and wiring all of the various components of a solar system can be a complicated process for a novice. Not to mention, it can get quite expensive. Especially if you make any mistakes along the way.
For us, the ultimate answer was to use a component Kodiak/Apex solar panel generator system from a company called Inergy.
The panels and wiring all fit and plug together with ease. And in place of using a separate controller and battery system, a single small battery/generator unit placed in the cabin handles storing and dispersing the electric.
importantly, it eliminated the need for us to install an electrical panel and outlets in such a small space. For us, it was a huge savings in time and money.
Making it even better, the battery power pack and outlet unit is portable. Meaning, when we need to, we can easily just lift it up and take it anywhere on the farm where we might need instant remote power. Having said that, there are numerous other solar options on the market – even Tesla has started making them! This article by EcoWatch gives further details.
Here is a quick look at how we installed our system, including a simple and inexpensive way to install solar panels to any roof.
Installing The Solar Panels To The Roof – Without Spending A Fortune!
Any solar power application starts of course with solar panels. Without them, nothing can ever be charged or used.
We chose to use (2) 150 watt solar panels to power our system. The two panels are enough to charge our battery/generator system completely in about 8 hours of decent sunlight.
We did a lot of research before installing our panels. And honestly, the more research we did, the more confused we became.
There are so many methods and products to install panels. You can use brackets, special clamps, or even complete rail systems to install multiple panels.
One thing is for sure, most of them are incredibly expensive!
So we decided to install our panels using 2 x 4’s and a little DIY ingenuity. Although our roof is metal, this method would work for a shingled roof as well.
We first installed an aluminum “L” channel on the back of the two panels to connect them together. Each panel had an electrical connector as well that pig-tailed them together.
Using small bolts and screws, we attached it to the panel, leaving the other portion of the “L” as a cleat.
We then installed (4) 2 x 4’s onto the roof with 3″ long galvanized roofing screws. Each 2 x 4 measured 36″ in length, just slightly shorter than the panels and the “L” cleat.
As an added precaution, we used a silicone sealer on the back of the wood to help keep any water out as the screw went into the metal roof and the studs below.
From there, we simply slipped the outside of the “L” cleat over the edge of the wood.
To complete the panel install, we ran screws through the aluminum channel into the edge of the 2 x 4’s. And just like that, our 2 solar panels were in place for a grand total of about 5 in wood!
Getting Power Inside The Cabin
From there, the rest of the solar install was a cinch!
Since the Inergy units are plug and use, we simply ran the heavy duty charging cord from the panels into the cabin.
All that was left was to plug it into the solar generator / battery pack, and we had full power!
The generator pack has 6 standard outlets, 2 USB charging ports and even a 30 amp outlet. And it has worked beautifully in the cabin.
We use it nightly to power our outside lights, and we have used it inside for everything from lights to making coffee. It has even helped to create an instant pot dinner in the cabin with ease!
Here is to a little off-grid cabin living! Jim and Mary
As always, feel free to email us at email@example.com with Комментарии и мнения владельцев, questions, or to simply say hello! You can sign up for our free email list in the subscribe now box in the middle of this article. Follow us on here : OWG This article may contain affiliate links.
Posted on Published: July 18, 2019
Should You Get Solar Panels for Your Shed?
Factors to weigh include the size, structure, and location of your shed.
David Kuchta, Ph.D. has 10 years of experience in gardening and has read widely in environmental history and the energy transition. An environmental activist since the 1970s, he is also a historian, author, gardener, and educator.
Putting solar panels on your shed has its pros and cons. While it’s less expensive than a full rooftop solar system on your house, it might be less economical in the long run.
Other factors to weigh are the size, condition, and location of your shed—as well as why you want your shed to run on solar energy in the first place. Here, we’ll review all of the considerations for getting solar panels on your shed.
Reasons for a Solar Shed
In most cases, you won’t be able to supply all your household electricity needs from a solar shed. So why invest in solar panels for your shed at all? Here are a few key reasons to consider.
Supplement an Existing System
Solar panels are long-term commitments, lasting 25 or more years. While this is sufficient for some, electricity needs might change over that time period for others.
Whether your family is expanding or you’ve shifted to working full-time at home, installing solar panels on a shed roof can help supply any extra needs.
Heat Additional Structures
Supplying energy to heat an out-building, like a greenhouse or the shed itself, may turn a three-season building into a four-season one. Grow your own food year-round in a heated greenhouse, or turn your shed into a year-round art studio.
Charge an Electric Vehicle
You can use the roof of your shed to recharge your electric vehicle (EV). The solar energy can flow directly into your EV or be stored in a battery to be used later.
Create a Virtual Power Plant
Store excess electricity in a solarstorage battery so that you can participate in a “virtual power plant,” where individual homeowners aggregate their solar batteries and sell energy to their electric utility. The electricity you’ve stored in your battery can earn you money in times of peak electricity demand when the cost of electricity is high.
Store Emergency Power
Perhaps instead of an entire rooftop solar system to power your house, you want to generate enough electricity to store in a battery backup system in case of power outages. A solar shed can be used for that.
Shed Size and Structure
If you know your why for a solar shed, you can move on to specifics. The first question is how many solar panels do you need for the roof of your shed.
Consider that the average solar panel is 5′ x 3′. A relatively large-sized 10′ x 12′ shed with a roof has a minimum of 120 square feet, capable of fitting six to eight standard solar panels.
It’s also important to consider the structural suitability of your shed, as it may not be able to support the weight of solar panels. If you’re unsure, a solar installer or structural engineer can determine if your roof is structurally sound enough to support solar panels.
Solar panel efficiency depends partly on the amount of sunlight available, as well as the intensity of that light.
A gabled roof may have the advantage of attracting more sunlight over more hours of the day. The sun is at its most intense during the middle hours of the day, which a flat roof is fully capable of taking advantage of. It may turn out that your shed receives more sunlight than your home, making it a better option.
On the other hand, obstructions—such as other buildings and tree limbs—may create limiting factors. Whether these obstructions are fixed will help you determine if a solar shed is worthwhile.
The two major costs for this project include installation and the solar panels themselves.
If you’re planning on tying the solar panels on your shed to the grid, you’ll want to work with a solar installer who will have experience working with your local utility in the inspection and connection process. While solar kits are available online and from big-box home improvement stores, we recommend hiring someone with electrical qualifications, particularly if you are unfamiliar with the solar installation process.
If you plan on using the extra electricity for your home, wires will need to be run from your shed to your home, where your electricity meter is most likely located. This may involve burying the wiring in electrical conduits, which will be an additional cost.
The larger your project, the higher your upfront expenses—but the more likely it is that you will recoup the money you invested. The cost of solar panels has declined over the last decade, so most of your installation costs will be labor, permitting, and other business costs. It may be more cost-effective to invest in a rooftop solar system capable of meeting your household needs.
There are federal incentives for installing solar panels. Keep an eye on federal legislation, however, as this may change—hopefully for the better. Many states also have tax credits and rebates as well.
Should your shed not be suitable for solar panels, you still have other options, such as ground-mounted solar, a solar carport, or community solar. There are many ways to adopt solar energy.
The best solar generators for 2023, tested and reviewed
Tap the power of the sun to meet your power needs wherever you may roam.
This is a solid all-around mix of features and affordability.
This powerful pack is easy to transport to a site.
This is the pick if you need lots of scalable capacity.
We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more
If you’re camping and want to charge up your lantern, phone, or other devices, a solar generator sure would be convenient. Or perhaps you’re van-living your way across the country, and you need to work on the go and keep your conversion electrified—yet another solid case for a solar-powered generator. Whatever the case, few things are as useful in today’s tech-driven world as source of reliable, renewable power. The best solar generators can reliably and sustainably meet various energy needs, and we’re here to help you find the right one for you.
- Best overall:Jackery Explorer 2000 Pro
- Best high-capacity:Jackery Explorer 3000 Pro
- Best for frequent use:Anker 767 Portable Power Station Solar Generator
- Best for camping:Goal Zero Yeti 1000 Core
- Best for off-grid living:Bluetti AC200 Max
- Best for homes:EcoFlow Delta Pro
- Best portable:Anker 545
- Best budget:Jackery Explorer 300
How we chose the best solar generators
As an avid outdoorsman, I’ve had the opportunity to test an extremely wide range of outdoor gear, including mobile and off-grid electrification equipment like solar-powered generators, as well as inverter and dual-fuel generators. These became particularly essential when the pandemic forced my travels to become domestic rather than international, which prompted me to outfit a van for long-term road-tripping.
To bring my work along for the ride, I needed a constant power source to charge my laptop, a portable fridge, lighting, and a myriad of devices and tools … even ebikes. As a result, I’ve tried all the leading portable power stations (and plenty that aren’t leading, too), so I know precisely what separates the best from the blah. I’ve written all about it (and other outdoor tech) for publications, including the Daily Beast, Thrillist, the Manual, and more. There were cases when my own opinion resulted in a tie, and I, therefore, looked to reviews from actual customers to determine which solar generators delivered the most satisfaction to the most users.
The best solar generators: Reviews Recommendations
The solar generators on this list span a wide range of budgets, from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. They span several use cases, from camping to a backup for your home. Only you know all the factors that make one of these the best solar generator for you, but we think that one of these will get the job done.
Best overall: Jackery Explorer 2000 Pro
Buy it used or refurbished: eBay
Why it made the cut: This Jackery solar generator delivers the best blend of capacity, input/output capability, portability, and durability.
- Storage capacity: 2,160Wh
- Input capacity: 1,200W
- Output capacity: 2,200W (4,400W surge)
- Dimensions: 15.1 x 10.5 x 12.1 inches
- Weight: 43 lbs
- Price: 2,498
- Fast charging and outstanding capacity
- Durable and easy to use
- Plenty of ports
- Can connect to six 200W solar panels
The biggest portable power station from Jackery, a leading solar generator manufacturer, the Explorer 2000 Pro offers a tremendous 2,160 watt-hours of power, making it capable of charging a full camping setup for a few days. When plugged into six 200W solar panels, an upgrade over the four-panel setup available on the Jackery Explorer 1500, you can fully charge this portable power station in just 2-2.5 hours. That’s less than half the time of the smaller model.
On top of all that, it’s extremely user-friendly. Numerous output ports ensure that you can plug in a wide range of devices and electrical equipment. Its functions are highly intuitive, and the digital display is easy to understand. Like other Jackery generators, it’s incredibly durable, too. The one potential downside is its weight: At 43 pounds, it’s a bit heavy for its size. Even so, for all the power you can store, and the Rapid-charging time, the Jackery Explorer 2000 Pro will keep the lights on wherever you need power.
For more on the Jackery Explorer 2000 Pro, check out our full review.
Best high-capacity: Jackery Explorer 3000 Pro
- Ample power storage for long trips or outages
- Sturdy handles and wheels make it easy to move
- Smooth design makes it easy to load and unload
- High peak output for power-intensive tasks
- Lots of ports for connectivity
This is the big sibling to our best overall pick. Inside the Jackery Explorer 3000 Pro, you’ll find 3,024Wh of power storage, which is enough to power even large devices for extended periods of time. It can charge a high-end smartphone more than 100 times on a single charge. It can also power full-on appliances in an RV or emergency situation.
Despite its large capacity, we learned firsthand that the Jackery Explorer 3000 Pro is relatively easy to move around. Sturdy handles molded into its case make it easy to pick up, while an extending handle and wheels make it easy to roll around at the campsite or any other location.
It can charge in less than three hours from a standard outlet or, under optimal conditions with the 200W solar panels, it can fill up as quickly as eight hours. That full solar array can get large and unwieldy, but a smaller setup can still provide ample charging if you don’t need to max out the capacity daily.
This portable power station offers the best of everything we loved about the Explorer 2000 Pro, there’s just more of it. When you’re living the van life, powering an RV, or trying to ride out a power outage, more is definitely better if you can justify the extra cost.
Best for frequent use: Anker 767 Portable Power Station Solar Generator
Why it made the cut: High capacity and fast charging make this long-lasting battery a solid everyday driver.
- Charges up to 80% in less than two hours
- Solid output and storage capacity
- Optional battery pack doubles capacity
- LiFePO4 batteries survive more charge cycles than traditional models
- Plenty of ports
- Built-in handle and wheels for transport
Anker has equipped its massive portable power station with LiFePO4 batteries, which stand up much better to repeat charging and discharging over the long term than common lithium-ion cells. Anker claims it can charge and discharge up to 3,000 times before it reaches 80% battery health compared to 500 in a similar lithium-ion setup. While I haven’t had the chance to run it through 3,000 cycles, LiFePO4 batteries have a well-earned reputation for longevity.
Regarding overall performance, the Anker 767 does everything you’d want a unit with these specs to do. The bad weather has given me [Executive Gear Editor Stan Horaczek] ample chances, unfortunately, to test it in real-world situations.
The built-in battery offers a 2048Wh capacity and pumps out up to 2,400W. It does so through four standard AC outlets, an RV outlet, two 120W car outlets, two 12W USB-A ports, and three 100W USB-C ports.
I used it during a blackout to keep our Wi-Fi running while charging my family’s devices. Filling a phone from zero barely makes a dent in the power station’s capacity, and it ran the router for several hours with plenty of juice left.
In another instance, it powered our small meat freezer for four hours before the power came back on with some juice still left in the tank. It does what it promises.
There are a few nice extra touches as well. Built-in wheels and an extendable handle allow it to roll like carry-on luggage. Unfortunately, those are necessary inclusions because it weighs a hefty 67.3 pounds. It’s manageable but definitely heavy compared to its competition.
The Anker 767 is compatible with the company’s 200W solar panels, which fold up for easy transportation. I mostly charged the unit through my home’s AC power, a surprisingly quick process. The 767 Portable Power Station can go from flat to more than 80% charge in less than a half hour with sufficient power. It takes about two hours to get it fully juiced.
Anker also offers a mobile app that connects to the power station via Bluetooth if you want to control it without actually going over and touching it.
Best for camping: Goal Zero Yeti 1000 Core
Buy it used or refurbished: eBay
Why it made the cut: Thanks to its outstanding portability, high storage capacity, and Yeti’s famous durability, the Goal Zero Yeti 1000 Core is great for packing along for camping or van-living.
- Storage capacity: 983Wh
- Input capacity: 600W
- Output capacity: 1,200W (2,400W surge)
- Dimensions: 9.86 x 15.25 x 10.23 inches
- Weight: 31.68 lbs
- Price: 1,198.95
- Highly portable
- Incredible durability
- Rapid recharge rate
- Plenty of plugs
Yeti is long-renowned for making some of the best outdoor gear money can buy, so when the company launched its Goal Zero line of solar generators, it was no surprise that they turned out to be awesome. While the whole line is great, the 1000 Core model’s balance between capacity and portability makes it perfect for taking on the road.
While the 1000 Core has a third less capacity than our top pick, it charges up faster, making it a great option for Rapid solar replenishment. That said, its capacity is no slouch, offering 82 phone charges, 20 for a laptop, or upwards of 15 hours for a portable fridge (depending on wattage). Suffice it to say, that it’s more than capable of powering your basic camping gear.
Beyond its charging capabilities, the Goal Zero 1000 Core excels at camping thanks to its hearty build quality. Built super tough—like pretty much everything Yeti makes—its exterior shell provides solid protection.
The biggest issue it presents is the cost. Like pretty much everything Yeti produces, its price tag isn’t small. While there are other 1000-level solar generators for less, this one offers a great balance of power storage and portability.
For more on the Goal Zero Yeti 1000 Core, check out our full review.
Best for off-grid living: Bluetti AC200 Max
Buy it used or refurbished: eBay
Why it made the cut: Thanks to its high solo capacity and ability to daisy-chain with additional batteries, the Bluetti AC200 Max is perfect for bringing power off the grid.
- Storage capacity: 2,048Wh standalone, expandable up to 8,192Wh
- Input capacity: 1,400W
- Output capacity: 2,200W (4,800W surge)
- Dimensions: 16.5 x 11 x 15.2 inches
- Weight: 61.9 lbs
- Price: 1,999
- Massive capacity
- Daisy-chain capability
- Lightning-fast input capacity
- 30A RV plug and two wireless charging pads
- Surprisingly affordable for what it offers
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a solar generator better suited for living off the grid for an extended period than the Bluetti AC200 Max. It boasts a substantial 2,048Wh capacity, allowing you to power your whole life off it longer than most portable generators. Even better, you can daisy-chain multiple Bluetti batteries, expanding its capacity to a massive 8.192Wh. That’s flat-out enormous and translates into the ability to power a full-sized fridge for over a day or several hours of air conditioning. For the more modest needs of people who are used to living off a generator, it will last for a very long time.
At the same time, the AC200 Max has an outstanding input capacity of 1,400W. That means you can plug in a pretty hefty array of solar panels to replenish its stores quickly. This allows you to keep your off-grid setup going with little to no interruption. It also features some specialty charging options, including a 30A plug, which lets you plug it directly into an RV, and multiple wireless charging pads for smaller devices.
Best for homes: EcoFlow Delta Pro
Why it made the cut: The EcoFlow Delta Pro delivers the standalone and expandable power capacity necessary to power your entire home.
- Storage capacity: 3,600Wh standalone, expandable up to 25,000Wh
- Input capacity: 6,500W
- Output capacity: 3,600W (7,200W surge)
- Dimensions: 25 x 11.2 x 16.4 inches
- Weight: 99 lbs
- Price: 3,699
- Enormous capacity
- Daisy-chain capability
- 30A RV plug
- Lightning-fast input capacity
- Wi-Fi and Smartphone connectivity
If you’re looking for the best solar generator for home backup in the event of a power outage, the EcoFlow Delta Pro stands apart from the pack, thanks to an unrivaled power and output capacity. The Delta Pro alone packs a 3,600Wh wallop, and you can expand that to 25,000Wh by chaining it to extra EcoFlow batteries and generators. That’s a ton of power and it has the substantial output capacity necessary to power an entire house worth of electronics when you need it to.
The Delta Pro also offers a companion app for iOS and Android that allows you to monitor energy usage, customize its operation, and monitor and manage a number of other elements.
While it’s not overly large for what it does, the Delta Pro is a heavy piece of equipment. It has wheels, so it is technically portable, but this is meant to be put down in a home or other semi-permanent site. Given its size and power, it’s also a much more expensive device, especially if you’re springing for the add-ons. As the best solar power generator to provide backup power for your entire home, however, it’s worth every penny.
Best portable: Anker 545
Buy it used or refurbished: eBay
Why it makes the cut: If you’re looking for highly portable power, the Anker 545 delivers.
When portability is a priority, the Anker 545 offers the compact size and reduced weight you’re looking for and packs fairly substantial power to boot. Roughly the size of a shoebox and lighter than a case of beer, it’s easy to pack along with camping gear and move around without too much effort.
To get something so light, though, you have to compromise on power. The Anker 545 has a capacity of 778Wh and an output capacity of 770W, which is plenty of power for keeping your devices charged. Specifically, that should provide about 55 phone charges, 10 for a laptop, or 38 for a camera. Unfortunately, the outlets only output at up to 500W, so it cannot power more demanding devices like hair dryers or electric stoves.
That said, the Anker 545 has some bells and whistles, including an integrated flashlight and ambient light. All told it’s a solid option if you need a highly mobile generator.
Best budget: Jackery Explorer 300
Buy it used or refurbished: Amazon
Why it made the cut: With its reasonable capacity, compact size, and solid build quality at a low price, the Jackery Explorer 300 is a great budget pick.
Though it isn’t quite as impressive as our top picks for best overall and best high-capacity, Jackery’s smaller Explorer 300 solar generator is super compact and lightweight with a decent power capacity for its price. Less a mobile power station than an upscale power bank, the 7-pound Jackery Explorer 300 provides plenty of portable recharges for your devices when you’re camping, on a job site, driving, or just need some power and don’t have convenient access to an outlet. Its modest 293Wh capacity isn’t huge, but it’s enough to provide 31 phone charges, 15 for a camera, 6 for the average drone, 2.5 for a laptop, or a few hours of operation for a minifridge or TV. A built-in flashlight would have upped its camping game somewhat, but at 300 (and often considerably less if you catch it discounted), this highly portable little power station does a lot for a little.
We tested this portable power station for several months, and it came in handy numerous times, especially during the winter when power outages abound. At one point, we had it powering two phones, a MacBook, and a small light.
The built-in handle makes it very easy to lug around. It feels like carrying a lunch box. The screen is easy to read, and the whole package seems fairly durable. Our review unit hasn’t taken any dramatic tumbles yet, but it has gotten banged around in car trunks, duffle bags, and other less-than-luxurious accommodations with no issues. If you catch one of these on sale, get it and stick it in a cabinet. You’ll be extremely glad to have it around when the need arises.
What to consider before buying the best solar generators
Over the past few years, solar generators have exploded onto the market. There are now dozens of different brands that largely look more or less the same at a glance. The fact is there are only a few standouts amidst a sea of knockoffs. Here’s what to look for to ensure you’re getting a great one:
How much power can it store?
A portable solar generator comes in an extremely wide range of sizes, but a generator’s size doesn’t automatically make it capable of storing a lot of power. In fact, most are disappointingly limited and unable to store much more juice than a portable charger.
To properly check a generator’s storage, you must look at its capacity, measured in watt-hours (Wh). One watt-hour is the equivalent of 1 watt flowing over the course of an hour. The best solar generators offer capacities of several hundred and sometimes several thousand watt-hours. That doesn’t mean, however, that it will provide power for several hundred or several thousand hours. Any generator will ultimately last a different amount of time, depending on what’s plugged into it.
It’s easy to predict how long a generator will last when you use it to power one thing. For example, if you were to power a 100-watt bulb using a power station with a capacity of 500 watt-hours, it would stay lit for five continuous hours. Add a portable fridge that requires 50 watts per hour, your phone which uses 18, a mini-fan that uses three … you get the picture. The more capacity, the better.
No solar generator will hold a charge forever, so you want one capable of charging as quickly and easily as possible. This is where we put the “renewable” into “renewable energy.”
All of the power stations included in this roundup can be charged by connecting them to solar panels (hence the designation “solar generators”). Still, you also want to look for the ability to charge via other sources like wall outlets and your vehicle’s 12-volt plug. This ensures that you can charge up whether you’re off-grid in the sun, plugged in while preparing at home, or using your dash socket on the go.
You must also monitor a model’s charging input capacity, measured in watts (W). For example, a solar-powered generator with a max input of 100W can take in a continuous flow of up to 100 watts, which is about the minimum that you’ll reasonably want to look for. Most of the generators below have input capacities of at least a few hundred watts when charging via solar, so a few 50- to 200-watt solar panels will max them out.
Solar generators need to keep the power coming in and going out. The best solar generators can simultaneously charge all your intended devices via whatever plugs are necessary.
Any portable power station worth your money will have a high output capacity so you can charge many devices, even if they require a lot of juice. A generator’s maximum output should be much higher than its max input. While a particular model might only be capable of taking in a few hundred watts at any given moment, it will usually put out exponentially more. At a minimum, you’ll want a generator that can put out 300 watts at a time, though you’ll want at least 500 for larger tasks.
The best solar generators should also offer a variety of output plugs, including AC outlets, USB-A, USB-C, and even 12-volt DC outlets like the one in your vehicle dash. This ensures you can charge several devices simultaneously regardless of their plug. The number of ports you’ll need will vary depending on how many devices you need to power, but it should have at least a couple of AC outlets and a few USB-A ports.
While portable battery sources have been around for a while now, over the past several decades, they’ve been pretty heavy, unwieldy things. One of the most exciting aspects of the latest generation of solar generators is that they’ve become much more physically compact.
Suppose you plan on taking a generator camping or working it into a van conversion where every square inch matters; well, size and weight become major considerations. All of the products we’ve recommended are about the size of one or two shoeboxes—three at the most. The lightest is about the weight of a 24-pack of soda, while the heaviest is 100 pounds. Most fall somewhere between 30-60 pounds.
If you’re using your generator as a more or less stationary source of backup power at home, portability isn’t a huge issue. Still, we generally recommend keeping weight and size in mind; You never know when you’ll need it for something other than a backup. (Plus, who wants to lug around something heavy and awkward if they don’t have to?)
Another consideration regarding portability involves the necessity for accessories, which can impact how easy it is to move and use your generator. Some generators, for example, require a lot of removable battery packs, which can be a hassle when you’re on the go or packing a vehicle. All of the inclusions on our list require some accessories—you can’t get solar power without connecting cables and solar panels—but they work well with minimal add-ons.
As with any product you expect to last, durability and all-around quality craftsmanship are essential. This is especially true if you plan on lugging your generator around on camping and road trips. Many subpar power stations are made from cheap components and flimsy plastic that doesn’t feel like it will hold up under the rigors of the road.
Durability isn’t something you can determine by reading a spec sheet off the internet. You’ve actually got to take the generator out, use it a bunch, and see how it holds up. I’ve verified the durability of these recommendations via a combination of my own actual field tests and reviews culled from countless real product owners.
Q: What size solar generator should I get?
It’s easy to underestimate how much capacity you need. A 1,000 watt-hours might sound like a lot, but if you’re going to power a converted van with a portable fridge, lights, and occasional phone and laptop top-off, that 1,000 watt-hours will go faster than you expect. I used a setup like this and know from personal experience that you should always overestimate how much power you’ll need.
A generator with a capacity under 1,000Wh can keep electronics charged. A larger one with 1000-1500Wh should be the minimum for road trips where you’ll need it to last multiple days between full charges. For a house or worksite where you expect to use some serious energy—like a full-sized refrigerator or power tools—you’re going to want to start looking at the biggest possible power stations that can be daisy-chained to external batteries.
If you want to get precise, there is an equation:
Estimate how many hours you’ll need to power various devices. For example, if you want to power two light bulbs for 2 hours: you need 4 hours of operation.
Add up the total wattage necessary: the two bulbs are 60 watts each, so you need 120 watts.
Multiply these together to find the total watt-hours needed: 4 x 120 = 480. So, in this case you’d need at least a 500Wh solar generator.
That might sound like a lot for two lightbulbs, but remember that, in most situations, you won’t really be powering 60-watt light bulbs for hours on end. You’ll be charging phones and laptops for an hour here or there, cooling a fridge that kicks on and off every once in a while, using power tools in short bursts, and whatnot.
Q: How many years will a solar generator last?
Most modern generators are rated to last upwards of 25 years. The best-designed power stations are pretty sturdy, with few to no moving parts, so they should likely keep kicking for a long time, provided that you care for them properly. I’ve been pretty rough with a few of mine, and they show no signs of stopping.
Q: Can I run my house on solar power only?
Yes and no. While it’s absolutely possible to power your house with solar power, you’re unlikely to do so with a portable solar generator unless you use several at once while limiting your power usage. The largest of our recommendations—the EcoFlow Delta Pro—will come fairly close when bolstered with extra batteries. If the power goes out, you’ll be able to keep your fridge cold and use basic electronics for a couple of days without recharging. With quality solar panels, good sunlight, and Smart energy usage, your power should theoretically go uninterrupted.
Final thoughts on the best solar generators
We’re living in a “golden age” for portable solar generators. When I was a kid, and my family was playing around with solar gear while camping in the ‘90s, the technology couldn’t charge many devices, so it wasn’t all that practical.
By contrast, the solar generators we’ve recommended here are incredibly useful. I’ve relied on them to power my work and day-to-day needs while road-tripping nationwide. They’re also great when the power goes out. When a windstorm cut the power at my house for a couple of days, I was still working, watching my stories, and keeping the lights on.
We haven’t even scratched the surface in terms of the potential offered by portable, reliable, renewable, relatively affordable power. What we can do now is already incredible. The potential for what may come next, though, is truly mind-blowing.
Why trust us
Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.
Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.
Nick Hilden writes reviews and recommendations coverage of fitness, outdoor and tech gear for Popular Science. He’s spent over a decade writing about lifestyle and culture topics for a slew of publications, including Scientific American, the Los Angeles Times, Vice, and Men’s Health, among others.