The Best Solar Generators of 2023, Tested and Reviewed
Whether you are outfitting your home in case of an extended power outage or looking for a steady supply of off-grid power for your overlanding setup, it’s never been a better time to purchase a solar generator. But sifting through all the available options on the market—power stations that are lunchbox-sized to luggage-sized, solar panels that can pack in a backpack to multiple eight-foot long panels you chain together—can take a lot of time and effort. To help you choose the best solar generator for your purpose, we tested some of the most powerful models from Anker, Jackery, Goal Zero, and BioLite side by side to see how they stacked up.
- Best Overall:Jackery Solar Generator 1000 Pro
- Best Value:Anker 555 Solar Generator
- Most Portable:BioLite BaseCharge 1500 Solar Panel 100
- Most Customizable:Goal Zero Yeti 1500X Boulder 200 Briefcase Solar Generator
- Best for RVs:Anker Solar Generator 767
How I Tested the Best Solar Generators
There are two components to a solar generator—a solar panel and a power station. To understand the performance of the overall package, I looked at each component and then also assessed how they worked in tandem.
- Solar Panels were tested in tandem (to ensure similar conditions) under clear skies. Testing was conducted in late fall, when the angle of the sun is less ideal than it would be at the peak of summer, affecting the potential of each panel to reach its claimed maximum output. Solar panels were tested using power stations of the same brand, but where possible, I also used different panels with different power stations to see if that affected the results.
- Power stations were evaluated on a number of criteria. After fully charging all the power stations, I left them in a climate-controlled room for three days and then outside for twenty-four hours in near-freezing temperatures—none of the power stations registered any loss of power during this test. Next, I plugged various appliances into all of the power stations to see how they handled the volume: a dehumidifier, a sunlamp, two laptops, one of the best power banks for camping, a pair of headphones, another power station, etc. Using these setups, I ran each power station down to half its estimated output. Finally, I considered how compatible each power station was with other solar panels, as well as additional features, such as Bluetooth-compatible apps, display panels, wireless charging, USB-C input ports, and more.
Solar Panels Tested
I tested six solar panels rated for both 100W and 200W capacity from Goal Zero, Anker, Jackery, and BioLite.
I checked that all the solar panels were pointed in the same direction and at the same angle when testing their measured output against their claimed output.
|Model||Weight||Size (unfolded)||Output Ports||Warranty||Claimed output||Measured output|
|Jackery SolarSaga 200W Solar Panel||18 lbs||540 x 2320 x 25 mm||DC||1.5 years||200W||184W|
|Goal Zero Boulder 200W||42 lbs||40 x 53.5 x 1.75 inches||High Power Port (HPP)||2 years||200W||145W|
|Anker 531 Solar Panel||20 lbs||23.75 x 83.75 x.75 inches||XT-60||2 years||200W||158W|
|Goal Zero Boulder 100W||20 lbs||40 x 26.75 x 1.75 inches||High Power Port (HPP)||2 years||100W||73W|
|Anker 625 Solar Panel||11 lbs||57 x 20.75 x 1.75 inches||XT-60||2 years||100W||94W|
|BioLite Solar Panel 100||10 lbs||20 x 57.5 x 1 inches||High Power Port (HPP)||1 year||100W||52W|
Power Stations Tested
The power stations I tested ranged in size from 1,002Wh to 2,048Wh, and were capable of either 110 volts or 120 volts (the latter is what you’ll need to run most major appliances).
All of the power stations were capable of holding a charge for extended periods of time, losing no power in either the three-day indoors test or the 24-hour outdoors test in subfreezing and near freezing temperatures.
|Model||Weight||Wh||Input ports||Input Max for Solar||Max voltage for the AC outlet||App?||Warranty|
|Goal Zero Yeti 1500X||45.5 lbs||1,516||USB-C, 8mm, high power port (HPP)||600W||120V||Yes||2 years|
|Jackery Explorer 1000 Pro||25.5 lbs||1,002||AC and DC||800W||120V||No||3 years|
|Anker 767||XX||2,048||AC and XT60||1000W||120V||Yes||5 years|
|Anker 555||29.8 lbs||1,024||DC and USB-C||200W||110V||No||5 years|
|BioLite BaseCharge 1500||26.5||1,521||USB-C, high power port (HPP)||400W||110V||No||2 years|
Best Overall: Jackery Solar Generator 1000 Pro (Explorer 1000 Pro Solar Saga 200W)
- Power station capacity: 1002 watt hours
- Solar panels: four 200-watt solar panels
- Energy created by one panel in direct sunlight: 184 watts
- Max AC output: 120 volts and 1000 watts
- Also available with a 2000Wh power station
- Also available with two 80-watt panels
Along with the BioLite BaseCharge 1500 and Anker 555, the Jackery Explorer 1000 Pro had one of the more streamlined user interfaces. There are separate buttons to activate the USB outlets, AC outlets, and DC outlet, along with a button to turn on the power station’s light (in case you want to light up your camp or home) and one to turn on the display. The display here gives you the bare minimum of information—watts in, watts out, percent of the battery remaining, and the time to charge or deplete the battery based on the current conditions.
The Explorer 1000 Pro has a max output of 1000W (peaking at 2000W), which is enough juice to power many modern refrigerators. But given that its battery life is only 1002Wh, it can only supply that power for about a day (assuming it’s not charging anything else) unless it’s also being supplied with fresh juice from a solar panel setup at the same time. For some, this won’t be an issue, as they’ll simply be using the battery to channel power to their other devices during the day while it’s charging, and then using the battery at night to power more low-key items like the best camping fans or maybe one high-energy device like a portable fridge.
At over 25 pounds, the Jackery Explorer 1000 Pro, is one of the more transportable units I looked at, but it’s still not something that you’d want to lug more than a hundred feet or so at a time.
The Solar Panel
I originally tested the SolarSaga 200W solar panel as a full setup, with four panels plugged into a single power station. This test showed the full power of the array, which registered 650W of power generation on a sunny (albeit hazy) day. I retested a single panel in tandem with the rest of the units in this review more recently, and under completely clear skies, the panel was even more impressive: It registered 184W of energy coming from a single panel. If you don’t have much time to recharge your power station from the sun, then the full setup with all four panels is a no-brainer.
It is, though, a little complicated. Each panel comes with a carrying case and a cable that connects back to the two DC ports on the Explorer 1000 Pro. If you see a math problem here, that’s correct: You’ll also need two of the Jackery Solar Panel Connectors, which, strangely, are not included in the purchase price. Two of these can be used to double the number of panels you can connect to the Explorer 1000 Pro.
Setting up and taking down this many panels takes some time, but I was impressed by how easy and intuitive it was. That’s because Jackery streamlined the number of ports on each unit, making it that much clearer what cable connects to what unit in what port.
While there might at first glance appear to be a disconnect between the charging time capabilities of this setup and its battery life, it’s worth keeping in mind that conditions are not always optimal. One of the things that impressed me most about these units is the panel’s ability to generate electricity in lowlight conditions. Even in complete shade—dusk fast approaching—a single SolarSaga was generating a 6W input.
Best Budget: Anker 555 Solar Generator (555 PowerHouse with Two (2) 625 Solar Panels 100W)
- Power Station Capacity: 1024 watt hours
- Solar Panels: two 100-watt solar panels
- Energy Created By One Panel In Direct Sunlight: 94 watts
- Max AC output: 110 volts and 1000 watts
- Also available with a 1229Wh power station and three 100W solar panels
- Max power station output is 110V
- XT60 port on the solar panel needs an adapter to be compatible with the power station
If your family has a bevy of devices that seemingly all need to be plugged in simultaneously, you are in luck with the Anker 555 PowerHouse. It was the only unit in my test that boasted six AC outlets, as well as three USB-C outlets and two USB-A outlets. There were so many outlets that it was actually hard to find enough things to plug into it in my home—I ended up with an air purifier, sun lamp, two fans, a laptop, and a battery pack plugged in. The 555 PowerHouse had no problem with this—it barely used a third of its total output power. If your family has a bunch of devices that simply must be charged at all times, then this is a great option.
Note that this would not be the best choice for someone looking for backup power for their refrigerator, as its 1,024 watt hour capacity was on the smaller side in my test and only has up to 110-volt output.
Something else I liked about this unit was the utility—and comparative simplicity—of its charging abilities. It has one DC input port in the back and a USB-C 100W port that plays double duty with input and output. As someone who struggles to keep track of the sheer number and variety of cords that are always floating around, I appreciated the ability to recharge this unit without tracking down the original cord.
The Solar Panel
The Anker 625 was easily the best of the 100W panels I tested—it was one of the best solar panels for camping I tested back in the spring, and it’s still one of my favorite pieces of gear. It even beat out the 200W Jackery SolarSaga if you consider that this panel generated 94 percent of its claimed output, while the Jackery only managed 92 percent. Part of this is the inclusion of a sundial in the top center of the panel, which helped me align the panel correctly during setup. This sundial is such a useful feature, that after I had correctly aligned the Anker 625, I went back and adjusted all the other panels to match it—an instant uptick in power was measured. Two of these panels is a great choice for recharging a power station the size of the 555 PowerHouse.
I’ve been testing this panel for a while—unlike some of the others in this test—and in that time I’ve noticed that it’s picked up a bit of scuffing along the edges of the fabric backing. While not ideal, this has not impacted the functionality of the unit in the slightest.
Most Portable: BioLite BaseCharge 1500 Solar Panel 100
- Power station Capacity: 1521 watt hours
- Solar Panels: one 100-watt solar panel
- Energy Created By One Panel In Direct Sunlight: 52 watts
- Max AC output: 110 volts and 1200 watts
- Also available with a 622Wh power station
- Lightest unit I tested
- Power station is easy to use
- Power station is compatible with the Goal Zero Boulder 200 (up to two)
Like the Jackery Explorer 1000 Pro and the Anker 555 PowerHouse, the BioLite BaseCharge 1500 has a sleek and streamlined user interface that is easy to read and understand. The display panel shows the percentage of your battery left, the estimated number of hours it will take to either run through or finish charging the battery, the watts coming into your unit, and the watts going out. It also shows you the number of watt-hours the unit has used in total—watching that number was a bit like watching the odometer tick up on your car. Not super useful daily, but a nice thing to know in the aggregate. There are separate buttons to turn on the ports for USB, DC, and AC power, as well as a button to turn on the display. (A second button allows you to reset the display of how many watts you’ve used, useful if you are interested in getting an accurate read on your total power needs).
There were three details that made the BioLite BaseCharge 1500 stand out next to the competition:
- A wireless charging option on top of the unit. (Unfortunately, I was not able to test this as I do not have a device with this capability.)
- The choice to put the input port on the front of the unit, as opposed to the back. During testing, I found that this configuration was easier when plugging in solar panels.
- This power station is surprisingly lightweight, especially compared to the Yeti 1500X, which has a comparable watt-hour capacity. If you plan to move your power station from room to room, this is a no-brainer.
During testing, the BioLite BaseCharge 1500 was one of the few power stations where the “hours to empty” estimate kept jumping around. It probably accurately reflected the change in power needs of the bigger devices, but was confusing to look at and made the time estimates less useful than they would have otherwise been. (The percentage estimate of the amount of battery life remaining, however, stayed fairly consistent.)
The Solar Panel
While the BaseCharge 1500 ended up being one of my favorite power stations, the BioLite Solar Panel 100 was my least favorite solar panel. First off, two kickstands simply don’t provide enough support for the panels. This is partly because two just isn’t enough, but also because one of the kickstands is situated closer to the middle of the unit, rather than both being on the outer edges. I was able to use the BaseCharge 1500 to help prop it up a bit, but it wasn’t an ideal solution.
One thing that I did like about this unit is that, like the Anker 625, it incorporated a sundial, which helped me to situate the panel at the right angle to maximize the energy output.
However, even with that advantage, this was by far the weakest panel in my test, only generating about half of its claimed output even on a clear day with sunny skies. If you choose to go with a BaseCharge 1500, it’s worth considering pairing it with a Goal Zero Boulder 200W, a pairing that proved successful during testing.
Best Customization: Goal Zero Yeti 1500X Boulder 200 Briefcase Solar Generator
- Power Station Capacity: 1516 watt hours
- Solar Panels: one 100-watt solar panel
- Energy created by one panel in direct sunlight: 73 watts
- Max AC output: 120 volts and 2000 watts
- Solar panels also available at 200-watt and 300-watt capacity
- power station s available in sizes ranging from 187 watt hours to 6071 watt hours
- Possible to monitor the power station from another room using the app
- The larger power station s could power major appliances for days without recharging
- Less intuitive than other power station s I looked at
- Difficult to recharge if you lose the original cables
The Yeti 1500X was one of the most complicated user interfaces to navigate, and included several details that I have mixed feelings about. The most glaring one is that when the unit is plugged into a power source, a light blinks blue continuously until it is charged, when it switches to solid blue—if you are in the same space as this unit when it is charging, this is very distracting. Next is the three buttons above the display—which read “unit,” “light,” and “info.” Unit is fairly straightforward—it toggles the input and output measurements between volts, amperes, watts, etc. This is pretty handy if you’re curious about how much power a given device is chewing through. Next is light—on other power stations, this button turns on an actual light, which is useful if you’re trying to see what you’re doing in the evening hours. The Goal Zero, however, does not have a built-in light; what this button turns on and off is the display screen showing the power supply. The info button only seemed to turn on the display (not off)—it was unclear what other use this was meant to have.
Interestingly, despite having one of the most powerful AC ports in my test, there was only space for two plug-ins. Most of the time, I suspect this will be plenty for people (and it does help to cut down on the unnecessary juice being lost out of these ports), but others might find themselves digging out a powerstrip to make up for the lack fo ports.
One of the more unusual features of the Yeti 1500X is a top lid, which has storage for charging cables, or anything else you want to throw in there. Underneath, it also has detailed descriptions of all of the power limitations of the various ports, plus evergreen reminders about not letting your power station get wet—all in semi-legible font. Surprisingly that can’t be said for any of the power stations in my test (including the Anker 767, which despite having the largest surface area strangely didn’t include this information at all). There is also a second 8mm port under the lid as well as a 12V HPP output port.
The amount of power it was being charged with supplying—1385 watts through a single AC port (I had plugged it back into the Anker 767 unit) was higher than anything else I tested, due to this being the only combination where that was available—the maximum input capability of the Yeti 1500X is 150V from AC power). The icon showing how much power was remaining did, however, stay consistent.
Like the Anker 767, the Yeti 1500X has an app that you can use to monitor the battery’s power usage. This app was not as intuitive to use as the Anker 767’s, requiring several more steps to get to the point where I could monitor the battery usage (it also asked me to upgrade its firmware seemingly every other time I opened it). However, once you have the whole thing set up, it provides just as much information and control as the Anker 767 app.
The Solar Panel
I tested both the Boulder 100W and the Boulder 200W from Goal Zero. These are basically the same panels (although with different ports (HPP versus DC), affecting what other power stations you might be able to pair them with), just at a different size, so whether you choose one over the other will depend on your energy needs, and your personal strength.
These panels are significantly bulkier and more cumbersome than anything else I tested. While the likes of Jackery’s SolarSaga series and the Anker solar panels are a bit like someone took a backpacking solar panel and just blew it up to 20x the size. The Boulder series from Goal Zero looks like a solar panel off your house that’s shrunken down to something you could throw into the back of your car.
Both the 100W and the 200W solar panels come with carrying cases, which due to the placement of the zippers are kind of a nuisance to use. But use them you should because the way these panels fold up leaves the solar cells on the outside of the package, rather than on the inside (like the rest of the solar panels in my test). While the 100W panel was heavy, but otherwise easy enough to move thanks to the inclusion of a comfortable handle on the long side of the folded-up panels, the 200W had a tendency to drag across the ground (at least this was my experience, as a 5 foot 5 inch individual), forcing me to lean to one side as I walked. Did I mention that these panels were heavy? At 42 pounds, the Boulder 200W is extremely heavy.
While the Boulder solar panels were reasonably easy to set up, the way the legs are designed give you fewer options for maximizing the angle of the sun in the winter months, when it’s lower to the horizon. This showed during testing, when the panels only pulled in 73W for the 100W panel, and 143W for the 200W panel.
Solar Battery vs. Whole Home Generator—Which is Right for Me?
There is no shortage of reasons why Arizona homeowners are looking to gain greater energy independence. From preventing power outages, to reducing reliance on the grid, avoiding peak demand charging. to just simply having control of your own energy whether fully off-grid or grid-tied with behind-the-meter power generation.
For backup power in times of a power outage, many homeowners right here in the greater Phoenix area need access to life-saving electronic medical equipment or consistent refrigeration for medications. Some homeowners prefer to keep a backup power option to run necessary safety equipment or home essentials, like a well pump or security system, and some homeowners don’t want to say goodbye to all the food in their freezer every time the power goes out. Whatever your reason for needing an independent backup solution for your home electricity. you likely find yourself at the crossroads of choosing between a whole-home generator vs a solar battery backup system. Each type of system has its pros and cons—here is what the solar installation experts at SouthFace Solar want you to know about choosing between battery-assisted solar power or a generator.
Powered Backup Generators
If you’ve ever heard a low hum coming from a neighbor’s house when the power goes out, you were likely hearing the hum of a backup generator. These are combustion-based generators that provide electricity by burning a fossil fuel like natural gas or propane. Backup generators can be designed to turn on automatically when an outage is detected, or manually turned on when needed. The cost of backup generator installation depends on how large your home is and what kind of appliances you would like to keep operational during an outage.
The Benefits of a Whole-Home Backup Generator:
- On-demand backup power
- Lower installation costs compared to other backup options
- Can utilize an existing gas line
- Can be added to a home with or without solar
While backup generators are a popular choice for backup power, there are some drawbacks to using this type of system. They can be particularly noisy (if you related to hearing the low hum, you understand!), they require regular maintenance and will incur gas costs, even if you don’t need to use them, and they burn fossil fuels that create harmful carbon emissions.
Solar Battery Backup
Solar battery backup. also known as solar battery storage, is a battery that can store and disperse the renewable electricity generated by solar panels. You may have heard about solar battery products like the Tesla solar battery, Tesla Powerwall. A solar battery system is best combined with a new or existing system of solar PV panels and an inverter, and can be designed to operate in conjunction with the electrical grid or independent of the grid. These are called on-grid and off-grid systems, respectively. Batteries can also be used without solar but will need to be charged by an energy source like from the electricity grid.
Home solar battery storage ensures that your home uses as much of the renewable electricity coming from your solar panels as possible, and can be used during times of low solar output (like at night), during an outage, or to avoid times where electricity is more expensive (like time-of-use/peak demand charing programs).
The Benefits of Solar Battery Backup
- Automatically detects power outages
- Used to balance peak demand charges
- Qualifies for solar tax credit incentives
- Further decreases your carbon footprint when paired with solar
- Quiet operation
- Low maintenance
What’s the drawback? If you pair solar with a solar battery, you’ll have power as long as the sun is shining but what happens if you need that backup power during a cloudy week? Depending on your backup power requirements, a generator may be the better option. Also, solar battery will always vary, depending on the size of your system and what kind of solar panel battery storage system best meets the needs of you and your home. While solar battery storage system costs are higher than a backup generator, battery storage can also qualify for valuable solar incentives like tax credit savings and be used for offsetting peak demand rates.
Choosing What’s Right for You
So, which option is going to be best for your home? If you have no plans to install solar in the future and are only looking to keep your essential appliances up and running during an emergency situation, a backup generator may be the most appropriate option.
If you are looking to keep the lights on during an outage, reduce the peak electricity charges from time-of-use rates, or already have an existing solar PV system, a solar battery backup system will likely be the best option for your home.
Solar Generators: A Guide to Portable Solar Power
A solar generator is a portable power station that uses portable solar panels to charge a battery, and the stored electricity can be used to charge or operate other devices.
As climate change continues to impact our planet in the form of extreme weather, higher temperatures, rising sea levels, and more, we must look for sustainable solutions to more parts of our day-to-day life. This includes the move to using portable solar power generators to create and store renewable energy for all your backup power needs.
Not only do solar generators create reliable clean electricity from the sun, but they also reduce the emission of harmful greenhouse gasses associated with traditional portable generators. As a result, manufacturers are working hard to make solar backup generators better and more reliable than their fuel-powered counterparts. This mirrors the growth and popularity of home solar power systems as an alternative to powering your home with fossil fuels.
With this article, you will better understand what a solar generator is, why solar generators are worth an investment, how to shop for a portable solar generator that’s right for you, and why solar-powered generators should replace traditional gas-powered generators.
What Is A Solar Generator?
The term solar generator usually refers to the combination of portable solar panels, battery, battery charger, and inverter into a single device that allows you to capture, store, and distribute power from the sun.
Solar generators are popular for camping trips, boating, RV trips, and as emergency backup power.
Unlike a traditional generator, which is normally powered by gas, diesel, or propane and includes an engine, fuel tank, and alternator, a solar generator lacks any moving parts. They’re essentially comprised of four elements:
- Portable Solar Panels. Captures energy from the sun
- Rechargeable Battery. Stores the energy captured by solar panels
- Solar Charge Controller. Manages how much energy goes into the battery
- Solar Inverter. Converts the sun’s energy into usable electricity
Thus, a solar generator is basically a portable battery with some photovoltaic (PV) panels attached to collect sunlight.
A portable solar generator turns out to be a great power supply, whether you’re on the road, camping, or needing electricity during a power outage. Depending upon your situation, you might want a solar generator with a variety of outlets, especially in emergencies where you have multiple power-dependent devices and appliances.
Typically, solar generators have 12-volt sockets, AC outlets, and USB ports to allow you to charge different devices. The beauty of having several charging options with your portable generator is that you can get the power you need on your terms. For example, you can plug a smartphone directly into the USB port to charge, and then connect an extension cord to the AC outlet to power a set of string lights.
In most cases, you will have the option to buy components like solar battery storage and panels separately, though you can also buy them as a complete all-in-one kit. We recommend purchasing the accessories you need to generate and store enough electricity for your intended use.
How Do Solar Power Generators Work?
A solar battery generator works by creating electricity from sunlight and storing it in a battery for future use. Here is a more detailed breakdown of the process:
- Solar panels convert sunlight to DC electricity and pass it through the charge controller.
- The charge controller regulates the voltage of electricity before storage, ensuring the right amount of current goes to the battery.
- The battery stores all the solar energy for later use.
- The inverter converts the stored energy from the battery to the AC power that most appliances and devices use.
Who Benefits From Using Solar Generators?
Solar generators don’t burn fuel to generate electricity, making them ideal for anyone looking to reduce reliance on gas-powered generators, combat blackouts and other power outages, and have a reliable backup power source option in case of emergencies.
You can use the energy stored in a solar generator during a power outage, to charge your devices when camping, and as source of energy on an RV or boating trip. Essentially, a solar-powered backup generator is ideal for a range of real-life situations, meaning it’s useful to have around for more than just emergencies.
People Who Want to Make Eco-Friendly Choices
Traditional generators run on fossil fuels that pollute the environment. If you’re conscious of the danger these fuels possess, then a solar backup generator is ideal for you.
People Bothered by the Sounds and Smells of Traditional Generators
Traditional generators are noisy and stinky because they’re combustion engines running on fossil fuels. Over time and even with proper maintenance, they can become noisier and smellier. If you’re looking for a generator that creates zero sounds and smells, a solar power generator will not let you down.
People Who Enjoy Spending Time Outdoors
You will find solar power generators are helpful if you enjoy being outside, yet still want to bring along a few modern perks. For example, during a camping or boating trip, solar batteries come in handy to ensure you have continuous power access. You could string up lights after sundown, charge your phones, run small kitchen appliances, and any number of conveniences you had to do without in the past.
Key Factors When Shopping for a Solar Generator
Solar generators come in different sizes and shapes, so picking one that will address your personal needs should be your priority. Choosing a solar generator can be challenging, especially when you are presented with different options, so we created this shopping list as a good starting point.
Since not all portable solar backup power generators are the same, people need to know what the generator can and cannot do. Knowing how you intend to use your generator should help guide you to the right solution.
Some of the top brands to compare include Jackery, Goal Zero Yeti, Bluetti, EcoFlow, Point Zero Energy, Renogy, and Tacklife. Each company makes its products unique, so a closer look at what each one offers can help you make a sound decision.
Your Energy Requirements
The amount of electricity you need should be your top consideration for determining the size of your solar powered generator. For example, if you plan to use it outdoors, you should calculate how much energy your devices and appliances use when comparing the storage capacity of potential solar generators.
How Much Electricity The Solar Generator Can Provide
The longer a generator can provide power, the better. (This is usually calculated in watt hours.) Considering you don’t always know when you will have an opportunity to recharge it, it is best to have one that can run efficiently for a long time. That way, it will be easier for you to go about your daily activities or complete what you were doing, knowing you have enough backup power.
How Long The Solar Generator Takes To Charge
In addition to comparing the battery capacity of a solar generator, you should also pay attention to how long it takes for the battery to achieve a full charge. Some even have the ability to quick charge from a home AC power outlet. This will help with planning how much time you’ll need to be without power in the event a recharge is necessary.
What Features and Benefits are Included
You can do a lot with a solar generator that has helpful features. For example, more USB ports and power outlets give you the freedom to charge multiple devices at once.
Weight is another essential consideration, especially if you plan to use your generator for outdoor activities. Batteries can be heavy, so you might want to look for a solar generator that has focused on keeping the weight down if you plan to move it around a lot.
What the Warranty Covers
We recommend examining any benefits you might enjoy from the product warranty. The larger and more reputable the company, the more perks you will likely receive to support your solar power generator. The top options include replacement parts for any necessary repairs, as well as a longer length of time your solar generator is covered by the warranty.
Comparing Portable Solar Generators with Traditional Gas-Powered Generators
The Pros of Solar Generators
Investing in a portable solar generator is a good way of reducing your environmental impact and enjoying numerous other benefits:
Generally lighter than traditional gas-powered generators, solar generators are ideal for outdoor events, camping, emergencies, and general on-the-go activities. Some of them are even equipped with a luggage-like pull handle to enhance portability.
Wear and tear due to moving parts in traditional emergency generators can lead to high maintenance costs. Solar generators have no moving parts and don’t rely on gas to generate electricity. This design helps lower the possibility of having to pay for repairs.
Solar generators generate clean, renewable energy that doesn’t hurt the environment when running. Traditional generators run on fossil fuels which contribute to air pollution and climate change. As an added benefit, you can access solar energy freely instead of paying for pricey fossil fuels.
Solar generators are easy to use as they don’t require fueling, oiling, starting, and maintaining. Just turn it on, connect your devices, and draw power from it.
The Cons of Solar Generators
There are a few disadvantages to using solar generators that you should consider before making a purchase:
Higher Upfront Cost
Solar generators typically require a higher initial investment than traditional generators. However, the costs of operating are lower than traditional options, so you’ll save money over time.
Lower Energy Storage
Solar generators aren’t ideal if your power demands are too high. For instance, during a power outage, your generator may not be sufficient to operate all devices and appliances in your house. In most cases, they are best for operating a few devices at a time, such as lighting, a television, or a refrigerator.
Slower Energy Generation
Compared to traditional gas-powered portable generators, solar generators are not the best option when you need instantaneous power. If your battery runs out of power, you have to wait for it to recharge to get power to your appliances and devices, which can vary depending on the weather conditions. With a traditional generator, you simply need to add more fuel to generate additional power.
The Pros of Traditional Generators
Generators powered by fossil fuels do have some advantages, including:
Traditional options are available in different sizes, and there are smaller sizes that you can bring with you when traveling. Just remember that you also have to carry gasoline, so they aren’t quite as portable as solar generators.
Having been on the market for years, traditional generators are more familiar to some people. However, that market dominance also means the technology hasn’t been dramatically improved because of the lack of competition.
Traditional generators produce electricity as soon as they receive fuel, while a solar generator must be recharged to provide electricity. Hence, gas-powered generators are more convenient when you need instant power.
The Cons of Traditional Generators
Despite their popularity over the years, traditional generators have their shortcomings. Here are some of the reasons why people are ditching them:
Traditional generators rely on costly fossil fuels to run, which increases their long-term costs over the initial purchase price. You may also have to pay more to access that fuel if you aren’t near a gas station or other fuel source.
Traditional generators are notorious polluters. Each gallon of gasoline contains about 20.35lbs of carbon dioxide, and the average camping generator emits around 1-2 lbs of carbon dioxide per hour, even when running at 1/4 of the max rated load.
In addition to carbon dioxide, gas-powered generators can also release other harmful gases into the atmosphere, including carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides, and sulfur oxides.
Because of all the moving parts that make up a traditional gas-powered generator, they produce a lot of noise when operating. This is especially true for smaller portable generators, which are designed to prioritize size and weight over noise prevention.
You have to continuously pay to take care of your traditional generator if you want to keep it in good working order. That regular maintenance occurs because the generator uses moving parts to process fossil fuels into electricity, and those moving parts need to be cleaned, oiled, and replaced over time. In addition, the fuel can go bad if it sits unused for a long period of time. Those routine costs definitely impact the total price of owning a gas-powered generator in the long run.
Solar generators are growing in popularity, and with advances in solar technologies, people who like clean energy are increasingly picking them over gas-powered generators. Solar generators offer low maintenance, portability, clean energy, and sustainable living to combat climate change. The numerous benefits of owning a solar generator make it worth the investment.
Before you buy a solar-powered generator, make sure you analyze the key features of different brands to pick one that will address your power needs. Brands like Jackery, Goal Zero Yeti, and Bluetti make a wide range of different solar generators to match your needs.
If you want to store even more backup solar power than even the best solar generator can provide, you should consider solar battery storage that connects to your home solar panel system. While your home solar panels can definitely charge your portable solar generator so you have on-the-go power whenever you need it, solar generators are not designed to act as a home standby generator for your entire home.
If you’re shopping for backup power options, the experts at Palmetto can help you understand the long-term solutions that are right for your electricity needs and system requirements. Get started today with a Free Solar Savings Estimate, and then speak with one of our solar professionals on how you can always have the energy you need when you need it most.
The 7 Best Solar-Powered Generators of 2023
Heidi Wachter was a senior editor at Experience Life magazine for 10 years. She has written for publications like Experience Life, Shondaland, and betterpet.
Our top pick is the Yeti 1500X Portable Power Station. However, if you want a smaller, less expensive option, consider the Jackery Explorer 500W.
It’s always good to have a backup in life, especially when the power goes out. Gas-powered generators can do the trick, but they’re loud, emit smelly fumes, and require a place for storing gasoline safely. They also contribute to climate change.
Solar generators, on the other hand, are clean, easy to use, don’t require fossil fuels, and are becoming more and more affordable as solar technology improves. They can be particularly useful in emergency situations where other fuel supplies are cut off or difficult to access. Solar generators typically capture the sun’s energy via stationary or portable solar panels that are sold separately, convert it into electrical power, and store it in a battery for later use.
What’s the best generator for you? First, estimate how much power you need to run appliances, laptops, and televisions in your home should a power outage occur or for whatever you’ll need to power up while you’re camping, living off the grid, or traveling in an RV.
Once you know how many watts you’ll need; consider the other features you want such as USB charging ports and rechargeable batteries. You can avoid blowing your budget by selecting a generator with features that make the unit more efficient rather than more expensive.
We researched the market to recommend the best generators that are compatible with solar panels.
Goal Zero Yeti 1500X Portable Power Station
Need to power your laptop, phone, power drill, coffee maker, and refrigerator all at once? The Goal Zero Yeti 1500x is a high-capacity power station that supplies electricity with the touch of a button or the Yeti 3.0 app. Weighing in at 43 pounds, it’s a solar option for those living the van life or to provide back-up energy when power lines go down.
The lithium battery supplies 1500-watt hours, so you can charge your phone a hundred times or run a refrigerator for up to a day. Its industry-leading 2000-watt AC inverter is one of the most powerful on the market, making it our top overall pick. The integrated MPPT charge controller increases efficiency by 30% when recharged with a compatible Goal Zero solar panel. Everything is backed by a two year warranty.
Price at time of publish: 1,800
Output: 2000 watts | Weight: 43 pounds | Dimensions: 19 x 14 x 14 inches | Output Ports: 2 USB-A ports, 1 18 watt USB-C, 1 60 watt USB-C PP, 1 6mm port, 1 12 Volt (regulated), 1 12 volt HPP, 2 120 Volt AC inverters
Jackery Explorer 500 Solar Portable Generator
Weighing in at a relatively light 13.3 pounds, the compact, durable, and affordable Jackery Explorer 500 lets you take solar-powered electricity along on every adventure. The 500-watt inverter provides enough juice for charging multiple devices in any either of the AC or DC ports or one of the three USB ports.
It comes with a car charging cable and an AC adaptor. Like many of the solar generators in the Jackery family, the unit can be recharged from an AC wall outlet or with a Jackery SolarSaga solar panel (sold separately). The 518-watt rechargeable battery will need replacing after about 500 uses, but that’s after a lot of camping trips.
Price at time of publish: 500
Output: 500 Watts | Weight: 13.3 pounds | Dimensions: 11.8 x 7.6 x 9.5 inches | Output Ports: 1 AC outlet (110V 500W 1000W Peak), 3 USB ports, 2 DC ports, 1 car port
Best for Emergencies
ITEHIL LiFePO4 500W 500Wh Solar Generator
If you’re looking for source of backup power that’s cleaner than a diesel generator, the ITEHIL power station is an excellent option. With high-speed charging, you can get your devices back up and running when the power goes out, as well as a built-in light. You can charge it via solar panels (ITEHIL separately sells panels that fold into a suit-case style envelope), a car charger, or a wall plug. There are both U.S. and international AC plug versions of the device.
At nearly 19 pounds, it’s heavier than our Best Portable pick, but is still light enough to be moved around fairly easily, and has built-in handles. Our tester notes that it’s not big enough to power most full-size refrigerators, but could power a small electric cooler. It has an intuitive display that shows how much battery capacity is remaining.
“It seems to be well-designed for safety, and includes warnings like ‘do not stick fingers directly into the power port.’” ~ Lloyd Alter, Treehugger Design Editor
Price at time of publish: 500
Output: 500 Watts | Weight: 18.74 pounds | Dimensions: 14.17 x 13 x 13.4 inches | Output Ports: 2 AC outlets (100-120V 500W), 2 USB-A ports, 1 QC USD-A Poert, 1 Type C, 1 DC ports, 1 car port
Jackery Explorer 160 Portable Power Station
While many of the budget generators still cost over 200, this affordable option from Jackery comes in at under 150 and has a two-year warranty. It’s also one of the lightest option on the market at just under 4 pounds, making it another great pick for camping or even backpacking.
It can be charged using a solar panel, wall outlet, car outlet or electric generator. It’s great for charging your phone or camera, or running small appliances like a fan or laptop. It has a surge capacity of 150 watts, but you should avoid using it with any device that has a 100 watt or higher rating.
Price at time of publish: 150
Output: 100 watts | Weight: 3.97 pounds | Dimensions: 7.4 x 4.5 x 6.7 inches | Output Ports: 1 100 watt AC outlet, 1 USB-C, 1 USB-A
Best High Capacity
Bluetti AC200P 2000WH/2000W Portable Power Station
With just as many watts as our Best Overall pick, the Bluetti 2000W Portable Power Station can be charged five different ways and has 17 different output ports, each of which is covered by a high-quality dust cap. You can charge it using solar panels (not included), a via a wall outlet, car plug, using a generator, or lead acid battery.
You can hook up a number of smaller devices, at the same time, like a laptop, camera charger and several phones. Or you can use it as back-up power for larger appliances—according to the manufacturer, you can power an 800 watt wall refrigerator with this power station for over two hours.
A nice feature is the LED touch screen, which can tell you how much energy you’re drawing down and how much battery charge is remaining. You can also set it to an Eco mode, which will shut the device down if it senses you’re not using it after several hours. It has rubberized feet, so the unit won’t slip around on smooth surfaces. It’s also quite heavy so it’s not ideal for camping situations where you’d need to carry it, but it is compact enough to fit into a car trunk.
Price at time of publish: 1,599
Output: 2000 watts | Weight: 60.6 pounds | Dimensions: 16.5 x 11 x 15.2 inches | Output Ports: 6 110 Volt AC outlets, 1 DC 12 Volt/10A, 1 DC 12 Volt/25A, 2 DC 12 Volt/3A outlets, 4 USB-A ports, 1 USC-C port, 2 wireless charging ports
Best for Home
Point Zero Energy Titan Solar Generator
True to its name, the Titan is packed with power. Its 3000-watt inverter has enormous output capacity for powering up household appliances like refrigerators and portable AC units with ease. Are you in heavy Cloud cover? No problem. The Titan includes a stackable battery bank, which can be combined with additional batteries (sold separately). You can recharge the generator via solar panels, an AC outlet, or a DC car charger.
In addition to extra batteries, you can also add on USB adaptors or a car charger. THE MPPT charge controllers allow it to reach full battery capacity in about four hours making the Titan a versatile, efficient, and reliable backup plan.
Price at time of publish: 2,716
Output: 3000 watts | Weight: 67 pounds | Dimensions: 18.5 x 12 x 12 inches | Output Ports: 6 AC outlets, 4 DC 12 Volt outlets, 1 NEMA TT-30
MAXOAK Bluetti Portable Power Station
During extreme weather events, generators like the ones on this list can sell out quickly. So, if other options aren’t available, there’s a lot we like about this one. The Bluetti stores plenty of power at an affordable price. It’s 1500-watt-hour lithium-ion battery is quick-charging and ample for powering up most home appliances during a blackout.
While it serves as a great home power supply during an emergency, the MaxOak Bluetti is also portable enough take along on fishing or a road trip. It includes two AC ports and five USB outlets and a 12-volt DC outlet that can handle a mini-fridge. There’s also a nifty LCD display to help you track the generator’s performance.
Output: 1000 watts | Weight: 37.9 pounds | Dimensions: 14.6 x 6.5 x 14.4 inches | Output Ports: 2 110 Volt AC outlets, 1 12 Volt regulated DC, 45 watt USB-C, 4 USB-A ports
If you’re looking for something high powered to help you weather a storm, the Yeti 1500X Portable Power Station is our top choice. If you need something portable for a camping trip, then the Jackery 500W might be your best new travel buddy.
What To Look for in a Solar Generator
When deciding what solar powered generator is right for you, consider which types of appliances, tools, and devices you need to charge and how often you’ll be without a traditional power source. Here are some other tips to help guide your decision-making.
There are three common types of solar panels—monocrystalline panels, polycrystalline solar cells, and thin film, or amorphous crystal panels. They each offer different efficiency levels. Monocrystalline panels are most common and slightly more efficient than polycrystalline cells. Thin film panels are a newer technology and are light, flexible, durable, and more affordable than the others, but about half as efficient as the other types. Sometimes they’re included with the generator and sometimes they’re sold separately.
Battery Capacity and Power Rating
Solar generators run on stored energy so you’ll want to consider the battery’s capacity (the total amount of electricity stored). You’ll also want to know the power rating (how much power is delivered at a time). A battery with a high capacity, but low power rating typically delivers less electricity for a longer period of time.
Lead-acid and lithium-ion are the most common options. Lead acid are used to power things like automobiles, while lithium-ion options are often used to run power tools. They’re increasingly used in solar-powered generators because they’re lightweight. While they tend to be more expensive than lead-acid varieties, they typically have a longer lifespan which saves money on replacement batteries and keeps them out of landfills.
In order to regulate the current between the solar panels and the battery, the simplest controllers cut the power when maximum voltage is reached. This isn’t as efficient as models that use three- power point tracking (MPPT).
Converting direct current (DC) from solar panels to alternating current (AC), inverters carry a watt rating to show the maximum output of power they can generate. Pure sine wave inverters are more expensive, but more efficient. But they’re not necessarily a cost-effective option if you only plan on using the generator occasionally.
Will you be using your solar generator in your home or on the go? For portability, look for units that are easier to carry and maneuver, and that house parts in a sturdy box rather than as separate pieces.
Note the presence of multiple USB ports and AC outlets, replaceable batteries, and LED panels that help you monitor your system when it’s dark. Finally, consider the length of a unit’s warranty, or any other manufacturer grantees.
When determining the size of generator, you’ll want to look at output measured in watts, as well as storage capacity measured in watt hours (Wh). As a general rule of thumb, generators with under 1000 Wh can keep electronics charged, and are great for camping. To power many devices in your home for longer, you’ll want a large generator with around 1500 Wh capacity.
If you want to keep those devices charging and in use for five hours:
So, in this case you’d want a generator with at least 85 watts of output and 425 Wh of capacity. When in doubt, round up. For another way to calculate your needs, you may find this explainer from the manufacturer Jackery helpful.
Keep in mind that most solar generators do not connect to your home’s electrical panel, so they won’t power hard-wired devices like your hot water heater or ceiling lights; for that type of power you’ll want to consider a home battery system.
Solar generators should last at least 20 to 25 years. Many manufacturers offer warranties that cover repairs and replacements should anything malfunction within the first few years of use.
Most high-capacity solar generators cost between 1000 and 2000. Generally speaking, larger generators cost more than smaller, portable devices. The generators on the list range from between 140 and 3,400 without taking into account sales or discounts.
Why Trust Treehugger?
Treehugger is committed to helping our readers transition away from fossil fuels, and we deeply researched the market to find the best generators compatible with solar panels.
A travel and adventure writer for many years, author Heidi Wachter knows how handy the sun’s rays can be for keeping her phone and camera charged.
Maggie Badore is an environmental reporter and editor based in New York City. She started at Treehugger in 2013 and is now the Associate Editorial Director.