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Taking Care of Your Portable Solar Generator: Ultimate Guide to Maintenance. Zero solar generator

Taking Care of Your Portable Solar Generator: Ultimate Guide to Maintenance. Zero solar generator

    The best solar generators to take you off the grid

    The Yeti 1000 Core makes Goal Zero’s Yeti 1000X more affordable without cutting corners or compromising on durability.

    • Super-tough exterior is ready for adventure
    • Enough power for larger tools, devices, and appliances
    • Can be charged with one or more Goal Zero solar panels
    • Cannot be chained with other Goal Zero batteries
    • Performance is slightly limited compared to the Yeti 1000X to compete at this price
    • Not worth the upcharge for indoor use

    An affordable price and user-friendly interface make this a great option for beginners exploring solar energy for the first time.

    • Affordable without being cheap
    • Color display is easy to understand
    • Variety of AC and DC output ports
    • Low capacity compared to the alternatives on this list
    • Not weather-resistant
    • Charge times seem unnecessarily long

    An outstanding balance of power, weight, and price results in a versatile solar generator you can count on.

    • Super-fast recharge time
    • Can be paired with external River batteries for more power
    • Packs 720 watt-hours into a 17-pound package
    • Not designed to power a home or RV
    • May be a case of too much and too little for some users
    • Fewer charging cycles than some of the alternatives

    We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.

    When it comes to being self-sufficient and prepared for anything, solar generators are one of the best investments you can make. When freak ice storms bombarded Texas in 2021, millions of people suddenly realized how perilous our access to energy actually is.

    Even though a full-scale home solar setup might price out a lot of homeowners (and all renters), solar generators like the ones we included on this list present a much more accessible alternative. All the solar generators we picked can be powered from a wall outlet and be used as an emergency reserve, but they can also be paired with solar panels to reduce your monthly electric bill. If you have a beer fridge in the garage or a space heater in a workshop, a small solar setup can pay itself off surprisingly quickly.

    A solar generator consists of a solar panel array and a power station. Both components are important; each can be used alone, but they do best as a team. We won’t suggest that it doesn’t matter which solar panels you choose, but most people will do well to decide on the power station first. That’s what we focused on for this gear guide. Once you choose the right one for you, decide how fast you need the battery topped off when you can’t access the grid and find a compatible solar array from that brand.

    There’s a lot more to learn before you make this kind of investment, so let’s identify some of the best solar generators and make sense of the technology that powers them.

    Methodology

    There was a time when, like most people, we thought solar energy was a simple concept: plug a solar panel into a solar generator and off you go. Enjoy your free electricity. It turns out that there’s a lot more to it than that. Solar energy that’s collected by one of several kinds of solar panels needs to be regulated to ensure safe delivery into the battery. The solar generator needs to convert stored energy into a form that can be used by devices that consume either alternating- or direct-current electricity.

    To make sure you got solid information, we spent days researching all of this and found some great resources to pass along. Armed with that information, we sought out solar generators that are adequate for several days of use on a single charge. Every product that made our list had to offer AC and DC charging. The ability to charge via solar panels was obviously a must, but we looked for solar generators that can be purchased individually so you have the flexibility to customize a setup to meet your specific needs. Finally, we gave priority to brands that either had a proven record of success or could provide a product for us to test for ourselves.

    Goal Zero Yeti 1000 Core

    One of the main reasons we buy solar generators is the fact that we don’t know what the future holds. Uncertainty is exactly where Goal Zero thrives, and the Yeti 1000 Core might be the best buy in its product lineup.

    Like many of the best solar generators, the Yeti 1000 Core has a storage capacity just 17 shy of 1,000 watt-hours. Where this one shines is performance in the face of the elements. In addition to being one of the oldest and most trusted manufacturers of solar products, Goal Zero has earned a reputation for making solar panels, generators, and batteries that can take a beating without letting you down.

    The Yeti 1000 Core can be charged with a maximum input of 300 watts, which is easily attainable with Goal Zero’s chainable solar panels or the standard power cord. From there, the lithium-ion battery can handle coolers, grills, and other camping appliances. At 32 pounds, it’s an easy addition to your car camping setup or bug-out kit.

    The Yeti 1000 Core is based on the Yeti 1000X. Goal Zero is a premium brand and usually costs more than others. To close that gap, the company scaled back the Yeti 1000X to get the price more in line with the competition. We think the result hits a sweet spot for anyone looking to upgrade their camping experience and prepare for the worst at the same time.

    • Storage: 983 watt-hours
    • Maximum input: 300 watts
    • Maximum regulated output: 1,200 watts
    • Maximum surge output: 2,400 watts
    • Battery chemistry: Lithium-ion
    • Weight: 32 pounds

    A more affordable take on the popular Yeti 1000X

    Unflinchingly rugged construction is ready for adventure

    Charges in four hours with 300 watts of solar power

    Carbon-neutral shipping, headquarters, and warehouse

    Slightly less capable than the Yeti 1000x

    Cannot be chained with external batteries

    GoSun Power 550

    There’s a lot to learn about solar power for those who are new to the scene, and some products make getting up to speed easier than others. The GoSun might not have the chops of our other picks, but it’s so accessible and user-friendly that it deserves consideration by solar newcomers.

    GoSun doesn’t have the same brand recognition as the other manufacturers on our list, but we were able to get a Power 550 and 100-watt solar panel for testing. Both are about as user-friendly as it gets. The Power 550 includes a variety of AC and DC charging ports that can be used simultaneously. Its compact size and light weight are great for short trips or working off-grid. We used ours to charge household electronics and power things like heated blankets during the winter. The color display is one of the largest we’ve seen, and it makes it easy to monitor input, output, battery life, and the status of all active ports. Someone who has no knowledge of solar generators would be in pretty good shape with this one.

    In terms of outright performance, the Power 550 lags behind the other options on this list. It takes quite a while to charge and is not weather-resistant. You aren’t going to find this on any prepper’s gear list. On the other hand, it’s a great way to keep your laptop, phone, and earbuds charged. If vanlife or remote weekend getaways are your idea of a good time — and learning the ins and outs of solar energy is not — this is a solid choice.

    taking, care, your, portable, solar, generator
    • Storage: 550 watt-hours
    • Maximum input: 300 watts
    • Maximum regulated output: 600 watts
    • Maximum surge output: 1,200 watts
    • Battery chemistry: Lithium-ion
    • Weight: 15 pounds

    Affordable way to get into the solar game

    Detailed, user-friendly color display

    Nice selection of AC and DC power ports

    Better suited to small devices

    Long charge times for its size

    EcoFlow River Pro

    For most people, choosing between a 500-watt-hour solar generator and a 1,000-watt-hour solar generator is an easy decision. If you’re the exception to the rule, The EcoFlow River Pro might be just what you need. This 720-watt-hour solar generator offers high-end quality at a more accessible price by cutting down on power you don’t need.

    Charging time is the River Pro’s party trick. You can achieve a full charge in about 90 minutes. From there, the River Pro is powerful enough to charge your phone more than a hundred times or run a refrigerator for at least eight hours. Its array of charging ports lets you power 10 devices at the same time and access a maximum regulated output of 600 watts. If that’s not enough, you can add an extra battery to bring the available power up to 1,440 watt-hours. The lithium-ion battery keeps things light, so the whole package weighs in at just 17 pounds. EcoFlow backs up the River Pro with a two-year warranty and 24-hour customer service.

    Versatility is this solar generator’s greatest strength, but it can also be a drawback. For some buyers, 720 watt-hours is inadequate; for others, it’s excessive. That’s the price of occupying the middle ground. Still, it’s one of the best solar generators out there if you want something fast and reliable.

    • Storage: 720 watt-hours
    • Maximum input: 660 watts
    • Maximum regulated output: 600 watts
    • Maximum surge output: 1,200 watts
    • Battery chemistry: Lithium-ion
    • Weight: 17 pounds

    Recharge time is impressively fast

    Add external River batteries to increase capacity

    Surprisingly light for its segment

    Charging ports for 10 devices

    Inadequate power for a home or RV

    Shorter lifespan than some of the competition

    Bluetti AC300

    When it comes to specialized gear, what some see as a disadvantage may be a major selling point for someone else. That’s true of the Bluetti AC300, which corners a unique market with unconventional battery chemistry.

    taking, care, your, portable, solar, generator

    Every other solar generator on this list uses a lithium-ion battery. That’s primarily because lithium-ion batteries can store more energy per pound, making them the go-to battery when weight is a concern. The Bluetti AC300 uses a lithium iron phosphate battery that’s significantly heavier. That’s fine by us because it holds a charge slightly longer, can survive more charge cycles, and is more stable. If you want to power your cabin or super-secret hideout, this is the way to go. We suppose it would also be fine to keep in your garage as a backup power source, even though that’s less exciting.

    This kit combines an AC300 solar generator and a B300 external battery (with more batteries and solar panels available). That combination isn’t cheap, especially considering the solar charger starts with a considerable 3,000-watt-hour capacity. It’s also heavy, as we mentioned. Given all the pros and cons, this is probably the best solar generator to leave unattended, worry-free, for long periods of time.

    • Storage: 3,000 watt-hours
    • Maximum input: 5,400 watts
    • Maximum regulated output: 3,000 watts
    • Maximum surge output: 6,000 watts
    • Battery chemistry: lithium iron phosphate
    • Weight: 48 pounds

    One-stop package for an off-grid setup

    Add up to two external batteries and three solar panels

    Fast charge times improve power capabilities

    Lithium iron phosphate battery offers more charge cycles than lithium-ion

    Far heavier than lithium-ion solar generators

    Not a good portable option

    EcoFlow River Mini

    If the EcoFlow River checks all your boxes but weighs too much, the River Mini is what you need. This compact, portable solar generator bridges the gap between full-size solar generators and.size power banks.

    The River Mini’s 200-watt-hour storage capacity is perfect for keeping your phone, laptop, earbuds, and smartwatch powered up on the go. Instead of targeting homeowners and preppers, EcoFlow built the River Mini for people who want to work (or play) remotely without having to compete for a plug at the local coffee shop or call it a day when batteries start dying. It recharges in 90 minutes and can be controlled with an app. The whole thing weighs just six pounds and costs less than 240 on sale (at the time of writing). A wireless charging option is available if you’re willing to spend a little more.

    Unlike the other options on this list, the River Mini isn’t the best solar generator for camping, powering your home during a power outage, or bringing your campsite into the modern era. What it can do is go places the others can’t. Toss it in your backpack (or even your go-bag) for a little extra juice when a handheld power bank doesn’t cut it.

    • Storage: 210 watt-hours
    • Maximum input: 100 watts
    • Maximum regulated output: 300 watts
    • Maximum surge output: 600 watts
    • Battery chemistry: NMC lithium-ion
    • Weight: 6 pounds

    Extremely light and portable

    Fully charges in 90 minutes

    Can be monitored and controlled with an app

    Run input and output simultaneously

    Low power output cannot support larger devices

    Wireless charging option costs 100 more

    Goal Zero Yeti 6000X

    To a lot of people, Goal Zero represents the best solar generators on the market. If they’re right, the Yeti 6000X might be as good as it gets because this behemoth occupies the top spot on the company’s power station food chain.

    The Yeti 6000X goes far beyond what most consumers need by offering more than 6,000 watt-hours of energy, 2,000 watts of continuous, regulated output, and a surge output of 3,500 watts. It can be recharged by up to 600 watts and can handle Goal Zero’s highest-output solar panels. As if all that wasn’t enough, it can be combined with external Goal Zero batteries to stockpile even more electricity off the grid. If you’re looking for a power backup for your home, this is the one to have. It’s a powerful workhorse that can keep power-thirsty appliances up and running when the power lines fail you.

    The Yeti 6000X comes at a hefty price, and costs will go up significantly if you want to get the most out of it with premium solar panels and batteries. Even though the power station comes on a rolling cart, 106 pounds is too much for practical camping and outdoor adventure. This is one solar generator that will probably be parked in your garage or basement and left alone.

    • Storage: 6,071 watt-hours
    • Maximum input: 600 watts
    • Maximum regulated output: 2,000 watts
    • Maximum surge output: 3,500 watts
    • Battery chemistry: Lithium-ion
    • Weight: 106 pounds

    Incredibly powerful, self-contained home power backup

    Can be paired with additional batteries for even more power

    Adequate for multiple large appliances like refrigerators and power tools

    Extremely durable and well-built

    Includes a cart, but not practically mobile

    Expensive to supply with maximum solar power

    Jackery Explorer 500

    If you follow the overlanding and car camping communities, you’ll get the impression that Jackery is the brand to have. These orange solar power stations are becoming increasingly common sights on the trails and roads less traveled because they’re rugged, affordable, and get the job done.

    Jackery solar generators seem to be one of the more trusted brands among consumers. Power stations like the Explorer 500 offer the performance people need for off-grid adventures, but keep costs down by eliminating features that aren’t essential. Sure, the housing looks like a plastic lunchbox and the screen could have been made in the 1980s, but you’d rather look at amazing natural views than your power station anyway. The Explorer 500 is built to be thrown in the back of your truck or SUV, taken to a campsite, and used to get the sun’s energy into smaller electronic devices like your camera and laptop.

    With a capacity of 500 watt-hours, the Explorer isn’t cut out for larger charging jobs like refrigerators and heaters. For that, Jackery offers the Explorer 1000 and 1500. This one’s just right for overnight trips or car camping adventures where you’ll have plenty of opportunities to recharge the battery.

    • Storage: 518 watt-hours
    • Maximum input: 100 watts
    • Maximum regulated output: 500 watts
    • Maximum surge output: 1,000 watts
    • Battery chemistry: Lithium-ion
    • Weight: 13 pounds

    Built to endure hard use outdoors

    No-frills approach cuts costs without sacrificing quality

    Balance of power and portability

    Built-in light helps with after-dark setup

    Not as many features as higher-end solar generators

    Charge times are on the longer side

    Our verdict on solar generators

    At the end of the day, choosing the best solar generator for you comes down to capabilities. In most cases, we recommend the Goal Zero Yeti 1000 Core for its rugged reliability and just-right capacity. Alternatively, you can save a lot of money with a GoSun Power 550, which makes getting into solar energy intuitive and affordable. If you want to take your home off-grid with uninterrupted access to power, go big and hook up a Goal Zero Yeti 6000X with a few extra batteries and some permanent solar panels.

    What to consider when buying solar generators

    Investing in a solar power station can be a big investment, especially if you’re trying to power your home or RV. Doing a little homework about the types of systems available and their requirements can save you a lot of trouble (and money) in the long run. Hell, it might even make you money.

    Types of solar generators

    People began using the sun’s energy long before the solar generators we think of today came into being. A lens or piece of reflective material can be used to FOCUS solar energy to create heat. Magnifying glasses can be used to start a fire; reflective panels can boil water in the field. Linear concentration systems like the one found in the Gosun Go camp stove can generate enough heat to cook a meal without any fuel except for daylight. The kinds of solar generators we’ll FOCUS on, though, are ones that turn sunlight into electricity.

    Portable solar generators

    The easiest and most affordable way to take advantage of solar energy is with a portable system that contains all the components you need. The best portable solar generators are about the size of a lunchbox and have the ability to provide electricity via three-prong wall outlets, 12-volt outlets like the one in your car, and various sizes of USB ports. A display that shows how much power is being delivered and how much remains on tap will let you manage your consumption off-grid. How much power a given generator can store will depend on its size.

    Even though you can typically charge your power station from the wall or your car, solar panels are preferable for their free access to solar energy. Be prepared to buy your panels separately from your solar power station, although some vendors do offer complete kits. There is some variety in the efficiency of various panel designs, but bigger is generally better when it comes to power output. Make sure you choose panels that are appropriate for your power station and energy needs.

    Solar generators for home use

    As of 2020, solar power plants produced a very small portion of the energy used in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean it can’t work (and be profitable) for you on an individual basis. The U.S. Department of Energy lists seven steps to take to equip your home with solar power. Basically, homeowners need to conduct an energy audit to see how much electricity they consume, then compare that figure to the energy potential of their property based on factors like available space, budget, light exposure, and weather patterns.

    Solar panels are great at producing power, but they can’t store it. To keep your house operational around the clock, you’ll need batteries to store the electricity and a means of converting it to a form your appliances and devices can use. There’s a lot of important technology and careful math involved in setting up a solar generator for your home, but it can be done and systems are getting increasingly affordable. Many states also offer financial incentives to go solar.

    Key features of solar generators

    Solar panels

    Solar panels are the components of a power system that capture the sun’s energy, to begin with. Underneath a clear, protective outer layer are rows of monocrystalline or polycrystalline silicon cells that absorb solar energy. A junction box on the back of each panel serves as the connection point between two panels or a panel and your generator and ensures that electricity only flows in one direction. All of your panels together are called an array. If you have a lot of electronics to power, need to recharge in a hurry, or have poor access to sunlight, increasing the size of your array can help you stay on top of your energy needs.

    Because solar panels are intended for use outside, they’re built to be very durable. Don’t worry too much about the weather, but be careful not to bend or otherwise abuse your solar panels and risk cracking them. If you want to build a rooftop deck for your RV or overlanding vehicle, something a little more durable is a Smart investment.

    Power station

    If solar panels are the muscle of your off-grid power system, the power station is the brain of the operation. The first component your newly collected energy will encounter is the charge controller, which regulates the in-flow of electricity to your battery and protects it from damage. The battery itself can be a traditional lead-acid battery in some cases (usually in a home or vehicle), but portable systems use more advanced lithium-ion or lithium iron phosphate batteries. Direct-current electronics can use power directly from the battery, but most plug-in devices require alternating current. An inverter inside the power station converts electricity into this form so you can use it with common two- or three-prong electrical plugs.

    Power stations come in a range of sizes. As size (and cost) increase, power stations gain the capacity to power larger, more demanding appliances for longer periods of time. isn’t necessarily better; make sure to figure out how much power you really need before maxing out your budget.

    taking, care, your, portable, solar, generator

    Power output

    When we talk about electrical output, we use watts and hours as a basis for comparison. A modern LED light bulb can provide the same amount of light as a 60-watt incandescent bulb for an hour on less than 10 watts. The charger on my old laptop is labeled with 45 watts, meaning it can transfer 45 watts from the grid to my laptop’s battery in one hour. My work laptop’s charger is newer and more powerful, so it can deliver 61 watts per hour. The batteries in your various devices just need to charge for a short period of time, but other items require constant power.

    If you want a solar generator for home use, you’ll need to take into account all the electronics you don’t usually think about, but have a high electrical draw. Refrigerators, for example, need anywhere from 300 to 800 watts per hour. That’s why it’s important to conduct an inventory of the electronics you want to power in the event you lose access to the power grid and prepare enough capacity to handle the workload.

    Once you have a working baseline for your power needs in terms of watts per hour, compare that to a solar generator. Always overestimate your needs, because battery performance is affected by several factors and you shouldn’t expect to extract the full wattage. We found a great video breakdown of this if you want to learn more. Continuous and surge capacity also come into play (meaning varying power needs and the maximum rate power can be extracted from your generator), but those measurements are less of an issue for most people. Keep your draw well below the surge capacity on your generator, and you should be fine.

    Pricing considerations for solar generators

    Solar generator pricing is directly tied to power capacity. Portable options like the lightweight EcoFlow River Mini cost as little as 240 if you catch the sales at the right time. Most of our picks fall between 500 and 1,000; they’re suitable for car camping and powering your home’s essential electronics in an emergency. At the top end of the market are powerhouses like the massive Goal Zero Yeti 6000X at 6,000. Remember that more isn’t necessarily better. There’s no need to buy more power than you need, and sometimes it’s best to have light, portable gear — especially when it comes to emergency preparedness.

    Tips and tricks

    Getting a solid understanding of solar power takes a lot of research (ask us how we know) and it’s especially important to get the technical details right if you plan on assembling your own system from scratch. There are a few ways to make life a little easier, so let us grease the skids for you with some helpful tips.

    • Test your electronics with a watt meter to identify the right size of portable solar generator for your house or campsite.
    • Most solar generators can also charge from a wall outlet. Don’t wait until you need electricity to break out the solar panels; start with a full charge and use them right away to stay charged.
    • Electric coolers and camping refrigerators may not need constant power. You might be able to keep food cool with occasional power from your solar generator.
    • Solar generators are perfect for bug-out or disaster situations. Keep yours charged and choose a size that you’re capable of transporting easily.
    • Batteries don’t respond well to going flat. Check your power station’s owner’s manual and store it within the optimum charge range, if there is one.
    • Not all solar generators are built to withstand the elements, so pick one that’s weather-resistant if you plan on using it outdoors.

    FAQs on solar generators

    You’ve got questions, Task Purpose has answers.

    taking, care, your, portable, solar, generator

    Q: Are solar generators safe?

    A: Yes, solar generators are generally very safe. In fact, The Hartford lists falling from the roof during installation as one of the biggest risks of using solar power. As with any electrical system, make sure you understand how everything works and double-check any work you do yourself.

    Q: What size solar generator should I get?

    A: Off-Grid Home has a good walkthrough for solar generator sizing, but the gist is that it depends on how much power you want. Use a watt meter to see exactly how much power a given appliance or device is currently using, then add up the consumption of everything you want to power.

    Q: How many years will a solar generator last?

    A: You can expect the best solar generators to last more than 25 years. Proper care is important to getting the most out of this technology, so read the manufacturer’s instructions for use and storage.

    Q: Can I run my house on solar power only?

    A: Many people power their entire house with solar energy and have electricity leftover that may be sold back to the power company. As technology advances, the time it takes for a solar power investment to pay itself off is getting shorter and shorter.

    Scott Murdock is a Task Purpose commerce writer and Marine Corps veteran. Since 2020, he’s selflessly committed himself to experiencing the best gear, gadgets, stories, and alcoholic beverages in the service of you, the reader. Contact the author here.

    Taking Care of Your Portable Solar Generator: Ultimate Guide to Maintenance

    Portable solar generators are a reliable source of power when you’re on the go, whether you’re camping, hiking, or in the middle of a power outage. However, to ensure your portable solar generator lasts as long as possible and continues to perform at its best, regular maintenance is crucial. In this guide, we’ll cover the key maintenance tips to keep your portable solar generator in top condition.

    With that said, let’s dive into the essential steps for taking care of your portable solar generator.

    Regular Cleaning for your Portable Power Station

    Keeping your portable solar generator free from debris and dust is crucial for its longevity. Simply wiping down the generator with a soft cloth can prevent the buildup of dirt and dust. We recommend a high quality, static-free microfiber cloth. These cloths are made of ultra-fine fibers that are effective at picking up even the smallest particles of dust and dirt. Unlike other cloths, microfiber doesn’t require the use of harsh chemicals or disinfectants to clean effectively. Using soap or detergents can actually reduce the effectiveness of the cloth. All you need is water, and a little bit goes a long way with microfiber. Not only is it effective at cleaning, but it is also lint-free, leaving no fibers or residue behind on your generator.

    Additionally, it’s important to clean solar panels regularly and inspect the battery and connections. The manufacturer’s manual provides specific maintenance instructions that you should follow.

    Never Overload your Portable Solar Power Station

    It’s crucial to never overload your solar unit, even though solar technology seems almost inexhaustible. Overloading happens when the total load on the device exceeds its carrying capacity. When this happens, the inverter is forced to handle multiple applications, which can cause the device to break down or malfunction. To avoid overloading your solar generator, always check the total rated watts of the inverter and never load more than the unit specifies.

    Additionally, be mindful of the devices you plug into your solar generator and their power requirements. Always refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure safe and optimal use of your solar generator.

    Have Proper Ventilation when using a Portable Solar Power Station

    It is crucial to use your portable solar generator in a well-ventilated area to ensure proper airflow and prevent any risk of overheating. Make sure to keep the generator away from any combustible materials or gases as they can pose a serious hazard. It is also important to avoid stacking anything on top of the unit while it is in use or storage as this can restrict airflow and lead to potential damage. Inadequate ventilation and improper storage can cause damage to the unit, so it is important to follow these guidelines to ensure the longevity of your portable solar generator. Consider placing it in an open space with good airflow or using a fan to enhance ventilation. Additionally, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for proper ventilation and storage to prevent any accidents or damage to the unit.

    Avoid Water, Always for your Portable Power Station

    While many solar-powered generators have waterproof cases that make them water-resistant, it’s important to remember that there are still limits to their tolerance for water. Most generators are designed to withstand accidental spills or splashes, but anything beyond that can lead to malfunctions and damage over time.

    To avoid any potential water damage to your portable solar generator, it’s best to treat even the strongest and most reliable generators as if it were not waterproof nor water resistant. Don’t intentionally let water enter or touch your generator, even if it has a waterproof case. This means avoiding use in wet or damp environments, and storing it in a dry location when not in use. By taking these simple precautions, you can ensure that your portable solar generator stays safe and functioning for years to come.

    Proper Storage for your Portable Power Generator

    When it comes to storing your portable solar generator, there are a few factors to consider to ensure its longevity.

    • The first thing to ensure proper storage of your solar power generator, is to ensure the unit itself is turned OFF. This will help prevent any discharge or damage to the battery and ensure that it’s ready to go when you need it.
    • The second thing to keep in mind is the temperature. You want to avoid exposing the generator to extreme heat or cold as it can damage the battery and reduce its overall lifespan. Therefore, it’s essential to find a location that remains at a consistent temperature, ideally between 50°F and 80°F.
    • The next factor to consider is humidity. High levels of humidity can lead to moisture buildup and potential damage to the generator’s components. Thus, it’s important to find a dry area to store your generator. A cool, dry basement or a climate-controlled garage are excellent options for storing your generator.
    • You should also avoid storing the generator in direct sunlight, which can cause the battery to overheat and damage the internal components. Instead, choose a spot that is shaded or covered.
    • Finally, make sure the storage area is free from dust and debris, as they can clog up the generator’s ventilation system and cause it to overheat. A clean and organized storage area can also prevent damage from accidental bumps or falls.

    Avoid Overcharging your Portable Solar Power Generator

    Overcharging is a common cause of damage to portable solar generators. It’s important to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for charging and use. This includes using the recommended charger and avoiding charging the generator for too long. It’s also important to keep an eye on the charging process and ensure that the generator is not left charging for longer than necessary.

    One common mistake people make is float charging their battery, which means keeping it at 100% charge constantly. While it might seem like a good idea to always have a fully charged battery, this practice can actually damage your generator’s battery over time. This is because constantly keeping the battery at full charge can cause it to lose its capacity and eventually fail.

    Cycle your Battery on your Portable Solar Power Generator

    Cycling your battery is essential to ensure you get the longest possible lifespan out of it. This involves using at least 25% of your battery’s capacity, then recharging it back up to around 50-75% capacity every six months. This process helps prevent your battery from staying at a full charge or a low charge for too long, which can both cause damage and reduce its overall lifespan.

    To cycle your battery and maximize its lifespan, follow these simple steps:

    • Use at least 25% of your battery’s capacity: Use your portable solar generator until it is at 75% capacity or below. This ensures that your battery is being used and prevents it from staying at a full charge for too long.
    • Recharge to 50-75% capacity: Once your battery is at 75% capacity or below, recharge it back up to 50-75% capacity. This range is optimal for long-term battery health and will help extend its lifespan.
    • Repeat every six months: It’s important to cycle your battery every six months to prevent it from staying at a full charge or low charge for too long. This will help keep your battery healthy and extend its overall lifespan.

    By following these simple steps, you can ensure that your portable solar generator’s battery remains healthy and functions optimally for years to come.

    Conclusion

    Regular maintenance is crucial to ensure your portable solar generator lasts long and performs at its best. By following these maintenance tips, you can ensure that your portable solar generator remains reliable and performs at its best for years to come. Remember to consult the manufacturer’s manual for specific maintenance instructions and enjoy your adventures with uninterrupted power.

    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)

    Key Features

    • 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)

    Key Features

    • 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

    Key Features

    • 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

    Key Features

    • 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
    • Heavy
    • 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.

    The best portable power stations: EcoFlow River 2 Max, Goal Zero Yeti 1500X and Jackery Solar Generator 1500 Pro on test

    Camping out in nature is one of life’s great pleasures. The gentle breeze against canvas, a babbling brook nearby, but hang on…is that a kettle we can hear boiling?

    Purists will bemoan the rise of tech in camping, preferring to leave their gadgets at home and embrace the outdoors, but for those that spend extended periods of time off-grid, the best portable power stations make up for the lack of electricity.

    There’s been an explosion in portable power stations in recent years, perhaps driven by the meteoric rise in #VanLife and choosing between them can be a bit of a minefield, with various figures thrown about for capacity, peak output, and recharging times.

    We took three of the best on a road trip around Scotland to see which is worth your money. Living out of our car, we’d need to power our fridge, recharge a laptop and camera equipment.

    The power stations we’d be relying on to keep us powered up are the Jackery Solar Generator 1500 Pro, Goal Zero Yeti 1500X and EcoFlow River 2 Max. All three had a smattering of USB A and C ports, 12V DC and a traditional three pin plug socket (or two).

    The best portable power stations

    EcoFlow RIVER 2 Max

    The River 2 Max is the smallest capacity power station we’ve got on test. sporting a capacity of 512Wh, a peak power of 500W and a surge of 1000W. It’s also the smallest unit, weighing 6.1kg, so is ideal for users where space is at a premium or those that don’t need a huge amount of capacity.The front is festooned with 9 outputs: two AC outlets, three USB A and a USB socket, as well as three 12v DC outlets, with one a cigarette lighter style. The USB C socket can deliver up 100w, so will happily charge a laptop without using an AC brick.

    Goal Zero Yeti 1500X

    On the complete opposite end of the price spectrum is the Yeti 1500X from Goal Zero. As the name might suggest, it has a 1515Wh battery, peak power output of 2000W and a surge of 3500W. It will draw 600W from the wall when charging and fully charges in three hours. It can also be charged using solar panels (available separately) and a bank of three Goal Zero Boulder panels will take between three and six hours depending on conditions.

    This is a serious bit of kit and could power a small house if needed. It’s slightly sparser on outputs than the EcoFlow with a single AC outlet, two USB A and two USB C sockets and three DC outputs. There’s no reason you couldn’t plug an extension lead into the AC outlet to power all your tech.

    All this power does come with a weight penalty, 20.7kg to be exact, so it’s not something to be lugging in and out of the car every time you need to use it.

    Jackery Solar Generator 1500 Pro

    Packing a very similar capacity to the Goal Zero Yeti, the 1500 Pro has a 1512Wh battery to keep everything juiced up. It has a peak AC output of 1800W with a surge of 3600W, which should be plenty for the majority of users.The Solar Generator aspect of the name comes from the inclusion of a solar panel in this kit. The 200W SolarSaga panel can fully charge the battery is 9.5 hours in direct sunlight. This time can be drastically reduced by using more panels. line up six and it’ll be charged up in a mere two hours.

    There are plenty of outputs too: two USB A ports and two USB C fast charge ports will keep your phone and other smaller devices topped up. There’s a pair of AC outlets as well as three 12V DC sockets, one of which is a cigarette style.

    It’s a weighty beast, however, tipping the scales at 17kg, but the integrated handle, that folds down when not in use, made lugging the Jackery around a lot easier.

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