Choosing a Solar Inverter Generator
The best solar generators combine a high-capacity rechargeable power station (a big battery) with portable solar panels to provide backup and off-grid power. They’re quieter and require less maintenance than traditional gas-powered generators.
They use an inverter to convert direct current electricity stored in the battery into alternating current (AC) power needed for household appliances and devices. They also typically feature AC outlets and USB ports.
How They Work
A solar generator pairs a large-capacity rechargeable power station—a big battery, at its core—with portable solar panels to create a versatile backup source of electricity for home emergencies and off-grid activities like camping and tailgating. They’re far quieter and easier to maintain than gas generators, and they don’t emit outdoor led solar lights any harmful emissions. Many feature a lithium-ion battery that’s lighter, more durable and has a longer lifespan than lead-acid batteries.
Solar generators use an inverter to convert direct current (DC) energy from the solar panels into alternating current (AC), the type of electricity used by appliances and home electrical systems. It also regulates the flow of electricity from the solar panels into the batteries, preventing overcharging and protecting the battery life of your solar generator.
Most solar generators include USB ports that provide power for charging phones and small devices. The number of ports varies by unit, from two to four on smaller units to as many as six or eight on larger ones. They usually offer a mix of USB-A 2.4-volt and 5-volt ports and USB-C with power delivery (PD) ports in various capacities from 18W to 100W.
Inverters also help utilities balance supply and demand on their electric grids by providing a variety of “grid services.” These include reactive power, which brings voltage and current back into sync across networks, and frequency support, which helps stabilize the grid without the need for turbine-based generation.
The battery capacity, which is measured in watt-hours (Wh), is the most important specification to consider when choosing a solar generator. The higher the capacity, the more power it can hold and provide in a single charge. However, larger capacities come at a price in terms of size and weight.
The type of battery used is also important, and manufacturers use a variety of lithium-ion chemical formulations in their batteries. Generally, the most popular battery is lithium nickel manganese cobalt (NMC), but lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) is becoming increasingly common in solar generators because it offers faster charging and discharging and more charge cycles than NMC batteries.
Since most solar generators don’t have built-in storage, it is important to carefully consider how much power you need before making a purchase. A few hours of charging a smartphone or running a fan might not require much power, but running a refrigerator may significantly draw more from the battery and exceed its capacity.
In addition, it’s worth considering the maximum input wattage that the solar panel water pump inverter accepts from solar panels. This will help you avoid runaway loads that could damage or overtax your unit. For instance, a 70W stand fan and a 60W AstroAI 15L refrigerator/freezer will draw more than 1,600W of combined power, which would quickly overtax a medium-sized solar generator.
A solar generator’s power capacity is based on the max wattage that its built-in inverter can handle. Since appliances draw AC electricity, an inverter must convert its stored DC power into the same kind of energy that your devices require before they can use it. This is why it’s important to know what you want to power and for how long.
A good rule of thumb is to get a solar generator that is around twice the size of your highest load’s continuous wattage. This ensures that you have enough power for your appliances when you need them and still have sufficient energy left over to recharge the battery when necessary.
Solar generators typically have various outlets and ports that let you run several appliances at once. They also often include USB and USB-C charging ports that can recharge mobile devices quickly and efficiently. Many also have an AC outlet or two for more demanding electronics like laptops and TVs.
You can find solar generators that only require you to add solar panels to get going, but others come with a complete setup that includes the solar panel, charger, and generator all in one package. For example, the Lion Energy Safari ME is a great option for people who are new to solar power as it comes with everything needed to start charging your appliances straight away. The device has a heavy-duty design with outdoor-rated briefcase-style 100W metal panels and thick cables terminating in Anderson connections. It also has a 922-Wh base LFP/LiFePO4 battery that is expandable to 2,970 Wh and a 2,000W inverter.
A solar generator pairs a high-capacity rechargeable power station with portable solar panels to create an off-grid backup that’s also useful for camping, tailgating and other outdoor activities. They’re safer to operate and far more flexible than gas-powered generators, too.
They use four different key components to turn sunlight into power: solar panels, a battery charger, a charge controller and an inverter. The solar panels convert the sun’s energy into direct current (DC) electricity that then passes through the battery charger and is stored in the batteries. The inverter converts the DC energy into alternating current (AC) power, which is what runs most appliances and devices in your home.
Some solar generators come with USB ports so you can plug in and charge your phones or other gadgets while you’re using them. Others have display screens and other user interfaces that provide real-time information like state of charge, wattage output and estimated times to charge or deplete. Others feature wireless capabilities and mobile apps that allow you to monitor and control the generator remotely.
In terms of outputting wattage, solar generators are rated in a range from 500W on the small end to 2,000W or more on the large side. A unit’s wattage rating will help you determine what kind of appliances and devices you can run simultaneously without overtaxing the system.