Portable solar power generator sales are booming. With the increased demand for clean energy products, it’s no wonder that they’re so popular. And who doesn’t like the idea of a backup power source?
Most outdoor enthusiasts own portable generators. But they typically run on gas or diesel fuel.
Many folks have a hard time trusting solar power, and the generators have a mixed record. It’s worth taking a look at the pros and cons.
Let’s dive in!
What Is a Solar Power Generator?
Solar power generators work like their gas cousins but are fueled by the sun instead. Essentially, it’s a rechargeable battery connected to small solar panels. A converter and controller work together to manage the solar energy needed to charge the battery.
Solar generators are great for emergency or backup power. They’re also perfect for short trips, camping, and on-location business projects. In addition, the built-in USB ports are handy for charging phones, speakers, and other modern tech products.
But don’t worry; they have 12-volt sockets and AC outlets.
How Do Solar Generators Work?
Harnessing energy from the sun is easier than you might think. When sunlight hits solar panels, photovoltaic cells convert the light into DC electricity. With solar power generators, a charge controller regulates the flow of electricity. So when sunlight passes from the solar panels to the battery, the system does not get overloaded.
The DC electricity inside the battery is then converted to AC to power your devices. Most solar generators use lithium batteries. Just like your rechargeable batteries at home, only bigger. And instead of plugging it into a wall, the power source is sunlight.
Can You Rely on a Solar Power Generator?
In most scenarios, yes. Portable solar generators are designed for boondocking, camping, and power outages. Think of them as a tool to power a few things for a few hours to a few days.
But solar generators are different than solar panel systems. You’ll need a complete solar panel system to live off the grid. These are much larger, stationary setups that cost upwards of $20,000.
Solar power is entirely reliable. You need to remember that recharging them takes some time and that they’re made for short-term use.
Pro Tip: Know these 5 Misconceptions About Solar Generators before you buy.
The Benefits of a Solar Generator
Solar-powered generators are one of many state-of-the-art gadgets in the renewable energy market. Sustainability and caring for our planet have taken priority over comfort for some. Luckily, solar gives you a little bit of both.
Solar generators give you more power per inch than traditional gas varieties. While conventional portable generators weigh anywhere from 60 to 250 pounds, solar gennies are usually 5 to 65. Some even come with pull handles and wheels.
Hikers love solar power because small models easily fit in a backpack making recharging your phone a breeze. You can use them to power your speakers seaside or on a picnic with friends.
Good for the Environment
Gen Z and millennials will tell you that anything run by renewable energy instead of fossil fuel is a win. So these solar chargers are where it’s at. They don’t create air pollution like gas-run machines do. In addition, they’re much safer to use since you don’t have to worry about carbon monoxide poisoning.
They are so safe that you can use them for lighting in tricky crawlspaces or anywhere without windows. You’ll just have to keep an eye on the power.
Did we mention the free energy part? Once you buy a solar power generator, the odds are you will have to invest very little to maintain it. Since they have no moving parts, there’s less odd in needing repairs. Standard machines are mini engines with a starter, hoses, washers, and a fuel tank. Plenty of things to replace at the hardware store.
But solar power generators require much less maintenance. Since they last 20 to 30 years, many even consider them as an investment opportunity.
Traditional portables make a lot of noise. They sound like a humming motor and can make a funny windup sound upon ignition. When professional film crews use them on location, they have to place a crew member by each one to turn them on and off during takes. Quiet on the set, please!
Solar-powered generators, on the other hand, don’t make a sound. You could use them on a meditation retreat in the wilderness, and no one would know.
Easy to Use
As you may have gathered, solar power generators are very easy to use. You turn them on by flipping a switch. And you recharge them by placing them in the sun. There are only four parts, so the likelihood of on-the-spot troubleshooting is slim to none.
With a solar-powered generator, you just set it and forget it!
The Disadvantages of a Solar Generator
Although we love solar energy products, there are some cons to consider. Ultimately, whether they fit your lifestyle will depend on how these cons weigh in.
Upfront costs for a solar-powered generator can cost almost twice as much as gas or diesel. Depending on size and capacity, you’re looking at anywhere from $150 to $2500. But the cost may even out when considering the money you’d later spend on maintaining a fuel run genny.
The price is most likely worth it if you use it a lot. On the other hand, sticking with gas offers the benefit of familiarity. So spending more money may not be worth it.
Solar Power Generators Require Sun
Scientists working during the winter in Antarctica aren’t going to use portable solar generators. They’re not ideal for long winters or places with limited sun access. You need to let it sit and regenerate power in a sunny area.
In addition, if your battery power runs you, you have to wait for the recharge. And how fast the energy runs out depends on what you have plugged into it. So there’s a lag time since you can’t just fill it up with gas and restart it.
Pro Tip: We uncovered The Best Solar Generators worth investing in.
Is a Solar Power Generator Worth It?
Yes. Solar power generators are an excellent investment for anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors. Especially if you have work projects which require electricity. You can get light models that you can easily carry on a hike. Or you can use bigger ones for long camping trips or backup power for your RV.
Since renewable energy products are still advancing and changing, be sure to do some research before you leap. Your decision will depend on when and how you use it.
Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA
To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy).
You should give it a try!
As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.
Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers who love to score the best site!
We’ll send you the 50 Best Free Campsites in the USA (one per state). Access the list by submitting your email below: