The best solar generators
Solar generators are eco-friendly power sources in the event of a power outage, emergency, or for camping out in the woods. These portable generators power up from the sun using solar panels and enable you to charge everything electrical, from smartphones to appliances. Unlike gas-run emergency generators, they don't emit pollution or require fossil fuels. Many models are easy to transport, compact, and lightweight.
If you're not sure where to start when it comes to shopping for a solar generator, our guide supplies all you need to know about finding the right generator for you, including our product recommendations. Our top pick is from Renogy and stands out for its built-in solar panel and hassle-free setup.
Benefits of solar generators
Solar generators are essentially power banks that you can plug electrical devices into. They contain a solar panel that collects energy from the sun, which charges a battery inside the unit. This battery charges your devices.
Compared to standard generators, solar generators have numerous benefits. They are more environmentally friendly because they don't pollute or use fossil fuels. Since they don't have a gas tank or moving parts, they tend to be smaller, lighter, and easier to transport. They are silent, unlike loud conventional generators, and are cheaper to use. Lastly, they are better suited to emergency situations where fuel may not be available.
Considerations when choosing solar generators
Larger batteries in solar generators store more power and last longer. Consider the watt-hour (Wh) rating of the generator as well as the wattage of the device you want to charge. For instance, a 150Wh generator will only charge a 100-watt device for 30 minutes of use.
An important consideration is how long it takes your solar generator to charge before it's ready to use. This can depend on the size of the battery and the size of the solar panel. Some models can also be charged using an AC outlet, either for indoor use or on a cloudy day.
Consider what you intend to use your solar generator for when deciding on size. If you're looking for a generator to take on camping trips so you don't miss your electrical conveniences, select one with smaller dimensions and a lighter weight. High-output solar generators tend to be too large for easy travel.
Because the power stored inside solar generators is DC and most appliances are AC, we recommend selecting a generator with a built-in inverter that converts DC to AC and makes your life a whole lot easier.
Solar generators either have all their solar panels integrated into an all-in-one model or have solar panels that plug in individually. All-in-one models are generally less of a hassle but may be more expensive.
Solar generators range in price from $100 to $2,000. Low-priced models (up to 200Wh) cost between $100 and $200. However, these generators may not include solar panels, which must be purchased separately. Mid-range models (up to 600Wh) cost between $200 and $500. Premium solar generators for the serious survivalist cost between $500 and $2,000.
Q. What do I do if it's cloudy or rainy and I need to charge up my solar generator?
A. The one drawback to solar generators is that they won't charge without exposure to sunlight. To remedy this, most models allow you to charge from regular AC power outlets or even via the 12V charger port in your car.
Q. Do solar generators come with adapter cables?
A. Solar generators typically come with a range of ports for plugging in appliances. That being said, you might need a separate adapter to charge the unit from an AC power outlet or 12V socket. Be aware of any adapters you need, and check to see if a particular model comes with the relevant adapter cables.
Solar generators we recommend
Best of the best: Renogy Phoenix Portable Generator All-in-One Solar Kit
Our take: An all-in-one solar generator that comes with extra solar panels.
What we like: Includes a replaceable battery and extra solar panels you can plug in to increase charging speed. Portable.
What we dislike: Takes 10-plus hours to charge if only using the built-in solar panel.
Best bang for your buck: Goal Zero Yeti 150 Portable Power Station
Our take: A high-quality portable solar generator at a low price.
What we like: Compact. Charges quickly, either via solar panel or an AC outlet. Battery life is more than eight hours.
What we dislike: Minor problem with LED indicator giving inaccurate readings.
Our take: Long-lasting solar power that's ideal for use in emergency situations.
What we like: Boasts 14 hours of continuous use. Multiple inputs and AC/DC output options. Reliable.
What we dislike: Solar panels and connectors not included.
Ana Sanchez is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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