Long gone are the days when solar energy was restricted to only residential and commercial properties or industrial facilities. Rapid developments in solar technology over the years have led to the invention of portable solar energy systems such as portable solar generators.
A portable solar generator is an ideal energy backup solution that provides homeowners as well as off-grid enthusiasts clean and reliable energy on the go. Offering almost all the benefits of a conventional solar panel system, a solar portable generator is the perfect energy source to power your RV, off-grid adventures, and your home during power cuts.
This article will explain what solar generators are, how they work, and why they are perfect for off-grid living.
What Is a Solar Portable Generator?
Any energy generation system that produces power using solar radiation (sunlight) as the only input can, technically, be labeled as a solar generator. However, when most people use the term “solar generator,” they refer to a portable power station or energy storage unit that runs off of portable solar panels instead of gas or any other fossil fuel.
Keeping in this context, we can define a solar portable generator as a portable battery storage system that can be charged by solar panels. It is worth knowing, however, that most modern solar generators support various charging modes in addition to solar panels.
Unlike your typical batteries, a solar generator comprises multiple components which includes a battery, inverter, charge controller, and, of course, solar panels. Additionally, these portable solar generator systems can be transported to different locations and do not require an expert electrician for their installation.
This makes these portable solar generators an ideal solution for powering your camping trip, RV, boat, or tools and equipment. You can even get a solar generator for your house in order to keep your home powered during power outages and blackouts.
How Does a Solar Portable Generator Work?
As mentioned before, a portable solar generator unit consists of a few main parts which includes the solar panels, charge controller, battery, and the inverter. The working of a solar generator starts off from the solar panels. The panels harness the sunlight incident on them and convert it into electrical energy. The electrical output from the solar panels is DC (direct current).
Variations in the intensity of the incident sunlight, partial shading, and various other factors can lead to fluctuations in the electrical output from your solar panels, this is where a charge controller comes into play.
The charge controller regulates the voltage to and from the battery in order to prevent the battery from overcharging and over-discharging. This helps prevent rapid deterioration of the battery and contributes to extending its cycle life.
Speaking of battery, the battery of a solar generator that stores the electrical output coming from the solar panels and regulated by the charge controller. The battery allows you to use solar energy at your convenience, whenever you need it, regardless of whether it’s night or day. Generally, most modern solar panel systems, portable or not, use lithium-ion batteries since they have a higher battery energy density, lifespan, and deeper discharges than most other battery types.
Finally, you have the inverter. The main purpose of an inverter is to convert the DC output from the solar panels to AC since most of our appliances and electrical gadgets are designed to operate on AC electricity.
Solar generators usually have multiple ports which include AC outlets, USB A, USB C, cigarette lighter ports, and DC outlets. This gives you the flexibility to power practically anything device as long as the capacity of your generator can accommodate it.
Why You Need a Solar Portable Generator
Perhaps the most obvious advantage of using a portable solar generator is that it offers you completely free of cost energy. Seeing as how sunlight is the only input a solar generator needs to produce electricity, you can set up your system anywhere that has a good amount of sunlight and you can enjoy free and clean energy instantaneously. This means that portable solar generators essentially cost you almost nothing beyond the initial purchasing cost.
In contrast, a typical gas generator obligates you to purchase and carry gas with you everywhere you go, that is if you need portable energy. The money you’ll have spent on gas over the years will have totaled into an astronomical amount which could have been better spent elsewhere.
Gas generators comprise a variety of static and dynamic parts, such as cylinders, shafts, spark plugs, etc. All these parts require maintenance or replacing from time to time to ensure that your generator keeps delivering optimal performance or stays functioning at the least. In addition to this, lubrication is also required to minimize the friction between moving parts.
Neglecting lubrication will definitely lead to accelerated wear and tear of your generator’s engine, overheating, and even engine seizures. The cost of maintaining and replacing your generator components and lubricant as well as the labor charges will build up to a very substantial amount over the years.
Solar generators on the other hand do not have any moving parts and therefore do not require any lubrication qualifying them as a very low-maintenance energy option. In fact, washing your solar panels at least once every six months is all the maintenance you’ll need to keep your solar generator system in top-notch condition.
Also, you won’t incur any labor charges since washing solar panels is easy enough for a DIY job, provided that you’re familiarized with all the dos and don’ts of solar panel cleaning.
Often overlooked is the added convenience you get with solar generators compared to gas-powered alternatives. Portable solar panels are very light and easy to handle, this allows you to set them up outside without much hassle. Gas generators, on the other hand can be bulky and heavy and so, hauling them out of your RV or vehicle can be an absolute nightmare which you surely don’t want to deal with.
Furthermore, you don’t have to make pit-stops to buy gas or stick to routes and destinations that are close to a gas station when you use a solar generator. This can help you avoid detours and unnecessary delays in your trip.
Another point worth considering is that some gas generators have a recoil start functionality which means that you have to pull on the recoil cable to turn on the generator. While this may not require a lot of strength and energy to do so, it fares as quite inconvenient when compared to pushing a simple button.
Noiseless and Odorless
It is common knowledge that gas generators can be noisy and smelly. The fumes released by generators contain toxic carbon monoxide gas as well as various other harmful chemicals that don’t just smell bad, but are extremely detrimental for anyone who inhales them. The noise that generators make can also be very displeasing and can detract from the peace and quiet you were hoping to get from your outing.
Needless to say, solar generators do not use any fuel and nor do they contain any moving parts. This allows them to generate energy without releasing any gas or making any noise, whatsoever and grant you the serenity you yearn for. This is surely an advantage that many nature lovers would appreciate.
Be it a solar generator or a gas one, they all have a finite lifespan after which they will either need to be replaced or require some major repairs. Portable gas generators have an average lifespan of 2000 to 3000 hours. Assuming you run your generator 500 hours a year, the generator would last you for 4 to 6 years. Naturally, the longer you run your generator for each day, the quicker you’ll need to replace it.
It is also worth noting that a gas generator will demand numerous repairs, part replacements, and lubrication throughout its lifetime.
A solar portable generator, on the other hand, has a lifespan that can range from 25 to 35 years which is more than three times as long as the lifespan of a gas generator. This means that you would go through 3 or more gas generators in the time that a solar generator would last you.
Also, a solar generator will not cease to function after 25 to 35 years of operation. On the contrary, the system will still provide you with clean solar energy, however, the output will be lower due to a diminished efficiency which will likely have dropped to 80% or more of its original value.
Another significant advantage of portable solar generators is that they generate energy without producing any carbon emissions or other waste that would be harmful for the environment. Because of this, solar generators, in fact solar energy systems in general, can play a huge part in reducing air and land pollution, tackling global warming, and restoring the planet to its former healthy state.
In contrast, gas generators release copious amounts of toxic and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere each time you run them. By forgoing your fossil fuel ways and taking up a greener solar approach, you can contribute to saving the environment from a great deal of Carbon emissions and play your role in offsetting climate change.
What Makes a Good Solar Portable Generator?
Solar generators are complex devices that require much expertise and knowledge to get right. That is why buying these systems from unknown brands or local sellers could mean losing your hard-earned investment to a subpar and unreliable system that offers you none of the benefits we’ve outlined above.
Knowing this, it is crucial that you purchase your system from a reputable and well-established company such as Bluetti. These companies operate throughout the country and on international fronts making them more than capable of manufacturing good and reliable solar generators. Doing so ensures that you make the most of your investment and even get a few years of product warranty which you can fall back on in case something goes wrong.
Multiple Charging Options
Having the flexibility of being able to charge your solar generator through multiple sources can be a saving grace on cloudy and overcast days when your solar panels aren’t performing well. That is why choose a solar generator that supports charging sources.
Solar generators can be a bit slow when recharging. Companies such as Bluetti offer solar generators with fast charging capability allowing you to recharge your generator in a jiffy.
Your portable solar generator will likely be your only source of power during your off-grid adventure or a power outage. This means you’ll probably need to power multiple appliances or gadgets off of your generator at once.
That is why the features that a solar portable generator offers should be one of your primary considerations when buying a system. A good system will offer you a variety of ports such as USB A, USB C, AC outlets, cigarette lighter, and even wireless charging pad. Some models even have a digital display showing certain parameters such as remaining power. So, make sure that the system you choose offers enough features to fulfill your requirements.
Life cycles is essentially a measure of how many charge and discharge cycles your solar generator can sustain before reaching 80% of its initial efficiency. Clearly, the higher the value of life cycle is, the more long-lasting your solar generator is. Keeping this in mind, choose a system that offers highest life cycles in its price range. Bluetti offers more than 3,500 life cycles on some of their models ensuring you have a system that will last you ages.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Will a Solar Generator Last?
Portable solar generators, generally, have quite prolonged lifespans and can last for 25 to 35 years depending on the model, brand, and features.
What Is the Advantage of Using a Solar Generator?
Using a solar portable generator offers several benefits such as clean and emission free energy, low maintenance, greater convenience, and much more. To learn more about the benefit of using a solar generator, read the sections above.
Another advantage of a portable solar generator is that it might qualify for a tax credit. Check with your accountant for further details.
Are Solar Generators Noisy?
No, solar generators do not produce any noise.
Keeping in mind everything that has been outlined above, you can see that the benefits offered by a solar generator make it the perfect source of mobile energy for off-grid adventures. We can safely conclude that swapping out your gas generator for a portable solar generator is a wise decision and a worthwhile investment, one that every homeowner and RV owner should consider.