Table of Contents
- 1 Our Top Picks
- 2 How to Choose the Best Solar Powered Generator
- 3 Best Solar Generator Reviews
- 4 Best Portable Solar Generators Comparison
- 5 Portable Solar Powered Generator Buying Guide
- 6 Important Things to Consider when Buying a Portable Solar Generator
- 7 Things to avoid when purchasing a solar powered generator
- 8 Frequently Asked Questions
- 8.1 How much electricity will a solar power generator produce?
- 8.2 Are solar generators reliable as emergency power backup solutions during grid failures?
- 8.3 What can I power with a solar generator and for how long?
- 8.4 How much do solar powered generators cost?
- 8.5 How long do portable solar generators last?
- 9 Conclusion
Portable solar powered generators are becoming increasingly popular as a power backup solution for home and outdoor activities. However, finding the best solar generator may not be that easy due to the many options out there, all of which claiming to be the best.
In this article, I featured solar generator reviews only of the top-rated models on the market. You will find a detailed comparison table and all the information you need to select a reliable solar powered generator that fits best your needs.
While even the best solar generator on the market won’t be a do it all compared to a similarly priced LPG or diesel alternative, you can rest assured that your entire lighting system, critical medical devices, emergency radio, and phones will remain juiced up long after your neighbors’ stockpiles of fuel have been depleted.
In a market crowded with these must-have emergency tools, let’s guide you to the best solar generator to buy today.
Our Top Picks
- Very compact
- Battery pack lasts long
- Lightest solar generator
- 3-mode flashlight
How to Choose the Best Solar Powered Generator
Millions of people around the globe are making the switch to solar power generators credit to their quiet operations, unparalleled portability, and lower cost of operations. And the market has hundreds of options in this category.
Unless you have a particular model in mind, choosing the best portable solar powered generator from all the available options can be a really painstaking ordeal. This is because while they are all designed to work in a similar manner, they vary greatly in power output, efficiency, portability, number of outlets, and available features.
To make your solar powered generator purchase an easy experience, you first need to determine what you need.
Are you looking for a generator that you can move around with, for instance, in camps and when hiking? Or do you want a model that can be relied upon to run several household appliances during an outage?
This way, you’ll be able to narrow down to solar generators that best suit your needs in terms of power and portability, without wasting a lot of time on those that don’t tick the boxes.
If excellent portability is your major concern, know that this will come with a limitation on power output capabilities. And as you climb the wattage ladder, the degree of portability starts narrowing.
All in all, keep in mind that solar backup generators- however big or small- are not meant to power your devices and appliances for long hours between charges. The secret is to get a model that offers the best in terms of power conversion rates and wattage in within your budget.
Lastly and more importantly, do thorough research on all the major components of solar-powered generators to ensure that you are getting the best possible combination. For instance, consider the various types of solar panels and batteries that this technology uses to determine what best fits your power needs and the environment that you are going to use the generator.
Best Solar Generator Reviews
Aeiusny 500W Solar Generator
- Solid construction
- Efficient inverter
- Charges anything under 500w
- Hard to repair in case of battery and inverter damage
- Solar sold separately
|Aeiusny 500W Specifications|
|Solar Panel Charge Time||10 hrs|
|Wall Charger Charge Time||6 hrs|
|Battery Life Cycle||500+|
The Aeiusny is among the most reliable options especially for anyone who wants a solar generator to keep a number of handheld devices juiced up either during a grid failure or when going outdoors.
This is a super compact model with a sturdy ABS plastic shell, and a solid foldable handle to complement its durability aspect. It measures 12.70 by 5.91 by 8.66 inches and weighs around 7.05 pounds. These measurements qualify it as a great option if you want something that you can move around with, for instance, when camping, hiking, or fishing.
The Aeiusny portable solar generator is fitted with a Li-ion battery with a capacity of 288Wh/500 watts. On a full charge, this capacity is enough to charge a laptop for 8 hours and a Smartphone for around 55 times. It can run a 32’’ LCD TV for up to 5 hours, a computer for 3 hours, and a 50w fan for roughly 6 hours.
Some of its convenience features include 4 USB ports, 3 AC outlets, and 4 DC ports. It also has a very bright LED lamp that could make all the difference during an emergency.
This solar backup generator can be charged through a 40-100W solar panel, a 100v wall outlet, and even a 12v car charger. Note that you’ll need to purchase the solar panel and cable separately.
Rockpals RP250W Portable Solar Generator
- Very compact
- Battery pack lasts long
- No digital readout
|Rockpals RP250W Specifications|
|Solar Panel Charge Time||9 hrs|
|Wall Charger Charge Time||6 hrs|
|Battery Life Cycle||450+|
The Rockpals RP250W is a premium generator and one of the most powerful portable generators in Rockpal’s production line. It is lighter than Aeiusny 500W and also slightly smaller. But it’s still an equally energy-dense power station and actually the best solar generator for camping in these reviews.
The Rockpals has a power output of 222Wh and has a surge power rating of 300 watts and a continuous power output of 250 watts.
This generator is fitted with a pure sine wave inverter that makes it safe for most of your power-sensitive gadgets including CPAP, tablets, phones, DSLR cameras, and laptops.
Speaking of safety, the 3.7-volt and 12-volt lithium polymer batteries that make up this solar generator are managed by a Battery Management System (BMS) that protects them from unsafe operating conditions such as surges, short circuit, overheating, and overcharging.
Rockpals RP250W offers 2 AC outlets, 4 DC 12V outlets, and 2 USB2.0 outlets for your USB-charged devices. The package comes with a car AC adapter cable, 2-meter AC Charging Adapter, a cigar lighter plug, and an MC-4 solar charging cable.
Importantly, note that the solar panel is sold separately. You could, however, charge it using any 60-100 watts solar panel, wall outlet, and even from your car.
ENKEEO S155 Portable Power Station
- Lightest solar generator
- 3-mode flashlight
- Not for power-hungry appliances
|ENKEEO S155 Specifications|
|Solar Panel Charge Time||10-11 hrs|
|Wall Charger Charge Time||8 hrs|
|Battery Life Cycle||450+|
Our third recommendation here might be a great purchase for those times when you don’t need so much power, but a lightweight solar generator that allows you to carry it with you almost anywhere.
Weighing 3.7 pounds, ENKEEO S155 is among the lightest solar power stations that I have come across so far. This weight coupled with its size makes it possible to slide it in your backpack for a camping trip, road trip, and even when going to the beach.
Make no mistake, though. The Enkeeo S155 can also be used as an emergency power backup solution at home and could keep your gadgets powered up until help arrives.
This solar powered generator delivers 155Wh and has a rated wattage of 100W and a surge of 150W. Its charge capacity is equivalent to 42000Mah, 3.7V and it’s capable of powering most portable devices from drones to cameras.
The Enkeeo S155 has 2 AC outlets, 2 DC 12V outlets, and 3 USB outlets of which (1) USB 3.0, and (2) USB-A 5V/2A.
Other impressive features of this generator include a 3-mode LED flashlight and a bright display. Similar to other generators, this model also offers 3 charging options; solar panel (not included), wall socket, and car charging. The manufacturer recommends a 13-22v solar panel for this generator.
Goal Zero Yeti 3000 Portable Power Station
- Very powerful
- Lots of convenience features
- Lots of ports
- Takes long to charge fully by solar
|Goal Zero Yeti 3000 Specifications|
|Solar Panel Charge Time||18-36 hrs|
|Wall Charger Charge Time||25 hrs|
|Battery Life Cycle||1000+|
We are now switching gear to one of the most powerful solar generators that the market offers today- the Goal Zero Yeti 3OOO.
It’s undeniable that this solar generator’s initial outlay is quite high compared to other options here. But it’s still totally worth it if you are looking for a mighty eco-green powerhouse to keep your critical household appliances including a freezer and refrigerator running after a blackout.
Goal Zero Yeti 3OOO outputs a whopping 3000 watts of surge watts and 1500 watts of running power. This is pretty much enough power to run fridges, blenders, sump pumps, and fans all without having to lug a heavy gas-powered generator outside and yanking on the recoil starter.
To complement its high power output, the Yeti 3OOO has a versatile output ports setup with virtually all the ports that you’d want on a portable generator including the latest USB-C.
But the most interesting bit is that you can control the ports remotely using a Yeti App on your phone. This means that you can leave some appliances plugged in and turn the ports off from your phone while away.
The Yeti 3000 is quite heavy at around 68 pounds and, therefore, doesn’t exactly fit the meaning of a portable solar generator. But it does come with a mobility kit with a retractable handle to make moving it a little bit easier. This weight can be blamed on its high-density Li-ion battery pack, pure sine inverter, and sturdy shell.
What about charging it?
The Yeti 3000 offers 3 charging options just like other standard generators; wall, car, and solar. For such a powerful generator, you might expect it to take all years to charge fully. The good news is that this generator comes with a Maximum Power Point Tracker (MPPT) pre-installed. Basically, this technology optimizes power intake especially from solar panels to cut the charging time by up to 40%.
Jackery Explorer 240 Portable Power Station
- High power-weight ratio
- Easy to use
- No digital display
|Jackery Explorer 240 Specifications|
|Solar Panel Charge Time||10 hrs|
|Wall Charger Charge Time||6 hrs|
|Battery Life Cycle||500+|
The Jackery Explorer 240 is another worthy competitor for the Rockpals that we saw earlier and a very recommendable option for people who want a decent amount of power on the go.
This portable power station weighs around 6 pounds and measures 9’’ by 8’’ by 5’’. It also has a very sturdy ever-ready handle so you can easily grab it and take it wherever instant power is required.
The Jackery Explorer 240 has a power capacity of 67,200mAh which translates to around 200Wh. To put this into context, this is enough power to charge an iPad Air 2 with a 7,000mAh battery capacity up to 7 times. It can also charge a high battery capacity smartphone like the iPhone X or Galaxy S8 up to 16 times which is quite impressive.
This solar generator is rather easy to use considering that all the functional components are on one side namely; AC outlet, 12v DC port, 2 USB charging ports, and an LCD display.
It can be charged via a 42v AC wall charger, a 13.3/10A DC charger, or a 50W solar panel. The package includes a 9.5ft AC adapter, a 3.3ft car charger cable, and a user guide. Note that the solar panel is sold separately.
Best Portable Solar Generators Comparison
|Solar Generators||Rating||Starting Watts||Running Watts||Battery Capacity||Full Charge by Solar Panel||Full Charge by Wall Charger||Battery Life Cycle||Weight (lbs)||Warranty|
|Aeiusny 500W||4.4/5||550||500||288Wh||10 hrs||6 hrs||500+ times||7.5||1 year|
|Rockpals RP250W||4.7/5||300||250||222Wh||9 hrs||6 hrs||450+ times||5.9||1.5 years|
|ENKEEO S155||4.5/5||150||100||155Wh||10-11 hrs||8 hrs||450+ times||3.7||1.5 years|
|Yeti 3000||4.0/5||3000||1500||3024Wh||18-36 hrs||25hrs||1000+ times||68||1 year|
|Jackery Explorer 240||4.7/5||400||200||240Wh||10 hrs||6 hrs||500+ times||6||1 year|
Portable Solar Powered Generator Buying Guide
How Do Solar Generators Work?
The best way to understand how solar generators work is to understand what they are in the first place and their major components.
Just as the name suggests, solar generators use solar energy to produce power. This means that unlike other types of portable generators, you won’t require to stockpile gallons of diesel or containers of propane gas with these units.
A solar generator has 4 essential components: a solar panel, a battery, an inverter, and a charge controller. Depending on the size of the generator and the amount of power that it is intended to output, some units will have 2 or more batteries and a set of solar panels.
So, how do these 4 components come together to generate power?
This is where all the magic begins. A solar panel is made up of photovoltaic (photo for light, voltaic for electricity) cells that are responsible for trapping protons (or sunlight, in layman’s term). Upon landing on the solar panel, these cells convert the sunlight into Direct Current (DC) electricity.
But as you probably know, most of your household appliances are engineered to use AC electricity. That’s where the inverter takes over.
Another very important element in solar power, the inverter is taxed with the sole role of converting the DC power produced by the photovoltaic cells into AC power that is possible to feed to your appliances. It also steps up the battery’s voltage from 12V, 24V, or 48V to the required 110V or 240V.
The role of the battery in a solar-powered generator system is to store any power that you don’t use. Actually, this storage means that you can set up your generator to trap sunlight during the day and store that power in the form of potential energy for later use.
This unit performs 2 critical functions in this system. First, it converts the electricity from the solar panel into a voltage that is compatible with the battery. Secondly, it regulates the flow rate of electricity to and from the batteries to protect them from damage.
Types of Solar Powered Generators
It’s worth noting here that solar powered generators can be classified into 2;
Backup generators– these are complex solar power systems that compromise portability for high power performance. If you are looking for a solar powered generator to power up your home when the grid is down, this is probably what you are looking for.
Solar portable generators– these models are purposely engineered to offer you power on the go. Needless to mention, the most important aspect here is portability, and this greatly compromises power output since the solar panels and batteries used here are small.
Keep in mind, however, that while solar backup generators output much more power than their portable alternatives, the market does not have a model strong enough to power up most of the basic household appliances together (at least not for now).
Advantages of a Portable Solar Powered Generator
With the promise of free unlimited fuel for a lifetime, is it not time we switched to solar generators for good? Well, let’s go through the benefits and drawbacks of this technology to give you an all-around picture of it.
The most obvious benefit that portable solar-powered generators offer is their ‘green’ operations. Unlike generators that are run on fossil fuels (gas and diesel), solar generators don’t emit greenhouse gases that continue to make the earth uncomfortably warm and almost inhabitable. So, if you are itching to make the earth a better place, a solar-powered generator might be a good place to start.
Can be used indoors
The use of gas and diesel generators come with one strict warning; never to run the generator indoors even with the doors and windows open. This is because the exhaust from these generators has high levels of carbon monoxide (CO)- a killer gas that you can’t smell, see, or taste- yet, it can kill within minutes if too much of it is inhaled.
Solar powered generators don’t burn fossil fuels and, therefore, don’t emit any type of gas. That’s to say that you can comfortably run it indoors even overnight without the risk of subjecting your family to some creepy and dangerous gas.
Being totally honest with you, the initial outlay of solar powered generators is quite high compared to similarly priced fuel alternatives. But the good news is that this initial cost is probably the only major payment that you’ll ever make related to the generator.
For one, solar energy is absolutely free so you’ll never need to spend not even a penny stocking on gas and oil for an emergency.
Secondly, maintaining a solar powered generator is very cheap because there are no oil and filters to change, and coolant and fuel systems to keep an eye on.
Although fuel-operated generators are relatively cheaper to buy, their cost tends to get high down the road debit to all the amount of money used on gas or diesel throughout their usable lifetimes. On the other hand, solar powered generators get cheaper and cheaper in the long run.
As I have explained in another article on the best inverter generators, noise in propane and diesel generators emanate from the moving parts in the engine and the actual combustion of the mixture of fuel and oil. These generators tend to get louder with increase with their size and their noise level can get very irritating especially when placed so close.
Solar powered generators don’t have any moving parts since they don’t combust fuel. They also don’t make even the minutest vibrations, and this is to say that they are whisper quiet and can be placed in the living room and even inside the tent unobtrusively.
Ease of use
Of course, another large advantage of these generators is their incredible ease of use. Contrary to gas generators, solar-powered alternatives are very lightweight. They are a breeze to start too. As such, it becomes super easy for everyone including the elderly and older kids to unleash it from the garage and fire it up.
Tons of convenience
Another benefit that we can’t overlook is the convenience that comes with using a portable solar powered generator.
To start with, keep in mind that most gas stations rely on electricity to pump gas. What happens when they are hit by a power outage too? You got it- this means that you don’t get fuel. Believe me, this can be more than an inconvenience especially when an outage threatens to last several days.
In addition, a solar powered generator has very high chances of starting even in the coldest weather conditions provided the battery is charged. This is unlike gas generators that tend to fail as the temperatures head way below freezing point.
Limitations of solar generators
High initial cost
These generators come at a relatively higher price tag compared to equally sized fuel generators. A huge chunk of this cost goes to the solar panels due to their high construction costs.
The major drawback that comes with this technology is its heavy reliance on solar. This means that if the effectiveness of the solar PV cells to generate electricity depends on the availability of sunlight in your area.
If you live in areas that experience less sunlight and lots of clouds and rain all year round, then solar generators may not be so reliable.
The best part, though, is that most of them have other charging options including wall and car chargers.
Important Things to Consider when Buying a Portable Solar Generator
Type of solar panel
There are 3 types of solar panels used in solar power systems; monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and Thin Film (CIGS).
It’s very important that you understand how each of these technologies works as they differ a lot especially in terms of efficiency.
Monocrystalline solar panels
Monocrystalline panels are constructed with a single continuous crystal structure hence their name. You can easily identify them using their deep black color which results from the high-quality silicon used on them.
These solar panels have the highest light-to-electricity conversion rates of between 15-20% and are, therefore, the most powerful. In addition, they are not affected so much by high temperatures compared to polycrystalline solar panels.
Their major drawback is their high budget.
Polycrystalline solar panels
These panels use multiple cells as opposed to a single structure. It’s easy to pick them from the rest thanks to their speckled blue hue.
Polycrystalline panels use a low-quality grade of silicon which correlates to their slightly lower conversion rates of 13-16%. They are easy to construct too and this is reflected in the lower initial cost of the generator compared to monocrystalline solar panel generators.
This technology is relatively new and uses different photovoltaic substances including CIGS (Copper indium gallium selenide), Dye-Sensitized Solar Cell (DSC), Cadmium Telluride (CT), and Amorphous Silicon.
Thin Film solar panels are highly rated for being lightweight and much more affordable compared to the 2 options above.
Unfortunately, it also has the lowest conversion rate at 7-13%. And this practically makes it unattractive for a solar powered generator.
Battery Power Capacity and Power Rating
In a battery, the power capacity basically refers to how much energy it can store according to the manufacturer.
Battery capacity can be expressed in Watts-hours (Wh), ampere-hours (Ahr), or kilowatt-hours (kWh). Wh is the most common, though, and can be arrived at by multiplying the voltage (V) of the battery by how much current (Amps) it can output in a given time (usually in hours).
Wh= V x Amp x Hours
Generally, a battery with a higher capacity has the ability to store more power. But it’s important to understand that a higher battery capacity does not necessarily correlate to higher power output. This is where the need to consider the power rating comes in.
Power Rating in batteries refers to the amount of power that it can provide over a given period of time. Usually, batteries with a higher rating will offer more power but they also tend to deplete the storage much faster. On the other hand, batteries with a lower rate will output less power, but last longer.
Type of Battery
Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) and lead acid are the most commonly used batteries although you’ll also come across several systems that use NICAD (Nickel Cadmium), and NIFE (Nickel-Iron).
Li-ion batteries are the most preferred and are actually used in close to 80% of the solar-powered generators. The reason for their popularity is their extremely long cycle life as well as high recharge and discharge rates. Check our article about the best lithium battery powered generators for some recommendations.
Lead acid batteries are also worth considering. Although they don’t last as long as Li-ion alternatives, they are cheaper and, therefore, cost-effective for household use.
All portable solar generators will come with an inverter to convert power from DC to AC and step it up to the right voltage as I told you before.
When considering the inverter, there are 3 important aspects that you need to focus on;
This refers to the maximum amount of power that the inverter allows you to draw from the battery during a crisis.
An inverter with a higher rating allows you to pull up more power than a unit with a lower rating and may allow you to run high-power appliances. But keep in mind that it also depletes your battery faster.
An inverter is not upgradable. So, it’s critical that you consider its rating in relation to the appliances that you intend to run now and in the future.
- Efficiency– there are 2 types of efficiencies that you need to consider;
Maximum inverter efficiency– this refers to the amount of power that is successfully converted to usable AC power. The best portable solar generators will have inverters with efficiencies of around 90%.
Idle power consumption– note that the inverter will consume power whenever you turn the generator on even without a load. Inverters with high idle power consumption rates could end up consuming up to 140 watts every hour if you have to leave the generator on to power up an appliance thereby resulting in a high power loss.
To prevent this, consider an inverter with a power save mode to turn it on and off when it senses a load. In addition, consider an inverter with under 20 watts of idle power and 10 watts when it’s on safe mode.
- Pure sine wave– depending on the quality and cost of the generator, it could be fitted with a pure sine wave inverter or a cheap modified sine wave unit.
Cheap sine wave inverters generally make the initial cost of the entire system lower. The bad news, however, is that it tends to use much more solar power to run your appliances. And you don’t lose on power only. Most of the watts consumed are actually converted into heat that causes overheating on your appliances thereby reducing their usable life.
A pure sine wave inverter makes the solar generator system quite pricey. But it will save you headaches and a lot of power and money in the long run.
Different generators offer different features. What’s important is to get a model that offers those features that matter a lot to you and within your budget. All in all, here are a few convenient features that you might want in your generator of choice;
- Lift and carry handles
- Multiple outlets
- Wall-charging option
- Energy efficient features
- Solar panels and batteries expandability
- USB ports
- 12v output
- Backlit panel
- Replaceable batteries
Things to avoid when purchasing a solar powered generator
- Small inverter
- Inefficient inverters
- Generators fitted with modified sine wave inverters
- Proprietary systems that are no longer produced
- Incomplete solar power systems that require you to purchase some components separately
Frequently Asked Questions
How much electricity will a solar power generator produce?
Depending on its size, a solar generator can give you between 0.1 and 2kWh at standard conditions which is a far cry from the 30 kWh of power that the average American household requires each day according to data from the Energy Information Administration.
Are solar generators reliable as emergency power backup solutions during grid failures?
Well, this depends on what you want to keep powered. Solar generators don’t output enough power to power up the refrigerators, freezers, AC systems, sump pumps, TVs and other appliances common in most average households. But they will keep your phones, tablets, laptops, medical devices, and emergency radio juiced up provided the batteries are charged.
What can I power with a solar generator and for how long?
Solar generators are generally meant for less-power consuming devices and the amount of power that they can output at a given time is limited to battery capacity. To put this into context, a 100Wh solar generator will keep a full-sized generator powered for utmost 2 hours.
Here is a table showing how long the generators in our reviews could keep different devices powered up;
|Devices||Aeiusny 288Wh||Rockpals WCE001||ENKEEO S155||Yeti 3000||Jackery Explorer|
|Headlamp||8 hours||5 hours||3 hours||500 times||6 times|
|Smartphone||55 times||25 times||15 times||150 times||16 times|
|Laptop||8 times||4-5 times||3 times||50 times||6 articles|
|32’’ LCD TV||5 hours||4 hours||2.5 hours||50 times||4 hours|
|Fridge||3 hours||2 hours||Below 1 hour||50+ hours||2 hours|
How much do solar powered generators cost?
Most backup solar generators cost between $2000 and $4000. But these are large and powerful and could produce up to 3,000 watts of power. Portable solar generators are much cheaper and come at between $100 and $500 without the solar panel. But they also have a lower output.
How long do portable solar generators last?
This largely depends on the quality of the solar panels and the battery. Generally, monocrystalline panels and Li-ion batteries are the most durable. How often you recharge the batteries also affects their durability. Batteries that are drained every other night and recharged frequently won’t last as long as those that are used sparingly.
While we endeavored to capture the best solar powered generators in these reviews, remember that at the end of the day, everything boils down to how and where you want to use the generator, and how much money you are willing to part with for it.
All in all, the Rockpals 250W is our best recommendation on this list. While it does not promise tons of power like the Yeti 3000, it offers a very good balance between affordability and functionality.
This is a premium generator with very reliable construction design and a high energy-to-weight ratio. Among other things, we love that this generator supports fast recharge of USB-rechargeable devices and it’s fitted with a battery management system.