There are lots of good reasons to invest in a portable solar generator, whether you’re living the vanlife, are cozied up in an urban apartment, or have a sprawling rural home. Perhaps you want to be prepared for natural disasters or emergencies. Maybe you need a way to generate electricity while you’re camping, or to power your tailgating festivities at the RV park. Whatever the reason behind your purchase, the best solar generators on the market have many of the same qualities in common.
The Best Solar Generators Have These 5 Qualities in Common
When shopping for a solar generator, you want to look for a model that’s portable, powerful, and consistently easy to use. Of course, those qualities are also shared by gas generators. But the best solar generators have several advantages over gas-powered models in addition to the usual metrics of solid wattage, usability, and ease of transportation. That’s because solar powered generators don’t produce much noise, fumes or any carbon monoxide. They’re safe, simple, and can still keep your household, party, or adventure on full tilt.
If you’re wondering what to makes the best solar generators stand out from the pack, here are the top five things to consider before making your purchase:
This might not seem like a big deal at first— isn’t your generator going to spend a lot of time in the closet or garage, after all? In instances of emergency prep or a power outage, however, you want to be able to maneuver your generator to a bright patch of sunlight easily, even if there are obstacles to contend with. Portability is an even bigger concern if you are hoping to use your generator outside, where there will almost certainly be unpredictable surfaces to navigate.
The best solar generators have robust, large-format wheels that can handle all types of terrain. You’ll also want a comfortable, easily accessible handles and a sturdy case that won’t crack or scuff even as you rumble off pavement, over gravel, or past clutter. Consider the weight of the generators you’re comparing, too. Trying to lug a generator that’s too heavy for you will get old quickly, or might make your emergency plan a less effective.
Like any other electrical product, some generators are more powerful than others. If you are hoping to run certain appliances off your generator, double check ahead of time that you’re buying a generator that can produce enough power. Add up the continuous watts ratings of whatever you know you’ll be routinely plugging into the generator and make sure the number doesn’t exceed the number of continuous watts the unit can produce.
You want to make sure your generator has more than enough storage capacity to charge or run whatever equipment you’re relying on for, say, a whole night, preferably without completely depleting the battery.
Simply having a robust storage capacity isn’t enough. You also want to ensure that your solar generator has an adequate solar PV input rating. That’s the number of watts the panels on your solar generator are capable of generating. If you have a high storage capacity wattage, but a low solar PV wattage, it may take an inconveniently long time to recharge your battery or your devices.
A high solar PV wattage means your generator can keep up with demand and make the most of available sunshine while you have it. It would be a shame to have a big battery that never gets full because your generator isn’t strong enough. The best solar generators come with panels and an internal battery that are calibrated to work together.
Flexibility is key when you’re investing in a solar generator to power you through unpredictable circumstances. The best solar generators can work with both AC and DC devices, even better if they can do so simultaneously. You also want to make sure that your generator can not only charge rapidly and handle the wattage output you need, but that it can sustain that wattage for a sufficient amount of time. A strong generator with a small battery might burn through wattage quickly. A weak generator with a big battery won’t charge rapidly enough. You want to find the right balance for your energy needs.
You also want to double check what the wattage ratings are for DC and AC, as they can vary depending on the inverter rating of your generator. Don’t get stuck with a generator that can’t charge a particular piece of gear because the AC wattage wasn’t high enough, though the DC would be adequate.
The best solar generators stand apart because they have extra features that make the unit even more reliable and easy to use, even in harsh conditions. Clear and readable displays and controls, for example, with niceties like a LED work light will make it easy to set your generator up even when the weather is bad, the room is dark, or you’re in a chaotic environment. A solar generator that has a car charging outlet, a regular AC outlet, and USB plugs, too, means you can charge a wide variety of devices without having to find or pack adaptors or scramble for cables.
Look for generators, too, that can be charged ahead of time via a standard AC outlet, or through a 12V car charging socket. That way you will always be ready for any emergency or last-minute adventure, and can maintain your charge via solar rather than having to start from scratch. If your solar generator is also designed with interchangeable batteries so you can swap out a spare if need be, so much the better, too. If you’re investing in a solar generator to help you stay prepared for anything, it can’t hurt to have a Plan B with a built in Plan C.