In 2020, the United States experienced 1.33 billion outage hours. Each year, there are thousands of power outages across the country, with each outage lasting a little under an hour on average. Some outages can be far longer, leaving you incredibly vulnerable.
Emergency power outages can be frightening, especially if you’re unprepared. When you lose power, you lose access to most indoor devices and functions, including entertainment, food storage, heating and cooling, and more. Power loss can disrupt work and cut you off from the world. Because of this, power outages are universally dangerous. However, there are steps you can take to make the best of the situation.
The first thing you can do is learn about portable solar power stations, how they work, and what they can do for you. With a mobile solar power station, you can enjoy emergency backup power during extended blackouts that will keep you safe. This article will discuss preparing for an emergency power outage and how solar generators can help you get through them unscathed.
Preparing for a Power Outage
Getting ready for a power outage ahead of time is half the battle. If you prepare appropriately, future power outages (even more severe ones that last longer) won’t phase you. The first step is to gather the right supplies. Some things you’ll want to include are:
- First aid kit
- Sanitation supplies
- Battery-powered radio
- Power banks for charging cell phones
- A healthy supply of extra batteries
- Face masks
- Three-day supply of non-perishable food
- Three gallons of water per person in the household
- Prescriptions and important medications
- One or more changes of clothing
- Extra eyeglasses or contact lenses
- Plenty of food and water for pets
- A backup power source
Before the power goes out, you must consider all of the things you lose access to without electricity.
First of all, your HVAC system won’t function without power. You won’t be able to charge laptops or turn on computers. The food in your refrigerator will start to lose cool air and start going bad after a handful of hours. You’ll also have no way to cook. Keep these things in mind when gathering supplies, and you’ll have a good idea of how to prepare.
Have a Backup Plan
If things take a turn for the worse, it won’t hurt to have a backup plan. Make sure to get a map, keep it somewhere safe, and mark a few evacuation routes if you need to get moving. A marked map will be invaluable if the emergency worsens right after your phone dies and you lose access to Google Maps or other navigation apps.
However, there’s another thing you can do that will make everything a lot easier. You can invest in a backup generator to provide emergency backup power. There are a few options, with fuel-powered being the most common.
Fuel-Powered Generators vs. Solar Power Stations
While fuel-powered generators get the job done, there are some problems to consider first. Most fuel-powered generators produce fumes that make them impossible to use indoors. This leaves you running your generator outdoors with a massive extension cord. Plus, the noise they make can be frustrating or overwhelming to some.
A better alternative would be a portable solar power station. These power stations use clean, renewable energy to power your home without producing harmful fumes or annoying the neighbors. Best of all, portable solar power stations make very little noise, running almost silently. That means you can enjoy power in your home without sacrificing comfort.
How Does a Solar Generator Work?
A portable solar power station (or solar battery generator) converts energy from the sun into usable energy stored in a battery for future use. Sunlight enters the system through solar panels. That sunlight is then converted into DC electricity and passes through a charge controller.
To ensure the right amount of current goes to the battery, the charge controller regulates electricity voltage before sending it to storage. Then, when you need it, power is converted into AC power by the inverter. All of the converted energy is stored in the battery for later use.
Because of this simple process, a solar power station offers the same functionality as any other generator. With a solar generator hooked up to your home, you can power anything you need inside it. This includes things like your air conditioner. Just make sure to keep an eye on your power usage, as equipment like whole-house air conditioners can use up a lot of power very quickly.
How Long Do Solar-Powered Generators Last?
How long a portable solar power station lasts depends on two things: the capacity of your generator and the power demands of your home. While shopping around for a solar generator, it’ll be a smart idea to calculate your home’s energy usage in kWh.
When you’re using our Solar Power Calculator, take into account the essentials first. Then add in less necessary things like entertainment if you think your budget will allow for a larger solar generator. For reference, the average home uses about 30 kWh per day without having to ration power.
Once you have your home’s daily kWh calculated, compare that number to the solar generator you’re interested in. For instance, the Lycan 5000 Power Box starts at a capacity of 4.8 kWh and can be expanded to 19.2 kWh.
However, that’s not considering its charging capabilities. With a 4400W solar input capability and an intelligent maximum power point tracking (MPPT) algorithm, the Lycan 5000 Power Box can charge to full in as little as 2.5 hours. Using the pass-through function, you can bypass AC power to run appliances in the home while keeping the battery charged.
In terms of longevity, most solar generators last a few decades before needing replacement. More specifically, they tend to last between 25 and 35 years, depending on the quality of the generator. Because most solar generators are high-end equipment, you can expect to see extensive warranties included with your purchase. With a substantial warranty, you can get more life out of your generator in case something goes wrong.
What Are the Pros and Cons of a Solar Generator?
Just like with any big purchase, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons to make sure you get the most value. Thankfully, when looking at solar generators, the details lean toward the positive.
Pro: Free Energy
First and foremost, the energy you use is free. Because most (if not all) of the energy stored in the battery will be coming from solar energy, you won’t have to worry about the sun sending you any bills. You can reserve and use this power as much as you like, without restriction.
Pro: Clean Energy
Secondly, the energy used by your solar generator is perfectly clean. It doesn’t produce any harmful fumes, which means you won’t have to worry about polluting the environment, and you can use your generator indoors.
Pro: Silent Operation
Third, portable solar power station operation is nearly silent. This is a massive plus, especially when you’re considering that most fuel-powered generators sound like heavy-duty construction equipment. You can use your portable solar power station indoors and even take a nap at the same time. They’re simply that quiet. Plus, your neighbors won’t be filing any noise complaints.
Pro: Low Maintenance
Finally, portable solar power stations aren’t high maintenance and last decades when properly maintained.
Many portable solar power stations are more expensive upfront compared to alternatives. However, if you can eat that cost, solar power’s savings in energy storage will eventually make up for it.
Con: Moderate Power Capacity
Next, you’ll need to consider power supply or capacity. Compared to fuel-powered generators, portable solar power stations don’t provide as much total capacity. That means, to get a competitive power supply in a solar generator, you’ll need to spend more for the same power.
Con: Slow Charge Activity
Finally, some portable solar power stations can be slower to charge, depending on which you get. While some can quickly reach full charge by combining AC power and solar input, this is still relatively slow compared to fuel-powered generators. All you really need to do with fuel generators is add fuel, and then you’re done.
There is something to be said for convenience, however. Where a fuel generator needs you to go out and procure fuel, all you need is sunlight for a solar generator.
How to Choose a Solar Generator
Choosing a solar generator can be tricky, especially if you’re new to solar power. First, you should check to see if solar panels are included with your solar generator. This isn’t always the case, and some require you to purchase a solar panel kit separately.
Next, consider what type of solar panels are included or which you’ll need to buy yourself. There are three main types to consider: monocrystalline panels, polycrystalline solar cells, and thin film. Each type of solar panel offers different levels of efficiency, with monocrystalline panels being the most efficient.
Weight is another factor, especially if you’re hoping to take your portable solar power station camping. Some power stations weigh more than others, especially if you’re looking for a high-capacity battery. Carrying a massive generator around with large, thick panels can be exhausting and difficult.
Battery capacity is probably the most crucial consideration. Whether you’re camping or hoping to power your home through a blackout, make sure to measure your power demands against the output of the battery you’re interested in. If your battery doesn’t have enough capacity to meet your needs, you might as well not have one at all.
Next, you’ll want to keep a lookout for charge controllers. These regulate the current between your solar panels and the battery. Three-power point tracking (MPPT) is the most efficient charge controller out there.
Battery type is another consideration. Different types of batteries are better for powering different things. The most common battery types are lithium-ion and lead-acid. For instance, lithium-ion batteries can power small appliances and tools, whereas lead-acid batteries are more effective at powering big equipment, like vehicles. Lithium-ion batteries are lightweight and last longer but tend to be a little bit more expensive.
Finally, consider the type of inverter built into the solar generator you’re interested in. Inverters convert the current from your solar panels to usable AC (alternating current). Pure sine wave inverters are the most efficient inverters but also happen to be the most expensive.
Also, keep an eye on features like additional USB ports and charging outlets. These small touches let you charge more devices at once and get more value out of your solar generator. Newer solar generators will include USB-C ports, which are essential to charging modern devices like new smartphones and some laptops and entertainment systems.
One of the most powerful portable solar power stations available is likely the Jackery Explorer 500 Solar Portable Generator. It’s a 500W portable power station with a 518 Wh power capacity, a lithium battery, and a pure sine wave inverter. It includes seven output ports and weighs only 13 lbs. Plus, you can recharge it with an AC wall outlet or with the Jackery SolarSaga solar panel.
Prepare Your Home with a Portable Solar Power Station
If an emergency strikes and your home is left without power, now you know what to do. With a portable solar power station, you can equip your home with a sustainable and clean energy source to get you through the darkest of times.
A portable solar power station may be a larger upfront investment than the alternative, fuel-based power generators. Still, you won’t have to pay for the solar power you store, and you don’t have to worry about pollution.
The operation is quiet and produces no harmful fumes. This means you can simply relax and take the stress out of the emergency. Solar panel maintenance is low-cost, too. Because solar generators can be easily portable, you can go off-grid and enjoy a powered camping trip when there are no emergencies to deal with.