Whether you are looking for a viable "off the grid" living option or want a backup power supply in case of total power loss, solar generators offer a green solution that can be just as effective as gas and propane generators.
Backup power for the home is important and is a must-have as more and more of us rely on connected devices, phones and laptops.
Solar backup generators are not just for powering home appliances like refrigerators and air conditioner - more and more, they are being purchased to provide reliable backup power for critical medical devices.
For example, CPAPs are a popular way to treat sleep apnea and other dangerous sleep disorders. Without an adequate supply of power, things can get dangerous.
The Problem With Gas Generators
Gas, diesel and propane generators have been relied upon for years for home power backup and emergency standby power for everything from hospitals to houses. They are cheap, easy to maintain and widely available.
That said, gas generators suffer from a number of important solar drawbacks that solar backup generators completely avoid - as follows:
A gas generator doesn't store electrical energy. Instead, it converts fuel into electrical energy when you start it up.
To keep the lights on, then, you must constantly resupply a gas, diesel or propane generator with fossil fuel. Doing so costs money to buy the fuel, unlike solar power which is free.
Solar generators run on the power of the sun, which is 100% renewable, free and reliable.
Loud noise is another issue with gas & propane generators. Most are really loud when they run.
In contrast, solar generators are completely silent.
Exhaust & Emissions
Burning fossil fuels emits toxic gases such as CO2 and carbon monoxide. This is why you have to run a gas generator outside.
Don't even think about using a fossil-fueled generator in an enclosed space – if the noise doesn’t drive you crazy, the CO2 and carbon monoxide emissions would.
Exhaust and emissions are no problem with a solar generator, however - you can even run one on your kitchen counter.
Solar backup generators offer a greener, renewable and more reliable solution to all of these problems.
Solar generators are quiet, lack any harmful fumes and exhaust, and are completely renewable. With a handful of well-placed solar panels, you can provide a FREE supply of backup power for your home.
Today, solar home backup power is within reach of everyone.
Over the past few decades, the steady march of technology has extended battery life and made solar panels less expensive and more efficient.
As a result, solar generators have gone from a wildly expensive, fringe DIY project, to a user-friendly and affordable solution that anyone can purchase online.
The cost of a solar generator remains higher than a comparable wattage power gas generator, but considering all of the benefits, a lot of people today are choosing to go solar.
Today, you can select from dozens of solar generators designed for home power and standby backup.
Which one stands above the rest?
Read on to learn about 6 of the most popular retail solar generators sold today.
NOTE: In addition to the retail generators listed on this page, you can find more expensive, permanently installed generator solutions from any licensed solar energy installer in your town.
Best Backup Home Standby Solar Generators: Comparison Chart
Goal Zero Yeti 6000X
- 6,071Wh capacity
- Li-ion battery
- 2000W continuous 3500W surge pure sine wave inverter
- Solar Panel (Sold Separately)
USB, 12V, AC
- Price: $$$$$
Goal Zero Yeti 3000X
- 3,032Wh capacity
- Li-ion battery
- 2000W continuous 3500W surge pure sine wave inverter
- Solar panel sold separately
USB, 12V, AC
- Price: $$$$
Goal Zero Yeti 1500X
- 1516Wh capacity
- Li-ion battery
- 2000W continuous 3500W surge pure sine wave inverter
- Solar panel sold separately
USB, 12V, AC
- Price: $$$$
- 720Wh capacity
- Sealed lead acid battery
- 1800W continous 3600W surge modified sinewave inverter
- 80W monocrystalline solar panel
- Price: $$$$
Jackery Explorer 500
- 518Wh capacity
- Li-ion battery pack (20.4Ah, 14.4V)
- 500W continuous, 1000W surge pure sine wave inverter
1 AC, 3 USB, 3 DC
- Price: $$
Solar e Power Cube 1500 Plus
- 1200Wh capacity
- AGM/gel Hybrid Battery
- 1500W continuous, 3600W surge modified sine wave inverter
- Five 80W foldable mono-crystalline solar panels
2 USB, 2 AC, 2 DC
- Price: $$$
MAXOAK Power station
- 2400Wh capacity
- Lithium Polymer Battery Pack
- 1000W continuous, 1200W surge pure sine wave inverter
AC, USB, USB-C, 12V DC
- Price: $$$$
What You Need to Know About Backup Solar Generators
The solar generators on this page can be bought online and are designed for powering home appliances and lighting and for recharging vital electronics.
That said, there are limitations and other things you need to be aware of when shopping for a home solar generator.
Very Few Solar Backup Generators Can Power Every Appliance In Your Home.
Some heavy appliances like cloth dryers, water heaters and pool pumps consume a huge amount of energy that will sap any generator - solar powered, or not. In general, a single solar generator won't power heavy appliances for very long period of time.
Mid-range appliances like air conditioners, freezers and electric ovens are far more energy-efficient today than a few decades ago. Most solar backup generators can power these for a single use between charges, but not much more.
The sweet spot for solar backup generators is powering small appliances like LED televisions, toasters, and hair dryers. And, of course, keeping your electronics on and recharged.
Because of this wide gulf in power consumption among home appliances, you need to have realistic expectations when shopping for backup and standby solar generators.
The most powerful home solar backup generators are capable of keeping your refrigerator on, keeping your computer and electronics running, and powering a handful of lights and other appliances, but they are not yet able to match the full-home power supply of larger backup generators powered by natural gas and propane.
Still, solar generators are very useful backup power supplies in the case of a home blackout, because they offer so many advantages.
To make the right solar generator purchase, you'll want to have an idea of the required voltage and total wattage of the devices & appliances you want to keep alive during a blackout.
Use our handy appliance wattage guide to figure out how many watts you'll need to keep your most important lights, devices and appliances running.
Then, look for solar backup generators that supply that level of wattage. And make sure they have the right type & number of outlets (12V, 110V, 220V, USB, 2A, etc.)
If you are really committed to buying a completely renewable backup generator for your home and want enough backup/standby power to run your air conditioner and refrigerator for days, then you can always purchase multiple generators.
Some of the units below, like the GoalZero Yeti 1250, can be be chained together to supply more power.
Best Backup Home Standby Solar Generators: Reviews
1. Most Powerful Home Backup Solar Generator: Goal Zero Yeti 6000X
Goal Zero has revamped their Yeti lineup. The new Yeti X solar generators are more capable, offer added functionality, and charge faster through solar.
The most powerful of the new Yeti models, and one of the most powerful home backup solar generators overall, is the Goal Zero Yeti 6000X.The massive 6000Wh battery pack can power up to 2000W appliances for hours. In case of a blackout, you can keep the most important electronics running for hours or days.
6000Wh is an impressive figure. The Yeti 6000X packs more power than just about any solar generator we’ve seen.
More power means you can keep electronics on for longer. For example, it can power a full size refrigerator for at least 3 days, a 42” LED TV for at least 2 days and a 1500W circular saw for about 4 hours.
And for devices like a smartphone, camera or laptop, you could charge them over and over hundreds of times before the battery runs out.
The high capacity is handy for emergency backup during prolonged power outages, or if you are planning to go off-grid for a while.
When it comes to power output, the Yeti 6000X has a continuous output of up to 2000W and a surge output of 3,500W, similar to the 3000X and 1500X models.
This still gives you plenty of freedom in terms of which appliances you can hook up to the 6000X. You can power small electronics like CPAP machines and lights, large appliances like a full size fridge or heater and even power-hungry devices like power tools.
Versatile Output and Input Options
You are not short of ways to draw power from the Goal Zero Yeti 6000X. Output ports include USB-C, USB-C PD, 12V cigarette lighter, and 120V AC among others. There’s also an expansion module port that allows you to increase storage capacity using Goal Zero expansion modules.
You also have several ways to recharge the battery pack including solar, car charger and wall outlet.
Goal Zero has upgraded from the PWM solar charge controllers used in earlier Yeti solar generators. New Yeti X models, including the 6000X, come with a built-in MPPT charge controller. It is more efficient than PWM, meaning the battery charges faster through solar.
Another nifty feature in the Yeti 6000X is WiFi connectivity. You can remotely control and monitor the solar generator via the Yeti App 3.0. You can check remaining battery level, turn ports on or off and choose your preferred power mode.
If you are on a budget, you may want to consider other Goal Zero solar generators. The Yeti 6000X is one of the most expensive solar generators.
And that’s before you factor in a solar kit capable enough to charge the 6000X and other accessories.
If you are interested in a complete package, Goal Zero sells a complete home backup system (Yeti 6000X + four 200W solar panels) for about $7,300.
Expensive? No doubt. But the Yeti 6000X is one of the most powerful home backup solar generators you can buy.
2. Best 3000Wh Home Backup Solar Generator: Goal Zero Yeti 3000X
While not as powerful as the 6000X, the Yeti 3000X still packs plenty of power,enough to power most appliances for hours and charge small devices for weeks.
If you want a high-capacity solar generator but find the 6000X a bit too pricey, the 3000X is a great alternative.
The Yeti 3000X replaces the Yeti 3000. The two most notable upgrades are a higher-wattage inverter (2000W from 1500W) and a higher-efficiency MPPT charge controller.
The Yeti 3000X is a great choice for those who want the ability to power large appliances in the event of a power outage.
The 3000X’s 3032Wh capacity can power a full size refrigerator for 55 hours, a circular saw for 2 hours and a 42” LED TV for 31 hours.
For smaller electronics like lighting, CPAP and smartphones, a full charge can last for days or weeks.
Output options are just as many as in the 6000X. They include USB-C, USB-C PD, 12V and AC. The AC inverter has a max output of 2000W (continuous) and 3,500W (surge).
As for inputs (charging), you can recharge the battery through a wall charger, solar (sold separately) or a car charger.
Remote Control and Monitoring
The Yeti 3000X comes with WiFi connectivity. You can remotely monitor and control the solar generator from the Yeti app. This includes turning specific ports on or off and checking remaining battery.
Home backup solar generators are not designed for portability. It’s not surprising that the 3000X weighs 70lbs.
Thankfully, it comes with a cart for easy mobility around the house.
While significantly cheaper than the Yeti 6000X, the Yeti 3000X is still pricey compared to other solar generators.
If you are thinking about getting a sub $2,000 or $1,000 solar backup generator, the 3000X is not it.
Something else to keep in mind when considering the cost of the Yeti 3000X is that it doesn’t come with solar panels. If you want guaranteed power even when your utility is down, you’ll need to purchase a solar kit separately.
The Yeti 3000X is a great choice for those looking for a high-capacity home backup solar generator that can handle large appliances and other electronics.
3. Best 1500Wh Home Backup Solar Generator: Goal Zero Yeti 1500X
1000Wh-1500Wh is the lower limit when it comes to solar generators powerful enough to power appliances for a decent amount of time.
The Yeti 1500X has a smaller battery than the 3000X and 6000X, but can still keep your lights on and important electronics operating for a few hours to a couple of days.
The Goal Zero Yeti 1500X is great for folks who want to spend less on a backup solar generator, but still get one that can keep their fridge or TV running for several hours or days.
The 1516Wh capacity of the 1500X powers a full size fridge for about 28 hours, a 42” LED TV for 15 hours and a 1,500W circular saw for 1 hour.
It can recharge small devices like a laptop, tablet and smartphone several dozen times over.
Despite the smaller battery, the Yeti 1500X has the same powerful AC inverter as the 3000X and 6000X models. It produces up to 2000W continuous and 3,500W surge.
The same appliances and tools you can power with the 6000X, you can also power with the 1500X. The only difference is how long the battery lasts.
In addition to AC, the Yeti 1500X has 12V and UB ports. As for charging, options include solar, a car charger and a wall outlet.
It also has WiFi capability, which lets you monitor and control the solar generator wherever you are via the Yeti app.
One advantage of the Yeti 1500X over the higher-capacity Yeti generators is that it weighs less. At 45.6lbs, the Yeti 1500X is perfect for use at home as well as outdoors when camping or doing field wok.
As we mentioned, the Yeti 1500X can power the same large appliances that the 6000X also powers. But the Yeti 1500X will run low on battery sooner.
So while you may be able to run a space heater off the Yeti 1500X, you should probably be more careful about when you connect to it.
We recommend the 1500X for charging devices and powering less power-hungry appliances like a fridge, TV or CPAP machine.
The Yeti 1500X strikes the best balance between affordability and power. It’s still more expensive than your average camping solar generator, but it can keep essential devices and electronics running for a few days in case of an outage.
4. Best Home Backup Solar Generator System With Solar Panels: KISAE HS-1800 Home Power System
KISAE's HS-1800 Power System has the proud distinction of being the world's first complete home solar power kit.
This unit is powerful, efficient, and affordable, and it includes its own solar panels, making it a true plug and play home backup solution.
The HS-1800 is built to be a standby generator that is ready for any situation.
It provides up to 1800 watts of output power and can be charged using the included solar panels or an AC outlet.
The unit is versatile enough to be installed anywhere, and provides easy access to all the power outlets, which are located in the front.
The HS-1800 has four total AC outlets, which is one more than most models in its class. One USB port is included as well.
The modular design of the generator means it can be upgraded and expanded to meet your specific power needs for your home and situation.
The unit also includes a charge controller for the solar panels, as well as a transfer switch, which allows for seamless electrical operation in the event of an outage.
This home backup generator weighs just 76 lbs, which makes it relatively easy to move around, when needed.
The HS-1800's small (14.5 x 10.5 x 14 inch) size makes it easy to store and to install it inconspicuously.
A Plug-and-Play Standby Generator For The Home
This unit is the one to get if you want automatic power standby during a brief power outage.
The HS-1800 looks like a standard gas-powered generator. And, like any home generator, it will automatically switch on during an outage.
The HS-1800's design and power makes it suitable for powering large appliances, lighting and essential devices like computers and phones.
The unit isn't as heavy as some other models, but it's not designed to be moved.
It lacks wheels and a handle on the top.
Carrying it would be comparable to carrying an old PC computer unit, only three times as heavy.
It's also not powerful enough to run most HVAC systems, clothes dryers or pool pumps.
The lack of an interactive status screen is unfortunate, as it leaves you no way of knowing the remaining charge left or charge time. That said, this unit is designed to be a set-and-forget standby generator that lives in your closet or garage. How often would you check it, anyway?
Though it's a good thing the KISAE power station comes with a solar panel, you probably won't find it all that useful. The 80-Watt crystalline solar panel charges the battery very slowly. It would take days to recharge the battery fully.
Talking of the battery, the one included in the KISAE kit is on the lower side when it comes to capacity. This is not an issue if you are charging a laptop, smartphone, and other small devices.
But if you want to power a fridge, microwave oven, or a larger appliance, the battery won't last long.
And with the solar panel being such a slow-charger, you may find yourself without backup power.
The HS-1800 is a trustworthy, upgradeable standby generator that stays out of sight until it's needed, when your power goes out.
When the power does go out, it will kick-in and keep your most important home appliances and lighting on.
5. Best Home Backup Solar Generator For Devices and Small Appliances: Jackery Explorer 500 Portable Power Station
If you are looking for a home solar backup for your devices and small appliances, we recommend the Jackery Explorer 500 portable power station.
It doesn’t have as much capacity as the other options in this buying guide, but it is a cheaper alternative if you just need a solar generator that can charge your smartphone, tablet, a radio or a small TV, and maybe a mini-fridge.
Pair it with solar panels and you can keep essential devices and appliances on through a prolonged power blackout.
The Explorer 500 has the smallest capacity of our picks - 518Wh. While it won’t power your kitchen refrigerator or run your coffee maker, it’s perfect for keeping your devices and gadgets charged.
It can charge your smartphone several dozen times over, keep your laptop running for a couple days, and keep essential devices like the radio or a CPAP machine working.
The 518Wh capacity is also adequate for powering small appliances like a fan, a personal evaporative cooler, an electric blanket, and even a mini fridge.
Note that you are limited to appliances with a draw of under 500W. That’s the max continuous output of the AC inverter. So don't try to plug in your blender or coffee maker.
Multiple Outlets and Inlets
The Jackery Explorer 500 has three types of ports: AC, USB and DC.
For AC, you get only one port, which is surprising considering the lower-capacity Explorer 300 has two AC outlets. The Goal Zero Yeti 500X, which has a similar capacity, also has two ports.
The AC outlet is linked to a pure sine wave inverter with a 500W continuous output and a surge rating of 1000W.
USB ports are three, all of them standard 5V, 2.4A USB-A ports. This is another area where the Explorer 500 needs an update. The updated Jackery Explorer 300 features an in/out 60W USB-C PD port, as well as a quick charge port.
For your tools and DC-powered appliances, the Explorer 500 has two DC ports and one 12V car port.
As for recharging the battery, you can connect the Explorer 500 to solar panels (we recommend buying a 200W kit for fast charging), plug it into a wall outlet using the included cable or charge it while driving using the included 12V car charger.
Note that the Explorer 500 has a built-in MPPT charge controller for fast and efficient solar charging. When you buy a solar panel kit, don't get another charge controller.
Lightweight and Compact Solar Generator
One advantage the Explorer 500 has over the other bigger backup solar generators is its smaller and lighter design.
It weighs just 13.3 lbs and measures 11.8x7.6x9.5 inches. You can easily carry it around your home. You can even take it with you when camping, picnics and road trips.
The Jackery Explorer 500 is not a suitable backup for power-hungry appliances.
If you want a solar power station that will keep your refrigerator, portable AC, coffee maker and other high-wattage appliances running, choose one of our other recommendations. The Goal Zero Yeti 6000X is a great choice.
Another limitation of the Explorer 500 is the outlets. They are due for an update. Specifically, we’d like to see an updated Explorer 500 with two AC outlets and at least one USB-C port.
Despite it’s lower than average capacity, the Jackery Explorer 500 power station is powerful enough to keep all your essential devices and appliances working during an emergency.
As a bonus, you can also use it for camping, fishing, and other outdoor activities thanks to its lightweight, portable design.
6. Best Compact Backup Solar Generator: WaganSolar e Power Cube 1500 Plus Solar Generator
The Wagan Solar e Power Cube 1500 Plus is a compact but powerful solar generator that can charge and power a wide range of devices and appliances.
You can use it at home as a backup power supply or take it with you for camping and road trips.
The generator comes with fold-out solar panels for on-the-go charging, and you can add later.
1200Wh AGM/gel Hybrid Battery
The Power Cube’s battery is not as high capacity as the Yeti 3000 lithium battery, but it’s large enough to power most devices and small appliances for hours.
The 1200Wh capacity (100Ah) is enough to power a laptop for about 11 hours, a 100W light for 9.5 hours, and a 40” LCD TV for about 4 hours.
To get more time out of the battery, especially if there’s a blackout, limit it to devices like smartphones and laptops and small appliances like a mini-fridge or fan.
An integrated LED voltmeter with a display shows your current battery status.
1500 Watts Modified Sine Wave Inverter
The 1500-watt AC inverter can handle the power demand of most small appliances, including power tools, TVs, radios, and mini-fridges.
The peak surge rating is an impressive 3600 watts.
Multiple Output Options
The Wagan Solar e Power Cube lets you connect appliances and devices in various ways.
There are two AC outlets (115V), two 12V DC outlets, and two USB ports. Unfortunately, none of the USB ports is USB C.
Integrated Solar Panels (With AC and DC Recharging Options)
You don’t have to worry about buying solar panels separately. The Wagan Solar e Power Cube comes with fold-out solar panels that are integrated into the solar generator.
When outside, just unfold the 5 panels. They provide a combined 80 watts of power.
You can also recharge the battery using a DC adapter (ideal when in the car)or from a wall outlet when you are at home.
You can add up to 300W of solar panels to charge the battery faster. The Wagan solar generator has two solar terminals at the front where you can hook up extra solar panels.
The solar generator has an integrated solar charge controller, so no need to get a new one when you buy extra solar panels.
And if the built-in battery is not enough for your needs, you can also connect additional batteries to provide additional back up power.
The Power Cube comes with large wheels and a collapsible handle that makes it easier to move the solar generator about.
But don’t even think about trying to lift the unit by yourself. It weighs a whopping 122lbs.
The Wagan Solar e Power Cube is heavy, really heavy. It’s the heaviest of the solar generators we have reviewed.
Even with the wheels and handle, it’s a bit of a struggle to move the unit.
Its relatively low build quality makes this weight even more problematic. Customers report the handle snapping or the wheels coming off if you push or lift it too hard.
The body is also plastic, which does not bode well for durability.
If you plan to travel a lot with the Solar e Power Cube, find something a bit harder and durable. We recommend the Cube mostly for use at home as a backup power supply.
Other issues we have with the Wagan Solar e Power Cube include:
The Wagan Solar e Power Cube is a great choice for anyone looking for an affordable and high-capacity solar generator for home power backup.
7. Best 1000Wh Home Backup Solar Generator: MAXOAK Power Station
If the Goal Zero Yeti 3,000 is outside your budget, the MAXOAK power station is a cheaper alternative with almost the same power capacity.
It has a 2400Wh Lithium polymer battery and a 1,000W pure sine wave inverter. It can power most appliances in your home, including a full-size fridge, a large TV, and a small space heater.
The MAXOAK power station has a battery that's almost as big as the Yeti 3000's. It's a great choice if you are looking for a backup solar generator that can handle larger appliances.
With a continuous output of 1,000W, MAXOAK can safely power a fridge, projector, TV, a microwave oven, and any other appliance that has a wattage of less than 1,000.
For appliances with high initial spikes, MAXOAK has a surge rating of 1,200W.
The MAXOAK power station is also great for smaller appliances such as fans and CPAP machines, as well as devices like laptops and smartphones.
Versatile Solar Generator
Output options include a couple of AC outlets, four USB ports, a USB-C PD port, and a 12V cigarette lighter socket.
This allows you to power or charges a wide range of devices and appliances. The USB ports are for devices and things like cameras and drones. For lighting and power tools, use the 12V socket. For appliances, use one of the two AC outlets.
To recharge the battery, you can hook up the power station to solar panels (not included) or charge it from a wall outlet.
Using a wall outlet fills up the battery in about 15 hours. A wall charger and a solar charging cable are included.
Despite its relatively high battery capacity and power output, there are still some appliances the MAXOAK power station cannot handle.
They are not necessarily large appliances, just those that have a high wattage.
A good example is a coffee maker. Family-size coffee makers can draw up to 1500W, way above MAXOAK's limit.
Large space heaters, air conditioners, and electric kettles are also out of the question.
Though expensive, the MAXOAK power station will prove invaluable in an emergency. Unlike most solar power stations, MAXOAK can power more and larger appliances in your home.
It ensures your home keeps running for as long as possible. Pair it with solar panels, and you can survive a week-long blackout.
How Do Solar Generators Work?
Solar backup generators provide a portable solar power supply. Instead of having a permanent solar installation in your home, complete with roof panels and a large battery bank, a solar generator packages everything in one relatively small unit.
Solar backup generators have five main components:
Solar Generator Calculator: What Size Solar Generator Do I Need?
It’s important to properly size your solar generator. There’s no harm buying one that’s too big for your power needs, but a too-small solar generator won’t last beyond a couple hours after a blackout.
The best way to determine how many watt-hours you need in a backup solar generator is to determine how many things you need to power and for how long.
For example a 50” LED TV uses 100 watts an hour. Watching TV for two hours a day consumes 200Wh. If you have a 10W bulb that stay on for four hours a day, total lighting consumption is 40Wh daily.
Add the two and you have a 240Wh consumption. A 1,000Wh solar generator will last about 4 hours (1,000/240) before the battery runs out.
Of course, your home electric consumption is more complicated than this. You likely have several bulbs, multiple appliance and lots of devices to charge.
You don’t need to be super accurate. Focus on the appliances that use most power. Add up their consumption and get a solar generator with enough watt-hours to last several hours or days.
For certain appliances like fridges, it’s hard to calculate daily consumption since they keep turning on and off. In that case, check online for approximate daily power consumption for that type and size of appliance.
Some manufacturers also state daily or annual power consumption in the user manual or product label.
It’s a good idea to get a solar generator with more power than you need just in case you experience a longer than expected blackout.
If you are on a budget, you can get a lower capacity emergency backup solar generator, but make sure you also buy solar panels to keep the battery charged when there’s no power.
With the right solar kit, you can outlast a prolonged blackout.
How to Choose the Best Solar Powered Generator
Things to Consider when Choosing a Solar Powered Generator
1. Solar panel output
The first thing to consider is your PV (photovoltaic) output. That’s the amount of power your solar panels generate.
You need to make sure that the voltage and amps are within the limit of what the battery can handle.
You also need to check that your solar panels can charge the batteries quickly enough.
If it takes days to fill up your battery, your solar generator won’t be of much help, especially if you rely on it often.
If you want a powerful solar powered generator, get high-wattage solar panels as well.
But if you want a smaller standby generator to charge small devices like smartphones, a basic 100-watt solar panel will do.
2. Battery Capacity and Type
Generally, for most applications, you want a solar generator with a battery capacity of at least 1,000 watt-hours.
This lets you power small gadgets as well as some appliances.
You can go lower to around 600-800Wh if you are only charging your smartphone or laptop.
But if you want something that can power a fridge or mini AC, look for a 2,000+ watt-hour generator.
A higher battery capacity not only lets you power more gadgets and appliances, but it also provides backup power for longer at night and in bad weather.
Note: The Wh rating of a battery is not its actual usable capacity. With most lead-acid batteries, you should discharge no more than two-thirds of the battery. So a 1,000Wh battery has a usable capacity of around 666Wh. Keep this in mind when selecting the right capacity for your needs.
It’s a good idea to get a bigger battery than you need.
As you consider what battery capacity suits your needs, also think about the type of battery.
Most solar generators use sealed lead acid batteries. They are inexpensive; they last relatively long and are reliable.
Solar backup generators with lithium batteries are more expensive. But they provide more power, higher charging efficiency, and a longer lifespan.
3. Inverter Rating
Capacity doesn't tell you everything you need to know about the battery’s capability.
In addition to how much charge it can store, you also need to know how much power you can draw from it.
This determines what kind of gadgets and appliances you can power.
The inverter rating tells you how much power the battery can produce at any given moment. It’s given in watts.
The inverter is the part that converts DC power from the battery to the AC power you use to power appliances.
For small appliances and gadgets, a 1,000W-1,500W inverter is good enough.
For bigger appliances, look for a solar generator with an inverter rating closer to 2000W or higher.
Remember also to check the peak or surge rating. This is the maximum amount of power the battery can supply for a limited time, typically a few seconds.
Some appliances such as refrigerators and pumps require more power during startup.
In most solar generators, the surge rating is double the standard/continuous power rating. But check the specs to be sure.
4. Type of Inverter
Don’t just check the inverter rating; also check what kind of inverter it is.
There are three types: pure sine wave, modified sine wave, and square wave inverters.
I won’t bore you with the technical explanation behind each type. Here’s all you need to know.
Pure sine wave inverters are the best but also the most expensive. They are more efficient, and most appliances work best and at full power when connected to a pure sine wave inverter.
Some timers, lights, and digital clocks will not work properly unless connected to a pure sine wave inverter.
Square sine wave inverters are the cheapest and the least efficient. They can only run basic appliances with universal motors. You are unlikely to find a solar generator with a square sine wave inverter.
Modified sine wave inverters fall somewhere between the above two types of inverters, though they are much closer to the square ones.
While modified sine wave inverters will power most appliances and gadgets, they are less efficient and can cause some devices to malfunction.
On the upside, a modified sine wave inverter is cheaper than a pure one.
But if you want a powerful and efficient solar generator, look for one with a pure sine wave inverter. The extra cost is worth it.
5. Output Options
This is something many people forget to check when buying a solar generator only to discover they cannot plug in their fridge or charge their phone.
A good solar generator should have three output options: an AC outlet, a 12V DC outlet, and USB ports.
The number of each type of output varies. Some generators can have as many as 4 USB ports, maybe a couple of AC outlets and one 12V socket.
Most standby solar generators require a degree of portability. This makes it easy to use them at the point of need, whether it’s in a specific room, outdoors or out in the wild.
Portability is also important in solar tracking, where you move the solar generator and panels to maximize sun exposure.
The lightest standby solar generators weigh about 30-40lbs. These are relatively easy to move around, albeit with some help.
Powerful generators can weigh close to 100lbs. Many come in heavy-duty casings with wheels for easier portability.
If your chosen solar generator doesn’t have wheels or is hard to move, consider buying a cart.
7. Extra Features
Here are some additional features to look for.
Multiple recharge options: A solar generator you can recharge from a home wall outlet or out of your car’s cigarette lighter socket can be useful at night or in bad weather. Additional recharge options are also handy when you need to quickly recharge the battery (solar panels can take several hours or days to fill up the battery).
Stackable: Check whether you can connect multiple batteries for extra capacity. Some solar generators even come with ports you can use to daisy-chain several batteries.
LCD display: An LCD display lets you monitor how much power the solar panels are producing and how much charge you have left in the battery.
Fast charging USB ports: The USB ports found in most solar generators are the standard types. Some generators come with fast-charging USB ports that juice up your devices in less time. This is especially handy if you want to charge multiple devices.
Wireless connectivity: A solar generator with WiFi or Bluetooth connectivity allows you to monitor power consumption and PV input easily on your Smartphone. But with Bluetooth, you need to be in range. If the generator uses WiFi, you can monitor the system from anywhere.
Things to Avoid when Choosing a Solar Powered Generator
Here’s what to avoid when shopping for a solar generator.
1. Square-Sine Wave Inverters
We’ve already discussed the three types of inverters.
Avoid square sine wave inverters; it unlikely you’ll find them anyway.
2. Very Low Capacity Solar Backup Generators
Even if you are charging gadgets like your smartphone, tablet, and camera, it’s still a good idea to get a decently sized solar generator.
Don’t go below 600Wh.
If you plan to power an appliance like a CPAP machine, a coffee maker or a fan, don’t go below 1,000Wh.
You want a generator that can last at least a full day and night even on cloudy days.
3. Very Low-wattage Solar Panels
The solar panels that come with some generators feel like tokens rather than a genuine effort to provide customers with a complete system.
A 50W solar panel will take days to charge a 100Ah battery.
Check that the solar generator comes with solar panels that can charge the battery in at most 6-8 hours.
One 100W panel or two 50W panels are good enough for most standby solar generators.
4. Low Quality or Suspiciously Cheap Solar Generators
‘You get what you pay for’ holds up well when it comes to buying a solar generator.
Despite the potential savings, you are better off avoiding cheap off-brand solar generators, especially if they boast a high wattage and capacity.
Buy from a trusted brand with a reputation for high-quality products.
Setup of a Solar Powered Generator
Installing an Off-Grid Solar Generator System
If you are going off-grid whether it’s camping, boating or living in a cabin somewhere in the woods, it’s essential that you harvest enough solar energy to meet your needs.
The first thing is to make sure you have the right number and capacity of solar panels. Your solar array should fill up your battery with a day’s worth of sunshine (at least 6 hours).
Monocrystalline solar panels are the best though they can be a bit pricey. If you are on a budget Polycrystalline will do.
Set up the solar panels where they will receive maximum exposure.
If it’s an off-grid house, roof mounting is the best. For RVs and camping, use a solar panel ground mount that you can move around to keep up with the sun’s position.
If possible, the solar panels should face south at an angle of about 30 degrees.
Most standby solar backup generators come with the charge controller built in or included separate from the main unit. So you don’t need to worry about buying a charge controller.
If your generator doesn’t have a charge controller, look for one that is rated for your solar array’s total output voltage and current.
It should also be compatible with your battery’s voltage.
The battery will also be integrated into the solar generator. It can be lead acid or lithium.
As I mentioned, a high ampere-hour or watt-hour battery lets you power more stuff for longer.
As with other components, there is no setup for the inverter. It’s integrated into the system.
You need to remember to turn it on when using the AC socket. This converts the DC power from the battery into usable AC power.
Installing an On-Grid Solar Generator System
For on-grid homes, you need to install the solar panels on the roof or ground, connect them to an inverter than connect the invert to your mains.
The inverter converts DC power from the solar panels to AC power that is compatible with your home electrical system.
Your home will use free solar energy during the day and seamlessly switch to grid power at night or when it’s cloudy.
If you don’t want a whole house backup system, you don’t have to do all this.
You can connect your solar panels to the solar generator. Then when utility power goes out, you can plug in your essential appliances and devices into the solar generator.