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solar backup generators

Best Home Backup Solar Generators 2020: Top 6 Picks + Buying Guide

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 drawbacks that solar generators completely avoid - as follows:

Fuel Supply

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. 

Noise

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 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 1250
  • Goal Zero Yeti 1250

  • 1200Wh capacity
  • Sealed lead acid battery
    (100Ah, 12V)
  • 1200W continous 1500W surge pure sine wave inverter
  • Goal Zero Boulder 100 Watt Monocrystalline Solar Panel (Sold Separately)
  • Output:
    3 AC, one 12V, 3 USB

  • Weight:
    103lbs

  • Price: $$$

Goal Zero Yeti 3000 solar generator
  • Goal Zero Yeti 3000

  • 3000Wh capacity
  • Lithium-ion battery pack
    (280Ah, 12V)
  • 1500W continuous, 3000W surge pure sine wave inverter
  • N/A
  • Output:
    USB, 12V, AC

  • Weight:
    68lbs

  • Price: $$$$

KISAE HS-1800
  • KISAE HS-1800

  • 720Wh capacity
  • Sealed lead acid battery
    (60Ah, 12V)
  • 1800W continous 3600W surge modified sinewave inverter
  • 80W monocrystalline solar panel
  • Output:
    4 AC

  • Weight:
    76lbs

  • Price: $$$$

SUAOKI 400Wh Portable Generator
  • SUAOKI 400Wh Power station

  • 400Wh capacity
  • Lithium-ion Battery Pack
    (30Ah, 12V)
  • 300W continuous, 600W surge pure sine wave inverter
  • N/A
  • Output:
    AC, 4 USB, 12V DC

  • Weight:
    12.3lbs

  • Price: $$

Solar e Power Cube 1500 Plus
  • Solar e Power Cube 1500 Plus

  • 1200Wh capacity
  • AGM/gel Hybrid Battery
    (100Ah, 12V)
  • 1500W continuous, 3600W surge modified sine wave inverter
  • Five 80W foldable mono-crystalline solar panels
  • Output:
    2 USB, 2 AC, 2 DC

  • Weight:
    122lbs

  • Price: $$$

MAXOAK Power Station
  • MAXOAK Power station

  • 2400Wh capacity
  • Lithium Polymer Battery Pack
    (162Ah, 14.8V)
  • 1000W continuous, 1200W surge pure sine wave inverter
  • N/A
  • Output:
    AC, USB, USB-C, 12V DC

  • Weight:
    48.5lbs

  • Price: $$$$

What You Need to Know About Backup Solar Generators

solar backup 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 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 backup solar 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 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 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 Generators: Reviews 

solar backup generator

GoalZero is the most popular solar generator manufacturer today. Goal Zero's Yeti 1250 is the most powerful generator they offer. 

The Yeti 1250 is an effective backup home generator capable of powering several high-wattage appliances and devices at a time. It can also be chained together to handle whole-home demands.

Pros

  • Great for powering and charging devices and small appliances.
  • Multiple outputs and input options for maximum versatility.
  • Chainable with other 100Ah batteries for added power.
  • It comes with a rolling cart for easier portability.

Cons

  • Lead-acid battery – it's heavier and has a shorter lifespan compared to a lithium battery.
  • Not ideal for large appliances or whole-house backup (unless you chain several batteries).

Our Review

Features

The Yeti 1250 is loaded with user-friendly features that keep it simple and efficient.

First and foremost, this solar generator is really powerful for its size. The battery has a capacity of 1200wh and 100 am​p hours, strong enough to power several laptops and a small energy-efficient refrigerator.

The lead-acid battery in the Yeti 1250 lasts hundreds of recharge cycles and should last for many years.

This generator is chainable, so you can hook up multiple units to supply true whole-home power.

The Yeti 1250 has multiple outlet ports to power several devices and appliances at once, including 3 USB ports, a 12V port, and 3 AC ports. If you need to transport the unit, a cart is included with a collapsible luggage-like handle.

The Yeti 1250 is chargeable via solar panels, and can be recharged using AC and 12v power sources when the sun isn't available. 

The LCD monitor display screen on the Yeti 1250 helps you accurately keep track of the battery's current charge, remaining charge time and rate of power consumption.

Keeping The Vitals On
Goal Zero Yeti 1250 Silver With Black Solar Generator

The Yeti 1250's power output and fast charge time makes it a great backup generator to plug into during power outages.

The unit is powerful enough to keep a handful of vital appliances running for several hours, while providing numerous recharges to handheld devices and laptops.

This generator will keep the lights on, one television going, and the refrigerator running for many hours during emergencies.

Although the generator is a home backup, it is also portable, so it can be used for construction, workshops, and camping if you're willing to haul it around.

Limitations

This generator isn't as powerful as some of its home backup/standby rivals. 

The Yeti's lead-acid battery can be a turn off for those wanting a lithium battery, which not only has a longer lifespan, but is much lighter as well.

The Yeti 1250 is also heavy - it weighs just over 100 lbs.

Summary

The Yeti 1250 is an affordable and user-friendly home power backup solution that will keep your critical appliances on and your electronic devices charged during any emergency.

Just don't expect it to power your entire home, unless you chain a few together.


Goal Zero Yeti 3000

The Goal Zero Yeti 3000 is a great choice if you are looking for a powerful backup solar generator that can power most of the appliances in your home.

With 10 output options, you can charge and power multiple devices at the same time.

The Yeti 3000 comes with WiFi connectivity, allowing you to monitor and control the power station through your smartphone.

Pros

  • Powerful 3,075 Watt Hour Lithium Battery.
  • 1500W continuous output makes it ideal for larger appliances.
  • Plenty of output and charging options.
  • It comes with a cart and an MPPT controller.
  • Remote app monitoring and control via WiFi.

Cons

  • Heavy.
  • Expensive.

Our Review

Features
3,075Wh Battery

The lithium battery pack stores enough power to charge most of your devices and appliances, including smartphones, laptops, TV, fridge, and lighting.

This makes it one of the best solar generators for home backup. In case of a power outage, you can keep the most crucial devices running, including everyone’s smartphones.

The manufacturer estimates it can charge a smartphone over 150 times, a laptop more than 58 times, and a tablet more than 110 times.

It can power a fridge for 50 hours and a 32” LCD TV for 22 hours.

The battery comes with an integrated Texas Instruments battery management system that ensures there’s no short-circuiting, overcharging, or too much current.

By the way, the battery pack is user-replaceable. So when it reaches the end of its life, you don’t have to throw out the entire generator.

1,500-Watt Pure-Sine Wave AC Inverter

The pure sine wave inverter provided up to 1500 watts of continuous power, enough to power most appliances.

The surge rating is 3000 watts, again making it ideal for high-power appliances.

10 Output Options 

The Goal Zero Yeti 3000 is one of the most versatile solar generators. You can charge or power up to 10 devices and appliances simultaneously.

Here are some of the available outputs.

  • 5V USB A
  • 5V USB C
  • 5V, 12V, 20V USB PD
  • 12V 6mm port
  • 12V carport
  • 12V power pole port
  • 120V AC (two ports)

So whether you want to charge your phone, plug in a DC powered light or plug in a refrigerator, there are more than enough output ports to do all at the same time.

Two Recharge Options 

If you are at home, you can recharge the battery from an AC wall outlet using the included AC cable. It takes about 25 hours to charge up the battery fully.

If you are traveling, you can recharge the battery directly from solar panels. You have to buy the solar panels separately, but you can skip the solar charge controller. The Yeti 3000 has a built-in MPPT charge controller to provide fast, efficient, and safe solar charging.

Wi-Fi Connectivity 

Most solar generators with connectivity work via Bluetooth. This is great if you are always near the generator but is unhelpful when you are out of range.

With Wi-Fi, you can monitor and control the Yeti 3000 from anywhere in the world.

You’ll need to download the Goal Zero Yeti App and then connect the generator to your home’s network.

From the app, you can remotely check the battery level, monitor the amount of power going in, or coming out and update the generator’s firmware over the air.

You can also turn on and off the power outputs, allowing you to switch on a connected appliance remotely.

You can link several Yetis to the same smartphone or use multiple smartphones to control a single Yeti power station.

Portable (Sort of)

Weighing 68lbs, the Yeti 3000 is not what we’d consider a portable solar generator. It’s meant for use mostly at home as a backup power supply.

That doesn’t mean you can’t take it out on the road. It’s small enough to fit in most trucks and SUVs, so you won’t have a problem taking it on road trips, fishing, and other outdoor adventures.

A detachable roll cart makes it easy to wheel the Yeti 3000 from the vehicle to a campsite or wherever else you need power.

Limitations 

The Goal Zero Yeti 3000 is one of the more expensive solar generators in the market. If you are looking for an affordable home power backup solution, this is probably not it.

But it’s worth the price. It provides more power, battery capacity, and versatility than most solar generators.

One limitation you may not have thought of is also one of its best features – Wi-Fi.

This is a backup power generator. If you are using it, you likely have no power at home, meaning your network is also down.

So you probably won’t be able to use the remote control feature when you need it most.

The other issue is the weight. Even with the cart, you’ll still struggle to move the Yeti 3000.

Summary 

Goal Zero Yeti 3000 Lithium

The Goal Zero Yeti 3000 is a great choice for anyone looking for a high-capacity solar backup generator that can power and charge a wide range of devices and appliances.


Home backup 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.

Pros

  • Complete kit – includes a battery, inverter, and solar panel.
  • High-output 1800W inverter – ideal for powering large appliances such as a fridge.
  • It can be used as an uninterruptible power supply thanks to a built-in transfer switch.

Cons

  • No wheels.
  • The included solar panel charges the battery very slowly. You may need to buy additional solar panels.
  • Low capacity battery.

Our Review

Features

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.

HS-1800 Home Power System

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. 

Limitations

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.

Summary

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. 


SUAOKI 400Wh Portable Generator Power Station

If you are looking for a home solar backup for your devices and small appliances, we recommend the SUAOKI 400Wh 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, and maybe a mini-fridge.

Pros

  • Affordable.
  • Ideal for handheld devices and small appliances.
  • Multiple outlets and recharging options.
  • The LCD display keeps you aware of important stuff like charge level.

Cons

  • Not ideal for large appliances.
  • Solar panel not included.

Our Review

Features

The 400Wh capacity is the smallest among our picks. While it won't run your fridge or power your coffee maker, the Suaoki power station is still a handy backup solution.

During blackouts and other emergencies, the most essential appliances are usually small ones like a fan, a CPAP machine, and a radio or a small TV. Keeping your communication devices charged is also crucial.

The Suaoki power station is perfect for such a situation. The 400Wh battery and 300W inverter can easily power most small appliances, including a mini-fridge, lighting, and a small TV.

You can also charge your smartphone, tablet, and laptop several times over before the battery runs out.

SUAOKI 400Wh features
Multiple Input and Output Options 

For a solar generator of its size, the Suaoki power station has a generous amount of output options.

For devices like a smartphone, camera, or drone, you can use one of the four 3.5A USB ports (you can charge all your family members' smartphones at once). Unfortunately, there's no USB-C. Also, none of the ports have fast charging technology.

For appliances, there are two AC ports powered by a 300W continuous and 600W surge pure sine wave inverter.

For power tools, lighting, or a CPAP machine, there are two 12V DC sockets and a cigarette lighter port.

As for recharging the battery, you can use solar panels, an AC wall outlet, or your car's 12V cigarette lighter socket.

Note that the Suaoki power station doesn't come with solar panels. But it comes with three cables for all three charging options: a wall charger, a solar charging cable, and a car charging cable.

You also get a pair of jump starter clamps.

Lightweight and Compact Solar Generator

One advantage of having a small backup solar generator is that it's not just a home power station. Weighing just 12.3lbs, the Suaoki power station is perfect for camping, fishing, road trips, and fieldwork.

If you are looking for a multi-purpose home backup solar generator that's also portable, we highly recommend the Suaoki 400Wh power station.

Limitations 

If you are looking for a solar generator that can power a large TV, a fridge, or a small AC, this is not it.

The Suaoki power station is limited to devices and small appliances.

Summary 

Despite is lower than average capacity, the Suaoki 400Wh 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.


Solar 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.

Pros

  • Complete kit – includes battery and solar panels.
  • 1500W inverter makes it ideal for powering larger appliances.
  • Multiple outlets.
  • It can be expanded with extra solar panels and batteries for increased capacity.

Cons

  • Heavy (122lbs).
  • Poorly built body, especially considering the weight of the unit. The wheels and handle break easily.

Our Review

Features 
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.

Expandable 

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.

Relatively Portable 

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.

Limitations

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:

  • No USB C port.
  • AGM/gel Hybrid Battery is heavier, has a less usable capacity, and has a lower cycle life compared to lithium batteries. The battery is the main reason the solar generator is so heavy.
  • Uses a modified sine wave inverter, which has several limitations compared to a pure sine wave inverter.

Summary

Solar e Power Cube 1500

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.


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.

Pros

  • Ideal for large appliances.
  • Multiple output options to charge/power different devices and appliances.
  • Two recharge options: solar or AC.
  • Built-in MPPT charge controller.

Cons

  • Not as expensive as the Yeti 3000 but still pricey.
  • Solar panels not included.
  • Heavy.

Our Review

Features

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.

MAXOAK Power Station features
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.

Limitations 

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.

Summary 

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?

Setup of a Solar Generator

Solar 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 generators have five main components:

  • Solar panels to capture sunlight. These may or may not be included with the main unit. If they are not included, you can buy them separately.
  • A built-in battery bank to store power.
  • An inverter that converts DC power from the battery to AC power that you can use to power appliances.
  • A built-in solar charge controller to monitor and control current from the solar panel to the battery.
  • Multiple output ports allow you to charge or power devices and appliances.

How to Choose the Best Solar Powered Generator

Solar 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

Battery capacity is expressed in amp-hours (Ah) or watt-hours(Wh).

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 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.

6. Portability 

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

solar backup generators

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 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

setup of solar backup generators

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.

Solar Panels 

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.

Charge Controller 

Most standby solar 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.

Battery 

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.

Inverter 

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.


About the Author David Roberts

I'm a Mechanical Engineer who's obsessed with solar energy and sustainable living.

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