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solar backup generators

Best Solar Generators For Home Backup [2022]: Top 7 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 has become critical because of our increased reliance on connected devices including 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:

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.

In contrast, 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. 

In contrast, solar generators are completely silent.

Exhaust & Emissions

Burning fossil fuels emits CO2 and carbon monoxide. And 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 can kill you.  

Exhaust and emissions are not a problem with a solar generator -  you can run one on your kitchen counter if you want.

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 the most popular & proven 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 a licensed solar energy installer in your town.


Best Home Backup & Standby Solar Generators

  1. 1
    Most Powerful: Goal Zero Yeti 6000X  
  2. 2
    Best 3000Wh System: Goal Zero Yeti 3000X
  3. 3
    Best 1500Wh System: Goal Zero Yeti 1500X
  4. 4
    Fastest-Charging: EF ECOFLOW 1260Wh Portable Power Station
  5. 5
    Best For Electronics & Small Appliances: Jackery Explorer 500
  6. 6
    Best Generator Kit With Solar Panels: EF ECOFLOW DELTA Max 2000 
  7. 7
    Best 1000-Watt System: MAXOAK Power Station

solar generator for tiny house
  • Goal Zero Yeti 6000X

  • Most Powerful
  • Li-ion battery
    6,071Wh Li-ion battery
  • 2000W continuous 3500W surge pure sine wave inverter
  • Output:
    USB, 12V, AC

  • Weight:
    106lbs

  • Warranty
    2yrs

solar generator for tiny house
  • Goal Zero Yeti 3000X

  • Best 3000Wh
  • Li-ion battery
    3,032Wh Li-ion battery
  • 2000W continuous 3500W surge pure sine wave inverter
  • Output:
    USB, 12V, AC

  • Weight:
    69.8lbs

  • Warranty
    2yrs

solar generator for tiny house
  • Goal Zero Yeti 1500X

  • Best 1500Wh
  • Li-ion battery
    1516Wh Li-ion battery
  • 2000W continuous 3500W surge pure sine wave inverter
  • Output:
    USB, 12V, AC

  • Weight:
    45.6lbs

  • Warranty
    2yrs

solar generator for tiny house
  • EF ECOFLOW Delta

  • Fastest charging
  • Li-ion battery
    1260Wh Li-ion battery
  • 1800W continuous 3000W surge pure sine wave inverter
  • Output:
    110V AC, 12V DC, USB-A, USB-C

  • Weight:
    30.9lbs

  • Warranty
    2yrs

portable solar generator for camping
  • Jackery Explorer 500

  • Best for devices & small appliances
  • Li-ion battery
    288Wh Li-ion battery
  • 500W pure sine wave inverter
  • Output:
    110V AC, 12V DC, USB-A

  • Weight:
    13.3lbs

  • Warranty
    2yrs

solar generator for tiny house
  • EF ECOFLOW DELTA Max (2000)

  • Best with solar panels
  • Li-ion battery
    2016Wh
  • 2400W continuous 5000W surge pure sine wave inverter
  • Output:
    AC, DC, USB-A, USB-C

  • Weight:
    48lbs

  • Warranty
    2yrs

solar generator for tiny house
  • MAXOAK

  • Best 1000W
  • Li-ion battery
    2400Wh Li-Po battery
  • 1000W continuous 1200W surge pure sine wave inverter
  • Output:
    110V AC, 12V DC, USB-A, USB-C PD

  • Weight:
    48.5lbs

  • Warranty
    2yrs


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.

Solar Generators Cannot Power Your Entire Home (for long)

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 solar generator won't power heavy appliances for very long period of time. For that, you'll need to upgrade to a fully installed home solar power system with at least $10,000 worth of batteries.

That said, 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 electronic 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 1500x and Bluetti's products, can be be chained together to supply more power.


Best Home Backup & Standby Solar Generators

1. Most Powerful: Goal Zero Yeti 6000X

solar power generator for home

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. 

Pros

  • Ultra-high capacity battery.
  • High power output.
  • Versatile power outputs.
  • Built-in MPPT solar charge controller.
  • WiFi connectivity.
  • Comes with a cart for easier portability.

Cons

  • Expensive.
  • Takes longer to charge especially when using solar.

Our Review

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. (https://www.goalzero.com/product-features/yeti-app/) You can check remaining battery level, turn ports on or off and choose your preferred power mode.

standby solar generator

Limitations 

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. 

Summary

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: Goal Zero Yeti 3000X

best solar powered generator

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. 

Pros

  • High capacity – can last you hours or days after a blackout.
  • High power output – enough to power most appliances.
  • Multiple output and input ports.
  • Efficient MPPT charge controller.
  • Wi-Fi connectivity.
  • Comes with cart.

Cons

  • Still pricey compared to other solar generators.
  • Solar panels sold separately. 

Our Review

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. 

Portability

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. 

Limitations

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. 

Summary

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: Goal Zero Yeti 1500X

best solar powered generator

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. 

Pros

  • Cheaper than the 3000X and 6000X.
  • High 2000W output – great for powering appliances .
  • Multiple outlets and inlets.
  • MPPT charge controller.
  • WiFi connectivity.

Cons

  • Doesn’t power large appliances for long. 

Our Review

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 USB 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. 

Limitations 

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.  

Summary

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. Fastest-Charging System: EF ECOFLOW 1260Wh

best solar generator for house

The EF ECOFLOW Delta is probably the fastest charging solar generator in the market. Using patented X-Stream technology, it goes from 0 to 80% in just one hour and charges to 100% in two hours. 

Pros

  • Large battery.
  • Powerful inverter.
  • Versatile outlets.
  • Includes all charging cables (solar, AC, DC).

Cons

  • Pricey.
  • Heavy.

Our Review

The EF ECOFLOW Delta is a great pick if you don't want to wait hours to recharge a power station. Using just the included AC adapter, it’s ready to go in just 2 hours. 

It comes with a 1260Wh lithium battery. That’s not very big in the world of backup solar generators, but it’s good enough to keep devices charged and a couple of essential appliances powered during a power outage. 

What Can The EF ECOFLOW DELTA Charge/Power?

The EF ECOFLOW DELTA can power and charge just about any electronic in your home from your kitchen refrigerator to a window AC. 

You can plug in any appliance that draws under 1800W of power. 

The Delta solar generator also offers a host of USB and DC options for gadgets, tools, lighting, and more. 

The 1260Wh battery is pretty large and can support running appliances for quite some time. For example, you can run a full size fridge for over 10 hours.  

Outlets

  • (6) 110V 1800W (3300W surge) AC outlets
  • (2) USB-A fast charge ports
  • (2) USB-A regular ports
  • (2) USB-C ports
  • 12V car port

One thing we love about the EcoFlow Delta is the number of AC outlets provided. You can power more appliances at the same time as long as you do not exceed a total draw of 1800W. 

Charging Options

The EcoFlow Delta includes cables for charging via wall, solar, and DC. But solar panels are not included. 

Wall charging is pretty fast thanks to EcoFlow’s X-Stream technology. Using a regular AC charger, the Delta power station charges at lightning speed. It goes from 0 to 80% in just one hour. 

If there’s no power, you can charge from a 10-65V solar panel. The max solar input the Delta power station accepts is 400W. A couple of foldable 200W solar panels should be enough to keep Delta charged up during a long power outage. 

The other option is charging from your vehicle when you are on the go. This is handy for RVs and truck camping. 

Issues & Limitations

The EF ECOFLOW DELTA costs significantly more than smaller solar generators. If you are on a budget, consider one of our other picks.   

It’s also heavy, making it less than ideal for camping and the outdoors. But it’s great for RVs and car/truck camping where you don't have to lift and carry the solar generator.

Summary

The EF ECOFLOW Delta is a great choice for anyone looking for a solar generator that charges really fast. 

It can be particularly helpful during intermittent power supply when you need to recharge the power station fast before power goes out again.


5. Best For Electronics: Jackery Explorer 500

solar power generator for home

If you just need to keep your devices charged and power some small appliances during a blackout, we recommend the Jackery Explorer 500. 

Pros

  • Perfect for charging devices.
  • Lightweight and compact - ideal for use at home and away.
  • Multiple outlets.
  • Display screen lets you monitor power and battery.

Cons

  • Not ideal for most appliances.
  • No USB-C port.

Our Review

The Jackery Explorer 500 will not power your fridge or coffee maker during a blackout. It’s far too small for that. 

But it’s perfect for mini appliances like a fan, CPAP or personal cooler as well as devices and gadgets. 

It has a 518Wh lithium battery, enough to charge your smartphone, laptop and other devices many times over.  

What Can The Jackery Explorer 500 Charge/Power?

The Jackery Explorer 500 is suited to devices and small appliances. 

With four USB ports, you can plug in multiple devices at once such as a smartphone, camera, tablet, Bluetooth speaker and so on. 

As for appliances, it’s limited to low power ones like mini coolers, portable refrigerators, a fan, or a mini projector. 

How long the Jackery Explorer 500 lasts depends on the capacity or power draw of whatever you’ve plugged in. 

For instance, you can charge a smartphone 50 times, recharge a laptop almost 5 times, and run a small TV for almost 8 hours. 

Outlets

  • (3) 5V 2.4A USB-A ports 
  • (1) 110V 500W AC outlet
  • (2) 12V 7A DC outlet
  • (1) 12V car DC outlet

Charging Options  

solar power generator for home

When there’s power, you can charge the Jackery Explorer 500 from a wall outlet using the included charger. It takes about 7.5 hours to recharge.

In a blackout or when you are outdoors, connect a solar panel (a 100W max) or charge it from your moving vehicle. 

Issues & Limitations

The Jackery Explorer 500 is limited in what it can power. 

You cannot plug in high-wattage household appliances like a coffee maker and most blenders. It also cannot power a space heater or even a window or portable AC unit. 

The other issue is the lack of a USB-C port, something that virtually all portable solar generators have. The Explorer 500 doesn't even offer a quick charge port. 

Summary

The Jackery Explorer 500 is a great choice if you need a lightweight and compact solar generator that can keep your devices charged and power some small appliances. 


6. Best Kit With Solar Panels: EF ECOFLOW DELTA Max

best solar generator for house

If you don't want to wire your home with a backup power system (solar panels on the roof, solar charge controller, inverter etc.), the EF ECOFLOW DELTA Max is the best plug and play alternative. 

It comes as a complete kit with a 2016Wh power station and four solar panels. Best of all, it is expandable if you need additional backup capacity.   

Pros

  • Complete kit.
  • Expandable.
  • Versatile output and charging options.
  • Fast charging via wall outlet.
  • Also works as an emergency power supply.

Cons

  • Pricey.

Our Review

The EF ECOFLOW DELTA Max comes with a 2016Wh lithium battery. Combine that with the integrated 2400W inverter and you can power just about any appliance in your home. 

With the X-Boost feature, you can increase this output to 3400W for high-powered electronics. 

The included solar panels can recharge the Delta Max in a day, ensuring you have never-ending power to outlast a long blackout. 

Powerful Power Station With Multiple Outlets

The EF ECOFLOW DELTA Max is one of the most powerful backup power stations in this buying guide. The 6 AC outlets have a combined output of 2400W and can manage a surge demand of up to 5000W. 

It has higher surge and continuous output than even the enormous Yeti 6000X. 

If you are looking for a home backup solar generator that can power any appliance, go with the EF ECOFLOW DELTA Max. 

In addition to the AC outlets, the DELTA Max also offers USB and DC outputs.

  • 2 USB-A ports (up to 12W)
  • 2 USB-A fast charging ports (up to 18W)
  • 2 USB-C ports (up to 100W)
  • 12.6V 38W DC outlet
  • 12.6V 126W car DC port

The versatile output options let you connect multiple devices and appliances at the same time. 

By the way, you can monitor the EF ECOFLOW DELTA Max via a WiFi app. It lets you see remaining charge, discharge rate, charging status and other info. You can also control various settings. 

Solar Panels & Fast Wall Charging

The 2016Wh capacity is not much when you are powering appliances. Luckily, as long as it’s sunny, you don't have to worry about running out of juice. 

The EF ECOFLOW DELTA Max comes with four foldable solar panels, each with an output of 160W. Combined, they recharge the Delta Max in 4-9 hours. 

If there’s power, you can charge the Delta Max even faster by plugging it into a wall outlet. It goes from 0 to 80% in just 65 minutes and fully recharges in 1.8 hours. 

You can also recharge the Delta MAx from your car. And in an emergency, you can also charge it from the EF ECOFLOW Smart Generator that runs on unleaded gasoline. 

Emergency Power Supply

One of the reasons the Delta Max is a great backup solar generator is the EPS (emergency power supply) function. 

To use this function, you plug the Delta Max into the wall outlet and then run essential appliances from the solar generator outlets. 

When there’s power, the Delta Max draws power from the grid. As soon as the power goes out, it switches to the internal battery and keeps whatever is plugged in running. 

Expandable

If you feel the 2016Wh capacity is not enough for your needs, you can add up to two additional smart EF ECOFLOW batteries

Each adds 2016Wh of capacity, so you could expand your system to 6KWh. 

Limitations 

As you’d expect, a complete solar generator kit is not cheap. If you are shopping for a budget or mid-price home backup power station, the EF ECOFLOW DELTA Max is probably not what you are looking for. 


7. Best 1000-Watt System: MAXOAK Power Station:

best portable solar power generator

The MAXOAK power station combines a 2400Wh Lithium polymer battery and a 1,000W pure sine wave inverter to power most appliances in your home including a full size fridge, a large TV and a small space heater. 

Pros

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

Cons

  • Limited power output.

Our Review

Features

The MAXOAK power station has a large 2400Wh lithium battery, making it a good choice if you want long lasting backup power. 

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 charge 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. 

For example, family-size coffee makers can draw up to 1500W, way above the MAXOAK’s limit. 

Large space heaters, air conditioners and electric kettles are also out of the question. 

Summary 

The MAXOAK power station is a great choice if you are looking for a medium size backup solar generator to power smaller appliances and devices for a prolonged period. 

It combines a large capacity battery (2400Wh) with medium power output (1000W). 


Buying Guide for Solar Powered Backup Generators for Home

How Do Solar Generators Work?

Setup of a Solar Generator

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 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.

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.

Things to Consider when Choosing a Solar Powered Generator

Solar 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 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.

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 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

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 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.

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.

Pros and Cons Of A Solar Generator For Home Backup

The Good 

Solar generators offer a clean backup power solution compared to gas generators. Solar generators can be charged using renewable solar energy. 

Another big advantage is the ease of setting up a solar generator. Unlike a wired home backup system, solar generators don’t require any wiring. You simply plug in devices and appliances since all the components are built into a single compact unit. 

You don't need to spend more money on an electrician to install solar panels and wire your home. 

The compact all-in-one design also makes solar generators portable. You can take it where you want to use it, and even go with it camping or in your RV. This makes it much more versatile compared to a wired solar backup system. 

The Downsides of Solar Generators For Home Backup

The biggest downside of using a solar generator for home backup is that you are limited in storage capacity. 

Unlike a wired solar system, you cannot create a large battery bank that stores enough power to last days. Most solar generators have smaller lithium batteries that are good for a few hours to a couple of days. 

It’s hard to find a solar generator you can use for whole house backup. You have to choose which electronics you want to run in an emergency. 

You are also limited in terms of output. Many solar generators have sub 600W inverters that only power smaller appliances. 

You can get a high-output solar generator (1000-2000W), but they are pricey. 

The other big downside is that power is located in just one place. It’ll be tricky trying to plug in the TV and the kitchen fridge at the same time. 

You have to keep plugged in appliances close to the power station.


Solar Generators For Home Backup: FAQs

Can a solar generator power my entire home?

Probably not, unless you get a large solar generator and you have a tiny home. Solar generators are meant to power and charge just a few electronics, not the entire house. 

If you want to backup your entire house, go with a wired system complete with solar panels on the roof and a high-capacity battery bank. 

Can I use a solar generator at night or when it’s cloudy?

Yes, you can. Solar generators have a built-in battery, usually a lithium battery. 

When it is sunny and you’ve connected solar panels, energy is stored in the battery and you can use it at any time. 

You can also charge the solar generator from a wall outlet or a moving vehicle. 

Can I use a solar generator without solar panels?

You certainly can. Most solar generators can be charged via a wall outlet or a vehicle’s 12V port. So when it’s not sunny, you have other options. 

How long can a solar generator power appliances?

It depends on its storage capacity and how much power the appliances are using. Because you’ll likely be plugging in different kinds of electronics including gadgets and devices, it can be hard to estimate the battery run time. 

But generally, solar generators can power a few electronics for several hours. 

If you want a solar generator to power appliances for longer when there’s no power, get a solar panel to recharge it daily.   

About the Author David Roberts

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

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