The solar generator, or solar powered generator, is one of the hottest products on the market today. It has been developed to generate electricity for the purpose of lighting and camping, but it has the huge potential replacing the environmentally unfriendly gas, diesel, and propane powered generator being used by many homeowners in the United State today.
Conventional generators heavy, oily, have high maintenance and use fossil fuel to generate electricity. Solar generators lightweight, eco-friendly, and generate electricity without the need for refueling.
A solar generator can be charged either from a wall outlet or from a solar panel. It can supply electricity for phones, home security cameras, lights, small electrical devices, or even a window air conditioning unit (for example with this heavy-duty solar generator – Goal Zero Yeti 3000). When paired with solar, you can actually save money on your electric bills, and a solar generator offers clean, quiet power that you can’t get with a conventional generator.
A solar generator is a great choice for camping, tailgating, RVs or home emergency backup system. If you are looking for the best solar generator but don’t know how to pick the right one, this “solar generator review and rating” is for you. In this article we review several solar generators that we feel are worth your hard-earned money. And we also explain some things that you will want to know about solar generators before making a purchase.
Best Solar Generators: Our Picks
What’s a Solar Generator?
As the name implies, a solar powered generator is powered by the sun.
Unlike conventional generators, solar generators don’t run on gasoline, diesel, or propane. This kind of generators capture the sun’s energy via solar panels, store that energy in a battery bank, and release it through a power inverter to be used for standard AC power.
With a conventional generator that is used to supply stand-alone loads, there is a constant output of power from the generator but there is no storage of power to supply the loads when the generator is not running. In this case, solar panels are not able to replace a generator on their own because solar panels cannot reliably produce a steady flow of instantaneous power.
With a solar generator, the idea here is that the solar will supply a varying amount of power to the battery storage, the battery storage will store this power until it is needed and then supply loads with a constant supply of power as necessary.
Simply put, a solar generator works in a way that is similar to a small off-grid solar system, the only difference here is that a solar generator is portable, which you can put in your car and bring with you anywhere you go.
Of course, the solar power generator needs to be designed, both the solar panels, the charge controller, the deep cycle batteries, and the inverter/charger to allow for enough power to be stored in total to meet the loads.
Today’s best solar generators can come equipped with the lithium-ion battery that can store a huge amount of energy in a very small package.
How Does a Solar Generator Work?
Basically, a solar generator is a simple system consisting of 4 key components: the solar panels, the batteries, the inverter/charger, and the solar charge controller (optional).
1) Solar Panel
The solar panel is what powers a solar generator.
A solar panel is filled with individual photovoltaic cells, which have the ability to convert photons of sunlight into electricity. When photons hit a solar cell, they knock electrons loose from their atoms. If conductors are attached to the positive and negative sides of a cell, it forms an electrical circuit. When electrons flow through such a circuit, they generate electricity.
Solar cells are made of silicon crystals cut into super-thin wafers or a film made of silicon, cadmium telluride or other materials. The cells are connected in a series to develop an electrical current that charges a battery.
You’ll find that efficiency levels among solar panels differ. Efficiency refers to how well each cell converts the sun’s photons into electrical current. So a solar panel with a 15 percent efficiency rating produces 50 percent more electricity than a solar panel with a 10 percent rating.
A solar panel typically costs a few hundred dollars and is easy to purchase. With proper installation and maintenance, your solar panel will last, on average, for 20 years.
The solar powered generator is also called the battery powered generator, because of the fact that the battery storage capacity is the most important aspect of a solar generator’s actual usability.
The battery storage is also the first and foremost factor you’ll want to consider when selecting the best solar generator. Depending on your solar generator goals – the number of devices and how much power they draw, you may want a high-capacity battery.
Without decent battery storage capacity, reliability and usability are severely affected. Without batteries at all (batteries not included), a solar generator is pretty worthless.
The battery of a solar powered generator is the deep cycle battery. It’s rated in terms of amp hours (amp/hr). For example, a 12-volt 100 amp/hr battery. To calculate the battery capacity, from amp hours, multiply amps times volts. For example, the watt-hour rating of the above 12-volt 100 amp/hr battery is 1200 (12*100).
Unfortunately, not all of the rated watt-hours should be used. Battery manufacturers recommend only using 50% of the full capacity in traditional lead-acid batteries in order to preserve lifespan and reduce failures. Draining batteries fully will effectively destroy them.
The best batteries for solar generators are lithium-ion batteries. Lithium-ion batteries are lighter and more power dense and can be drained to 10% capacity. This type of deep cycle battery is also more durable and have a longer lifespan than traditional lead-acid batteries, AGM or GEL batteries.
The Jackery Portable Power Station Solar Generator 240Wh is a good example. This is one of the best solar generators for camping on the market and it comes equipped with a lithium-ion battery. The lithium battery makes it compact and lightweight and can store a lot of energy. In addition, its voltage will not change much under heavy load, and their total capacity will not fluctuate much under different loads.
Power from a solar generator is direct current (DC), and your appliances need alternating current (AC). So you need a device to convert DC to AC, called an inverter.
Inverter/chargers – an upgraded type of inverter – also grant the ability to externally charge your battery bank by plugging it into the grid or portable generator and routing the incoming AC power to the batteries in DC power. Ultimately, inverters rate the maximum watts you can pull at any one time from a solar generator. For example, a 2,000-watt power inverter lets you pull up to that wattage in AC power.
For a solar generator, look for an inverter/charger with one or more AC outlets to accommodate your appliances. A 2,000-watt voltage inverter provides sufficient power to run most home appliances or RV appliances or power tools. Also, the best solar generators should use a pure sine wave inverter.
4) Solar Charge Controller
Most solar charge controllers come as an optional when you buy a solar generator. The role of the solar charge controller is to do two things.
- It is to convert the electricity received from the solar panels to the voltage required by the battery bank
- To regulate the flow of power from the solar to the battery bank so as not to damage the batteries. Solar generator’s batteries need to be treated carefully in terms of the rates at which they are charged and discharged so as not to damage them.
Do I always need a solar charge controller? Not always, but usually. Generally, there is no need for a solar charge controller with a small solar system like a solar powered generator. And most portable solar generators available on the market today have been optimized to be charged with portable solar panels.
But if you’re building a DIY solar power generator, you probably need a good solar charge controller. The best way to get full power out of solar panels is to use an MPPT solar charge controller.
Benefits of Solar Generators
1) Solar Generators are Silent
Unlike conventional generators, solar generators don’t run on fuel, so they have no moving parts. They aren’t as loud as gas generators. In fact, solar generators are virtually silent when in use.
2) Solar Generators are Zero-Emissions
One of the most obvious reasons to use a solar powered generator is that it is a “green” choice. It doesn’t harm the environment because it is fueled by the sun, and it does not run off of fossil fuels, like gas or diesel.
When fossil fuels are used to create electricity, they produce harmful gas emissions that affect the safety of air, water, and soil. In contrast, solar energy produces no pollution. The sun’s power offers an unlimited source of energy that does not strip the landscape or harm the ozone layer.
3) No Maintenance and Fuel Costs
As mentioned before, solar generators don’t require fuel to work, so they are maintenance free and operating costs are practically zero.
The only cost associated with the use of a solar generator is the initial investment. This means that despite the large initial investment, there are no additional costs associated with its use, so the cost is recovered quickly.
The best solar generators can cost you a few hundreds of dollars initially but will save thousands of dollars on fuel and maintenance costs after several years of use, depending on the size of the system.
4) Solar Generators are Portable
Most solar generators are portable. Today’s best portable solar generators are compact and lightweight but pack a serious amount of energy. Most portable solar generators are designed for camping sites, outdoor parties, boat life, and road trips.
A portable solar generator is also especially ideal backup power, in that they can be moved and stored when not in use. You will find a solar generator is extremely helpful in the event of power outage.
The most common choice is a solar generator with a capacity of 150-500Wh. These solar generators provide enough power for phones, tablets, laptops, mini refrigerators, portable evaporative coolers, CPAP machines, jump start a car, and keeping lights on for emergency use – but still small enough to pack for a trip.
5) A Solar Generator Works Without… the Sun
One of the most common misconceptions about solar power generators is that they cannot be used when it is cloudy or rainy outside. The solar generator actually stores power on the days when it is sunny, meaning that you will still be able to use the device in inclement weather.
Plus, a solar generator can be charged either from a wall outlet or from a solar panel. That means when it is cloudy or rainy outside and the solar panel is useless, you can recharge your solar generator with a wall outlet.
Finally, once the solar generator is up to full speed, it will run day and night without any input from you. During the day, the electricity charges the batteries and excess powers your equipment. At night, the batteries power your equipment. As long as there’s enough daylight every day, it just goes on and on.
5) Solar Generators Can Be Safely Used Indoor
Not only a solar generator perfect choice for camping and outdoor capacities, but it’s also safe to operate indoors.
Gas and diesel are expensive, dirty, and potentially toxic. Most gas/diesel generators are very loud, meaning that you don’t want to operate them nearby. Worse, the fumes that gas generators put out mean that you cannot operate them indoors, as it would be unsafe.
As a result, gas generators must be kept outside which means you’re going to be dealing with a mess of cables coming through windows and doors that you have to extend repeatedly to get to your devices. Further, if your power is out, typically it entails harsh conditions outdoors and heading outside is often not advised.
Contrary to gas/diesel generators, solar generators are 100% safe to operate indoors. That means no trips out into the harsh weather, and it means no running cables through windows and doors or trying to extend cables multiple times to reach far away appliances. Just set the solar generator down right next to it!
6) A Solar Generator the Best Emergency Backup for 12V Medical Equipment
Most medical devices, and all of those sold as portable devices, will work with the 12-volt power outlet.
You may want to consider a solar generator for your continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device, oxygen concentrator, infusion pump or nebulizer, which will allow you to go camping or otherwise live off the grid and still keep your medical device powered.
REVIEW: The Best Solar Generators to Buy
1. Goal Zero Yeti 400 Lithium Solar Generator Kit w/ Boulder 100 Briefcase Solar Panel Review – Best Portable Solar Generator Kit
The Goal Zero Yeti 400 Lithium Solar Generator Kit with Boulder 100 Briefcase Solar Panel is our pick as the best solar generator kit for most people. This kit is perfect for basecamps, weekend camping trips, cabins and living off the grid in the wood.
This solar generator kit also a great choice for outdoor activities like hunting and fishing. And you can use this solar generator kit as an alternative to gasoline-powered generators, running small appliances, lights and even medical devices for a short time.
The Goal Zero Yeti 400 Lithium is an upgrade of the best-selling Goal Zero Yeti 400 Portable Power Stationwith a Lead-acid battery. The Lithium-ion battery in this version is smaller and lighter than a comparable lead-acid battery, so it’s easier to carry around but pumps out the same amount of power.
The Yeti 400 Lithium is also more powerful than its predecessors. It features increased surge allowances, advanced battery protection, user-replaceable lithium battery pack, and longer shelf life. With the 428 watt-hour capacity (39.6Ah and 10.8V), you can power lights, smartphones, tablets, laptops, TVs, CPAP machines, and even a mini-fridge.
And because the Yeti 400 produces pure sine wave output, it’s safe to be used with any electrical device you may have.
Fully charged, the Yeti 400 offers the following approximate power:
- Smartphone: 40 Recharges
- POV Camera: 70+ Recharges
- Headlamp: 70+ Recharges
- Tablet: 10+ Recharges
- Laptop: 3-5 Recharges
- Light-a-Life: 130 Hours
- Mini Fridge: 7 Hours
- 32 LCD TV: 3 hours.
This solar generator has three USB ports, two AC outlets, and one 12V output. It has a user-friendly LCD screen featuring a runtime/recharge time estimator, as well as a battery level monitor and an output/input meter. You get real-time usage data at a quick glance.
One of the key features that makes Goal Zero solar generators the best portable solar generators on the market is that they have a user-replaceable battery. Whenever the included battery is dead, you can easily replace it by yourself. The replacement process only takes about 5 minutes and your solar generator will last for years. This is a money-saving feature!
Replacing a GoalZero Yeti 400 Battery | Video by Goal Zero
You can charge the Yeti 400 Lithium from the wall when you’re at home (fully recharges in about 7 hours), it can also recharge by connecting a compatible solar panel. If you are a heavy user using all the power in one day, we recommend using the Boulder 100 Briefcase Solar Panel. The Boulder 100 Briefcase will fully recharge the Yeti 400 Lithium in about 8-16 hours.
If you are a standard or light user and use about 30-40% of the power per day, you can use 1 Boulder 50 Solar Panel.
One thing we don’t like is that this newer lithium-ion solar generator cannot be charged using the 12v cigarette lighter outputs in the car. “DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CHARGE YOUR YETI LITHIUM FROM A 12V SOURCE” is what Goal Zero says on their website. As opposed to this, the older lead-acid Yeti 400 allows recharging from a car. We think this is for safety reasons, charging a lithium-ion battery is harder than charging an AGM lead Acid battery.
Why should I buy the Yeti 400 Lithium over the Yeti 400? Goal Zero Yeti 400 vs. Goal Zero Yeti 400 Lithium
The short answer is …we think the best solar generator should come with the lithium-ion battery, for 3 reasons:
- Compared to lead-acid batteries, Lithium has a longer lifespan and much higher efficiency.
- Lead-acid batteries should only be run to 50% depth of discharge, while lithium-ion batteries can handle deep discharges of 90% – 100%.
- Lithium batteries can run on a heavy load much better than lead-acid batteries. Their voltage will not change much under heavy load, and their total capacity will not fluctuate much under different loads.
Overall, if you’re looking for a medium-sized solar generator, the Goal Zero Yeti 400 lithium solar generator with Boulder 100 Briefcase Solar Panel is your best bet. The compact size and lithium power make it ideal for camping, tailgating, off-grid living, or using at home. We highly recommend this generator!
Note: When charging gear with the Yeti 400 Lithium solar generator, take note of the LCD Battery Display. If you plug in devices that have a high power requirement (a large refrigerator), the charge level of the Yeti can drop very quickly and you may not get exactly 400Wh of energy.
Cold temperatures (below freezing) can impact the Yeti’s battery capacity. If you’ll be living off-grid in sub-zero conditions, we recommend keeping your Yeti 400 Lithium in an insulated cooler, connected to a power source (solar panels), and charging your gear.
2. Jackery Explorer 240 Review – Best Solar Generator for Camping
Don’t be fooled by its compact size, the Jackery Explorer 240 delivers enough power for any device you might have on your camping trip. Its lithium battery packs a 240Wh capacity to keep your phones, your laptops, your drones, and even your mini fridge charged for a short time.
Its lightweight and small designed, in a combination with the pure sine wave inverter and many other convenient features, plus a foldable, easy-to-carry 50W solar panel (sold separately) make the Jackery Explorer 240 one of the best solar generators for camping on the market today.
Fully charged, the Jackery Explorer 240 offers the following approximate power:
- MacBook Pro 15″: 2.5+ Recharges
- Dometic Cooler CFX (40W): 5+ Recharges
- GoPro Hero 7: 40+ Recharges
- Mini Air Humidifier (30W): 7+ Recharges
- DJI Phantom Drone: 3+ Recharges
- Air Pump: 5-8 Hours
- iPhone X: 17+ Recharges
- iPad Pro: 6+ Recharges
- CPAP: 5 Hours
- 32-Inch TV: 3+ Hours
Weighing only 6.6 pounds and measuring 9.0 ” x 7.8” x 5.2”, the Jackery Explorer 240 is very easy to carry around as well as store. Built into its compact body are a DC Input, 2 USB Outputs, an AC Outlet, and a car port for true compatibility.
There are three ways to charge this solar powered generator: via wall outlets – 7 hours, via solar panels – 7.2 hours for Jackery 50W solar panel, and via 12V car cigarette lighter. You can easily see the charging process, along with Input Watts and Output Watts on the digital display panel. This display will also inform you of the total watts being used.
Jackery 50W Solar Panel is foldable, portable and comes with a nice protective cover and a cable to connect it to the Jackery Explorer 240. The panel is lightweight and folds up, locking itself with magnets. It is a sturdy and easy-to-pack panel that you can take with you on any camping trip without to much hassle.
Overall, the Jackery Explorer 240 is our pick as the best solar generator for camping, especially car camping. This is a great portable generator to take with you on a trip, camping in the woods, or anywhere you might need power.
3. Goal Zero Yeti 1400 Lithium Portable Power Station Review – Best Solar Generator for Home
The Goal Zero Yeti 1400 Lithium provides an enormous amount of energy for its compact size. With a capacity of up to 1,425-Wh (132Ah x 10.8V), an inverter producing the similar continuous output (1500W), and nearly twice the surge capability (3000W), plus the built-in surge allowances and multistage protection for compatibility with a wide range of electronics, this solar generator can easily power many high-power devices in your home such as your refrigerator, 1/3HP sump pump, power tools, portable table saw, and much more. For this reason, the Yeti 1400 lithium earned our pick as the best solar generator for home.
In addition to its enormous amount of energy, the Yeti 1400 Lithium solar generator also features an easy-to-use, plug-and-play design. It provides an array of output options for any energy need. It has 4 USB outputs, 2 AC outputs, a 12V DC vehicle cigarette lighter-style socket, and a 6mm 12V DC port. You can charge up to 10 devices at once.
With an informative LCD display, it’s very easy to see how much power you’re using. The display also shows the real-time input and output and calculates your runtime.
What can the Yeti 1400 Lithium Power?
- Smartphone: 70+ Recharges
- POV Camera: 230+ Recharges
- Headlamp: 230+ Recharges
- Tablet: 52+ Recharges
- Laptop: 23+ Recharges
- Light-a-Life Light: 465+ Hours
- Small Refrigerator (600W): 2+ Hours
- 32 LCD TV: 14 Hours
- 1/3HP Sump Pump: 2 Hours
- Small Microwave (700W): 2 Hours
The Yeti 1400 Lithium is a WiFi Connected Solar Generator. Wifi connectivity allows you to control your generator remotely. You can turn ports on or off, check battery level, as well as power in and out. Unfortunately, the WiFi connectivity requires a router to work.
Like the Yeti 400 lithium, the lithium battery in this 1400W version is replaceable. That means you can replace the battery when it’s dead.
There are only two ways to charge the Yeti 1400 lithium: from an AC outlet or from the sun. Charge time is dependent on the size of the solar panel. The Boulder 200 Briefcase will fully recharge the Yeti 1400 Lithium in about 16 hours. Charging by AC power takes about 25 hours.
All in all, we were very impressed with the overall quality of the Goal Zero Yeti 400 lithium solar generator. It has an excellent design that looks nice and sturdy. It’s very powerful for its compact size. It can power all essential home appliances during a power outage. It’s safe to be used indoor and is virtually silent. This is one of the best solar generators for home use and we’d recommend it to those looking for an alternative to a 2000W gas generator.
Goal Zero Yeti 1400 Lithium – Home Edition | Video by Goal Zero
4. Suaoki S270 Lithium Portable Power Station Review – Best Backpack Solar Generator
This 150Wh Suaoki Portable Power Station is amazingly compact. With the weight is only 2.9 lbs (1.3 kg) and size of 7.3 x 4.3 x 4.7 inch, this solar generator can easily fit in your backpack. The battery storage capacity of 150 watt-hour makes it ideal for charging devices such as laptops, phones, tablets, cameras, drones, Bluetooth speakers, CPAP machines, and more.
The Suaoki S270 is probably the most compact solar generator you can buy. This is a great power source to go traveling with, and if you need something that is small in size but big on impact.
This solar generator has most kinds of outputs you could ask for. It has 4 USB ports, one of them is powered by fast-charging QC3.0 technology, ensure that your phones, tablets and cameras stay charged throughout the day wherever you go.
2 AC outlets provide power for small home appliances (max 100W, peak power 150W), 4 DC ports and 1 car port for devices like in-car devices and more. With up to 12 versatile ports to pick from, this generator can keep all the necessary gear powered up anywhere.
Keep in mind that you can only run the devices under 100W with this unit.
All the things above make this Suaoki generator one of the best portable solar generators on the market. But that is not all. The Suaoki S270 features built-in MPPT solar charge controller.
MPPT charge controller optimizes the match between the solar panels and the battery, and helps to get the maximum amps into the battery. With MPPT charge controller inside, the generator can be recharged much more efficient than other models without MPPT, plus it can be recharged on even a cloudy day.
You can charge this portable solar generator by connecting to SUAOKI 60W or 100W solar panel. It can be fully charged in 8 hours by being plugged into a wall outlet. It can also be charged by plugging into your car 12V socket.
5. Rockpals RP250W Portable Solar Generator Review
If you’re looking for a compact solar generator, but the 150Wh unit above is not enough for your power needs, this Rockpals RP250W Portable Solar Generator is for you.
This solar generator features a lithium-ion battery that has a capacity of up to 240Wh (250W rated, 300W surge) while weighing only 5.5-lbs. It has a travel-friendly design with an easy-carry handle. Its compact size is ideal for traveling and backpacking, keeping your devices charged on long road trips. Featuring pure sine wave output, the Rockpals RP250W is safe for charging up your tablets, iPhone, iPad, laptops, fans, TV, lights and CPAP machines.
What can the Rockpals RP250W power?
- Smartphone: 22+ Recharges
- Laptop: 3-5 Recharges
- 32” TV: 3+ Hours
- CPAP Machine: 3+ Nights
- Mini Fridge (40W): 4+ Hours
Designed for camping and traveling, the Rockpals RP250W features a variety of output options.
It has dual 120V AC (300 Watt Surge) worldwide outlet for powering your Laptop, Monitor, TV, Air Mattress, Lamp, Fan, Router, Modem, Christmas lights; 4 12V DC for car powered device under 60W, such as car vacuum, car refrigerator, car air fan, CPAP machine; 2 5V USB outputs for phones, iPad, GPS devices, mp3, cameras.
And like the Suaoki, the MPPT controller is built into the RP250W and it optimizes the source to maximize power, resulting in up to 40% faster charge times from solar panels. On the best sunlight condition, the generator can be recharged from zero to full in 9-10 hours with the Rockpals 60W solar panel. You can also connect this solar generator with the Renogy 100 Watts Solar Panel via DC 5.5*2.5mm to MC4 connector.
Rockpals RP250 will be fully charged in 8 hours by being plugged into the wall outlet.
In brief, this versatile portable energy source is great for traveling and weekend picnics. It’s light, convenient, and has an affordable price. If you’re looking for a solar generator for your next traveling trip, this is absolutely one of the best to buy.
6. Renogy Phoenix All-in-one Solar Kit Review – Best Solar Generator with Built-in Solar Panel
The Renogy Phoenix is one of the coolest solar generators we’ve ever seen. Unlike most solar power generators on the market, this generator comes as an All-in-One portable suitcase style solar system. It has high-efficiency built-in 20W Monocrystalline solar panel and a built-in charge controller, a 16Ah lithium-ion battery bank, and an onboard inverter, along with multiple charging ports making it perfect for any outdoor activity.
Without external solar panels, the Renogy Phoenix is very versatile. It’s about the size of a briefcase (16.24 x 11.95 x 3.94 inches) when closed, weighs just 12.8 pounds, and opens up to present a pair of 10W monocrystalline solar panels to the sun for charging.
Two strong latches hold the unit closed when not being used for solar charging, and a large handle makes carrying it along quite easily. Although its size and weight aren’t necessarily conducive to backpacking trips, it’s perfect for car camping on the weekend and off-grid adventures.
We think this is also one of the best solar generators to buy if you sometimes go off-roading or fishing on the boat. The Phoenix is built in a sturdy ABS case, which appears to be rugged enough to take most normal bumps and jolts. The unit isn’t waterproof, but spring-loaded doors protect both the input and output port sections, which should keep out dust, dirt, and grime during transport, and the Phoenix has wide feet that keep it stable and upright when in the vertical ‘briefcase’ position.
The Phoenix generator features three ways to charge: AC Power, Car Power, and Solar Power. It takes approximately 15 hours to charge it to full with the built-in 20W solar panel, which seems quite slow. But the Phoenix is capable of expanding up to 100 watts with additional panels (up to 100W additional, for a total of 120W), which would speed up charging considerably, with a full charge taking just a few hours.
The Phoenix has an AC output (150W max continuous output), 4 USB ports (5V 2.4A), two 12V ports (3A), and a 12V cigarette socket. The lithium battery has a lifecycle of about 1500 charging cycles. It has a storage capacity of about 190 watt-hours. The unit has a built-in pure sine wave inverter, so it should play nicely with most, if not all, small AC appliances.
Overall, we really like the Renogy Phoenix, this is a great all in one solar system for outdoor adventurers and emergency preparedness. Renogy is a renewable energy company that is supplying some of the highest quality solar products on the market today. You can’t go wrong with their solar generators.
7. Renogy Lycan Powerbox Review – Best Solar Generator for RV and Off-Grid Living
The Renogy Lycan Powerbox charges in 3 hours and produces 900 watt-hours of power, enough to run a full-size refrigerator for eight hours. It’s our pick as the best solar generator for RV and off-grid living, and for good reasons.
This unit is waterproof and it comes with multi-terrain wheels for easy transporting. The generator’s lithium-iron phosphate batteries are rated to last up to 2,000 cycles. 900 watt-hour of continuous power and various outputs and four 110V (1200W max) universal AC ports allow you to run and power many devices and appliances at once.
You can use this solar powered generator for your microwave, TV, laptop, coffee maker, and refrigerator. It’s safe to use indoors, and we think you’ll want to use it at night when camping in an RV campground. Fully charged, the Lycan Powerbox is enough energy for running all night.
The Powerbox has a 75Ah capacity battery, which takes about 7.5 hours to fully charge using house current, or about 9 hours with a single 100W solar panel (or a more optimal 3 hour charge time with 300W solar panels). We’d recommend you use the Renogy 100 Watts 12 Volts Monocrystalline Solar Panel for the highest efficiency.
Once charged, you can plug your devices directly into any of the three 5V USB ports, a 12V car charger socket, one of the two other 12V outlets, or one of the three 110V AC outlets, and have access to plenty of juice, whether for mobile devices or standard appliances.
The lithium battery in the Powerbox is interchangeable. It allows you to prepare a library of fully charged batteries for quick, hassle-free reloads. This feature is not only super convenient and energy efficient, but it could also potentially be a lifesaver in the event of a natural disaster or emergency.
Overall, the Renogy Lycan Powerbox is a very good choice for RV, travel trailer, and off-grid living. It could also be a good choice for job sites and remote areas.
How to Select the Best Solar Power Generator?
The Best Solar Panel for a Solar Generator
There are three types of solar photovoltaic technologies: Monocrystalline, Polycrystalline, and Thin Film.
Monocrystalline solar panels, such as the Renogy 100 Watts 12 Volts Monocrystalline Solar Panel, are the most efficient type (they produce more power per cell). They also are the most energy- and time-intensive to produce, so they tend to be the most expensive type. Their sunlight to electricity conversion efficiencies tend to fall in the range of 25 percent to 30 percent.
Polycrystalline solar panels, such as Renogy 100W Polycrystalline Photovoltaic PV Solar Panel, made up of many smaller crystals, cost less and provide a similar lifespan, but they deliver slightly lower efficiencies in the range of 13-22 percent. With these, you might need to cover a larger surface area to get the same output you would get with a monocrystalline solar array.
Thin film solar panels are made from non-crystalline layers of semiconductor materials so thin that they are flexible. Thin film solar panel can be produced faster and is less expensive than crystalline cells, but it has a lower efficiency – in the range of 10-19 percent – so about twice the surface area is needed per watt of power.
Despite the lower efficiency, thin film solar panel can use diffuse sunlight better than crystalline cells, is less prone to overheating (good for warm climates), is more shade tolerant and may be more resistant to hail damage. That can help improve output when the solar orientation is not optimal. Thin film output tends to degrade faster than crystalline cells.
The Best Battery for a Solar Generator
A solar generator is also called a battery-powered generator. This means the battery is the most important component in a solar generator. Looking at the battery is one of the first steps when selecting a solar generator.
The amount of battery storage you need is based on your energy usage. Energy usage is measured in kilowatt hours over a period of time.
100 watts x 10 hours per day = 1kWh per day
Sizing your solar generator capacity:
Lead Acid sizing:
1kWh x 2 (for 50% depth of discharge) = 2kWh
1kWh x 1.1 (for 90% depth of discharge) = 1.1kWh
After estimating energy usage we need to consider which type of battery will work best, as they have unique performance characteristics and are sized differently.
There are three main battery chemistries for solar power generators: Flooded Lead Acid batteries, Sealed Lead Acid (AGM, Gel) batteries, Lithium-ion batteries.
1) Lithium-ion Batteries
Lithium batteries are the most efficient type of battery, which means less power is wasted in the charge/discharge process. They also have a greater discharge depth (up to 90 percent or more) allowing you to fully utilize all of your battery capacity.
Lithium batteries are also lighter and more durable and have a longer lifespan than lead-acid batteries. Because of the better efficiency and deeper discharge depth, Lithium battery banks tend to be only 50-60% of the size of a comparable lead acid bank!
Using Lithium batteries for portable solar generators offers many advantages over older rechargeable technologies. As you can see, most of the best solar generators in our lineup use lithium batteries.
- Most expensive $ $ $ $
- Typical lifespan: 10+ years
- No maintenance
- Highest efficiency, faster charging, more usable capacity (deeper discharge depth)
2) Sealed Lead Acid Batteries (AGM, Gel)
Sealed lead acid batteries, such as the battery used in the older Goal Zero Yeti 400 portable generator, are less efficient than lithium batteries. They are partially sealed, but have vents in case gases are accidentally released for example by overcharging. And they are sensitive and need to be fully recharged every day or week, where Lithium batteries can stay at a partial charge without any adverse effect.
Sealed lead acid batteries can be turned upside down, so they are much safer than flooded lead-acid batteries.
When using sealed batteries and flooded batteries, you’ll notice it never discharges more than 80%. In fact, most manufacturers recommend a discharge depth of no greater than 50%.
Sealed lead-acid batteries:
- Safe to use
- More expensive $$
- Typical lifespan: 3-5 years
- No maintenance
3) Flooded Lead Acid Batteries
This type of battery is not recommended for solar power generators.
Flooded lead-acid batteries have the least cost per amp-hour of any of the choices. However, they require regular maintenance in the form of watering, equalizing charges and keeping the top and terminals clean.
Flooded lead-acid batteries are heavy and are less durable than lithium batteries when deep cycle. A full discharge causes strain and each discharge/charge cycle permanently robs the battery of a small amount of capacity. This loss is small while the battery is in good operating condition, but the fading increases once the performance drops to half the nominal capacity.
Charging flooded batteries are slow. The battery must always be stored at full state-of-charge. Low charge causes sulfation, a condition that robs the battery of performance.
Unlike Sealed batteries, flooded batteries can NOT be turned upside down, so they are not safe to be used for a solar generator.
Flooded lead-acid batteries:
- NOT recommended
- Lowest upfront cost $
- Typical lifespan: 5-7 years
- Requires maintenance – add distilled water and equalize charge on a monthly basis
Overall, the best battery for a solar power generator is the lithium battery. The AGM and Gel battery can also be used, but they much less efficient than the lithium battery. The traditional flooded lead-acidLifespan is not recommended.
How to Build a DIY Solar Generator?
If you’ve decided to build your own DIY portable solar generator, here are things you’ll want to know. There are quite a few articles about how to build a solar generator, and sometimes it’s too much information for the brain to absorb, so we’re going to keep this section a simple as possible.
#Step 1: Buy a Minn Kota Trolling Motor Power Center. This is a battery holder that can hold one battery (up to group 27). It has a couple 12-volt ports already wired in and ready to go. It also features built-in battery meter displays current “state of charge”.
#Step 2: Buy a deep cycle battery. We’d recommend a battery that has a capacity of at least 50W. If you’re looking for a lithium-ion battery, the Battle Born Batteries 100 Ah LiFePO4 Battery is our favorite option.
#Step 3: Buy a Solar panel. Please check out the previous section
#Step 4: Buy a solar charge controller. A charge controller keeps the battery from overcharging and there are many shapes and sizes.
#Step 5: Buy a power inverter. An inverter to convert low volt DC to standard 120 volt AC power. The best solar generators should have at least a 1.5:1 usable watt-hours-to-inverter-rating ratio (i.e., 1500 watt/hrs to 1000 watt inverter).
#Step 6: Buy a battery charger. If you want to charge your DIY solar generator from a 110V wall outlet, without an inverter/charger, you’ll need a battery charger. The best charger for deep cycle battery is a smart charger.
#Step 7: Integrate Parts to the Minn Kota Trolling Motor Power Center. Commonly, charge controller, battery, inverter, charger, and other things come inside the box. Better place solar panels outside. Later, you could buy a bag to move the solar panels easily. See the diagram on how to do the wiring of a DIY portable solar generator.
You can build your own solar-powered generator, however, if you’re not handy or experienced with wiring electrical parts, you’re better off buying a pre-assembled solar generator.