olar generators for homes (you can also use them for outdoor activities like picnics and camping) can be of great help when you need to power your electronic gadgets. This device probably won’t be enough to provide your whole house with electricity, unlike a full-scale photovoltaic energy system. But it can charge your phones or laptops and keep small appliances running when there is no access to the grid.
Solar power produced for your home needs
Solar power is any type of energy received from the sun. In particular, the sun’s energy can be transformed into electric power – that is what solar panels do.
Each photovoltaic (PV) cell, a building unit of a panel, absorbs the sunlight and converts it into electricity. Solar panels, also called photovoltaic panels, come in different sizes and capacities, and some panels have higher efficiency rates than others. PV systems can operate in conjunction with the local electricity grid or even work off-grid and fully satisfy your electricity needs in remote areas.
Solar energy as a backup power source
The essential thing to understand is that photovoltaic panels can only produce electric power but can't store it. Unfortunately, the panel’s operation isn’t the same throughout the day and night: photovoltaic cells do not produce electricity after the sun goes down, and their efficiency is lower on cloudy or rainy days. Moreover, photovoltaic panels can’t power your home during a grid outage; otherwise, it would threaten utility workers to fix the problem.
All in all, if you want to be on the safe side and always have access to electric energy that can be used to power your appliances, having photovoltaic panels is not sufficient – you need a backup power solution. For home energy backup, you can consider buying a solar generator.
What is a solar generator?
Basically, a generator is a system that converts one type of energy into another. According to this definition, any system that converts the sun’s energy into electricity can technically be called a solar generator.
However, the term “solar generator” usually implies a portable (easily moved) power station that captures, distributes, and stores electric power produced from sunlight.
Like a standard photovoltaic energy installation, a solar power generator comprises four major components: photovoltaic panels, charge controllers, batteries, and an inverter.
The photovoltaic panels collect energy from the sun and convert it into direct current (DC) electricity.
The charge controller regulates and stabilizes the voltage before sending the electricity to the battery to prevent overcharging.
The battery is a power reserve. This is the place where the solar power is stored for later use.
The inverter converts the solar energy stored in the battery to alternating current (AC) electricity, which is what most home appliances and devices use.
Solar vs. fossil fuel generator
Before going into detail and learning more about solar power generators, let’s start with the general notion of a backup generator. Backup energy solutions can be extremely helpful, especially for those who experience lots of power outages. In the most basic terms, a home backup generator is a machine that supplies electricity to your home when you can’t get it from the electric grid.
Most home generators run on different fossil fuels, including natural gas, gasoline, propane, and diesel, all of which are large sources of emissions. Diesel units are often used for industrial applications because they are durable and reliable but more expensive. Gas units are more popular with homeowners and businesses as they are more affordable.
But even though gas and diesel generators can be lifesavers in some cases, their use is also associated with environmental concerns. For example, these devices produce carbon monoxide as a by-product of combustion. If misused, generators powered with gas can cause carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shocks, fires, and burns. Fuel unit accidents may lead to health problems and can even be fatal.
Considering all the hazards mentioned above, it's pretty evident that we need some green alternatives to traditional gas powered units, and solar power generators offer exactly that. They are emission-free devices, which makes them the safest option for use. Moreover, some cutting-edge solar power generators are even more efficient and reliable than their fuel powered counterparts.
Solar power generator vs. a solar battery bank
The term “solar generator” is sometimes confused with the term “solar battery bank.” While these two devices perform a similar function of storing solar energy, there are some apparent differences between them.
A solar generator includes all the necessary components for self-sustaining power. On the contrary, solar battery banks cannot deliver power without other elements, such as photovoltaic panels, a charge controller, and an inverter.
The key benefit of PV battery banks is power storage capacity. They can hold more power, which is why they are used as storage elements in full-scale solar power systems.
So, what are the pros of solar power generators?
Let’s specify what key advantages these solar power devices have.
- No pollution.
Solar generators leave no carbon footprint when they produce and store power. If you don’t want to cause harm to the environment, you can use them with peace of mind, as your backup device has no negative environmental impact.
- No noise.
Gas generators can be pretty loud, and if you are running one for multiple hours, it can become a real distraction. But unlike gas units, solar options are quiet. This is mainly because they don’t have any moving parts, which significantly reduces the amount of noise they produce while operating.
- Free fuel.
If you have a gas generator, this means that you need to constantly buy fuel. Once you get a solar power generator, you don’t have to worry about that because there are no fuel costs involved. You have an unlimited energy source, given that you are located in a place with sufficient sunlight.
- Low maintenance.
Having no moving parts also means a low probability of breakage. The amount of maintenance required for solar generators is greatly reduced compared to their gas counterparts.
And what about the cons?
There is always a flip side to a coin – let’s mention some disadvantages of solar generators.
- High initial costs.
The initial investment can be a sticking point for many, as the upfront costs of solar power generators are much higher than those of gas alternatives. The average price of a gas generator is about $1,000. Solar power units usually cost twice as much, around $2,000. However, you shouldn’t forget that the operating and maintenance costs of solar generators are much lower, which is why you spend less in total.
- Inconsistent energy supply.
The amount of the sun’s energy converted into electricity is inconsistent because it depends largely on the weather conditions. In any case, in some places in the world, like tropical and subtropical climates, the sun’s energy is perfectly reliable.
- Limited power capacity.
The size of a battery limits how many devices a generator can power, and it probably won’t be able to bring electricity to your entire home. Gas units aren’t as limited in what they can power since they can be refilled anytime. So if you want to provide your entire household with green electricity, you should install a photovoltaic energy system with a solar battery bank.
- Temperature sensitivity.
Some solar power generators cannot withstand long exposure to hot temperatures. In the meantime, some state-of-the-art models are equipped with the BMS or Battery Management System, which controls the temperature and improves the device’s durability.
Requirements for proper maintenance
If you want your solar generator to last longer, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Prevent your device from accidentally falling as much as you can. If a solar generator falls, this may cause permanent damage and significantly reduce its lifespan.
- Keep your solar generator free of dust. The effect of dust particles on your device may not be noticeable at first. But in the long run, they can threaten the smooth running of the generator.
- Avoid exposure to water even if you have a waterproof model. Even water-resistant solar units always have an upper limit to which they can tolerate it; beyond that, they may malfunction after a time.
- To ensure the longevity of batteries, store your solar generator free from heat; otherwise, the batteries can be damaged. It is also better to store the batteries only with a 30-50 % charge.
- When you do not use the solar generators regularly, still charge them frequently when in storage; the best will be every three to six months. This will help avoid a battery drain.
- Use only recommended charging accessories. When purchasing a solar generator, it usually comes with its own charging accessories. But if you have to use any other charger, always make sure that it is compatible with your model.
- In case of replacement, get only the batteries that are right for your exact model. This means that the volts and raw power of the battery you are replacing with should be the same as in the original battery.
- Never overload your machine. Using an infinite energy source and being inexhaustible are not the same things. To avoid overloading your device, always check the total rated watts of the inverter.
- Do not run your appliance 24/7, no matter how much electric power you need and for how long. As experts say, use the solar generator for 8-14 hours a day and then charge it for the rest of the time.
Solar power generators 2023
Here are some examples of popular solar generators 2023 suitable for different purposes:
- For small items: Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 240
- For medium output: Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 500
- Easily luggable: ROCKPALS Portable Power Station
- For high power capacity: EF ECOFLOW Portable Power Station
- For having all the outlets covered: BLUETTI Portable Power Station
- For camping: Goal Zero Yeti 500X Portable Power Station
- For different charging options: MAXOAK Portable Power Station
- For durability: ITEHIL Portable Power Station
- For fast charging: EF ECOFLOW RIVER Pro Portable Power Station
- For lightweight portability: Rainier Outdoor Power Equipment Portable Power Station
Bottom line: when should you opt for a solar power generator?
In a nutshell, you should choose a portable solar house generator if you have grid outages once in a while and need to charge your devices during blackouts. Additionally, it can be an excellent solution for outdoor activities.
Solar generators are also ideal for people who do not find a full-scale photovoltaic energy system suitable for their household but still want to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and live a more sustainable lifestyle.