Updated: February 11, 2021

9 Best Solar Generator Reviews & Buying Guide

by Charles Jasper

When you need extra power but you don’t want to increase your carbon footprint, a solar generator is the perfect answer. Still, there are plenty of things you need to consider in order to find the best solar generator for you. What type of solar panels should you be looking for, what types of batteries are best, and which features do you need? 

Best Solar Generator Reviews

It can be difficult to get the right answers, which is where this solar generator buying guide comes in. We’re here to help you find the best solar generator for your needs, with reviews of some top solar generators on the market, followed by an in-depth buying guide that'll walk you through solar generators from top to bottom. From battery types to panel options and how solar generators work, we've got you covered. So let's dive in!

1. The Winner

Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 1000

Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 1000
  • Lithium battery pack
  • Eco-friendly
  • 3 pure sine wave outlets
  • 1000-watts
  • Wall charge, car charge, or solar charge

Jackery makes eco-friendly power generators for outdoor trips and home backups. The company is based in California and is dedicated to creating more efficient and sustainable solutions to power generation than burning fuel. Some of the benefits include that it is a quiet generator, you do not have to pay for fuel, and it produces no harmful emissions. You can recharge the generator using solar panels or with a regular wall outlet or even a car charger. It comes with all the adapters that you need.

It has multiple USB ports so that you can charge all of your electronics. The flow of energy that it produces is steady enough to safely charge sensitive devices without worrying about power surges and damage. You can charge a cellphone 100 times without killing the battery of the generator, keep a light on for 76 hours, and power a TV for 14 hours. It provides ample power for all kinds of devices.

Compared to fuel powered generators, you will not believe how quiet the operation of this solar powered generator is. It is super easy to use too. One of the best benefits to using this kind of generator is that you do not have to supply it with fuel and do regular maintenance that fuel engines require, which saves you time and money.

Built-in with the hardware of the generator is a MPPT controller. MPPT stands for Maximum Power Point Tracking. This gets the device the maximum amount of solar charging power possible. It takes about 5-hours to completely charge the generator. Charge it during the day and use it at night.

Features:

  • Long-lasting lithium battery
  • Quiet performance
  • Easy to travel with
  • No additional set-up required
  • Charges fast with solar power

2. Best Budget

Rockpals 250W + 60W Solar Panel Kit

Rockpals 250W Solar Panel Kit
  • 250-watts
  • 5.5 lbs
  • USB, AC, and DC outlets
  • TIR-C current moderation

If you are looking for an affordable and high-quality solar generator then check out the latest model of power station by Rockpales. It can safely charge standard appliances and electronics. It has multiple outlets for all of your needs including two USB ports. You can safely charge smartphones, laptops, drones, and other electronics with this device. It has an installed technology chip that moderates the current automatically.

To keep the generator from overheating it has a fan below the power switch. The cooling fan starts automatically when the generator starts to get too hot. The fan and generator both have quiet performance. Most solar power generators require you to purchase separate solar panels, but this comprehensive kit includes a foldable set of solar panels. The solar panels themselves come with a variety of connectors which make it adaptable for almost solar generators.

In addition to overheating protection and automatic electrical current control, it also is water resistant. It is very lightweight at only 5.5 lbs so it can be easily transported. The size of it is also very compact so you can store it easily and it does not take up a lot of room in your car on camping trips. The foldable solar panels are easy to transport because they can be folded to a more manageable size.

Features:

  • Two year warranty included
  • 6-8 hours to fully charge
  • Operates in low temperatures
  • Smart technology chip automatically controls electrical current
  • Multiple safety protections

Plug Set:

  • AC x 2
  • DC x 4
  • USB-A x 2

3. High Capacity

MAXOAK Portable Power Station EB150

Maxoak Bluetti EB150
  • Weighs 37.9 lbs
  • 110-volts
  • 1000-watts
  • Solar Panel
  • AC, DC, and USB power outlets

This light blue and white portable power generator can be charged with a solar panel or with a regular wall outlet. The required solar panel is not included so you will need to make the additional purchase of a panel with a 16V-60V voltage. It takes about five hours to charge it with solar power or eight hours to fully charge it with a wall outlet. It has a LG brand lithium battery which can safely power appliances up to 1000-watts.

There are power outlets for different types of connections including a standard AC outlet for home appliances, a DC outlet for car items like a vacuum or fridge, and a USB-C outlet for charging electronic devices. In case of a power outage this power station can keep your devices charged in an emergency. The stream of electricity is stable and smooth enough to safely charge laptops and other sensitive devices. This solar generator is also completely portable for taking camping and on vacations.

It has a built-in battery management system which will automatically stop charging when it is complete to prevent overheating the battery. The LCD display shows if there is anything wrong with the generator and monitors the battery life. There are multiple safety features implemented such as overheating protection and short circuiting prevention.

Features:

  • Fully charges in 5-8 hours
  • Can power most standard appliances
  • Safely charges smartphones and other electronics
  • Fast solar charging
  • LCD display panel
  • 12-month warranty
  • 1000-watt lithium battery

Plug Set:

  • Two AC110V plug
  • One DC12V
  • One USB-C

4. Budget Power Station

Jackery Portable Power Station

Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer
  • Explorer 240 Power Station
  • 200 wattage output
  • 240Wh (16.8Ah) lithium battery
  • 12V carport and 2* USB ports
  • Weight: 6.6 lbs

This portable generator is perfect when you need power inside where a traditional generator would be lethal to run. With the small size of 9.05 x 5.24 x 7.87 inches and weighing only 6.61 pounds, there’s really nowhere that you can’t take it. It has a powerful 240 Watt hour rechargeable battery inside that delivers 16.8 Amp hours at 14.4 volts.

This portable power pack has a minimal plug set, with only four total outlets, but they deliver enough power so that you’ll never be without for your most sensitive electronics. And because this is a rechargeable battery powered generator, the power is completely free of distortion, so you can feel secure in plugging anything in.

The standard outlet gives you 200 watts of AC power, with a peak starting capacity of 400 watts. There are also 2 USB ports that allow for more efficient charging of your cellphone or your tablet, and a 12 volt DC car adaptor plug can power devices that are more suited for DC like your CPAP.

Keep in mind that the outlet does have a running wattage rating of 200 watts. That means that higher demand items will not run properly and may even cause this portable solar generator to shut down into caution mode. There is also an auto-off function if the draw from the outlets is less than 10 watts. So if you have a low-draw item plugged in, the portable unit will shut itself off after about 3 hours.

Charging this portable power station can be accomplished in one of three ways. The first is through a solar panel. Depending on the power of the solar panel and the sun conditions, this can take up to 9 hours: about average as solar generators go.

The second method is via AC power and plugging the generator into your wall or into another generator.

The final method is via a car charger, but this will be a low power trickle charge.

Read Full Review: Jackery Explorer 240 Portable Power Station

Features:
  • 240 watt-hour lithium-ion battery pack
    • 16.8 amp-hours @ 14.4V
  • Can charge from a 60-watt solar panel in 9-10 hours
  • Solar alternative charging options include:
    • AC power supply (home or traditional generator)
    • DC power supply (car adaptor)
  • Plug Set:
    • (1) Standard Household Outlet 110V, 400W Peak, 200W running
    • (2) USB-A
    • (1) DC 12V Car Charger Port

5. 300W Generator

ROCKPALS 300W Portable Generator

ROCKPALS 300W Portable Generator Lithium Portable Power Station
  • Variety of Powering Options
  • Full Charging Time: 6-7 hours
  • Can't Support Devices Rated Over 300W
  • Useful Flashlight for Outdoors
  • 7.5 Pounds weight

The small size and weight of this portable generator hides the huge amount of power inside. It measures 6.5 x 3.15 x 6.89 inches, weighs just 7.5 pounds and has a handle built into the top for easy portability. As a reference, this is roughly the size of two bricks stacked on top of each other with the widest face outward. The rechargeable battery inside is a 280 watt-hour model which provides 75 Amp hours @ 3.7 volts.

The charging possibilities with this portable generator include a single standard outlet that can provide 110 volts and up to 300 watts of standard power and 600 watts of peak power. There are also 4 USB-A plugs; two are standard 2.0, and two are 3.0 for faster charging. There is also a car adaptor port that gives 12 volts at 8 amps, and four DC ports for direct power.

According to the manufacturer, this portable power station can power a typical 60 watt bulb for over 70 hours, power a 32-inch LCD for 4 or more hours, and charge a typical phone over 25 times. You can also use this battery pack to run a CPAP for four nights, provided you turn off the heating and humidification features. Again, because this provides power from a rechargeable battery pack, you know that the power is going to be free of distortion and perfectly safe for delicate electronics.

For charging as a portable solar generator, Rockpals recommends using the included MC4 solar panel adaptor, which will provide a full charge using a 100 watt panel in about 8 hours. You can also charge the batteries by using the included 120 volt wall adaptor, or you can trickle charge it by using the car charger.

Read Full Review: ROCKPALS 300W Portable Generator Lithium Portable Power Station

Features:
  • 280 watt-hour lithium-ion battery pack
    • 75 amp-hours @ 3.7V
  • Can charge from a 100-watt solar panel (not included) in about 8 hours
  • Solar alternative charging options include:
    • AC power supply (home or traditional generator)
    • DC power supply (car adaptor)
  • Plug Set:
    • (1) Standard Household Outlet 110V, 600W Peak, 300W running
    • (2) USB-A 3.0
    • (2) USB-A
    • (1) DC 24V @ 3A 6mm Port
    • (3) DC 12V @ 4A 6mm Ports
    • (1) DC Car Adaptor 12V @ 8A

6. Great Lightweight Option

AIMTIM 42000mAh 155Wh Power Station

SUAOKI G500 Portable Power Station 500Wh Camping
  • 150-watts
  • Battery-powered
  • 3.6 lbs
  • 110 volts
  • Quiet performance

If you are looking for a super lightweight generator that is easily portable then you should check out this 3.6 pound generator from AIMTOM. It is one of the best lightweight generators ever made with a powerful battery which can power all sorts of devices and equipment. It can be used while camping, tailgating, on an RV trip, or at home during a power outage.

It has a safe and steady flow of electricity that you can use to charge devices like cell phones and laptops. It has three built-in USB outlets for charging electronic devices like phones, cameras, and drones. For other equipment like a mini-fridge there is a DC output option.

The handle on the generator is comfortable which helps to make it even easier to carry. It is a small size which can be easily stored in the trunk of a car without taking up much room. Unlike gas-powered generators, a battery powered generator like this one runs a lot more quietly. It can be recharged with regular wall outlets, a car charger, or using solar panels. The solar panels are sold separately from the generator.

There is also a built in battery management system in the device which moderates the flow of electricity to prevent power surges and overheating. This also includes keeping the generator from overheating when it is charging. The products produced by AIMTOM are heavily tested for performance and safety in their facilities. It is an eco-friendly, fuel-free solution to having power on the go, or even in case of a power outage at home.

Features:

  • AC, DC, and USB outlets
  • Cooling fan to prevent overheating
  • Easy to carry
  • 150-watts of power
  • Charges with solar panels or wall outlet
  • No fuel emissions or costs
  • Low maintenance

7. Great for Cabin

300W Power Station

300w power station
  • 300-watts
  • 110-volts
  • AC and DC outlets
  • Lithium battery

This solar powered portable generator is one of the lightest in its class at only 6.35 lbs. It has AC and DC outlets which allow you to charge all your devices on the go. It can be used on camping trips or for powering up electronics during a blackout or taking it with on a trip to the cabin. It charges up quickly in less than eight hours with a solar panel or a wall outlet. It has a USB-C power port for charging and it can also be charged with a car charger.

Some generators are noisy, but this portable power generator by BUTURE is very quiet. It uses a high-quality lithium battery which can safely charge sensitive devices like cell phones and laptops. It has an overheating protection which starts a fan whenever the system begins to get hot. The fan does not have to run constantly which makes the performance quieter. It is a more environmentally friendly power generator than one fueled by gasoline because it emits no gas and it can be charged with a solar panel.

There is a flashlight on the generator to help you see in case of a blackout emergency. It easily turns on with the press of a button and it has a touchscreen LCD screen. It has emergency lights including an SOS signal and a strobe light. You switch between the light modes by pressing the power button twice.

Features:

  • Overheating protection with an almost silent fan
  • Powerful battery with a small size
  • Very lightweight at only 6.35 lbs
  • Emergency lights
  • Safely charge appliances and electronics

Plug Set:

  • Pure sine wave AC
  • 12V 10A DC
  • USB and USB-C

Solar Generator Buying Guide

Camping Trip

Now that you’ve read some reviews of the best solar generators available on the market, you’re probably anxious to see what you should know when shopping for a solar generator on your own. First we’ll cover how they work, and some of the key benefits of portable solar generators compared to traditional fossil fuel generators. Then we’ll help you figure out what you should look for in a solar generator and what you should avoid.

How Do Solar Generators Work?

Essentially a portable solar generator (or portable power station) is a rechargeable, battery-powered generator. The power station gets its power from solar panels, which are photovoltaic cells that absorb energy from sunlight and convert it into current. The current then charges the batteries that are at the heart of the generator. 

When you go to use a solar generator, you aren't actually using energy generated directly from a motor or from the solar panels; you're using energy from the batteries. This is why many solar generators are unable to power extremely high wattage items such as air conditioners, hair dryers, or heaters: the batteries are unable to provide that much power.

Will a portable solar generator still work on a cloudy day? Well, if you only use your solar generator and charge it from your solar panels then it will still work, but you won't get the best charge time. The reduced sunlight will reduce the amount of charge that your panels will produce, thus reducing the speed at which your solar generator battery will charge. 

Fortunately most solar generators allow other methods of charging the battery. Some of these include plugging it into your wall, plugging it into your car, or even plugging it into another generator. That's right: you can charge a solar generator battery using a regular fossil fuel generator!

What Can You Power with a Solar Generator?

Laptop Power

A solar generator is an incredibly versatile power source, as you can see from the number of outputs most models provide. Still, it's important to remember is that solar generators provide less power than conventional generators, so you need to consider what you're plugging in.

This basically means you need to watch out for the wattage output of the solar generator compared to the wattage requirements of whatever you're plugging in. For instance, an outlet that only provides a hundred watts with 150 watts peak power would not be able to provide adequate power to a hair dryer which requires nearly 1500 watts.

In general, as long as the wattage draw of the appliance you are plugging in is less than the wattage output of your portable solar generator, you can plug it in.

What Size Solar Generator Do You Need?

When you're thinking about the size of your future solar generator, you're probably wondering if you need something that could power your refrigerator like the Nature’s Generator Complete Power Pod Kit.

The key thing to think about is what you're going to be using your solar generator for. Solar generators are very small and lightweight units for the most part, so most people use them for backpacking or camping. They make for a perfect generator on the road when you essentially want a larger power pack that can charge your laptop when you're miles away from the nearest outlet. 

On the other hand, if you're looking for a solar generator that can act as an emergency backup for your home then you'll need to research and find one with a much higher output than the smaller portable models.

Benefits of Solar Generators

Camping Trip Power

Solar generators have a great many benefits over the traditional fossil fuel power generators, beyond just going green. Just look at the size of the models on our list of the best solar generators and you'll see the main attraction: portable solar power is ideal for camping and tailgate parties when you need a small amount of power with zero noise that won't take up space in your car.

Let's look at the six main benefits of solar powered generators and portable solar power in a little more detail.

• Quiet Operation

Solar generators are the perfect silent generator: they make absolutely no noise other than the occasional hum of the LCD screen. That's because the power a solar generator produces comes strictly from batteries. Fossil fuel generators rely on an internal combustion motor which is noisy and rattles a lot. So if you're looking for a generator that's super quiet, a solar generator will definitely fit the bill.

• Zero Emissions When Solar Powered

Solar generators are also completely emission-free, as long as you use a solar or other renewable fuel source to power them. This is because they use a battery, so there's no combustion fuel needed to create the power.

Solar generators obviously do create a carbon footprint if you forego the panels and plug them into a wall outlet that provides power generated from a coal plant. Batteries, also, are not completely environmentally friendly when it comes to disposal, but basically if you're looking for a clean generator then a solar generator is a good choice. 

• Limited Maintenance

Because solar generators don't have a lot of moving parts, there's not a lot of maintenance involved. Essentially a solar generator is a giant battery pack, so there's not much to wear out. You don't ever have to change the oil on a solar generator and you don't ever have to worry about seals breaking down or vibration causing things to loosen. About the only maintenance that you need to do on a solar generator is to wipe it down to keep it free of dirt, and maybe change the battery once every 10 years.

• Perfect for Indoor Use and Camping

Because solar generators are perfectly quiet and release no carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide, they're perfect for indoor use. And not just in your house: you can also use a solar generator in your RV, in a tent when you're camping, or even in your car to power a portable heater if you get stuck by the side of the road in a snowstorm. There are multiple places and situations where you can use a solar powered generator where you would never dream of using a traditional fuel generator.

• Long Term Savings Compared to Other Generator Types

The initial entry cost for a solar power generator can be quite high, especially if you purchase solar panels to go with your solar generator. But in the long run, solar powered generators are going to pay for themselves. Because you're not buying gas, propane, diesel, or natural gas, you don't have to pay for any of the energy that your generator produces. You’re making energy strictly from sunlight, which is completely free.

Take for example a comparable gas generator. On average you might have a 1 gallon tank that lasts for roughly eight hours at half load. The current cost for a gallon of gas is $2.78. If you ran your generator for 24 hours every week that would mean that you would use 156 gallons of gas per year at best (assuming gas doesn't go up). That's a total of $433.68. 

On the other hand, if use your solar generator over that year, it cost you nothing more than the initial cost of the generator and the solar panel. It's easy to see how eventually the cost of fuel will overtake the increased cost of the solar generator.

• Safe and Easy to Use

Solar generators are the best choice if you need something that's safe and easy to use. They are essentially plug-and-play. When you need to charge them you plug one end into the solar generator and you plug the other end into whatever you're charging it from. That could be your wall outlet, your car, or a solar panel. When you want to use your portable solar generator, you simply plug whatever it is you want powered into the generator. There are no oil levels to worry about, no cords to pull, no fuses to check, and no fuel tanks to fill. 

What to Look For in a Solar Generator

Tent Scene with Battery

Now that you know some of the benefits of solar generators you're probably curious about what you should be looking for when you shop for one. Here are the main things that you should be aware of when you are shopping for your next solar generator.

• Battery Types

When you're looking at what type of battery your solar generator should have, there are typically two different kinds you will find in portables and one that is only found in home units. Lead acid and lithium ion are the two major battery types for portable solar generators.

Lead-acid batteries

Lead acid batteries are similar to your traditional car battery. They are very inexpensive but have a relatively short life and are extremely heavy. For long-term energy storage in a home unit however, they are the best option. But when you're talking about portable solar generators, you should definitely be looking elsewhere.

Lithium-ion batteries

Lithium ion batteries are a rechargeable battery that have been commercially available since 1991. These batteries have extremely long lives, they are extremely energy-dense, and they're extremely easy to recharge. They also tend to have a lower memory effect than other types of batteries. Memory effect is when you completely discharge a battery, your battery compensates by building a buffer which effectively reduces the charge capacity that that battery has. As memory builds up the overall capacity the battery gets smaller and smaller. Eventually, the battery has such a small storage capacity that it will completely discharge almost immediately.

• Battery Capacity / Storage Capacity

When talking about the best battery capacity on a portable solar generator, you don't just want to look at how much it can hold. Capacity will tell you how much electricity your generator can hold just like if you look at a water tank the volume will tell you how much water that tank could hold. You should also look at how much power that your battery can deliver at one time.

Going back to the water tank analogy, if you have a water tank that only has an opening the size of a pinprick, that tank will provide water for a very long time but at a very low flow which may not be enough to water all your plants. On the other hand, if you get a water tank that has an opening the size of a pickup truck, it's going to provide too much water and could potentially damage your garden.

The point is, when planning for portable solar power, don't just look for the biggest battery. Look for a battery that delivers the power that you'll need in an amount that you need it.

• Size and Portability

Portable solar generators tend to be smaller and lighter than your other traditional generators, however you can also find solar generators that are big and bulky. Our generator reviews included a solar generator that weighed over 90 lbs. and required a carrying dolly to move it around effectively.

The best solar generator for you depends on what you'll be using your solar generator for, and how big and how heavy a generator you can deal with. If you want to take it out to the woods, you don't want to be pulling it behind you. On the other hand, if you want to power your refrigerator during a power outage, you don't really want a little 6-pound solar generator.

• Weight

The weight of a solar generator will determine again, how easy it is to move it around. If you plan on taking your solar generator camping, then you'll need a portable solar generator: look for one that's lightweight, small, and has a handle to make it easy to move. On the other hand, if you are using your solar generator to power your backyard movie marathon, you might not need one that is as easy to slip into your hiking backpack.

• Type of Solar Panel

When it comes to solar panels, there are three types that are currently used. They are monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film amorphous panel. Crystalline solar panels are the most common type of solar panels used in the industry today. They rely on crystalline silicon to attract and generate power. Thin film solar panels are less efficient than crystalline solar panels but they are more efficient when it comes to lower light conditions. Here we are going to take a deeper dive into the three types of solar panels, and talk about the advantages and disadvantages of each one.

Power at Home Cpap
Monocrystalline panels

Monocrystalline solar panels are created from slices of solid Crystal silicone that are referred to as wafers. You can tell that a solar panel is monocrystalline when the solar cells all have a single uniform color. Because they are made out of the highest grade silicone, they have the highest efficiency rate.

Monocrystalline solar panels are also extremely space efficient. As they are so efficient at converting sunlight into electricity, they don't require as much space as other types of panels. Monocrystalline panels are also very long-lasting: because they are made from a single piece of crystal, and crystalline silicon is very stable, solar panels made from this material can expect to have a life of 25 years or longer. These types of panels are also extremely efficient in warm weather.

When you look at solar panels, you'll see that as temperature goes up, electrical production will always fall. However, with monocrystalline panels this fall off is much less and slower than with polycrystalline solar panels.

The primary disadvantage to a monocrystalline solar panel is that it is extremely expensive compared to other types of solar panels. They are considered a premium solar panel, so while in actual practice you might not notice much more than a 1 or 2% difference in output between monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panel, the some people want the recognition of having monocrystalline solar panels.

Polycrystalline solar cells

Polycrystalline also starts as a small silicone crystal that is placed in a vat of molten silicon. However rather than draw the seed up to create a single long ingot from which wafers are sliced, the vat of silicon simply cools around the seed.

Polycrystalline solar panels are less expensive than monocrystalline solar panels, and the amount of silicon that is wasted during the manufacturing process is much less.

When it comes to disadvantages of polycrystalline solar panels they tend to be less efficient than monocrystalline simply because of lower silicone purity. That means that they take up more room and they are not as space efficient. And finally if you care about looks then polycrystalline silicon will have a speckled blue color rather than a solid uniform color of monocrystalline and thin-film solar panels.

Thin film, or amorphous crystal panels

Thin film solar panels are made by depositing a photovoltaic substance onto glass or a similar surface. This substance can be amorphous silicon, copper indium gallium selenide CGIS, cadmium telluride, or even dye-sensitized solar cells. While these are all technically considered different types of solar panels they are all thin film.

Many people consider these to be the worst of the three types of solar panel simply because they have a low sufficiency. However, they are much less expensive to produce than either of the silicone panels, as mass production of a thin film solar panel is extremely easy. What's more, because they are mass-produced they have a uniform appearance which some people find attractive. During the manufacturing process when they are bonded to the substrate, they can be made to be flexible, which means you can have solar panels that are circular in shape or wavy or in many different shapes which can be very interesting.

Additionally, thin-film panels do not react to high temperatures and cloudy days as much as crystalline solar panels. When it comes to thin-film solar panels they do have a much shorter life than silicon panels simply because the materials are made out of are not as stable as crystalline silicon. They also require more space to produce the same amount of energy as an equivalent poly or mono crystalline solar panel.

• Panel Size

When it comes to the size of the solar panel that you are purchasing for your solar generator, you really want to look at how you're going to be using your solar generator again. If you're going to be taking it when you go camping, you don't want to be lugging around a 3-foot by 4-foot panel that you have to open up and put out every morning. On the other hand, if you are getting a solar generator as a whole home backup generator, then installing an array of solar panels on your roof that provide power to your home and charge your solar generator makes sense. There are also flexible solar panels that you can get that store in tubes that you can roll out and have a larger surface area for charging your solar generator.

Beach Party

• Wattage Rating

When you're looking at solar generators and solar panels, you also need to look at the wattage rating of your solar panel. This is also called solar PV input. For example a 100-watt PV panel will generate a hundred watts of power in full sun. Generally full sun records from 10 a.m. to 4 pm. At times outside of this, the sun is still up but the PV input is going to be much less.

• Power Inverter Ratings

A power inverter is used to convert DC to 120 volt AC power that means that if your solar panel is only providing a trickle charge, you can still get usable electricity out of your solar generator. That's why it is important to look at the inverter that your solar generator comes with.

Inverters are rated according to how many watts they can pull at any given moment from a solar generator. For example, if you have a two kilowatt inverter, you can pull two kilowatts in AC power. In general you want your solar generator inverter to have a 1.5 to 1 ratio between watt hours to inverter rating. That way you get the perfect generator with built-in inverter.

• Surge Power Capacity

When you look at a solar powered generator, you also want to look at how much power it can handle in surges. That's because you may plug something into it that requires higher power consumption for a few moments.

Consider a refrigerator, or a freezer. When the compressor turns on, it will demand a higher wattage than normal. Make sure that your power generator can handle that increase load. That will ensure that you are not going to suddenly be sitting in the dark because your refrigerator overloaded your solar generator. This rating is often called peak wattage, or starting wattage.

• Charge Controllers

Charge controllers control the flow of electricity from your solar panel to your solar generator. It is important that your charge controller is effective to avoid overloading or overcharging your battery. A good controller will have a battery voltmeter and solar amp meter built-in so that you can see that the battery is really getting charged. A battery temperature sensor is also nice so that you can see if your battery is overheating when it's charging. 

A charge controller should be able to handle about 115% to 125% of the power that your solar panel can produce. That's because on an extremely bright day solar panel can produce up to 15% more power than normal. Also ensure that your charge controller can handle your batteries voltage.

Tailgate Party

• Charging Modes

When talking about charge controllers, you will run into two different types: PWM and MPPT. PWM, or pulse-width modulation controllers are essentially a switch between your solar panel and the battery. The switch flex on and off to hold your battery voltage constant it turns on when it needs to charge and then turns off as your battery is fully charged and then will flicker on and off again to hold the charge constant.

An MPPT controller is a smart converter in which it will automatically drop the voltage coming from the panel down to the voltage required to charge your battery. That means that as the vault requirement increases the mppt controller will increase the incoming voltage and adjust as necessary.

The PWM controller is a good cheap option especially when you are using a smaller solar powered portable generator. It’s also not bad because if your trickle charging your batteries in your solar generator then you not really worried about the overall efficiency. On the other hand, if you have a whole-home backup solar generator then you want an mppt controller because the solar array incoming voltage will be significantly higher than the voltage for your battery. In general, if you have more than 32 cells, you want an MPPT controller.

Solar Powered Generator Features

There are sometimes nice features that you should look for whenever you're purchasing something like a solar generator. These are quality of life features that just make having your solar powered generator nicer to use.

• Multiple AC Outlets

Multiple standard household outlets are extremely nice to have because it's nice to be able to plug more than one thing in at a time. If you have two or three outlets that means that you can charge two or three laptops or two or three cell phones. It’s not something that is necessary to have, but it is something that is nice to have. 

Hiking Power Supply

Additionally, if your solar generator is a whole home backup, having the ability to plug in multiple appliances means that when they peak, they aren’t pulling extra wattage at the same time. It also helps that you don’t have to run extension cords, which you should never do, no matter what the generator you have is.

• Integrated USB Ports and 12V Output

USB ports and a car adapter, are also extremely nice to have because they free up your household outlet for charging. You can charge your cell phone in your tablet using the USB ports instead of having to rely on a single outlet. Look for solar generators that have multiple USB port types. After all, you may have a C-type charger and that will give you faster charging than an A type. Also look at the voltage and amp output of the USB charger to ensure that it is compatible with the device you’re charging.

• Replacement Batteries

When looking at your solar generator, your battery is may not need to be changed for 5 or 10 years under optimal conditions. But what happens if something is not optimal? Being able to replace the batteries means that you are only responsible for a fraction of the cost that it would take to replace the entire unit. An easily replaceable battery also means that you can have spare fully charged batteries that you can hot swap into your solar generator if one battery runs out. This is comparable to having a dual fuel generator that operates on both propane and unleaded gasoline.

• Back-lit LED Panels

A backlit LED panel means you can see the information displayed in the dark. That means no fumbling for a flashlight or some other light stores so you can see how much charge is left on your generator. In a pinch, a backlit panel can also serve as an auxiliary light source, when you're trying to find something.

Do I Need to Buy Solar Panels As Well?

Most solar generators don’t come with solar panels, so you'll need to purchase them separately. Make sure that when you do, you choose the right kind of panel. We discussed the three types of solar panels earlier, and gave you the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Another important thing to consider when you’re looking at solar panels is to ensure that the wattage output is compatible with your chosen generator. If you have any doubt, check your user manual to see what the recommendations from your manufacturer are.

Solar Generator Comparison Chart

GeneratorWattsPower SourceWeightRating
Jackery Portable Power Station167WAC, Car Port, Solar Panel 3.84 pounds 9
Rockpals Portable Generator250-WattSolar-Powered 5.95 pounds 9
ROCKPALS 300W Portable Generator300WAC, DC (Solar) 7.5 pounds 9
Goal Zero Yeti 1400 Lithium Portable 1425 wattBattery-Powered 43.7 pounds 9
Renogy Phoenix Portable246.24 wattSolar powered12.8 pounds 8
SUAOKI Solar Generators, G500500 wattAC, DC Car Charger, Solar Panel 22.1 pounds 8
Nature's Generator1800WSolar Powered 266 pounds 9
Jackery Portable Explorer 240100W AC, Car Port, Solar Panel 6.61 pounds 9
NusGear 155 wattsSolar Powered 3.52 pounds 9

Conclusion

We hope this generator guide has helped you decide on the best solar generator for your needs.

Solar generators are a great alternative to gas generators, especially if you’re looking for something that's both green and efficient. If you aren’t completely sold on a solar powered generator but you still want something quiet, we have a buying guide focused on the quietest generators here. If you’d like to see all of the generator reviews and buying guides to help you make a decision, you can find them on our site.

Hopefully, with our help, you'll find the generator that suits your needs. Whether it’s a whole home backup generator with an automatic transfer switch or a generator that you can take with you to your son’s birthday party at the park, we’re here to help!

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About the author

Charles Jasper is the owner and main author of Generator Guider. He has a degree Engineering and 20 years experience on using generators on various projects, around the house, and while traveling and camping. He has a passion for everything related to home improvemen and loves to travel on his RV. When he is not working, you might find Jasper working on projects around the house or organizing a camping trip.