Best solar generators in 2023: Expert Review
- 16 Jan 2023
- 9 min
Solar generators are for people that thought that PV systems weren’t already simple enough: it’s just panels and a power station with a bunch of outlets. You can use them at home when the light goes out, or you can take them on the road. Lightweight, compact and silent, they will make gas generators a thing of the past. Let’s look at the best models that we’ve found in our solar generators review.
Solar generator: Everything everywhere all at once
Solar energy generator is the term for a kit with solar panels and a power station. They are often sold as an item, though you can find panels and stations separately. A power station combines in itself an inverter, a battery and a charge controller. It stores and distributes energy, and once you add panels to it, you can recharge it wherever the sun shines.
Most generators are portable. The kits often include foldable PV modules, and the power station is the size of a boombox so it's easy to take them on trips with you. You unpack solar panels, turn them to the sun, connect to a station, and just like that, you’ve got an AC outlet for everything you need. Power stations have USB ports and they are compatible with complex electronics like laptops or smartphones.
Seven best solar generators in 2023
Here are several generator models that we like. While reviewing them, we’ll focus primarily on power stations: all of them turn into solar generators once you add panels. Some of them are great for traveling and some are just handy to have at home.
Renogy Phoenix 300 power station: Little helper
This power station from Renogy has 337 Wh capacity and delivers stable 200 W power for charging anything from laptops, tablets, and smartphones to drones, cameras, mini-fridges and much more. It can revive a MacBook Air in less than 2 hours. Small size and weight (6.4 lbs) make Phoenix a great help on the road.
The lithium-ion battery inside Phoenix can withstand more than 1000 life cycles. You can recharge it with a home outlet, car port or PD Port. Phoenix goes well with portable solar panels from Renogy: this bundle will give you power wherever you’ll take it with you. It’s one of the cheaper solar generators for sale, and Renogy is famous for its quality equipment for mobile solar installations.
Renogy Phoenix 1000 power station: Big helper
Phoenix 1000 from Renogy has twelve outlets to keep life comfortable for campers as well as for homeowners during power outages. This power station can deliver up to 2100 W of power, and iBoost mode allows it to run appliances rated up to 3000 W at a lower power without causing overload.
The lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery of Phoenix 1000 can go over 2000 cycles — four times more than a standard lithium-ion battery. The station can be revived from 0% to 80% in 1 hour from a wall outlet, but you can use solar panels to charge it outdoors. Renogy recommends pairing Phoenix with E.FLEX 220 panels for taking your kit for a trip. Phoenix 1000 is powerful enough to be used as a solar generator for home as well.
Jackery solar generator 1500: Everywhere you go
The Jackery solar generator combines the Explorer 1500 power station and SolarSaga panels. The kit is ideal for camping, overlanding, fishing, and any outdoor trips. Explorer 1500 is equipped with three AC outlets, one PD 60 W USB-C Port, one Quick Charge 3.0 Port, one USB-A Port and one 12 V car port. It has a 1534 Wh capacity and 1800 running wattage. Four SolarSaga 100 W panels will recharge the Jackery Explorer in 4 hours, thanks to SolarPeak technology. While it’s a great option for traveling, this Jackery model is big enough to use as a solar power generator for home.
Jackery solar generator 240: Support kit
This is a smaller generator from Jackery which consists of power station Explorer 240 and the same SolarSaga panel. Explorer is equipped with a 240 Wh lithium-ion battery. It has one AC outlet with 200 W output and 400 W surge power, two USB-A ports, and a DC car port. SolarSaga 100 W panel is foldable and weighs only 9.1 lbs so it’s easy to take it on the road.
EcoFlow DELTA Pro: Immortal battery
The Delta Pro power station from EcoFlow has a 3.6 kWh capacity. Its LFP battery withstands over 6500 full charging cycles and it will last you for years and years. Delta Pro can be used on the road or as a home backup. With 3600 W of AC output, you can power heavy-duty appliances such as dryers, air-conditioning units and more.
Delta Pro turns from a power station into a solar generator for house or traveling once you add a 400 W foldable solar panel. The EcoFlow panel weighs 27.5 lbs. The panel comes with a protective case that turns into a stand. You can set an angle between 40° and 90° for maximum production. The EcoFlow app allows you to monitor your newfound system through a smartphone.
If you need even more power, EcoFlow suggests purchasing several units and stacking them. For example, you can get 7200 W AC output by pairing two units. That’s, of course, a solid option primarily for home energy backup — unless you manage a wandering circus and you need that much energy on the road.
EcoFlow RIVER 2 Max: Off-grid life bundle
River 2 Max solar power generator combines a power station by the same name and a folding 160 W portable solar panel with an adjustable 180° angle. A solar panel charges your River station in 4 hours. Alternatively, you can recharge it with an AC outlet, car charger, or the all-new USB-C. The LFP battery of the station can withstand over 3000 full cycles, and you can use River 2 Max almost every day for 10 years. The power station comes with a 5-year product warranty.
ZeroKor solar generator: Travel companion
Solar generator bundle from ZeroKor includes a 40 W portable solar panel and a power station. The station provides 300 W of power and stores 280 Wh of energy. It can be recharged with a wall AC outlet, solar panels and a car charging port. ZeroKor model has two AC outlets, a DC output port, and four USB ports for your appliances.
Collect, convert, support: How a solar generator works
Here’s a quick rundown on how a solar electricity generator works. When a solar panel is exposed to the sun, it produces direct current (DC). For lighting and heating DC is already enough. Complex electronics require alternating current (AC). That’s why an inverter inside a power station turns DC into AC, and you can plug your appliances into it as if it were a standard home outlet.
The power station also has an AC or DC battery which is charged with solar energy. A charge controller inside a station makes high voltage coming from solar panels safe for the battery and prevents overcharging and deep discharge.
Solar generators are what will replace gas generators that were popular among campers and homeowners as a power backup. The advantages are easy to see: solar generators are more compact and portable, they don’t need fuel, they don’t smell and are silent. You can use a solar generator as an emergency backup at home, and its portability makes it an ideal travel companion.
How long does a solar generator last? Depends on battery
Power stations and panels come with separate warranties. As it is often with portable solar equipment, these warranties are short and they often last from 1 to 5 years.
In practice, generators last for up to a decade. Portable panels are sturdy enough to serve you for 15 years. The power station itself is more fragile because of how complex it is: after all, it’s a battery, an inverter and a charge controller in one.
A lot depends on the type of battery that a power station has. Lithium iron phosphate battery or LFP is the best option with higher cycle life: it supports up to 3000 cycles whereas more standard Lithium Cobalt Oxide (LCO) batteries withstand about 700-1000 cycles. All Li-ion batteries are more reliable than lead-acid batteries: they have higher depth of discharge and they are less vulnerable to extreme temperatures. You can expect Li-ion batteries to last for 10 years, whereas with lead-acid batteries it heavily depends on maintenance. Lead-acid and gel batteries live for 2-8 years.
Illustrations – Natalya Absalyamova
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