Solar generators are compact powerhouses that bundle a battery, a DC to AC inverter, charge controllers and battery management circuitry into one. They’ve gained popularity in the recent years following the proliferation of affordable and energy dense lithium chemistry batteries.
The goal of a solar generator is to give people portable or easy to set up power. The system can recharge from a mains supply, a car and most importantly a matching solar array.
They’re Compact and Pack a Punch
The biggest selling point of a solar generator is the compact form and their ability to deliver impressive amounts of power in a silent package. In essence, they are designed to provide power to people camping out in tents, a van or in an off the grid cabin.
As such, most can deliver sufficient power to run basics like:
- Charging some phones, tablets and Laptops
- Running small household electronics
While this is impressive, it is nowhere near a typical house with appliances like dishwashers, coffee makers, air conditioning and a fridge.
Will a Solar Generator Power a House?
A solar generator cannot run a typical house. They don’t have the capacity to power all the electronics in a mainstream home. Those that can meet the instantaneous wattage the house needs can rarely support it for more than a couple of hours.
Well. The answer depends on how much power your house needs. Knowing your electricity needs is a simple matter of figuring out how many watts all your appliances consume in a day and the heaviest load you pull in a day.
I did a comprehensive post on power needs calculations in a guide to determining how big of a system you need to power an RV. You can check it out here
- Your daily consumption helps you size the solar array and battery
- Your highest instantaneous surge helps you choose your inverter max wattage and your battery bank’s maximum current capabilities
A well optimized off the grid house or a tiny home that doesn’t have many power hungry electronics can easily run off the right solar generator.
For instance, if your instantaneous draw is below 3000W (around 2200 watts to be safe,) you can run your home off the Titan Solar Generator 3000. However, since the battery has a 2 KWH capacity, you can only use it if:
- Your daily power needs are less than 1.6 KWH (80% of the total capacity to avoid discharging the battery below 80% which reduces lifespan)
- You have enough solar panels to recharge the solar generator to full power the following day
- You have a backup for gloomy days when your solar panels can’t recharge the generator
- You can’t run permanent wiring in the house or RV for reasons beyond your control
Who are Solar Generators Meant for?
Solar generators are perfect for minimalists who want to enjoy the off grid life to the fullest and are willing to let go of a great deal of modern electrical comforts.
They also make sense if you are constantly on the move and want something that is easy to set up, recharge and hit the road with.
Solar generators are a bad idea for a main solar power system in a permanent off the grid dwelling because:
- The cost of a complete system is often enough to build a slightly powerful but permanent system
- Most solar generators are not easy to upgrade in the future
- Their compact design makes them less good at handling continuous loads. Their lifespan will dip if you run them 24/7 in a permanent home setting
However, if you are quite the nomad, you could benefit from the awesome capabilities of a portable solar power generator. You could also get one as a power backup system to your primary off the grid system. Some of the most notable brands in the market include:
- Titan Solar
- Ecoflow River
- Goal Zero
- Renogy Phoenix
What if I Want an Easy to Use System?
Another thing that might push some people into considering solar generators is that they are simple plug and play systems. You don’t have to worry about fuses, inverter safety, charge controllers and any of the other tiny details that go into designing a solar system.
The good news is you can still get a simple plug and play system without opting for the restrictive solar generator. Modern All in One system pack a charge controller, battery manager and inverter into one unit. All you have to do is hook up some batteries and solar panels and you are good to go.
An example of All in One inverter/charge systems models include:
- Growatt Inverters
- MPP Solar
The systems leave you the freedom to size your battery bank as you please. This means you can get a bigger battery bank that meets your daily power consumption without being limited to what a solar generator gives.
Moreover, they are built to work in houses hence you can get a high watt rating package or even parallel a couple to meet all your power requirements. They are robust and can take a continuous load for longer than a solar generator.
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