Harnessing the sun to create backup power is an alternative to fuel-guzzling gas generators or dual fuel generators. The best solar-powered generators are easy to transport, safe to use indoors and outdoors, and nearly silent when in operation.
Though gas generators have more power, the cost of fuel is expensive and not always accessible. Instead of using gas, diesel, or propane, a solar generator gathers energy from the sun and stores it in a high-capacity battery. Read on to learn about some of the best solar generators on the market for a comfortable night at home or your next travel adventure.
- BEST OVERALL: Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 1000
- BEST BUDGET: Goal Zero Yeti 150 Portable Power Station
- BEST HIGH CAPACITY: MAXOAK Portable Power Station BLUETTI
- BEST FOR SMALL HOMES: Rainier Outdoor Power Equipment R150i
- BEST FOR LARGE HOMES: EF ECOFLOW Portable Power Station EFDELTA
- BEST FOR CABINS & OUTDOORS: BLUETTI AC200P Solar Generator with Panels
- BEST PORTABLE: TACKLIFE P50 500Wh Portable Power Station
Before You Buy a Solar Generator
The portability of the best solar-powered generators makes them ideal for traveling, camping, and outdoor events because they are easy to pack, store, and move. The units are also a solid backup source for when emergencies occur at home due to severe weather or blackouts.
While solar generators are a clean energy source, they do have limitations because of a low wattage capacity and slow recharging. The backup power they produce can keep the lights on and run portable televisions and electronic devices like smartphones and laptops for hours. However, they don’t harness enough power to run all of the large appliances in a residence at one time or for an extended period.
Types of Solar Generators
For individuals who live in areas with frequent power outages, a generator allows them to have an interim source of electricity. Two types of solar generators are available for at-home use: solar backup generators and portable solar generators. Both generators provide solar power but differ in terms of wattage capacity, energy storage, and cost.
Solar Backup Generators
Solar backup generators are designed to power up when the electrical grid fails and are an efficient alternative to installing a complete system. These generators use several batteries to store energy for high-wattage output. They provide sufficient backup power to turn on lights, televisions, computers, and small to mid-sized appliances.
Typically, it takes less than 48 hours to charge a solar backup generator to full capacity, but the time can vary depending on the size of the solar panels and the amount of sunlight. You can keep these generators either indoors or outdoors. The disadvantage of solar backup generators is their weight, making them somewhat difficult to move. Additionally, a generator that is large enough to power an entire residence is expensive.
Portable Solar Generators
Portable solar generators are lightweight, so you can take them anywhere. They are ideal for homes, cabins, campsites, recreation vehicles (RVs), cars, and boats. Some generators are equipped with a pull handle or attached handgrip for effortless transporting. Solar panels recharge the battery in a portable solar generator.
Portable solar generators do have drawbacks. They may either have inadequate wattage capacity to power larger appliances, such as refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines, hot water heaters, and sump pumps, or not be capable of powering multiple devices at the same time.
If they use low-wattage solar panels, it may take a long time to recharge the generator. On the plus side, portable solar generators don’t emit noise or carbon dioxide, are affordable, and are low maintenance, unlike gas generators.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Solar Generator
While searching for the best solar-powered generators available for your home or travel, consider your intended use; how and where you plan on using a solar generator will determine the size, power, and capacity of the unit you will need.
Purpose and User Activity
The reasons for purchasing a solar power generator may be different for everyone, so it’s important to zero in on your purpose for purchasing a solar power generator and the activities you hope to accomplish with it. Solar generators are useful for anyone who travels and stays in remote places that are off-grid. Conversely, you may simply desire a reliable backup source of energy for your home to prepare for the occurrence of a natural or man-made disaster.
If your primary purpose is travel, look for solar generators that help make traveling simpler. RV connectivity allows you to power appliances when you’re on the road. Car charging capabilities make it convenient for travelers to drive and charge their solar generators without having to stop and set up solar panels.
Size and Solar Input
To choose the appropriate size of solar generator for your needs, keep in mind battery capacity and power requirements, so you avoid overloading it. Most solar generators can keep portable electronics, smartphones, tablets, power tools, small appliances, and cordless tools powered up for hours. However, you may need a separate generator to also keep a refrigerator running for an entire day.
Solar input refers to the solar panels. The solar panels collect and convert sunlight into energy that is stored in the generator’s battery. Ample solar input controls a generator’s operating time and how long it takes to recharge.
The solar panels used in conjunction with a portable solar generator are mobile and easy to manipulate. Unlike the panels found on residential or commercial properties, they are smaller in size and have a lower wattage capacity, which means less solar input than their larger counterparts.
The output of power from a solar generator should match your electrical needs. Battery power is measured in watts (W), which is the maximum amount of power a generator provides when it’s running. Battery capacity—referred to as watt-hours (Wh)—is the total amount of stored energy.
When the generator is in operation, the watts represent the rate of power flowing from its battery to an electrical device, and the watt-hours are the maximum level of energy it can deliver. For example, a solar generator with 500 Wh can store a total of 500 W when it’s fully charged. Thus, a 500W solar generator is only able to power electrical appliances and devices that don’t exceed 500W to run.
Battery Storage Capacity
The battery in a solar generator is where the energy captured from the solar panel is stored for later use. Solar generators usually have lithium-ion or lead-acid batteries. Battery storage allows you to run the generator at night or on days with limited sunlight.
The capacity of the batteries determines the duration of the generator. The more power an electronic device requires, the faster the battery charge will run out. The length of the battery charge is also based on the number of devices drawing power from the generator at the same time.
A larger battery capacity is necessary to power electrical appliances that require higher watts. Lower capacity is sufficient for lights, cell phones, and laptops. For instance, a 500W solar generator can power an LED light for 100 hours, while it will only power a mini-refrigerator for about 10 hours.
Direct current (DC) and alternating current (AC) are the two forms of electricity. DC is electricity that flows only in a forward direction. AC is electricity that flows both forward and backward. The energy harnessed by solar panels is DC. A solar generator inverter converts low DC power from the batteries to AC power for usage.
The inverter rating translates to the maximum watts a solar generator can extract at any time. For example, a 1500W inverter can draw up to that amount of wattage in AC power. Keep in mind that the inverter size or rating doesn’t always correlate to a solar generator’s overall firepower. Battery storage is also important.
Expandability of Power
Eventually, you may want to expand the capability of your solar generator, especially if you find you need more power. However, upgrading a solar generator is not always feasible.
Expanding your power is based on the sustainability of the charge controller, which sends power in one direction from the solar panels to the batteries. As the integral component of the solar generator, the primary job of the charge controller is to protect the durability of the batteries.
The charge controller can only process the maximum number of watts and voltage that it’s built to manage, so you may not be able to expand beyond its charging ability. If your battery capacity doesn’t support additional solar panels, your power expandability is unachievable.
Our Top Picks
Around the world, the demand for solar energy continues to grow. Now is the time to think about taking steps to secure access to a renewable energy source for recreation and emergency preparedness. The following products represent some of the best solar generators manufactured by reputable brands in terms of size, power, battery capacity, and special features.
The Jackery portable solar generator provides a green power solution for outdoor activities and emergency preparedness. The battery delivers a higher wattage of 1000W, with a peak of 2000W. It features a lithium battery capacity of 1200Wh, in addition to three standard pure sine wave AC outlets for extra capacity to power multiple AC appliances at the same time.
The generator also includes maximum power point tracking (MPPT) technology for faster solar recharging rates. You can recharge the generator with solar panels, a wall or car outlet, or another generator. Recharging time is about 17 hours with a single solar panel and 8 hours with two solar panels but varies depending on location, temperature, and weather.
This solar generator provides enough power supply for appliances, medical devices, computers, security systems, and lights. RV travelers can expect no extra setup to power mini-refrigerators, portable coffee makers, pellet smokers, and more. Including the handle, the generator measures 13 by 9 by 11 inches and weighs 22 pounds. It is fully equipped with an AC adapter, car charger cable, SolarSaga parallel adapter cable, and a user guide. Solar panels are sold separately.
- Type: Portable
- Wattage: 1200Wh, 1000-2000W
- Ports Included: 3 AC ports, car charger port, SolarSaga parallel adapter port
- Maximum power point tracking (MPPT) technology
- Can be charged through solar power, wall or car outlets, or a generator
- Takes 8-17 hours to fully charge
- Safe to use with appliances, medical devices, computers, security systems, and lights
- Solar panels not included
- Some users had difficulty powering larger appliances
At just 12 pounds, this portable solar generator from Goal Zero is both lightweight and affordable, making it easy to store and transport. It can supply power to up to five devices at once, so you can quickly charge cell phones, tablets, laptops, cameras, and more. The solar generator has a 168Wh lead-acid battery, a continuous 80W surge modified-sine wave inverter, 2.1A USB ports, and 120W 12V ports.
You can recharge the generator in about eight hours with a 12V car charging cable, about six hours with an AC charging cable, and about three hours using solar panels that are sold separately. Compact in size, the solar generator measures approximately 7 by 6 by 5 inches. It includes a 12V car charging cable and an AC charging cable that fits standard wall plugs.
- Type: Portable
- Wattage: 168Wh
- Ports Included: 2 USB ports, AC port, and a 12V port
- Lightweight and compact
- Powers up to 5 devices simultaneously
- Can be charged with solar power, a car, or via AC port
- AC cable and 12V car charging cable included
- Some users report manufacturing defects and short lifespans
The MAXOAK portable solar generator, weighing in at nearly 38 pounds, features a lithium-ion battery capacity of 1500Wh with a 1000W maximum. The massive power output of this generator makes it an indispensable green and clean energy source for home use, camping, boating, and off-grid traveling. You can rely on it to charge higher power devices like microwaves, hairdryers, and blenders.
Recharge this generator in around eight hours with a wall outlet and about five hours with a solar panel (not included). It measures approximately 14 by 6 by 14 inches and provides four USB outputs, two AC outlets, a car port, and carrying handle. It also includes an AC wall charger, PV solar charging cable, and user manual.
- Type: Portable
- Wattage: 1500Wh, 1000W
- Ports Included: USB port, AC port, and 12V car port
- Green energy source
- Suitable for use with large appliances
- Only takes 5-8 hours to charge
- Carrying handle built-in
- Heavyweight model
- Solar panel not included
Use this solar generator from Rainier Outdoor Power Equipment to power small appliances, laptops, power tools, tablets and smartphones, drones, cameras, lights, speakers, and headlamps. Measuring approximately 10 by 4 by 6 inches and weighing five pounds, it’s lightweight and portable, with a built-in carrying handle and flashlight.
Since the generator is a clean energy source, you won’t need to fill it with gas, propane, or diesel. This means you can expect no noise or fumes in your smaller residence. It is powered by a lithium-ion battery and has a 155Wh capacity.
The control panel for the generator contains a traditional household outlet and three USB ports, combined with three 5.5 mm 12V outputs. The solar generator includes both a wall outlet and car charger and provides solar-panel capability, though panels are not included. Recharging time varies depending on location, temperature, and weather.
- Type: Portable
- Wattage: 115Wh
- Ports Included: 3 DC ports, 1 wall port, and 3 USB ports
- Suitable for small appliances
- Lightweight and compact
- Affordable price point
- Solar panels not included
- Charging time varies depending on environmental conditions
- Not suitable for large appliances
The solar generator from EF ECOFLOW features a 1260Wh lithium-battery capacity and 1800W pure sine wave AC power (with a surge to 3300W), which uses six AC outlets to power up to 13 devices simultaneously. It creates enough energy to keep lights, televisions, freezers, toasters, coffee makers, hair dryers, electric frying pans, laptops, and medical machines running for hours. So, if you live in a large home and the electricity goes out, your appliances and devices should remain functional.
The generator uses X-Stream Recharge Technology to offer a fast recharge rate. Recharge to 80 percent power in just one hour and a full charge in around 90 minutes by plugging it into a wall outlet or another generator. Additional recharge times are 4 hours via a solar panel or 10 to 12 hours via a 12/24V car port. While the solar panels aren’t included, the generator is compatible with most solar panels on the market.
Three types of charging cables (AC plug, car charging cable, and solar panel cable), a bag, and a user guide are part of this solar generator package. The generator measures about 15 by 8 by 10 inches and weighs 30.9 pounds. A handle helps with transporting.
- Type: Backup generator
- Wattage: 1260Wh, 1800-3300W
- Ports Included: 6 AC ports, 4 USB ports, 2 USB-C ports, and a car port
- Can power up to 13 devices simultaneously
- X-Stream Recharge Technology integrated
- Carrying bag and user guide included
- Carrying handle included
- Battery power may deplete when not in use or charging
A long-term trip requires ample power supply, durability, and reliability, which is why the BLUETTI AC200P Solar Generator is our top pick for camping and the outdoors. With its lead-acid battery, it offers 2000W of power with a 4800W surge and has a 2000Wh capacity for ample power provided for charging small appliances, phones, and power tools. For ease of use, this model also has a built-in touch screen.
Included with this generator is a user manual, an AC adapter and 6 AC ports, an MC4 solar charging cable, car charging cable, an aviation plug, 2 USB ports, a DC port., and built-in carrying handle. Plus, this option comes with a 120W, scratch-proof, and foldable solar panel made of monocrystalline silicon cells, making this option 5 percent more efficient than comparable solar panels. These solar panels are also easy to transport and set up with their 9.8-pound weight and built-in kickstand.
With the advantage of having the panels included with purchase, this set is ready-to-use out of the box. The entire unit takes 3 to 5 hours to charge using the solar panels, 5.5 hours to charge with an AC adapter, and 10-12 hours using the car adapter. But, please note that charging times depend upon environmental conditions and the generator weighs a hefty 60 pounds.
- Type: Portable
- Wattage: 2000Wh, 2000-4800W
- Ports Included: 6 AC ports, a car charging port, 2 USB ports, a DC port, and an aviation port
- Scratch-proof and lightweight solar panel included; kickstand built-in
- Quick charging times
- Built-in touch screen and carrying handle
- Heavyweight construction
With a 500W power capacity, 2 AC wall ports, 3 DC ports, 4 USB ports, and a LCD screen, the TACKLIFE P50 500Wh Portable Power Station is a force to be reckoned with on camping trips, excursions, and in power outages.
Weighing just 13.6 pounds, this TACKLIFE generator has a pure sine wave inverter integrated, a pre-installed maximum power point tracker (MPPT), and the lithium-ion battery can be charged with solar panels, a wall outlet, or a car charging plug. The unit is also compact enough to transport anywhere as it measures 10.2 by 7.8 by 7.7 inches and has 2 built-in, foldable carrying handles. However, solar panels are not included with this option and it is not suitable for powering large appliances.
- Type: Portable
- Wattage: 500W, 500Wh
- Ports Included: 2 AC wall ports, 3 DC ports, and 4 USB ports
- Pure sine wave inverter and pre-installed maximum power point tracker (MPPT)
- Small, lightweight construction
- Built-in LCD screen
- 2 foldable carrying handles
- Solar panels not included
- Not suitable for large appliances
Finding the right solar generator for your camping trip or a power outage can be hard with so many options available today. One of the best options for ample power is the Jackery solar generator with its portable construction, 1200Wh/1000-2000W power output, 3 AC ports, car charger port, SolarSaga parallel adapter port, and maximum power point tracking (MPPT) technology for fast charging times.
Alternatively, for a budget-friendly option, the portable Goal Zero solar generator is suitable for light power needs with its 168Wh power output, 2 USB ports, AC port, 12V port, and lightweight and compact design that is capable of powering up to 5 devices simultaneously.
How We Chose the Best Solar Generators
We researched the most sought-after solar generators in their respective categories and discovered that the best models are determined by their type, power output, weight, ports, and other special features included by select brands.
While searching for the best solar generators available, the portable options proved the most popular among users for their ample power output and versatility. While not as popular the backup generators available provide enough power for large appliances and are handy in a power outage. No matter the type, the above generators range from 115Wh to 2000Wh of power based on your power needs.
Select models are lightweight enough to take on camping trips while others may be too heavy to transport, but all of the generators come with ample outlets including USB, AC, DC, car, and wall ports. Plus, these picks can be charged quickly via wall outlet, car charging cord, or via solar power. While the majority of these options do not include solar panels, many have LCD or touch screens, carrying handles, sine wave inverters, maximum power point tracker (MPPT) technology.
Tips for Using a Solar Generator
With a multitude of solar generators from which to choose, you may find it difficult to decide which one fits your requirements. To begin, pinpoint how and where you plan to use it.
Solar generators are available in a variety of sizes with various wattage and storage capacities. As you’ve discovered, they are primarily for powering homes during electrical outages or for outdoor activities like camping, hunting, sailing, fishing, and traveling. Solar generators are also an ideal power source for outdoor events, such as parties, festivals, craft fairs, and farmer’s markets.
How much you want to spend on a solar generator is another important consideration. As solar generators increase in size and capacity, so does the price. Keep in mind that solar generators typically do not include solar panels, so that extra purchase will add to the expense.
- The solar generator should match your intended purpose.
- It’s important to select the appropriate size, wattage, and storage capacity for usage.
- Focus on the features that suit your plans for the generator, such as the number of plug-in ports, charging speed, portability, carrying handle, flashlight, expandability, and weight.
The Advantages of Owning a Solar Generator
Owning a solar generator frees you from dependency on fossil fuels when you want a back-up system for emergencies, traveling, or camping. Plus, solar generators are portable and compact, so they are easy to store and move, unlike huge gas-powered generators.
Solar generators are also quieter, safer, and require minimal maintenance since they don’t have motors, moving parts, or emit harmful carbon dioxide. This alternative kind of generator is a green solution that collects energy from the sun to store in its battery and then produces power when it’s in operation.
The charging rate and power capability of a solar generator depend on its size, so carefully consider where you want to use it and how many electrical devices and appliances you want it to power.
- No fuel is needed to operate a solar generator.
- It’s a clean, renewable source of energy.
- A solar generator is low maintenance.
It makes sense to own a solar generator, so you’re not left without a source of power either during an electrical outage at home or simply while enjoying outdoor activities and travel. The portability of solar generators makes them ideal for packing and toting on trips, and they’re especially handy for stowing and using in RVs, cars, boats, and cabins. If you still have some questions about which solar generator power option might be best for your needs, check out some of the most frequently asked questions about solar generators and their corresponding answers.
Q: How does a solar generator work?
A solar generator works when a solar panel converts sunlight into DC electricity that passes through the charge controller. The solar energy is stored in the battery, and the inverter turns the electricity into usable AC power.
Q: Can a solar generator power a house?
A solar generator most likely won’t power every item in your house at once. Depending on the size of the generator, it can charge and power a variety of large and small appliances, electronic devices, and medical machines.
Q: How do I choose a solar generator?
To choose a solar generator, think about your intended use and budget as well as how much battery capacity and wattage you need to power your appliances, electronic devices, and other equipment.
Q: What size solar generator do I need?
The size of the solar generator you need depends on the amount of wattage you require to power your devices and the duration time for charging.