Contents: How Do Solar Generators Work?
- How Does a Solar Generator Operate?
- Can a Solar Generator Power a House?
- How Long Can a Solar Generator Run?
- How Long Do Solar Generators Take To Charge?
- Conclusion: Is a Solar Generator Worth It?
How Does a Solar Generator Operate?
A solar generator is a device that converts sunlight into electrical energy. Solar generators can be used to power a variety of devices, including lights, computers, and appliances.
This is done through the use of solar panels, which are made up of photovoltaic cells that convert the sun’s energy into electrical current. This current is then stored in the generator’s built-in battery for later use or can be directly used to power various devices or appliances in your home (pass-through charging).
How much power a solar generator can generate depends on the size of the unit, but most can produce enough power to run lights, appliances, and small electronics. The smallest generators typically have a wattage of around 100, while the largest units can generate up to 10,000 watts.
One of the best things about solar generators is that they are relatively easy to set up and use. In most cases, all you have to do is connect solar panels to your solar generator, and then plug in your appliances and devices to the generator to begin using them!
How Stuff Works Inside the Solar Generator
But a solar generator is not just a battery. The inside of the generator consists of 3 main parts:
- Solar Battery: Solar batteries are a type of battery specifically designed for storing energy from solar panels. They are often called “deep-cycle batteries” because they can be discharged and charged more than other batteries without damage. This makes them perfect for solar power systems, which often require a lot of energy to be stored and used over time.
- Solar Charge Controller: This is a device that helps manage the charging of batteries from a solar panel. It does this by regulating the amount of current that flows into the battery from the solar panel. This helps to protect the battery from being overcharged, which can damage it.
- Inverter: The inverter is a device that takes the power from the solar panels and turns it into electricity that can be used in your home. (More specifically, it converts the DC power from the solar panels/battery into AC power, which is what most household appliances and electronic devices use.)
How Stuff Works On the Outside of the Solar Generator
On the outside of the solar generator, you’ll often find at least one USB port you can use to charge cell phones, laptops, and other small electronic devices.
And many of the more powerful solar generators now come with one or more AC outlets so you can plug in your devices, like a laptop or TV. And you might also find a standard DC 13.6V port to power 12-volt appliances.
My favorite solar generators, like the ones by Ecoflow (Amazon), Jackery (Amazon), and Bluetti (Amazon) also have LCD display screens so you can see how much energy you have stored in your battery, the temperature, the charge/discharge rate, and so much more!
Can a Solar Generator Power a House?
We have the River Mini, the River, the River Max, The River Pro with an extra battery, and an EcoFlow Delta Pro to run our entire off-grid home. My wife and I also work full-time from our home office.
However, we are very aware of how much energy we use and we downsized our fridge to a 58-quart Alpicool CF55 Portable Refrigerator/Freezer (Amazon) and got a Craftsman 2500-watt gasoline portable inverter gas generator (Amazon) to run our washing machine and dryer.
We also sometimes use, but rarely, the gas generator to recharge our batteries if it’s been 3 or 4 days of cloudy, rainy, or snowy weather.
You could run an entire house with just the EcoFlow Delta Pro (Amazon) with either an extra battery or 2, or with a gas/diesel generator to recharge the battery if you ever need it.
The best part about the Delta Pro is that you can expand its capacity from 3.6kWh to 25kWh with extra batteries if you decide you need more power later on. (Rumor has it that the EcoFlow Delta Pro will also support an EcoFlow wind turbine in the near future, which is exciting!)
However, if you want to go completely off-grid but you use a lot of electricity (especially if you have kids), then you should really think about investing in a bigger solar power system installed by professionals.
How Long Can a Solar Generator Run?
How long a solar generator can run depends on how many watt-hours your solar generator has when the battery is fully charged, and what you’re powering with it.
This is best explained with an example:
Let’s say you have the Ecoflow Delta (Amazon). This solar generator has 1260Wh (watt-hours) of battery. And with this solar generator, you want to power a small 100-watt fridge.
All you have to do is some simple math to find out how long the Ecoflow Delta can run your fridge when starting at full capacity (the battery is fully charged).
1260Wh ÷ 100 watts = 12.6 hours
So, a fully charged Ecoflow Delta that’s not being charged by the sun or another energy source at the same time will be able to run your fridge for roughly 12.6 hours. I say “roughly” because the solar generator will require a small amount of power to run itself (inverter, fan, etc).
If you also want to run 7 LED lights in the house, and the lights use 10 watts each plus the fridge uses 100 watts (170 watts combined), then the math would be as follows:
1260Wh ÷ 170 watts = 7.4 hours
Keep in mind that you can charge most solar generators with the sun and still use them to charge devices or run appliances at the same time. This is called pass-through charging. If your generator isn’t able to do this, then don’t buy it!
How Long Do Solar Generators Take To Charge?
The time it takes to charge a solar generator will vary depending on the size of the solar generator, how many solar panels you have connected, and the strength of the sun. In general, it will take anywhere from 6 to 8 hours to fully charge a small solar generator, and up to 24 hours for a larger unit.
If you’re using your solar generator in an emergency situation, it’s important to know how long it will take to recharge. With a little planning, you can make sure you have the power you need when you need it most.
Conclusion: Is a Solar Generator Worth It?
Whether or not a solar generator is worth it depends on your needs.
Let’s look at the benefits and drawbacks of solar generators so that you can make a more informed decision on whether or not to buy one.
What Are the Advantages of Using a Solar Generator?
There are plenty of advantages to using solar generators, which include:
- Solar generators are quiet compared to gas generators.
- Solar generators are non-polluting, making them a great choice for people who want to reduce their environmental impact.
- Solar generators can be used to power lights, appliances, and even entire homes in times of emergency.
- Solar generators are a great way to save money on energy costs, as they can reduce or even eliminate your need for traditional grid power.
- Some solar generators can be used off-grid or grid-tied, making them a versatile option for many people.
What Are the Disadvantages of Using a Solar Generator?
Some of the disadvantages of using solar generators include:
- Solar generators can be expensive to buy and install, depending on how much electricity you need.
- They require sunlight to work. This means that they may not be useful in areas with limited sunlight or during times of the year when there is less sun available.
- Their fans can be noisy, which may not be ideal for having it next to your bed at night.
- They might need regular maintenance to keep them running properly. However, this isn’t an issue with many smaller, portable solar generators like the Ecoflow (Amazon), Jackery (Amazon), and Bluetti (Amazon).
If you are considering buying a solar generator, be sure to do your research and find the one that is right for you.
Obviously, I’m a big fan of the EF Ecoflow line of portable power stations (Amazon) for off-grid living because they charge really fast and you really get your money’s worth.