Solar generators harness the power of the sun to generate clean energy that can dramatically minimize our carbon footprint. They also cost less to run and are virtually silent, making them sustainable and practical devices to have as backups.
In the long term, these generators are cost-effective but they entail larger upfront costs compared to their gas-powered counterparts. After all, the cost of these machines depends specifically on their capacity. This is why their lifetime value must be considered.
What’s their longevity like?
How Long Will a Solar Generator Last?
Generally, due to the absence of moving parts, a solar generator can last 5 to 15 years. The length of its lifespan will be influenced by:
- How often you use it
- How well you maintain it
- The quality of the components
When it comes to components, the most important factor to consider is a solar generator’s battery. Traditionally, lead acid or deep cycle batteries were used due to their affordability, however, they require long and frequent charging as well as more maintenance.
A more efficient alternative is NMC (nickel manganese cobalt), a lithium-ion battery known for having a high energy density and better discharge rates and storage.
Lithium-ion batteries, particularly its LiFePO4 variant, are an even better option. They tolerate high temperatures well, offer greater efficiency, and have longer lifespans.
How Long Can a Fully Charged Solar Generator Run?
A solar generator’s runtime depends on two factors:
- Battery capacity or how much solar energy it can generate and store
- Your energy consumption
Generally, the higher the battery capacity, the longer the run time between charges.
However, as different devices have different power consumption, the wattage requirement of the appliances connected to the device ultimately determines its operating time. For example, appliances like refrigerators and TVs use up batteries faster than low-power devices like smartphones and laptops.
It’s important to familiarize yourself with how long a solar generator will last so you can plan accordingly. To give you an idea, we used the INFINITY 1300 as an example. Here’s how long it can power common household appliances:
- Camp lantern(6W): 196 hours
- Smartphone (11Wh): 107 cycles
- WiFi router (25W): 47 hours
- Laptop (60Wh): 20 cycles
- TV (150W): 7.8 hours
- Blender (350W): 3.4 hours
- Trimmer(500W): 2.4 hours
- Coffee Maker (1000W): 1.2 hours
- Hair dryer(1200W): 0.98 hour
Learning how long your generator will last based on the appliances you use will help you conserve energy and prioritize which items to plug into it.
Can You Run a Solar Generator Continuously?
Yes, you can run a solar powered generator continuously as long as you have:
- Sunlight so your device can take in maximum solar power and quickly convert it into electric current.
- Sufficient battery capacity — this is the total amount of electricity you can store in the device which helps you estimate how long it will last between charges.
For your solar generator to work all day, the energy stored in its battery must exceed your energy consumption or your device will run out of power.
Note that continuously using your solar power generator at its maximum rated output could overload the system. This can lead to overheating, causing damage to the internal components and slowing down the battery’s processing speed. Eventually, it will reduce the device’s lifespan.
So, if you rely on solar energy to power your home, consider looking for one with pass-through charging capabilities. It will allow you to power your appliances while charging the battery.
How Long Should You Charge a Solar Generator?
Solar generators can take anywhere between 1.5 to 48 hours to charge. The exact charging time will depend on:
- Solar panel efficiency - the percentage or amount of sunlight that reflects on photovoltaic (PV) panels before being converted into electricity.
- Battery capacity - the charge that a battery can store
Let’s take the Growatt INFINITY 1300 as a frame of reference. The device has a built-in MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracker) controller, allowing you to achieve a full charge in just 2.5 hours by solar panels! You can use an appropriate AC wall charging outlet to take your device from 0% to 100% in just 1.8 hours. It can even be charged with your electric vehicle.
VITA 550 also follows a similar approach to charging. But because its battery capacity is low (538Wh), you can power it in 1.6 hours through AC wall charging.
How To Extend the Lifespan of Your Portable Solar Generator
Follow these tips to make your portable power station last longer.
1. Avoid Overcharging
Charging your battery (particularly lithium-ion) to 100% could lead to ~20% degradation annually. This can cause the battery to go into a state of overcharging, which stresses the battery and could potentially cause it to fail.
So, avoid fully charging your generator. Remember that the ideal charge is between 20% to 80% so you don’t damage your battery.
2. Use Quality Components
If you’re buying a solar generator, consider the quality and compatibility of its components.
A solar generator has four major components:
- Solar panels last an average of 20 to 25 years.
- Batteries can last for up to 5 to 20
- Charge controllers can last anywhere between 15 and 20 years.
- Inverters can last around 10 to 15 years.
You can use these estimates for solar generators that have quality components like lithium-ion batteries and MPPT controllers. Models with incompatible or poor-quality parts are prone to incomplete charging which can negatively affect their functioning.
3. Cycle Your Battery
To avoid overcharging or undercharging, cycle your solar batteries periodically. Use at least 25% of their power before charging them back up to 50% to 75% every couple of months. This will reduce your energy bills and ensure your battery’s health.
You should also recalibrate your battery every two to three months to keep the battery in good health. Otherwise, there’s a risk it will suddenly die while you’re using it which can be inconvenient.
4. Perform Regular Maintenance
Dirt, dust, and other impurities can build up on the surface of the portable solar panel, which will affect its functionality. It will obstruct or distract solar energy and reduce the amount of energy the panels are capable of generating. Neglecting to clean the panels can eventually shorten their lifespan.
If you want to get the most bang for your buck and ensure efficient energy production, clean the panels with diluted vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. (A biodegradable soap will also work.) With a soft cloth, gently wipe the dust from the panels.
5. Ensure Proper Storage
When not in use, you can store your solar generator in a climate-controlled, dry place away from direct sunlight (sunlight can cause the battery to overheat). Your basement or bedroom closet is a good choice for keeping humidity and moisture at bay.
You can also wrap the device with a dust-proof material to shield it from its environment.
If you’ve been thinking of adding a solar generator to your home, you’re doing the right thing by performing your due diligence. Proper research will not only help you make a more informed decision but will also help you decide on the solar powered generator that’s right for you. At the same time, you can manage your expectations and find out how much upkeep owning one entails. With all this knowledge and preparation, you have a better chance of purchasing a generator that’s exactly what you need.
Is it worth getting a solar generator for my home?
Solar generators are safe to use and don’t release fumes which means they won’t cause air pollution and increase your risk of respiratory conditions. While the initial cost may be significant, their lower long-term costs make them a practical and cost-effective acquisition.
How long will a solar generator power a refrigerator?
How long your solar generator powers your refrigerator will depend on the size and wattage of your solar powered generator as well as the type of refrigerator you own. For example, Growatt’s INFINITY 1300 (1382Wh) can run a 500W refrigerator for about 2.3 hours straight. The calculation formula is: Working Hours(H) = Generator Capacity(Wh) * 85% / Refrigerator Wattage(W).