Solar Generator 101: The Ultimate Solar Generator Buyer's Guide 2022

What is a Solar Generator?

When most people talk about solar generators, they’re often referring to a portable power station that is powered by sunlight. For context, you can think about a solar generator as a larger version of a portable power bank that can charge and power not only small devices, but nearly all of your electronics and appliances. Like other generators, solar generators provide portable power, but instead of using diesel, wind, or gas, they use sustainable solar energy to generate power.

Solar Generator - Growatt

Generally, solar generators contain a battery, an inverter, and multiple outlets, and they usually are capable of being powered very efficiently with solar panels. For the user’s convenience, they typically offer USB-A ports, USB-C ports, car cigarette lighter ports, and AC outlets that users can directly plug into, and charge their devices. Some might offer additional charging options like barrel plugs (a rounded output for outdated devices) and wireless charging to support wider ranges of devices and appliances.

A solar generator is an ideal portable power solution in various scenes where the grid is not accessible. It is a perfect choice for people to bring with them during camping, road trips, and other outdoor activities. It’s also possible to use a solar generator as an emergency backup when encountering power outages caused by unstable grid or extreme weather.


How Does Solar Generator Work?

A solar generator usually works with solar panels, which are used to gather sunlight and convert solar energy to electricity. After harvesting, the sunlight that has been converted will be stored in the batteries, which can be used to provide DC power for DC outlets such as USB outlets, the car cigarette lighter, and wireless charging, or it can go through an inverter to provide AC (alternating current) power from AC outlets.

However, many people hesitate to go all in on a solar generator because it is known that the solar harvest is strongly affected by environmental conditions. Solar charging is often time-consuming and may take 5-8 hours on average to fully charge. That's why some portable power stations have introduced MPPT (maximum power point tracking) technology to regulate and optimize the energy extraction as conditions change. On an average, industry MPPT technology can support a conversion efficiency of around 94-97%, however the industry leading technology from Growatt can reach an efficiency of 99% while utilizing up to a massive 800W of solar input, making it possible to fully charge within just 2.5 hours.

What to Look at When Buying a Solar Generator

Capacity/ (Wh)

A watt-hour indicates the battery capacity of a solar generator, which is the most important specification to look at. The battery capacity also determines the size, and the weight of a solar generator since the battery can take up 60% of the total size and weight especially nowadays when many users might prefer larger capacities. Under the same discharging environment, a larger battery capacity means that you can run the same devices for longer, and possibly power more devices at the same time, but that doesn’t mean a larger capacity is better, because as the capacity grows, the weight of the battery also increases. If you require portability when using solar generators outdoors, you may want to avoid large systems that are difficult to carry.

Power Output/ (Watt)

The output power level decides the types of devices you can power and charge. You need to pay attention to this specification because the output power must be larger than the total rated power of your electric needs in order to keep all your devices running properly, especially if you want to run them all at once. You must understand your electric loads and make sure you have high enough output power to ensure your solar generator can meet your needs.

Discharging Hours

How long can a solar generator run? The answer may vary depending on different models and different discharging situations. For example, if you run a high power device like an electric grill or microwave oven, power will be consumed very quickly. But if you only need to power your smartphones or laptops, even a tiny model can provide all the power you would need for a weekend trip. Here’s a quick calculation so that you can easily estimate the time of discharging: 


Battery capacity * Usable percentage (usually 80%~82%)/ rated power of your device = Discharging time

Charging Speed

Despite sunlight being inexhaustible, we only have limited sun hours in a day. As mentioned before, on average, a solar generator needs 5-8 hours to charge because of the limited solar input it can handle, but the Growatt Infinity 1500 can finish charging in only 2.5 hours with 800W solar input. This means you can charge your devices with solar panels much faster when using Growatt’s solar generator.

There’s also a formula that you can use to calculate the solar charging hour:

Capacity / maximum solar input = Solar charging hours

Takes Infinity 1500 as an example,

1512Wh / 800W = 1.89Hrs

Due to the intensity of sunshine and various environmental factors, there might be a disparity between the actual solar charging hours and the calculated times. But Growatt can guarantee that Infinity 1500 portable power station can be fully charged in 2.5 hours.

Battery

Solar generators on the market mostly use NMC batteries and LFP batteries. NMC stands for lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide, while LFP stands for lithium iron phosphate. Because of the different material compositions, they show different densities, life cycles, and stability.

It is hard to tell which kind of battery is better, but you can have a look at the table to see the differences between them.


 

NMC Battery

LFP Battery

Density

Higher

Lower

Weight & Size (w/ the same capacity)

Lighter & Smaller

Heavier & Larger

Life Cycles

Shorter

Longer

Safety

High

Higher

 

As you can see, NMC batteries are smaller in size but have shorter battery life cycles and stability, but LFP batteries are larger but have longer battery life cycles and safety. If portability (lighter weight and smaller size) is what you are looking for, you can choose solar generators with NMC batteries. And if you value longer cycles or safety, LFP batteries are a better choice.

Outlets

You need to look at the number and types of outlets of the solar generator. The number of outlets determines how many devices or appliances the solar generator can charge or power at the same time, and the types of those outlets dictate which type of device or appliance can be plugged in.
What is a Solar Generator - Growatt

Solar Generator VS Diesel Generator

Diesel generators are known for their capability of handling larger power loads than other generators and have been a favorite choice for many people. Yet their shortcomings are apparent when compared to solar generators in these aspects:

Cost

The core of these generators is to generate power from sunlight or diesel, right? You need to have the power source, either sunlight or diesel oil, for them to work.

Diesel oil is consumable. You will have to buy diesel oil constantly for if, when, and in case it runs out. That makes the cost of using diesel generators cumulatively increase over time.

Alternatively, the purchase price of a solar generator is usually higher than a diesel generator ranging from 3 to 8 times at the same output level. Despite a solar generator seeming to be more expensive than a diesel generator, when talking about the cost, there are a few important key factors.

The only additional costs for you to generate solar power is the up front cost of solar panels. You don’t have to pay extra for the sunlight which is inexhaustible. All you have to do is to put the solar panels under the sun when it is sunny outside and solar panels can last for years with only basic maintenance.

So if you look at the long-term benefits, a solar generator is often a more cost-worthy choice.

Environment & Health 

Diesel generators emanate strong fumes when diesel is burnt as fuel. The pollutants in those fumes, including nitrogen oxide, pollute the air so much so that they cannot be used indoors. In addition, diesel is nonrenewable, states like California have already banned outdoor appliances like weed wackers and leaf blowers due to their carbon impact, it might only be a short while before other states follow suit with things like generators.

The fumes that diesel generators emanate also have a strong smell, and are extremely harmful to our health. Especially for people who have respiratory problems, the smoke and smell may worsen their problems.

As for solar generators, each and everyone of them can endlessly use renewable solar energy as a power resource, and will not produce those hazardous substances as diesel generators do when generating power. In fact, no fumes will be emitted, so there is also no smell when they work.

Portability

When it comes to portability, a solar generator is a winner. It is smaller in size in general, and more importantly, the power can be stored in the batteries that have been already designed in it. When you go out for a trip, all you need to take along is the solar generator itself and the solar panels if you need to charge the batteries outdoors.

However, if you are bringing a diesel generator with you, you would also have to pre-purchase and bring the diesel oil with you. Sometimes, this may become a problem when you cannot estimate how much you’ll need during the trip. And if the diesel is used up, you will need to spend time looking for a diesel provider or gas station which are not available everywhere. Besides, the larger machine and extra fuel will increase the burden when carrying.


When do you need a solar generator?

Solar generators can be used in various scenarios both indoors and outdoors. We live in an era where technologies develop rapidly and we can barely live without electronic equipment. So it is important to always have accessible power to keep our life moving. And that’s when the solar generator plays an important role.

Solar Generator for outdoor use - Growatt

Outdoor

Most people would bring a solar generator with them when they go for a road trip, travel with an RV, or camping. During the trip there are always several devices that need to be charged, not only our phones, but maybe a Bluetooth speaker, a tablet, and a computer, but also you may want to charge appliances such as fans, coffee machines or other electronic devices. A solar generator is sufficient to meet most of your outdoor power needs, and more importantly, you can always recharge a solar generator outdoors with solar panels and maintain a continuous power supply during your adventure.

Solar Generator powers device - Growatt

Some larger models that support high output power can be used to organize outdoor parties (like the tailgate party). You may use portable solar generators to power an electric grill, projector, and light bulbsto add more fun to your party.

Home

Emergency Backup

If you live in an area where the grid is unstable, you can rely on a solar generator to provide you with necessary power to meet your basic needs. If it’s just a sudden blackout that only lasts for hours, the battery inside the solar generator should provide enough power to keep your life moving.

Severe Weather

It can be hard when you encounter extreme weather like a hurricane or blizzard because it may take days or even weeks for the electricity of the grid to be restored. In that circumstance, a solar generator can help you survive rough days ahead by allowing you to recharge with solar panels in the daytime. You can rely on the solar generator to meet your basic needs and have the backup power to cook and charge your mobile devices. A solar generator can also run a heater or air conditioner if the weather becomes intolerable.

Professional

SOHO(Small Office/Home office)

For small offices, or what some might call micro-businesses with only a few employees, solar generators can keep office devices working and prevent you from being interrupted by an unstable grid on your tasks. Some solar generators that come with UPS function can guarantee the continuous running of your server and avoid losing important data due to sudden power outages.

Photographer

For photographers and videographers who find themselves in the outback, far away from any power grid, and maybe even any humans for days at a time might need solar generators which can be used to power their shooting equipment such as cameras, studio lights, and drones. Compared to other generators, the benefit of carrying a solar generator is that it is lighter and easier to generate power.

DIY Maker

If you are a talented craftsmen often finding yourself on job sites without electric, or in the wild on remote build locations, a solar generator can be a great help. Portable power allows us to access power where the grid is not available like never before, you can bring a solar generator to run any number of tools, even circular saws, table saws, and of course all of the electric drill batteries you can pack.

Musicians & Traveling use cases

Portability is important for people who work outdoors. Musicians, for example can use solar generators to provide an easy outdoor power supply for their electric or acoustic instruments, in addition to microphones and speakers to amplify the message.


Why You Should Choose Growatt's Solar Generator - Infinity 1500?

About Infinity 1500 Portable Power Station

Infinity 1500 has a huge battery capacity of 1,512Wh and an AC output of 2,000W, which means it can power almost any outdoor or home appliances. With up to 12 outlets, it can meet diverse electric needs. It also has an MPPT efficiency of up to 99% to enable fast charging within 2.5 hours. For wall charging, it only takes 2 hours. The leading Battery Management System (BMS) technology ensures the higher safety of the battery. The Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS), multi-unit expansion, and App remote control enable it to meet further demands of its users.

Infinity 1500 - Growatt Solar Generator

Among various kinds of solar generators on the market, what makes Infinity 1500 stand out? Not only the product itself but also the brand that produced it.

Why Growatt

Established in 2011, Growatt has rich experiences in producing high-quality PV inverters for 11 years, and it has become one of the top-tier brands in the PV industry. With the belief in making a difference in the world's energy future, the company is dedicated to creating more possibilities for a greener future for all.

Focusing on product and technology innovations, with an R&D team of over 500 professionals, the company has obtained more than 140 patents. Now, millions of customers in over 150 countries and regions around the world are enjoying the energy storage solution provided by Growatt, and the brand always considers customers’ product experience as a priority.

We hope this blog post has helped you better understand solar generators. If you are interested in our Infinity 1500, or any energy storage solutions provided by us, check out our products or find us on Facebook or Instagram!