Updated Jul 18, 2022 11:15 PM
Solar generators have become increasingly popular for various activities, but especially for avid campers and full-time travelers.
If you need a solar generator for your hunting cabin or off-grid home, your needs will significantly vary from that of someone looking for enough power to charge electronics and potentially run a blender when they’re on the road. The best solar generators are easily portable, fit the intended application, and have enough power and battery life for your needs.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Solar Generator
There are several considerations when deciding to purchase a solar generator, and they will be unique to your intended use and overall budget. Before jumping down to our top picks for the best solar generator, read through our buying guide to ensure you’re able to find the perfect fit.
Type of Solar Panels
To have a fully operational solar generator, you not only need quality power and battery capacity, but you need the right solar panels. Many companies that sell solar generators will also have solar panels that work specifically with that generator. However, many of them have universal adaptors to make it easy to attach and use other brands of solar panels.
In any case, getting to know the type of solar panel you may want is an important consideration.
The most common types of solar panels you’ll see include:
- Monocrystalline solar panels: These tend to be the most efficient and the most expensive panel option. They will work well in high heat environments, and they usually offer around 15-20% efficiency. Monocrystalline solar panels are made from a single crystal, hence the name.
- Polycrystalline solar panels: Offering a 13-16% efficiency rate, polycrystalline solar panels are not far behind monocrystalline. They won’t work quite as well at high temperatures, but the overall differences are minor. Polycrystalline panels are made from more than one crystal, which changes the name and efficiency. Since they are slightly lower quality, they also tend to be more affordable.
- Thin-film solar panels: Of the three options listed, thin-film solar panels are the least efficient and only yield around a 7-13% efficiency rate. They are usually much larger and require more surface area, but they are the cheapest option making them relatively popular.
The panels you choose are what influences how much power you’re able to collect during the day. Most solar generators have other charging capabilities, so solar is not the only option. But as a solar generator, having quality panels increases the efficiency and value of your purchase.
Surge Power Capacity
Among the most important considerations to make is identifying the surge power capacity of the generator. The surge power capacity will tell you the maximum power the solar generator system can provide at once. If you exceed the capacity and overload the generator, the appliances will no longer be powered.
This also applies to things like motors or refrigerators that have instantaneous electrical surges that last a few milliseconds at a time, usually to get started. Then, they’ll use less power as they continue to run. You can often compare the surge power of an appliance to the generator’s capacity, which will give you a good idea.
Every generator will have a different storage capacity dictated by the battery. While the generator is charging, the energy needs to be stored somewhere so you can continue to use it after dark or when it is not collecting a charge. Most battery capacities on these devices are measured in watt-hours.
The battery capacity not only influences the amount of time appliances can be connected to the battery, but it impacts how long it will take for it to charge. Most modern solar generator batteries are lithium-ion batteries. These are not the only battery option, but they are usually the most effective and reliable.
To know how many watts you can actually pull from the battery, you then need to know the inverter rating. The inverter rating does not necessarily influence the power capabilities of the generator, but the ratio between the inverter and the watts in the battery does matter. You are looking for a ratio between 1.5 watt-hours to 1 inverter rating for the most effective performance.
Keep in mind that the battery’s physical size doesn’t always correlate to the battery capacity or power output. To make the last paragraph more sense, let’s talk about watt-hours (Wh) in more detail. So, one watt-hour equals one watt flowing for one hour. Look at the listed Wh on the generator’s battery, and many of the best solar generators will range anywhere from 700-1000+ Wh.
While, in theory, that seems like a lot of time, the inverter rating is what determines how much power you have. This is because the watt-hours differ according to what the battery is plugged into.
How do you predict the battery capacity and how long the generator will last then?
Luckily, many solar generator manufacturers have made this process easy on us, and they have charts that explain how much battery life common appliances and electronics eat up. Not everyone needs the highest capacity battery, but the higher the capacity, the longer it will last. Just remember, it takes that much longer to charge as well.
The display for the battery life is also important to notice. If it isn’t easy and clear to read how much battery life is left, then it can be difficult to know when the generator is useful or needs to charge. Look for ones with a clear LED display to make the battery easy to monitor.
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Although you are buying a solar generator, it should be capable of charging off other things. Sometimes, the weather is cloudy for days, and it is hard to get enough sun to top off the batteries. So, having the option to plug it into a standard outlet or even into your vehicle while driving can be extremely helpful.
If you choose to charge your generator off of your car or RV battery, it is advised to do so only when the vehicle is running to avoid having a dead car battery.
Your intended use largely influences all of the other factors discussed. For instance, if you are only using a solar generator to charge small electronics like phones or an occasional laptop, something as small as a 200Wh battery will suffice. If you plan to run appliances like blenders, coffee pots, and even a fridge, you’ll need much more power.
If you are getting a solar generator as a backup for your home versus one to take with you in your RV or rig, it is also important to factor in portability. Some larger generators come with wheels to make them easy to move around a garage or home, but smaller ones can easily be lifted and carried when out camping. If you just need to power small electronics, check our round up of best AAA batteries or invest in a portable charger.
Need a small, portable charger for backpacking? Here are a few tips on choosing a lightweight solar charger.
We hope we provided most of the information you need to choose the right solar generator, but choosing the correct size can be tricky. When in doubt, get a larger battery capacity than you think you’ll need. If you do this, keep in mind that you need a way to charge the battery!
To get more specific, you can use an equation to calculate the watt-hours you need to power everything. One of the brands we list below has some great information about choosing an appropriate size solar generator on their website if you want more details.
In short, all you need to do is estimate the time it takes to power individual devices or appliances. Then, collectively calculate how many hours it would take to power or charge all of them. When you have that estimate, add up the wattage needed.
Finally, multiply the time and wattage needed to figure out the watt-hours.
As mentioned, always plan for more than you think you need, especially if you power things like a fridge or power tools that use more surge power.
Best Solar Generator
Goal Zero Yeti 1500x BackCountry
Why it Made the Cut: The Goal Zero Yeti 1500x ensures you’re prepared for home blackouts and off-grid travel with the power to run tools, refrigerators, other appliances, and keep all your devices charged.
- Battery Capacity: 1516 Wh
- Continuous Power Output: 2000 W
- Surge Power: 3000 W
- Best Use: Home backup, off-grid travel
- Power multiple devices with 7 different port options
- Convenient carrying handles for portability
- Customizable energy storage system
- Easy to ready LED display
- May be too large for some people’s travel needs
The Goal Zero Yeti 1500x is a robust solar generator in an easy-to-store package. While the size and weight (46 pounds) may be too much for some travelers, many agree that this generator is the best solar generator for a home backup or convenient off-grid travel.
It has seven different port options, allowing you to power multiple smaller appliances or charge several devices at one time. With a 1500 Wh lithium-ion battery, this generator can easily power even a full-size refrigerator for around 28 hours. It can be useful for an emergency home generator for about a day, but if you’re looking for something to power appliances for days or weeks, this may not be the best backup choice.
However, the size, weight, and overall power are ideal for travel. It takes a while to get a full charge, and it will depend on the type of solar panels you pair with the generator. For most folks on the road, 1500 Wh will be more than enough to keep them going, especially if they have a lot of sun.
Best Solar Generator for Camping
Jackery Explorer 1000 Jackery
Why it Made the Cut: The Jackery Explorer 1000 was our top pick for the best solar generator for camping because of the overall value, portability, and ease of use.
- Battery Capacity: 1002 Wh
- Continuous Power Output: 1000 W
- Surge Power: 2000 W
- Best Use: Camping, travel, tailgating
- Easy to carry (only 22 pounds)
- Relatively fast charge time
- Excellent value for the price
- Full-time travelers may need a faster charge time
If portability is your main concern, the Jackery Explorer 1000 is a great option. Jackery has a wide range of solar generator options, so if the Wh on this generator doesn’t fit your needs, there are other sizes. We chose the Explorer 1000, though, because it is easy to carry, doesn’t take up much room, and has enough power to charge and run smaller appliances.
The solar charge time is listed at just under seven hours, which is awesome for the power output. Just keep in mind that there are a lot of factors that can influence how fast it takes to charge from solar panels, like the type of panels and amount of sunlight.
While this is a great pick for camping, if you are using it daily, you’ll likely need to charge it daily as well. So, it may take some extra planning, but it is an excellent choice in terms of usability and application.
Best Solar Generator for RV
EcoFlow Delta 1300 EF ECOFLOW
Why it Made the Cut: As a fast-charging portable power station, the EcoFlow Delta 1300 is the best solar generator for RV camping and full-time travel.
- Battery Capacity: 1260 Wh
- Continuous Power Output: 1800 W
- Surge Power: 3300 W
- Best Use: Off-grid, RVing, full-time travel, home backup, professional
- Exceptionally fast charge time
- Good size for travel and storage
- 13 different charging ports
- Awkward arrangement of charging ports and fan
Any solar generators on the list would work well for RV travel, but the EcoFlow Delta 1300 is my top choice. It has one of the fastest charging times on the market, it is straightforward to use, and it can charge or run several devices at once.
Not only can you power home appliances, but you can charge devices and even run power tools. So, when you’re not on the road, this can be a great companion for projects around the house or garage.
It does have the power to run something like a refrigerator, but only for a short time. It would work better with smaller appliances like a mini-fridge. As with most solar generators, it will have the fastest charge time from a wall outlet (96 minutes), but with the right solar panels, you can get this generator fully charged within 4-8 hours.
Best Portable Solar Generator
Anker PowerHouse II 800 Anker
Why it Made the Cut: For the size and portability, the Anker PowerHouse II 800 is the best portable solar generator for weekenders with enough power to keep everything charged and to run small appliances.
- Battery Capacity: 778 Wh
- Continuous Power Output: 770W
- Weight: 18 pounds
- Best Use: Camping, short boondocking trips
- Unique integrated flashlights
- Easy to read LED screen
- Durable for outdoor use
- Does not support devices over 500W
Sometimes we are just looking for a little bit of extra power without lugging around a clunky battery. That’s where the Anker PowerHouse II 800 comes into play. This bad boy is only around 18 pounds, has an easy-to-carry handle, can easily power most small appliances, and gives your electronics a quick charge.
It won’t be suitable for large loads or anything over 500W (toasters, hairdryers, microwaves), but it can power some mini-fridges for short periods. Most users seem to gravitate towards this power station to charge devices and computers, and that is really where it thrives.
Overall, it is a quality device, and pending your needs, it will work quite well. Since it has a lower battery capacity, the charge time with solar is relatively fast. Perhaps the best feature is also the most unique, and it is the built-in floodlight.
Why it Made the Cut: The Point Zero Energy Titan won out our top pick for the best solar generator for refrigerators due to its efficiency, varied applications, and charging speed.
- Battery Capacity: 2000 Wh
- Continuous Power Output: 1500 W (single battery)
- Surge Power: 3000 W (single battery)
- Best Use: home backup, off-grid
- Removable and expandable battery
- Can run a standard refrigerator for 36 hours
- Durable metal frame
- Two-year warranty
The Point Zero Energy Titan is comparable to many larger solar generators on the market, but it stands apart with a higher power output with a dual battery system. The specs listed above are for a single battery, so you can double it for two batteries.
It is also an excellent option for off-grid living or home backup systems because you can expand on the battery as much as you want. That way, you can continue to hold a charge to keep things running. The maximum power point tracking while charging from solar panels is 2000 W, higher than comparable models.
It can run a standard home refrigerator for 36 hours on one battery pack, making it an excellent choice for home backup systems. An integrated RV port and several other power outlet options are also available.
Looking for more power bank choices? Here are a few more of our favorite power banks.
Though I have lived in an assortment of vehicles, a solar generator wasn’t always a piece of gear I had. But once I understood the value, I got one, which happens to be from one of the brands on our list!
The type of generator you choose will be highly subjective to your intended use. For instance, I only used mine to power small electronics and occasionally run a little blender. I did have a small fridge but rarely needed to power it, and I ended up using it more like a cooler to save power when possible. In choosing the best solar generators for this list, I took the category into account as well as the following:
- Longevity: How long do I intend on using this item? What is the projected lifespan? Is there a warranty? How durable is it for both indoor and outdoor use?
- Portability: Am I using this only at home or taking it on the road? Are there carrying handles or a cart to move it with? What is the size and weight?
- Ease of Use: Is the generator straightforward for use? Is there an easy-to-read battery display? Are the connection and charging options accessible and clear?
- Company Policies: Is there a warranty? A satisfaction guarantee? Any replacement policy or repair options? Do they offer package purchases with panels and generators? Are there attachments for connecting panels to each other?
When searching for products online, it is also a good idea to sift through verified customer reviews and the company websites. Reviews give you up-to-date information about customer experiences and overall product quality, and company websites can give you a better look into product sources, production, warranties, and more.
Q: How long will a solar generator last?
How long a solar generator will last varies according to the quality of the product when new, how well maintained, and how often it is used. In general, most solar-powered generators will last anywhere from 25-35 years.
Q: Are solar generators worth the money?
To most people, solar generators are worth the money despite the high upfront costs. Once you have them, there are usually no additional costs to keep them functional, unless you are charging them from your electricity or replacing solar panels. Since most panels last 25-35 years, the value tends to be worth the investment.
Q: What size solar generator do I need to power a refrigerator?
The size of the solar generator you need to power a refrigerator depends on the size of your refrigerator. If you want to go completely off-grid with a full-size fridge, a generator with 6,000 watts is recommended. However, if you strictly use it for short windows of time or as a backup in case of an outage, a generator with 1500 watts should be enough.
Q: Can I run my house on a solar generator?
You can run a house on a solar generator, but it needs enough power. It also depends on how long you plan to power the house because if it is a backup vs. the primary power source, that will impact the type of solar system you need. A generator ranging from 5000 to 7500 watts is enough to power a house pending what is being powered and for how long. The best way to know the size of the solar generator you need to power your house, look at the wattage of all the appliances you plan to run. The watts or amps are often listed on product labels. To keep these charged via solar, you’ll also need 25-35 solar panels (100-300 watt panels).
Q: Are solar generators noisy?
Solar generators are not noisy, especially when compared to conventional fuel-powered generators. Solar generators do not have moving parts, so the only noise you should hear from a solar generator would come from the inverter.
Finding the best solar generator is dependent on your intended use. There are so many amazing options on the market today you will undoubtedly find one that fits your needs. Whether you want a home backup for emergencies, something to take with you to charge your phones while camping, or a full-time traveler, there is a solar generator for you.