Last Update: 13 March 2018 A solar generator is a system that captures energy from sunlight using photovoltaic (PV) cells mounted on panels. The harvested energy is then converted into electricity in the form of direct current (DC), and then inverted into alternating current (AC) before being deposited into a battery bank.
Depending on the number of panels and batteries used, a solar powered generator can power anything from small appliances and laptops to entire households. However, unlike the conventional portable generators most small-to-moderate models only produce enough power to charge devices like laptops, smartphones, tablets, and televisions. In this guide, you’ll learn how to choose a solar generator after being introduced to some of the most popular systems in all shapes and sizes.
Top 8 Solar Generators – Our Picks
|Generator||Wattage||Price||Editor's Rating||Our Review|
|Goal Zero Yeti 400 Solar Generator Kit w/Nomad 20 Solar Panel||400||Check the Current Price||4.9/5||Click to Read|
|Goal Zero 23000 Yeti||300||Check the Current Price||4.8/5||Click to Read|
|Go Power! Solar Extreme Complete Solar and Inverter System||480||Check the Current Price||4.6/5||Click to Read|
|Goal Zero Yeti 1250 Solar Generator Kit||1250||Check the Current Price||4.5/5||Click to Read|
|Grape Solar GS-400-KIT||400||Check the Current Price||4.3/5||Click to Read|
|Solar Generator Plug N Play Kit||30||Check the Current Price||4/5||Click to Read|
|Goal Zero 22004 Yeti 150||80||Check the Current Price||4.2/5||Click to Read|
|5000 Watt 200AH Solar Generator with 100 Watt Solar Panels||2500||Check the Current Price||4.1/5||Click to Read|
Why Should You Get a Solar Generator?
The most obvious advantage solar generators have over fuel-powered generators is that they’re the “green” eco-friendly alternative. The ability to harvest power without fuel is not only better for the environment, it also equates to no ongoing costs associated with purchasing gasoline, propane or any other fuel source.
This not only saves the owner money on electricity bills in the long-term, it also provides a reliable and independent method of power generation that relies merely on sunlight and the proper functioning of its parts.
In addition to cost-effectiveness, reliability, and eco-friendliness, here’s a more comprehensive list of 10 reasons why most people find it advantageous to have a solar generator:
2. Decreases utility bill and grid reliance – Even if your panels only produce enough output to cover 25% of your home’s electricity needs, that would still be a sizable chunk of the energy bill each month.
3. Smaller solar generators are perfect for camping – There is a wide range of portable models being especially useful for camping.
4. Neutral carbon footprint – Solar generators won’t produce any greenhouse gases or byproducts that are harmful to the environment.
5. Suitable for summer use – Solar generators thrive in the summer sun, and since they do not emanate heat they can be used in hot climates without causing discomfort or heat-related fire hazards.
6. More compact and portable – Even the smallest fuel-powered generators are bulky in comparison to the slender panels and flexible setup of a solar generator.
7. No potentially deadly fumes – Fuel generators need to be used in well-ventilated areas to prevent a buildup of potentially fatal carbon monoxide fumes. Solar generators carry no such risks.
8. More reliable when fuel is not available – In times of emergency, when fuel is not easily accessible, solar generators will still be in use.
9. Power can be stored for later usage – The system’s battery bank can store power, whereas a fuel-powered generator can only provide power while running.
10. Utility companies will pay for your excess electricity – If you expand the setup by adding enough panels, you can route the excess power to your city’s grid and receive a check from the utility company every month instead of having to pay them.
What Do You Need to Know Before Buying One?
Most solar power generators generate just enough electricity to power household appliances for several hours at a time. However, some of the more powerful systems can be used continually and are expandable, allowing you to add more panels to increase your energy production capabilities.
The main job of a solar generator is to harvest radiation from the sun’s rays, process it through a power inverter to produce an AC output, and store the captured energy in a deep-cycle battery setup.
While not all models include all of the above components, this list describes an optimal feature set for a well-equipped solar power generator. Aside from the main components, there are a number of additional features that vary greatly depending on the model.
Any model that comes with all of the features listed below would be an ideal choice, as long as it meets your wattage requirements. These perks are what distinguish the different solar systems from each other.
By taking the above features into account before conducting your final comparison, you’ll know exactly what you’re looking for beforehand. Be sure to note the overall quality of the materials used in each component and see if there are any complaints regarding functionality or durability by reading our solar generator reviews.
Researching each component individually to determine which type you’d prefer can also help you prepare for the shopping around process. After learning about the above components you’ll be knowledgeable enough about the system to make an informed decision.
How To Find The Best One For Your Needs?
Aside from perks like extra USB ports and conveniences of that nature, the main features that might make one solar generator preferable over another include:
* number and wattage of panels
* total solar photovoltaic output level
* battery bank capacity
* included components
* inverter power rating
* inclusiveness of the set – Some sets contain all the pieces you need to get started, whereas others are more compact and contain the minimal components to operate a camping-oriented setup.
The output wattage of the solar panels is primarily what determines how much electricity you’ll be able to capture at one time. Be sure to check the power rating of the inverter as well; a higher power rating means the system can deliver more electricity at once.
In most cases, a solar power generator is only expected to produce enough electricity to run appliances and devices during an emergency power outage. However, expandable systems can incorporate enough panels added to power an entire house.
Types of Solar Power Generators
Now that you know exactly how much energy you’ll need to achieve your goals, a basic comparison will help you choose from one of the types of solar power generators below:
* Compact portable solar generators (perfect for camping, travel, boats, RVs, etc.)
* All-inclusive solar power generator sets for emergency power backup (fastest and easiest route to a complete home setup)
* Expandable solar power generator systems (start small and expand according to your needs)
* Car-compatible solar power generator systems (can charge via sun or car)
* Miniature device charging sets (for smartphones and tablets)
With the above information in hand, anyone should be able to make an expert decision to select a perfect model for their unique energy needs and preferences.
Our Reviews of Top 10 Models in America
1. Goal Zero Yeti 400 Generator Kit w/Nomad 20 Solar Panel
This Yeti 400 kit with an included Nomad 20 solar panel is a step above the other selections in Goal Zero’s Yeti line because it includes an extra component that makes the unit worth considering. We found it to be an ideal choice for camping trips, outdoors usage, and for backup emergency situations.
One reason to choose this system over the similar selections from Goal Zero is that it comes with the Nomad recharging panel, which is also compatible with other solar systems like the Escape 150 and Sherpa 50.
The extra 20 watts of continuous power from the Nomad are nice for charging devices like smartphones and tablets. You can plug into the Yeti 400 main unit via the USB ports, standard AC outlet, or directly via the 12V connections. With the Yeti 400 you can charge your 11-inch tablet more than 10 times or your smartphone more than 30 times before having to recharge.
If you keep the Nomad 20 plugged in then you get even more charging time out of it. Your laptop can get a full charge from the Yeti 400 at least 5 times. Needless to say this system should give you all you need to stay in power during your camping trips.
2. Goal Zero 23000 Yeti
The Yeti 400 from Goal Zero is a compact unit that is strong enough to run televisions, CPAP machines, lights, mobile devices, and even some small appliances. It includes a 1.5 amp USB port, a 12V outlet for plugging your devices into, and a built-in 300-watt power inverter, which converts the energy into a AC electricity.
In addition to charging from the sun, this solar power generator can also be charged through a standard wall outlet or car charger (not included in the kit). You can plug in Nomad solar panels to increase the charge capacity, and we found that connecting the panels to the unit is very simple.
At 29 pounds, this generator is hefty enough to feel durable, yet not heavy enough to present difficulty carrying. The pop-up handle and stackable shape make it a good choice for a camping trip, and the futuristic design incorporates a metallic bright green that we really like.
It’s also nice that this kind of generator can be used indoors because it doesn’t create any fumes or bad smells. From some of the other solar generator reviews we’ve read on this model, it’s apparent that most people agree with us on liking this one.
3. Go Power! Solar Extreme Complete Solar and Inverter System
The fact that this is a complete kit which includes everything you need to setup a fully functioning solar power generator is a huge plus in our opinion. The Go Power! Solar Extreme is extremely quiet even during peak operation.
The system served its place well in an RV, making camping trips more convenient by eliminating the noise and hassle of the traditional fuel-powered generator; not to mention the fact that you can bring this unit in your car or home without worrying about fumes or heavy equipment.
At 180 pounds altogether, the system is pretty hefty when carried as one unit. However, luckily it consists of multiple parts and each part is relatively light. With that said, you will never need any help loading up the whole setup. The included battery bank has a very decent capacity, including 4 12V deep-cycle batteries.
The included 3000 watt sine wave inverter makes the system capable of running small appliances heaters, and other energy demanding electronics. You also get three 160-watt solar panels for a total of 480 watts as well as a 30 amp PWM solar controller. All that seems complicated, but you will probably figure out how to set it up and use it in under 30 minutes.
4. Goal Zero Yeti 1250 Kit
Goal Zero Yeti 1250 is the strongest model in Goal Zero’s Yeti line. The unit is a bit larger than the other less capable Yetis, but the trade-off is you get much more wattage to work with. The setup includes two Boulder 30 solar panels that combined can fully charge the Yeti 1250 within a period of 24 hours.
The system is expandable though, so you can add more panels to decrease the amount of time it takes to get a full charge. You can also just plug the unit into a wall outlet or car charger in times when the sun or solar panels are not available.
Based on ours and others’ experiences, this portable solar power generator is a bit heavier than the other models out. Hence it would be very difficult to carry the unit by yourself. Still, as far as size goes it’s great because it can fit comfortably on a kitchen countertop. As the name implies, it comes with a 1250 watt hour battery. It also includes 3 USB ports, 3 DC connections, and 3 AC connections, as well as a chaining port for hooking multiple units together.
5. Grape Solar GS-400-KIT
This kit works excellent for backup power needs, running small appliances lights, charging mobiles devices, and providing electricity for camping trips. The 35 amp charge controller from Xantrex is a quality addition to the setup, in comparison to other similar systems which only have a 30 amp controller.
The 2000-watt pure sine inverter is also quite powerful for a 400 watt hour setup. Despite the name, it actually can provide up to 1200 watt hours of electricity per day when expanded to hold a larger battery bank.
The system comes with 4 polycrystalline panels, each of which are equipped with a 2-diode junction box for enhanced energy capturing performance. The only thing we don’t like is that the batteries are not included. However, you only need one 12V battery, so nothing stops you from going ahead and investing in a deep-cycle battery to make the kit complete.
The cables and connections are color coded and very easy to work with. This is indeed refreshing when considering some of the hassles one has to go through when installing some other systems. The built in USB port and 2 standard outlets also make it easy to plug in your devices and appliances.
6. Solar Generator Plug N Play Kit
This kit from Offgridsolargenerator turned out to be surprising portable and flexible for various tasks. We especially like it that it comes with a 25ft wire, making it easy to use the generator further away from the solar panels. That sure beats having to wait for the battery to charge up before moving it away from the panel.
The kit includes a single 30 watt polycrystalline panel that plugs directly into the included charge box. The unit itself is very lightweight and has a comfortable handle. The convenient gauges make it easy to see what’s going on as far as power levels and electricity usage.
The powerpack lasts for 20 amp hours, which is quite impressive when considering the capacities of some other models described in our solar generator reviews. When it comes to a straightforward setup it can’t really be simpler than this.
Surprisingly this kit does not come with a separate charge controller, as it is apparently not needed due to the fact that the powerpack uses trickle charge when a full charge is detected. This plug n play kit is perfect for camping, traveling, and using small appliances and devices in areas that don’t have access to off grid power.
7. Goal Zero 22004 Yeti 150
We found the Goal Zero 22004 Yeti 150 to be a versatile and ultra-portable solar power generator that is easy to assemble and use. This is a small “plug-and-play” generator designed for camping, emergencies, or any time you need backup power for phones, lights, laptops, or other small appliances.
The system includes a 12V battery with a charge capacity of 150WH/14,000 mAh, which can be charged via the included solar panel, or by plugging into a standard wall outlet or car charger. We like the fact that the Yeti 150 unit can be used inside the household or in the vehicle because it doesn’t put off any fumes and its light and small enough to take anywhere.
The main unit has a convenient pop-up handle and the shape makes it easy to stack multiple units atop one another. The Yeti 150 also includes a single USB outlet (2 amps) as well as a built-in 80 watt AC inverter. Given the capacity, we found this device to mostly ideal for light intermittent use while traveling, or as a go-to backup during emergencies. Aesthetically, the colors and materials have a very modern and polished look, and the device feels lightweight and durable with a comfortable grip.
8. 5000 Watt 200AH Solar Generator & (2) 100 Watt Solar Panels
If you are looking for a powerful all-in-one solar system, this kit from Be Prepared Solar won’t disappoint you. With a 5000 watt solar power generator this system can handle just about any job your throw at it, whether it be around the house or on a camping trip.
The 200 amp hour battery bank can run for several days consecutively without a charge and can reach a full charge in less than 24 hours. A 30 amp charge controller ensures that the charge is continuous while maintaining maximum efficiency.
Another one of our favorite parts about this kit is the durable carrying case that it comes with. The whole setup is easy to disassemble and comes with two separate 100 watt solar panels. At a weight of only 40 pounds, its easy for one person to carry it without the help of others.
An added benefit is that you can qualify for a 30% federal tax credit for purchasing this system, eventually allowing you to buy it at a 30% discount. Putting everything together is really as easy as mounting the two solar panels and connecting the wires to the included battery bank.