What is the easiest and quickest way to get started in solar energy for backup power and resiliency?
To easily learn about solar PLUS making it immediately useful to you and your family, get a Solar Generator and 1 or 2 12V 100W solar panel.
What is a Solar Generator?
A solar generator is simply a battery, solar charge controller and an inverter stuffed into a box and sold as an all-in-one unit. It can power your TV, internet, lights, laptop, shower pumps, charge phones, you name it. With a couple of solar panels you can keep those appliances running 24×7 during an extended power outage. The bigger the solar generator, the more powerful it is and the bigger the loads it can run.
In the author’s mind, a Solar Generator must support pass through charging, or it’s just a huge power bank (much less useful when the power goes out). A real solar generator can be charged by a solar panel while all the USB, AC and DC outputs function continuously. So it is a portable off the electrical grid power source.
Believe it or not, many units on the market will shut off the inverter and other outputs when the solar panel is connected – making the device pretty useless in a grid down scenario. Buyer beware! If the manufacturer doesn’t specify whether the outputs shut off when a solar panel is charging it, you should not purchase it.
Beware the many fake reviews of these products. Look for people who have had the product at least a year and used it quite a lot, preferably those who bought it with their own money. Many reviews are little more than a unboxing and a commercial, no actual long term testing. So they are simply not enough to make an informed purchase decision.
A few years ago, there were not many options for portable power on the market. Now there are so many it is hard to make a choice.
My solar generator and power station collection
I have collected and tested about 50 solar generators and portable power systems from small to large. You could call it a hobby. Some of them I worked on and repaired; here is the most recent portable power system I tore down and attempted to repair (LiPower PA300): https://youtu.be/zzhKeT8ow00
Here is some advice about shopping for a solar generator:
**Look for reviews by people who have owned the appliance at least one year, preferably who bought it with their own money.
**Marketing and Terminology have gotten very confusing. Understand the difference between a portable power system (aka power bank) and a Solar Generator (with online or pass-through charging). The difference is night and day. If you can’t use all the power outputs while the solar panel is plugged in and charging, its use cases are much more limited. For a detailed demonstration of a true solar generator, check out my video called “What is a Solar Generator?” here: https://youtu.be/-2RdJ3YNAfQ
**Battery capacity is key. Get the largest battery capacity you can handle.
**Quality is important. There are many cheaply made units on the market that “brick” themselves after a short time. Look at the warranty, reviews and support information.
**Remember to check and charge it regularly. Sadly due to poor design many of them drain the battery to empty when in storage.
**Test your gear and know how to use it, know how it performs. In an emergency or long term outage, being skilled at balancing your power usage vs. solar input will “train” you to use solar energy effectively.
I hope this post was helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please fee free to let me know, or email me using the address under the About page on this channel. Thanks for reading! DD
A along time ago, I made a video demonstrating and explaining what a real solar generator can do. If you’re interested, the video is below: