Charges via solar panel, AC adapter, or carport. Useful for powering various low-wattage items, and effective at charging smartphones and tablets. Great for CPAP machines, too. Decent price. Weighs less than 6 pounds, making it easy to carry.
Solar panel that pairs with it must be purchased separately. Some longevity concerns.
Charges quickly with either included solar panel or AC adapter. Battery life is fairly reliable and lasts 8 or more hours for many users. Comes at a very reasonable price point. Equipped with 2 USB ports for device charging.
Rare issues with charging or with variable battery life. A bit clunky to store.
Replaceable battery is a nice plus. Built-in solar panel works well. Extra solar panels can be connected, boosting its charging speed. The carrying case is lightweight and very durable. Can be charged with car power as well.
Slower to charge than other portable solar generators, taking 10+ hours. Battery only lasts a few hours with normal use.
Stands out for its ability to reach 80% charge in as little as an hour via AC adapter. Also charges by solar and carport. Can power 13 items at once, including small appliances. Has built-in overload protection. Both powerful and portable.
Expensive. Doesn't come with solar panels. Customer service isn't very attentive.
When fully charged it can offer up to 7 days of use (depending on how many devices are connected). The solar panels are able to fold in on themselves. Tested with multiple appliances and provided the right amount of power we needed.
The included solar panels can only absorb a certain amount of charge at a single time regardless of how many are plugged in.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
Our high-tech society relies on electricity to power so many things, from lights and computers to air conditioners, refrigerators, and even some cars. When we go without power voluntarily, such as on camping trips, we still want access to many of those electrical conveniences. And in an emergency situation when the power goes out, we still need a reliable source of electricity for essential devices. A solar generator is a pollution-free alternative to a regular generator that runs on gas or other fuel.
Depending on the size of the solar generator, you can charge anything from smartphones to household appliances. But how do you find the right solar generator for you?
Read on to find out more, or check out our product recommendations to see our favorite solar generators.
A solar generator is a bit like a power bank. It uses solar panels to gather energy from the sun, which is stored inside a battery. This power can then be used to run lights or appliances like a small refrigerator or charge portable devices like tablets and smartphones.
People have been using generators powered by gasoline or other liquid fuel for years, but solar generators have a few benefits over standard generators.
More environmentally friendly: Solar generators are much kinder to the environment than standard generators because they harness the power of the sun rather than use fossil fuels.
Cheaper to use: Since there are no fuel costs, solar generators are cheaper to run than traditional generators.
Better in an emergency: In situations where the power goes out, such as after an earthquake, you may not have access to fuel, making a solar generator an ideal alternative.
Quieter: Solar generators are completely silent, unlike gas-powered models, which can be extremely noisy.
Smaller and lighter: Most solar generators are small and easy to transport.
How long your solar generator will power your devices depends on the size of its battery (larger batteries can store more power) and how much power your devices require.
You'll need to know the watt-hours (Wh) of the generator, as well as the wattage of the appliance you want to run. For example, if you have a solar generator with 150Wh and a 100W appliance, the generator will only run for 1.5 hours before it needs to be recharged.
The power stored inside batteries is direct current (DC), but most appliances run off alternating current (AC). Many solar generators have a built-in inverter to convert DC to AC to make things simple, but if your chosen model doesn’t have one, you'll need to buy a separate inverter.
The power ratio between the generator and the inverter should be roughly 1.5 to 1. For example, if you have a 150-watt solar generator, look for a 100-watt inverter.
It's important to know how long it takes to charge your solar generator before it's ready to use. Charging time is hard to average because it can vary widely depending on the size of the solar panels and the size of the generator’s battery.
Check the product specifications of any models you're considering. If your chosen model can be charged via an AC power outlet, check how long that charge time is, too.
Solar chargers tend to be very reliable, though not all models are created equal. Because there is no motor, a solar generator doesn't need regular servicing. And because solar panels last for around 30 years, you won't need to worry that they'll stop working any time soon. Look for a solar generator with a metal or heavy-duty plastic case. Some models with flimsy plastic cases may not stand up to heavy use.
Because a solar generator doesn't have the fuel tank and moving parts of a standard gas-fueled generator, it tends to be much more compact, lightweight, and portable. That said, some high-output solar generators are quite large and wouldn't be suitable to take on a camping trip, for instance.
If portability is important to you, check the size and weight of any solar generators on your shortlist before buying.
The price of a solar generator is based primarily on its wattage or watt-hours. Don't forget to factor in the cost of the solar panels if they aren’t included. You can expect to pay between $100 and $2,000 for a solar generator.
Solar generators up to around 200Wh cost between $100 and $200, usually without solar panels included.
Solar generators up to around 600Wh cost roughly $200 to $500. Some include solar panels, but many do not.
Solar generators offering up to 1,250Wh and including solar panels cost anywhere between $500 and $2,000.
Check if solar panels are included with the generator. You don't want to unbox your solar generator only to realize you're missing a vital component.
Decide if you want an expandable solar generator. Some models allow you to add extra solar panels and batteries should you want to charge more quickly or store more power.
Know the wattage of the devices you’ll hook up to your solar generator. Without this information, you won't be able to tell if your chosen generator will power the devices for the length of time you need.
Q. Can I recharge the battery in my solar generator using mains electricity?
A. While it’s amazing to be able to charge your generator al fresco and without any source of power other than the sun, it's not always practical. If it's raining, snowing, very overcast, or you're simply pressed for time, it might be more practical to use a power socket. While not all models allow you to do this, most do. And you can even recharge some generators via the 12V charger port in your car.
Q. How durable are solar generators?
A. Since solar generators are perfect for camping trips and other outdoor situations, most of them are designed for use on the go. This means they're made of durable materials that won't break if you chuck them in the trunk of your car or they suffer a few knocks and bumps. That said, the most basic models don't tend to be as durable as the more expensive options. Whether or not you want to pay extra for increased durability depends on how often you'll use your generator and how rough on it you're likely to be.
Q. Are adapter cables included with a solar generator?
A. While most solar generators come with a range of ports for plugging in various appliances, you may find you need an adapter cable for some appliances, or you might need an adapter to charge the generator from a 12V socket or regular AC power outlet. Some solar generators come with all relevant adapter cables, but others don't. If you know you need a particular type of adapter, check whether or not it's included so you’ll know if you need to purchase it separately.