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The Best Solar Generators of 2021: Our Honest and Unbiased Review

Featured image for best solar generator article

Editor's Choice

Jackery explorer 500 portable solar generator right side

Jackery Explorer 500

2nd Best Choice

A jackery explorer 1000 in front of a white background

Jackery Explorer 1000

3rd Best Choice

A renogy lycan powerbox in front of a white background

Renogy Lycan Powerbox

The charge controller, the inverter, the difference between 20 and 100-watt solar panels… choosing the best solar generator can be confusing if you’re not an electrician.

Most of us don’t even know our watts from our volts.

To help you, we’ve got the lowdown on the 9 best solar generator units, helping you to understand the pros and cons of various different products.

We also explain how a solar generator works, why you might need one, and tricks to watch out for when purchasing one.

Let’s get to it.

Our Top 11 Solar Generators

1. Jackery Explorer 500

The Jackery Explorer is the best solar generator on this list if you ask me. It’s simply so user-friendly, lightweight, and versatile.

Perfect for camping or backup power, the Explorer 500 is only 13 lbs and comes with a rigid built-in carry handle, so it’s easy to carry around with you on trips.

There are 3 USB outputs and an AC wall slot (among others) to power your things, so it’s ideal for charging smartphones, iPads, laptops, and other small-to-medium sized electronics.

The Explorer 500 also comes with an LCD screen that displays real-time charging, discharging, and battery life percentage data. You always know where you stand down to the last percent.

Jackery explorer 500 portable solar generator right side

PROS

  • Multiple outputs
  • Can be charged via solar, AC, and DC
  • LCD screen display
  • Lightweight at 13 lbs & portable

CONS

  • Only has 1 AC output

2. Jackery Explorer 1000

The bigger brother to the Explorer 500, the Jackery Explorer 1000 is the best solar generator for campers and adventurers who just need that little bit of extra power.

Complete with 3 AC outputs, 2 USB outputs, and 2 USB-C ports, you’ve got plenty of options for charging different types of devices.



There’s even a quick charging USB, which has saved my butt by charging my phone in a hurry on multiple occasions.

At 22 lbs, it’s a little less portable than the 500, but this portable solar generator has more than most campers could ever need.

A jackery explorer 1000 in front of a white background

PROS

  • 3 AC outputs & 4 USB outputs
  • Quick charging capabilities
  • Liquid crystal display
  • Charges in 8-10 hours (in good conditions)

CONS

  • 22 lbs is a little heavy

3. Renogy Lycan Powerbox

Coming in at a whopping 55 lbs, this powerbox has to be moved around on wheels, so it’s best suited to being used for long-term camping trips, outdoor events, or as emergency power for your home.

The Lycan has plenty of outputs, including 4 AC slots and 4 USB slots. It also has a floodlight, which can be crucial when the lights go out at night.

The battery of the Lycan is totally replaceable, but at 1200W it’s a little underwhelming.

A renogy lycan powerbox in front of a white background

PROS

  • 4 AC slots & 4 USB slots
  • Built-in floodlight

CONS

  • Steep price
  • Just 1200W

4. Renogy Phoenix 300

Weighing a mere 6.4 lbs, this small unit is the best solar generator for people who don’t need to power anything huge. This is ideal for outdoor photographers thanks to its CPAP charging slot for camera batteries.

If you ain’t a photographer, probably don’t bother with it.

The Phoenix 300 has 2 AC outlets and 3 USB outlets, which is pretty handy. However, you can only check the battery life in 25% chunks, so you don’t know exactly when it will die.

Not ideal.

A renogy phoenix 300 in front of a white background

PROS

  • Small & portable
  • Numerous AC & USB outputs

CONS

  • Only 300W
  • Poor battery life indicator
  • Steep price

5. EcoFlow Delta 1300

The EcoFlow Delta 1300 is a decent solar generator that produces 1,300-watt hours, as the name implies.

It has an absolute ton of outputs, including 6 AC outlets, 2 USB-C ports, and 4 regular USB ports.

With a liquid crystal display, you can keep an eye on the battery level and discharge/charge flow, so that’s pretty convenient too.

However, the battery degrades quickly, plunging down to 60% after 800 cycles. If you’re going to use your power source frequently, you’re probably best off with something more reliable in the long run.

A black ecoflow delta 1300 in front of a white background

PROS

  • Many AC and USB port
  • LCD display

CONS

  • High price
  • Battery degrades quickly

6. Titan Solar Generator

The Titan, as the name implies, is huge.

This thing weighs a whopping 67 lbs when it’s all assembled, so it’s not the easiest unit to lug around your home or campsite.

With 2000Wh, a 3000W high-efficiency inverter and dual MPPT charge controllers, this unit certainly has a lot to write home about.

However, the massive weight, expensive price, and loud cooling fans all tear it down a few notches for me.

What is the titan solar generator from point zero energy

PROS

  • 2000 watt-hours
  • Dual MPPT charge controller

CONS

  • Steep price

  • Very heavy

  • Loud cooling fans

7. Goal Zero Yeti 400

The Yeti 400 has 400 watt-hours of power, which seems a little low considering that this thing weighs a whopping 29 lbs.

There is an LCD screen to give you battery life and charging/discharging information, letting you know how much power you’re draining or putting into the unit at once.

However, the Goal Zero Yeti 400 uses a lead-acid style battery, which is widely considered to be the worst type (most companies use lithium).

Perhaps give this one a miss.

What is the goal zero yeti 400 generator

PROS

  • LCD display with information

  • Charge with solar or grid power

CONS

  • Lead-acid power
  • Heavy at 29 lbs
  • Only see the battery in 20% chunks
  • Not reliable long-term

8. Goal Zero Yeti 1000

While the price and the weight may be steep, the Goal Zero Yeti 1400 does have some redeeming qualities.

I personally like how the digital display tells you how many hours you have left until your battery is empty. When I’m having a cookout and I just want to keep my music and lights going in the backyard, I like that I can glance at the Yeti and it tells me how long we’ve got.

It’s very handy.

However, this thing has poor charge efficiency, no DC input option, and it doesn’t come with any accessories or add-ons included.

what is the goal zero yeti 1000 really

For example, if you want the Anderson Pole connectors, you need to buy them separately.

That’s a bit greedy.

PROS

  • 3000-watt surge
  • Handy digital display

CONS

  • Poor charge efficiency
  • No add-ons included
  • No DC charging option

9. Patriot Power Generator

I hate this generator. Okay, maybe I don’t "hate it hate it," but I dislike it greatly.

First of all, the name implies that it will have 1800 watt-hours of power, but in reality, it has a mere 690 wh. It has a steep price (not to mention the shipping) and for such a large unit it only has 2 AC outlets.

40 lbs and they only bothered to install 2 wall outlets.

The cooling fans are also very loud, so it’s not ideal if you want a power station that can run silently in the background.

A patriot power generator in front of a white background

PROS

  • Durable build

CONS

  • Steep price
  • Heavy
  • Loud cooling fans
  • Only 2 wall outlets

10. Inergy Flex 1500

The Inergy Flex 1500 sounds like it will have 1,500 watt-hours, but in reality, it’s just a disappointing 1,100 Wh. Given the size and weight of this thing, you’d think it’d have more juice.

While the stackable battery design is clever and unique, there’s so much about this solar generator that I can’t stand.

First off, the AC outlets are too close together, so you can’t plug things in next to each other if they’re too big.

There’s also no RV plug and the solar charging is limited to 600W solar panels while others can get away with 1000W easily. Boo!

White background with an inergy flex 1500

PROS

  • Stackable battery design

CONS

  • Just 1,100 wh
  • Solar charging limited to 600W
  • AC outlets too close together
  • No RV plug
  • Pricey

11. Kodiak Solar Generator

If you like to set your house on fire, you’ll love the Kodiak Solar Generator.

This unit famously melts and catches internal fires when charging up from a wall outlet, with many owners reporting melted cables and melted units.

Yikes.

I’ve never had it melt on me personally, but I’ve noticed it being VERY hot to the touch when charging. This made me so nervous that I ended up unplugging it because I was worried.

What is the kodiak solar generator really

There are many shipping and quality control issues with this product, with the battery often underperforming its stated quality.

Avoid, avoid, avoid.

Note: The Kodiak has been discontinued (there is a God) and has now been replaced with the Inergy Flex 1500, which appears to be better in the sense that it doesn’t constantly start fires and threaten to end civilization.

PROS

  • Many wall-style outlets

CONS

  • Quality control issues
  • Overheating problems
  • Internal fires & melting
  • Shipping problems
  • Underperforming battery

Things To Consider When Buying A Solar Generator

How Much Power Do You Need?

These power stations are good for camping, RVs, and backup energy when the lights go out, but you aren’t going to be able to run your whole home off one of them.

Assess your power needs and buy a power station of a suitable size.

Solar generators can power some key appliances in your home in the event of an emergency. But no portable generator will be able to truly power your entire home off-grid.


Catherine Lane, Author at Solar Reviews

What Solar Panels Do You Have?

25-watt solar panels generate less energy than 100-watt panels even though they’re in the exact same spot.

Your solar panel kit makes a huge difference to your charging speed, so make sure you get something decent.

Can You Realistically Charge It With Solar Energy?

If you’re dealing with low-wattage solar panels and cloudy days, you might find that your power station is nearly impossible to charge.

Only rely on solar power if you’ve got decent panels, a good climate, and plenty of time.

How Much Battery Capacity Do You Require?

Battery capacity is measured in watts, which translates into watt-hours. The more watt-hours your power station has, the longer you can run your devices.

Goal Zero (makers of the Goal Zero Yeti 1400 Lithium and more) explain it best:

One Watt hour is equal to one Watt of average power flow over an hour. One Watt over four hours would be four Watt Hours of power. As an example, a 100 Watt light bulb on a 400 Watt Hour battery (like the Yeti 400) would last, on paper, 4 hours.


Goal Zero, Solar Power Generator Manufacturer

Do You Need It To Be Portable?

If you’re going to be carrying it around on hikes and camping trips, make sure that it’s lightweight and has a carry handle.

What Kind Of Outputs Do You Need?

Most people want to charge their phone, tablet, and maybe a laptop or two. Realistically, they are looking for a couple of AC outlets and a couple of USB slots.

Don’t waste money on getting a source of power with more inputs and outputs than you need.

Lead-acid Battery Or Lithium-ion Battery?

While lead-acid batteries are much cheaper than lithium-ion batteries, that’s the one and only upside.

Lithium batteries are better across several fronts:

  • You can drain them by 85% without damaging them, this is only 50% with lead-acid
  • Lithium-ion batteries are 95% efficient, lead-acid is around 80-85% efficient
  • A lithium battery has a longer lifespan than lead-acid

While they’re more expensive, a lithium battery is just much more reliable.

What To Avoid When Choosing A Solar Generator

Solar Kits With Accessories Missing

A Renogy 100W 12V Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit With Wanderer 10A Charge Controller

Sometimes you’ll find that your solar-powered energy production kit doesn’t actually include all the pieces you need — be sure to read customer reviews carefully (people will definitely complain about it).

For example, some people don’t realize that solar units don’t come with solar panel kits included — you have to buy them separately. Accessories like AC adapters and extension cables are often purchased separately too.

I once reviewed the XTPower Hiking Solar Backpack, a solar-powered backpack that didn’t even come with a power bank included, so it was essentially a backpack with some solar panels stuck on it. Brilliant.

Non-waterproof Electronics

Whether it’s the solar panels or the portable power station itself, make sure that your solar generator’s electronic parts are 100% waterproof and weatherproof.

You don’t wanna leave your solar kit out in the sun, only for it to rain and get ruined.

25-watt solar panels generate less energy than 100-watt panels even though they’re in the exact same spot. Your solar panel kit makes a huge difference to your charging speed, so make sure you get something decent.

An Unknown Company

As happens with all products, you’ll often find cheap knock-offs and bad versions of the best solar generators being sold online through various websites (including Amazon and eBay).

Before buying a solar unit from a company, do some research on their company history, policies, reviews, and warranties first.

If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

How To Determine The Size Of Solar Generator That You Need

Battery Capacity

The capacity of a portable power source is measured in watts of power which get translated into watt-hours. The more watt-hours your solar generator has, the longer it can run your electronic devices.

For example, if your solar power generator has 1,000 watt-hours, then it could run a 100-watt lightbulb for 10 hours (because 100W x 10 hours = 1,000 watt-hours).

Of course, this is all on paper - the actual results will vary a bit.

Look at the devices that you wish to power and check out their wattages. The more watts of power they use up, the more watts of power (in watt-hours) you need to keep them going.

If you’re looking to run a 250W fridge in the event of a power outage, then a 2000W solar generator would keep it running for around 8 hours (8 x 250 = 2000) while a 500W solar generator would only last around 2 hours.

It all depends on your needs.

How You’re Using It

We all use solar-powered generators for different reasons - your reason for purchasing one solar generator is essential for calculating how large or small it needs to be.

Some of the reasons people buy portable solar generators include:

  • Emergency backup power
  • Power outages
  • Off-the-grid lifestyle
  • More eco-friendly source of power
  • Camping
  • Jumpstarting a car battery
  • RV, cabin, boat power source

Off-the-grid Living And Power Outages

If you’re looking for an off-the-grid power source, then you need to get one of the best generators on the market with a strong power output and high capacity, preferably matched with a top-notch weather solar panel kit that can extract solar power on even the cloudiest days.

In this instance, you ideally want a large solar-powered generator that’s over 3,000W or more. 

Whether it’s the solar panels or the portable power station itself, make sure that your solar generator’s electronic parts are 100% waterproof and weatherproof.

Check out the solar generator reviews of people who live that lifestyle to get a better understanding. This is also true for emergency backup solar generators (though you could just charge them through a wall socket outlet when the power is running).

Camping And Casual Use

If you’re just using your solar generator kits to go camping, then the best solar generators on the market are probably overkilled.

In this case, you want something with a decent price that’s easy to use and won’t let you down over a few days.

Something like the Jackery Explorer 500 is perfect in this scenario because 500W is enough for 50 smartphone charges and 20 iPad charges.

Portability

When you’re looking to choose the best solar generator, you must consider how much it actually weighs and how portable it is.

If you’re looking for something to power your home TV in a power cut, then the design and weight don’t really matter so long as you can move it around your home safely.

However, if you’re looking at portable solar generators to take on hikes and camping trips, then that rechargeable battery should ideally be light as a feather and there should be a carry handle to help.

You’re not Superman.

The bigger your solar generator, the heavier it will usually be. Keep this in mind and think about the scenarios in which you’ll use portable solar power.

What Is A Solar Generator?

The term solar generator can technically refer to any energy system being powered by the sun. However, people using the term are most often talking about portable solar setups with a specialized battery system attached. These systems use solar panels to harness the sun’s energy and then store that energy in a portable storage system for later use.


Jacob Marsh, Researcher at EnergySage

As put so well by Jacob Marsh, a “solar generator” usually refers to a portable solar-powered generator that can be used as a backup power source for power cuts, camping, RVs, or an eco-friendly off-the-grid lifestyle.

Unlike gas generators, they don’t use fossil fuels or emit harmful fumes.

Solar generators use solar panel expansion kits to take in energy from the sun, which is then stored in the battery of the unit. However, many of the best solar generators can also be charged up through AC or DC power through a wall outlet or DC car cigarette charger slot.

These solar-powered generators come in various sizes, styles, wattages, and battery capacities.

For example, a solar-powered generator designed for camping trips is likely to be small, around 500W or less, and features a carry handle to make it easier to carry.

On the other hand, a portable solar generator designed for emergency power cuts in the home is probably larger, around 1500W or more, and heavier because weight is less of an issue.

Features common in solar generators include:

  • AC outlets
  • USB port
  • LCD screen
  • Built-in LED low-power flashlight
  • MPPT charge controller
  • Pure sine wave inverter
  • Battery management system
  • Carry handles

Solar generators tend to be much easier to carry around than traditional gas generators — they’re also a lot quieter and don’t produce any fumes, so you can charge your devices in the same room/tent as a portable solar generator and never hear a thing.

How Do Solar Generators Work?

So we’ve taken a look at different solar generators and explained what they are… but how do they actually work?

Well, a solar-powered generator can be broken down into 3 components — battery, charge controller, inverter.

Let’s break it down:

Battery

The battery stores the energy that is captured. This energy may come from the sun (via solar panels) or it may come from grid electricity through a wall slot if your solar generator has AC charging capacity.

Some solar generators can also be charged by DC ports — the car “cigarette charger” ports.

Whatever the power input, the battery stores this energy. A decent unit like the Goal Zero Yeti will use a lithium-ion battery, as they are more reliable than lead-acid batteries.

A Renogy Lithium Iron Phosphate Battery 12V

If you’re looking to run a 250W fridge in the event of a power outage, then a 2000W solar generator would keep it running for around 8 hours (8 x 250 = 2000) while a 500W solar generator would only last around 2 hours.

Charge Controller

A Renogy Rover Li Solar Charge Controller

The charge controller helps to protect the battery from overcharging.

Batteries are rated for how much power and voltage they can handle before they will become damaged.

The charger controller helps to protect the battery from overcharging and is thus a very important part of a generator.

Inverter

An inverter’s job is to change the low-current DC power from the battery into AC power similar to what comes out of your wall outlets at home.

This means that your portable solar generator can potentially power a TV, fridge, smartphone charger, and other household appliances.

If your device uses direct current (DC) then the pure sine wave inverter will be bypassed because it’s not needed.

A Renogy 2000W 12V Pure Sine Wave Inverter

Benefits Of A Solar Generator

You Can Take Them Anywhere

As the name “portable generator” implies, you can indeed take a solar generator around anywhere, especially if it’s made to be weatherproof.

This makes them ideal as multifunctional tools for camping trips, RV trips, and backup power for home blackouts.

They’re silent & smell-free

As you may be aware, traditional gas generators are noisy and produce smelly fumes that are far from relaxing.

On the other hand, solar-powered generators are silent and don’t smell of anything, so you can have them right next to you in your room, tent, or house.

Eco-friendly

Solar-powered generators can be charged up through solar panels, eliminating the need for grid power which is often produced via fossil fuel burning.

However, some products do allow wall plug and DC outlet charging also.

Since a portable solar generator doesn’t use any kind of fuel, it is an eco-friendly option for people who wish to reduce their carbon footprints. Generators that run on fossil fuels contribute to air pollution. They emit carbon dioxide, which promotes global warming.


Mental Itch Technology, Informational Website

No more paying for fuel

With old gas generators, you had to pay for fuel (the gasoline) on a regular basis. With solar-powered units, you’re harnessing the sun’s energy which is free.

Although a solar generator might cost more upfront, you can save a lot of money in the long run.

They’re very low maintenance

From the Goal Zero Yeti 1400 to the Jackery Explorer series, most solar-powered generators are very low maintenance products.

This is because they don’t have any moving parts of liquid rushing through their system, so there is little chance for mechanical error, corrosion, or rusting to occur.

You don’t need to worry about them dying on you.

There's Room For Customization

Lots of modern solar-powered generators are customizable in some way, allowing you to make them work for your specific needs.

For example, an increasing number of units come with “stackable batteries” that allow you to increase your capacity by stacking additional batteries on the power station up to 96 times.

I doubt you could physically stack 96, but in theory, you can.

More and more products also come with unique accessories to make your camping trips more convenient. This includes solar fans, solar-powered lights, and small solar fridges that help you to relax while unwinding in your tent.

FAQ

Can a solar generator power a house?

No, a solar generator cannot power a house. The unit may be able to temporarily power certain household appliances (like your TV unit) and handheld items like power tools, but you cannot expect a solar generator to power everything long-term. It will run out of energy before it can keep up.

Do solar generators really work?

Yes, solar generators do really work, but they need to be used with high-capacity solar panels in good condition. Aim for 100-watts solar panels or more and expose them to at least 6-8 hours of sunlight every day. If you live in a cloudy area, you may struggle to harness enough sunlight, so keep that in mind.

What size of solar generator do I need?

You need a solar generator that matches your power requirements. If you’re just going on a camping trip, a 500W generator would be plenty. If you’re looking for emergency power in power outages, you ideally want 2000W or higher.

What size of solar generator do I need to run a refrigerator?

You need a generator that’s at least 1500W to run a refrigerator during a blackout. In the event of a power cut, a 1500W solar generator would run a fridge for around 6 hours. The higher the wattage, the longer the fridge will run.

What is the largest solar generator?

The largest solar generator on the market is the Goal Zero Yeti 6000X, which has 6000W of capacity. Designed for outdoor events, cabins, and tiny houses, this large solar generator weighs over 100 lbs.

Do I need a generator if I have solar panels?

Yes, you need a generator even if you have solar panels on top of your home. In the event of a power cut, your home will lose power just like any other regular home. In this case, it’s best to have a generator as a backup.

Can a solar generator power a freezer?

A solar generator can power a freezer, though it may not be for very long depending on the size of the generator and the freezer. A 1500W solar generator could power a large chest freezer for around 3 hours before the battery dies.

Does Generac have a solar generator?

Yes, Generac does have a solar generator — the Generac Ecogen unit.

Will a 20kW generator run my house?

A 20kW generator will run most things in your house. You can expect a 20kW generator to keep your lights on, your electronics working, and your A/C working. If you have a smaller home, you might even be able to power the entire house as normal.

Will a 10,000-watt generator run a house?

A 10,000-watt generator will run most or all of your critical household appliances. This includes the fridge, freezer, furnace, lighting, and sometimes the A/C. 

Conclusion

So, what is the best solar generator out of all these wonderful units?

If I had to choose, I would say that you should get the Jackery Explorer 500 for sure. It’s light and portable (just 13.3 lbs.) and it comes with a carry handle that makes it perfect for camping, hikes, and outdoor adventures.

The Jackery Explorer 500 also comes with 3 USB ports and an AC outlet, so you’re easily able to charge smartphones, tablets, or other electronic devices multiple times over. There’s even a handy LCD display that shows you exactly how much battery life you have left. Brilliant.

If you need more power, you can also try its bigger brother, the Jackery Explorer 1000, my number 2 on this list.

Jackery Explorer 500

Our # 1 Solar Generator

  • Multiple outputs
  • Can be charged via solar, AC, DC
  • LCD screen display
  • Lightweight at 13 lbs & portable
  • Has a rigid built-in carry handle


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