Six Dirty Little Secrets About Portable Solar Generators

August 7, 2016

TEOTWAWKI


portablesolargeneratorsecretssmallThinking about investing in a portable solar generator to protect yourself and your family during power blackouts? Watch out. Most of the so-called “best” solar backup generators promise far more than they deliver.

Ordinary people pay good money (often way too much good money) to buy energy security for tough times, only to find they’ve bought a piece of expensive, short-lived solar junk that delivers no security at all. But things can be much better for you.

Portable solar generators really do have something to offer, but only if you know enough to avoid being fooled.

This blog shines a light on the most common dirty solar generator secrets. It explains some of the typical design limitations and false claims in plain language, but more importantly it shows you how to get yourself the kind of real, reliable, long-lasting solar energy protection you and your family need.  No tricks, no slimy language, just plain facts on how to build, maintain and expand your own super-reliable solar generator so you can take effective responsibility for yourself.

Dirty Little Secret#1: Most ready-made portable solar generators deliver way too little power

portable solar generator, solar generatorSome of the most heavily publicized models claim 1800 watts of output. That sounds impressive, but there are two major problems. First, 1800 watts is not that much power. One measly toaster oven uses 1500 watts; a water well pump needs more than 2000 watts on start-up; even a simple coffee maker needs almost the full 1800 watt output.

The second problem is that an 1800 watt rating says nothing about how long a solar generator can deliver that much power. Most can’t sustain their rated maximum output for more than 30 minutes. What good is an 1800 watt solar generator when it won’t cook more than a couple of pans of bacon or make a pot or two of coffee before dying? There are ways to do better, but you need to understand how.

Dirty Little Secret#2: Almost all portable solar generators recharge way too slowly.

portable solar generator, solar generatorThe claim to fame of solar generators is that they need no fuel, make no fumes and create no noise. This is completely true. Trouble is, it’s only a half truth. What the sneaky sales pitches never explain is how long it takes to recharge the internal batteries in the solar generator so you can use it again. For example: If you make a pot of coffee and fry a pan of eggs, your solar generator will be dead until it recharges again. The crazy thing is, it will take 9 or 10 hours in full sun to make that recharge happen. Many ready-made solar generators take at least 15 times as long to recharge as they do to deplete. Want things to be different? The best way to make that happen is with off-the-shelf components assembled into a truly high performance system.

Dirty Little Secret#3: Most ready-made portable solar generators cost way more than the components they’re made from. WAY more.

portable solar generator, solar generatorOne of the slippery tricks of solar generator marketers is to talk about them as a black box, revealing nothing about what goes on inside. But the fact is, there’s nothing technologically new or innovative about a “solar generator”. It’s a marketing term. Solar generators are nothing more than a combination of four components the world has had for a long time. These include:

  1. Photovoltaic panel that converts sunlight into electricity
  2. Battery to store electricity generated by the panel
  3. Charge controller to make sure the battery doesn’t get over charged
  4. inverter to convert the DC power from the battery into AC power of the kind used to power ordinary, plug-in items

The thing about building your own portable solar generator is that you can mix and match the best quality components and keep spare parts on hand. It’s a huge benefit.

Dirty Little Secret#4: Most portable solar generators can’t be repaired

(The Plans To Build The Solar Generator In This Video Can Be Found Here)

While it’s true that ready-made solar generators include the four main parts above, they’re combined in a way that stops you from fixing them. One part breaks and you’re toast. Not only do you not have power, but you’re out a pile of money.  The really valuable part of building your own solar generator is that you know the system inside out. It probably won’t break if you use good components, but it if does go down you’re the best one to fix it.

Ready To Build Your Own Solar Generator For 1/2 the Cost?

Download our fully illustrated 10 page blueprints and instructions for how to correctly size and build the perfect Solar Generator for your family.

Click here to DOWNLOAD the BLUEPRINTS

Dirty Little Secret#5: Ready-made portable solar generators can’t be expanded

(The Plans To Build The Solar Generator In This Video Can Be Found Here)

This is related to the lack of repairability. When you buy an ordinary, ready-made solar generator you can’t upgrade the inverter, you can’t add a bigger battery, nor can you increase the photovoltaic surface area or install a better inverter. Solar energy is such a good thing that you’ll want to do more of it. That’s where a build-it-yourself approach can’t be beat.

Dirty Little Secret#6: Leading portable solar generator vendors use sneaky language

Buying a solar generator should be about facts you can express with numbers, not the kind of hyped sales language that’s commonly offered these days. All you really need to know to make an informed buying decision about a particular unit comes down to the answers to five simple questions:

  1. What’s the maximum continuous power output?
  2. How long will the unit run without sun?
  3. What’s the recharging output of the solar panel?
  4. What’s the purity of the AC output?
  5. How much does this thing cost?

But the reality of solar generator marketing these days is long on emotions (very long) and short on clear technical details. One of the highest profile solar generator marketers right now is using a slippery,1500 word snake oil pitch that includes dishonest phrases such as:

portable solar generator, solar generator

That’s just silly. No matter how good a solar generator is, it’s dishonest to call it a “true breakthrough”. All the technology behind a solar generator has been around for decades. You could have built one in 1983 if you knew how.

portable solar generator, solar generator

Really? 1800 watts can hardly be described as “maximum” power. And minimum time? What does that mean when it takes most ready-made solar generators at 10x to 15x as long to recharge as it does to discharge?

portable solar generator, solar generator

Technically this is true, but just barely. It only applies to the smallest gas generators. It’s completely dishonest to say that an 1800 watt solar generator that can operate for less then an hour at full output is a wise replacement for a gas generator. And then there’s the cost of the 1800 watt solar generator being sold by these guys. It’s currently $3295 which is a complete and royal rip off. Don’t fall for it. For $1000 less you can build a bigger, better, more reliable, expandable, rebuildable solar generator of your own. Think about it. If you figure you need a solar generator at all, don’t you need to know the thing inside and out?

Don’t Wait To Build a Portable Solar Generator Before It’s Too Late…

These days we all need some kind of power backup. Our safety and security is more dependent than ever on energy, and the world is more volatile and less predictable. Just be sure you place your faith in a technology you truly understand, something you can repair, upgrade and improve. After all, why trade the mystery and vulnerability of dependency on the grid for the same kind of mystery and dependency on someone else’s over-priced, under-engineered “black box” solar generator. You can do much better than that if you take charge of things yourself.

portable solar generator, solar generator

 

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20 Responses to “Six Dirty Little Secrets About Portable Solar Generators”

  1. Mos A Says:

    Thank you.
    Is it ok if I share this at
    http://serenityacrestinyhomes.ca/

    Some great work.
    Thank you!

    Reply

  2. Tony Says:

    Very good read!
    The adds for these solar solutions drive me crazy. I personally build a “portable” solar generator for my own personal use. With 600aH of battery storage, 800 watts of panels, solar charge controller, on-board processor for managing batteries, 60 amp on-board charger to maintain batteries with a genset when weather conditions demand a cycle charge, the trailer to pull the unit with a vehicle, I’m at 800 pounds and $6,000 DOLLARS! For me, it’s a fun hobby, and I must say that the trailer serves all of our needs in our remote cabin in northern Wisconsin. But anything short of this (still relatively small) solar charger is basically useless. Thanks for the post!

    Reply

  3. Bruce Says:

    Been living off grid since 1984, slowly building to the system…also have a straw bale cabin which is solar…with panels at less than a dollar per watt and new battery tech coming on line (and MPPT controllers) and super efficient refrigerators, freezers, washers, lights…it’s so much easier than it used to be. Cheaper by far.

    Reply

  4. David Leeman Says:

    Yep. $1600 for one of these. Wouldn’t run my fridge, and broke in about a year. Would cost almost as much to ship back for repair as to buy a new one.

    Reply

  5. Bob Says:

    I have solar at my off the grid cabin in the UP of Michigan. I run 4 125w panels, 4 deep cycle 105ah batteries, 40 amp MPPT controller, 300w pure sine wave and 1800 square wave inverters. It works great, run lights, tv, dishnetwork off 300w inverter. Run a 5 cubic ft chest freezer as a fridge. Very happy with this set up, have never run out of power. Power has never been available in this area of Michigan, north east of Newberry. If it became available I would still use solar.

    Reply

    • Marc Says:

      Bob,
      We may be neighbors. I just purchased property in Paradise on Lake Superior. Our area has never had power available either. Would like to know more about your system and the cost of your components.

      Reply

  6. Brenda Becker Says:

    I love the idea of solar but am completely befuddled when the technical information begins. Where can I go to get familar and comfortable with “what goes where, and how”?

    Reply

  7. Brandon Michael Says:

    While I enjoy this type of thing, I’ve read about it often, with the same scrutiny.

    Why is it that in your text…since I didn’t click on the video….you offer these 5 questions we should ask OTHERS…..but you don’t answer them yourselves.

    What’s the maximum continuous power output?
    How long will the unit run without sun?
    What’s the recharging output of the solar panel?
    What’s the purity of the AC output?
    How much does this thing cost?

    What can YOUR blueprints do?

    Reply

    • Chet Says:

      Hey Brandon,

      So I answer all your questions in my blueprints. I had your same concerns, so that’s why I created my blueprints, to help people like me (and it sounds like you) get answers to those questions.

      But to answer your specific questions, let me start with this… my blueprints do not show you how to build just ONE type of solar generator. They first show you how to analyze your current electrical needs, and then depending on those needs, how to correctly size a solar generator that can actually meet your electricity demands. So I can’t answer your question in specifics, because its not a standard unit. The plans show you how to build a unit as powerful as you want.

      So when you ask about maximum power output, that depends on how many batteries you chose to include in your solar generator, as for the recharging capabilities, that depends on how many solar panels you want to include.

      As for the purity of the AC output, we give you different options on the best inverters to chose from depending on IF you need pure AC or not.

      We truly do provide a way to create a solar generator for yourself that will MEET your needs… and we absolutely don’t expect that one plan for just one type of unit could possibly meet the different demands of preppers out there.

      As for costs, what I can tell you is that the Solar Generator that you see me referencing in the videos on this article cost me $850 and is literally twice as powerful as all other ‘pre-built’ solar generators that you can buy. Now full disclosure, my solar generator may exceed your needs, or it may not. I don’t need to run a well for example, so I didn’t need a system quite as powerful when I built this. But your needs might be different then mine.

      So hopefully that answers your question.

      And also… we offer a 100% money back satisfaction guarantee on all the blueprints we sell here at ThePrepperProject.com so if for any reason you didn’t feel like these blueprints show you exactly how to build the perfect system for you, then we’re happy to refund your money. I built my blueprints to help preppers, and if for some reason you don’t feel they’re exactly what you need we will make it right.

      Reply

  8. Scott Says:

    All 6 are true. Both systems have their uses. I built a small set up to run things at our camp site, but it’s too bulky to carry around. So I also have a small self contained setup to carry out on the sailboat to run the lights and GPS.

    Reply

  9. Yvonne Murphy Says:

    Chet I am one of the gullible ones. I just received my powerful generator last week. Wish I had seen your column a couple of weeks sooner. It is still in the box as well as the solar cells. They said the generator weighed 38 pounds, didn’t say about the cells. Would it cost me an arm and leg to send them back.
    after reading your column I don’t want it. HELP

    Reply

  10. John Says:

    Chet you are correct on all fronts.

    Cheers.

    Reply

  11. Gene Briggs Says:

    Great info. I’ve been looking for a “proof of value” p & L Statement for years. It all sounds good but it’s not yet ready for “LIFE” situations….

    AS you points point out there isn’t a true total Solar/Wind system that a “house” can put together and leave the Grid. If there is we’d all be doing it. Lived on a boat for 10+ years and saved some money but couldn’t ever have done it with our a Diesel Backup, and that’s in the Trade winds with Solar and Wind…..

    Reply

  12. Kevin Says:

    Chet,

    I saved your link. I am planning a bucket list Canoe trip from the Gr Miami river in Ohio to the Gulf. I am still debating how much to take with me and what power if any I want available. If I do decide to go with a power option for a small outboard, fishwell, lights, gps, phone, go pros, cooler etc, I’ll be coming back to buy your blueprints. Thanks for three information

    Reply

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