Thinking 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
Some 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.
The 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.
One 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:
- Photovoltaic panel that converts sunlight into electricity
- Battery to store electricity generated by the panel
- Charge controller to make sure the battery doesn’t get over charged
- 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
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.
Dirty Little Secret#5: Ready-made portable solar generators can’t be expanded
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:
- 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?
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:
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.
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?
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.