Last Updated: March 10th, 2020
Most people know about or are at least aware of what a gas or diesel generator is. It’s super common for folks who live in disaster prone areas to have one in order to keep the power on when the grid goes down. However, with the uncertainty in society now a days around the price and availability of fuel, especially in disaster situations; it's clear gas powered generators are not always the best option in a crisis type situation.
Types of Emergency & Disaster Situations
With so much uncertainty these days when it comes to power outages, viruses and natural disasters, you can never be too prepared. Especially when it comes to having the proper power supply in place should you experience any sort of emergency or disaster situation.
Thousands of Americans live in areas where they can be affected by natural disasters multiple times per year. From wildfires on the west coast, floods on the east coast or tornados in the heartland, it’s safe to assume that if you’re reading this, odds are you’ve been personally affected in one way or another by a natural disaster or know someone who has. How should one prepare for situations like this? Especially when simply picking up and moving is not an option... This article outlines what a solar powered generator is and why it should be a top priority when preparing for emergency situations. Let's face it, our entire life can’t just be uprooted and moved to a new town, state or country. The reality then becomes how do we properly prepare for the inevitability of emergency and disaster situations.
How Does a Solar Powered Generator Help Me?
A quick google search for tips on preparing for emergencies and dealing with natural disasters will provide you with plenty of ideas on the immediate steps to take when disaster strikes. From signing up for severe weather alerts to buying food and water provisions, you’ve probably done something like this before if you live in an area where natural disasters can be common place. However, what you might not be so well versed on are all the the ways in which a solar generator can be of use when the grid goes down and SHTF. Even if you aren’t in the direct path of disastrous weather, or the heart of a lockdown, you can still be without power for days at a time which is where a solar generator can be the answer to your problems.
This article covers what & how a solar generator works as well as the main benefits of a solar generator as well as outlines our top 6 solar generator options for preparing to handle whatever disaster life throws our way.
What is a solar generator?
A solar generator or portable power station is more or less a battery in a box. The reason it's been given the name generator or power station is because it works exactly the same as a fuel generator, however instead of pouring fuel into it, just plug a few solar panels into it and voila, it will recharge/keep your solar generator charged.
PLUS you can just plug your appliances, electronics and more right into the front of it as they come with standard outlets and USB ports. So you can actually be pouring solar power into the generator (through the panels) while you use that power to survive and thrive whenever and wherever.
How do Solar Generators Work?
What's Inside a Solar Generator?
To keep things simple, a solar generator is more or less a battery in a box along with a charge controller/regulator and a power inverter (with a few other parts and pieces) but let's keep things super simple here. The charge controller regulates the amount of power coming in from your solar panels so that we don't fry the battery. The battery then holds the energy we're generating from the sun and from there, the power inverter is hooked up between the battery and the outlets, thus allowing us to use the power we're generating and storing in the batteries.
Hope that makes sense, if not feel free to reach out and we'd be happy to explain further.
What's on the outside of a solar generator?
On the outside of the generators, depending on which option you go with, there are a range of outlets for everything from standard appliances and USB ports to cigarette lighter ports and plugins for your solar panels. So you can just plug stuff in and away you go.
How Do You Use A Solar Generator
The reason solar generators are so popular for emergency preparedness is due to their ease of use and what we call their "plug-and-play" capabilities. All you do is place your generator near your living quarters so that you can plug everything in and from there, plug your panels in and place them in the sun. Most generators come with 30-50 foot solar panel cables so that you can have the panels in the sun, while the actual generator is near where you need it/inside the house. The image below gives you a visual of how you can charge your generator as well as use it to power your electronics and appliances.
The 5 MAIN Benefits of a Solar Generator in Emergency Situations
No Need to Procure Fuel (Ever!)
Clean, Renewable power
Unlimited Free Recharging
No Need to Procure Fuel (Ever!)
In a real life disaster situation the ability to find and procure fuel could be a dangerous proposition. So the ability to run your generator without the need for gas is not only a huge benefit, but could mean the difference between having power or not (and life or death).
After hurricane Maria in 2018, Puerto Rico was without power in some places for nearly 11 months! While 11 months is definitely longer than usual for power to be restored, its not uncommon for people in the continental US to wait huge amounts of time before the power is restored. After hurricane Michael hit Florida in late 2018, parts of the state went multiple weeks without power at all. This is where your fuel-free solar generator will shine.
In the aftermath of hurricane Michael it was impossible for people to simply drive down the street and pick up gas for their generators. Unless you have a huge store of fuel (which is dangerous & expensive) odds are you’re going to need to figure out a way to keep your generator running. If you have a solar generator kit (something that comes with panels and all necessary wiring) you can be harnessing power all day when the sun is out.
You can keep your essential appliances running and light your house until the grid power is restored. This means your food wont go bad, your lights can stay on, your phones charged up etc.
The fact that solar generators do not produce toxic fumes and gasses is often overlooked when it comes to disaster situations. We all know that solar energy is clean and renewable but in a situation where you need to flee your home or hide in the basement for prolonged periods of time, your gas generator can’t come with you. You may need to charge your phone, power some lights or run a fridge in your hideout and good luck doing that with your gas generator.
A solar generator allows you to simply pack up your panels and head wherever you need to go. If you wanted to keep your generator beside your bed to charge up your phone, ham radio, laptop or even just run a light, no problem; the generator is completely safe. This is why people who are properly prepared for disasters love solar generators. You can keep them in a confined space worry free.
What makes solar generators so portable is that wherever you go, your solar generator can go as well. From your car to your basement, you’re free to take them with you and run them 24/7. In real world scenarios, especially after disasters hit, they are much more versatile than a gas generator. The only thing you can count on after a real disaster situation is the sun shining, meaning that wherever you need to go, you'll have power.
There is no guarantee that you will be able to find fuel or that the grid will return in a reasonable amount of time. Being able to take advantage of a sunny day can be the difference between life or death, literally. Check out this video where Inergy donates generators to families in need after Hurricane Maria. A perfect example of how a solar generator is your best option in disaster scenarios.
Recharge For Free
Another obvious benefit to a solar generator that extends even beyond a disaster scenario is that it recharges for free. While some of the price points below might seem expensive, especially compared to the price of gas or diesel generators, it’s only the initial cost that is expensive; you have zero upkeep/fuel costs over the lifetime of your unit because sunshine is free.
That being said, if the city goes into lockdown or disaster strikes, the availability of fuel may not be an option. So while others fight and riot over the remaining fuel sources, you'll be able to rest easy knowing you can survive without.
As is the case with anything when it comes to solar, your initial investment is big, but it’s in the interest of long term savings. Something like the Inergy Apex can last for 10 years or 2,000 cycles which means you’ll have this system for a long time and not need to buy one lick of gas to power it.
Building off of being a clean, free source of power, they are also DRAMATICALLY more quiet than their gas counterparts. The cooling fans will kick on once you start drawing significant amounts of power, but compared to loud, dirty and messy gas generators its a welcome change. This also means that your generator can be used inside, while you sleep or hunker down during a disaster situation.
It also means that if you're ever in a situation where you need to remain stealth and hidden from others, you can use the power without drawing attention to yourself.
Thousands of Americans already keep their solar generators in their mobile homes with them when they sleep. The level of noise they produce is similar to a desktop computer or laptop.
Now that we have addressed some of the major benefits of Solar Generators when it comes to disaster situations, we will outline our top 5 picks. This list is not exhaustive, there are many other great options available, so if you need help selecting a unit that works for your needs, you can reach out to us with any questions or concerns.
The Top 6 Solar Generators for Emergency Preparedness
Inergy Apex Solar Generator
The top of our list for portable solar generators is the Inergy Apex. We have referenced this machine in the article above for good reason. When it comes to power per pound this machine is the best on the market. It weighs only 25 lbs and has an impressive 1500 Watt continuous pure sine wave output with a 3000 Watt surge.
For some context, you can run a full-sized fridge on a single charge for over 24 hours, charge your cell phone 150 times, run a chest freezer for 50 hours or run their basecamp LED lights for 183 hours. It comes with an MPPT charge controller installed which means you can recharge your Apex in as little as 2.5 - 3 hours as part of a Gold Kit. You can also use the USB ports without turning on the inverter which helps to conserve energy. We really cant say enough about the Apex generator. This is our #1 pick for an after disaster solar generator kit and you can learn more about the pros and cons of this generator here.
Bluetti Solar Generator
The Bluetti from MaxOak is a fantastic all around choice when it comes to solar generators. It boasts a 1500wH battery made with high quality LG cells. This is one of the biggest battery banks for a portable generator that is still portable.
To give you some context, this can recharge your smartphone over 120 times on a single charge or run a fridge for nearly 24 hours. It only weighs 37 lbs as well! It has a 1000 watt inverter, so running any / all of your important electronics wont be an issue and its a pure sine wave inverter as well so your sensitive electronics are safe. It has a regulated 12V output so you can run your DC appliances like fridges there as well. The Bluetti even comes with MC4 adapters so if you already have solar panels, you can hook them up to the Bluetti right away!
Titan Solar Generator
Point Zero set out to make the ultimate generator and we think they have achieved this. The Titan solar generator is an absolute beast with a 3000 watt pure sine wave inverter that peaks at 6000 watts.
This means you can run hair dryers, induction cook tops, space heaters, you name it this unit can power it. You can check out our more in depth article on the pros and cons of the Titan here, but to give you some context, you can add more batteries and more panels to this system as you see fit. Even with only one battery it is large enough to run most home appliances, including a fridge, washing machine, microwave, cook top stove, fans lights, tv, and other electronics. This unit is an absolute beast and the only reason it isn't number one is because its heavy and somewhat hard to move around.
Jackery Explorer 500
The Explorer 500 from Jackery is an amazing budget and ultra portable option for a disaster type scenario. The best thing that we like about this unit is that it weighs only 13.3 lbs and still manages to sneak in over 500wH of battery life. The Jackery even comes with a car charger in the package so if you run out of battery you can recharge it via 12V outlet.
It has a 500 watt inverter which can surge up to 1000 watts which means it can run and recharge all your essential appliances in a disaster scenario from small appliances & smartphones to tablets, laptops, cameras, drones, mini-fridges, and even CPAP machines. This unit wont last as long as some of the other on the list since the battery is only 500 watt hours, but its portability is really what this unit is about.
The EcoFlow Delta 1300 solar generator is one of the most exciting new power stations and it created an enormous amount of buzz in late 2019, funded by a Kickstarter that raised over 2.8 million, the Delta is the latest product from the portable power company EcoFlow, which began producing powerful, portable batteries in 2017.
The company boasts a proprietary battery management system as well as a new charging platform for AC current, both of which make the Delta 1300 one of the most efficient solar generators on the market today. It's now in stock and shipping to customers as orders are placed.
Without a doubt, the 2 hour charge time of the Ecoflow Delta 1300 is the innovation that makes the generator standout amongst its competitors. However, when compared to the popular Yeti Goal Zero 1400, the Delta 1300 showcases quite a few improvements.
Side by Side Comparison: EcoFlow Delta 1300 vs. Yeti Goal Zero 1400
- Charging TIme: Two Hours vs 25 Hours
- Battery life cycle: 800 Charges vs 500 Charges
- Shelf Life: 12 months vs. 3-5 months
- Max Solar Input: 400 Watts vs 350 Watts
- Output: 1800 W (Surge 3300W) vs 1500W (Surge 3000W)
- Outlets: 6 AC, 6 USB vs 2 AC, 4 USB
- Weight: 30 lbs vs 43 lbs
- Price: $1,399 vs $1,899
The Ecoflow Delta 1300 is ideal for occasional use such as camping, tailgating, and festivals, and is also a perfect emergency back-up solution for homes, disaster situations and medical devices as it will power everything you need to survive in these situations.
#6. Goal Zero Yeti 3000 - Starting at $2,995.95
Goal Zero Yeti 3000
The last entry on our list is the Goal Zero Yeti 3000. This unit is last on the list because of its weight and price, not because of its productivity or output. It’s the largest high-capacity portable power station that Goal Zero offers. It's equipped with 3000Wh of lithium battery storage for long runtimes and comes pre-installed with an MPPT charge controller.
The Yeti 3000 provides approximately 150+ smartphone charges, 50+ laptop charges, and can even run a mini fridge for over 50 hours. In fact, this generator can be used as a home backup option with the Goal Zero Home Integration Kit. If you combine the Yeti 3000 with a Roll Cart it can even become decently portable. As is the case with the larger Goal Zero generators, charging times are the biggest downside. You will need to purchase multiple solar panels in order to charge this generator in a reasonable amount of time. What you should not discount though is the 3000Wh of battery storage. This can prove to be incredibly useful in a disaster scenario and if price is not as much your concern, this is definitely a fantastic choice for you.
In closing, if you're at all concerned with being prepared in emergency situations, we would highly recommend looking into getting yourself a solar powered generator. This article went over the pros, cons and benefits of solar generators as well our top 5 recommendations for solar generators you can consider depending on your needs.
If you have any other questions or concerns, don't hesitate to reach out or give us a call today at 877-242-2792. You can check out our collection of solar generators here.