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Solar Generator vs Gas Generator - Which Is Best?

By SSK Admin November 10, 2021

Solar Generator Vs Gas Generator

Solar power generator vs gas generator: is there a difference?

Yes, there is. In fact, there are multiple differences.

Having a reliable off-grid power supply is the smart way to live. They’re great for camping, boondocking, or for ‘just in case’. 

But which is right for you? The only way to know is to compare them. Continue reading for an in-depth comparison of solar generators versus gas generators.

Solar Generator Vs Gas Generator

Solar Generator Versus Gas Generator (Compared) 

Technical Spec

Table on the technical differences between Solar Generators and Gas Generators

Solar Generator

Gas Generator

Power Output

Depends on size and quality.

Depends on size and quality.

Environment

No CO2

500g/H CO2

Charging Time

  • 5 - 6 hours with solar power
  • 90 min with AC power
  • 10 hours with car/RV power

No charging required

Lifespan

Up to 25 years (55,000 hours)

Up to 18 months (2,500 hours)

Noise Level

Little to no noise.

Quite loud.

Running Cost

Zero

Ongoing

Average Price

$1700

$1000

Power Output and Charging Time

For both solar and gas generators, the power output depends on the size and quality.

With both these generators, you will generally get the max wattage. For example, if it’s a 300W generator, you can expect 300W. 

The only difference is that solar generators need to charge. If it doesn’t fully, you might not get to maximum output. 

They also take a bit of time to charge fully. If you’re charging it with the sun, it could take up to 6 hours to charge. And that’s under perfect conditions.

Some solar generators do allow you to charge with AC power. That would take about 90 minutes.

With gas generators, you don’t have this issue. You only need to add the fuel and switch it on. 

Environmental Impact and Noise Level

solar generator vs fuel generator

When it comes to pollution of any kind, solar is the safest. It produces no CO2 and runs silently. 

Gas generators do produce CO2 (roughly 500g/H). These generators also tend to be loud, although there are quieter models.

You should note that the quieter gas generators are more expensive. 

Both generators have recyclable materials. It’s arguably easier to take apart a gas generator than a solar one. You can also sell usable parts to second-hand repairs stores.

But while solar generators are a bit more difficult to recycle, they do last longer. So, yes, gas generators might seem easier in terms of recycling. But you’ll be doing it more often than with solar generators.

Running Cost and Lifespan

Solar generators have no running costs. It receives its energy from the sun, free of charge. 

Gas generators are more costly. The average running costs are about $800 - and that’s just for gas. The regular maintenance it requires is another cost altogether.

There is a huge difference in their lifespans too. 

Portable gas generators could last for maybe a year and a half (2,500 hours). Solar power is an investment and can last up to 25 years (55,000 hours) or more. 

Ease of Use and Reliability 

Solar and gas generators differ greatly in terms of ease of use. 

You can’t leave gas generators unattended if they’re running. It’s not safe. The opposite is true for solar. 

Gas generators are bulky and heavy. They are difficult to move and store. In contrast, solar generators can fold into a compact form. 

When it comes to reliability, gas generators do better in the elements. They’re built to withstand most weather conditions. Solar generators need the sun unless it’s fully charged.

They both should hold up well against an EMP, as long they aren’t connected to the grid. 

You could also get an EMP-proof solar generator. This would ensure extra protection. 

Solar Generator or Gas Generator

Deciding between a solar generator or a gas generator is tough. Sometimes the choice comes down to how much you’re going to use it. 

Remember, a generator’s lifespan is measured by how many hours it can run. For gas generators, this is 2,500 hours. Solar generators can run for 55,000 hours.

Let's take a closer look at each and see which works best for your needs.

Solar Generator

solar generator vs gas

Solar power offers free, clean, and renewable energy. The upfront cost is a bit more pricey than gas generators. But many believe that its extended lifespan and free energy are worth the initial cost.

A solar generator has no running costs and is low maintenance. All you need is to keep the solar panels clean and occasionally change out the MC-4 connectors.

The main downside is that it needs to be charged. It takes about 5 to 6 hours to fully charge with solar power. But once charged, it should run for 2 to 3 days without issue. 

But how does a solar generator work? Let’s use the Renogy solar generator as an example. 

To put it simply, it’s a mini solar system. Solar panels, inverter, charge controller, and battery. 

The solar panels absorb energy from the sun’s rays. This energy is stored in the battery as DC (Direct Current) power. 

The inverter converts the DC power to AC power (our appliances use this). The charge controller regulates the output to prevent fuses. 

This is completely off the grid. 

There are solar hybrid generators as well. These are both off-grid and on-grid systems. Power is stored in the battery, but the excess can be fed into the electricity grid. 

This is great for households who want to lower their electricity costs. 

Pros 

  • Free, clean, and renewable energy.
  • Has a 25-year lifespan.
  • Has zero running costs.
  • It’s very low maintenance.
  • A long-term investment.

Cons 

  • Needs to charge before use.
  • High initial fee.

Gas Generator

Portable gas generators have a much shorter lifespan than solar generators. They also have high running costs.

These generators are high maintenance. It comes with a list of items that need regular inspections and replacements.

You will need to inspect the generator at specific hours of run time per season. These are: 50 hours, 100 hours, and 200 hours. 

If you plan on storing it for long periods, it will need special care as well. 

So, while the initial cost is less than solar generators, the long-term costs are more. 

A gas generator has more components as well. These components are:

  • Engine
  • Alternator
  • Fuel system
  • Voltage regulator
  • Collage exhaust systems
  • Lubrication system
  • Battery charger
  • Control panels

They aren’t all bad though. These generators can carry a greater load and can survive most weather conditions.

You won’t need to wait for sunny days to charge it up. As long as you have fuel, the generator will run.

Pros 

  • Low initial cost.
  • Doesn’t need to be charged.
  • Carriers a bigger load.
  • Will survive most harsh weather conditions.

Cons 

  • CO2 and noise pollution.
  • Short lifespan, high maintenance, and high running costs.

Solar Generator and Gas Generator (FAQ) 

Is a Solar Generator better than a Gas Generator? 

In most cases, yes. Solar generators are better in terms of long-term investment and costs.

While the initial cost is more, it has no other costs. But, solar generators rely on solar power. If there is no sun, you might be without power.

Conversely, gas generators have high running and maintenance costs. They also have a shorter lifespan. So, while you pay less upfront, you will be spending more in the long run. You will have to replace it much sooner as well.

But they only require fuel to run. As long as you have that, you won’t be left without power.

Is a Solar Generator the best for backup power? 

It can be. Since it’s completely off the grid, an EMP isn’t likely to affect it. And as long as it's fully charged when you need it, you can have up to 3 days of power.

You won't have to pay for fuel either. Make sure the solar panels are facing the sun, and you’re good to go.

Of course, this wouldn’t work well in winter. Solar panels absorb less energy during this time. But you can connect other solar panels to your generator to compensate for this.

Is a Solar Generator a bad product? 

No, it’s not a bad product. 

Solar power in general is good for the environment. It’s a cost-saving long-term investment for you as well.

Solar generators have few downsides, which can be compensated for with careful planning. 

Final Thoughts

Many people only look at the short-term implications when buying a generator. But while a gas generator might seem like the cheaper option, it’s not. 

Solar power is more economical and saves you money in the long run. 

That doesn’t mean that gas generators are bad. They aren’t, but there are more obvious downsides to them. The main concerns being the much shorter lifespan and high running costs.

Hopefully, this helps if you’ve been on the fence about a solar generator vs a gas generator.

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