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Ranking the Best Solar Generators of 2020

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Solar generators are the most efficient and sustainable way to provide power in a grid-down or off-grid living situation. They’re affordable and let you tap into the free energy provided by the sun.

Our team at Survival At Home did the research so you don’t have to. We checked out all the solar generators we could find to put together this list of the best on the market.

Rankings

1. Renogy Lycan Powerbox – 1075Wh Battery

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The Renogy Lycan is all the things a solar generator should be. It offers a powerful 1200W pure sine wave inverter plus a lot of in-demand extra features. That’s enough power to operate medium appliances and all kinds of essential medical devices.

It’s easy to set up and even easier to operate, with the ability to charge rapidly from up to 300W of solar panels. It’s definitely too large for mobile use but is a great option for stationary prep at your home or off-grid retreat.

Why we like it: The Renogy Lycan is a large and powerful solar generator with a twist: You can swap out the actual power cells, allowing you to charge multiple batteries with the same solar generator. This significantly increases the power available to you.

Flaws: There’s no getting around it, the Lycan is a beast to move around. It weighs 55 lbs and believe us, you’ll feel every ounce of it. The rolling suitcase design helps some, but you definitely won’t be moving on foot with the Lycan.

2. Jackery Explorer 500 – 518Wh Battery

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The Explorer 500 is a rare product that fills the needs of a whole lot of different users. It has a larger capacity than most solar generators on our list yet is still lighter and more portable than the truly massive ones. 

Why we like it: It’s efficient, reasonably priced, easy to use, and offers a good variety of charging options. It also offers some advanced power management features that significantly improve its performance on an ounce for ounce basis. Even better, it fully supports pass-through charging. This allows you to continue charging your devices directly from the incoming solar power even after the batteries are fully charged.

Flaws: The most glaring flaw on the Explorer 500 is its lack of ports. While it offers a good number of USB ports, it only has a single AC port and cigarette style outlet. This significantly limits the number of larger devices you can power at once.

3. Goal Zero Yeti 500X – 428Wh Battery

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Goal Zero was one of the first companies to offer solar generators. Thankfully they chose not to rest on their laurels. The Yeti 500X is a recent release that’s been wowing everyone who gives it a try.

It has a latest-generation lithium-ion battery that is lightweight yet high-capacity. Its pure sine wave inverter is capable of powering even the most delicate of electronics without fear of damage or mishap. 

Why we like it: With a larger battery it’s capable of providing power for everything from smartphones to refrigerators. It offers a comprehensive range of available ports and has intelligently designed manual on/off switches that let you toggle the power on and off to different sections as needed. The included charge controller and power management devices are some of the best on the market. 

Flaws: At 428Wh of capacity and weighing 17 lbs, the Yeti 500X sits in an odd middle area for solar generators. It’s larger and heavier than the 150-300Wh models yet has less capacity than the 1000Wh+ ones. This means it has the inverter rating to power bigger appliances but not the battery capacity to run them for the long term. It’s too much generator for just smartphones and tablets but isn’t really enough for reliably powering larger items.  

4. FlashFish Power Supply Station – 222Wh Battery

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The FlashFish Power Supply Station sits on the lower end of both the capacity and inverter rating. You can fully charge it up in just seven to eight hours using a mere 50W solar panel.

Compared to larger solar generators you can top it off rapidly in just an afternoon with a panel that fits inside a pack. It’s a great option if you have to evacuate or otherwise go mobile during a disaster.

Why we like it: Very low cost per watt among solar generators, paired with low weight and reasonably high inverter rating. It’s hard to beat the value provided for the money spent. 

Flaws: The FlashFish is strictly a charge and use solar generator. It doesn’t support pass-through charging, so you can’t set it up in the sun and charge your devices directly. This pretty significantly reduces its usefulness for charging more than phones, tablets, and other small devices.

5. RockPals 300W Portable Solar Power Station – 280Wh Battery

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Preppers searching for a powerful yet portable solar generator are going to love the RockPals 300W. It charges rapidly, can power a wide range of devices, and has the staying power to see you through multiple days of use. 

Why we like it: The RockPals 300W includes the most in-demand features for a solar generator plus some useful extras. It offers multiple DC ports that are easily accessible and has the power to back them up. By far our favorite thing about it is the comprehensive accessory package. It includes all the adaptors and chargers you need to plug it into any kind of solar panel.

Flaws: It’s not a big thing, but the charge control software included with it is a little sensitive. We noticed it cut off several times when charging only low draw devices such as headlamps or small flashlights.

6. Suaoki S270 Portable Power Station – 150Wh Battery

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For those of you looking for a way to provide a few charges for tablets and smaller computers, the Suaoki may be the solar generator for you. It’s featherlight yet offers the ports and battery capacity to charge essential electronics. You can use it to keep your lights, phones, GPS, and other basic gear powered up for a fraction of the weight and size a larger solar generator requires.

Why we like it: One of the biggest downsides of solar generators is their high weight. The Suaoki Portable Power Station exceeded all our expectations just because of the power it can provide at a low weight. Despite weighing just under three pounds the Suaoki offers a full 150Wh of power. 

Flaws: While the Suaoki is quite powerful for its size it doesn’t have the inverter capacity to power larger devices such as CPAP machines. The same goes for refrigerators, A/C units, and other appliances.

7. Jackery Explorer 160 – 167Wh Battery

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If you love the high-quality build of the Explorer 500 but want something a little less weighty, the Explore 160 is the way to go. It includes all the features we loved in the 500 in a smaller and less powerful package.

Why we like it: At 167Wh capacity, the Explorer 160 can charge essential electronics but not much else. It can also charge itself up from a 60W solar panel a lot faster than larger solar generators. Combined with the robust port offerings for a generator of its size the Explorer 160 really shines in its weight class.

Flaws: From a different angle all the biggest benefits of the Explorer 160 are also its flaws. It’s too small and underpowered to operate CPAP machines, appliances of any size, and lacks the capability to really power a full camp. When you combine its lack of pass-through charging it really begins to show strain at charging multiple devices efficiently.

8. Renogy Phoenix – 246.24Wh Battery

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If there’s one thing that can be said about solar generators, it’s that the manufacturers found a design and really stuck with it. Most resemble nothing so much as squat little boxes with reinforced handles. It’s a design that works but isn’t necessarily the optimal one. 

Renogy completely broke from the pack and went with a briefcase-like design for the Phoenix. This makes it more compact and easier to maneuver than other generators, as well as adding an integrated 20W solar panel.

Why we like it: The inclusion of a solar panel, and a solar panel big enough to effectively charge the battery at that, is huge. The Phoenix is a true solar generator. It produces, stores, and distributes its own power simply by folding out the body and exposing the panel to the sun. 

Flaws: There are some definite trade-offs to Phoenix’s design. To start with, there aren’t quite as many ports as you would find on a similarly sized standard solar generator. The folding design also adds a mechanical point of failure that most solar generators just don’t have.

9. Anker Powerhouse 200 – 200Wh Battery

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Anker is a well-known company in the electronics accessory and charging cable field, but they’ve only recently entered the solar generator market. Their Powerhouse 200 shows some great features in a nice design but isn’t quite up to the level of some other generators we reviewed.

Why we like it: There’s no denying that the Powerhouse 200 is a sleek little solar generator. Anker went with a longer and slimmer design for this 200Wh system plus a handle that we found very comfortable to use. It has a simplified display and includes a USB-C type connector, rare among current-gen solar generators.

Flaws: The sleek design used for the Powerhouse 200 is a lot more startup inspired than most survival gear. Anker clearly prioritized form over function with this one. The ports it has are capable and extremely well made, but there just aren’t that many of them. Even worse, the advanced charging protections in place prevent you from charging low draw devices such as dedicated GPS systems and some headlamps.

10. Westinghouse iGen160s – 155Wh Battery

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Westinghouse is better known for its large scale turbines than small scale generators, but they’ve produced something really nice in the iGen160s. It’s tied for the smallest capacity generator on our list but still made it in due to its rock-solid build quality.

Why we like it: Sometimes all you need is a way to keep your communication and illumination going. The iGen160s is just about perfect for this. It has a full range of ports, including a hard to find USB-C port, and is one of the lightest and most portable solar generators on the market. When you consider the built-in flashlight and floodlight you end up with one of the best entry-level solar generators available.

Flaws: With an inverter rated at just 100 watts the iGen160s is unable to power anything but very small electronics. If you need higher capacity you’ll have to look elsewhere.

Who should buy a solar generator?

The world today has more gadgets, gizmos, and tools than ever before. One thing they all have in common is their need for a constant source of power.

Preppers – In a disaster or full grid-down situation, that source of power could get cut off at a moment’s notice. A solar generator offers a silent, fuelless, and highly reliable backup power source. It allows you to keep everything from smartphones to medical devices running like normal with nothing but the power of the sun.

We know, we know, a smartphone is hardly essential. It’s important to remember though that it can be a seriously useful tool and a great way to keep yourself entertained. Even an older smartphone can be loaded down with books, movies, and other media. Keeping morale high is nearly as important as keeping bellies full in a long term collapse.

Sleep Apnea/Oxygen Dependent – Those medical devices we mentioned? That can include everything from a CPAP machine to a home oxygen concentrator. This ensures that your essential medical needs are met even during an extended blackout.

Diabetics – You’re going to need a reliable way to keep your insulin supply at the proper temperatures.

Disaster prep – Then there’s everything else. Think about all the things in your house that rely on electrical power. A lot of it definitely falls under the category of comfort items, but there are other things that will no doubt be considered essential.

LED lighting is a great example of this. It draws very limited power yet provides a massive quality of life improvement, as anyone who’s tried to live by candlelight can tell you.

RV enthusiasts – RV’s are great options as a bug-out vehicle and a recreation option. Solar generators for RV enthusiasts fit into a middle category as far as size and portability go. They should be large enough to power your appliances without getting in the way.

Those types of solar generators can provide power for phones and other devices without being too bulky to fit well in a vehicle. In a pinch, you can even move them on foot. 

Off-Grid Living/Ranching – One important thing to keep in mind before making a purchase is how and where you intend to use a solar generator. For your home or retreat, a larger and more powerful solar generator is probably the way to go. 

The added weight isn’t an issue for a stationary unit and they provide a lot more capability than their smaller cousins. Large capacity generators with 1,000+Wh batteries and comparable inverters can power full-size appliances like refrigerators and even A/C units.

How we ranked 

Our ranking system for solar generators included charging speed/capability, battery size, inverter type and rating, number and type of ports, and portability. Of these factors battery size, charging speed, and inverter capability are the most important.

These three metrics are the true nuts and bolts of solar generators. They determine how and how quickly you can charge your generator, how much power you can store, and what types of devices you can actually power.

Charging speed/capability – Just about every solar generator offers multiple charging options. These include standard AC wall charging, DC car/RV charging, and of course charging from solar panels. How quickly a solar generator can fully charge from each source significantly impacts how it can be used.

From a preparedness standpoint, AC charging is only useful for standby power and battery maintenance. DC charging is a whole other kettle of fish. If you find yourself going out in your vehicle for any reason you can top off the battery in your solar generator.

The real bread and butter of a solar generator is charging time from solar panels. This comes down to how much solar panel wattage a solar generator can process and how large its internal battery is. 

Battery capacity – The most accurate measure of battery capacity used today is the watt-hour (Wh). You’ll sometimes see figures reported in amp-hours or even milliamp hours, but using these units makes it a lot more confusing.

A watt-hour is the same for all devices at all voltages. It allows you to accurately measure and compare different battery systems even when they have different voltages or currents (1).

Inverter type and rating – Having all that power stored away is only part of the battle. The type and rating of your inverter plays a huge role in what you can actually power. There are two types of inverters: modified sine wave and pure sine wave. 

Modified sine wave inverters are cheaper but less capable. The power they produce is choppier and suffers from significant distortion. Appliances with an AC motor like refrigerators or A/C units won’t run as well on a modified sine wave inverter. Even worse, sensitive electronics like smartphones, laptops, and tablets can actually be damaged (2).

Pure sine wave inverters provide a smoother and more efficient AC power. If you want to power medical devices or anything else with delicate electronics pure sine wave inverters are the only way to go.

The rating of your inverter determines how much power you can access at once. That’s not the whole story though, you also need to take surge power into account. It takes more power to start up an electrical device than it does to run one. The surge capacity of an inverter allows it to handle that inrush surge before settling into working current (3).

Solar generators are marketed by their inverter rating rather than battery capacity. A 500W solar generator offers up to 500W of power production at a time. Size your solar generator to the power demands you have.

Number and type of ports – The amount of charging ports and the type offered are pretty self-explanatory. More powerful generators generally have more charging ports, with the ability to use more of them at once. We prefer to see at least two AC and two DC ports, whether they be cigarette lighter style or USB ports for charging electronics.

Portability – Portability really comes down to weight, size, and carrying options. Solar generators are heavy. They have to be to offer the power storage and inverter capabilities you need. The trick is finding ones that offer greater capability for their weight and physical size. For the largest, we love to see a wheeled option.

Brands we trust – Jackery, Renogy, and Goal Zero all displayed an understanding of how to properly balance these factors. They don’t sacrifice usability and portability simply to get the biggest and most powerful generator out there.

Other companies we chose not to include on our list were Wagan and KYNG. They were both packed with features and provided large capacity batteries, but included some additions that felt gimmicky when actually used. The biggest one for us was the included fold-out solar panels in the Wagan system that seriously increased bulk without noticeably improving performance.

We graded each solar generator on these factors then ranked them according to importance. We firmly believe that the solar generators on our list are the best on the market for survival purposes.

Benefits

Solar generators are the cheapest and most sustainable long term off-grid power option. A lot of people question why solar generators have the name they do. After all, they don’t actually generate any power, they just store power from solar panels. Many preppers prefer the constant power production of a fuel-powered generator instead.

The downside to this is cost and risk. Fuel is pricey, and only getting more so. Storing a large supply can also be dangerous if you don’t follow proper safety procedures. Even worse from a survival standpoint, a lot of fuel sources break down rapidly in storage. 

Unstabilized gasoline begins to degrade in just three to six months. Diesel is a little better, but will also start to break down in just six months to a year. 

That makes it expensive and difficult to store any significant amount of fuel for a generator. 

Solar generators suffer from none of these restrictions. Their power source is literally the sun. As long as it keeps shining you can continue charging your generator. The batteries within them are also far longer lasting. A quality lithium-ion battery can provide reliable power storage for over a decade with proper charging cycles and use (4). 

When you combine all these factors it’s easy to see both the cost and sustainability benefits of a solar generator.

Solar generators simplify off-grid solar power. One of the biggest barriers to home solar power is how complicated it can be. To build a system yourself you have to purchase panels, hook them into a charge controller, connect that to a battery bank of the correct size, then wire that to an inverter. All of this needs to be properly fused and grounded of course.

Unless you’re a trained electrician it can be really confusing and potentially dangerous.

Solar generators take all the guesswork out of building a solar system. They contain a prewired charge controller, battery, and inverter in a compact and durable shell. All you have to do is plug your solar panels into the labeled port and you’ve got a fully functional solar power system.

Solar generators act as instant backup power. A great thing about solar generators is their ability to double as a backup battery. All the generators on our list offer the option to charge from either a home AC or a car/RV DC connection. 

This allows you to keep the battery fully charged for when disaster strikes.

If you’re dealing with a fuel-powered generator you have both a lot more upkeep and a lot more potential for mishap. The last thing you need is a small part giving out on you right when you’re trying to power something critical during a sudden blackout.

Solar generators are highly portable. One of the biggest benefits of solar generators is how portable they can be. When paired with folding or flexible solar panels you can fit your entire emergency power system on a closet shelf. 

This gives you a lot more flexibility than a gas generator or other off-grid power source. If you have no choice but to evacuate you can bring your own source of power with you. Best of all, solar generators have no moving parts and can handle moving around.

You can put a fully functional solar power system in the bed of your truck and drive it wherever you’re going. Five minutes after you arrive you can be charging up your battery bank again.

Solar generators are quiet and emissions-free. One of the biggest downsides of a gas-powered generator is the noise. The average home generator runs at between 50 and 60 decibels (5). That can be anywhere from a quiet conversation up to music in a restaurant (6). 

Not only is it hard to sleep with an engine running by your bedroom window, but it also alerts any potential bad actors that your home is one with power and resources. OPSEC is critical to survival in a grid-down scenario.

Solar panels and a solar generator are totally silent. That’s silence while charging and being used. If you position your panels well and practice good light discipline no one ever needs to know you still have power when their lights have gone out.

Solar generators are quiet, reliable, and allow you to harness an inexhaustible source of free power. They have the capability to power every kind of device you could need, including both comfort-enhancing and medically necessary tools. Even better, they’re more capable and less expensive than they were even just a few years ago.

Modern solar generators hold their charge for months at a time and are incredibly easy to maintain. With just basic upkeep every few months you’ll always have a fully charged battery backup on hand if the lights go out.

FAQ

Q: What is a solar generator?

A: Solar generators are a streamlined charging, power storage, and inversion system designed to work with solar panels. They combine all the equipment needed to take raw power from solar panels and turn it into stable power that can be used to charge your devices. 

For the dedicated prepper, a solar generator offers a nearly inexhaustible supply of power that requires no fuel and very little upkeep. 

Q: How do solar generators work?

A: Solar generators work by taking the power produced by solar panels and storing it in internal batteries. They include a charge controller, battery, inverter, and the various ports and plugs needed to connect your devices.

The charge controller modulates the flow of power from the solar panels in order to protect the battery. The inverter then takes the stored DC power in the battery and gives you stable, usable power.

Q: How portable are solar generators?

A: Solar generator portability varies widely depending on the size, weight, and design of the generator. The smallest ones weigh just a few pounds and are easy to move around in a vehicle. In a pinch, you could even carry them, though this will seriously increase the weight of your pack.

Larger models can be significantly heavier, with the largest weighing in at over 50 pounds. These bad boys offer an incredible amount of power but are only portable in the sense that you can move them around in your home. Some large solar generators are built in a similar design to wheeled suitcases. It makes them a lot easier to move around when needed.

Q: How do you charge solar generators?

A: Despite their name, most solar generators can charge several ways. These include AC wall outlets, DC car/RV outlets, and of course solar panels. For effective battery maintenance, we recommend you keep them plugged into a wall outlet when not in use. This has the added bonus of keeping it fully charged if the power should cut out unexpectedly. 

For solar charging you need to either find solar panels that have the plug used by a specific solar generator or purchase a universal adaptor for the popular MC4 solar interface.

Q: What can you power with a solar generator?

A: Short answer: Just about anything. The beauty of solar generators is that they can provide full strength 110/220V AC power just about anywhere. So long as you’ve got the inverter strength and battery capacity you can plug almost any appliance or device into a solar generator.

There are some restrictions of course. Some items with especially high power draw such as electric heaters, hairdryers, and larger A/C units are off the table. Otherwise, if the inverter can handle it you can power almost any electronic device with a solar generator.

Q: How long does it take to charge a solar generator?

A: The charge time for solar generators depends heavily on the capacity of the battery and the wattage of the solar panels. As an example, a 500Wh battery being charged by a 100W solar panel would take 5 hours of perfect sun to charge.

That’s definitely oversimplifying things though. It’s extremely rare to get a full day of perfect sun. Most of the time you’re dealing with substantially less than perfect conditions, and that doesn’t even take into account inefficiencies in the transfer of the power (7). 

A good rule of thumb is to double the actual charge time based on the battery and panel. So for a 500Wh solar battery, it would take about 10 hours of good sunlight to charge it with a 100W solar panel.

Q: What’s the best solar generator for RVing?

A: The best solar generator for an RV is one that’s powerful enough to operate all your essential equipment. It should have the inverter rating and battery capacity to power everything but your A/C unit.

For us that’s the Renogy Lycan.

Q: What’s the best solar generator for camping?

A: Hiking and camping are some of the best ways to test your preps in the real world. For campers looking to bring their own power supply with them, you need to consider weight and portability more than capacity and inverter rating.

If you’re mostly a car camper we recommend the Jackery Explorer 500.

If you plan to pack your gear into a base camp, the Suaoki S270 is the way to go.

Recap

If you’re looking to add reliable and affordable off-grid power to your preps there are few better options than a solar generator. They’re simple to set up, intuitive to use, and offer years of power from your initial purchase.

Solar generators are capable of powering all the most important and medically necessary devices out there. Everything from smartphones to CPAP machines will keep on ticking even in a full grid-down scenario.

So long as you properly size your solar generator to the load it needs to handle you can effectively power all your essential electronics for years.

For Survival At Home’s #1 solar generator recommendation, click here.

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