How to use & maintain a solar generator

Without overcomplicating things, using a solar generator is as simple as pressing the “on” button. Whenever the battery is charged, a solar powered portable power station is extremely user-friendly as it is incredibly easy to operate.

From the simplest models to the most powerful devices, solar power generator typically have an on switch and a range of outputs and connectors. Just flip the switch and plug in your electronics. From there, use the system’s monitoring capabilities to see when your battery is draining.

Solar generators can be charged when the battery is fully discharged, or while the battery is partially full and the system is running. With that in mind, they can be used continuously in sunlight, or they can be charged and taken to a remote location to be used overnight.

We recommend storing your solar generator fully charged and checking it every three to six months to make sure everything is working properly. Using them for a day every three to six months can also help to keep them fresh and ready when you need them most!

 How to charge the battery of a solar generator

As we have already indicated, a solar generator gets its name from its ability to be charged with solar energy. However, with new technologies being developed every day, modern solar generators can also be charged using AC power from your home or DC power from your vehicle.

Charging a solar generator with solar panels

Connecting 400 watt solar panel to a solar generator is the best way to create a truly off-grid, renewable power system. With solar panels, you can charge your portable power station anywhere in the world as long as the sun shines.

Each solar generator has an input rating from the manufacturer that recommends the maximum amount of solar power that can charge the battery without causing damage. For small systems, a typical solar generator can be rated for a maximum solar input power of 50W to 500W. Of course, there are outliers, such as tiny systems that can only handle 20W, while powerful generators can handle up to 1000W of solar energy.

Charging a solar generator with an AC outlet (wall)

If you’re heading to a camping or BBQ weekend, plugging your solar generator into an outlet in your home is a great way to recharge the battery. 

The Renogy 5000 watt solar generator can be charged to 80% in one hour. With that in mind, solar generators are now one of the best ways to quickly provide large amounts of power in an emergency situation or just for leisure.

Charging a solar generator with a vehicle

For anyone on the road, whether it’s a full-time van driver or a weekend tripper, a solar generator that charges with your vehicle is a convenient way to generate electricity on the go. Although some models require a separate adapter, many solar powered generators have a DC input that you can plug into your vehicle’s auxiliary power outlet.

Although this 12V DC source was originally intended for a cigarette lighter socket, it can also be used to continuously charge a solar generator battery. Because solar energy is stored as DC power, charging some generators with DC power can be faster than plugging the system into our home AC outlet.

Which solar modules do I need for my solar generator?

Solar generators are all designed for a specific amount of solar power. Depending on the size of the device, a given solar generator can handle 100W or 1000W of solar power.

That being said, it’s not always advisable to push a generator to its limits. In fact, the wattage figures are only approximate, and under ideal sun conditions, the battery for solar panel can actually “overproduce” electricity. With that in mind, we typically recommend sizing your solar panel system slightly below the rating of a generator. For example, a power plant with a rated output of 500 W can be charged most safely with 400 W of solar power.

Check out our guide to connecting solar panels to any solar generator:

Another important thing to keep in mind is that solar generators will work best with an even number of panels. These systems are easier to wire and there are many options for convenient 100W, 200W and larger solar panel packs.

Hours of Sunlight per Day: Why They Matter

In any given area of North America, a patch of land typically receives about 5 to 7 “good” hours of sunshine per day. This exact figure is highly dependent on location, weather conditions and time of year.

To generate electricity at the absolute best rate, solar panels work much better in the middle of the day. Even when it’s light outside, the “good” or “ideal” hours of sunshine for solar power systems are typically between 11 a.m. and 4 or 5 p.m.

When calculating how fast your solar panels can charge a battery, it’s important to remember that estimates are usually given under ideal sunlight conditions. That means solar generators that need more than 10 hours of sunlight to charge will rarely be able to do so on any given day. For this reason, efficient solar charging speeds and large input solar capacities are important features of a quality solar generator.

What kind of solar panels can you use with a solar generator?

Solar energy has been harvested from the sun to generate electricity for decades, which means the technology has evolved (and is still evolving). This means that solar generators can be charged with pretty much any type of modern solar panel. This includes:

Rigid Solar Modules Photovoltaic [PV]

Flexible solar panels for campers or for marine

Foldable solar panels (solar suitcases & blankets)

Flexible vs. rigid solar modules?

We are constantly asked what is better, flexible or rigid solar panels? And to tell you the truth, there is no right answer. Like many of the individual nuances that go into building the best solar power system, there are instances where flexible or rigid solar panels are the best choices.

Flexible solar panels are, well, flexible. They are ultra-thin and can be oriented at an angle of typically around 30 degrees. These properties make them excellent for conforming to curved surfaces such as B. the roof of a mobile home or the bow of a boat. Flexible solar panels are also very light and easy to install or remove.

So although flexible solar panels save space and money during installation, they are generally less efficient than rigid solar panels. Also, during its lifetime, a flexible solar panel is more likely to become scratched or damaged, limiting its performance potential.

Rigid solar panels are more commonly used in larger applications due to their efficiency and durability. Generally, rigid solar panels are permanently mounted in a fixed location, however new technologies such as “solar cases” have made portable rigid panels a possibility. Although they are heavier and may require permanent installation, a rigid solar panel will almost always outperform a flexible solar panel over the course of its lifetime.

Standard solar panels vs. foldable solar suitcases & solar carpets

You may have heard the term solar suitcase or solar blanket while researching solar generators. Solar suitcases are basically just two solar panels connected with a hinge and fitted with a handle so when you fold them up (like a suitcase) they are extremely portable and easy to manoeuvre.

Solar suitcases also come with stands or legs already built in, making them super easy to set up and point towards the sun. They don’t need to be leaned against the patio, house or picnic table, and they don’t need to be permanently mounted anywhere.

Rollable solar panels, on the other hand, are typically super slim solar panels that fold up like a blanket to the size of the blanket that would rest on the couch in your living room. These tend to be less powerful, but are a great portable option for trickle charging your generator when camping or outdoors. They are usually not enough for a good camping solar system

Warning (charge controller): Most solar suitcases have a built in charge controller – when it comes to using these with solar generators you will either have to remove the charge controller manually OR buy a solar suitcase without a charge controller( such as MPPT or PWM charging controller, because the solar generator already has a built in charge controller.

Monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline solar panels

To go into even more detail, there are monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panel options for both flexible and rigid solar panels. Both mono- and polycrystalline solar panels, as they are sometimes abbreviated, are both types of high-efficiency photovoltaic (PV) solar panels.

The difference between these two panel types lies in the way they are constructed. Monocrystalline modules are built with solar cells that are all made of a single crystalline silicon. In contrast, polycrystalline solar cells are made by fusing multiple fragments of the different silicon crystals together.

Monocrystalline solar panels are generally more efficient and consequently more expensive than their polycrystalline counterparts. In general, monocrystalline solar panels are darker (usually black) than polycrystalline solar panels, which are typically more blue in color.

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