Science Energy The 6 Best Solar-Powered Generators of 2021 Never be powerless again thanks to these handy backups. By Heidi Wachter Heidi Wachter is a freelance writer, passionate about dogs, travel and adventure, solving the climate crisis, and projects that serve the greater good. She has written for publications like Experience Life, Shondaland, and Betterpet.com. our editorial process Heidi Wachter Updated June 28, 2021 Fact checked by Elizabeth MacLennan Fact Checker University of Tennessee Elizabeth MacLennan is a fact checker and expert on climate change. Our Fact-Checking Process Article fact-checked on Mar 28, 2021 Elizabeth MacLennan Share Twitter Pinterest Email Energy Renewable Energy Fossil Fuels Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links. The Rundown Best Overall: Goal Zero Yeti 1500X Portable Power Station at Amazon Charge your laptop, phone, drill, coffee maker, and refrigerator all at once with the Yeti. Best Portable: Jackery Solar Portable Generator at Amazon Weighing in at 13.3 pounds, the Jackery lets you take solar powered electricity on the go. Best Budget: Jackery Explorer 160 Portable Power Station at Amazon While many of the budget generators still cost over $200, this option comes in at under $150 and has a two-year warranty. Best High Capacity: Bluetti 2000W Portable Power Station at Walmart The Bluetti 2000W Portable Power Station can be charged five different ways and has 17 different output ports. Best Budget: TACKLIFE P50 500Wh Portable Power Station at Walmart The simple yet solid TACKLIFE power station is an affordable, portable option. Was: Best High Capacity: MAXOAK Bluetti Portable Power Station at Walmart The MAXOAK Bluetti stores plenty of power at an affordable price. It’s always good to have a backup in life — especially when the power goes out. Gas-powered generators can do the trick, but they’re loud, emit smelly fumes, and require a place for storing gasoline safely. They also contribute to climate change. Solar generators, on the other hand, are clean, easy to use, don't require fossil fuels, and are becoming more and more affordable as solar technology improves. They can be particularly useful in emergency situations where other fuel supplies are cut off or difficult to access. Solar generators typically capture the sun’s energy via solar panels that are sold separately, convert it into electrical power, and store it in a battery for later use. What’s the best generator for you? First, estimate how much power you need to run appliances, laptops, and televisions in your home should a power outage occur or for whatever you’ll need to power up while you’re camping, living off the grid, or traveling in an RV. An average household refrigerator requires 100 to 400 watts. This handy calculator offers info on the watts needed to power other commonly used items. Once you know how many watts you’ll need; consider the other features you want such as USB charging ports and rechargeable batteries. You can avoid blowing your budget by selecting a generator with features that make the unit more efficient rather than more expensive. We researched the market to recommend the top generators that are compatible with solar panels. Best Overall: Goal Zero Yeti 1500X Portable Power Station View On Amazon Output: 2000 watts | Weight: 43 pounds | Dimensions: 19 x 14 x 14 inches | Output Ports: 2 USB-A ports, 1 18 watt USB-C, 1 60 watt USB-C PP, 1 6mm port, 1 12 Volt (regulated), 1 12 volt HPP, 2 120 Volt AC inverters Need to power your laptop, phone, power drill, coffee maker, and refrigerator all at once? The Goal Zero Yeti 1500x is a high-capacity power station that supplies electricity with the touch of a button or the Yeti 3.0 app. Weighing in at 43 pounds, it’s a solar option for those living the van life. The lithium battery supplies 1500-watt hours, so you can charge your phone a hundred times or run a refrigerator for up to a day. Its industry-leading 2000-watt AC inverter is one of the most powerful on the market. The integrated MPPT charge controller increases efficiency by 30 percent when recharged with a compatible Goal Zero solar panel. Everything is backed by a two year warranty. The 5 Best Rechargeable Batteries of 2021 Best Portable: Jackery Explorer 500 Solar Portable Generator View On Amazon View On Jackery.com Output: 500 Watts | Weight: 13.3 pounds | Dimensions: 11.8 x 7.6 x 9.5 inches | Output Ports: 1 AC outlet (110V 500W 1000W Peak), 3 USB ports, 2 DC ports, 1 car port Weighing in at a relatively light 13.3 pounds, the compact, durable, and affordable Jackery Explorer 500 lets you take solar-powered electricity along on every adventure. The 500-watt inverter provides enough juice for charging multiple devices in any either of the AC or DC ports or one of the three USB ports. It comes with a car charging cable and an AC adaptor. Like many of the solar generators in the Jackery family, the unit can be recharged from an AC wall outlet or with a Jackery SolarSaga solar panel (sold separately). The 518-watt rechargeable battery will need replacing after about 500 uses, but that’s after a lot of camping trips. The 7 Best Reusable Utensils of 2021 Best Budget: Jackery Explorer 160 Portable Power Station View On Amazon View On Jackery.com Output: 100 watts | Weight: 3.97 pounds | Dimensions: 7.4 x 4.5 x 6.7 inches | Output Ports: 1 100 watt AC outlet, 1 USB-C, 1 USB-A While many of the budget generators still cost over $200, this affordable option from Jackery comes in at under $150 and has a two-year warranty. It’s also one of the lightest option on the market at just under 4 pounds, making it another great pick for camping or even backpacking. It can be charged using a solar panel, wall outlet, car outlet or electric generator. It’s great for charging your phone or camera, or running small appliances like a fan or laptop. It has a surge capacity of 150 watts, but you should avoid using it with any device that has a 100 watt or higher rating. Best High Capacity: Bluetti AC200P 2000WH/2000W Portable Power Station View On Walmart View On Amazon View On Bluettipower.com Output: 2000 watts | Weight: 60.6 pounds | Dimensions: 16.5 x 11 x 15.2 inches | Output Ports: 6 110 Volt AC outlets, 1 DC 12 Volt/10A, 1 DC 12 Volt/25A, 2 DC 12 Volt/3A outlets, 4 USB-A ports, 1 USC-C port, 2 wireless charging ports With just as many watts as our Best Overall pick, the Bluetti 2000W Portable Power Station can be charged five different ways and has 17 different output ports, each of which is covered by a high-quality dust cap. You can charge it using solar panels (not included), a via a wall outlet, car plug, using a generator, or lead acid battery. It comes with three charging cables, and a lead-acid battery charging cable can be purchased separately (view on Bluetti). You can hook up a number of smaller devices, at the same time, like a laptop, camera charger and several phones. Or you can use it as back-up power for larger appliances — according to the manufacturer, you can power an 800 wall refrigerator with this power station for over two hours. A nice feature is the LED touch screen, which can tell you how much energy you’re drawing down and how much battery charge is remaining. You can also set it to an Eco mode, which will shut the device down if it senses you’re not using it after several hours. It has rubberized feet, so the unit won’t slip around on smooth surfaces. It’s also quite heavy so it’s not ideal for camping situations where you’d need to carry it, but it is compact enough to fit into a car trunk. Best Budget: TACKLIFE P50 500Wh Portable Power Station View On Walmart View On Tacklifetools.com Output: 500 watts | Weight: 13.6 pounds | Dimensions: 10.2 x 7.8 x 7.7in inches | Output Ports: 110 volt AC Output, DC 12V 10A, 12V 3A, 2 USB ports, PD 45W Type-C Port The simple-yet-solid TACKLIFE 500 watt hour power station is an affordable, portable option that can serve as an outdoor electrical source or as an emergency backup for a medical device, like a CPAP machine, during a power outage. Charge your phone, tablet, laptop, GoPro, or small appliances while recharging the generator with an AC adapter, car port charger, or solar panel (not included). The handles fold for easy storage. Was: Best High Capacity: MAXOAK Bluetti Portable Power Station View On Walmart View On Amazon Output: 1000 watts | Weight: 37.9 pounds | Dimensions: 14.6 x 6.5 x 14.4 inches | Output Ports: 2 110 Volt AC outlets, 1 12 Volt regulated DC, 45 watt USB-C, 4 USB-A ports The Bluetti stores plenty of power at an affordable price. It’s 1500-watt-hour lithium-ion battery is quick-charging and ample for powering up most home appliances during a blackout. It weighs 37.9 pounds. While it serves as a great home power supply during an emergency, the MaxOak Bluetti is also portable enough take along on fishing or a road trip. It includes two AC ports and five USB outlets and a 12-volt DC outlet that can handle a mini-fridge. There’s also a nifty LCD display to help you track the generator’s performance. The 6 Best Solar Power Banks of 2021 Final Verdict If you’re looking for something high powered to help you weather a storm, choose a high-capacity generator like the Bluetti Portable Power Station (view on Walmart). If you need something portable for a camping trip, then the Jackery 500 (view on Jackery) might be your best new travel buddy. What To Look for in a Solar Generator When deciding what solar powered generator is right for you, consider which types of appliances, tools, and devices you need to charge and how often you’ll be without a traditional power source. Here are some other tips to help guide your decision-making. Solar Panels There are three common types of solar panels — monocrystalline panels, polycrystalline solar cells, and thin film, or amorphous crystal panels. They each offer different efficiency levels. Monocrystalline panels are most common and slightly more efficient than polycrystalline cells. Thin film panels are a newer technology and are light, flexible, durable, and more affordable than the others, but about half as efficient as the other types. Sometimes they’re included with the generator and sometimes they’re sold separately. Battery Capacity and Power Rating Solar generators run on stored energy so you’ll want to consider the battery’s capacity (the total amount of electricity stored). You’ll also want to know the power rating (how much power is delivered at a time). A battery with a high capacity, but low power rating typically delivers less electricity for a longer period of time. Battery Type Lead-acid and lithium-ion are the most common options. Lead acid are used to power things like automobiles, while lithium-ion options are often used to run power tools. They’re increasingly used in solar-powered generators because they’re lightweight. While they tend to be more expensive than lead-acid varieties, they typically have a longer lifespan which saves money on replacement batteries and keeps them out of landfills. Charge Controllers In order to regulate the current between the solar panels and the battery, the simplest controllers cut the power when maximum voltage is reached. This isn’t as efficient as models that use three- power point tracking (MPPT). Inverter Converting direct current (DC) from solar panels to alternating current (AC), inverters carry a watt rating to show the maximum output of power they can generate. Pure sine wave inverters are more expensive, but more efficient. But they’re not necessarily a cost-effective option if you only plan on using the generator occasionally. Weight Will you be using your solar generator in your home or on the go? For portability, look for units that are easier to carry and maneuver, and that house parts in a sturdy box rather than as separate pieces. Other Features Note presence of multiple USB ports and AC outlets, replaceable batteries, and LED panels that help you monitor your system when it’s dark. Finally, consider units with warranties and made by companies with a solid solar industry credentials. Why Trust Treehugger? Treehugger is committed to helping our readers transition away from fossil fuels. Being a travel and adventure writer for many years, author Heidi Wachter knows how handy the sun’s rays can be for keeping her phone and camera charged.