Science Energy The 5 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 March 27, 2021 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 High Capacity: MAXOAK Bluetti Portable Power Station at Walmart "The MAXOAK Bluetti stores plenty of power at an affordable price." 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 for Home: Point Zero Energy Titan Solar Generator at Pointzeroenergy.com "True to its name, the Titan packs enough juice to power household appliances." Best Budget: TACKLIFE P50 500Wh Portable Power Station at Amazon "The simple yet solid TACKLIFE power station is an affordable, portable option." 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, hunting, 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 five generators that are compatible with solar panels. Best Overall: Goal Zero Yeti 1500X Portable Power Station Buy on Amazon Buy on Home Depot Buy on Lowe's 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 High Capacity: MAXOAK Bluetti Portable Power Station Buy on Walmart Buy on Amazon 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 lightweight and portable enough take along on a fishing or camping 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. Best Portable: Jackery Solar Portable Generator Buy on Amazon Weighing in at 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. 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 for Home: Point Zero Energy Titan Solar Generator Buy on Pointzeroenergy.com True to its name, the Titan is packed with power. Its 3000-watt inverter has enormous output capacity for powering up household appliances like refrigerators and portable AC units with ease. Are you in heavy cloud cover? No problem. The Titan includes a stackable battery bank that holds multiple batteries as backups. You can recharge the generator via solar panels, an AC outlet, or a DC car charger. It also offers six AC outlets, four DC outlets, and eight USB ports (including the newer type C) that can be used simultaneously. THE MPPT charge controllers allow it to reach full battery capacity in about four hours making the Titan a versatile, efficient, and reliable backup plan. Best Budget: TACKLIFE P50 500Wh Portable Power Station Buy on Amazon 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. The 7 Best Solar Power Banks of 2021 What To Look for in a Solar Generator 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 to consider: 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. Final Verdict 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. If you’re looking for something high powered to help you weather a storm, choose a high-capacity beast like the Titan. If you need something portable for a camping trip, then the Jackery 500 might be your best new travel buddy. 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.