This Portable Solar Charger Is Big Enough to Be Your Emergency Home Power Source

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Portable solar panels sitting in the grass with a cat rubbing up against the corner

Jill Ferry Photography / Getty Images 

It's described as an "off-grid home solar system in a box," and it could be a much safer option for home backup power than a gas generator.

Portable solar has come a long way from the horribly inefficient and ill-designed devices of just a few short years ago, which were all too often more of a gimmick than a reliable and effective source of energy for daily use. With the increase in solar cell efficiencies, improved manufacturing processes, and better battery technology that we've been seeing recently, it's now possible to buy a portable solar charger and power pack that is not only affordable, but is also actually effective and practical. And that's great for keeping our gadgets charged, but considering that our daily personal power needs are much higher than just that of our gizmos, and that if the electricity goes out, we have no way to keep essential appliances running, so while we'll be able to have a fully charged phone, we'll also have our own little global warming event in our freezer.

However, one of the recent trends in portable solar setups is bigger panels paired with larger capacity battery storage (often called solar generators), which can be a huge boon when working off-grid or traveling or lighting up a tiny house. These larger solar systems can serve as a microgrid by supplying both AC (house current) with an onboard inverter, and DC (portable gizmos, charging batteries), and by offering a number of different output ports (USB, 12V auto, RV plugs, standard 110V outlet) and charging options (house current, solar panels, additional battery bank, auto plug). In fact, an appropriately-sized battery bank, charged by a similarly-sized set of solar panels, can be an excellent way of ensuring you've got emergency power in the event of an outage, and one that is clean and quiet to operate.

A More Portable Solar Option

The latest offering in this category is currently enjoying a successful Indiegogo campaign, and is billed as being "the world's most compact, lightweight, expandable, and modular solar system," capable of supplying sufficient backup power for a home's essential needs. You can't exactly just plug your entire home into it when the power's out, for a number of reasons, but you can use it to selectively power a number of household appliances, medical devices, or lighting.

At the core of the system from Inergy Solar is the Kodiak, a compact lithium-ion battery pack weighing in at 20 pounds and measuring 7" x 14" x 8", with rated capacity of 90 Ah. It includes all the bells and whistles you need for most applications, and it is designed to be able to be connected to another external battery system, which makes the capacity expandable as desired.

Energy Specs and Pricing

For solar charging, the company is offering its 50 W Predator solar panels, which weigh in at about 4 pounds and are said to be both waterproof and shatterproof, and which are designed to be able to be chained together (up to 5) to charge the Kodiak. Two of the panels should deliver a full charge to the Kodiak in about 11 hours, according to Inergy, and this time can be cut further by adding additional panels to the system.

Right now, Inergy is offering the Kodiak with five of the solar panels to backers at the $1767 level, or the Kodiak with a single panel for $1260, or a single 50 W Predator panel for $140. These prices are said to be about 30% less than the future retail price of the units, and will be delivered to backers in February 2016. Although these products vary in their specs from a comparable system made by a leading manufacturer, for comparison purposes it's helpful to know that the Goal Zero Yeti 1250 power pack sells for about $1600 and weighs about 100 pounds, and the Goal Zero Nomad 100 W solar panel sells for $750.