Affiliate Disclaimer: If you click a link on this page, then go on to make a purchase, we may receive a commission - at no extra cost to you. Learn more

Thanks to the awareness created by a wide range of groups who care for our environment, more and more manufacturers are building generators that can be powered by the sunlight that penetrates the earth’s atmosphere.

These generators use solar panels to capture the light and convert it to energy that can be used for powering a wide variety of devices and appliances we commonly use at home, on the road, and in the wilderness.

So, if you’re looking for a great way to harness the free energy of the sun, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve pulled together a comprehensive overview of solar generators and a list of the five best portable solar generators currently on the market.

Quick-Find Solar Generator Table

Image Product
  • Best overall
  • Good power to weight ratio
  • Ultra portable
  • Best overall
  • Good power to weight ratio
  • Ultra portable
  • Great for camping
  • Perfect for small electronics
  • Built-in panels
  • Great for camping
  • Perfect for small electronics
  • Built-in panels
  • Best small generator
  • Very lightweight
  • Charges lots at once
  • Best small generator
  • Very lightweight
  • Charges lots at once
  • Great for RVing
  • Holds charge well
  • Powerful but light
  • Great for RVing
  • Holds charge well
  • Powerful but light
  • Great for backpacking
  • Less than 3 pounds
  • Great value
  • Great for backpacking
  • Less than 3 pounds
  • Great value

How Do Solar Generators Work?

Basically, generators are solar power systems that work on stored energy that’s gathered from sunlight.

Solar panels are made up of photovoltaic cells that capture sunlight and convert it into energy that can then be sent through the system to our appliances and electronics as a power source.

In generators, the energy that’s converted is stored in a large battery and is recharged by the sun every time the solar panels are exposed to sunlight.

That means that the person who uses a solar generator needs to set up the solar panels and generator and maintain the equipment. There are no on-going actions that need to be taken to keep the generator charging, as it will automatically recharge each time the solar panels are exposed to sunlight.

Advantages of Owning Solar Powered Generators

There are tons of advantages to getting your off-grid gear powered by a solar generator.

1. Solar Generators are Eco-Friendly

One of the biggest advantages to using a portable solar panel generator is that they’re way more eco-friendly than standard fueling sources!

“Normal” electricity, natural gas, and other options can damage the environment through the manufacturing, distribution, or mining processes.

Workers are often put at risk in managing these fuels as well.

Solar power, however, harnesses energy from the sun.

The sun is shining already – otherwise, well, we’d all be freezing to death right now – and the energy is non-destructive to the planet.

Sunlight is useful for way more than just getting a tan and keeping the blues away.

2. Solar Power Saves You Loads of $$$ in the Long Run

I admit that initially, harnessing solar power is going to cost you a fair bit getting setup.

You have to purchase generators and solar panels, the proper connectors, et cetera, but once you make that initial purchase, you don’t have to pay for your energy for as long as you’re able to maintain your equipment.

No more relying on the power station and gas bills for the stove, fridge and A/C in your solar-powered setup.

3. Solar Energy Power is Safe for Indoor Use

One of the other significant advantages of using solar power over a gas-powered generator is that you can safely do so indoors.

There’s less fire hazard and no fumes, so they’re a safe power source to use around your entire family – even that rambunctious puppy who likes to collide with everything.

4. Solar Energy is Quiet

Also, an advantage over gas-powered generators is that solar powered systems are quiet. They don’t have that roar that announces your location to every bird within a hundred miles.

This means they can comfortably be used indoors in your house or your RV or tent and won’t wake baby or grumpy grandpa.

5. Portable Solar Generators Can Be Used Anywhere

Solar generators, whether portable power or permanent, are easy to use. And even better, the portable ones can be used anywhere that there’s sunlight.

Set up your system and you’re good to go, literally anywhere in the world…even off-grid. You don’t have to find outlet converters or change plugs on your appliances. Just plug them in on your own system.

6. Sun-Powered Generators are Perfect for the Great Outdoors

Piggy-backing on that last thought, these generators really can be used anywhere.

You can take them camping, RVing, boating, wilderness trekking – anywhere you can transport your system. Just look for options that are lightweight enough that you can conveniently transport them.

Also, look for portable solar panels that fold up and tuck away neatly. These help you avoid bulk and extra weight.

7. You Don’t Have to Transport Fuel for Your Generator

Finally, you don’t have to worry about a variety of issues related to fuel.

You don’t have to transport it, you don’t have to keep it protected and covered, and you don’t have to spend a fortune on it. Win-win-win.

Reviews of the Best Solar Generators

There are literally dozens of options for solar power generators out there. Some are large enough to backup an entire house if the grid goes down, while others are much more suitable for a quick charge for your cellphone while chilling at the campsite.

We wanted to review a variety of options that work for these scenarios as well as several other common situations like RVs and backpacking.

How We Chose the Generators

Honestly, there’s loads of information out there that can get confusing if you don’t know all the ins and outs of electrical lingo. And who here does?

It took a lot of time studying to figure things out so that you’d have a better time of navigating such topics, but that’s why we’re here – to save you the time and make sense of alternative energy solutions.

I’ve pulled together the information in each of the solar generator reviews to make it easier for you.

And how I did this was through starting with a bunch of top 10 lists from other folks out there. Some of these were the life pros who use these generators every day for their outdoors/RVing/camping lifestyles, while other lists came from folks who have compared and reviewed for a company.

Each of these kinds of reviews has value to them, so I spent hours studying them to get the best understanding of real-life situations where these generators might be used.

I had a list of about forty generators to start with and immediately knocked out the ones that were clearly being hyped up, had low ratings from real users, or otherwise didn’t hold up to the standards I’ve addressed above and below.

From there, the list was narrowed to a dozen or so options that I felt deserved a deeper look.

That dozen options were thoroughly examined for value, usefulness, and power. And since I wanted options to recommend for your specific needs, I looked at each one in light of the uses I find valuable, such as camping, hiking/backpacking, RVing, et cetera.

All of that resulted in my list of the five best solar generators that you can read below.

#1. The Goal Zero Yeti 400 – Best Overall Solar Generator (EDITOR’S CHOICE)

goal zero yeti 400 best solar generator

Overall Rating: 4.9 out of 5 stars

The Goal Zero Yeti 400 portable power station is our top pick for generators to take with you into the great outdoors or on the road. It’s reasonably lightweight and works well with folding and portable solar panels that are super light-weight and easy-to-use.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Capacity: 396Ah at 3.6V (1425.6 Watt-hours)
  • Battery type/info: Lithium battery
  • Type of inverter: Pure sine wave AC inverter
  • Type of solar panel: Monocrystalline
  • Weight: 29 pounds
  • Size: 10.25 x 8 x 8 inches
  • Charge time by solar: 9 hours on a 90W panel

  • Charge time by AC/wall power: 5 hours
  • Charge time by DC: 13 hours
  • Battery life cycles: 500 charge cycles
  • USB outputs: 5V up to 2.4A, 12W max, regulated (2x)
  • AC outputs: 60Hz (2x)
  • DC outputs: 12V
  • Solar panels: Not included, 100W max

The Positives for the Goal Zero Yeti

First off, the Goal Zero Yeti solar generator is an ultra portable power generator. It’s much lighter weight and smaller than many other options and can be linked to panels that weigh as little as 3-pounds yet still produce the output you’re looking for.

Next, the generator has a long-lasting battery. It can retain the charge for at least three months without significant charge loss and can charge things like laptops up to 5 times before needing to be recharged itself.

The generator has direct USB ports available, meaning you can still work on those reports while camping in the wilderness and charge your phone at the same time without hassle.

You can also charge it with the power source of your choosing – AC wall outlet, DC, and solar.

Finally, and possibly most importantly, the Goal Zero Yeti has a super-fast recharge, if you’re using a higher-wattage panel. You can actually charge this sucker with only 9 hours of sunlight with a 90 to 100-watt solar panel.

The Negatives of the Goal Zero Yeti

The main complaint I’ve come across for the generator is that there’s no jump-start options. If your car battery kicks out, you can’t use this to get things going again.

Our Verdict for the Goal Zero Yeti 400 Solar Generator

Overall, we think the Goal Zero solar generator is the best portable solar generator for just about any occasion.

It’s great for camping, RVing, travel, off-the-grid hunting cabins, fishing trips, and boating.

It provides you with hours of safe power, indoors or out, and offers a wide range of versatility for charging.

>> Tap Here to Read More Reviews and See Today’s Price on <<

#2. The Renogy Phoenix – Best Solar Generator for Camping

renogy phoenix best solar generator

Overall Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars

If you’re looking for an all-in-one solar generator, the Renogy Phoenix is your go-to option. It looks like a large plastic briefcase and opens out into a versatile all-inclusive solar generator that packs up to 210 wattage hours. This extremely portable solar generator is perfect for camping, boating, or RVing.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Capacity: 210Wh
  • Battery type/info: 16Ah Li-ion
  • Type of inverter: Pure sine wave AC inverter
  • Type of solar panel: 20W Monocrystalline
  • Weight: 12.8 pounds
  • Size: 13.8 x 13.1 x 3.9 in
  • Charge time by solar: 8-10 hours
  • Charge time by AC/wall power: 5 hours
  • Charge time by DC: N/A
  • Battery life cycles: Unknown
  • USB outputs: 4x
  • AC outputs: 110
  • DC outputs: 12V Car and solar
  • Solar panels max: 20W included + max 100W

The Positives on the Phoenix

The Renogy Phoenix is completely safe for indoor use. And because of the case it’s housed in, it’s really great for outdoor use as well. It’s one of the most portable generators out there, in fact, so it’s hard not to recommend it for just about any kind of on-the-go activity you’ll need charging power for.

The Phoenix is small, reasonably lightweight, and compact enough that it’s easily taken along for camping and hunting trips.

You can power just about any small appliance with it as it has 4 USB ports – and charge your laptop several times, charge your phone pretty much as often as needed, and even charge a few things at once. The generator has multiple ports of various types, so you’re good to go for just about all electronic or small appliance.

This is also a great option for anyone traveling with a CPAP machine. You can easily use it all night to power your equipment, or at least know that you’ve got a solid backup if the power goes out.

It charges reasonably quickly in 5 hours by AC outlet or 8+ hours in the sun. That makes it a lot quicker and therefore more versatile than a lot of other options, especially in the portable solar generator realm.

One other nice thing is if you decide that the built-in panels aren’t enough, you can add on a 100W panel as well.

And while we declared this the best generator for camping, we’d also recommend this as the best option for remote workers who may be in areas where power isn’t as reliable as you’d like.

Plus, this would be perfect for travel photographers and the like working in countries where they’d otherwise need outlet converters.

Finally, we love the rugged design of this generator because it can handle a lot more than some of the more delicate options out there.

The Negatives of the Renogy Phoenix

Unfortunately, even amazing products have some downsides. The main one is that it’s not going to work for larger appliances unless you add in a 100W panel. And since of the biggest positives of the generator is that it’s self-contained, that’s going to be an issue for some.

Also, apart from CPAP machines, it’s not a great idea to expect this to power mandatory medical equipment for anything other than a short time. It’s got a lot of oomph for a small generator, but it’s just not big enough for large loads.

Finally, the Renogy Phoenix tends to be sensitive to heat. That means you can’t leave it in the sun for days on end or on really hot days. This isn’t usually too much of a problem, but you should definitely take some precautions with it, especially if you are using additional panels.

Our Verdict on the Renogy Phoenix

The Renogy Phoenix easily wins our title for safest outdoor portable solar generators. The case protects it in transit and while in the elements, and it contains all the pieces of your setup save the charging cords themselves. Just keep an eye out for overheating if it’s in direct sunlight for too long.

>> Tap Here to Read More Reviews and See Today’s Price on <<

#3. The Anker Powerhouse 120K – Best Small Portable Solar Generator

Overall Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars

The Anker Powerhouse 120K is by far our top pick for the best small solar panel generators. This is smaller than the average by twenty pounds and much easier to move around from location to location on your outdoor adventures.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Capacity: 434Wh
  • Battery type/info: Lithium battery
  • Type of inverter: Pure sine wave AC inverter
  • Type of solar panel: portable
  • Weight: 9.26 pounds
  • Size: 7.9 x 5.7 x 6.5 inches
  • Charge time by solar: 16 hours
  • Charge time by AC/wall power: 5 hours
  • Charge time by DC: N/A
  • Battery life cycles: Unknown, but Anker is renowned for longevity
  • USB outputs: 4x
  • AC outputs: 110V (1x)
  • DC outputs: 12V
  • Solar panels: Not included, 100W max

The Positives of the Anker Powerhouse

There are a number of fantastic things about this little generator.

First off, it’s a small lithium-ion battery solar generator that’s light enough that it’s perfect for the outdoorsy types. While you probably don’t want to go backpacking with it – nobody wants to add 9 pounds to their backpack – it is the perfect size for camping and using for day trips in the wilderness.

Next, this solar generator is powerful enough to charge up to 10 devices and can handle devices that are 160 watts. That’s pretty dang impressive for such a tiny charger.

Thirdly, the Powerhouse has a convenient carrying handle that makes it easy to take with you, pretty much wherever you need to go.

The Powerhouse holds a charge for a while, so you can charge your laptop up to 10 times before the generator needs its own recharge. Or you can charge your phone over forty times from a single charge of the battery.

And a particular use I’d recommend this for is anyone who goes camping with a CPAP machine. It’s powerful enough to run it all night.

Also, this is a great generator for use on a boat. It’s small enough that it’s not in the way, and the design makes it a perfect fit for small watercraft that need some power.

The Negatives of the Anker Powerhouse

When you read most of the reviews online for this generator, you’re going to find the “big” con mentioned is the weight and size.

However, those who are making this assessment are comparing this battery power to that of something like a power bank rather than a portable generator. Nine pounds is remarkably lightweight for a generator.

I can’t really find any actual negatives of this generator, except perhaps the price. While technically this isn’t that pricey for a generator of this nature, it is a bit pricey for some people who are looking to power their picnics and not their fridge.

Our Verdict on the Anker Powerhouse 120K

While the Anker Powerhouse isn’t literally the smallest generator on the market, it is certainly one of the best small solar generators on the market, and we can heartily recommend for any outdoor activity apart from trekking on foot.

This little powerhouse can charge up to 10 electronics at the same time, or recharge things like cellphones over and over throughout a weekend in the woods.

>> Tap Here Read More Reviews and Check Today’s Price on <<

#4. The EcoFlow River – Best Solar Generator for RVs

Overall Rating: 3.9 out of 5 stars

The EcoFlow River is our top pick for the RVing crowd. This powerful but lightweight solar powered generator is extremely versatile, has a shelf-life of one year for holding that charge, and is capable of safely charging while you’re on the road.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Capacity: 412Wh
  • Battery type/info: Lithium polymer battery
  • Type of inverter: Pure sine wave inverter
  • Type of solar panel: 50W Monocrystalline
  • Weight: 10.8 pounds
  • Size: 9.8 x 6.3 x 8.2 inches
  • Charge time by solar: 12 hours
  • Charge time by AC/wall power: 6 hours
  • Charge time by DC: 9 hours
  • Battery life cycles: Unknown
  • USB outputs: 6x
  • AC outputs: 300W (2x)
  • DC outputs: 200W (2x)
  • Solar panels: Not included, 50W max

The Positives of the EcoFlow River Generator

One of the immediate notable things on the EcoFlow River is that you can power a load of different devices all at once. Some people have had eleven things charging at once, thanks to the multitude of outlets, including 6 USB ports.

That’s pretty darn impressive.

And extremely handy for anyone who uses a lot of devices while functioning off-the-grid.

The EcoFlow River is reasonably lightweight and powerful, which are two of the biggest reasons we’ve made this our pick for the best generator for RVing. The power and the wide range of items that can be charged make it great for all your needs in the RV, including your mini-fridge.

The EcoFlow River is also extremely portable, so it easily moves from the RV to a photo shoot location, drone flying zone, or into a hunting lodge.

This generator also has a massive LCD display to show battery charge, watts in use, and the remaining hours of charge you’ve got.

The Negatives of the EcoFlow River

The EcoFlow, like most generators, is a bit heavy for backpacking or hiking with. But honestly, I can’t really find much of a downside to this amazing solar generator.

It’s powerful, portable, lightweight, and super versatile. It’s kind of the perfect little generator for anyone looking to RV, camp, boat, or just about anything else where a solar generator is needed.

Our Verdict on the EcoFlow River

The EcoFlow River is truly an incredible piece of equipment. This generator will power pretty much any small appliance or electronic device and is portable enough to work for any outdoor activity save backpacking/hiking.

There are really no downsides to this equipment, and we’re certain you’ll have hours of power for every charge, as long as you have sunlight.

>> Tap Here to Read More Reviews and See Today’s Price on <<

#5. Suaoki Portable Solar Generator – Best Solar Generator for Backpacking/Hiking

Overall Rating: 3.7 out of 5 stars

Before starting the review, I want to note that this is also the best cheap solar generator. It’s reasonably high powered, it’s lightweight, and it’s compact. Great value.

The Suaoki Portable solar generator is hands down the best option for anyone needing a lightweight, easy-to-pack generator for hiking, backpacking, or anything else when you’ll be carrying your equipment a ways.

It’s the lightest option on the market – at least among quality generators – and you won’t find anything nearly as powerful in such a small size apart from this one.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Capacity: 150Wh
  • Battery type/info: Lithium battery
  • Type of inverter: Pure sine wave AC
  • Type of solar panel: 100W Monocrystalline
  • Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Size: 7.3 x 6.45 x 2.12 inches
  • Charge time by solar: 12-14 hours
  • Charge time by AC/wall power: 8 hours
  • Charge time by DC: 10-12 hours
  • Battery life cycles: unknown
  • USB outputs: 4x
  • AC outputs: 2x 100W/150W
  • DC outputs: 4x 180W
  • Solar panels: Not included, 100W max

The Positives of the Suaoki Portable

First off, the major advantage of the Suaoki portable is that it’s super small and lightweight. It’s perfect for taking off the beaten path for your photography adventures, hiking trips, backpacking treks, or anywhere else that you can’t load the generator up in a vehicle.

A second fantastic thing about this one is that the Suaoki is very reasonably priced. You’re unlikely to find a better-priced generator that’s so portable and powerful at once.

The Suaoki is also loaded with safety features, like the voltage and temperature controls that keep you from burning up the generator, starting fires, or ruining electronics.

It’s even got 3 ways to charge it: AC power wall outlet power supply, DC power supply, and solar.

This little generator is really powerful for such a compact piece, and it’s remarkably reliable. If you need to power small devices, CPAP machines, or electronics that you need to guarantee will work, this is your portable generator to count on.

The Negatives of the Suaoki Portable

One of the negatives is that there’s no way to jumpstart your car with this. Sometimes when you’re out in the wilderness, things happen, and having the ability to do this emergency task with your generator would be ideal.

Also, while the generator itself is fairly low-cost, the setup items aren’t as cheap. You’ll have to buy both the panel(s) and the battery pack, which will bring up the price a bit.

Our Verdict on the Suaoki Portable

For an inexpensive and super small generator, the Suaoki portable is a top-notch option. We think this will make the perfect addition to your backpacking equipment, especially if you’re out in the wilderness for any length of time without access to an outlet.

>> Tap Here to Read More Reviews and See Today’s Price on <<

Solar Generator Runner-Ups

While these aren’t necessarily our absolute top picks, one runner-up option includes the Patriot solar generator.

It’s quite a bit larger than the others, weighing in at 37.5 pounds, and has a heftier price tag of $2000. It’s an excellent generator with 2000 life cycles, multiple outlets of all kinds, and 1500 continuous watts of power. The power is practical, but the setup isn’t particularly convenient for portable situations.

Our other runner-up is no longer being manufactured, but if you can find one, it’s definitely worth investing in. The Inergy Kodiak solar generator is the most powerful solar generator we’ve found.

Unfortunately, it was recently discontinued – or at least we can’t find it for sale anywhere. These solar generators for sale are probably on eBay still, but since we cannot find them on standard sale channels, we didn’t want to focus a full review on them.

When Is a Solar Generator The Best Option?

Solar generators can be used to power a wide variety of things. Camping equipment, RVing equipment, boating, and even small appliances like laptops and cellphones can be powered by a portable solar generator when properly set up and maintained.

Small Electronics

Small electronics can be connected to solar powered generators. You have to use some precautions, of course, and avoid things like plugging them in via extension cords, tempting as that may be. But, if you can create the right set-up, you’ll be good to go on a variety of devices.

Tent Camping

When you go camping, a solar powered generator is a perfect option to reduce your carbon footprint and have more versatility. You’ll have to set up camp the right way, but it’s well worth it.

You can run fans, tent air conditioners, cell phone chargers, or pretty much whatever else you bring with you. And, if it’s a working vacation, you can still run that laptop when you have to sit down and type up those reports.

Start off with a fully charged battery before you start your camping trip. Then, when you get to your campsite, you’ll want to set up two portable solar panels to collect and replenish enough energy for your setup.

Just make sure you set up the panels in the best spot for them to get sunlight for recharging the battery.


solar panels installed on a small RV
Solar Powered RV, by Andrew Fresh, Flickr

If you’re more of a “take it all with you” kind of camper or want to live on the road in your RV, solar generators are perfect for getting you off the grid.

Just like with tent camping, you’ll need to set up your solar generator kit with a fully charged battery when you first start out. Next, place your panels in the sunniest spot possible, and connect everything as necessary.

You’ll be able to power your home-away-from-home without any issue. Cell phone chargers, televisions, electric coffee makers – whatever you need powered, you’re covered.

Find the best solar panels for RVs here.

Boating and Fishing

While portable gas-powered generators aren’t a great idea for boating, solar generators are much safer to use out on the water.

They can power your cabin air conditioner, your refrigerator or freezer, or just about anything that you need to help keep your fishing prize cool and your sleeping comfortable.

You’ll need to examine the wattage of your equipment, though, to make sure you’re getting a generator powerful enough to do everything you need out there.

Hunting Lodges

Portable solar panels on the roof of a lodge to power the best solar generator

For those of us who like to keep a hunting lodge, a solar power generator is a great option. They’ll help you keep that lodge off the grid and still power everything you need.

For running a whole cabin off of solar power, however, you’ll want a bigger setup than you’d need for an RV or campsite. You’ll need some extra batteries and panels to make sure you can store enough power to run the lights every night.

Remote Cameras and Comms

Finally, I’d like to mention that solar generators are perfect for powering remote cameras and communications set ups. Solar generators recharge on their own, so you don’t have to make trips out to check them nearly as often.

Maintain the panels and generators as usual, and just add in a few extra trips a year just to make sure things haven’t been displaced.

What Can A Solar Generator Power, and for How Long?

Technically, solar generators can charge anything that requires electricity.

If you have a battery large enough, you can run a refrigerator or power a full lighting setup for your house. However, the size of the battery, the location of your solar panels, and the number of solar panels will all affect how long you can run things, and which appliances you can run.

For some of the basics, add up the things you’ll want to run at once to find out what capacity generator you’ll need:

  • Coffee maker – 600 to 1200 watts
  • Blender – 300 to 1000 watts
  • Hot plate – 750 to 1500 watts
  • Refrigerator – 500 to 750 watts after initial start
  • Box fan – 50 to 120 watts
  • Clock radio – 10 to 50 watts
  • Cell phone charger – 10 watts

As you can see, that’s a wide range of wattages.

To find out how much and how long you can run each appliance, you’ll need to know the capacity of the generator you need. This is usually given in watt-hours, though sometimes in amp-hours and voltage, which can then be used to find the Watt-hours available from a single charge.

For example, our top pick, the Goal Zero Yeti 400 has a capacity of 396 Ah at 3.6 volts. Using an online calculator, and converting Amp-hours to milliamp-hours (multiply by 1000), we can see that the Yeti 400 has 1425.6 Watt-hours (Wh).

Therefore, we can assume that it would run a 10 watt cell phone charger for 142.56 hours, or a 1200 watt coffee maker for just over 1 hour.

How Long Does It Take to Charge A Solar Generator?

I wish I had an easy answer for you, but the reality is, there are a variety of variables that affect how long it takes to charge a solar powered generator.

How much sun a location gets, for example, will have a big impact. Someone in Torshavn Faroe Islands – the cloudiest city in the world – will have to give his generator a lot longer to charge than someone living in sunny Florida.

The other factors, like time of day that you charge, and the latitude can also change the charge time. The maximum input current of the charge controller also plays a huge part in the charge time.

One of the other biggest factors is the number of solar panels you have pulling in the power for the generator. Many of the quotes you’ll see in blog posts state defined amounts of hours, but these are based only on the information that particular blogger has access through his own equipment.

Ultimately, all of these factors, and others mean that it can take anywhere from three hours to all day to fully charge your battery with a solar kit.

So, as you shop for your generator, make getting the right number of solar panels is a high priority to reduce your charge time if you live in lower-light areas.

How Do You Set Up Your New Generator?

Your basic solar powered energy system is pretty easy to put together. Everything works together like a module setup, and everything connects or “snaps” together into a unit.

The setup will usually include:

  • Battery(s)
  • Solar Panel(s)
  • Solar Charger
  • Inverter

The tools you may need include:

  • Side cutters
  • Philip’s head screwdriver
  • Wire strippers


1. First, you’ll connect the battery to the solar charger or generator.

The solar charger usually has six terminals which are labeled as negative and positive. They’re also illustrated with the portion of the system that should be connected to it: The solar panel, the battery, and the devices you’re plugging in.

2. After the battery has been connected and the display on the charger lights up, you’ll be ready to connect the solar panels.

3. Third, you’ll connect your inverter, if required. Read the instructions that come in the manuals for this step to verify the connections are being made correctly.

4. Now you’re ready to start connecting your electronic devices and charge as usual.

How to Buy a Portable Solar Power System Generator

Before you purchase your fuelless solar generator, you should consider several things to make sure you’re getting the best option for your purposes.

Things to Look For

First, let’s take a look at the specific things you want to evaluate and the features to look out for in a solar generator for RV or camping or backup power.

Types of Solar Panels

There are seven types of solar panels that you may find as you’re shopping.

As you look at the generators, you’ll need to know which types can be used with the generators – and look up the prices to make sure they’re in budget as well! – and whether or not the generator(s) you’re interested in come with some panels or not.

Most commonly you will find the monocrystalline panels are used for personal solar power systems.

  • Monocrystalline solar panels
  • Polycrystalline solar panels
  • Thin-film solar panels
  • Amorphous silicon solar panels
  • Biohybrid solar panels
  • Cadmium Telluride solar panels
  • Concentrated PV cell solar panels

Each type of solar panel has a different solar power output and are made using different types of methods out of different materials. The processes used to make them, and the material costs, will greatly determine the price you’ll pay for the different types of panels and any future maintenance costs.

Battery Capacity

Battery capacity refers to how much charge a battery can transfer to an item being powered or charged by the battery. The higher the battery capacity, the longer the run time of the battery.

Portability and Size

When you’re headed into the great outdoors for a hiking trip, camping trip, or just putting the generator in the RV, the portability and size of the generator are going to make a huge difference.

Lightweight options will work best for these settings, while heavier ones are more suitable for RVing, home backup units, hunting lodges, and boats – depending on how big they are.

For camping, you’ll want one small enough to easily pack in with your gear, weighing no more than about 15 pounds.

For backpacking and hiking, you’ll want one that’s small enough to be loaded into a backpack and weighs no more than five pounds. Ideally, you’ll find one that weighs less than three pounds.

Features to Watch For

Some of the most important features about solar generators will include things like the number of ports, the types of ports, and how long it will require you to charge the generator before full use.

Sometimes, a partial charge will work – charging a cellphone doesn’t require that much energy – while other times you’ll need the full charge.

Some Disadvantages and Things to Avoid

As with all good things, there are disadvantages and things to avoid as well when looking into solar electric generators. Keep these things in mind as you shop.

Make Sure the Generator Works for Your Appliances

It’s easy to see a sale price and immediately pick up a great generator. But it’s important to make sure that you check things like the capacity and setup of a solar power system before buying.

Some are suitable for larger items like the solar backup generator, while others are only intended for smaller things like running your boat A/C for an afternoon on the water.

Check Your Budget and Up-front Costs to Be Aware Of

One of the biggest things most of us need to consider before purchasing a generator is the up-front cost. Many of the best portable generators cost several hundred dollars, while the larger capacity generators can cost thousands.

Think carefully through your needs and determine if the up-front costs will be worth it to you right now, or if you need to set some money aside.

You’ll need to consider these costs:

  • The generator itself
  • Solar panel(s)
  • Battery(s)

The three main components can add up pretty quickly unless you purchase a singly-contained unit and add on additional solar panels at a later date.

Don’t Plan to Run an Entire House in a Black Out

While a solar generator can run the basics of an RV or hunting lodge, you’re not really going to be able to rely on it for emergency power for your entire house by one if a black-out occurs.

You’ll be able to run things like your fridge and cellphone charger for a while, but this is not a long-term solution to a standing outage.

The standard solar generator can’t produce enough power to run your household’s appliances. Technically, a giant one could, but the cost for one of these is prohibitive, as is the practicality of it.

You can, however, have one or two to run specific appliances on a regular basis or in the case of an emergency situation when a power outage happens.

Make sure that your setup is designed specifically for these varied needs – meaning you’ll need to bring in an electrician to do some things to ready your home for this kind of power.

Generators Won’t Charge Immediately

As I’ve noted elsewhere, solar generators don’t instantly recharge.

Most times, it will take a good chunk of the day for a full recharge, and that will vary on the weather. An overcast day still produces power, but since the sun isn’t directly shining on the panels, you may have a slower charging time.

How Much Work is Involved in Maintenance for a Solar Generator?

Basic maintenance of your solar panels and generator is not incredibly time-consuming.

The solar panels need to be cleaned every quarter – dust, leaves, and other debris can collect and block their effectiveness otherwise.

Occasionally repairs will need to be made, as well, but these are far from monthly situations.

How to Safely Use a Portable Solar Generator

It’s important to know the safety precautions to take when using a portable solar generator.

While solar powered energy is significantly safer than using a gas-powered generator, there are still some precautions you need to take.

1.  Read the operating manual thoroughly before installing your generator and solar panels. This manual will inform you more clearly on the specific aspects of your equipment and how to install and operate them safely.

2. Always check power cords for frays and breaks. You’re still running electricity here, so a broken line or frayed end can burn someone or even cause a fire.

3. When you need to maintain your solar panels, never climb onto them. While it might seem like you need to for getting leaves and debris off, you could seriously damage the panels – or yourself – by climbing on them. Use a secure A-frame ladder instead and a solar-panel-safe cleaning tool.

4. Remember that when the sun is shining, the solar panels are collecting power and generating electricity. Opening the utility disconnect switch does not stop this process. Always treat your equipment as you would live wires and sockets.

5. Do not use extension cords with your generator. Instead, plug the appliances directly into the outlets on the generator.

6. If you plan to install a transfer switch, have a licensed electrician do this for you. This requires an electrical permit and inspection in most areas.

Learn how to build your own DIY solar generator here.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *