Best Solar Generators for 2022 - CNET

2022-12-17 13:18:21 By : Ms. Sabrina Kang

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Recharge you portable power station anywhere the sun shines. Find our tested picks below. Portable Solar Station

Best Solar Generators for 2022 - CNET

One of the newest innovations in portable power mirrors the trends in power for your home: solar panels and batteries . Portable power stations have been around for a while, but adding solar panels to provide a charge on the go is the natural next step. Put portable power stations and solar panels together and you have a solar generator.

Solar generators, like their gas-powered counterparts , are portable sources of backup power for your home for when the lights go out. They can keep your devices charged up while you're enjoying the outdoors on a camping trip, too, without the noise and toxic fumes. With portable solar panels, you can recharge these stations anywhere the sun shines, even when the power is out.

We've tested the leading solar generators to see how they stack up against each other, and have chosen our favorites below. There are solar generators for a wide variety of needs and occasions, from smaller, car battery-sized options you could easily carry along with you to high-powered, checked bag-sized ones that, while definitely portable, take a little more to move. All the solar generators on our best list performed well in testing and have a variety of features that boost their values. I'll also include those we tested but didn't quite make the cut, explain our testing process and answer some FAQs below, too. (You can also check out our picks for the best portable power stations , and the best portable generators .)

The Jackery Solar Generator 2000 Pro is a fast-charging battery with an impressive capacity for adding solar panels, which means it'll charge quickly anywhere. Our test had it reaching 100% charge using AC power from a wall outlet in just under two hours -- about twice as fast as the other large solar generators we tested. Jackery says the Generator can charge with solar in two and a half hours if you have six solar panels. 

Our tests also showed that the Jackery Explorer 2000 (the power station part of this generator) uses about 86% of its stated capacity of 2,160 watt-hours. That's about average for the industry. The Jackery SolarSaga 200 (the solar panel part of the generator) has an impressive 24.3% efficiency rating and a capacity of 200 watts. The solar generator can be charged with a maximum solar input of 1,400 watts, the highest mark of any that we tested.

It has a simple yet informative display and is 17 pounds lighter than its closest competitor, while having a slightly larger battery. It has the features you expect from a solar generator -- outlets for USB-A, USB-C, AC plugs and 12-volt car ports; a light with multiple settings -- except that it doesn't support wireless charging, a feature that's becoming more common.

Still, for its hefty capacity, it's the quickest charging, lightest, easy-to-use option out there. And right now, it's $400 cheaper than usual with an onscreen coupon from Amazon.

The EcoFlow Delta Mini has a larger battery and charges twice as fast as its competitors when drawing power from a wall outlet. Its 882-watt-hour battery is large and powerful enough to power small appliances for quite a while, though the exact length of time depends on the appliance, of course. Add up to 300 watts of solar charging capacity for relatively quick charging on the go (EcoFlow says a full charge can happen in three to six hours with 320 watts of solar panels).

CNET's test found that you can fully charge the Delta Mini in a brief 97 minutes, and that it has a usable capacity that's right in line with industry averages. In the midsize category, though, it had the highest mark in that test: 86%. The 110w solar panels are some of the lightest available for their size. They have a very respectable 21-23% efficiency rating.

The Delta Mini has a whopping five AC wall-style outlets, two USB-A ports, a USB-A fast charging port, a USB-C outlet and a 12.6-volt car power outlet. At 23.6 pounds, it's not too difficult to move around, while still offering a lot of storage. The port covers are really snug-fitting, which is great if you're using it out where dirt and debris could get in, though I found them a little difficult to open. 

While its base price is a bit high, you can currently snag the solar generator with two 110-watt portable solar panels for $999 on Amazon.

Once again, my pick for the best smaller solar generator is the one that charges the fastest. In this case, the Bluetti EB3A was three times faster than similarly sized generators in our wall charging test, reaching a full charge in just 81 minutes. Bluetti's stated recharge times from solar are at least twice as fast as many similar units. It's got an easy-to-read display that moves beyond just the basics like overall charge, and tells you how much power is flowing in and out and with which outputs you have turned on (other smaller units typically have more limited displays).

Bluetti's PV200 portable solar panel offers up to 23.4% efficiency. Under ideal conditions, the solar panel can recharge the generator in under two hours. The PV200's charging capacity of 200 watts is the EB3A's maximum solar input. Combined with AC charging from your wall, the charging capacity reaches 430 watts and the generator can recharge in as little as 1.2 hours. 

CNET's tests found that the EB3A used less of its battery than the Jackery Solar Generator 240. It starts with a larger battery, though, so its usable capacity is actually a bit higher. Its base price is just a bit higher, but the clear, informative display and powerful panel make up for it. Right now you can take $100 off the price on Amazon.

Jackery's Solar Generator 240 is the most affordable high-quality solar generator we tested. For a base price of $500, you can get 240 watt-hours of battery capacity and 60 watts of solar charging capacity in Jackery's SolarSaga 60 solar panel. (Jackery also sells the Solar Generator 240 with its SolarSaga 100 panel for slightly more.) Both parts of this solar generator are nice and small and under 10 pounds. In our testing, the power station used an incredible 98% of its listed battery capacity. The solar panel has an impressive 23% efficiency.

Jackery's Solar Generator 240 lost out to the Bluetti EB3A in the small category because it lacks a few neat features the Bluetti has. It doesn't have wireless charging or the convenience of a USB-C port, and it only has one 200-watt AC outlet and two USB-A ports. But it's still a solid option for someone looking to get a solar generator on a smaller scale and at a much lower price. It's currently $120 cheaper on Amazon than its already low base price.

With a stated battery capacity of 595 watt-hours and a 100-watt solar panel, the Oupes 600-watt Solar Generator Kit is a great value at its current discount price on Amazon. Even considering that our tests showed that closer to 83% of that capacity is usable (which is in line with industry averages) you're still getting close to one watt per dollar spent. The Oupes also boasts one of my favorite displays for ease of reading and all the ports you're looking for (USB-A, USB-C, 12-volt car charger and AC wall outlet).

The Oupes charges a bit slower than others and its 100-watt solar panel has a 20% efficiency rating, slightly below others we tested. If fast solar charging is what you're after, this Oupes isn't for you. It can only connect one panel at a time. Still, for its cost, it's a great value.

Whether it's charging with power from the wall or from the sun, this solar generator is doing it quickly. In our test in the lab, it charged fully in an hour and 57 minutes. Accounting for its size, it charged 30% faster than the next fastest we tested. And, while we weren't able to test its solar capabilities, Jackery says it's possible to recharge with solar in just 2.5 hours. 

To do this, you'll need six of Jackery's SolarSaga 200 panels, but its ability to accommodate this much solar charging sets it apart. It has a maximum solar input of 1,400 watts, while its nearest competitor has 800 watts. With just one of the SolarSaga 200 panels, it'll take close to 14 hours to charge. To get a full charge in a single day you'll need a clear summer day.

Buying the solar generator with six SolarSaga 200 panels will set you back $6,125. Opting for just one and using a $400 coupon on Amazon will cost a comparatively small $2,098. You can always add more panels later.

Bluetti AC200P : The AC200P was in a dead heat for best large (and best overall) solar generator. It tops CNET's portable power station best list . It has an impressive battery usage -- using 95% of its 2,000-watt-hour capacity -- and a respectable charging time. It also has the most detailed display, which might be more than the average user needs. It holds a ton of energy and can provide a slightly higher surge output than my pick, the Jackery 2000 Pro. Ultimately, I chose the Jackery for its faster solar charge time and lighter weight.

Anker 757 Solar Generator : The Anker 757 was considered for a top spot on our best list, and would be a good choice. It charges speedily from the wall, filling its 1,229-watt-hour capacity in a brief 88 minutes and can accommodate 300 watts of solar charging. Its usable battery capacity was right in line with industry averages and its solar panels (the same that come with the Anker 555) are efficient, too.

Rockpals 300W Power Station and 100W Solar Panel : This solar generator performed just fine in our tests. It was the fastest charging of the rest in its smaller size category (though much slower than our favorite, Bluetti's EB3A). Rockpals is very reasonably priced and, depending on discounts, could rival our value pick. Its look is a little different from others too, with more pronounced grills, if that's a factor in your decision-making.

Bluetti EB55+ with PV120 Solar Panel : This solar generator was my solid second choice in the midsize category. It had the second-fastest charging time (though it was still twice as long as the EcoFlow Delta Mini) and a usable battery capacity slightly below average (81% of its 537 watt-hours), according to our tests. Paired with a 120-watt solar panel with an efficiency rating of up to 23.4%, it's a good option.

Jackery Solar Generator1000 Pro : Jackery already has two entries on our best list, and the Solar Generator 1000 Pro is another solid offering. With good charge times and efficient solar panels (24.3%), there's a lot to like. With four SolarSaga 200 panels, it can charge as fast from the sun as from a wall: 1.8 hours. Read CNET's Brian Cooley's firsthand account .

Geneverse HomePower Pro Solar Generator : This sleek offering from Geneverse (until recently, Generark), is one of the faster chargers CNET tested, needing just 120 minutes to fill its 1,200-watt-hour capacity. It can also take up to 800 watts of solar charging, which means it'll charge from the sun quicker than many on this list as well. Geneverse solar panels have efficiency ratings north of 23%. The HomePower Pro is a solid offering. The Jackery 2000 beat it out in the large category because of its larger battery and solar charging capacity, but could be a better fit depending on your needs.

Anker 555 Solar Generator : This solar generator from Anker had one of the most impressive usable battery capacity numbers of everything we tested, at 94% of its 1,024-watt-hour capacity, but a slower charge time of 361 minutes. For its size, it's chock full of ports, including three for USB-C. The package includes two 100-watt solar panels (with efficiency ratings of up to 23%), which also matches its maximum solar input.

Yeti 200X + Nomad 50 Solar Generator : This small option from Goal Zero has had lower-than-average useable battery capacity (65% of its 187 watt-hours) and was one of the slower chargers (though not as slow as the Jackery 240). The power station is remarkably light, though the Nomad 50 solar panel (50 watts) is a bit heavier (and pricier) per watt than others on the list.

Solar generators have a limit to the amount of energy they can take in from the sun at a time. Manufacturers list the solar input limit (sometimes called the DC input limit) in watts. It represents the amount of solar you can use to charge a generator at one time. For example, our best large solar generator, the Jackery Solar Generator 2000 Pro, has a limit of 1,400 watts. The higher the limit, the faster you'll be able to charge from solar by adding more panels.

It also pays to ensure that your chosen solar panels can be linked together, or what's sometimes called daisy chained. 

That depends on how big the generator is and what your device's energy requirements are. Jackery says its large model, the Solar Generator 2000 Pro, will run a coffee maker for three hours (that's a lot of coffee) or an air conditioner for two. Jackery's Solar Generator 240 has just over 10% capacity, so it can power much more modest devices. Jackery says it will charge a MacBook Pro 13 three and a half times or run a fan for 15 hours.

To figure out how long any given solar generator will charge any given device, you need to know the generator's capacity and the device's draw. In a very simple example, say you have a 60-watt light bulb. Keeping this bulb lit for an hour would take 60 watt-hours of energy. If your solar generator has a capacity of 240 watt-hours, you could power this light for four hours without recharging.

To find out if a solar generator will be able to power any given device, you'll need to know how much power the device draws and how much power the solar generator can push out. If a solar generator, say the Bluetti AC200P, has an output of 2,000 watts, it can push that amount of power continuously. It should run devices that don't require more than that amount of power.

But there's one more specification you need to check. Some devices require a short burst of extra power when they start up. To see if your solar generator will be able to handle that, confirm what its surge output power it. The Bluetti AC200P can surge power up to 4,800 watts for a brief period of time.

Testing for solar generators in the CNET lab takes place in two stages: One for the portable power station portion and one for the solar panels.

The power station portion of the solar generator test measures actual battery capacity and charging time. For the battery capacity test, we start with a fully charged battery. Then we plug lights into the fully charged battery and turn them on. We measure the amount of energy the lights are drawing and time how long they take to drain the battery.

Here's why that's important: The stated capacity of a battery isn't always the same as the battery's usable capacity. If a solar generator has a stated capacity of 100 watt-hours and you plug in a lightbulb that draws 20 watts, you can expect it to run for five hours (20 watts times 5 hours equals 100 watt-hours). If the battery runs out in four hours, its actual capacity is 80 watt-hours, or 80% of its stated capacity. The usable capacity is the amount of energy storage you actually get.

The other thing we test is charge time, for which there is a surprising diversity. We measure the time it takes to charge from empty to 50%, from 50% to 80% and then from 80% to full. Many manufacturers will tout the speed you can charge their solar generators to 80%. That's because 80% is a significant portion of the battery, and the last bit of the battery takes longer to charge.

Best Solar Generators for 2022 - CNET

Portable Solar Battery Generator The solar panel portion of solar generator is more difficult to pull off in a lab setting. Instead, for the solar panel portion, we had to rely on the specifications each company published about its solar panels.