What are the Pros and Cons of a Solar Generator?


Solar generators have exploded in popularity over the last few years. On the surface, they seem like the ideal solution.  You will be able to get power from the sun, without having to pay a cent. But are they the right solution for you? What are the benefits and disadvantages you need to consider?

Some of the biggest pros of a solar generator are the ability to get free power, environmental benefits, and how quiet they are. On the other hand, the biggest cons are the higher purchase price and how the panels won’t charge the batteries in poor weather conditions.

Deciding whether or not you want to get a solar generator can be a difficult decision. There are lots of elements that you need to factor in. Keep reading to get a full breakdown of the pros and cons of a solar generator.

Pros

Let’s look at some of the reasons why people love using solar generators. The good news is that there are plenty of positives to cover.

Free to Run

One of the biggest advantages of buying a solar generator is that it doesn’t cost you anything to run it. Once you get the array set up, you will be able to get all the power from the sun. There are a few ways that you can make sure that you are getting the best performance out of the solar generator, these include:

  • Putting it in an area that gets full sunlight. Though it sounds obvious, it’s important to consider the placement. You need a spot that will be in the sun all day. This means avoiding putting it near buildings, trees, or anything else that can cast a shadow.
  • Consider the orientation. The next thing you need to think about is the way that the panels will be facing. Usually, it’s best to put them facing towards the south. This will generate the most electricity.
  • Tilt the panels. To capture the most sunlight, you will need to have a slight tilt to the panels. To capture the most sunlight, you will need to tilt them at a 30 to 40-degree angle.

As long as you have these elements in mind, you should have an abundant supply of solar electricity, without the need to refuel. This is a great way of saving you money.

Set up of Portable Solar Generator and Black Solar Panels

Easy to Set Up

As we mentioned above, there are a few simple things you need to keep in mind when setting up your solar generator. The good news is that it will only take a few minutes to get the generator set up. You just need to make sure that the panel is connected to the generator. Then, the power that is generated can be put to use.

Better for the Environment

Another big selling point is that these systems are better for the environment than other means of generating electricity. Most commonly, they will be compared to gas-powered models. These devices are known for generating fumes. These can be potentially toxic. This is something that you don’t need to worry about when you are using a solar generator.

Aside from the unpleasant smell, the fumes from gas-powered generators aren’t good for the environment. Solar generators don’t release any harmful greenhouse gases. It’s estimated that switching your home to solar is the same as planting 150 trees each year.

Quiet

Another significant difference between a solar generator and a fuel-powered one is the amount of noise they make. A solar generator will be remarkably quiet. This is ideal if you are planning on using it for camping, as you will be able to keep it close to your campsite. With a gas-powered model, you had to build a baffle box to contain the sound if you wanted to get to sleep.

Easy to Maintain

Often, the only type of maintenance you need to do on a solar panel is to clean it occasionally. The biggest job is to clean your panels. The good news is that this is something that you should be able to do yourself. Here are some of the tips you can use when cleaning solar panels:

  • Spray the panel with water. This will get rid of the worst of the dirt and grime. If you have solar panels on the roof, you might be able to get a long-handled brush so you don’t need to climb a ladder.
  • Use a soft brush to scrub panels. You want to be careful about the amount of pressure you are using. You don’t want to add so much that you end up scratching the panels.
  • Wash during the morning or evening. This will allow the water to evaporate without leaving any streaks. Another way of preventing this is wiping the panels with a squeegee.

There are a few signs that it’s time to wash the panels. Sometimes, you might notice that dust has built up on the panels. For a camping generator, you might want to wash it at the end of your trip. If you leave it too long you can notice that the amount of electricity you are generating is starting to decline.

Lasts a Long Time

As we’ll discuss, buying a solar generator can be a big expense. The good news is that these models are designed to last for a long time. If you take care of it, a solar generator should be able to last for many years.

How long the panels will last will depend on the type of model you purchase. But the average for a home solar system is between 25 to 30 years. If you have a compact camping model, it might need to be replaced more frequently. The good news is that as solar technology becomes more common, the lifespan of these devices is increasing.

Lots of Models to Choose From

There are plenty of solar generators for you to choose from. There are rooftop panels that provide enough electricity to power an entire house. Or you can get a lightweight model that you can take camping with you. There are a few things you should consider when finding the right option for you:

  • The number of watts. This is the best way of measuring the amount of electricity it will be able to provide. Think about the number of appliances you want to power. The more devices you want, the bigger your electricity requirements will become.
  • Size and weight. If you are looking for something to take camping with you or a backup in case of a power failure, it’s a good idea to get something compact and light.
  • Outlets. Don’t forget to consider the type of outlets the generator has. This will determine how easy it will be to use. For example, you might want a USB outlet to make charging phones and cameras easier.

Easy to Store

You won’t need to use a solar generator all the time. The good news is that you shouldn’t have any problems storing this device. Most solar generators will be fairly compact. Because of this, they should be able to fit nicely in your garage.

It won’t be too hard to store for the long term. You won’t need to drain the fluid, as you would from a gas-powered generator. When you are ready to use it again, you just need to dust off the panels and you are ready to go again.

Safer Than Other Generator Model

There are plenty of other generator models on the market. But most of them have something in common, they rely on a fuel source. The most common are gas, diesel, and propane. This can sometimes cause problems, as these are potentially flammable and can cause serious accidents.

This isn’t something that you need to worry about when you are using a solar generator. There is no fuel, so there is no chance of any potentially harmful effects. This also makes it a good choice for camping or hiking trips, as you don’t need to worry about the chance of a spill.

Cons

Of course, no technology is perfect. Solar generations have a few downsides that you need to consider before you buy one.

Higher Initial Purchase Cost

One of the biggest downsides of purchasing a solar generator is the cost. Even if you are only interested in purchasing a smaller generator, it can be quite expensive. For example, these generators will usually start at around $800. At the upper end, they can cost around $5,000.

For comparison, here is how this stacks up with other fuel types:

  • Gas generators. These tend to be the cheapest options on the market. At the base model, they will cost $200. On the upper end, a portable model will cost $2,000.
  • Natural gas. This is another popular option, costing between $500 to $4,000.
  • Liquid propane. These will cost between $500 to $5,000.
  • Diesel. These tend to be some of the most expensive generators to run. They will start at around $2,000 and can go up to $6,000.

Though solar generators are more expensive, you should think of them as an investment. Though the initial cost might be higher, they will last for a long time. Plus, they cost next to nothing to run and keep in good condition.

Whether or not this investment is a good financial choice will depend on how often you are using it. For example, if you only intend on using it for a few camping trips a year, you might be able to save money by using a gas generator. But if you use the generator frequently, buying a solar generator might save you a significant amount of money over the long term.

Requires a Battery

Unlike other types of generators, you will need to have a way of storing the power. Without this, it will be unable to work at night and will have a poor performance on a cloudy day. You will need to be careful about the way that you are managing battery power. For example, you can’t drain a lead battery past 50 percent. If you do, there is a risk that you will end up damaging the battery.

If you are having a patch of bad weather, and the battery hasn’t been recharging properly, it can cause some problems. You might need to start monitoring and reducing the amount of electricity that you are consuming. This ensures that the battery doesn’t run out.

The best way to combat this is by purchasing a larger generator that has a larger capacity than you require. This ensures that you can last a day or two without needing a recharge.

Panels are Susceptible to Damage

Panels can sometimes be susceptible to natural damage. One of the biggest problems that you will face is hail. This can dent the panel. Here are some of the tips to deal with this damage:

  • Monitoring the weather. Look at your weather apps. If there is a chance that a storm could be bringing hail, you can take the panels under cover. You don’t need to worry about rain, a little water might be good for the panels, washing away the dirt.
  • Use a wire cage. You just need to put this around the panel. The hail will hit this and bounce off. It’s also a good way of protecting the panels from birds.
  • Get a Methacrylate plate. This has an extra layer of protection, making the glass more resistant to shattering.

While these tips can help prevent hail damage, there is no way of eliminating the risk entirely. If the hail hits the panel and cracks the glass or dents the panel, you will need to replace the whole thing. This can prove to be a costly affair.

Relies on Being in a Sunny Area

As we mentioned, one of the biggest concerns is that there will be bad weather. This will stop the panels from generating power effectively. A few days with poor weather conditions and there is a risk that your battery will run out completely.

This can be compared to a fuel-based generator. As long as you don’t run out of fuel, there is no risk that you will run out of power.

Slow Recharge Speed

One of the problems with a solar generator is that it can take a while to recharge the battery. It will often take you the whole day to charge up the battery. For example, if you have a 100-watt battery it will take you nine hours of sunshine charge. It will take even longer if you are using the generator while you are trying to recharge the battery.

If you are having this problem, you might need to spend a little more money to purchase a second solar panel. This will increase the amount of power that you are generating.  

Problems With High Temperatures

Finally, there is the risk that the generator will be damaged by high temperatures. It isn’t the panels that you need to worry about. Most can withstand extreme temperatures, as high as 185 degrees Fahrenheit.  Though any degree over 25 degrees will result in a slight decrease in efficiency.

The real problems occur in the battery. If it gets over 35 degrees, it can start to cause a few problems. Some of the most common problems include bulging or bubbling. There are a few ways you can keep the battery cool, including:

  • Placing generator in the shade. While the panels need to be in the sun, you can put the generator into the shade.
  • Be careful about how you store the generator. You don’t want to leave the generator in a hot garage. This increases the chances that the battery will leak. If it does, the rest of the generator will be damaged. Because of this, some people like to remove the battery if storing the generator for a prolonged time.

Unless you are facing extreme circumstances, though, it’s unlikely that you are going to have too many problems with your battery. If you do have issues, though, you might need to replace the generator.

Summary

In case you just wanted the highlights, here are the main pros and cons of using a solar generator. 

ProsCons
They are free to runCostly to purchase, when compared with other types of generators
Easy to get set upRequire a battery to provide power at night
Good for the environment, there are no harmful fumesPanels can be damaged by hail
QuietPanels need to be placed in a sunny area to work effectively
Easy to maintain and storeIt can take a while to recharge the battery
There are lots of sizes to choose fromBatteries can struggle with high temperatures
Safer than other generator varieties 

Final Thoughts

As we’ve seen, there are a lot of pros and cons to consider before choosing a solar generator. Some people praise them for being free to operate and easy to maintain. Others have criticized them because the panel will struggle to operate in poor weather conditions and the risk that a few cloudy days can drain the battery completely.

Ultimately, if you are thinking about buying a solar generator, you need to weigh up the pros and cons. Think about the conditions in which you are planning on using the generator.   

Want to test the waters? Consider trying a solar generator next time you go camping, in this article with discuss, exactly how to choose the right solar generator for you.

David Binion

Hi, I am David Binion, I am a technical assistant of a solar panel manufacturing company. I also have a solar panel selling and service providing shops beside my job. Because of my job & business, I have to face so many clients of the power tool users.

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