How To Be Ready For Natural Disasters, Emergencies & Power Outages With Solar Power/Panels/Generators
Solar power and solar panels have become more affordable in the past years, while batteries are becoming more lightweight and powerful.
Put these two together and you have a great way to be ready for emergencies and power outages during natural disasters and other types of emergencies in our society.
You don’t have to go all-in and join the survivalism movement, where survivalists/preppers are ready for society and the world to fall apart.
But I it’s a good idea for all of us to consider what we would do in a scenario where we run out of power.
Related Product: Recharge an emergency power station with a solar panel. The Twelseavan 120W (click to view on Amazon) is compatible right out of the box with all power stations in this article.
Most people will probably think about gas or propane generators, that generate electricity with fuel.
They’re a great efficient way to keep yourself powered, way more efficient than solar panels.
But what happens when you run out of fuel, and can’t get anymore because it’s too expensive or not available?
Today I am going to help you figure out how to get started with solar power.
There are two things we need, and that’s a power station/solar generator, and solar panels that will charge the power station.
If you have no idea what a power station is, it’s basically a battery, an inverter that powers AC outlets, and a solar charge controller that lets you connect solar panels to charge the battery.
For a more in-depth explanation, I recommend checking out this post over on The Solar Addict.
Since we all have different needs, I have split it up into three different sizes of systems depending on what you need to be able to power.
I have also answered the most frequently asked questions about a setup like this.
Also, if you have a question that hasn’t been answered, please leave a comment and I will do my best to help you.
Related Post: Powerful Gas Generators That Will Run An RV AC
Last update on 2023-01-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
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Small Power Station/Solar Generator Setup With Solar Panels
The Rockpals 250W has a 240 watt-hour battery capacity and a 250W pure sine wave inverter.
What that means is that you can use devices and electronics that require up to 250 watts to run.
A 240 watt-hour battery capacity means that you can run a 50W device for a little over four hours.
It has two AC outlets that are compatible with international plugs, two USB ports (15.5W), four DC outputs, and an on/off button.
If you want to use a device that has a cigarette plug, you will have to use an adapter that Rockpals includes.
In addition to the cigarette female adapter, Rockpals includes a wall charger and a car charger.
On the side of the power station, there is a battery indicator made up of five lights, with 20% increments.
When charging the battery, these lights will show you the progress.
It weighs 5.5 pounds and measures 8.9 by 4 by 6.3 inches which makes it a very portable option.
Rockpals 60W solar panel is a foldable, portable one that is compatible with a lot of devices directly out of the box.
It has USB ports and 10 different DC plugs so you can use it with not only the Rockpals 250W battery but other solar generators as well.
The USB ports let you charge phones, tablets, speakers, and lights directly from the solar panel.
It’s a waterproof solar panel, but you don’t want the water to get into the output ports.
What The Power Station Can Run
With a 250W inverter, you can run and charge electronics like fans, laptops, TVs, lights, speakers, tablets, small coolers, gaming consoles, and cameras.
Most devices tell you how much electricity they require on the device itself or on its power brick.
It can run 12V fridge/coolers, but the DC outputs are not regulated.
If the fridge has a low-voltage cut-off feature for safety, it won’t run properly when the battery reaches a certain point.
What It Can’t Run
It won’t run kitchen appliances like a coffee maker, toaster, George Foreman, or microwave since all of them require more than 250 watts.
The Rockpals can handle 250W continuously, and 300W for a short amount of time.
It also won’t run heaters, desktop computers, air conditioners, or RV campers.
There is a 5.5×2.1mm input on the Rockpals 250W, and the solar charge controller inside the unit is a PWM charge controller that can handle up to 60W input.
The Rockpals 60W panel is compatible with the 250W power station directly out of the box.
While the Rockpals 250W can only handle 60W input, you can use a 100W panel to max out that input.
A 60W panel generates about 40-50W, while a 100W panel generates about 60-80W, so it will recharge faster if you max out the 60W input it can handle.
How Long It Takes To Charge
It takes four hours to charge the Rockpals 250W from a wall outlet with the included wall charger, 8 hours in a car with the included 12V car charger, and 10 hours with the Rockpals 60W solar panel.
If you use a third-party panel like the 100W I linked to above, it would recharge in about 4-5 hours from the sun.
You can’t upgrade the power station/battery, but you can use a larger panel than the Rockpals 60W, like the Renogy panel I recommend above.
Upgrading to a larger 100W panel will make sure you max out the input rating when it’s sunny and charge the battery faster.
There are a lot of solar generators similar to the Rockpals, here are a couple of similar combos.
Medium Power Station/Solar Generator Setup With Solar Panels
The Jackery Explorer 500 has a 518 watt-hour battery capacity and a 500W pure sine wave inverter.
What that means is that you can use devices and electronics that require up to 500 watts to run.
A 518 watt-hour battery capacity means that you can run a 50W device for almost 9 hours.
It has one AC outlet, three USB ports (12W), two DC outputs, one 12V cigarette port, and an on/off button for each of the output types.
Related Post: Best Portable Power Stations For Camping
The Explorer 500 has a regulated 12V cigarette lighter port so you can run a 12V fridge/freezer without any issues.
A screen tells you information like input/output watts, the state of charge in a percentage, and battery bars.
Jackery includes a wall charger and a car charger.
It weighs 13.3 pounds and measures 11.8 by 7.6 by 9.2 inches which makes it a portable option.
The Jackery SolarSaga 100W is a portable, foldable, and lightweight solar panel consisting of two 50W panels wired together.
It has a built-in kickstand and a 10ft cord to go to the Jackery power station.
It also has two USB ports, one being a USB C port, so you can charge your phone, tablet, speaker, lights, and portable power banks directly from the solar panel.
What The Power Station Can Run
With its 500W inverter, the Explorer 500 can run devices like tablets, laptops, TVs, gaming consoles, smaller desktop computers, fans, small fridges, blenders, projectors, pellet smokers, etc.
What It Can’t Run
500W is not enough to run most kitchen appliances like coffee makers, toasters, or a microwave. It also won’t run heaters or air conditioners.
The Explorer 500 has an 8mm input that can handle up to 100W maximum input.
Its built-in charge controller can handle solar panels with a VOC rating of up to 30V.
Jackery sells the SolarSaga panel above that is compatible with the Explorer straight out of the box. It has an 8mm output.
You can also use the Rockpals 60W above, or their larger Rockpals 100W.
How Long It Takes To Charge
It takes 7.5 hours to charge the Explorer 500 with the included wall charger, and 16 hours with the car charger. Using the Jackery SolarSaga 100 solar panel, it takes 9.5 hours.
If you max out the 100W input, by using a 160W solar panel like the Ecoflow 160 watt portable solar panel (click to view on Amazon) , it can be recharged in less than 6 hours.
The battery can’t be upgraded on the Explorer 500.
What you can do is max out the solar input by using a solar panel larger than 150W.
Large Power Station/Solar Generator Setup With Solar Panels
The Goal Zero Yeti 1000S is the portable power station I own and use.
I plug my 30A travel trailer into this solar generator with a 15A to 30A adapter (click to view on Amazon).
It has two AC outlets, capable of powering 1500W continuously together, with a 3000W surge for a while.
The battery capacity is 1045 watt-hours, which means you can run a 50W device for about 17.7 hours.
There are four USB ports, a cigarette port, two DC outputs, an 8mm input, and an Anderson Power Pole input with support for a lot of solar panels.
A built-in screen shows input/output watts, output amps, state of charge in percentage and battery bars, battery voltage, watt-hours used, and how long you will be able to power the devices plugged into the unit.
It also shows how long it’s going to take to recharge the battery to 100% with the input/output watts charging/discharging the battery.
Goal Zero includes the wall charger, but not the car charger that is sold separately.
The Yeti 1000 weighs 40 pounds and measures 15.3 by 10.1 by 9.3 inches.
The Boulder 200 Briefcase made by Goal Zero is a portable 200W panel kit with an Anderson Power Pole connector.
What The Power Station Can Run
I plug the Yeti 1000 into my travel trailer with a 15A to 30A adapter (click to view on Amazon).
It runs everything except the air conditioner. I even use the microwave.
It runs most kitchen appliances like toasters, George Foreman, microwave, blenders, Instant Pot, and KitchenAid.
It will power small portable air conditioners, space heaters, large fans, and power tools.
Note that a power-hungry device using 1000W will only last about an hour with the Yeti 1000.
What It Can’t Run
It can’t run large RV air conditioners, ovens, large microwaves, or jumpstart a car.
As long as the device you want to run uses less than 1500W continuously, the Yeti 1000 can handle it.
The Yeti 1000 has an 8mm input and an Anderson Power Pole input.
You can also combine up to 4 Boulder 100 with a 8mm combiner cable.
Or this adapter if you want to use the 8mm input.
You need to make sure that the panel you plug into the Yeti 1000 doesn’t exceed the 22V VOC limit. You can read more about that in this post.
I use WindyNation MC4 extension cables to be able to leave my solar panels outside overnight while keeping my Yeti inside.
How Long It Takes To Charge
It takes 18 hours to charge the Yeti 1000 with the included wall charger, almost 9 hours with the car charger (sold separately), and about 8 hours with a Boulder 200W solar panel.
There are a couple of upgrades that you can do to the Yeti 1000.
The most significant one you can do is upgrade to an MPPT charge controller.
It will improve the charging speed when using either solar panels or the wall charger.
MPPT is much better when the conditions are worse, like in the morning/evening when the sun is low on the horizon and on cloudy days.
The second upgrade is to get a car charger, so you can recharge the Yeti in a car/RV/van using the cigarette lighter port in a vehicle.
Since the Yeti 1000 Lithium doesn’t have a regulated cigarette port, you need to use this adapter to reliably power a 12V fridge/freezer/cooler.
Electronics That Can Replace Your Household Appliances And Be Powered By A Power Station
The Dometic 12V CFX3 55 liter (click to view on Amazon) is a fridge and freezer combo that runs off of a 12V cigarette port.
You can also power it with 120V AC outlets. It’s very capable and reliable and will keep your foods fresh and frozen.
You can use smaller air conditioner with some power stations.
A portable AC unit like the Black+Decker 8,000 BTU is one you can use with power stations tha thave at least a 1000W inverter.
The Black+Decker requires about 950W to run the compressor and then less than 100W to run the fan.
Having an electric burner like the Maxi-Matic 1000W can be very useful during a power outage when you need to be able to cook food.
This 1000W model can be used with a power station like the Yeti 1000 and larger.
Related Post: Best Indoor & Outdoor Weather Stations
The Instant Pot is like an all-in-one kitchen appliance that can do a lot of things it usually takes several appliances to do.
I use mine all the time, and it’s something I would use in an emergency to cook meals with.
This model uses about 1000W when building up pressure, so it can be used with a power station like the Yeti 1000 and larger.
Electric heated blankets keep you warm if you can’t run the furnace.
I own a Serta heated throw blanket, and it uses about 100 watts on the highest setting.
Related Post: Best Electric Heated Blankets
While today’s post talks about staying powered with solar panels and batteries, it’s always a good idea to have a gas generator that can also run on propane.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Solar Generators Come With Solar Panels?
Most solar generators do not come with solar panels included. They’re called solar generators because they’re capable of charging with solar panels.
Unless the images or specifications mention that a solar panel is included you should assume that it isn’t.
Do I Need To Choose A Solar Panel With A Charge Controller For My Power Station?
Power stations have built-in charge controllers, which is why they’re often referred to as solar generators.
You don’t want to send a solar panel through two charge controllers, so the answer is no.
You should choose a solar panel without a solar charge controller.
Do I Not Need A Gas Generator If I Have A Solar Generator/Power Station?
I recommend having both.
Some days you’ll be able to charge a battery with a solar panel, while other days you might need to use a gas generator to charge your electronics and the power station.
Related Post: Best Quiet Inverter Gas Generator
I do, however, recommend using a generator that is a dual fuel, which means that you can run it on propane gas as well.
The Champion 3800-Watt Dual Fuel RV Ready portable generator, for example, is a powerful 3800W generator like that.
Is A Solar Generator As Powerful As A Gas Generator?
It depends on how powerful the inverter of the power station and the gas generator is.
In terms of efficiency, solar generators don’t come even close. Gas is extremely energy efficient.
A generator might be able to power a 1000W device for a couple of hours on one gallon of fuel.
While a power station like the Yeti 1000 will only be able to run that 1000W device for about an hour with its 1045 watt-hour battery capacity.
I Don’t Know My Power Needs And How Big Of A Power Station I Need
The best way to figure out how much power you need is to sit down and make a list of every device you will absolutely need to be able to run with the power station.
If you can’t see the required wattage on the device or on its power brick, you can use a P3 Kill A Watt usage monitor.
This will tell you exactly how many watts the device plugged into it is using.
When you know how much it requires, consider how many hours a day you want to be able to use it.
A device might use 50W, and after powering it for four hours, you’ve used around 200 watt-hours.
If you have a 240Wh power station, you won’t be able to run that device for longer than four hours without charging the battery again.
Can I Use The Power Station While It’s Charging?
It depends on the power station, the Rockpals 250W can’t be used while it’s charging, while the Jackery Explorer 500 and the Yeti 1000 can.
If it’s not clear in a product specifications whether it supports pass-through charging you should contact the company and ask.
How Long Will A Power Station Run My Device?
It depends on the required wattage of the device, and the battery capacity.
If you have a device that requires 50W, and a power station with a 500Wh battery, you can do the math.
You also need to consider that the inverter in a power station that powers the outlets isn’t 100% efficient, but often around 85%, so for a more accurate calculation, you should take that into account.
Using the numbers above, 500/50*0.85= 8.5 hours.
If you don’t know how many watts your device requires and you can’t figure it out by looking at it or its power brick, I recommend using a P3 Kill A Watt usage monitor.
To figure out the watt-hours of the power station, check the manual or the product specifications.
What Power Station Is Powerful Enough To Run An Air Conditioner?
A 1000W power station can run a portable 8,000 BTU AC as we saw above.
If you want to run an RV AC that is 13,500 or 15,000 BTU, it’s a little bit harder to find a compatible power station.
You would need a power station that can output at least 2000W continuously, and a 4000W surge.
How Many Cycles Do Power Station Batteries Last?
Most power stations on the market are rated at about 500 cycles to 80% of battery capacity.
That means that if you have a 1000Wh battery station and use it from 100 to 0%, 500 times, the battery capacity will be down to 800 usable watt-hours instead of the original 1000.
Can I Use A Power Strip With A Power Station?
Yes, as long as the combined wattage is within the limits of the inverter, you can power several devices with a power strip.
Are Solar Generators Waterproof?
I don’t know of any solar generator that is waterproof. Most rigid solar panels out there are waterproof though.
What Is The Most Important Feature Of A Power Station?
It might be a boring answer, but it depends on what you need.
If you need to be able to power a 500W device, it doesn’t matter if the power station has a ton of battery capacity if the inverter is small.
Or if you want to power a 50W device for 24 hours, it doesn’t matter if the inverter is large, but the battery capacity is small.
You need to figure out what devices you want to run at the same time and how long. Only then can you find the perfect power station for you.
Other things that matter are the number of USB/AC ports, whether there is a USB C PD port, maximum input watts, charge controller type, and what kind of information the screen (if it has one) can give you.
A couple of things that are easy to spot and quickly know what’s to prefer are:
A pure sine wave inverter is better than a modified sine wave inverter.
An MPPT charge controller is better than a PWM charge controller.
A USB C PD port is better than a USB C port.
1000Wh has twice the battery capacity of a 500Wh.
14-30V (10A Max) can handle more input than 14-22V (5A Max).
A regulated 12V Cigarette port is better than a non-regulated 12V Cigarette port.
A screen showing state of charge in a percentage is better than LED lights showing the battery level 20% increments.
A lithium power station is better than a deep-cycle lead-acid battery power station.
When it comes to solar panels you pair with power stations, an important thing to know is that a monocrystalline solar panel is better than a polycrystalline solar panel.
What Are Some Good Power Station Brands?
I recommend Goal Zero, Ecoflow, Jackery, Bluetti, and Rockpals.
Please leave a comment down below if you have any questions and I will do my best to help you.