The best solar generators in 2022

The best solar generators in 2022

A solar generator pairs a large-capacity rechargeable power station — a big battery, at heart — with a set of portable solar panels, making for a versatile device that can provide backup power for your home during an emergency and do double duty for off-grid activities like camping, tailgating or even DIY projects around your yard. They’re safer to store and use and far simpler to maintain than gas generators, and with people more and more conscious of the threat of storms and wildfires, they make a lot of sense for emergency preparedness.

To choose the best solar generator, we tested 13 devices for an entire summer in the hot Florida sun to determine which device could reliably provide the most power with the least fuss. We considered factors such as portability, ease of setup, price, industrial design, technology, and innovation when making our final selections.

The best small-capacity solar generator

Bluetti’s EB70S packs the latest LFP battery chemistry and plenty of capacity into a compact package that’s great for camping, or on-the-go preparedness, a car emergency kit, or taking anyplace you need reliable power.

The best medium-capacity solar generator

With updated features, an upgrade LiFePO4/LFP battery, a ton of ports and easy expansion, the new EcoFlow Delta 2 outperformed everything in its class in our testing. It hits the sweet spot for most people who need portable power and a dependable emergency backup.

The best high-capacity solar powered generator:

Easy to use, packed with the most up-to-date features and battery technology and expandable enough to serve as a whole-house emergency generator, the EcoFlow Delta Pro beat impressive competitors in our testing, emerging as the best large solar generator.

A bluish-green Bluetti EB70S solar generator set up on a patio, showing an 80{5376dfc28cf0a7990a1dde1ec4d231557d3d9e6448247a9e5e61bb9e48b1de73} charge.

Key specs

  • Battery Capacity: 716 Wh
  • Battery Chemistry: LFP/LiFePO4
  • Expansion Capacity: No
  • Maximum AC Inverter Capacity: 800W
  • Maximum Solar DC Input Capacity: 200W
  • Panel to Generator charge interface: MC4 to 8mm DC
  • Output Ports: (4) 110V AC (2 grounded), (2) 5V/3A USB-A, (2) 100W USB PD, (2) regulated 12V/10 DC, (1) 12V car, 15W wireless charge pad
  • App Managed: No
  • Weight: 21.4 pounds
  • Charge Time: 4 hours
  •  Panel tested: Jackery 200W
  • Warranty: 2 Years

The Bluettti EB70S offers a high-capacity battery (716 watt-hours)  and an inverter capable of handling up to 800 watts’ worth of devices in a compact, portable package perfect for everything from camping to keeping your critical devices going in a blackout. It is packed with output ports; plus the two USB PD 100W and wireless charging pad make it ideal if you want to charge mobile devices quickly. It is capable of handling most of your small-device power needs, whether it’s a laptop, tablet, smartphone, LED lighting units (it has a built-in lantern as well in case you read at night), BBQ controllers, mini refrigerators, or small fans.

Functionality doesn’t need to mean ugly: the rectangular unit with rounded edges and an integrated folding carrying handle looks a bit like an old-school boom box and comes in four colors; our testing sample was a bright blueish-green. It’s small enough, along with a single panel, to keep in a car at all times.

The EB70S isn’t just pretty. Under the hood is one of the least expensive solar generators on the market using the latest lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4 or LFP) battery chemistry, which charges faster, runs cooler and lasts longer. In theory, this unit will last a very long time, an estimated 2500+ full charge cycles, according to the manufacturer, meaning it should be there when you need it

At 21.4 lbs, the Bluetti EB70S is light enough to move around easily; the power supply for AC charging is a separate unit, further lightening the load. The DC inverter port for the AC adapter input and the solar cable is an 8A barrel type, used by several manufacturers including Jackery, one of the most popular, so panels should be easy to find. For testing, as we didn’t have Bluetti’s 200W panel on hand we used one of Jackery’s 200W SolarSaga units, which plugged right in without any intermediate adapter cables; It worked just fine, so MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking; the converter technology that manages solar panel to battery connections) compatibility on the unit is good.

The user interface is straightforward; one small button activates the four AC outlets, another activates the USB and other DC ports. Another button activates a front-panel light. A small LED color display indicates input and output watts, along with battery capacity, which is displayed as a pictograph of a battery with five fill bars rather than a percentage. The battery management system on this unit is very simplistic, perhaps overly so — it doesn’t indicate depletion or charge completion times. Additionally, if the battery is full or at a high level of charge and it is not discharging, it won’t show any wattage input. It’s information that would be nice to have, but given the overall solid performance missing it is by no means a dealbreaker.

The unit was easily able to drive all of our variable test loads of 60W-200W, and with a solar panel hooked up, our small 60W freezer never depleted the battery, even on days of mixed weather.

With a full 200W load using dual 70W fans overnight, we could drain it in about three and a half hours, but this is a heavy continuous load for a small generator designed primarily for camping and short-term usage.

With the speedy recharge rate, even at about 50 percent efficiency on the panel, we could go from day to night uninterrupted for two consecutive days running a 100 watt load without depleting the unit; the only time we ran into issues was after a day of rain with no sun at all.

An EcoFlow Delta 2 solar generator with expansion battery, set up on a stone patio

Key specs

  • Battery Capacity: 1024 Wh
  • Battery Chemistry: LFP/LiFePO4
  • Expansion Capacity: Yes, secondary 1024 Wh battery
  • Maximum AC Inverter Capacity: 1800-2200Wx
  • Maximum Solar DC Input Capacity: 500Wx
  • Panel to Generator charge interface: MC4 to XT-60
  • Output Ports: (6) 110V AC (2 grounded), (4) 5V/2.4A USB-A (2 fast charge), (2) 100W USB PD, (2) DC 5521, (1) 12V car
  • App Managed: Yes
  • Weight: 27 pounds
  • Charge Time: 4 hours 
  • Panels tested: EcoFlow 400W, EcoFlow 160W
  • Warranty: 2 Years

The new LiFePO4/LFP-based 1024 Wh EcoFlow Delta 2 arrived towards the very end of our testing period, after we had already evaluated its predecessor, the original 1300 Wh Li-ion-NMC Delta. But after testing, the EcoFlow Delta 2 completely upset our decision matrix – it’s that good. With an expanded feature set and the latest technology and capabilities, it simply outperformed everything else in its class.

A slimmed-down version of EcoFlow’s Delta Pro, the new Delta 2 uses the same LiFePO4/LFP battery chemistry, has WiFi and Bluetooth onboard to enable smart management with an excellent, extremely detailed app with many configurable settings. The rear of the generator has two grounded AC ports, four ungrounded, and three 12V ports, with one car and a dual 5521 (for devices such as routers with barrel connectors where you might want to avoid the use of a power brick). An internal AC power supply simplifies cabling, and the EcoFlow Delta 2 has a dedicated AC power cord.

Solar/12V charging uses an XT-60 modular connector and a PV4-to XT-60 adapter cable. It has a 500W DC solar input (allowing you to charge it using two of EcoFlow’s 160W panels, two 220W panels, or a single 400W panel) or via an AC inverter (more on that later).

The compact 160W/220W panels are light and easy to carry; with multiples a single person can easily carry them out one at a time, unzip them from their fabric cases, and lie them down on a driveway or pool deck area  (which is exactly what we did with these) You can also prop them up easily using the carrying case, which doubles as a stand, but it might be good to have one other person help you with that. The 400W panel is larger, but is of the same folding, 4-segment  “floppy” or flexible design. It’s more cumbersome because of its large size and weight and while a single person could lay it out flat,  it took two of us to position it when we set it up on the stand.

Connecting a single panel to the generator only requires using a single MC4 to XT-60 bridge cable that connects to the panel’s positive and negative wires (you can’t mix it up, it’s a “keyed” connection) and attaching the bridge cable to the rear of the panel – the generator does the rest and displays the incoming wattage on the display and in the app. If you need to connect more than one panel, they can be serialized, by attaching the positive pole of the MC4 connection of the first panel to a negative pole of the other panel, and then connecting the bridge cable to the other positive and negative poles – this can be done for up to three 160W panels on the Delta 2, for a maximum power input of 480W. EcoFlow also has a “parallel” connector cable to simplify this if you need to, particularly in situations where you might use three or more panels, but we did not have one of these for testing.

Like its big sibling, the Delta 2 is expandable. While its onboard battery capacity is slightly smaller than the similarly priced units we tested, you can double the power of the EcoFlow Delta 2 to 2048 Wh with an expansion battery unit. (The battery expansion port is on the side and uses a thick proprietary connector cord.) That gives you the flexibility of choosing portability over power, or should you realize you need more “oomph” after the fact. 1200W of AC input capacity (up to 1500W with the additional battery pack connected) allows it to charge quickly.

That said, given the high AC draw, we recommend you use the app and limit the input to 800W or less unless you have nothing else plugged into the circuit when charging it; we managed to trip a breaker charging the unit from a shared circuit in our garage charging at the default maximum speed setting in the app. While it’s easy enough to reset a breaker, it is not something you want to deal with when it’s easily avoidable using the Delta 2’s well-thought out management features.

The Delta 2 lets you charge from AC and solar simultaneously; we tried this setup and the unit prioritizes AC over solar most of the time (not a surprise given that the AC side of the unit supplies more current and solar is subject to variable weather conditions and solar exposure). It’s a useful option for faster charging or keeping the unit consistently charged without relying entirely on the grid.

While the main display is simple enough, most users will likely want to use the app for monitoring status and adjusting settings. It allows you to control multiple EcoFlow devices at once and get real-time information about the state of charge and power flow. You also can alter settings, such as turning ports on and off, adjusting input wattage, and upgrading firmware.

We used the unit in both 1024 Wh and 2048 Wh configurations with the external battery. Given the 27lb weight of the generator (and slightly less for the external battery) we found it fairly easy to drag around the house in two separate parts if we needed to move it away from its primary charging position on the patio. We had no issues running our maximum loads with the EcoFlow Delta 2, particularly when the second battery was connected and using a single 400W panel.

In our estimation, the Delta 2 with an extra battery for a total of 2048 Wh of capacity and 400W of solar panels is probably the “sweet spot” for a small family looking for an emergency backup generator to cover essentials. 100W-300W of variable output is a realistic load to plan for if you consider the typical appliances that might be connected in an emergency scenario, such as lower-wattage LED lights (typically in the 10W to 20W range), a small refrigerator, fans, personal electronics, and higher-wattage small appliances for cooking for 10-20 minutes at a time. We found that with this setup we were able to go for at least three to five days using our 60W-200W variable test load under medium cloud conditions, with plenty of capacity left on hand.

The EcoFlow Delta Pro solar generator, with an extension battery, set up side by side on a stone patio

Key specs

  • Battery Capacity: 3600 Wh
  • Battery Chemistry: LFP/LiFePO4
  • Expansion Capacity: Yes, add up to two 3600 Wh batteries for a total of 10,800 Wh
  • Home Electrical Panel Integration: Yes, with a proprietary transfer switch
  • Maximum AC Inverter Capacity: up to 4500W
  • Maximum Solar DC Input Capacity: 1600W
  • Panel to Generator charge interface: MC4 to XT-60
  • Output Ports: (4) 110V AC, (1) 30A 125V, (4) 5V/2.4A USB-A (2 fast charge), (2) 100W USB PD, (2) DC 5521, (1) 12V car, (1) 12.6V 30A Anderson Powerpole
  • App Managed: Yes
  • Weight: 99 lbs
  • Charge Time: 4 hours (1.7 hours with X-Stream Adapter and 40A L2 EV Charger)
  • Panel tested: EcoFlow 400W
  • Warranty: 3 Years (with registration)

The EcoFlow Delta Pro, released in 2021, is similar to the Delta 2 in overall design and basic capabilities: the latest LiFePO4/LFP battery chemistry, onboard Bluetooth and Wi-Fi let you access the smart battery management system via a well-designed app, an integrated power supply, MC4 to XT-60 solar input connectivity, and an identical informative display.

But the Delta Pro is a much bigger unit, and not just physically. The Delta Pro’s base battery capacity is 3600 Wh, so if you are driving a 200W load, you can run it for 18 hours before depleting the battery, assuming there’s no recharge. And if that’s not enough, it can accommodate two additional 3600 Wh batteries (connected with thick proprietary charging cables) for up to 10800 Wh capacity, which begins to compete with gas generators. The inverter can drive up to 4500W of load from its four 120V AC, six USB ports, three 12V, a 12V 30 Anderson connector, and a 30A 125V RV port.

For most people that should be enough to power even some larger appliances like a refrigerator or freezer. along with lighting and personal electronics through a power outage. Since it is a viable alternative to smaller gas or propane/natural gas generators you can buy EcoFlow’s Smart Home Panel, a transfer switch with a subpanel that lets you directly connect two EcoFlow Pros (each with up to two additional batteries) to your home electrical system and power up to 10 circuits.

With all of that on tap, the Delta Pro is physically large. It weighs 99 pounds, though it has integrated wheels with a pull-out handle, so you can roll it (more like drag it) to wherever it needs to be.

The 400W panels weigh just over 35 lbs each. As we noted with the Delta 2, the 400W panels use MC4-type locking connectors and are built with a folding, 4-segment  “floppy” or flexible construction. which can be used flat or angled, come in heavy fabric carrying bases which function as an angular stand and use carabiner clips to connect it to the panel.

The 400W panels are more cumbersome than the 160W panels supplied with the smaller EcoFlow units, and you may need two people to position it when the stand is used. The panels are IP68 rated, meaning they can handle being rained on – and during the testing period, sitting out on our driveway for weeks at a time in the south Florida summer, they were rained on continuously – drenched. They continued to operate flawlessly despite the deluges.

You can charge from solar or AC.The solar input lets you connect up to four 400W panels at 1600W. You can charge from a 120V outlet, of course, but to fill this monster at high speeds, EcoFlow sells an “X-Stream” adapter that allows you to use a J1772 connector (like a Level 2 240V 40A/50A EV charging circuit) to fill the 3600 Wh battery at over 3000W.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t overtax your home electrical circuit trying to AC charge it: we did encounter an issue where the power draw during 110V AC charging exceeded the capacity of the shared circuit (15A) to which the Delta Pro was connected; it caused the breaker to flip. To address this, we isolated the device to its own circuit and lowered the AC power draw in the app to a more modest 800W – which, as with the Delta 2, we suggest you do unless your circuit is sufficient to handle AC charging at the maximum draw.

There wasn’t a load we could throw at this unit it could not handle, including 1800W espresso machines and induction cookers, and hair dryers in addition to our lineup of personal electronics, fans, and small appliances. To really stress out the Delta Pro we used dual True 2A rated 24-inch undercounter commercial refrigerators, which had a peak draw of about 480W when the compressors were running at full blast, both at the same time.

In a continual consumption scenario with no solar connection for recharging, according to the built-in display and the app (as we were monitoring it) the 3600 Wh battery on the Delta Pro would deplete in 7.5 hours, and with a single external battery, in about 14 or 15 hours with a total of 7200 Wh. Adding a second battery (we’re extrapolating, since we didn’t test with a second battery) would provide about 22 hours of continuous draw (and that’s without a solar panel hooked up).

In real-world use, with only periodic compressor bursts from the refrigerators and twin 400W panels giving us at least 550W of continual recharge at about 70 percent efficiency during the day, we didn’t tax the Delta Pro much at all. Similarly, using a 1800W induction cooker, running a boiling pot of water, continuously, got us about two hours of total use from a fully charged single battery with no solar recharging, but that’s not a realistic application: you’d use an appliance like this for only about 15-20 minutes at a time to make meals, and we rarely ran it above 800W-1000W for medium-heat cooking. Practically, it doesn’t make a dent.

So did we max out the capabilities of this monster setup? No, not by any means. And realistically, your typical family running emergency loads will not either. Suffice it to say, this bodes well for the Delta Pro’s usefulness in emergency situations, and at the very least it should be a good solution to avoid having to toss a fridge or freezer full of food after a long power outage.

EcoFlow even sells a setup meant to address a particularly challenging situation: the EV charging adapter lets you use the NEMA TT-30 30A 125V port with a grounding adapter to charge an electric car. Just be aware that EV batteries are really big, so you can’t expect to fill up that easily, at least not right out of the box. With the base 3.6 kWh in the Delta Pro, you only get about 5 percent charge on a 77 kWh battery or a 15 percent charge with 10.8 kWh if both external batteries are connected. With 1600W of panels connected, you could fully charge your vehicle in a day or two (perhaps three) if solar conditions are optimal, but it’s a bit of a stretch and you wouldn’t be able to use it for anything else. But if you’re stuck in a snowy cabin with a pooped-out electric vehicle, you should be able to get enough charge to make it to a charging station.

First off, a solar generator isn’t really a “generator” — rather, it’s a large rechargeable battery pack (not that different from the devices you might carry around to charge your phone while traveling), integrating an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) with surge protection and an inverter and line conditioner to power your AC devices.

These devices are known as “solar generators” because they’re designed to be charged using a solar panel, making them suitable for long-term use in emergencies or off the grid (they can also be charged from a wall outlet). A wide range of battery capacities are available, from large models that can keep critical appliances going and the lights on during an emergency, to lightweight models more suitable for camping or tailgating.

In order to supply power to a wide range of devices, solar generators offer a variety of AC outlets, 12V DC ports: a standard cigarette lighter port and 5521 barrel-type ports, in addition to Anderson power ports. The more sophisticated, higher-power generators may also have 125V 30A outlets for powering an RV. Some solar generators can directly integrate with home generator transfer panels to power AC circuits.

Solar generators also come with USB ports for charging phones and small devices. The number of USB ports varies from two to four on smaller units and can be as high as six to eight on larger units, with a mix of USB-A 2.4v and 5V ports and USB-C with power delivery (PD) ports from 18W-100W capacities.

In addition to basic watt-hour and inverter capacities, solar generators have different types of ports for connecting various devices. The number of 120V AC ports is typically one or two on smaller units and three to six on medium and larger units. The inverters on the generators themselves, however, have a maximum wattage rating, so nothing stops you from plugging a power strip into a single AC port and using the maximum wattage of the generator.

The inverters on the generators we reviewed are “pure sinewave,” which is the cleanest power you can get from an AC generator. They create a steady, continuous wave of electricity providing a smooth, oscillating current, also known as power conditioning. Some electronics require pure sinewave electricity, such as medical equipment and other appliances with AC motors, pumps, and compressors.

Some solar generators have integrated power supplies for fast charging and can be directly connected using cables to external 110V AC and 12V DC power sources. In contrast, others use transformer bricks similar to ones you see on other consumer appliances such as personal computers. A tradeoff: a separate power supply typically generates less heat and somewhat lowers the generator’s weight, making the cabling more complicated. The larger units typically also include integrated fans to cool the battery compartment; the battery management system controls them and spins them up and down as needed.

LED and LCDs on these devices display basic data such as state of charge, current wattage output, input, and estimated times until charge and depletion (some also have touchscreen user interfaces). Some generators also have wireless capabilities and are managed using a mobile application using Bluetooth and WiFi. The benefit is remote visibility into real-time generator performance from the comfort of wherever you want to view it and alter any settings that may be needed, such as activating and deactivating inverter ports, changing inverter charge speed so as not to overtax a circuit, and also to update the firmware.

How to choose and use a solar generator

The performance of solar generators is measured in watt hours (Wh). For example, imagine you have a load of 100W (which may be typical of a large fan and a portable refrigerator), and your solar generator’s capacity is 1000 Wh. Then you could keep the load (the fan and portable fridge) for approximately 10 hours before the battery power is depleted (assuming there is no interim recharge by your solar panels, such as at night).

When operating a solar generator, shield it from the elements such as behind your front door, on a covered porch/patio, or inside a vehicle. Some solar panels are rated for continuous outdoor use and are weatherproofed. However, the generators should never be exposed to water, rain, or extreme heat. For this reason, we also recommend purchasing extension cables for optimizing generator/panel placement – in our testing, we used 25-foot extensions, so we had a sufficient length between the panels and the generator.

The heart of any solar generator unit, the cell is where chemical energy is stored for use as electrical energy. Cells have used a variety of lithium-based chemical formulations; many batteries have used Lithium-Ion Nickel Manganese Cobalt (NMC) though Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP), also referred to by its chemical formula LiFePO4, has gained popularity in the industry lately since it allows for faster charging and discharging, many more charge cycles, and lasts longer.

NMC batteries are, however, more common, since they are lighter and more energy-dense (and smaller, which is why you see them in smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and portable batteries). However, they have relatively slow charge and discharge rates, which makes them less efficient in use (in the battery world, the measurement of charge speed and rate of depletion/discharge known as the C rating, and higher is faster)

In addition to having a lower C rating than LFP batteries, Lithium Ion-NMC batteries only have a lifespan of about 500 full charge cycles. In contrast, LFP batteries can handle over 3000 cycles. LFP batteries also don’t generate as much heat as NMC batteries, making them safer and ideal for use in solar generators and electric vehicles.

The BMS, a microprocessor-controlled device embedded in the solar generator, combined with software algorithms, ensures the battery’s safety and longevity by regulating the charging and discharging of the cells. It accomplishes this by monitoring the voltage and current of each cell in the battery pack and balancing them as needed. The BMS also shuts down the system if it detects an unsafe condition, such as over-voltage or over-temperature.

The Inverter converts the direct current (DC) output from the batteries and the solar panels to the alternating current (AC) that your home uses (for lamps, appliances, and most gadgets). The inverter on a solar generator is rated in output watts (W); a small generator typically has a rating of about 500W, a medium-sized at about 1200W, and a large unit at 2000W or higher.

In other words, the output wattage gives you an idea of how many devices can draw power from the generator simultaneously. A single electric fan might have a maximum draw of 70W, but a hairdryer or a portable induction burner running at maximum power may draw as much as 1600-1800W and overtax a medium-sized unit. Inverters also handle the combined input wattage from AC and DC power, so your maximum solar panel capacity is determined by the inverter’s capacity. If your inverter has a maximum input capacity of 400W, you cannot use more than two 200W panels or four 100W panels.

A solar panel comprises photovoltaic (PV) cells that convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity. In a home setup, the DC current is then sent to an inverter, which is converted into alternating current (AC), the type of electricity used in your home. In a solar generator, energy is stored in the battery cells for conversion to AC (or use as DC) later.

Solar panels integrate with solar generators using MPPT (maximum power point tracking) controllers. MPPT is a standard technology that manages the conversion from panel output, and generally speaking, any MPPT-compatible panel from any manufacturer can be used with any solar generator providing the correct connector cables and adapters are also used (such as Anderson, MC4/PV4, XT-30/XT-60, and various barrel connectors), and that the maximum voltage and combined input wattage into your inverter is not exceeded. However, it is possible to run into cable incompatibilities and capacity mismatches, so we’d recommend you pair panels sold by your generator manufacturer with your generator for the highest compatibility and optimal performance.

A solar panel’s performance depends on atmospheric conditions and your panel efficiency; inverters are about 95 percent efficient. That is: Is the sun shining? Even if you have a panel rated at 100W, you may find that it doesn’t work as well in cloudy or hazy weather, or if the panels are not in direct sunlight, or depending on the sun’s orientation during the time of day. Your panels could operate at 50 percent or less efficiency, maybe 50W. We never saw any manufacturer’s panels performing higher than 80 percent efficiency during our testing in south Florida during the summer of 2022, where we had light to medium cloud cover. Therefore, when making recharge calculations against the watt-hour capacity of your generator, assume a panel efficiency of 50 percent or less, depending on your typical weather conditions.

Solar panels are rated by their power output in watts, and portable panel sizes can range from as small as 50 watts to as high as 400 watts. You’ll want to make sure you do not exceed the maximum input capacity of the generator from the panel array; most MPPT charge controllers do not allow you to hook up panels that exceed voltage requirements. Some vendors (such as Goal Zero) will enable you to “oversubscribe” your panel wattage (such as using 1200W of total capacity when the inverter input capacity is only 600W) during less favorable conditions. However, once the conditions become favorable again, any excess energy is lost as heat.

Depending on its design, a solar generator may be able to accommodate multiple solar panels hooked up in parallel, connected by long cables that use a variety of different types of connectors, which vary by manufacturer. Some panels are of a rugged, heavier, foldable metal design (also referred to as “briefcase”), and others are of a flexible, floppy design. Although they are heavier, these panels are generally easier to set up due to their rigid structure, and a single person can easily set up multiple panels. Briefcase designs are typically outdoor-rated, designed for continuous use, and can be rained on without damaging the components.

In contrast, the larger floppy designs can be more challenging to set up by a single person, are typically not rated by the manufacturer for continuous outdoor use, and are recommended to be removed from the elements during bad weather. However, in most cases, this only applies to the cable connections, so if you seal those with duct tape, there’s no reason why you can’t leave such solar panels outside for days at a time; we certainly did for our testing, and we encountered no malfunctions.

A solar generator set up on a patio, with multiple cable runs visible between patio furniture as well as an Astro refrigerator

All generators were tested from June through August 2022 in variable sun conditions and varying weather. Generators were placed on a covered patio away from the elements. Long extension cables were connected to the panels placed outside the patio on a large outdoor pool deck. Panels were left outside for a week at a time.

The test load included two 70W stand fans, a 60W AstroAI 15L refrigerator/freezer run at -4 degrees F for maximum load, and 20W of LED lamps. Incidental loads included a 1800W portable induction burner, a 1800W espresso machine, and a 1600W hair dryer and dual 2A 240W commercial refrigerators. Various generators charged other generators to test maximum inverter loads. 15A and 20A circuits with GFCI were used for AC charging generators when solar conditions were unfavorable or to test dual-charging configurations.

We measured whether the units were able to handle the test loads in terms of total wattage draw on the inverter, and measured how long it took for the battery to run out under typical real-world loads with the solar panels attached.

We paid careful attention to ease of setup and use, simplicity of monitoring, and to Industrial design and build quality issues, looking at how the design affected performance and use, and looking for potential issues with the durability of components, and at the terms of the manufacturer’s warranty.

Founded in 2012, Jackery is one of the oldest companies in the portable power station industry, and was key in popularizing these types of products. Its 500 series power station, has been on the market since 2019 and is one of the most popular small solar generators. With its friendly industrial design and bright orange-and-black utilitarian look with monochrome LCD, it has spawned many clones.

The Explorer 500’s battery chemistry also puts it behind the times. It uses a Lithium-Ion NMC battery, which run hotter, charge more slowly, and offer shorter lifespans, with fewer charge cycles. That said, NMC batteries are lighter and more energy dense, and the Explorer 500 is a solid, affordable performer, though it lacks up-to-date features like USB-C PD outputs for faster charging of modern portable electronics, still offering only USB-A ports. In addition to an external AC adapter that connects to its barrel-style DC power port, it uses a proprietary Jackery-to-barrel cable for its solar connection.

The Jackery 1000 Pro is the popular battery brand’s newest portable power station, but as with its smaller sibling it’s a bit behind the competition at this point. It uses a Lithium-Ion NMC, and with its larger battery pack it needs more cooling than similarly sized LFP-based devices. Jackery claims 1000 charge cycles, however, perhaps enabled by the units dual onboard fans. We’d expect these to run quite a bit at higher loads. That said, given that NMC batteries are lighter and more energy dense, the 1000 Pro packs a solid amount of capacity into a lightweight case. It’s got more contemporary USB-C PD ports on board as well, making it more useful all around with today’s mobile devices and laptops.

For fast charging you can use a lot of panels — large proprietary dongles connect to two Jackery panel cables, which attach to twin barrel-shaped solar connector jacks, letting you use up to four 200W panels on the 1000 Pro, which can get you a full charge in under 2 hours. The dongles aren’t used in simple two-panel or single-panel configurations.

While it’s nice to have the options, we felt the extra connectors made for overly complex cable runs, and worry about difficulties in diagnosing problems should something go haywire. Also, unlike cables using locking MC4, Anderson, or XT60 connectors, these cables can be disconnected by a simple tug, so you’ll want to watch out for dogs, kids, or simple clumsiness.

We had no issues running our test loads on 1000 Pro, and Jackery has one of the industry’s better warranties, providing up to 5 years if products are purchased directly from the company or an authorized reseller (Amazon works, if you fill out an application on Jackery’s site after purchasing). While we think for the long term purchasers would be better served going with a LiFePO4/LFP-based unit, Jackery’s warranty provides some peace of mind for those more comfortable with the older Lithium-Ion NMC-based technology.

The Jackery Explorer 2000 Pro, the bigger model in the popular company’s lineup, uses the same Lithium-ion NMC battery technology and floppy-style, 18.2lb SolarSaga 200W panels as the 1000 Pro, connecting with the same dongles to support up to six panels on this model for fast charging and supplying 2,160 watt-hours of capacity.

Like its smaller siblings, the Explorer 2000 Pro proved an able performer in our testing, and had no trouble pushing the loads we connected. Plus it is covered by Jackery’s long warranty if you buy direct. It just isn’t the most up-to-date solar generator, so especially at this capacity and price we’d suggest looking at something more up to date.

With a design very much like Jackery’s but LiFePO4/LFP cells under the hood, the Oupes 1800, which offers 1488 watt-hours of battery capacity and an 1800W AC inverter sits between the Jackery 1000 and 2000, and may fit the bill, though it doesn’t offer as long a warranty, nor does the brand have as long a history in power stations.

We hooked the Oupes up to Jackery and Geneverse’s 200W panels and cabling (both of which appear to come from the same factory) and its own floppy 4-segment 100W panels, which also appear quite similar to Jackery’s in design, and got good results all around. That said, we’d probably look to more established brands for this sort of product.

Previously known as Generark, like Oupes and numerous others, Geneverse is also making LFP-based Jackery look-alikes, which includes selling panels that are spitting images of the SolarSaga 200W, except that they are grey – but otherwise the cabling and dongle setup is identical to what Jackery sells currently for its 1000 Pro and 2000 Pro line.

Their HomePower One Pro eschews the orange and black color palette of the Jackery 1000 Pro, opting for a dark plastic grey casing and a blue and black display with a data layout similar to its competitors. It has a 1210 Wh battery, a 1200W inverter, and an 800W DC input, giving it a slight edge over the Jackery 1000 Pro in power output.

Geneverse’s other advantages over the Jackery 1000 Pro include Wifi-based app management, but we thought the app wasn’t nearly sophisticated or as well-designed as what we saw from EcoFlow, Goal Zero, or even Bluetti; its functionality is pretty basic, and felt its connectivity was not particularly reliable.

Geneverse provides a 5-year warranty if you buy directly from the company.

Goal Zero, founded in 2009, is one of the standard setters for the portable solar power station industry. It’s known for making well-made, exceptionally engineered products for people who work and play outdoors. The devices are expandable, utilizing the company’s Yeti Link/Yeti Tank 1200 Wh lead acid battery technology and can also power up to 4 of your home circuits with their Home Integration Kit transfer switch and subpanel.

The Yeti 1500X is a powerful mid size solar generator with a 1516 Wh battery based on lithium-ion NMC chemistry; it can drive  2000W of connected load with its inverter and can charge at up to 600W DC.

In addition to boasting an excellent app with smart systems management and notifications with reliable Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity (in our testing, the Goal Zero app and smart functionality stood out in particular, excelling compared to most products we looked at), Goal Zero is one of the few manufacturers using a briefcase-style metal outdoor-rated panel design for its 100W and 200W panels, making it ideal for longer-term installations. The panels use Anderson-style parallel connections, which are more rugged than those used by most of the competition, and the cables are thicker. Despite their increased heft, we felt the Goal Zero panels were easier to set up than their “floppy” competitors due to their rigidity and stability.

When charging with AC, the Yeti uses an external power adapter connected to the single Anderson charge port to reduce excess heat. Unlike several other devices we looked at, you can’t “dual charge” the Yeti with both AC and solar connected simultaneously.

Despite employing less desirable battery chemistry than their competitors, the products performed exceptionally well with our test loads. Additionally, their rugged designs would be a good choice for many outdoor sporting/recreation and work scenarios. While we think overall LiFePO4-based designs are a better investment at this point, especially when you’re spending this much money, the Goal Zero Yeti models are solid, dependable and highly usable alternatives.

If you want something big and built for the outdoors, the Goal Zero Yeti 3000X is a larger version of the company’s 1500X power station; like its smaller sibling it has a 2000W inverter and can charge at 600W DC; the primary difference between the two is that the 1500X has a 1516 Wh battery and bigger, heavier 3000X (which can roll on wheels) has a 3032 Wh battery.

If you need the additional capacity but want to stick with the tried and true, or need the Goal Zero’s bulletproof build and well-designed system of cables, panels, and accessories the Yeti 3000x maks a lot of sense.

Until the EcoFlow Delta 2 showed up, the Anker 757 was our category winner for a medium-sized solar generator, and it is a strong contender, with LiFePO4/LFP battery chemistry and a good combination of features and performance at its price point. A 1200 Wh LFP battery and six AC ports on its 1500W inverter, plus a wide variety of USB and other DC outputs (as you’d expect given Anker’s background in mobile device charging) make it a versatile and capable unit.

The Anker 757 does, however, lack the app management features of its competitors, it has no expansion capability, and the unit is heavy for its size. Considering the inverter and battery size, we also felt the DC input capacity — only 300W — was anemic, making for slower charging than its competition. However, Anker boasts one of the best warranties in the industry, at five years, so it may still be a good choice for those who intend to use it heavily.

The Lion Energy Safari ME is a small solar generator meant to be used with a large expansion battery as part of a bigger setup. Like the Goal Zero units, it boasts a heavy-duty design and uses outdoor-rated “briefcase” style 100W folding metal panels connected with thick cables terminating in Anderson connections. The 922Wh base LiFePO4/LFP battery is on the small side for other generators at this price point, but the device is expandable to 2970 Wh, and has a 2000W inverter capacity.

We liked the ruggedized metal build of the unit. Still, we wished the 585W DC solar input was higher, and the panel capacity was 200W (or higher) like Goal Zero’s, as they aren’t very space efficient for the amount of power they generate. We also discovered the unit employs an electromechanical switch (rather than digital) for locking onto AC versus DC solar inputs and isn’t designed to be plugged into both simultaneously. If you do, the generator clicks rapidly (and loudly) when there’s no solar input power at night — an issue the company is looking to resolve in the next hardware release.

With so many new expandable models on the market, the Lion Energy Safari ME isn’t that great a value proposition, however — it is very expensive for the capacity the base unit offers out of the box, and even pricier when expanded to near 3000 Wh compared to its competitors. In addition to a lack of app management, we felt that the unit was also short on the number and capabilities of AC and USB ports compared to its competitors. Given the “industrial” design and price point, we feel it should have a more extended warranty than a single year.

As with EcoFlow and its Delta Pro, Bluetti is pushing the envelope on what a solar generator can do. With 2048 Wh of LiFePO4/LFP battery capacity onboard, a full range of AC and DC outputs (including  a 30A 125V NEMA TT-30 outlet for RV power and two 15W wireless charging pads) and the ability to add an additional 4096 Wh capacity with dual 2048 Wh B230 LFP batteries, for a total of 6144 Wh, you can build a very large system around the AC200MAX (if that’s not enough Bluetti offers the 5100 Wh EP500 and the 3072 WH AC500, which is expandable to 18,000 Wh of capacity for a whole-house emergency solution).

As with EcoFlow and Goal Zero, Bluetti has a sophisticated app, though it only has Bluetooth connectivity, not WiFi. We found that it lost connection more often than the competition, and we had to reestablish it manually. The generator has a touchscreen display that allows you to configure every option, however, so an app isn’t essential to get the most use out of the AC200MAX.

We had no issues with test loads on the device, and the company’s floppy 350W panels were easy to hook up and performed well. If you are looking for a generator with a lot of battery power and expansion capabilities at a reasonable price point, the AC200MAX would be a good choice, though EcoFlow’s Delta lineup is a bit easier to use and manage.