[Ultimate Guide] How Do Solar Generators Work
If you live in areas where high winds, tornados, hurricanes, or other events result in power out, you should think of alternative energy. In that case, solar energy is the best solution to combat power outages.
They are silent, don't need fossil fuel, recharge quickly, and are portable sometimes. Solar generators help harness solar power. But how do solar generators work? Continue reading the post to learn more about how they work and other important things.
What is a solar generator?
In technical terms, a solar generator is a piece of equipment that need solar power to function. However, it refers to a power station that makes good use of solar panels to provide electricity. Solar generators use solar panels so that they can capture the rays from the sun and store them in a battery for later use.
Solar generators work along with solar panels to provide backup power to your home or at other places where you need electricity. That way, they are helpful when there are power outages or during camping or off grid living. There are lots of generators available depending on function, size, and style.
Solar generators are capable of capturing the sun's energy to be used later. They use integrated solar panels to grab the sun's energy and transport the same to any kind of internal storage system, especially a lithium-ion system. However, solar generators might not be the best solution for large homes. Still, they are effective for campervans, and boats, and as a backup in areas with frequent blackouts.
Types of solar generators
Below listed are the two types of solar generators commonly found.
1. Solar backup generators
These kinds of generators are installed permanently and are wired to the electrical panel of your home. They start functioning when the power goes out automatically while providing backup power till the sun shines again. If you live in an area with frequent power problems, solar backup generators are the best solution for you.
Solar backup generators come with high-wattage capacity. Moreover, they could be equipped with many batteries while maximizing power storage. These generators are best for the important electronics at your home. These might include computers, televisions, lights, and other small to medium-range appliances.
The best part is that if the solar panels have high wattage, your solar generator will take a minimum of two days to charge depending on the weather. It means that you have an energy supply during outages that may extend sometimes.
2. Portable solar power generators
These kinds of solar generators are self-contained, small units that you can carry around for a variety of settings. Portable solar power generators allow you to enjoy electricity on the go. They are easy to move, pack, and store. As such, they are a great option for emergencies, outdoor events, and camping.
Portable solar power generators are considered great for small backup sources. Although they have a low-wattage capacity, they can still power many devices such as lights, laptops, portable TVs, smartphones, and other small appliances. These generators give you a considerable amount of energy for longer periods.
What is interesting about these generators is that you can charge them through a car adopter or an AC outlet. When the generator doesn't have power, the panels will recharge the battery for future use. Some of them are even equipped with a handle on top or a pull handle to improve portability.
As said, these kinds of generators don't have enough power to run large appliances in your home. While you may use it to run a refrigerator, it won't perform for a long time. Also, they take a long time to recharge, especially when you use low-wattage capacity solar panels.
How does a solar generator work?
A solar generator has different components that make it perform. Solar generators have four major components:
Portable solar panels
The solar panels are responsible to collect energy from the sun. The panels help convert the sun's rays into direct current or DC power.
A solar charge controller
The solar charge controller help regulate and stabilize the current before it is utilized for storage. As a result, it distributes the right amount of electricity to the battery while preventing it from overcharging and causing damage to the equipment.
A solar battery
The solar battery serves as the main power source or the power reserve. A solar battery is an important component similar to other components in the solar generator. If there is no battery, you can only utilize solar energy during sunny days whereas can't use the same on cloudy days.
This is another important piece of equipment that comprises solar generators. The energy stored in the battery needs to be converted to an alternate current or AC so that the devices and appliances can use them. This is where the inverter comes to the scene.
What are the pros of a solar generator?
1. Free energy from the sun
Gas-powered generators need you to buy fuel all the time. But when you use solar generators, you don't have to think about fuel. All you need to do is set up the solar panel while enjoying complete peace of mind during power outages.
2. Clean energy
No wonder, solar energy is renewable, clean energy. It means that you don't have to worry about the cost of traditional fossil fuels that you need to power an ordinary generator. Besides, you don't even have to worry about the environmental impact that using gas provides.
Solar generators don't produce harmful pollutants. They produce clean energy that they can store. Remember that clean energy powers your boating or camping trips.
3. Quiet operation
Another remarkable feature of solar generators is that they work quietly. Quite different from generators powered by gasoline, solar generators don't involve moving parts. As a result, it reduces noise to a great extent that other generators make when running.
Other than the financial gains from using solar generators, they come with environmental upsides compared to generators run by gas. These generators result in air pollution other than noise pollution. Gas-powered generators are annoying whereas solar generators contribute to climate change.
4. Low maintenance costs
As said, earlier, solar generators don't have movable parts. It means that chances of breaking down parts aren't possible. This reduces the significant amount of maintenance that is required to maintain compared to traditional generators. With no moving parts in solar generators, you don't have to worry about repairs.
5. Less maintenance concern
It may surprise you but the average lifespan of solar panels is anywhere between 25 and 30 years. The gasoline-powered generators have a long life that can even last for up to 40 years. But they come with their problems, too.
Because of that, you need several maintenance works throughout the years. In addition, you need to buy fuel to keep them running. On the contrary, solar generators don't require such tasks. This gives you less to worry about your future regarding using generators to produce backup power.
What are the cons of a solar generator?
1. Pricy upfront
Upfront costs for gas-powered generators are high compared to solar generators. A solar generator requires a higher investment initially than gas-powered generators as well. The average cost of gas generators is anywhere around $1000.
But solar generators can have an upfront cost of about $2000. A piece of good news is that solar generators come with low operational costs. That way, you will spend less money on a solar generator over a lifetime.
2. Limited power supply (depending on watts)
The size of the battery to be used for the solar generator will limit the power to be used by the generator. No denying, solar generators won't power your entire house because of certain limitations. Typically, the wattage of solar generators has a role to play in this regard.
However, the generator can charge laptops, phones, and other small appliances for a short period. Gas-powered generators, on the other hand, have higher wattage power and have few limitations. They can even power the entire house for a long time depending on the capacity of the fuel tank.
3. Slow recharge
The batteries in solar generators can recharge only when the sun is shining bright. Even after that, it will take a considerable amount of time for the solar panels to charge the batteries.
It may take about 9 hours for a solar panel with 100W output power to charge the batteries. This is about mid-sized batteries for solar generators. Whereas, gas-powered generators can be refueled for more usage without worrying about rough weather conditions.
What to consider when buying a solar-powered generator?
Like other equipment and devices, all of them aren't created equal. And, solar generators are no different. Therefore, you need to keep certain things in your mind before narrowing down your choices on the product that you want to buy. Remember that when it comes to buying solar generators, there are some important things to consider. Check out them in the following section below.
1. Solar panels
In general, some solar generators provide solar panels with them. But most solar generators will need you to buy the panels separately. Hence, keep this in your mind when buying solar generators.
There are mainly three types of solar panels: thin film, polycrystalline solar cells, and monocrystalline panels. Each of these types varies from one another. When it comes to efficiency, monocrystalline panels come first. Also, they are the most common. Besides, the thin panels are the most affordable and lightest.
There is no denying that people use appliances for different reasons. That way, solar generators aren't an exception. You intend to use the device for two situations: for home use or outdoor use. If you use the generator at your home, weight isn't going to be an issue.
But if you are planning to use the solar generator for outdoor purposes, you have to consider the weight of the generator. Nobody wants to carry something heavy in the wilderness. Therefore, look for the portability aspect of the generator. These might include a lightweight generator with an accessible handle for effortless carrying.
3. Battery capacity
In layman's terms, battery capacity is the total amount of electricity that a solar generator can store effectively. Apart from that, it is wise to know the power rating. It means how much power the generator can provide at a time.
If the generator has a high battery capacity but a lower power rating, it can't deliver more electricity for a prolonged time. This is why you need to watch out for Watt for the unit of power. Also, you need to check the watt-hour for the number of watts consumed or generated during an hour.
4. Battery type
Lithium-ion and lead-acid are the most common types of battery you find around. Lithium-ion is lightweight and mostly used to power tools. Whereas, lead-acid batteries work wonders for certain things like automobiles. Lithium-ion batteries are perfect for long-term use.
However, there is a new type called semi-solid state batteries. These batteries are known for their safety, longer life, and eco-friendly as well. The best part is that mass production for this battery type has already begun.
5. Charge controller
The charge controller is another important aspect that you should consider before buying a solar generator. Therefore, check for 3-power point tracking or MPPT. That's because they are the most efficient ones when it comes to impressive charge controllers. Charge controllers help regulate the current between the battery and solar panels.
As we all know, solar panels generate direct current electricity. That way, you need to convert them to alternating currents. This is when you need an inverter. They convert direct current or DC produced from the solar panels to alternating current or AC. Solar generators are equipped with inverters. However, pure sine wave inverters are the most efficient ones and the most expensive ones as well.
If you are looking for a cost-effective solution for your energy needs, soar generators are great options. They come with plenty of advantages compared to equipment that runs on fossil fuel. Besides, they harness energy from the sun and don't emit harmful elements. They require less maintenance as well.