Five Questions Nearly Everyone Forgets to Ask When Buying a Solar Generator
By Lee Bellinger
If you’re in the market for a solar generator you are a wise person. Let’s make that clear up front.
As you know, there are LOTS of reasons you would want a back-up generator. And let’s face it, most people don’t like to think about the “bad stuff” so they choose instead to ignore it. Like that will help!
Winter storms routinely knock out power in pockets all around the nation. Sometimes these outages last a couple of days. Other times a week or more.
But winter storms aren’t the only reason for outages. Cases where the power grid is overtaxed are becoming more common.
Think of summer time when everyone is running their air conditioners at the same time. Demand for power outpaces the supply. When that happens, rolling blackouts become routine. That can leave you without power for hours at a time every day for weeks on end. This happens regularly in California for example.
Emergencies scenarios from cybercrimes to terrorist attacks can also bring down the power unexpectedly.
Most power outages are short, but sometimes they last for days. Any power outage that lasts for more than a day becomes a big inconvenience and can even put you and your family in danger.
• A long-term power outage can leave you disconnected — once your computer and cell phone run out of charge, you may feel cut off. Even most landlines these days are wireless and need power to work.
• Without power, any food you have stored in your freezer or fridge is living on borrowed time. People have lost hundreds of dollars’ worth of food during an outage because of spoilage. You can only eat so much so fast, after all.
• Some medications, like insulin, must be refrigerated. If someone in your family depends on insulin, or another “refrigeration-required” type drug to maintain their health, a power outage becomes more than an inconvenience… it becomes a serious threat.
Likewise, if anyone in your home depends on medical equipment, you can’t afford a power outage that lasts more than a few hours.
Having a back-up generator gives you more options in any of these situations. A good generator can allow you to charge up your cell phone, run a freezer, and keep medical equipment humming along. At the very least, a back-up generator gives you a buffer — time to think through your next steps… time to figure out how long authorities are projecting power to be down so that you know if you should stay put or get out of dodge.
Purchasing a back-up generator isn’t a small expense, so you want to carefully consider your options.
The first choice you have to make is whether you want a gas-powered generator or a one that runs on solar power.
A gas-powered generator has a lower upfront cost and produces reliable energy on demand as long as you have the fuel to run it.
Those are the pros.
Unfortunately, gas generators have a number of drawbacks.
1. They are noisy. Most gas generators, you can hear from blocks away. During a power outage, some people do desperate or stupid things… like stealing from their neighbors. If you have a gas-powered generator, you may draw the attention of the wrong kinds of people. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, generators topped the list of things reported stolen.
2. They run on gas, diesel or propane. If you run out of fuel, your generator becomes useless.
3. They have higher long-term costs because you have to replenish the fuel that they need to function.
4. They emit toxic fumes that aren’t good for the health of your family.
5. They have more moving parts, which means the chance of a mechanical breakdown is always a possibility.
If you have unlimited access to fuel, like working on machines when they break and you don’t mind attracting the wrong types of people in an emergency, then a gas generator might be a good fit for you.
Don't have unlimited access to fuel?
Try this instead...
If you don't have unlimited access to fuel, a solar generator just might be the ticket.
With a solar generator, you can power the most-needed items in your home, and do it silently so you don’t attract any unwanted attention.
Solar generators don’t take refueling. They run on sunlight. Now you may be thinking, what about when the sun goes down or if it starts raining? With the right battery set up, you’ll be able to store the energy your solar panels produce to use when you need it — day or night, rain or shine.
We’ll talk more about batteries in a moment…
Once you’ve purchased your solar generator, as far as costs go, that’s it. You don’t have to buy and store fuel (an expensive proposition… not to mention dangerous.) You can just set your generator up when you need it, and you’ll be good to go.
Solar generators are non-polluting. No toxic fumes and poisonous gases spilling into your yard and making your family more vulnerable to respiratory infections.
Solar generators are also easier to use than gas-powered generators and they are not mechanical like a gas generator. That means you don’t have to worry about your solar-powered generator breaking down when you need it most.
With a solar-powered generator, you give yourself a way to have safe, clean, quiet power when you need it. You’ll never have to worry about your generator not working or if you’re going to run out of fuel.
It’s also cheaper over the long-term.
When you consider the pros and cons of gas-powered versus solar-powered, solar comes out the clear winner.
But that doesn’t mean that all solar powered generators are created equal.
There are important questions you want to answer before you buy a solar generator. If you skip these questions, you could end up with a generator that doesn’t produce enough power to meet your energy needs. Or you could end up with a product that doesn’t store power the way you need it to, leaving you high and dry during the nights or on cloudy days.
Avoid these questions at your own peril.
Don’t make that mistake...
So, let’s take a look at what you need to ask to make a smart solar generator purchase.
Question #1: What Kind of Battery and Battery Life Does the Generator Have?
Your solar generator’s battery is what makes it possible for you to continue using power even when the sun isn’t out. Your generator’s solar panels make electricity from the energy in sunlight and then store that energy in a battery.
Most solar generators use either a lead-acid battery or a lithium battery. Both are viable options.
It’s important to know how much usable power the battery can store. You can determine this by multiplying the battery’s voltage by its AMP hour rating. That will give you the total watt-hours the battery is capable of sustaining.
For a lead-acid battery, the usable power is two thirds of the total. You don’t want to drain the battery beyond that point or you’ll damage it. For a lithium battery, which is lighter and more efficient, you can use 90% of the battery’s total power.
Look for a solar generator that gives you access to at least 800 watt-hours of usable energy.
Even better, choose a solar generator that comes with multiple batteries. Two batteries will make the unit heavier, but it will essentially double your access to power.
Question #2: How Long Do the Panels Take to Recharge the Batteries?
With 800 watt-hours of usable energy, you could run a 100-watt appliance, like a freezer, continuously for 8 hours. That’s enough to get you through the night. But if your solar panels can’t effectively charge up your battery in the course of the day, it’s a losing proposition.
Solar panels charge up fastest under direct sunlight. In most places, direct sun lasts for about six hours a day, usually between the hours of 10am and 4pm. That means you want to purchase a solar generator with panels capable of fully recharging your battery within six hours.
There is an exception. If your generator is portable, you can shift it throughout the day so that it can get full sun for more hours — up to eight or even ten depending on where you live and the time of year.
Question #3: Is It Portable?
The question of portability is important for the reason cited above. With a portable solar generator, you increase your ability to charge up the batteries, so that you can be more certain of having a reliable source of power when you need it.
But there’s more to it.
By having a portable generator, you can take it with you should you need to leave for any reason. That means you won’t have to worry about access to power, even if you’re in a campsite for a few days.
Question #4: Does It Have Multiple Charging Methods Including a Trickle Charge?
It’s a good idea to have multiple ways to charge up the battery bank in your solar generator. The solar panels are one method, and during a power outage they are the method you’ll use most often.
But it’s a good idea to also be able to trickle charge your batteries by plugging them into your power source at home. Now I can hear you thinking, if the power is out, how is it helpful to plug the generator into a wall outlet?
Obviously, this isn’t an option you would use during a power outage. But a solar generator holds its charge in a battery. And even if you aren’t using it, that charge will drain slowly over time. A trickle charge capacity lets you conveniently and quickly top off the battery’s charge, which will maintain the health and functionality of the battery over time.
Another good feature to look for is ability to recharge your generator using your car’s power system. If you can plug your generator into your car the same way you would plug in your cell phone, you can rebuild the charge while you’re driving around.
Question #5: Is It Well Built?
You’re going to rely on your solar generator for serious purposes, so you want a generator that is seriously made. So ask…
Does the solar generator you’re using have a warranty or a strong return policy?
Does it have a solid metal casing or a flimsy plastic casing?
Will the manufacturer share the sources of his components or is the generator made up of no-name brands that you can’t vet?
Choose a solar generator that’s well built using trusted parts and that comes from a manufacturer who stands behind the product.
If you use these questions as your guide to purchasing a solar generator, you’ll do well for yourself and your family.
One option that ticks all these checkboxes and is worth your consideration is the PowerWhisperer.
Whether you buy the base model or the top-of-the-line version, PowerWhisperer provides at least 800 watt-hours of usable energy per fully charged battery. The recharge time is between four and eight hours. The unit is portable and gives you multiple ways to maintain the charge on your batteries.
It will run all your major appliances, charge your phones and computers, is portable and makes no noise.
It’s also competitively priced and well made, with trusted components elegantly arranged in a powdered aluminum casing. And there’s a 12 month return policy, so you can test it out as your backup power solution for a full year, risk free.
CHOICE #1: PowerWhisperer M Model Classic
Total retail value including shipping is $3,997. Enclosed with brochure is a 30% Preferred Client Discount. Your total cost inclusive of shipping and insurance, $3,108.
(Includes shipping and insurance)
Choice #2: Transform Your Classic PowerWhisperer M Model
With This DOUBLE-DOUBLE Upgrade Offer.
(Includes shipping and insurance)
Choice #3: The PowerWhisperer Pro Commercial Grade Unit
Scary-Good Technology – Radically Advanced
(Includes shipping and insurance)