If your neighborhood suffers constant power outages, you understand the value of a backup power system installed in your home, even when you’ve had months of uninterrupted power.
The energy industry seems to understand these needs all too well, and it’s come up with numerous options that you could try. Some of these options include inverter generators, solar panels, and solar generators, but you need to choose one. Today, we focus on two of these options, generators, and solar panels. Which of the two is the best option for your home?
To understand which of these options would work best for your home, let’s first look at the basics of each and how they differ.
What is a solar generator/ solar panel?
Think of a solar generator as a misnomer, because it is. The truth is that the equipment that’s referred to as a solar generator is actually a rechargeable battery that’s powered by the solar panel.
The solar panel or the solar module is made of a metal frame, a layer of silicon cells, a glass casing unit, and a wire than transfers electric current from the silicon rods. Since silicon is a non-metal with some conductive properties, it can absorb and then convert sunlight into an electric field that creates electricity.
Light hitting the silicon cell sets in motion electrons in the cell, creating an electric current flow or the photovoltaic effect. Wires capture then feed the direct current from the electric current (DC) into the solar inverter in the solar generator from where the current is converted into alternating current electricity (AC).
However, the solar generators work differently from the conventional fuel generators in terms of the technical specs and mechanics.
The setup of the solar generators includes a rechargeable battery, a solar charger, charge controllers, an inverter, and the solar panels. In this setup, the energy drawn from the solar panels’ goes into the rechargeable battery through the solar charger. From the rechargeable battery, the DC electricity harvested from the solar panels is converted into AC electricity that can be used by your devices.
What this means is that the solar power rechargeable batteries work pretty much like portable power stations, also called all-in-one portable power stations.
To find the best solar generator for your home, you’d have to consider factors such as the battery capacity because it affects how much power you have and whether that power is enough to run your appliances for as long as possible before you have to recharge the solar battery.
It would be a good idea to choose the rechargeable battery with the highest capacity. Keep in mind that solar energy is an intermittent energy source, and it doesn’t always generate electricity when you need power, or it may not be generating enough energy when needed. The battery ensures that you have enough energy when you need it.
You also need to keep in mind the battery’s inverter rating. This number determines the wattage produced. If the generator has a low inverter rating, you will be unable to power the high-wattage appliances and devices. Therefore, it is a good idea for you to choose a generator whose inverter rating matches the wattage requirements of your devices.
Note that a solar generator equipped with an inverter charger would be a good idea if you choose to buy a battery with average or lower inverter ratings, because that would mean that the generator would be able to obtain power from other energy sources, besides the solar panels. Getting an inverter charger is also an excellent idea if you are thinking about using the solar generator to run high-wattage appliances/ devices.
Lastly, you must bear in mind the portability of the solar generator. Opt for one with wheels or extended handles for an enhanced level of portability. The most portable solar generators have sturdier handles, and they are relatively lightweight.
Don’t forget that a solar generator is a sensitive piece of electrical equipment., which means that the miswiring of some of its components would result in catastrophic damage. Therefore, you need to either engage the services of a professional or follow the step-up steps one after the other, regardless of the time it takes you.
The role of inverters in solar generators
Generally, the electricity from the solar panels will be stored in the rechargeable battery as DC electricity. Household appliances will, however, mostly run on AC power at either 110 or 240 volts. The inverter allows for the DC to AC conversion because they are pure sine wave inverters. These inverters are also important in stepping up the voltage from either 12v/ 24v/ 48v to 11 or 240 volts.
Advantage of the solar generators/ Panels
- The generators run quietly, and they don’t need any fuel to run. The gas-powered or diesel generators, on the other hand, are quite noisy, and you must fuel the generator for power generation. Therefore, the conventional gas-powered generators are more ideal for use where you have minimal power requirements.The reason for the low-noise design of the solar generator has to do with the absence of an engine in the solar-powered generator. The only noise from a power generator comes from the buzzing of the inverter, but even this sound is minimal.
- Solar generators are pretty much a source of free energy. You are using solar energy from the sun, and this energy is free in a way, and the solar panels make it possible for the use of a free and an unlimited energy source. You only need to make the initial investment to buy the solar panels and the components, plus the installation. In the long run, the use of solar energy is cheaper than conventional gas-powered generators because the sun is much more readily available in remote areas than gasoline. You can’t really run out of solar energy.
- Solar generators are more versatile because of access to multiple sources of power. The solar generators are all-in-one portable power stations, and they can be charged by other power sources besides solar. Also, the basic power from solar powered systems is regular AC electricity, the same as what you get from a wall power outlet.
- Low running costs. Once installed, the running costs of a solar generator are significantly low. You won’t have to buy fuel because the sun is free.
- No fumes. This has to be the biggest win around the solar generators. Conventional gasoline-powered generators release a substantial amount of carbon monoxide, a health hazard, and a bad pollutant, especially if you are working on reducing your carbon emissions. Solar generators are environmentally friendly because they don’t release such fumes. So, if you are looking for a clean energy solution to boost your credits, then solar power is a great option.
- Lightweight and portable design. The absence of an engine in the solar generator means that the solar generators are largely lightweight – there’s only a battery. On the other hand, the conventional gas-powered generators have the engine, battery, and the filled fuel tank, which means more weight and diminished portability.
Disadvantages of the solar generators
- Temperature sensitivity. Despite the fact that solar generators are powered by solar energy, they cannot withstand long hours of exposure to high temperatures. What this means is that if you live in a hot climatic region, the solar power station would have to be kept at a cool temperature area, while the solar panels are placed at areas that ensure maximum exposure to sunlight. To be on the safer side, look out for the solar generators that have a Battery Management System (BMS), a feature that allows for ease of temperature controls for this portable power station.
- Insistency in energy supply. Even with technological advancements that result in the enhanced efficiency of the solar panels and the solar generators, the biggest challenge remains the solar generator’s inconsistency in energy supply because the sun is naturally inconsistent. If you live in a part of the world with very limited sun hours, endless cloudy days, or other conditions that limit the solar panel’s effectiveness in drawing solar energy, the use of solar energy might not be the best option for you. Solar generators work optimally in sub-tropical and tropical climates with more reliable sunshine.
- High initial investment cost of the solar panels, especially for a solar panel/ generator system to power your entire home.
- Slow charging. The other issue that affects the solar generators is that they take quite long to charge fully. Often, the power station would take 8 hours, and this is not an ideal setup for emergencies. And they will only release AC output energy at a defined rate.
- Finally, you need to buy the bigger solar generator for larger power supplies. Despite the low weight of the solar generator, you have to buy a bigger and heavier solar generator for more power. A 1500 watt generator might be lightweight, but you need a heavier solar generator for 3,500 watts or more.
Which is better: Solar generators or Gas-powered generators?
While the portable solar generator is user and environmentally friendly, it doesn’t hold too much power or provide power consistently.
But these shouldn’t be the only considerations that you need to keep in mind when buying either power source. At the end of the day, you need to keep in mind considerations such as the climate and what you need to use the generator for.
If you need to lower your electricity bill, the use of a solar panel and the solar generator would be a good option, especially if you choose the option that allows you to be connected to the grid.
Solar power would make a good long-term investment in energy, but the conventional gas-powered generators are only ideal for use occasionally.
Note that the grid-tied options would save you the monthly metering cost, and access to the grid is more like having access to a virtual battery. All you need is a power meter or a grid-tied inverter. However, if you need a power backup to keep things running in case of an outage in the grid, then the gas-powered generators would be ideal.
So, keep in mind your needs, climatic conditions, flexibility, and whether you are willing to pay the large initial investment for solar energy or not.