Best Solar Generator Under $500

Best Solar Generator Under $500-Advanced Buyer’s Guide

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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Recently, there has been a rise in people switching to solar power as a means of lowering electricity costs. Plus, it is a renewable source of energy. Nevertheless, you don't have to break the bank to own such a device; you can get the best solar generator for under $500.

In case of power outages, the most sought solution is solar generators, and some can be quite expensive, especially if you need help understanding the features. Our article will help you choose the best solar generators under $500 to keep your electricity on during emergencies. 

What Is a Solar Generator?

A solar generator is not a "generator" but a large rechargeable battery pack (it resembles the devices you carry around to charge your phone when traveling). It is a device you use as backup power to generate electricity for your appliances in case of an outage or when you don't have access to grid power.

Moreover, the solar generator integrates an uninterruptible power supply with surge protection and an inverter that powers your AC devices.

Image Credits: electrec.com

This collection of parts is what we call solar generators since they have a design that is charged using a solar panel, making them suitable for use during emergencies or when off the grid. Plus, you can also charge them via a wall outlet.

These solar generators are available in different capacities, ranging from large models that can power a mobile home or critical appliances to lightweight models that help in camping.

These solar-powered generators have a variety of AC outlets to supply power to different appliances at once, 12V DC ports, a standard cigarette port, and 5521 barrel-type ports. They also have Anderson power ports.

Sometimes, you can get sophisticated solar-powered generators with 125V and 30A outlets that can power an RV.

Solar power generators also have USB ports that enable phone charging. The number of USB ports may vary from two to four, depending on the size, and can be as high as six on larger ones. They also have a mix of USB-A 2.4v, 5V ports, and USB-C with power delivery ports from 18W to 100W capacities.

How To Charge a Solar Generator in 3 Ways?

Every solar generator has two main parts:

  • The battery which powers up the system
  • AC inverter, which converts DC to AC power

Image Credits: palmetosolar.com

You will use the stored battery power when you plug any electronic device into your solar generator. However, when this battery is empty, you can recharge your battery in three ways:

1. Grid Charging

This is the easiest way to charge your solar-powered generator- plug it into a wall outlet and charge it the way you would any battery-run device until it reaches 100%. This is the easiest and fastest way to go from 0% to 80% in less than an hour. However, grid charging is only possible when you have access to it.

2. Solar Charging

Solar panels are a source of free and clean power harnessed during the day as it gets energy from the sun. Solar charging speed is determined by the size and number of your panels, the battery capacity, and the solar input power that the generator takes.

If you want to charge your solar generator via a solar panel, you need a solar adapter cable that the manufacturer includes in the solar generator kit. Charging a solar generator can take around 5 hours, but large generators have a dual-charging mode that lets you simultaneously charge from the grid and solar panels.

3. Car Charging

Using a 12V car charger is the slowest way of charging a solar generator. However, if you have to drive for a camping trip the whole night, you might get your solar generator loaded before arriving at your destination.

Best Solar Generators Under $500

1. Jackery Solar Generator 240

Sale
Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 240, 240Wh...
  • BUY WITH CONFIDENCE: The Jackery Explorer 240 portable power...
  • EASY TO CARRY: This entry-level portable power station is...
  • VERSATILE POWER SOURCE: 1* Pure Sine Wave AC outlet (110V 200W...
  • GREEN POWER SUPPLY: The power station can be recharged by the...
  • WHAT YOU GET: 1* Jackery Explorer 240 portable power station,...

Do you spend a lot of time in your car or in outdoor activities? Then, You should take advantage of this solar power generator. The Jackery Generator 240wh was sturdy and durable. It was easy to charge since you could juice it via a wall outlet or car outlet.

However, it took almost a day to get a 60% charge when I put it in direct sunlight.

The power station came with a car charger, AC adapter, and a user manual. Unfortunately, I was completely turned off by its plastic-made charger, which was not waterproof. Still, the charger had an orange and dark color that made it look attractive.

Unfortunately, the generator's weight was 3kg, which made portability tasking. It had an internal battery of 240 Watt-hours, which can easily charge appliances that are not power-hungry, like phones, kettles, and laptops. It did not support appliances like a blender, microwave, refrigerator, or electric grill. But we were able to power a small 12V fridge in our car.

Image Credits: Amazon.com

We operated a 4W desk lamp, and the 240Wh lasted about 35 hours, so the battery would last you depending on the appliance's power needs. However, we discovered that it functioned well when fully charged; thus, we recommend you avoid using the device when it is charging as it prolongs its charging time.

Image Credits: Amazon.com

We found this portable power station a great choice for someone who wants to balance weight, size, and capacity. The interesting part is that it enabled us to track the battery capacity on its LCD screen and charge accordingly.

Pros:

  • It is durable
  • It is lightweight
  • It comes with other accessories
  • It is portable

Cons:

  • It can't power more energy-hungry appliances
  • It has poor-quality chargers.

2. Jackery Explorer 500

Sale
Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 500, 518Wh...
  • LONG LASTING ENDURANCE: The Explorer 500 portable power station...
  • THE PERFECT CAPACITY: With a 518 watt-hour (24Ah, 21.6V)...
  • SUPPORT PASS-THROUGH CHARGING: This power station features 1* AC...
  • DESIGNED FOR PORTABILITY: Same size as a basketball, this...
  • WHAT YOU GET: 1* Jackery Explorer 500 Portable Power Station...

If you are looking for a portable solar generator that will lessen the weight of your gear, then the Jackery explorer 500 is the one. The device is the best solar generator, as we included it in all our camping weekends.

We paired it with multiple solar panels from SolarSaga and used it for our RV. The only disadvantage it had was that it couldn't power anything requiring more than 500W.

Image Credits: Amazon.com

However, it was the best choice for a road trip since it enabled me to blend fruits and charge my laptop and phone. Plus, I was also able to power my mini cooler with it.

Pros:

  • It is easy to use
  • It has 3 ways of charging
  • It is portable

Cons:

  • It has no waterproofing properties
  • You can use it for powering small appliances only

3. Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 160

Sale
Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 160, 167Wh...
  • SUPER COMPACT WITH AC OUTLET: Weighing the same as a standard bag...
  • LEADERSHIP IN THE INDUSTRY: Founded in 2012, Jackery specializes...
  • POWER UP TO 5 DEVICES: The Explorer 160 power station features 1*...
  • RECHARGEABILITY THROUGH SOLAR, AC, VEHICLES: Get fully recharged...
  • WHAT YOU GET: 1* Jackery Explorer 160 Power Station, 1*AC...

The Jackery Explorer 160 should be on your list if you are looking for portable solar generators. It is lightweight as it only weighs 4 lbs. In addition, the product came with an AC adaptor, car adaptor charger, instruction manual, and a DC-to-car adapter converting cable.

We purchased the SolarSaga 60W from Jackery separately to help us take advantage of its features since this device is not compatible with solar panels made by other companies.

Image Credits: Amazon.com

It had a large 167-watt-hour battery capacity and could simultaneously charge my cellphone and laptop. Additionally, it was also able to power mini drones, computers, and cameras. We could also use it to power a small LCD TV.

Here are its charging speeds via different outlets:

  • A SolarSaga 60 within 4.5 hours(0-80%)
  • Wall outlet within 5 hours(0-80%)
  • Car outlet within 5 hours(0-80%)

In addition, the Jackery Explorer 160 had a built-in AC wall socket that enabled us to plug almost anything we needed to power. It had a USB port and a DC 12- volt 6mm one. That means you can charge different devices using all these connectors at once.

It weighed around 4 pounds, but despite its weight, we could carry it around since it had an inbuilt handle.

Under moderate circumstances, we found that it could generate 100 watts of electricity and had a peak of 150 watts. However, we were quite worried about its juicing capability compared to other power stations; it charged slowly.

Image Credits: Amazon.com

We were impressed by how it emitted less than 100 dBA of noise while it charged multiple devices.

Finally, we would recommend the Jackery Explorer 160 to anyone who wants to charge small devices during power outages. Plus, it is the best portable solar generator for outdoor activities and vacations. If you are looking for other options like this, you can go through our article on the best solar generators for camping with your appliances.

Pros:

  • It includes a variety of charging ports
  • It has lithium-ion batteries
  • It has a noise-free operation
  • It displays the battery life left
  • It can charge multiple devices simultaneously

Cons:

  • It charges slowly
  • The USB ports' output power is less powerful

4. Westinghouse iGEN600S Portable Power Station & Solar Generator

Westinghouse iGen600s Portable Power Station and Solar...
  • VERSATILE OUTLETS CHARGE UP TO 8 DEVICES AT THE SAME TIME:...
  • HOURS & HOURS OF POWER ON A SINGLE CHARGE: 596 Watt-Hours of...
  • MORE COMPACT THAN A 5 QT. MINI COOLER: At 11.3 lb. Lighter Than a...
  • CHARGES AT HOME, ON THE GO, OR IN THE FIELD: Charges to 80% in...
  • ECO-FRIENDLY POWER GENERATOR: Reduce Your Carbon Footprint for...

If you are looking for a portable solar generator, then the Westinghouse iGen600S is the one. Additionally, it is my go-to power station in times of emergency. Plus, I found it useful in my outdoor activities, such as camping and long road trips where I lacked power. After all, it was an independent power source for all my important electronic devices.

Image Credits: Amazon.com

It was lightweight as it was only 11.3 lbs and gave a continuous power supply of 600W with an impressive 1200W peak power, which met all my power needs. Also, the device power output charged eight devices at a time.

Other devices in the power station package included a car and AC wall charger, which we could use with an optional solar panel or a portable generator. If the wall socket fails, you can plug it into your car charger for half an hour to kickstart the battery. Moreover, it took me 7-8 hours to charge it on a household outlet, 8-9 hours on a solar panel, and 8-9 hours on a car outlet.

Nevertheless, I found the battery well equipped with an LED display and a fully featured control panel display that provided accurate real-time feedback about the battery power consumption.

It also included 120V AC outlets, 4 USB ports, a 12V car socket, and a 9-12V DC port. As a result, it could charge my 8 devices simultaneously with power requirements of less than 600W.

This portable power station is best for outdoor activities as it will support all your electrical needs. However, you can also use it indoors during power blackouts in a storm.

This power station was my favorite since it had no messy maintenance, no noise pollution, and did not release obnoxious fumes from its engine, making it an eco-friendly option.

Pros:

  • It is portable
  • It can charge 8 devices simultaneously
  • It can power a range of products
  • High battery capacity

Cons:

  • It is pricey

5. Bluetti EB55 Portable Power Station

Sale
BLUETTI Portable Power Station EB55, 537Wh LiFePO4...
  • [Camping Game Changer] - With 537Wh LFP cells and a 700W...
  • [13 Versatile Outlets] - 100W PD for superfast charging, while...
  • [Dual Recharging] - Support dual recharging by 200W PV + 200W AC...
  • [Small But Pack a Punch] - The lunch-box-size solar battery EB55...
  • [What You Get] - BLUETTI EB55 portable power station, AC adapter,...

If you have used Bluetti products, you cannot deny that they are top-notch. Be it their solar generators, solar panels, or other items on their catalog of best-selling goods. However, their best invention is the Bluetti EB55.

Image Credits: Amazon.com

We found it a great option as we searched for a plug-and-play system that was easy to set up in a few minutes. Unfortunately, it had a battery capacity of 537Wh, which was pretty low. However, its lithium-ion phosphorous cells power it, and you can charge and recharge it 2500 times, increasing its value.

Moreover, we could charge it in four ways: AC electricity, DC electricity, solar cell, and a gas-powered turbine. It had two power inputs that took 400W of electricity simultaneously. It also had a 700W pure sine wave inverter that was perfect for charging tiny gadgets like laptops, camera gear, projectors, and drones.

However, since the inverter had only 700W, we could not charge large electronic appliances such as the fridge or microwave.

The power station displayed the input and output wattages with battery percentages, enabling us to monitor the battery usage and charge it appropriately. Plus, the device had 12 power outlets and a wireless phone charging spot.

Image Credits: Amazon.com

Although the 13 charging ports seemed excessive, we had plenty of alternatives to conserve electrical power. For example, we turned off other ports that were not in use., but if need be, we charged multiple devices at once.

Pros:

  • It enables fast charging
  • It has numerous charging ports
  • It has a collapsible handle for extra portability

Cons:

  • It is bulky

Factors to Consider Before Purchasing The Best Solar Generators Under 500

1. Portability

Image Credits: geneverse.com

Regardless of what you want to charge with your solar generator, it should be portable enough for easy maneuvering. If you love outdoor activities, you know that portability is key to any device. However, you already have a lot of things to carry around, so choose a portable solar generator with a solid carrying handle.

2. High Solar Power Input and Charging Speed

The solar power input wattage determines how much power the generator can receive from solar panels. For instance, if a solar generator has 700 watts, you can hook it up to 7-100 watt or 3-200 watt solar panels, and its 2000Wh battery recharges in 3-4 hours. Such efficient solar charging is made possible by the MPPT(Multiple Power Point Tracking) controllers.

Image Credits: zdnet.com

The solar generator can even out the voltage difference between an undercharged battery and the solar panels. As a result, solar energy is used to charge the generator. The MPPT is a standard feature for most solar generators, but you should also go through other specs before purchasing.

Also, if you want to include fast solar charging, you should look for solar generators with a lot of solar input. A high solar input is better, but you must purchase more than 2 solar panels to reach it.

3. Look for More Outlets

Image Credits: camerajabber.com

It is best to get generators with at least three AC outlets if you rarely use all six USB ports. Alternatively, a regulated 12V and a fast-charging 60W USB-C port can charge a laptop and leave a 110V outlet free for another electronic appliance.

4. Choose Lithium-ion Battery

Lithium-ion batteries are a gold standard for solar generators. They are lightweight and can discharge up to 80-90% without losing capacity over time. These batteries are rated via their life cycles or how many times you can fully charge and discharge the battery until it gets below 80%.

The life cycles of lithium batteries always spark discussions as people question how much is too much or too little. The answer is simple; if you use your solar generator twice a month, even a 500-cycle Jackery Explorer can last a decade. However, if you use your solar generator frequently, go for something with more life cycles like the Bluetti AC200P.

Frequently Asked Questions on The Best Solar Generators Under $500

What are the features of a solar generator?

Solar generators have inverters with a maximum wattage rating, so you can plug a power strip into a single AC port and use the maximum wattage of the generator.

Image Credits: naturesgenerators.com

These generators also have inverters that give out the cleanest power you can get from any AC generator. These inverters create a steady, continuous wave of electricity that provides smooth, oscillating currents. Plus, some electronics also require pure sinewave electricity; they include medical equipment or appliances with AC motors, pumps, and compressors.

Others use transformer bricks that resemble the ones you see on other consumer appliances such as computers.

They have a separate power supply that generates less heat and lowers the generator's weight. The larger units have integrated fans that cool the battery compartment and are controlled by the battery management system. It spins it up and down when needed.

These solar generators have LED and LCDs that display basic data such as the state of the charge, current wattage output, input, and estimated times of full charge and depletion. Some also have touchscreen user interfaces.

Some generators also have wireless capabilities, so you can manage them via your mobile applications using WI-FI or Bluetooth. The advantage is that you have remote visibility into real-time generator performance from the comfort of wherever you are.

In addition, you can alter the settings, such as activating or deactivating the inverse ports, changing the inverter charge speed, or even updating the firmware. To get the best camping experience, you can also look at the best LiFep04 solar generator for home use and camping.

Featured Image Credits: solarreviews.com

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.