How does a Solar Generator Work?
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The power of the sun is awesome and a solar generator is there to utilize it! A solar generator is a device that works in conjunction with solar panels and delivers crucial automated backup power to your home when you need it the most (such as during power outages).
Solar generators come in a variety of types, styles, brands, sizes, and functions. How do they work? They take solar power via photovoltaic solar panels and store it in their built-in battery. Since the energy stored is 12-volt DC, an internal inverter is used to change it into 120-volt AC, so you can happily use your tools and electronic devices wherever you are.
How do solar generators differ from conventional generators? If conventional generators could be powered by other means, rather than solar, the distinction is the fuel type they use.
Solar generators are NOT engines! They are internally comprised of an inverter, charge controller, and battery. As a “fuel”, they use solar panels to collect solar energy, and the “inverter” portion of it, converts collected DC energy into AC before releasing it for your needs.
The energy from the solar panels is collected by your generator and stored in a battery. The energy is then released via an inverter, which converts it from DC to AC before being discharged and you are able to power various household AC appliances.
Solar generator (or a power station) – is a lightweight device that will power your appliaces in a similar way as a generator.
Portable solar generators can be used to power tools in a shop, appliances in an RV or boat, and act as a power backup source. A solar generator’s power production is equivalent to that of other types of generators while being more environmentally friendly and mobile.
These generators can be charged from either electrical outlets or solar panels and they don’t require a fuel tank. Many solar generators are light and simple to use, making them a popular low-emission energy choice for those on the go.
Solar generator components
Solar generators are made up of basic 4 components that literally make them portable solar installations (like you would have in your house, only small). One convenient system and you can take the solar power wherever you go!
1. Photovoltaic panels
Any solar installation must always start with solar panels. Sunlight is converted into electricity by a solar panel or panels, which can then be stored in a solar battery for later use.
The solar generator then uses solar panels to collect energy from the sun. The actual unit that is called a “solar generator” or a “power station” is generally sold without panels.
2. The battery
After drawing energy from the solar panels, the generator can store it in a large battery. Lead-acid, nickel-cadmium, lithium-ion and flow batteries are the four most popular types of solar batteries.
Solar batteries allow you to store solar energy for later use, such as in the evenings or on cloudy days with overcast weather. A battery is required for solar power storage.
3. Charge Controller
Unless you have small panels of less than five watts, solar charge controllers are an essential feature of any solar installation. Between the solar panels and the solar battery bank, the charge controller is located.
By controlling the pace of charge and the amount of power going into your batteries, it prevents them from overcharging. A charge controller also protects the solar battery by shutting down the output if the stored electricity falls below 50% capacity.
4. Power inverter
The Direct Current (DC) produced from your solar panels is converted to Alternating Current (AC) by inverter. It is the same type of current that we get from a standard utility outlet and it can be utilized by your 120-volt household appliances and devices.
On the higher end you get a pure sine wave (which is perfect for electronics):
On the lower end, your output wave will look like this and it is called “modified”:
The modified sine wave is a result of higher THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) and is known to make your appliances noisy, along with damaging electronic devices.
What is a solar generator?
Solar generators do not work in the same way as other generators. Solar generators are more like portable battery storage systems that perform the same purpose as standard generators.
Another name for the solar generator is:
Portable power station
Even though this may sound confusing, in general, Portable Power Stations are just smaller size Solar Generators. They are basically built the same way, serve the same function, and can be connected to solar panels if needed.
Many small, low-cost power stations on the market are only intended to power small devices such as phones and they are not enough to power a single-family home. Larger solar generators might be used as a backup or primary power source for an RV, boat, or small cabin.
Solar generators are used in conjunction with solar panels and some type of solar storage and allow you to harness the power of the sun for later use. They are usually purchased separately (a solar panel, solar generator, and solar battery) or as a kit.
The basic idea behind a solar generator is very similar to having a battery bank, only more portable:
Portable solar generators act as a storage solution for the energy generated by your solar panels.
Larger, lithium-ion battery bank storage Power Stations, could be used to power your home, in the event of a power outage or an emergency. It gets installed as your backup power solution, similar to a gas or diesel generator.
The generator is connected to your home’s critical еlесtrс circuit. If there is an electricity blackout, the solar generator will take over and give power while it runs.
Since the amount of “fuel” is limited by sunshine and the size of your batteries, it is a good idea to keep your usage (in the event of an emergency) to a minimum. Energy conservation is important in this case and you may want to limit yourself to essential appliances and lighting in your home.
Even though we don’t really know when the sun will come out and “refill” our generator, the same goes for the other types of fuels in the event of a catastrophe. Gasoline cannot be stored for long, it is hard to find propane tanks when you really need them and if something happens to the gas line (if your generator is powered directly from gas), you will still be limited on fuel.
Portable solar generators (also known as power stations) are more commonly used on the road, and once they get discharged, the sun or shore power can recharge them back. As a home backup solution, they are mainly placed to backup different appliances if they go out.
There are many advantages to using solar power generators, in comparison to regular gasoline generators!
Low noise level
First of all, they are NOT noisy! This is very important to RVer if he/she wants to keep their sanity and a friendly atmosphere around the parking lot.
If you’ve ever camped or traveled in an RV with a generator that isn’t solar, you know how loud they can be. An average generator can sound as loud as a vacuum cleaner, and it’s not something you want to hear all day and night.
A solar-powered generator (or a power station) will keep noise to a minimum while giving you the power that you need. They are a good solution if you are looking to replace noisy, gas-powered generators.
Portability (no fuel tank)
Another important advantage of solar power stations is portability. A solar generator is a lightweight and portable power source that can meet your electricity needs almost anywhere.
Since these generators don’t require additional fuel other than solar (or regular electricity), they are lightweight and more mobile than portable non-solar generators. They’re perfect for boondocking in an RV, pleasure cruising on the boat, or simply “waiting” in the back of your van or truck to power your tools.
Once properly installed, a solar generator might last for several years with little to no maintenance. You won’t have to deal with propane, gasoline, oil, or air filters.
Solar generators require very little maintenance as they have a very low risk of mechanical failure. A well-designed solar system, unlike gas-powered generators, is self-contained and requires no maintenance.
Can be used indoors
A solar generator is a low-emission, renewable energy source. Unlike traditional diesel or gas generators, which require a liquid fossil fuel or propane, solar generators are more environmentally friendly.
Generators powered by internal combustion engines create unhealthy emissions and this is why they have to be run outdoors. You can keep a solar generator (or power station) indoors and it is commonly placed around the house to power certain household appliances during an emergency.
It can easily be used inside your house to power a furnace during a blackout (for example):
If you would like to place your power station (or solar generator) in between the main panel and solar, you will need to install an automatic transfer switch for it to be legal and safer.
Overall, it’s a lower-cost solution
A solar generator is a low-cost, environmentally friendly energy source. The overall cost of a generator is primarily determined by its size and intended application.
Traditional generators use fuel, which contributes to their continuing operating costs. The solar generator has the advantage of being cost-free to operate after you’ve paid for your equipment.
Solar generator sizing
The size and quality of a solar generator determine how much power it can generate, but before you quickly run out and get one, you need to consider the number of devices or appliances you want your generator to power. You can find wattage ratings of your appliances on labels and stickers like this:
In the event of an emergency, a smaller generator can provide circuit coverage for the essentials (such as lighting and refrigerators). If you need a whole-house solar solution a much larger solar generator will be required.
Solar generators are perfect for charging and running tiny electronics and appliances. With the right configuration and a more permanent location, solar generators can power a whole house.
This is especially true if you live in an area with good sunlight available. However, if you live in a part of the world where sunlight is scarce, it will be more difficult to power your home solely using solar energy.
Your wattage use (all the devices that need to work at exactly the same time) should be calculated properly in order to determine the necessary solar generator size.
The size of the battery used in the solar generator is very important due to the limited amount of sunlight per day. Once the sun is down or hidden behind clouds, you will be using this battery power for your appliances and electronics.
This is why you need to buy a solar generator with a battery that is big enough to handle your power needs when the sun is not shining. A wattage size about 20% above your power consumption is usually sufficient for most people.
Here is a more professional overview on power stations (solar generators):
If you are planning to go entirely off-grid, always make sure that there is enough sunshine in your area!
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