How to Pick the Perfect Portable Power Station
Solar and Battery Generator Buyers Guide
Portable power stations remove the hassle from backing up your home during a power outage and give you a portable energy source on camping trips and other excursions.
Although they began as relatively low-power devices used to back up a few items, portable power stations have evolved to the point where they can provide as much power as some small gas-powered units.
What is a Portable Power Station?
A portable power station draws its power from a battery that can be recharged using sunlight or, in many cases, utility power. That's why the terms "solar generator" and "battery generator" are often used to describe portable power stations.
The batteries are rated in watt hours (sometimes kilowatt hours), which indicate the maximum number of watts the generator can power for one hour. For example, a generator rated for 3,600-watt hours will power an item or combination of items that draw 3,600 watts for one hour before needing to recharge.
Suppose, then, that you want to power a 150-watt refrigerator with your 3,600-watt hour portable power station. You would divide 3,600 by 150 to determine how many hours the fridge would stay running. In this case, it would run for 24 hours. If you add another item, like a microwave, the time you could run both appliances simultaneously would naturally be less.
To charge your battery, you can plug it into a regular wall outlet when you have utility power. Otherwise, many portable power stations come with foldable solar panels that can charge it during the day using sunlight. Depending on the model, you can also connect it to an existing rooftop solar setup. Certain models have fast-charge technology that gives the battery a full charge in under two hours.
Benefits of Portable Power Stations
Portable power stations have many advantages over gas-powered portable generators, including:
- No Gas: Portable power stations don't require any gasoline, which saves you money on rising fuel costs. No more spilled fuel and mess either. Instead, you have a renewable fuel source in the form of sunlight or utility power (assuming it's on).
- Indoor Use: Since they don't release exhaust gases, portable power stations can safely be used inside your house. One of the ironies of gas-powered generators is that, since they must be located outside, you can't use them when it's raining unless you have a special cover. Well, power outages usually correspond with storms outside! Battery generators can be set up in your living room or kitchen, so there's no need to run cords outside. They are also the only type of generator you can use in most apartments since you don't have an outdoor area.
- No Maintenance: Besides requiring regular fuel changes, traditional gas-powered generators also need periodic oil and filter replacements and other types of maintenance. Not so with portable power stations. Just charge them when they're out of power, and that's it.
- Quiet: Portable power stations are much quieter than gas-powered models, even inverter types. You can run these all night without disturbing your sleep or your neighbors.
While portable power stations have many benefits, they are still not as powerful as internal combustion generators; the largest models max out at around 3,000 watts. Portable power stations are also typically more expensive than their similar-sized gas counterparts. You're paying for the convenience and ease-of use rather than their power output.
Sizing a Portable Power Station
As explained above, portable power stations are rated in watt hours. That means you'll need to figure out the starting and running watts of every appliance you'd like to power and then consider how long you think you'll need to power them.
Our free portable generator wattage calculator can help you figure out the wattage of common appliances and recommend how many watts your generator should produce. For specific portable power station models, you can also visit the manufacturer's website for information on how much they can power.
Can a Battery Generator Power a House?
Some portable power station brands, like EcoFlow, can be chained together or supplemented with extra batteries to give you enough wattage to keep essential circuits powered during a short outage. There are even special transfer switches designed to connect your station directly to your home breaker box.
Overall, a portable power station does not replace a home standby generator for whole-home backup. If you are serious about powering your entire home with solar, we recommend a home battery backup system like the Generac PWRCell, which can connect to rooftop solar panels.
Portable Power Stations for Recreation
Battery powered generators really shine in recreational applications like camping or tailgating. For one, you only need to power a few appliances for a relatively short period of time. You can also easily set up foldable solar panels to capture sunlight even while the generator is running.
Their low noise makes portable power stations particularly well suited for overnight camping since they'll meet any decibel requirements and won't wake you up.
Power Any Time, Anywhere
The greatest part about portable power stations is their convenience. You can run them anywhere you need power without worrying about gas leaks, noise, or maintenance. They are as portable as generators get and can take on bigger and bigger loads as the technology develops. Harness the power of the sun in your living room with a solar generator!