“Solar Generators” (power stations, power packs) are self-contained devices that contain:
These devices are packaged for convenience and are usually much more expensive than the components bought separately.
The terms solar generator and generator alternative are marketing terms with no real meaning: the units do not generate power.
Sometimes the term jump pack is used for portable battery packs in general, but it often means packs intended to jump start a vehicle. Battery pack usually means small, pocketable “bricks” for charging phones and other small devices.
The best use of these “generators” is
Specs for these devices are often given in nonstandard or even misleading ways. The following discussion will use the Yeti shown above, although their product description is better than most.
The 33Ah capacity lead-acid battery in the example above is stated as 400Wh. This is technically correct but mixes units in a way that consumers may not understand. Consumers may also not realize that lead-acid chemistries are usually only drawn down to 50% depth of discharge, giving an actual usable capacity of 16.5Ah. In addition, lead-acid battery capacities are measured over 20hrs. With our example this means a 10w continuous DC load in this case, or 9w from the built-in inverter. Loads greater than those will decrease usable capacity due to the peukert effect.
In units with lithium batteries, the DC output of the device will be somewhere between 9v-12.6v due to the voltage of li-ion chemistries.1) On the upside, they have almost no peukert effect and therefore can support heavier loads (at the expense of running time).
You could run run a load at the inverter's 300W normal rating for ~36 minutes.2) Some manufacturers will list the inverter's peak output (600w in this case) in the title as if it were the amount of power the unit could deliver over time. New folk sometimes read this as “I can run 600w of appliances off the unit forever!”, forgetting this is a peak load and that the unit has a finite capacity.
Using the Yeti above as our example again, the charging requirements are:
5 hours from a wall outlet with the included AC charger; in 13 hours with the available car charger*; or as fast as 8 hours from Goal Zero’s monocrystalline solar panels*
Things to consider: