staff reportsApril 17, 20195460
A week after a snow and ice storm, workers from Sioux Valley Energy in South Dakota were still trying to restore power to some of their customers today.
Those residents who’d been in the dark for several days were undoubtedly worried and desperate.
Electricity is an ever-present need in today’s world, to charge your cellphone, power your tablets and even your car, if you have an electric vehicle. And when you don’t have it, you really feel it.
Solar generators, devices that can produce and store electric power, no matter where you are or the climate condition, can help in this regard.
With a solar generator, you have the security of knowing you have an independent way to produce your own power without having to rely on a utility fixing its power lines.
Being of such usefulness, here are five facts about solar generators that might help you decide whether you need one.
1. What are they?
The standard definition of a solar generator is a device that captures the sun’s energy through solar panels, store that energy in a battery bank, and release it through an inverter to be used for standard alternate current (AC) power, what you get when you plug your electronics in your home.
The panels used in solar generators are not the same as those that go on your roof. They’re smaller and portable, allowing you to easily move them so they are in direct line of the sun.
The batteries included are also smaller and usually come with built-in outlets to plug chargers and electronics.
There are two types. Solar backup generators have a high wattage capacity and usually more than one battery inside to increase power storage. As such, they can power small to mid-range appliances, computers and lights. You may be able to power those items for a full day.
There are also portable solar generators with smaller wattage capacity that are mostly used for camping, boating and RVs.
2. How much energy do they store?
Don’t think that your solar generator will supply enough power to let you binge-watch Netflix on your big-screen TV for hours on end while at the same time running your refrigerator and microwave to warm up a meal, a fan and other high-energy devices.
They are quiet and don’t require fuel like their fossil energy counterparts. So you’re saving money because you don’t have to keep buying diesel every time it runs out.
Instead, you’re using the sun’s energy for free while the solar panels continue to work, often between 25-30 years.
Given that they don’t require fossil fuels, maintenance also tends to be lower. And obviously, they’re environmentally friendly and don’t emit Co2 (carbon dioxide) into the air, so there’s no need to leave them in open areas or for long power cords to reach your home.
Because they last much longer, they have an initial higher cost than their fossil fuel counterparts compared with a fuel-powered generator with the same power output.
They also take longer to charge and their capacity is limited.
Solar backup generators using high wattage solar panels can be recharged in a day or two, depending on available sunlight. But they are usually very heavy due to the lead acid batteries they use, making it difficult to carry them around. Portable solar generators, on the other hand, are mobile by design, so you don’t have this problem, but their energy story is much more limited.
If you’re thinking you can depend on them to supply all your energy needs for a long time in a remote location, that’s likely not going to happen. For a serious, continuous power source, or as a power station for a remote community, you’re best bet is still a diesel generator.
5. Do you need one?
If the area where you live is prone to strong storms or other climate situations that affect electricity supply often, they are a good item to add to your emergency supplies.
They are also perfect for campers and RVers who need energy in remote areas, but are not planning to use them for prolonged periods of time.
If you do decide to get one, you may opt to purchase the items separately or in a kit. Portable solar generators are also available in most home improvement stores.
Some things to pay attention to when purchasing one is battery capacity, inverter rating and portability. The higher the battery capacity and inverter rating, the longer your generator will work in between recharges and the more power they will supply.
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