The three components within a solar generator are the charge controller, batteries and the inverter. Some of the more convenient solar generators allow you to swap the batteries. This is really good for longevity as over time batteries tend to degrade.
THE MAIN FIVE COMPONENTS OF A SOLAR GENERATOR
Making an informed buying decision about a particular unit comes down to understanding the 5 critical components of a solar generator.
This will give you a better understanding of each element, how is fits into the overall performance of your system.
The inverter converts the DC power you get from your solar panels to usable AC power for your appliances. The inverter of your solar generator is usually not upgradeable. Meaning, you should get a generator with an inverter big enough to run whatever you plan to run at any one given time before making a buying decision.
When comparing inverters, most people are focused on how many watts it has. While this is an important factor in a quality inverter, there are other aspects about your inverter that are just as critical to a reliable system such as:
Basically, there are two types of efficiencies you need to look at. The first is maximum inverter efficiency. This is usually 90% or better for good inverters. This gives you an idea of how much power you lose. But, the more important efficiency rating is the idle power consumption. Good inverters will keep the idle power under 20 watts, and while in power saver mode, under 10w.
PURE SINE WAVE INVERTERS
Some solar generators come with cheap modified sine wave inverters. They can save some money, but cause all kinds of issues. The efficiency on a modified sine wave inverter might say it’s just as good but the appliances powered by it will be less efficient.
2. BATTERY STORAGE CAPACITY
The most important aspect of a solar generator’s actual usability is its battery storage capacity. Battery storage allows you to use the generator at night, in periods of limited sun, and when your energy needs exceed the amount of solar input coming in.
There are two critical aspects you need to keep in mind to ensure you have a reliable battery storage capacity. Sizing your battery storage correctly according to your power needs and choosing a good quality battery e.g. AGM or Lithium batteries.
3. SOLAR PV INPUT
Solar PV input (solar panels) is what powers a solar generator. Having ample solar PV input allows for continuous solar generator usage during the day and low recharging times after night usage.
What you have to be mindful of is that, Solar generators that require large roof mount solar panels will reduce the portability you are looking for. Also, solar generators with lengthy recharging times should be avoided, for obvious reasons.
4. CHARGE CONTROLLER
Though many may not deem it important, the charge controller can affect the efficiency of your solar panels by 40%, or even more on poorly designed systems. Go for Solar generators with PWM charge controllers (not MPPT) as they need less solar to produce the same power, resulting into increased mobility and efficiency.
Also remember that, Solar generators with good MPPT charge controllers will let you put panel voltage up to 100VDC. It will be much easier to upgrade your solar panels if you have a more flexible voltage input.
The ability to expand your system is very important in a solar generator, especially if you want your system for long term backup. So, it is important to be able to upgrade your generator when you need to. However, there are some limitations to how much, or what you can actually upgrade.
Generally speaking, how much solar panel l you can add to your system is based on the charge controller
The inverter generally cannot be expanded. So, you must make sure the generator you purchase has a large enough inverter to handle all your future power needs.