For some, living with an off-grid solar system is a lifestyle choice, but for others, it is a financial necessity.

Even in modern Western countries, the grid does not cover every location – and extending it to reach your home might be a costly prospect.

Knowing which solar generator is best for off-grid life is highly dependent on your energy needs. Bear in mind that photovoltaic generators are classified according to their capacity, which is typically expressed in watt-hours.

You can choose what size solar generator will best fit your needs once you know your energy requirements.

photovoltaic solar panels absorb sunlight

Solar generators are best utilized for charging various electronic gadgets and running small appliances around your off-grid home or RV, as a general rule of thumb.

They can also be utilized as a fantastic source of emergency backup power if your electricity goes out or your solar system has failed!

Have you ever considered how often you use a generator?

The answer is dependent on a variety of factors, what is the fuel consumption of the generator. Generators that burn fuel quickly have a shorter runtime than generators that burn fuel slowly. Tank capacity, fuel source, and generator type must all be considered.

Larger generators, particularly standby generators, can run for longer periods of time than tiny portable generators.

Also relevant is the size of the solar array you use to power your off-grid solar systems. If the solar power systems are supplying enough energy to the solar batteries, you will use a generator less often.

How can you live off-grid?

Some property owners have done so by installing diesel generators to meet their power requirements. These are either on all the time or usually turned off at night.

Smaller loads such as central heating boilers and refrigerators can be powered by a battery-supplied inverter during these overnight periods.

sustainable living

These solutions are effective, but they come at a price. Diesel is a cost that fluctuates. Longer generator run times necessitate more regular maintenance and replacement.

Any off-grid system must be carefully chosen. Unlike the grid, electricity supplies are more limited. You must be realistic about your power use – particularly peak power while considering the system’s capability.

Power outages and/or increased generator running time will occur if the system is undersized. The initial expenditures of a larger system must be weighed against the continuous price of fuel.

What are your energy needs for an off-grid living?

Looking at your current energy consumption is the easiest approach to figuring out how much energy you’ll need while living off the grid. That involves looking up your electric bill to see how many kWh you or your family use each month.

If you want to maintain your current lifestyle while living off the grid, it is likely you’ll need a very large solar system to meet your needs.

How will you integrate the generator with your solar system?

The solar generator can be connected to your solar system in two ways to provide a backup source to the panels, for when the sun isn’t shining.

Charge the batteries and power your entire home

The generator will give power to your home while also charging the batteries in this configuration.

This design option will necessitate a greater capacity generator capable of meeting your home’s power demand while also having enough capacity to charge the batteries at the same time.

Charge only the batteries

The backup generator will only be used to charge the batteries in this generator connection configuration, not to power your complete home.

workers installing solar panels on a residential area

Because the only power needed will be charging the batteries, a smaller capacity generator can be used in this setup. In this instance, the batteries will provide power to your home rather than the generator.

When the batteries’ voltage drops below a certain level, the generator kicks in to recharge them.

Both of these alternatives will work for off-grid use, but we certainly recommend the first choice because it comes with a larger generator capable of supplying your complete home on its own if necessary.

The reason for this is that if your solar system fails for whatever reason, you’ll have a backup power source that can power your complete home while you figure out what’s wrong and get it fixed!

You could hook up a generator that only has the capability to charge the batteries to your house, but it probably wouldn’t be able to power all of the electronics in your house. With the smaller generator, you’ll have to be more cautious about what you power.

So, how does an off-grid solar generator perform?

So, you’re planning to go for an off-grid homestead!

You know how the majority of your utilities will operate, but how will your solar generators operate while you’re off-grid?

self-sustained house

Your solar generators are simply huge battery storage devices! Except it’s all in one, which means you can charge or power items directly from the unit.

So when you’re planning to go off-grid add a solar generator to your energy system and it will provide your power in place of the electrical grid.

Why do you need a generator?

A generator is not required in some off-grid installations. You can use a system without utilizing a generator if the demands are very low or if you have a steady renewable source.

However, there are a few circumstances in which a generator is required:

  • Large seasonal differences in renewable energy generation
  • Seasonal changes in energy need especially when the sun isn’t shining and you often need more power
  • A requirement for having a reliable power source – frozen food, business interruption, and heating in winter
  • It can be used to provide backup power during a power outage
workers installing solar panels on a residential area

Energy consumption tip:

You should first determine your energy requirements before deciding on a generator!

Calculate how much power you’ll need from your generator to avoid overloading or underutilizing it.

You can do it manually by finding up the starting wattage of each appliance you intend to use, or you can check the average of your last year’s energy bills.

What is the significance of generator loading?

When using fuel-powered generators such as natural gas or propane generators, fuel efficiency suffers as a result of the low loads.

Even if they aren’t delivering any power, these generators consume fuel to keep running which is not fuel-efficient. This means that at low loads, their real efficiency is quite low.

Luckily solar generators are different from conventional generators! Because they use power from a solar panel and store it in the internal battery bank, they are not using fuel unless you switch them on to provide your off-grid fuel source.

You can operate the portable solar generator for high or low loads and it will provide the highest efficiency. You can then use the saved energy from the batteries at other times by employing a battery system to store the energy.

How long does it take for solar panels to recharge a solar generator?

This is entirely dependent on the capacity of your solar generator and the number of PV panels/wattage you have available. The longer it takes to recharge your solar generator, the larger it is.

By increasing the maximum amount of input power, you can reduce the time it takes to recharge. An EP500 solar generator, for example, has a 5100Wh capacity. You could fully recharge your solar generator in 4.75 hours if you connected six 200-watt solar panels.

Where is a solar generator best used?

A solar generator is probably best used as an emergency power source for large residences that are still linked to the grid.

On the other hand, a solar generator would be great for powering a modest off-grid cabin or smaller home.

Homeowners going solar

The main reason for this is that in a modest off-grid cabin you would typically need far less energy than you would in a traditional home.

Whether a solar generator powered by an off-grid solar system is going to work for you, will depend on your household’s power consumption.

How long will they last?

Solar generators will endure as long as the battery storage system is in good working order. Expect a solar panel to last between 25 and 30 years when it comes to your solar generator setup.

Bottom Line

When you’re off the grid, be sure you have a backup plan in place for everything. With the correct solar generator onboard, cabins, boats, RVs and vehicles, and smaller homes may all go off the grid long-term.

During summer, you might not need to use generators if you’re using solar power, but as the cooler months arrive and the solar panels produce less electricity, it’ll be a different story!

ecohouse

It’s vital to keep in mind that many off-grid generators aren’t designed to provide continuous power for long periods of time. As a general rule, the following are the most significant factors to consider when choosing an off-grid solar generator:

  • Battery capacity in total
  • What size inverter does it have?
  • Is it a portable generator, and can it be transported easily?
  • Is it possible to link the machine to external solar panels?
  • Does it have enough external/internal output ports?
  • Does it use an MPPT charge controller?
  • Is the solar generator equipped with the most up-to-date battery technology?
  • How many charge cycles can you expect from the solar generator?

Remember, there are many low-cost generators that are only intended for occasional usage and are not designed to withstand continuous use. It pays to choose your solar power generators intelligently when it comes to powering your entire home and topping up a solar battery.

It may be worthwhile to spend a little extra to ensure that you receive a backup power generator that lasts longer and performs when you need it!