Best Solar Generator for Off Grid Living: Reliable Power From the Sun


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Last Updated: March 28, 2022

Solar generators have come a long way in a very short time. They were nothing but expensive curiosities for well-heeled outdoor enthusiasts just a few years ago.

Now you can pick up a powerful, high-capacity model with a lifetime ownership cost that’s very competitive to a traditional fossil fuel generator.

If you’re looking to reliably power your off-grid home without becoming dependent on stored fuel, a solar generator and panels are the way to go. The upfront cost can be shocking, but once you’ve paid for it, you can power your home basically for free.

Our guide below covers the key points to consider when comparing solar generators and offers our picks for the best off-grid solar generators for your situation.

Our Top Pick

BLUETTI AC200MAX

Bluetti AC200MAX

Top-quality features and robust reliability.
Large, fast-charging, and scalable battery capacity with an exceptional working lifespan at least four times longer than competitors.

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Top 5 Solar Generators For Off-Grid Living

Best Overall: Bluetti AC200MAX Portable Power Station (2048Wh)

BLUETTI AC200MAX

Specifications:

  • Battery Capacity: 2048Wh (Expandable to 8192Wh with additional batteries)
  • Max Load: 4800W
  • Continuous Load: 2000W
  • Lifespan: 3500+ charge cycles to 80%
  • Weight: 61.9 lbs
  • Solar Input Capacity: 900W
  • Pass-Through Supported: Yes

The Bluetti AC200MAX is an absolute powerhouse of a solar generator system. It offers 2048Wh of base capacity with the ability to expand that up to 8192Wh with the addition of two B300 Battery Modules.

BLUETTI B300 Expansion Battery
Expansion battery.

By itself, the AC200MAX is powerful enough to run a significant off-grid household.

Its pure sine wave inverter has a continuous load capacity of 2000W with surge up to 4800W. That’s ample juice to maintain lighting, a large refrigerator, and multiple smaller appliances with power to spare for charging small devices.

With the addition of the battery modules, you’ll have over 8kWh of power, plenty to live off-grid with minimal changes compared to on-grid power consumption.

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Even more exciting, the AC200MAX uses advanced LiFePO4 lithium batteries. Traditional solar lithium-ion batteries give you about 500-800 charge cycles before the total charge is reduced. The LiFePO4 batteries in the Bluetti offer 3500+ charge cycles before dropping to 80% capacity.

The advanced LiFePO4 batteries in the Bluetti have four to seven times the total lifespan of less advanced lithium batteries.

If you’re looking for maximum capacity, performance, and longevity from a portable solar generator for your off-grid home, there’s no better option than the Bluetti AC200MAX.

Pros

  • 2000W/4800W surge output capacity ample for off-grid home use
  • Charges rapidly with up to 900W of solar panels or dual-AC outlets for portable use
  • Scalable battery capacity up to 8192Wh with the addition of two battery packs
  • Offers a range of DC ports plus four 120V AC outlets and a NEMA TT-30
  • Advanced LiFePO4 lithium batteries provide a significantly longer lifespan than other solar generators

    Cons

    • Seriously pricey, especially with the additional battery capacity
    • Bluetti support can be spotty
    • Some users reported reversed polarity on RV plugin early models

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      Runner-Up: EcoFlow DELTA Max 2000 (2016Wh)

      Specifications:

      • Battery Capacity: 2016Wh (Up to 6048Wh with additional batteries)
      • Max Load: 3400W
      • Continuous Load: 2600W
      • Lifespan: 800 charge cycles to 80% capacity
      • Weight: 48 lbs
      • Solar Input Capacity: 800W of solar panels
      • Pass-Through Supported: Yes

      The EcoFlow Delta Max 2000 is a 2016Wh lithium-ion solar generator designed for off-grid, RV, and outdoor users. It offers ample outlets and charges rapidly from up to 800W of solar panels.

      Under optimal sun conditions, it charges from drained to a full charge in just four hours. That’s great for those working with fewer hours of sunlight during winter months or those who live in places with frequent cloud cover.

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      The advanced MPPT charge controller built into the Max 2000 squeezes every drop of power out of your panels under less than ideal conditions.

      If you need even more capacity, you can chain the DELTA Max 2000 with up to two DELTA Max Smart extra batteries. It allows you to scale up your power system to a total capacity of 6048Wh/6kWh.

      That’s enough power to operate an off-grid home with LED lighting, refrigerator, minor appliances, and energy left over to charge various small electronics.

      Pros

      • Scalable up to 6048Wh with the addition of battery systems
      • Advanced power management systems optimize charging and discharge
      • Ample power for a well-designed off-grid home
      • 24-month warranty and reasonable customer support, a rarity in the solar generator market

      Cons

      • Despite comparable pricing, battery lifespan is barely a quarter of our top pick

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      Best Medium-Size: Bluetti EB120 Solar Generator (1200Wh)

      Specifications:

      • Battery Capacity: 1200Wh
      • Max Load: 1200W
      • Continuous Load: 1000W
      • Lifespan: 2500+ charge cycles to 80%
      • Weight: 27.8 lbs
      • Solar Input Capacity: 500W
      • Pass-Through Supported: Yes

      The Bluetti EB120 is a 1200Wh solar generator that hits a sweet spot of affordability and capacity for medium-size off-grid homes. It’s capable of powering small to medium appliances and high-efficiency off-grid refrigerators with up to 1000W of continuous load.

      It charges in just 4.5 hrs using 500W of solar panels and is flexible in the brand and size of the panel it works with. Anything using the ubiquitous MC4 connector that falls under the wattage limits will charge it fine.

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      It uses similar battery chemistry to our top pick Bluetti AC200MAX and provides 2500+ charge cycles without degradation. That’s significantly more than most solar generators out there, particularly when you consider its fast charging time.

      If you need more power than a small solar generator but aren’t ready to shell out multiple thousands of dollars on a full-scale system, the Bluetti EB120 is a high-quality and affordably priced option.

      Pros

      • Most affordable option per Watt-hour
      • Charges quickly on 500W solar panels
      • Capable of powering medium appliances or high-efficiency off-grid refrigerators
      • Rated to operate CPAP machine for up to 20 hrs on a single charge

      Cons

      • Cannot scale with additional batteries

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      Best Portable Option: Goal Zero Yeti 3000X (2982Wh)

      Specifications:

      • Battery Capacity: 2982Wh
      • Max Load: 3500W
      • Continuous Load: 2000W
      • Lifespan: 500 charge cycles to 80% capacity
      • Weight: 69.78 lbs
      • Solar Input Capacity: 1200W
      • Pass-Through Supported: Yes

      Goal Zero was one of the first movers in the solar generator market and all but dominated it for a few years. Sadly for Goal Zero, those days are past now, with significant new competition making many of their products look outdated and overpriced.

      The Yeti 3000X is the flagship model of their latest offerings and goes a long way to make up for previous shortcomings. Its 2982Wh lithium battery is comparable in performance and lifespan to competitors and is honestly the perfect size for an off-grid home.

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      Capable of 2000W continuous load and using an advanced MPPT charge controller, it can power multiple appliances and other electronics. It can charge from up to 1200W of solar panels to full in just 6 hours, a quick charge indeed given its large battery capacity.

      Unfortunately, the Yeti 3000X isn’t scalable with additional batteries and offers only a 500 charge cycle lifespan. It isn’t the best off-grid solar generator out there, but it is a serviceable model with a strong use case for the right person.

      Pros

      • Large capacity internal battery capable of fully powering an off-grid home
      • Charges rapidly from up to 1200W solar panels
      • Included cart makes it easy to move if needed

      Cons

      • Not scalable with additional batteries
      • Shorter lifespan than top-ranked pick

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      Best Value-Priced: Jackery Explorer 500 (518Wh)

      Jackery 500 explorer

      Specifications:

      • Battery Capacity: 518Wh
      • Max Load: 1000W
      • Continuous Load: 500W
      • Lifespan: 500 charge cycles to 80%
      • Weight: 13.32 lbs
      • Solar Input Capacity: 100W
      • Pass-Through Supported: Yes

      The Jackery Explorer 500 is a 518Wh solar generator optimized for flexibility, portability, and affordability. It lacks the substantial battery capacity of our top picks but is significantly less expensive and easier to pack around.

      It charges up in 9.5 hours using a 100W solar panel. That’s not the fastest charge time out there, but Jackery’s reputation for quality and responsive customer support for the market helped bump it up a few spots on the list.

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      With 500W of continuous power, you won’t be running appliances on the Explorer 500. What it can do is keep your phones, laptops, tablets, and gear like flashlights charged up and working.

      If you’re looking for a way to keep a few electronics charged up without breaking the bank or want a portable backup to your primary off-grid power system, the Jackery Explorer 500 is a cost-effective and reliable option.

      Pros

      • Significantly cheaper than larger systems
      • Easy to use and very portable
      • 500W capacity ample for keeping small electronics charged up
      • Good low-cost option or mobile backup to main off-grid solar system

      Cons

      • Slow charging time
      • Unable to power appliances

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      What You Need to Know About Off-Grid Solar Generators

      Off-Grid Solar Generator vs. Gas/Diesel/Propane Generator

      Running an off-grid power system generally comes down to choosing between a fossil fuel generator or a solar system with a solar generator. There are pros and cons to each approach.

      Off-Grid Fossil Fuel Generators

      Up till about a decade ago, off-grid power was only possible using a generator running on;

      While they’re still a viable option, there are some serious tradeoffs.

      Pros

      • Cheaper to purchase initially
      • Provides power no matter what the weather/sunlight conditions
      • Large variety of power capacities, fuel types, and wiring choices available

      Cons

      • More expensive over the long-term
      • Requires fuel purchase and storage, leaving you at the mercy of market prices
      • Needs regular maintenance and has an overall shorter working lifespan
      • Produces significant emissions and even noticeable smells depending on size and placement
      • Has to be placed outdoors
      • Noisy – how to make a generator quieter

      Off-Grid Solar Generators

      Off-grid solar generators are significantly cheaper, more powerful, and more accessible than just a few years ago. They offer one of the best options for off-grid power, but they do have a few downsides.

      Pros

      • Basically free to operate after purchase
      • Cheaper to own over the long-term than fuel generators
      • Requires no fuel purchase or storage
      • Nearly maintenance-free
      • Lasts up to 30 years with proper battery cycle use
      • Produces no emissions

      Cons

      • More expensive upfront when you include solar panels
      • Very pricey for a solar generator capable of running multiple appliances at once
      • Can run out of power if you go too long without sun on the panels

      Sizing a Solar System for Off-Grid Living

      Before you even look at a solar generator, you have to figure out how much power you need. The easiest way to do this is to list all the things in your home that draw energy and add up their power needs. For off-grid living, this can include:

      • Lighting
      • Small appliances
      • Refrigerators
      • Phones
      • Laptops
      • TVs
      • Medical devices such as CPAP machines
      • Chargers, power tools, etc

      You can find how much power each item draws from the label or use this handy calculator to get a rough estimate. It also determines how many sun hours your location gets in the summer and winter months.

      Using that number, you’ll know how large a solar generator you need for daily off-grid use and how many solar panels you require to charge said generator.

      We generally recommend adding about a 20% buffer to storage, generation, and available capacity if you can swing it. That gives you some wiggle room for cloudy days and unusual power draw.

      Off-Grid Solar Generator Buying Guide

      There are several vital points to consider when picking out an off-grid solar generator. The most important are battery capacity, power output, battery type, inverter type, scalability, and price.

      Battery Capacity

      Capacity is second only to price for most people when picking out a solar generator. It’s measured in Watt-hours (Wh) and is usually the most prominently displayed number on a generator.

      The capacity tells you how much power it can provide as a function of time. So a battery with 500Wh capacity can deliver 500 Watts for an hour, or 250 Watts for two hours, and so on.

      We showed you how to determine your power needs based on what you need to charge. Your baseload is the continuously operating appliances like refrigerators. Make sure your solar generator can handle the baseload constantly while factoring in daily generation capacity.

      Most of the off-grid solar generators on our list are in the 1000Wh to 2000Wh capacity range. That’s enough to operate essential appliances daily while still allowing charging of small electronics.

      Power Output and Ports

      Output is just as important as capacity when using a solar generator. While a generator might have 2000Wh of capacity, you won’t be able to access it all at once.

      Max and continuous load are used to identify how much power can be drawn at once.

      Many appliances with AC motors have a significantly higher surge when they first startup. The max watt rating of the inverter shows what level of surge it can handle, while the continuous load lets you know how much power it can operate under daily.

      The number of outlets, plugs, and ports available determine what you can plugin. You want at least 3-4 120V AC plugs for off-grid living plus a few DC and specialty plugs.

      Battery Type

      The battery chemistry used in a solar generator has serious implications on performance and lifespan. The two most common battery types are AGM lead-acid and lithium-ion/LiFePO4.

      Lead-acid batteries are cheaper upfront and have been used successfully for decades (the starter battery in your car is almost definitely lead-acid, for example) but are inferior to lithium batteries in terms of performance, lifespan, and depth-of-discharge.

      An AGM battery should only be discharged to 50% of total capacity to maximize lifespan. A lithium battery can be discharged as deep as 90% of capacity every charging cycle with no lifespan reduction.

      A lithium battery rated at 100Wh will provide 90Wh of working capacity, while an AGM battery rated at 100 Wh will only give 50-60Wh working capacity. The lithium battery will also last up to six times longer than a comparable AGM battery.

      LiFePO4 represents an even more extreme advance. Where regular lithium batteries have a lifespan of about 500 to 800 charge cycles, a LiFePO4 can handle 3500+ charge cycles before dropping below 80% total capacity.

      Inverter Type

      Solar power is generated and stored in DC, while most appliances and tools rely on AC. There are two types of inverters used in solar chargers to make this switch: Pure sine wave and Modified sine wave. We won’t go into the science behind them but will cover the practical pros and cons of each.

      Modified sine wave inverters are more affordable and are often found in smaller and less-expensive solar generators but have many critical shortcomings. They’re about 20% less efficient at power inversion and should not be used to power anything with an AC motor. That includes appliances like microwaves, fridges, etc., and sensitive electronics like phones and laptops.

      Pure sine inverters are more expensive upfront but offer greater efficiency and a much smoother power flow. They’re safe to use with any appliance type and sensitive equipment such as laptops or CPAP machines.

      You should only consider a solar generator with a pure sine wave inverter for dedicated off-grid living.

      Scalability

      Some of the best off-grid solar generators allow you to chain the generator itself to additional batteries. It lets you expand the total capacity of your system without having to pay extra for the charge controller and inverter components of the solar generator.

      Price

      For most of us, price is a significant factor in picking out a solar generator. We recommend figuring out your budget before you start looking at high-end and high-capacity generators that would be ‘nice to have’ but that don’t meet your combined needs.

      Don’t worry too much, though; the price of solar generators has dropped significantly over the past decade. You can pick up a suitable system that will last for years at a reasonable price.

      Final Thoughts

      An off-grid solar generator is increasingly the best choice for those looking to power an off-grid home. They offer the best combination of long-term affordability, reliability, and self-reliance.

      For those who want the very best, our top pick Bluetti AC200MAX is the way to go. It’s pricey, but it offers the best combination of capacity, scalability, longevity, and utility.

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