We’re all familiar with the idea that some things are simply too good to be true.
Unfortunately, there are manufacturers and sellers who prey on our drive for survival in hopes that it overrides our critical thinking skills.
One type of item that’s currently being used to do that are so-called all-in-one power solutions that only require solar energy (aka solar generators).
Solar generators are great—in theory. But, in reality, relying on solar generators for survival is impractical.
For starters, for the solar claims to be valid, you need optimal alignment with the sun for the panels, which could mean having to go outside and continuously adjust your panels every single day.
This isn’t like a solar calculator that can charge in a well-lit room. Your solar generator performance will vary significantly if your panels aren’t properly aligned with each passing hour.
Of course, if your weather features a string or week of cloudy days, you’re out of luck.
Solar generators can also be downright dangerous.
In fact, they’ve been known to cause fires and are so dangerous that one of our competitors had their generator batteries recalled due to fire hazard.
There are just so many problems, that My Patriot Supply refuses to sell solar generators to our customers—turning down millions in extra revenue in the process.
Sure, we sell solar-powered devices because they come in handy in certain situations, but we would never recommend relying solely on a solar generator to have all your bases covered during a blackout emergency.
That would be misleading; And honestly, it’s an outright lie.
There are, however, plenty of other companies marketing solar generators as the end-all-be-all survival tool when there is no end-all-be-all.
One of our competitors, for example, has openly advertised how many units they have sold combined with the average selling price to total $129 million in sales.
Before we jump into the specific claims around this product, consider what is happening in the world of solar panels.
North Carolina consumers are currently suing the manufacturing of the roof-based solar panels they were sold. Why? Because they were promised big savings on their energy bills when they actually had to pay a lot of money for solar panels that didn’t work effectively. See the news article here.
And let’s not forget about the multiple high-tech solar projects that have failed.
If large solar farms and rooftop solar panels aren’t 100% effective, what makes you believe the 1800-watt solar generator you purchased online will be?
Claims Made by Solar Generator Sellers and Manufacturers
Marketing sells. And it can take a lot of research and digging to see past marketing claims and separate truth from fiction.
To save you time, we’ve done the work for you. Keep reading some of the most common claims about solar generators and the real truth about this problematic product.
Claim #1: Completely Reliable and Good for Prolonged Power Outages for Weeks
Solar generators are NOT completely reliable.
Let’s start with the fact that many solar generators only operate at temperatures between 32–120 °F (0–49 °C). What happens if you live up north or experience an unusually cold winter one year?
When you look at the operations manual fine print, many say to keep the unit out of rainy, damp, or snowy conditions. The solar generator is water-resistant, but should not be exposed to rain or submerged.
That limits use right away—especially use in survival situations.
In addition, most solar generators come with only one solar panel. Even if the battery on the unit might be adequate, companies are selling kits with an inadequate number of solar panels.
Trust us, one solar panel isn’t going to cut it.
You must attach several solar panels to get significant power out of your generator.
Companies know you need more than one panel, so they plan to upsell you more to get the solar generator to function properly. Read the fine print, and you’ll find that manufacturers say it’s best to add more panels and “daisy chain” them together to double or triple your power.
It gets very expensive…fast.
Claim #2: Will Power Critical Appliances
A solar generator won’t power critical appliances like you think it will.
If you want to back up a small refrigerator and power a few lights, then 1,500 - 1800 watts might be sufficient to handle that—that is, if you have enough solar panels and batteries.
If you have any large electrical appliances such as a range, electric water heater, electric dryer, or an air conditioner, which uses 4,500 watts or more just to run, a 1,500 - 1800 watt solar generator won’t even come close.
With 1500 watts, you’ll barely be able to run a small microwave.
A 1500-watt solar generator wouldn’t even heat a small room. You’d drain your battery long before it was adequately heated. You could run an electric blanket for a couple of hours per day, but chances are that’s not on the top of your list when considering a solar generator to keep your household going during a blackout.
Claim #3: Keeps Fridge Cold for Over 16 Hours on a Single Charge
Chances are, you want your refrigerator running day and night. The problem with this claim is that if you have a 100-watt solar panel, it will put out about 500 watt-hours during the day.
When night comes, the solar panel will do no more than keep your battery near empty… and it will not last through the night.
It’s impossible to run a fridge that takes 1,500 watt-hours per day with a solar panel only putting in 500 watt-hours.
Claim #4: Fast Charge Times
Most solar generators require 4-10 hours of charge time in the sun or 3.5 hours if plugged into a power source.
Let’s get this out of the way first: If you want a solar generator to help you and your family survive a disaster or blackout, plugging it into a power source isn’t a critical selling point.
The issue with the “fast charge time” claim is that 4-10 hours of sun to charge your generator isn’t actually fast at all.
Not to mention that for a solar generator to work effectively, it requires you to live in a location that gets full sun all day. Sorry, Alaska!
Northern US states where the sun sets earlier in the winter will also likely struggle to charge solar generators. Plus, if you live in a colder climate, the solar generator may not work below 32°F.
Claim #5: Free Power from the Sun So You Can Run Most Important Devices
Yes, solar charging is free, but there’s a lot more to it. To put it bluntly, you may NOT be able to run your most important devices.
Remember, to work effectively, the panel(s) need full sun all day long. If 25% of the panel is covered by trees providing shade and filters the sun, you’re going to lose 25% of the panel’s output.
As the angle of the sun changes, you may need to move the panels manually throughout the day. What a chore.
Output assumes direct sun and you’ll probably have to move the panels around during the day to achieve that.
In some locations, you could spend every 15 minutes moving the panels around. Who has time to play with panels all day—especially in a disaster situation?
If you have more than one panel, you can angle them differently to maximize sun exposure… but again, most solar generators are sold with just one panel.
If you’re using a solar generator to power appliances during the day, you’re sucking the juice out of the battery pack at the same time it’s trying to charge, and you may not be able to put more juice back in to get the battery meter up.
Claim #6: Will Keep CPAP & Oxygen Going During Blackouts
Sure, a solar generator can power these important devices, but for how long AND with what else drawing power from the battery?
The majority of CPAP machines on the market use between 30 to 60 watts of power. And people use them at night, which means you have to make sure you have enough power in the battery to last the night. If the next day isn’t sunny, you may not be able to charge again for the following evening.
Typical oxygen machines draw around 4 running amps and run on 120 volts. The motor inside the concentrator runs continually so that it has an average of 480 running watts.
Again, while you may be able to run it, you won’t be able to run it continuously without extra panels, moving panels around throughout the day, and sacrificing the use of other appliances and lighting your home.
Claim #7 We Have a Superior Battery
Solar generators are nothing more than a battery you can hook up to solar panels. That’s it.
There is no battery that will do everything you want (as many solar generator sellers claim). Another thing manufactures and sellers aren’t forthcoming about is that many solar generators require battery maintenance every 3-6 months to keep the battery in optimal condition in standby mode ready for use.
Solutions to Power Your Home When Disaster Strikes
Before you make a decision on what to purchase, you need to figure out what you will need a generator for and then figure out what type will work best to meet your needs.
Here are 5 alternatives to solar generators:
- Whole house generator – Our top alternative is a whole house generator. Whether you select propane or natural gas to power it, it’s a much more reliable solution to keep your home running during an emergency.
- Natural gas generator – For roughly the same amount of money, you can install a natural gas generator that can power a whole home. While it may be pricey to set up initially, it is rather inexpensive to run since natural gas is cheaper than other types of fuel. The downside is that the generator must be connected to a pipeline to run, which will require homeowners to be very strategic about planning where to place it and how to use it. On the flip side, natural gas lines are very infrequently disrupted in comparison to the power grid.
- Diesel generator – Diesel generators are a combination of a diesel engine and an electric generator. Diesel generators use fuel to run, produce a significant amount of power and are less expensive than natural gas generators. Another pro of diesel generators is that they can be run anywhere, such as on construction sites and ships. The downside is that they are expensive and pretty loud when running.
- Inverter generator – Inverter generators use fuel to convert DC power into AC power, which makes it a safe choice for more sensitive electronics. They tend to be smaller and more portable than other types of generators. The downside is that they are not as powerful as large generators.
- Chafing fuel – Another alternative to a generator is chafing fuel. Typically, you see chafing fuel being used to heat or warm food. They can also be used in small survival stoves. Given the small size, they will only provide a limited amount of fuel for heat for a short period of time.
Shop wisely, friends.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply