You want to go solar now, but a complete solar power installation for your home is outside of your budget at the moment. Even if you choose the DIY option to save money, the cost of solar energy home systems is expensive, and you are in for a lengthy and complicated installation process. Grid-tie systems require qualified electricians to connect to the grid. Fully off-grid systems require a big investment in battery storage.
There is something you can do right now to start your conversion to solar. In fact, this is something you really should be doing right now. It won’t cost you the earth, but it will secure your home and family against some pretty frightening possibilities, and will contribute just a little to saving the earth. Best of all, it is pretty much plug-and-play. No installers, no hi-tech knowledge required. You can have the benefit of an off-grid solar power backup system straight out of the box.
I’m talking about a Solar Power Generator.
Solar Generators are rolling off the assembly lines as we write. They provide the perfect interim alternative energy source while you plan your larger solar conversion. They are self-contained, easily set up and relatively inexpensive. They have many advantages.
I’ve identified three price-point entry levels. One of them should suit your budget
|Choice 1||Choice 2||Choice 3|
|Battery: 168Wh 14ah||Battery: 396Wh 33ah||Battery: 1250Wh 100ah|
|Max a/c power: 80 watts||Max a/c power: 300 watts||Max a/c power: 1200 watts|
|PP: Under $200.00||PP: Under $450.00||PP: Under $1400.00|
Advantages of a Solar Power Generator
Solar power generators are completely silent, they produce no fumes, they have no moving parts to wear out or fail.
When the grid power fails, the switch to solar backup is as simple as moving a plug from one outlet to another.
A solar backup generator provides power at a constant voltage, essential for sensitive computer-based equipment.
What if your family’s safety is threatened by storm, fire or flood, and you have to throw everything into the car and take off? Your solar generator goes with you, and it will provide you with survival power continuously while-ever sunshine is available to keep it charged.
Recharge from multiple sources.
Your solar backup can be charged from the grid, from solar panels, from the cigarette lighter outlet in your car. As a last resort, if the sun is obscured by weather, it can even be charged from that smelly gas-powered generator that you consigned to the store-room.
Power a wide range of devices.
Depending on the size of your unit, almost everything that runs on electricity can be powered from a solar generator. Thanks to modern technology, many of the devices in our homes now consume very low amounts of power. Charging mobile phones, laptop computers, iPads and similar devices places very little load on the generator, as do low-power lighting sources such as LED lights. Larger units can power most of the electrical devices you would find in a modern home.
Use in emergency or as a constant alternative power source.
A solar generator is a great backup in an emergency, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t use it on a daily basis as an alternative to grid-power. If the sun is shining, why not harness it and get some free electricity? Your generator will run a wide range of low-power devices, like lap-top computers, LED lights, radios, TVs, even small refrigerators, on a full-time basis. Shifting these devices from your grid supply to a free solar source begins the process of reducing your dependence on the grid.
While the sun is shining, you can charge at the same time as you draw power from the system. A visual monitor of battery voltage, charge and discharge rates, keeps you constantly informed as to the state of your system. If you are drawing too much power, some devices can easily be switched back to the household system while the batteries recharge. It’s an infinitely flexible system.
Let’s look at three examples, from a small unit that you can throw in a backpack to a hefty package that will supply emergency power to most of the electrical devices in your home. Check your budget and get the unit that’s right for your situation. These three units are all produced by Goal Zero. I chose them from a wider range of alternatives for these reasons:
- track record
- AGM deep-cycle lead-acid batteries
- best bang for buck.
Choice 1. The Yeti 150
At under $200, the Yeti 150 is a good entry-level unit that will power a wide range of portable devices, from mobile phones to laptop computers, enabling you to recharge a number of times while away from permanent power sources. It has several power output options, including a 12v car socket, 2 x 5v USB sockets, and 120v AC standard wall outlet for mains power devices.
The Yeti 150 weighs in at a mere 12 lbs, which makes it highly portable. Take it camping with you, carry it outdoors to do your computer work in the garden, or take it in your car to provide power while travelling. You can recharge from a solar panel, AC wall outlet or car socket.
The battery capacity of the 150 is 168 watt-hours (14 Ampere-hours). It won’t run your refrigerator or your home theater system, but it will power/recharge your laptop, tablet, smartphone, camera, ebook reader, LED lighting, mp3 player and any other small device you can think of. With an output power of 80 watts, you could even use it to power your TV or portable cooler, but only for short periods (couple it with a decent size solar panel – say 40 to 80 watts – and you’ll increase the capabilities considerably)
Choice 2. The Yeti 400
The Yeti 400 weighs in at 29 lbs and has twice the battery capacity of the Yeti 150.
You might not want to back-pack it, but throw it into your car or RV and it’s in its element. It will provide ample power for base-camp expeditions or family camping, and will serve as the main power supply for a cabin in the mountains.
The Yeti 400 will also serve as an emergency backup supply for your home during power outages. Coupled with a good-sized solar panel, it will provide power for essential devices long term. Use it to reduce the amount of power you draw from the grid. It will run a 12V light for 100 hours, recharge your smartphone 30 times and your laptop 5 times, or run your TV for 3 hours.
You can charge the Yeti 400 from mains power, a solar panel or your vehicle’s 12v socket.
Choice 3. The Yeti 1250
The big daddy of the Yeti family, the 1250 is the ideal emergency backup system. Keep it plugged in to mains power at home so it’s always fully charged and available at short notice just when you need it. No fumes, no refuelling, just plug in your devices and go.
The 100ah 1250 wh battery will power everything from a desktop computer to power tools or even a small refrigerator/freezer.
The Yeti 1250 weighs over 100 lbs, so it’s nice to know it comes with a built-in trolly to move it around. The trolly handle folds down, so you can throw the unit into your car, van or RV and head off on an adventure holiday with enough power for luxury camping.
Looking at survival options? If things get out of hand, the Yeti 1250 will provide your remote cabin with ample power for long term residence. Want more power? All the Yeti units can be stacked; buy two and double your capacity.
What about Gas-powered generators?
In the not-too-distant past, when you wanted to prepare for a possible emergency situation, you would go out and buy a gas-powered portable generator. These little units have served us well, but their time is coming to an end. Why? Well, their usefulness is offset by some serious disadvantages.
- They are expensive to run. Generating your power from a gas-powered portable generator is much more expensive than getting it from the grid
- They are noisy, smelly and dangerous. Put a gas-powered generator in a confined space and you just created a lethal gas-chamber. Put it outside and the fumes will drift through windows. The noise and vibration is irritating.
- They rely on another source of power: gas. If you run out of gas, you run out of power. If you’re in an emergency situation, where grid power is down, you won’t be able to run to the gas station for supplies, because gas stations need grid power for their pumps. When the grid goes down, they go down.
- They require regular refuelling. When they run out of fuel, you lose power instantly, If you’re running a computer at the time, the sudden loss of power can seriously damage your equipment. Refuelling while the generator is running is dangerous, so every time you refuel you need to shut down the generator.