The Jackery 500 power station has been around for quite some time now. It has been one of the most successful mini solar generators that have ever come out. There are countless reviews and articles about it that all have great information. But what are they missing? What are they not telling you? In this Jackery Explorer 500 review, I will be revealing their little secrets.
Overall, the Jackery Explorer 500 is a solid unit. It has been compared with many other units that cost more and cost less and the Jackery 500 has stood out among them. It has been compared to units such as the EcoFlow River 600, Sungzu 500, Bluetti AC50, AcoPower PS500, and many more. There are certain things that have made the Jackery 500 stand out among all of those when reviewed. In a word, reliability.
The Jackery Explorer 500 has pretty much the same battery that all of those 500w mini solar generators have. But what’s different about the Jackery 500 battery is its rated output. It is able to fully handle a full 500w draw all the way until it reaches 0% which is incredible. Other mini solar generators such as the Sungzu 500 can do the same but their screen is so limited that you have no idea if you’re actually pulling 500w, 400w, or whatever the draw is.
The Jackery Explorer 500 battery is precisely 518.4wh in total battery capacity. It gets that from having a 21.6v and 24ah battery. 21.6v is a bit different from most 500w mini solar generators. Most 500w mini solar generators have 12v batteries which can generally be charged up to about 12.4v at 100% capacity. Generally speaking, higher voltage and lower amperage is more efficient than lower voltage and higher amperage.
Amps are really what cause heat in electricity. You can be moving 120v through a wire at 1a and it would generate very little heat and be using 120 watts. Volts x Amps = Watts. But if you were using 12v and 10a (12v x 10a = 120w) you’d be making a lot of heat. Heat = inefficiency. This means that for the Jackery 500 to run 120w with its battery it’s only going to use 5.55a because 21.6v x 5.55a = 120w. It is considered to be twice as efficient as other 500w mini solar generators.
This is one of their little secrets that no one realizes. Because they increased the battery voltage in the Jackery 500 it creates less heat, has better energy conversion through the inverter, and requires thinner internal wiring. That’s very smart on Jackery’s part.
It has a Lithium NMC (lithium-ion) battery which is one of the reasons it’s really lightweight.
One of the drawbacks of the Jackery Explorer 500 battery is that it is not rated to a very high amount of lifecycles. It is only rated to 500 lifecycles which is about the bare minimum that lithium batteries last before they reach 80% efficiency. Unlike the Titan solar generator which is far more powerful but is rated at 2,000 cycles per battery.
The Jackery 500 power output is rated to 500w continuously off of the inverter. It has a 1,000w peak which is right where it should be. Inverter peaks should always be at least twice as much as the inverter continuous output.
When running my tests and reviewing the Jackery 500 on my own I found that I could sustainably run about 515w continuously without the inverter stopping. It can do a bit more than the 500w it is rated to which is very surprising. Not that an extra 15w is going to make a big difference but you never know.
One nice feature is that the Jackery 500 can either have AC power on alone or DC power on alone or both AC and DC power on at the same time. Other units simply turn on the entire unit which will cause the inverter to draw power slowly even if nothing is plugged into it.
I like to run my ICECO JP40 DC Fridge which holds 40qts. off of my Jackery 500. The DC port on the Jackery 500 runs my ICECO 40qt DC fridge for about 35+ hours without the need to use a solar panel to recharge the Jackery 500. If I need to use the AC power from the inverter, then it will run my ICECO JP40 for about 25 hours.
The Jackery 500 can be charged in three different ways. The most common is from the wall charger. Charging from the wall outlet puts in about 77 watts which isn’t very much. The car charger will put it about 42 watts which is even slower. Then a 100w solar panel will be able to input about 58 watts at most into the Jackery 500.
This is the one area I feel that Jackery really could’ve done much better, the charge controller. It is an MPPT charge controller which is great but it doesn’t allow that much power to go in.
It has been my experience that if a solar generator cannot be charged in at least 5 hours then it’s not that great. Everything else about it is pretty good, but it needs to charge faster. In my video review of the Jackery 500 I connected 500w of solar panels to it, and it would still only allow up to 58 watts from solar panels to go in which is not good at all. That means with solar panels it will take about 8.6 hours to fully charge. That is more than one day’s worth of solar charging since you can only get about 5 full peak hours a day of sun.
Jackery really needs to adopt a better charge controller in future models. This doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world for the Jackery 500. The most common thing I use my Jackery 500 for is to run my DC fridge. Since that only uses about 10-20wh per hour to run, I can still get my Jackery 500 charged up each day. I can do that because each night my DC fridge doesn’t run the Jackery 500 battery all the way down to 0%. It only runs it down to 75%. I can charge the Jackery 500 back up from 75% each day while still running my DC fridge with no problem.
If I needed to run heavier equipment like a full-sized house fridge, then I’d be out of luck. The Jackery Explorer 500 is not equipped for emergency preparedness like the Titan solar generator. This mini solar generator is more to be used while camping to run small equipment like a DC fridge, phone charging, radio charging, camp lights, and so on. It also includes a small LED light on the side for helping light up a small area such as a campsite or room. It even has an SOS setting on the light for emergencies.
The wall charger will recharge the Jackery 500 in about 6.5 hours. The car charger will take about 12 hours. And solar panels will take about 8.6 hours.
It doesn’t matter if I use one of my own Rigid 100 solar panels which are extremely high quality or the Solar Saga 100 folding solar panel from Jackery. Since the charge controller won’t let more than 58 watts in from any solar panel, both of them work well. The Solar Saga is easier and lighter to transport though due to it being foldable and has no tempered glass on it.
The Jackery 500 does not have a lot of outlets on it. But does it need a lot of outlets? Not really. Because this is meant to be used with small electronics while camping or out at the beach or in the woods for the day. It has just one AC outlet to help power anything off of the inverter up to 500w. This could be used to boost up an E-Bike battery, recharge a drone battery, run an air pump for inflating an air mattress, or whatever else is needed out of the AC outlet. If more outlets are needed then a power strip can easily be used.
It has three DC plugs. One is the standard 12v cigarette lighter plug like what is in every car. Then there are two small 5.5×2.1mm barrel ports. In my experience, there are many CPAP machines that can use that small barrel port to run off of. This is great if you’re camping and need a lightweight power source that will run a CPAP all night long. The CPAP machine I have tested with it will run for about 2 nights off the Jackery 500. Different CPAPs will use different amounts of power. The DC plugs can put out up to 10a/120w.
Then it has three USB ports. All of them are typical USB-A style plugs which means you can use pretty much any USB cable with it. No USB-C fast charging ports on this unit.
One thing to keep in mind when using the Jackery Explorer 500 is that it does have all sorts of protection layers installed in it. It has overcharge protection, discharge protection, overheat protection, and so on. The Jackery 500 will not charge if it’s above 104 degrees Fahrenheit internally. It’s not supposed to be charged below 32 degrees Fahrenheit but it may let a charge in, so be careful not to charge it below freezing.
It’s safe to use it all the way down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit but it just can’t be charged below 32 degrees. Generally speaking, I always have my unit inside.
One of the big drawbacks of using the Solar Saga 100w folding solar panel from Jackery is that it only has a 10ft charging cable attached to the solar panel. That requires the Jackery 500 to be within 10ft of the solar panel to charge. This can be a problem if it’s hot outside and the Jackery 500 has to be in the hot sun to charge. The same applies to it being below freezing outside. It’s hard to have the panel in the sun outside and the Jackery 500 inside with such a short cable.
That is why I like to use an 8mm to MC4 adapter which allows me to use pretty much any other solar panel. Most solar panels use MC4 connectors. Then I can get any length of MC4 cable that I need and put my solar panel anywhere in the sun while keeping my Jackery 500 safe inside out of the weather.
Jackery as a company has been around for many years now and has an extremely good reputation. Their customer service is top-notch and they are always ready to help anyone out. Their warranty department is always willing to help with any issue if one ever comes up.
I have reached out to Jackery multiple times by email and phone and they have always responded quickly and were very helpful.
Even though Jackery units are made in China I don’t feel that that makes them lower quality. After all, the world’s largest lithium resources are in China so it makes that pretty much all lithium batteries come from China.
The Jackery Explorer 500 is a simple, lightweight, and affordable mini solar generator/power station. It is easy to take outdoors or on road trips to run simple equipment. Whenever I need just a little a bit of power out and about, the Jackery Explorer 500 is the one I usually grab because I know it will work hard for me.
It could use a better charge controller, and maybe an outlet or two more, but it’s not a deal-breaker by any means. I would recommend the Jackery 500 to anyone who needs lightweight portable power.