Top 5 Solar Generators for the PG&E California Blackouts
The PG&E blackouts are severely disrupting the entire state of California. The power outages are typically lasting anywhere from a few days up to a couple of weeks. This is a harsh reality for Californians as PG&E tries to combat potential deadly forest fires.
Getting a gas generator is not a real solution since many people have reported that they wait for hours to fill up gas cans at the gas station and sometimes do not get any gas at all. It has been said by the CEO of PG&E that the power outages will likely be going on over the next 10 years! A long term, easy to use solution is needed for this.
There are multiple easy solutions with solar generators that will give plenty of power to run essentials such as fridge, freezer, lights, computers, phones, medical devices and so on for extended periods of time. Since California gets a lot of high-quality sunshine a portable solar generator is a perfect match for the multi-day to weeklong recurring blackouts.
#1 Solar Generator Option
The #1 solution is the Titan. The Titan is unrivaled by any other portable solar generator when it comes to power output, battery capacity, solar input, expandability and ease of use. There’s simply nothing like it at all. The power module is the top section of the Titan which houses the inverter, plugs, fuses and everything besides the battery. It only weighs 31lbs which is easy to move around and is separates from the battery for easy portability.
The battery weighs 35lbs and is a 2,000wh lithium-ion battery. It has a much higher capacity than the vast majority of portable solar generators on the market. With the ability to expand to an infinite amount of batteries by simply stacking together the Titan can become a huge powerhouse that holds multiple days’ worth of power inside without needing to charge.
The only other portable solar generator that has a larger battery is the Goal Zero Yeti 3000 Lithium. The main issue with the Yeti 3000 is that its battery is very large, and its solar charge input is too low. It can charge up to 720 watts per hour but that is split between two charge controllers, a PWM, and an MPPT. It is unlikely to ever be able to produce a full 720 watts of power so, in essence, it’s impossible to charge the Yeti 3000 in less than 5 hours. A solar generator needs to charge in 5 or less because there are only 5 hours a day that the max solar charge rate can be achieved. And if it can’t charge in less than 5 hours, and items such as fridges and freezers need to be run during the day, it will lead to a never full battery. It also costs more than a Titan.
Charging the Titan is extremely easy since it uses a very common Anderson Powerpole connector and comes with an adapter to connect to PV Connector solar panel connectors. The Titan has not one, but two built-in MPPT charge controllers. With one 2,000wh battery attached to the Titan, it will easily handle up to 1,000 watts of power from the solar panels. The panels cannot exceed 145v and 30amps which is more than any other portable solar generator. Not only that but once there is a total of two or more batteries on the Titan it will handle up to 2,000 watts of solar panels. This means it can quite easily run heavy-duty equipment all day long since it creates so much power from the panels and the battery capacity is so large.
Not only that but the way the Titan MPPT charge controllers are set up it is safe to exceed 1,000 watts in panels into each solar charge port. Why would anyone do that?As long as the panels do not exceed 145v and 30a going into each port I can add as many panels as I want. This means I could have 1,500 watts of panels plugged into one of the two solar input ports, with one battery on the Titan, and it will only let 1,000 watts in. Since it’s rare to have perfect days where the panels make their full power potential, I can overbuild my panel array to more than 1,000 watts and guarantee that a full 1,000 watts is going in.
The #1 selling and used Titan solar generator kit is the Titan 1000 Flexx Kit.
1 Titan Solar Generator
10 Flexx 100-Watt Solar Panels
1 Set of 75ft Panel Extension Cables
2 Sets of 15ft Panel Extension Cables
1 2-Way PV Connector Connector
1 Panel Adapter Plug
1 PV Connector Panel Connector Tool Set
2 EMP Proof Faraday Bags
4 USB Chainable Lights
1 Titan Reset Cable
1 Car Charger
1 Wall Charger
2 Solar Panel Carry Cases
1 Cable and Accessories Carry Case
It has 1,000 watts of solar panels which means in ideal conditions it will recharge the 2,000wh Titan battery in 2 hours. Since there are 5 hours in a day where maximum solar power can be achieved the Titan 1000 Flexx kit will make up to 10,000wh of battery capacity in ideal conditions. This means the Titan could be at 0% when the sun comes up, get fully charged, drained completely again, then recharged all before the sun ever goes down. Because the 1,000 watts in panels can make so much power it is easily possible to add a second battery to the Titan to increase the amount of stored power.
#2 Solar Generator Option
The second-best solution for the PG&E blackouts is the Goal Zero Yeti 1400 Lithium. The reason the Goal Zero 1400 gets second place is that when compared to all the other solar generators it has the second-highest solar input charge rate. It can input a max of 720 watts from solar panels. The 720 watts are split between two charge controllers.
The Yeti 1400 Lithium comes with a built-in PWM charge controller. A PWM charge controller is not as good as an MPPT charge controller. The PWM charge controller will make less power from the solar panels on both sunny and cloudy days. It is said that the MPPT charge controller can be up to 40% more efficient than a PWM charge controller. Or in other words, it can make up to 40% more power when compared to the PWM charge controller that’s built into the Goal Zero 1400 Lithium.
The MPPT charge controller is an upgrade to the Yeti 1400 and is absolutely worth it. Basically, the only reason the Yeti 1400 makes it into second place is because of the MPPT charge controller. It is not common for the upgraded MPPT charge controller to make 40% more power than the PWM charge controller. It is most commonly found that the MPPT charge controller increases solar input by 10% to 20% over the PWM. Truly, the goal behind adding the MPPT charge controller is to get a second array of solar panels connected so it can charge faster.
With a 1,500w inverter and a 1,425wh battery, the Yeti 1400 is plenty large enough to handle running common essentials. Running items like the refrigerator, freezer, lights, computer, TV, medical devices and so on are not difficult. Weighing about 44lbs it’s not too bad to move around as long as both hands are used.
The biggest limit that the Goal Zero 1400 Lithium generator has is that it only has 2 wall outlet plugs which make it hard to connect multiple devices to it. For this reason, it is important to get a couple of high amp outlet splitters so more than two items can be run off the Yeti 1400.
The max solar input of the Yeti 1400 Lithium is 720 watts. The 720 watts of solar input is split between the two charge controllers. The PWM charge controller allows for a maximum input of 360 watts and the MPPT charge controller allows the same amount. The issue that I have found is that making 360 watts is not easy. The easiest thing I have found to do is put only 600 watts of solar panels on the Goal Zero Yeti 1400. The PWM gets 300 watts and the MPPT gets 300 watts.
It’s much easier to use six 100-watt solar panels with the Yeti and it also makes sure that the maximum solar input isn’t reached. But why wouldn’t it be good to put the maximum solar input on the Yeti? The faster the battery is charged the shorter the life of the battery will be. So, by only inputting 600 watts which is still a really good amount of power it will charge quickly each day and extend the life of the battery. Since the PG&E power outages are expected to happen over the next 10 years it’s important to make the equipment last as long as possible.
With 600 watts coming in, it will charge the 1,425wh battery from 0% to 100% in 2.4hrs in ideal conditions. That means it can be at 0% in the morning, get fully charged in a couple of hours, be drained again during the day, and still get fully charged back up to 100% before the sun goes down all in one day.
The panels have to be connected in parallel which increases the amps coming in but allows the voltage to stay below 22v which is the max voltage limit of the Yeti 1400.
The Max Yeti 1400 Lithium Kit:
1 Goal Zero Yeti 1400 Lithium Solar Generator
1 MPPT Charge Controller
6 100-Watt Solar Panels (option 1)
6 100-Watt Solar Panels (option 2)
2 Panel Adapters (Type 1)
2 Sets 70ft. 10 AWG Solar Panel Extension Cable (4 cables total)
2 Sets 3-Way PV Connector Branch Connector
2 Outlet Timers
2 1ft High Amp Outlet Splitter
Having this complete kit will allow for up to 600 watts of solar to go into the Yeti 1400 daily. This gives the best chance of extending the life of the battery so it will last for years on end, as well as makes sure it charges fast enough to have a full battery before the end of each day.
Having 70ft of panel cable makes it easy to reach anywhere in the yard or wherever the panels need to go to get full sunlight. Using the outlet timers on a fridge and freezer will make sure that those units don’t drain the battery more than it needs to be. A normal fridge and freezer will still be the same temperature if run for only 15 minutes of every hour. Especially at night the fridge and freezer can be run even more sporadically to save battery power and keep all the food cold.
Using the high amp outlet splitters will make it easier to run more than two things at the same time off the Yeti 1400. The majority of splitters out there are not rated to 15 amps like they should be. Don’t be fooled thinking any splitter will do because some will simply not handle the power needs of the equipment in the house.
The Goal Zero Yeti 1000 Lithium is identical to the Yeti 1400 Lithium besides the battery size. The battery capacity on the Yeti 1000 is 1,045wh. It will still run 1,500w off the inverter and can upgrade to have the second MPPT charge controller. If this is more in the budget, then it can be as good as the Yeti 1400. The smaller battery will make for shorter charge times. Try not to charge it faster than 2 hours to keep the battery healthy.
#3 Solar Generator Option
Third place is taken up by the ECOFLOW Delta 1300. This almost made second place but for one big reason, it did not make it there. The solar input charge rate is too low to make second place as I’ll explain.
The Delta appears to be an extremely good system. It has a 1,800-watt inverter which is the second largest in the list. It has a 1,295wh battery which a decent size and is large enough for long term power outages for running essentials and it is lithium-ion. Weighing in at only 31lbs it’s one of the lighter units out there especially for the size of its inverter and battery. It has six AC wall outlet plugs which is phenomenal. It can even chain up to six Delta generators together to expand battery capacity.
The one major drawback is that its maximum solar input is only 400 watts. With a 1,295wh battery, it would charge that battery in 3.25hrs which normally is perfectly fine. The only issue is it’s uncommon to have ideal weather conditions. This means that there is a chance that it will not be fully charged by the end of the day. This is especially true if the equipment is being run during the day such as a fridge, freezer, chargers, fans and so on. If only it had a larger solar input rate, then this would for sure be second place.
The solar panel charge port is truly limited to 10-65v and 10a. Very similar to the Bluetti and Alpha as seen in fourth place.
This large limitation is sad but in every other way, the Delta is a very good unit. But if I was in a blackout like the ones in California with PG&E I would rather go with the Titan or Yeti 1400 for sure.
I love that it has a 1,800-watt inverter because that means it can truly run anything that would run off a normal house outlet. By adding more Delta generators, it increases the battery capacity with each one by 1,295wh. That means it has a max battery storage capacity of 1,295wh x 6 Deltas = 7,770wh. The major problem with adding more Deltas to increase the battery capacity is that they chain together using the solar input port. This means that no matter how many are chained together, the max solar input is 400 watts. By adding a second Delta the total battery capacity would be 2,590wh but would take 6.5hrs to charge in perfect conditions. Essentially, it cannot be recharged in a day.
The Max Delta Kit:
4 100-Watt Solar Panels (option 1)
4 100-Watt Solar Panels (option 2)
1 Set of 100ft 12 AWG Panel Extension Cable (2 total)
1 Set of 2-Way PV Connector Branch Connector
One of the major differences between the Bluetti/Alpha and Delta is that the Bluetti/Alpha both are rated to 1,000 cycles on the battery. The Delta is rated to 500 cycles on the battery. This means that according to those reported numbers the Bluetti and Alpha will both last twice as long as the Delta. But on the flip side the Delta has a larger inverter, weighs less and has more outlets. The Delta, Bluetti and Alpha are almost tied for third place.
The Delta has to use its panels connected in a series/parallel connection just like the Bluetti and Alpha which is explained below.
#4 Solar Generator Option
In Fourth place for prolonged power outages are the MAXOAK Bluetti or the ExpertPower Alpha. They are 100% identical units in every way except the branding on the side of the unit. They both weigh 38lbs.
There are two reasons why it gets fourth place, the inverter and charge rate. The Bluetti and Alpha both have great sized lithium-ion batteries at 1,500wh each but the inverters are limited to 1,000 watts. Initially, my reaction was “why would anyone put in a 1,500wh battery and then put in an inverter that doesn’t match the battery wattage?” The reason is something most people NEVER consider when looking at solar generators.
An inverter draws its power from the battery. But not all batteries can drain as fast as the inverter can run. With the Bluetti and Alpha, a 1,000w inverter was installed because that’s how fast the battery can drain and still give out full power. Whereas I wish the inverter was bigger I am very glad that I don’t have to pay an additional $100 for the unit just to find out that the battery can’t drain as fast as the inverter can run. They matched the inverter size to the drain capacity of the battery.
There are other units that have larger inverters than the battery can drain and that’ll be shown in the fifth-place unit.
The second reason why the Bluetti and Alpha are in fourth place is the solar charge rate. It says in the user manual that they can input up to 500 watts of solar power to recharge the battery. This is great because that means it will recharge in 3 hours which leaves plenty of time during the day to run equipment while recharging. The problem is that I have not been able to successfully charge more than 400 watts into the Bluetti and Alpha.
The user manual says 500 watts of solar input, but the true limit is 16-60 volts and 10 amps. When solar panels are connected in series (positive connector on panel 1 to negative connector on panel 2 etc.…) the voltage increases and the amps stay the same. The average 100-watt solar panel will make about 18 to 21 volts and 5 to 6 amps. When two 100-watt panels are connected to each other in series, their average combined power is 20v x 2 = 40v and 5 amps.
If three panels are connected in series the average voltage will be 60 volts and 5 amps. Since the true solar input limit is 60v and 10a at a max that would mean adding more than 300 watts in panels is impossible.
What needs to be done is the panels need to be configured into a Series/Parallel connection. This means there are two sets of solar panels and each set has two panels. The first set of two panels will be connected in series as well as the second set. Then the two sets will be paralleled together. This means there will be two sets that are each making about 40v and 5a. When the two sets combine it will be 40v and 10a.
Having tested this many times this seems to be the max input achievable without adding two 50-watt panels to the array. Typically, I find that adding a 50-watt solar panel to each set puts the voltage higher than what the Bluetti and Alpha can handle. Luckily if the volts or amps go higher than they can handle they will simply have an error code come up on the screen. It will not burn out the system because it will simply turn off the charge port, so no power goes in.
The Max Bluetti/Alpha Kit:
1 MAXOAK Bluetti
4 100-Watt Solar Panels (option 1)
4 100-Watt Solar Panels (option 2)
1 Set of 100ft 12 AWG Panel Extension Cable (2 total)
1 Set of 2-Way PV Connector Branch Connector
I personally do not recommend getting the 50-watt panels to add because they may work when it’s a bit cloudy but if the clouds go away and the sun comes out then it will exceed the input limit and cause an error. This would stop it from charging at all.
With 400 watts in solar panels and a 1,500wh capacity, the Bluetti and Alpha can be charged in 3.75hrs in ideal conditions. This is a fair amount of power to come in during the day which means running essentials during the day is still possible while charging. There is however a slightly higher chance, depending on what is being run, that by the end of the day the battery will not be 100% topped off. Most of the time the battery is topped off because the panels will make power outside of the 5-hour max solar panel production window.
#5 Solar Generator Option
Fifth place is the Inergy Apex solar generator. When the Apex was announced it was supposed to be better than any other solar generator on the market. Certain limitations of the Apex though made it so that it is not even in the top 3 for solar generators that can be depended on for long term power outages. It is a good system except for the battery discharge rate as mentioned earlier.
The Apex has a 1,500w inverter and a 1,100wh battery with a built-in MPPT charge controller. Weighing in at only 25lbs it is very lightweight and easy to use. With the ability to charge up to 500 watts from solar panels it will charge in just over two hours quite easily.
Up until recently though, it was required to use Inergy branded panels. Finally, the company changed its mind and now has an EC8 to PV Connector adapter available for purchase. Using the Linx Flexible panels from Inergy works fine but it is important to note that the EC8 connector is not UV proof. This means after a long time exposed to the sun it will crumble to pieces and break. It is also not waterproof so additional items will need to be purchased in order to keep the panels in good working condition.
Besides the limitations of the panels, the biggest concern of the Apex is that it cannot run more than 550 watts continuously for more than 2.5mins. After two and a half minutes the inverter will turn off power to the AC plugs. It is said that this is done to protect the battery from having a short life. This does mean though that if more than 550 watts need to be run continuously for more than 2.5mins that the Apex will not stand up to the task.
Even though it has a 1,500-watt inverter it will not run more than 550 watts nonstop. The biggest concern would be an example like running a refrigerator, freezer, and TV at the same time. If the condensers on the fridge and freezer happen to be running at the same time as the TV it will very likely be more than 550 watts continuously for more than 2.5 minutes.
If the power was out and you were enjoying a movie after a long day of work and having to come home to the power being out, the move may be interrupted. You could run into issues with having other things running at the same time as well. This includes many other items that use more than 550 watts continuously or having multiple items running at the same time that their combined power draw exceeds 550 watts.
The only reason it would be recommended to use the Apex is if you know that you will rarely need to run more than 550 watts continuously. Also, if you will rarely need to do that you will want to make sure that when it does happen that it doesn’t last longer than 2.5 minutes.
There is a way to pull more than 550 watts for longer than 2.5 minutes. The only way I have found I can do that is when the solar panels are charging the Apex. The battery can only drain at 550 watts continuously. But if I have 400 watts of power coming in from the panels then I can draw 950 watts (550w from battery + 400 watts from panels) off the Apex for as long as I have 400 watts coming from the panels. The other option is to have another external battery attached to the Apex because then the draw is being shared between the Apex battery and the external battery.
The other thing to be aware of is that the 110/120v household plugs on the Apex are only rated to 10 amps. The way watts are calculated is you take Volts x Amps = Watts. This means that each AC plug is rated to: 120v x 10a = 1,200 watts. Running things like microwaves, toasters, electric cooktops and so on will likely not work or will only barely work depending on the actual device.
The best thing to do in order to pull a full 1,500 watts is to use the 30amp RV plug with a 30a to 15a plug adapter. The RV plug is capable of putting out the full 1,500 watts that the inverter can do.
The Max Apex Kit:
5 100-Watt Solar Panels (option 1)
5 100-Watt Solar Panels (option 2)
1 Set of 70ft 8AWG Panel Extension Cable (2 total)
2 Sets of 5ft 8AWG Panel Extension Cables (4 total, panels 1 and 5 need extensions to reach connector)
1 EC8 to PV Connector Adapter
1 5 to 1 PV Connector Branch Connector
1 30amp to 15amp Plug Adapter
1/Linx Panel Cord Cover (Only if using Inergy Linx Panels)
Another thing to be aware of with the Inergy Linx solar panels is that each panel will not directly connect to each other. The cables that come off of the Linx panels are both male EC8 connectors. Each panel has a 6ft adapter cable that goes between the panels. This means it is absolutely crucial that those 6ft connector cables are not misplaced and are always with the 30ft EC8 cable to connect to the Apex. Of course, that only matters if you are using the Linx panels. I do not use the Linx panels because I have found others that I prefer and put out a lot of power.
There truly is nothing better than the Titan as seen in this comparison. With how large the inverter, battery and solar panel input capacities are of the Titan it truly will run for weeks, months and years on end without any problems. The only thing left to figure out is what size kit is needed in order to run everything for however long it is required.
The Goal Zero Yeti 1400 Lithium is definitely a great second choice as long as the MPPT charge controller is added to it. Without that then there’s hardly anything different between it and the Delta, Bluetti, Alpha or Apex.
There are varying sizes of kits of the Titan to fit everyone’s needs and is easily expandable down the road too if you find you need more panels or batteries. Hopefully, the PG&E power outages will get worked out sooner rather than later. This simply goes to show that we can’t take electricity for granted. We need to be prepared with long term power options like solar generators. There’s nothing else that will provide long term power without any issues since gas generators require so much maintenance. Now is definitely the time to get a solar generator.