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7 advantages of a solar generator over installing solar on your RV

Did you know there’s more than one way to add solar capabilities to your RV? I am continually amazed at the number of campers and RVers I have encountered who have never heard of a solar generator or know what it can do.

While on my long, long RV trip, I quickly lost count of times neighbors asked “What’s that?” or came over to check out my portable solar panels, not knowing that such a thing was possible.

Sure, some people, especially larger rigs, will want to install permanent solar.

However, depending on your RVing style, a solar generator may hold some enticing advantages over installing solar panels on your RV’s roof and then purchasing and installing the inverter and controls and monitors associated with them.

To begin with, solar generators come in various sizes, so depending on how much power you need, there probably is an option for you. There is the possible exception of running your air conditioner, although it can be done with a large enough generator and some modifications such as a SoftStart.

My Jackery 1500 solar generator keeps my devices charged and keeps my small appliances running, including fans, a small heater, coffee grinder, blender and the like. I even use it to trickle-charge the house batteries while boondocking. Pretty much everything except the air conditioner.

When boondocking, I get into a rhythm of when to put out my four solar panels in order to recharge and be at or near 100 percent stored power come evenings.

Of course, the weather has to cooperate. At least to some degree. You can pull some power most any rain-free day, even when overcast, but it will greatly reduce your power-generating capacity.

If you do require a lot of power, or you run your A/C a lot, then an installed solar system might be a better option for you. (Or a solar system and gas generator.) But otherwise, consider a solar generator.

7 advantages of a solar generator over installed solar on an RV

solar generator solar panels

Quicker and easier: Professionally installed solar can be costly and involves mounting panels on your roof and installing wiring and controls in your rig. Things can and sometimes do go wrong, and the process can take a while before all the work gets done. Conversely, you can take a solar generator out of the box and be fully charged and ready to use in a few hours. Zero installation needed.

Portable: The solar generator and its power need not stay in your RV. Both within your RV and outside of it, solar generators are incredibly versatile. Take it outside to power outdoor parties; ditto on the boat. Even when at home, you have a backup plan should the power ever go out. This is also advantageous if you won’t be keeping your present RV for long. You can simply take the solar generator with you to your next rig.

Multiple ways to use power: You have lots of plug and charging options.

Multiple ways to recharge: You can use solar panels, plug into a wall outlet, or charge via your vehicle while driving.

Lower cost: Depending on the size system you need to be installed or the size generator you require, the solar generator will usually cost less.

Less maintenance: While both solar power methods have solar panels that will need to be cleaned, the ones that come with the solar generator are far easier to access and clean and require less overall maintenance.

Leak-free: Installing solar panels on the roof entails attaching hardware to your rig’s roof, which makes for a potential new place for leaks down the road. Since the solar generator is not installed, this is never a worry.

Solar generator buying tips

Without a doubt, a large solar generator is a big purchase. I had planned to add this accessory somewhere down the road, but I ended up buying mine long before I ever took off on my Long Long RV Trip.

Why? Because Amazon made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

If you are in the market for a solar generator, it might be beneficial to wait for their annual Prime Day, usually in July, as discounts were SUBSTANTIAL!

Another way to potentially get discounts and special offers any time of year is to get yourself on the mailing lists for the solar generator brands you are interested in.

When I started researching solar generators, two brands stood out among others: Jackery and Bluetti.

From everything I read about them, including unbiased consumer reviews, they seemed more or less equal. I have no doubt both would do a great job. The only factor that nudged me towards Jackery was that amazing Amazon Prime Day deal.

##RVT1088

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Chuck
7 days ago

Perhaps the baseline should be as follows; If a solar generator can charge a Tesla to 80% in a single day of sunlight, then we should hereby refer to it as a generator. If on the other hand the power in the Solar generator batteries cannot charge the batteries in a Tesla then it is no more than a photo voltaic flashlight with some accessory adapters to charge phones, LED TVs and such.

On the other hand, if a solar generator is a generator then it could be installed on a trailer to be towed behind the car giving unlimited range, 24 hours a day, to said Tesla as it is it is in fact a generator and thus rebranded as the Solar Generator EV Range Extender, or SGEVRE.

OMG: Sunlight is not the fuel that is used to create power/energy. It is the energy. It is converted to power. In an actual generator, fuel is used to generate energy/power. Thus the name generator. Sunlight is not fuel.

Cancelproof
7 days ago

I love my open window. I even named it air conditioner.

I love my lake warmer and it has never failed me. I warm up the lake every summer.

My solar hair dryer works everytime.

I’m looking at installing a solar bread proofer and have a spot all picked out near a south facing window. I’ve read some great reviews on them and some are from 3000 years ago.

Just sayin’

Wolfe
7 days ago

I’m down on “Solar Generators” because they don’t easily/affordably come in the jumbo size I’d find useful. For me, much more economical to just put 4 lithium “house” batteries on the tongue, and then have the ability to recharge THAT battery bank from solar/tow vehicle/real generator at aggressive rates. I do have a tiny 400W lead-based jumper/battery/inverter for convenience AC, but almost never use it for RV needs.

As for portable solar, heck yes! I didn’t want to put holes in my new rig’s roof, so continued on with my own portable solution of 450W of flexible panels and controller hung on a PVC tripod frame that then auto-tracks for max solar wattage. I get a LOT of questions when I plunk the array down in a new site and it unfolds, tracks and starts charging while I continue setting up…

Todd
6 days ago
Reply to  Wolfe

Any pics you can share? Would love to see it!

Snayte
7 days ago

The biggest downside I see is the whole package walking off if I am not around to keep an eye on it.

Rolling Coal
7 days ago
Reply to  Snayte

That’s exactly what happened at an overland rally, solar panels and the lithium battery “solar generator” gone!

Cheri Sicard
7 days ago
Reply to  Snayte

For sure I do worry about that and never let it out of site. But it is a concern with possible break ins, which knock wood I have yet to have an issue with.

Wolfe
7 days ago
Reply to  Snayte

I may be paranoid, maybe not… but my generator is chained and my panels (above) have a tip-over/motion alarm that only I know how to disable.

Mark
7 days ago

Solar Generators are a good option for many. I would caution though you should buy a Solar Generator which you can replace the lithium battery. Lithium batteries can malfunction, and do have a recharge cycle limit, so would recommend the Solar Generator which would allow for battery replacement. Otherwise you could have it for a few years, and the battery malfunctions for whatever reason, you are out several hundred dollars with no other options.

Gary Jones
7 days ago

After hooking my big Goal Zero Yeti up to my coach instead of shore power nothing worked. Evidently my hard-wired Watchdog unit won’t pass power since there’s not a hard ground like at a pole. I can run the fridge through the access door to at least move that load to the GZ Yeti.

Terry
7 days ago

I am not surprised that a lot of people have never heard of solar power for RVs. Not everyone reads Facebook or belong to a RV group. I have never seen anything about solar for RVs on any other media or TV. The only thing or read about solar is on Facebook in RV group posts. Just a small percentage of people follow RV groups so most people have only heard of solar for stick built homes.

Jerry
7 days ago

Yes the term “Solar Generator” is confusing.

That being said, buying a Jackery is the best thing we ever did. My wife uses it for powering her CPAP unit and we can run 5-7 days with that. I can perk my 750W coffee and watch TV/DVD before bed.

It is the best solution for us as a complete install of solar with inverter and charge controller etc would be a waste as we only boon dock one or two nights at a time and 95% of our trips are with hook-ups. (We are not full time but usually are RVing 6-8 months of the year.)

Another point is there is a lot less sunshine up here in Canada than if we were down in Texas, Mexico or Arizona. So a lot of the time, solar does not make sense but that Lithium AC/DC portable Jackery is excellent for our kind of travel. Prior to buying one, I had ruined 2 lead acid deep cycle house batteries as they could not keep up. Also, I installed two lead acid batteries on the tongue which added more tongue weight. Back to one now.

Bob p
7 days ago

I take exception to the term “solar generator”, these are not generators but batteries charged by solar panels and then the electricity comes out of the battery.

Herman
7 days ago
Reply to  Bob p

Agree!

Jerry Parkinson
7 days ago
Reply to  Herman

Totally agree. I have a background in electronics and every time I hear that word I cringe. The article was good as far as it went but anyone that is not familiar at all with solar and it’s uses would be totally in the dark. Pun intended.

tommy james
7 days ago
Reply to  Bob p

Bob is correct. There fancier in most cases but the box with the batteries is the same as a battery pack. Something has to deliver power to that pack and keep up the charge. In this case it’s the solar panels. but you can also charge off a house 110 ac or your vehicle alternator.

When people say generator it is believed it makes its own electricity.

Terry
7 days ago
Reply to  tommy james

I would say solar generator could be a correct name because in takes a fuel (the sun light) and turns it in to electricity the same way a gas generator take gas and turns it to electricity. They both provide electricity for Immediate use and store in a battery for later use.

Cancelproof
7 days ago
Reply to  Terry

If the solar generator (battery) can be charged with a gas generator then it is not a generator. Maybe it should be renamed a ‘solar transformer’. It transforms sunlight into electrical power. I can charge a battery with a gas generator but not a gas generator with a battery. Only one is a generator.

Don’t get me wrong, I love that I can trickle charge my house batteries with my solar but I know a word game when I hear one.

Cheri Sicard
7 days ago
Reply to  Cancelproof

I get the semantics point. However, I want people to see this article and solar generator is a commonly used and searched for term. Likewise I will continue to use it.

Cancelproof
7 days ago
Reply to  Cheri Sicard

I absolutely agree, solar generator is the searched term. Accurate or not, confusing or not, you are correct. Its a term that gets people interested and excited to find something new only to be disappointed when the learn it is a battery with a solar panel, much like the solar landscape lights they put around the campsite already.

“Solar heater”, a fresh idea that uses the sunlight to warm the surface of the skin.

“Ultraviolet disinfectant” another scientific breakthrough that has a 99.99% efficacy in germ reduction.

Just sayin’. Words matter.

Scott
5 days ago
Reply to  Cheri Sicard

wow…talk about picky. I appreciate your articles and cringe when I see someone who spends several lines of text just to pick the small details of a freely shared article by the staff writers. Oh, by rthe way, look up solar generators on amazon and surprise!!! Jackery and Bluetti will be listed. These boxes contain batteries that are DC and will convert to AC for your slave appliances/ toys that need a generated power to function. For all of those people who have all this time to criticize, go use that energy to volunteer to some organization that could use that excess energy from you

Cancelproof
5 days ago
Reply to  Scott

Thanks for time management suggestion. While we are on the subject of suggesting how others could better spend time, my recommendation to you is a book titled ‘1984’. In it you will find strange and unique connections between fictional predictions from the author’s period and a correlation to our reality of today. Moreover the speech connection regarding the importance of word meanings and the resulting damage to a society. You may find it somewhat freeing of a read.

As for anyone being critical of the article’s contributor, I did not see or read any criticism of her. Unless if course she is the one that coined the term “Solar Generator” but alas, I think not. The article was well sourced and well written using the correct name if the item in question even though we all know that it really is not what it is named.

Cheri Sicard
7 days ago
Reply to  Terry

I agree, but I also get the semantics point others are making. However, I want people to see this article and solar generator is a commonly used and searched for term. Likewise I will continue to use it.

Larry Nelson
5 days ago
Reply to  Terry

If you want to call the whole SYSTEM a “solar generator” then you have my permission, LOL. However that is not how they are presented. The manufacturers sell the battery pack as a generator. FALSE.

Lawrence Talbot
7 days ago
Reply to  Bob p

Bob: I’m not sure I understand your reluctance – these units generate electric power from solar energy. No different from a gas or diesel generator that converts liquid fuel to electrical energy. The fact that the energy generated is first stored in a battery before being used to power things does not change the fact that they generate the electricity they produce from the sun – hence, they are “solar generators”.

Cheri Sicard
7 days ago

Agreed. Plus, while I get the semantics point I want people to see this article and solar generator is a commonly used and searched for term. Likewise I will continue to use it.

Cancelproof
7 days ago

So your sayin’ my solar landscape lights have built in generators that are producing energy. If that were the case they would be turning sunlight into power after dark. They are not, they are storing power from earlier in the day and releasing the stored energy after dark. They are not generating energy, they are storing energy.

Lawrence Talbot
7 days ago
Reply to  Cancelproof

Cancelproof: And what is producing the energy that your solar light batteries are storing and releasing after dark to produce light? Solar panels – they “generate” electricity from the sun, which is stored in the batteries for later use. I simply don’t understand people’s reluctance to see devices that use solar panels to generate electricity as generators – that is exactly what they are. The fact that they cannot generate electricity without sun is no different that the fact a gas generator cannot generate electricity without gas. Sunlight is “fuel” for a solar generator just as much as gas or diesel are for a conventional generator. The fact that these solar generators utilize a battery to store the energy they produce is no different than using your gas generator to charge the RV batteries so you can use the power later for, among other things, light (and, in many ways, makes them more versatile).

Cancelproof
7 days ago

1. Glad you bit the hook. Thanks. Let’s get back to basics. Sunlight is not the fuel. Yes, tough to believe but it’s actually that huge burning ball of gas you see in the sky when you look up. The sunlight is the energy in the form of radiation produced by the generator burning brightly above.
The sunlight does not exist as a primary source. It is a bi-product of that big burning orb. Use the same principle in nuclear power plant. The power is not just “there” a fuel is needed. I can store energy in a battery from any source, the sun is just one of them.

Last edited 7 days ago by Cancelproof
Cancelproof
7 days ago

My point Lawrence is that a solar generator produces nothing. It generates no energy or power. It converts the solar energy into a deliverable. It transforms existing energy GENERATED by the sun into something useful.

“Solar Generator” as a term, is for salesmanship purposes. It generates nothing but it does deliver somehing.

A battery charge using power a hydro dam is not a hydro generator.

A battery charged with power from a nuclear plant does not mean we all have miniature nuclear generators in our flashlights.

Chuck
7 days ago
Reply to  Cancelproof

So the sun is therefore a gas powered generator. Makes sense, big ball of burning gas, producing energy by burning that gas and delivering energy in the form of sunlight.

Well done God. Gas fired power plant.

Tommy Molnar
7 days ago
Reply to  Bob p

Right on, Bob. You aren’t buying a generator. You’re buying a battery pack that can be recharged by solar panels, wall outlets or, some other means.

Snayte
7 days ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

So it is superior to a gas generator since it creates electricity and also provides a storage medium for it.

Tommy Molnar
7 days ago
Reply to  Snayte

If it suits your needs and is as reliable as the gas generator, then life is good – I think.

Cancelproof
7 days ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Totally agree Tommy. If it suits your needs use it but call it what it is. I love my roof mounted solar panels but I don’t call them generators. I also don’t call an open window an air conditioner or call the wind a motor when I’m sailing or gravity a law of attraction when I fall.

Cancelproof
7 days ago
Reply to  Snayte

But not superior to a diesel generator? Possibly, it is superior to hydro electric and nuclear but not superior to windmills? It may be superior to static electricity but that study is not back yet.

Gary
7 days ago
Reply to  Snayte

If it can’t run my a/c’s or microwave, it is not superior to my onboard generator.

Larry Nelson
5 days ago
Reply to  Bob p

Like all other forms of “branding”, the term “solar generator” (as referred to in ads from every manufacturer of the portable battery pack) is MEANT to be misleading to the simple minded consumer. I have two Jackery’s by the way. Also several battery packs from Sears and Harbor Freight, and those I can use to start my car. None of them generate anything, period. The branding of these battery packs as “generators” is almost shameful.

Cancelproof
5 days ago
Reply to  Larry Nelson

Hi Larry.

You nailed it. Stuck the landing. BOOM.

Misleading term for uninformed consumers. Sales pitch wording. A lie to be sure but it does make the grand kids feel good that their old folk are woke and they can tell the whole class at school that “my family is saving the planet” and the non-binary indoctrination leader standing at the front of the classroom can pass out an equity badge to everyone with cheerful glee.

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