One of the most common questions I read on the various forums about RVs that I troll is about the use of CPAP machines overnight while boondocking. There are also a lot more folks on the road with their various “confusers” and other electronic whiz bangs and, of course, those need to be refueled as well.
Of course, you could always get a traditional generator – but they’re noisy, smelly and require maintenance. Furthermore, few places allow you to run them at the time of night when you’d want to use a CPAP machine. So that solution is a no-go for many circumstances.
Enter a device that has come on the scene called a solar generator. The solar generator is, quite simply, a battery, a way to plug things in to utilize that battery’s power and a way to refuel or recharge that battery. It’s that simple.
So when Jackery offered to send me their latest and largest model, the Jackery Solar Generator 1500 (Jackery 1500 + 4 x SolarSaga 100W), I thought it would be a great opportunity to see if this could really do the job many want from it.
What the Jackery Solar Generator 1500 is
Essentially, the Jackery product is a large 1,534-watt-hour battery enclosed in Jackery’s typical case giving you access to use that power almost any way that makes sense.
On the front of the box are three 120-volt household power outlets, a single USB-C outlet, a traditional USB outlet capable of up to five volts or 2.4 amps, a USB outlet compatible with Qualcomm’s quick charge, and a typical “cigarette lighter” adapter capable of delivering 10 amps of 12-volt power.
In addition, there is a display that shows power input and output and how much power remains in the battery. There’s also a calculated guesstimate as to how long the power will last based on current usage figures.
Using this you could plug just about any 120-volt household appliance into it and operate that. For example, I plugged in a coffee maker, a coffee grinder, a pressure cooker, an Instant Pot and a toaster. Not all at the same time, mind you, but individually. The unit handled all of those without an issue.
At the same time I could plug the very notebook confuser in that I use to write these reviews via the USB-C port and charge it.
There are also two ports at the upper left of the front of this to charge the device itself. You could use the included wall charger to accomplish this, or I used the four 100-watt SolarSaga solar panels that were sent as part of the package to do so.
My favorite way to replenish the power in this beast is to lay out the four Jackery SolarSaga 100-watt solar panels and let the sun provide my juice.
To accomplish this there are two adapters that come with the device that let you plug in two of the solar panels to each adapter and then plug that adapter into the Jackery. In theory, this provides up to 400 watts of solar input. I was able to get up to 380 watts at the most and around 200 watts in less than ideal conditions.
Each SolarSaga panel consists of two semi-flexible solar panels in a flexible case. The case snaps together like a briefcase using magnets and there’s a nifty handle at the top. At the back of each of these assemblies is a pocket which has the connector and wire to attach to the Jackery. Also there’s a hub with USB-C or USB ports, allowing you to use the panel to charge those devices.
The flexible case that is the back of the panel also has a flip-out leg or stand on each side so you can position the panel to optimize capturing the sun’s rays.
Charging the unit from a low point to full took anywhere from 6–8 hours depending on the sun, the state of charge, and whether there was anything drawing current from the unit.
There’s another thing I really liked about this unit: You could charge it at the same time as you were using the power, thanks to an MPPT controller in the unit. I actually plugged my travel trailer into the unit while the solar panels were doing their thing and ran the refrigerator in the trailer.
The Jackery reported that, after a day of doing this, the unit was down to 89 percent of capacity so, basically, not bad. Power draw varied from about 120 watts to 180 watts, depending on where the refrigerator was in the operating cycle. Incoming power varied, as well, due to it being a cloudy day. It’s quite possible, depending on your draw, to use this package to operate many of the things in your RV completely off solar.
Would it be possible to operate the AC unit? Sort of. If you use a SoftStartRV and this high-capacity Jackery unit, you could get about two hours’ run time from the AC. But you really wouldn’t want to have any other electrical loads at the same time. This is similar to running your AC with a smaller generator.
Jackery has made a name for itself as a company that provides an integrated solution. Everything they make is designed to work together to provide a solution for the customer. If you buy their main unit and their solar panel there is no question what’s going to happen – you plug the connector in and charge the unit. Simple.
Their plugs plug in only one way and everything just works. The unit and the solar panels are designed to work together – and they do.
There are other brands of these solar generators that are more component-based. Yes, you can use anybody’s solar panels. You can mix and match things. But how well they work together can depend very much on your understanding of the systems.
You could also build a device that performed the same function for much less than the $2,699 list price of this device. But then you should know what you’re doing, as lithium batteries can get “explodey” if not managed properly. Buying an off-the shelf unit means you don’t worry about this.
As many pluses as there were with this unit, there were also some things that really had me scratching my head.
For example, the main unit wanted to be in a relatively temperature-moderate environment. In other words, electronics don’t like to be in freezing temperatures nor do they like to be extremely hot.
The first few days I had this, the outside temps were close to 110°F. So charging it was a bit of an issue as the cables provided with the solar panels aren’t very long. Thus, the whole thing had to sit outside and the main unit worked to protect itself. Part of that was limiting incoming charge power.
I would really like to see Jackery offer extension cables for this package so that I could keep the main unit inside and the solar panels outside the RV.
While I respect the fact that all the Jackery bits work very well together, by the same token, it’s next to impossible to use solar panels that I already have.
But the biggest thing about this that troubled me was that the internal battery is only good for about 500 cycles. Some of the newer Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) have charge duty cycles of up to 3,000 cycles, some even more. Once you’ve gone through all the cycles on this device it’s just e-waste. I wish Jackery offered some sort of a replacement/trade-in program for the batteries themselves.
I can see the Jackery Solar Generator 1500 serving a lot of different use case scenarios.
The most obvious one is the CPAP user who wants something silent that can handle 1-2 CPAP machines overnight. Depending on your CPAP unit, this could be your solution. It’s quiet, easy to recharge, and will run two CPAP machines for eight hours.
This could also be a great solution for those who like to boondock and want to run appliances like coffee makers or hair dryers. It will handle those kinds of things.
I could also see, with the group that I go camping with, this machine being pressed into use to run our Traeger barbecue. Plug the Traeger into the Jackery and throw the four solar panels out and you’ve got smoked venison by the end of the day. In fact, if my calculations are correct, you can run the Traeger and then still have enough juice to power two CPAP machines overnight. This does have a lot of stored energy.
Furthermore, I will keep this unit in the house here in Northern California. Our local power company keeps settling lawsuits for burning down communities. Their solution is to simply shut off our power when things get scary for their shareholders. While I presently have been using a small generator to keep my refrigerator running, this unit will easily handle that task when this happens. Again.
The good thing is, since it’s a battery-powered unit, it’s not announcing itself to the neighbors by rattling outside in the yard. I can keep the unit inside the house overnight, which means my refrigerator will be running overnight too. Not only do the generators come out when the power goes off up here, so, too, do the people who like five-finger discounts on generators sitting outside at night.
Being dead silent also means you can run things in places where there are restrictions on the generator hours. Frankly, this unit inside the RV won’t make any noise and you can charge your computers, phones and all of that.
Jackery makes a number of different units that offer this functionality but with different capacities. The 1500 that I tested is truly the beast of the bunch and will power a lot of different things. While the entire package, at $2,699 on Jackery’s website, is certainly not inexpensive, the simplicity of making the pieces work together along with the capacity of this device may make sense for some people.
Tony comes to RVTravel.com having worked at an RV dealership and been a lifelong RV enthusiast. He also has written the syndicated Curbside column about cars. You can find his writing here and at StressLessCamping where he also has a podcast about the RV life with his wife.