Would you like to become more energy self-reliant through the labour of your own hands? Building a solar generator might be for you. Solar generators are portable electrical power systems that create and store small amounts of emergency power directly from the sun. I’ve been teaching people to build their own solar generators from high-quality components with my online course since 2016 (that’s one of my designs in the image below), and folks love the energy independence these things provide. Even people who own conventional gas-powered generators sometimes choose to add a solar generator to their household in case a prolonged power failure causes gasoline supplies to dry up. And besides, solar generators operate with no noise, which is a definite bonus.
- Reading time = 9 minutes
- Video1 watch time = 7 minutes
- Video2 watch time = 1 1/2 minutes
Build a Solar Generator
Why would anyone want to build their own solar generator when you could buy one? Besides getting more bang for the buck by building your own, you also know everything necessary to repair and expand your own home-built system. This article explains all about the details of solar generators, with specific details about the advantages of building your own with specific components listed. You can sign up for my online course to build your own, too.
What’s a Solar Generator?
Solar generators are an up-and-coming portable energy technology that lets you produce and store modest amounts of electric power without connection to the utility grid and without burning fuel or making noise. They generate power from the sun to charge a battery, with a built-in inverter transforming that direct current battery power (DC) into a usable form of alternate current (AC) for plug-in appliances. Solar generators need no fuel and they just keep on working without oil changes or tuneups. Think of them like small, portable, self-contained versions of the kind of photovoltaic system off-grid people might put in their homes. It’s a great idea if you want to get into solar power, but there’s a problem.
These days a lot of companies are selling ready-made solar generators that sound great on paper, but don’t necessarily perform well in real life. I know because I’ve checked out the situation closely. This article shines a light on the most common deficiencies hidden by some of the companies that sell-ready-made solar generators, and it explains some of their typical design limitations and false claims in plain language. I’ll also tell you about the build-it-yourself solar generator I designed that delivers much more value for the money. I have no reason to recommend the specific components you’ll read about here. They’re simply the best I know of for this kind of project. Watch the video below for a tour of how a home-built solar generator works. This video is part of my “follow-your-own-pace” online course.
Source of Decent Power
Some of the most heavily publicized, factory-built solar generator models I’ve seen claim 1800 watts of power output. That sounds impressive, but there are two problems with the claim. First, 1800 watts is not that much power. One measly toaster oven uses 1500 watts; a household water well pump needs more than 2000 watts to start up. Even a simple coffee maker needs almost the full 1800 watt output. You can do a lot better building your own with the kind of inverter you see below.
The second problem is that an 1800 watt rating says nothing about how long a factory-built solar generator can deliver that much power. Most can’t sustain their rated maximum output for more than 30 minutes before the battery goes flat. What good is an 1800 watt solar generator when it won’t cook more than a couple of pans of bacon or make a pot or two of coffee before dying? There are ways to do better, but you need to understand how. The output of a solar generator is a function of the size of inverter it’s equipped with. 2000 to 3000 watt inverters work well for build-it-yourself solar generators. The Go Power GP3000HD inverter shown above is one I recommend for people taking my solar generator course.
The claim to fame of solar generators is that they need no fuel, make no fumes and create no noise. This is completely true. Trouble is, when it comes to ready-made units, it’s only a half truth. What the sneaky sales pitches never explain is how long it takes to recharge the internal batteries in the ready-made solar generator so you can use it again.
For example, if you make a pot of coffee and fry a pan of eggs, many solar generators will be dead until it recharges again. The crazy thing is, it will take 9 or 10 hours in full sun to make that recharge happen. Many ready-made, factory-built solar generators take at least 15 times as long to recharge as they do to deplete. The problem is the solar panels that come with ready-made units are way too small. Although it’s less convenient to have a large solar panel, the bigger the panel the faster the recharge time. The trick is to make your panel easy to disconnect from the solar generator unit when you want to move it. The Windy Nation adjustable panel mounting system shown above is one of the items I recommend for my build-it-yourself solar generator design. It’s what I use at my place.
Build for Less Money
One of the slippery tricks of solar generator marketers is to talk about them as a black box, revealing nothing about what goes on inside. But the fact is, there’s nothing technologically new or innovative about a “solar generator”. It’s a marketing term. Solar generators are nothing more than a combination of four components the world has had for a long time. These include a photovoltaic panel to make power from the sun; a battery to store that power; a charge controller and an inverter to change DC to AC power. The thing that interests me about building my own solar generator is that you can mix and match the best quality components from reputable manufacturers and keep spare parts on hand. The cost for high quality components is roughly 60% to 70% of what you’d spend buying a ready-made unit, so you can save money, too.
Designed for Repairability
While it’s true that manufactured solar generators include the four main parts I mentioned, they’re combined in a way that stops you from fixing them. One part breaks and you’re toast. Not only do you not have power, but you’re out a pile of money. The really valuable part of building your own solar generator from parts is that you know the system inside out. It probably won’t break if you use good components, but it if does go down you’re the best one to fix it. Building something is always the best way to become an expert on fixing that something.
Lack of expandability is also related to the lack of repairability. When you buy an ordinary, ready-made solar generator you can’t upgrade the inverter, you can’t add a bigger battery, nor can you increase the photovoltaic surface area or install a better inverter. The Renogy Rover charge controller shown above is one excellent option for a build-it-yourself project. The design even increases battery life by modulating the charge current. This is one of many examples of how off-the-shelf, brand-name components can offer the best quality, reliability and performance. With a little bit of hands-on assembly work, you’ll end up with a much better solar generator than anyone can buy off the shelf.
Solar Generator Course
Building a solar generator isn’t the kind of project just anyone can tackle, but if you’re handy and interested, it’s a great way to get better energy performance and security at a better price than ready-made units. The courses leave you with three small, useful energy projects (not just one), and it’ll give you the experience needed to see if you’d like to equip your home with a larger off-grid energy system.
PORTABLE SOLAR GENERATOR is one of three projects you can build with my course. The solar generator section of the course includes detailed plans and materials lists, 5 instructional online videos, a reasonable price and money-back guarantee. My design has been built by hundreds of people around the world and all the construction decisions have been made for you. Specific component recommendations plus tips on wiring and construction make it easy to succeed.
This is the most complete set of plans and instructions in the world for building your own solar generator, plus two other projects. The course also comes to you without risk. Examine the course for 90 days and see for yourself. If this guide doesn’t deliver full value, just let me know. I’ll refund your money and you get to keep the course.
The diagrams, instructional videos and written instructions in Steve Maxwell’s Build Your Own Solar Generator course were very helpful for understanding and constructing my own generator. I tested the unit, charged the battery and had a”eureka” moment when it produced 110 volt power from the sun. Hopefully hurricane season on the east coast will not press it into service, but if so, it’s ready to go.
Bill Vye – Bedford, Nova Scotia, Canada