Until a few years ago, fuel-powered generators were the only way to create substantial amounts of electrical power for household backup during a blackout, or for power needs beyond reach of an electrical outlet. All this is changing with something generically called “portable power stations”. I find these useful, and perhaps you will, too, as I’ll show you.
- Reading Time = 3 1/2 minutes
You’re probably starting to see these things around. Made by a handful of companies (with new models coming out all the time), these self-contained devices – sometimes called solar generators – use a high-capacity battery for power storage, along with built-in circuitry to deliver the kind of AC power needed by items that normally plug into a 120 volt outlet. Everything sits in a small housing with a carry handle. I most recently used a power station to run a corded tool inside a house that had power disconnected. It worked well for me, and I find it fills a real need. Does something like this make sense for you and your situation? That’s the question I’ll help you answer here.
Portability Versus Power
I’ve been using and testing portable power stations since 2018, and this technology is now mature and surprisingly reliable and sophisticated. The first thing to understand is that portable power stations typically store less than 1/10th of the amount of power compared with the energy in one tank of fuel in a gas-powered generator. That might not sound like much, but portable power stations have several advantages over fuel-powered generators. You can use them safely indoors, plus you can recharge them over and over, without the need for fuel, gas stations, grid power or accessible roads to travel and buy more fuel.
Like most portable power stations, the Champion unit I’ve been testing recently is configured to recharge from different sources. I like Champion products a lot because they deliver surprising value for the money. Solar panels are one of the best options, especially during an extended outage. That’s why these units are sometimes called portable solar generators.
How the Champion Power Station Stacks Up
The 40 lbs. Champion #100594 I’ve been testing over the last few months does things that some other power stations do not. One advantage involves handling the momentary spike of power draw when certain electrical items start up. The Champion unit can handle 1600 watts of output indefinitely (enough for anything that can plug into a 120 volt outlet), but also a surge draw of 4500 watts for brief periods – more than enough to handle a typical household water pump, kettle, microwave, fridge or freezer.
Want to store more power? The Champion #100594 is expandable for increasing power storage and run time. This unit can accept up to 10 stackable expansion batteries for a total of 18 kilowatt-hours of capacity – almost as much total energy output as a gas-powered generator with a full tank of fuel. To be fair, buying all these expansion batteries would cost a lot more than buying a gas generator, but this approach may make sense for some people and some situations.
In tests I’ve run in a household of three people, the fully charged 1.6 kilowatt-hour Champion kept the household supplied with water from an electric 120 volt well pump for about 24 hours before becoming fully discharged. This was with the usual amount of dishwashing, three showers that day, and a load of laundry. The same power station can power the following items for different amounts of time:
- portable fridge – more than 60 hours
- standard household fridge – 23 hours
- CPAP machine 24 hours
- coffee maker – 4 hours
- TV – more than 10 hours
Besides three 15 amp, 120 volt outlets, the #100594 has USB and USB-C ports, a vehicle-style 12 volt output port, a 20 amp 12 volt generic output, and a Para Link port for connecting to another power station or traditional gas or propane-powered inverter.
My only complaint about the #100594 is a minor one. The internal fan that comes on while charging from a 120 volt wall outlet does create some noise, but rapid recharging is only safe for the battery if it’s kept cool. The unit comes with a 3-year, 1000-cycle warranty.
Portable power stations are here to stay and they offer value that we haven’t enjoyed before. Quiet, portable power that’s independent of fuel supplies and operates with no fumes is the main reason portable power stations are earning a permanent place in the home energy scene.
I hope you found this product review useful. Please consider helping me cover the cost of creating and publishing content like this. Click the “buy me a coffee” button below for a fast, safe and simple way to make a contribution. Thank you very much for helping to keep this website up and running.
– Steve Maxwell