First, My Goal Here, Plus a Little Background….
In this article, I want to touch on the features of Renogy's multi functional portable solar generator, and discuss the good and bad points of this product. I will also compare it to its leading competitors and give my final recommendation.
We Floridians frequently lose power. Okay, our grip on reliable grid power is not as tenuous as, say, the average third world country, but during the peak summer storm season, it can sure start to feel like it! Frequent blackouts are more than just annoying, they disrupt your routine, throw your schedule into disarray, cause millions of dollars in property damage, lost productivity and are a basic hazard that must be planned for and dealt with, sooner or later.
When we first moved to the rural area in Florida where we have lived for the past twenty-five years, we lost power each and every day in the summer. We went from asking ourselves, ‘Will we lose power today', to, ‘How long will we lose power today'?
Based purely on crazy coincidence, I soon became interested in portable, sustainable, electric power generation. I may not know everything there is to know about the portable solar generator, but I have a (self-awarded) degree in the study of power blackouts.
A couple of important developments have occurred in the last several years which together make the portable solar generator a viable option for anyone looking to replace a small, gas powered generator with a silent power-pack and its potentially unlimited power generating ability.
The first is battery technology, specifically the lithium ion and/or lithium polymer battery. This battery technology, while still relatively expensive, is vastly superior to the lead acid, and nickel based batteries we were stuck with in the past. The best thing about Lithium batteries is their flat power curve. This is best illustrated by visualizing the simple cordless drill.
Remember your old drill, the one with the NiCad or Ni-MH battery? That sucker was pretty handy when brand new, but as you operated it and charged it a couple dozen times, you began to experience a peak in charge capacity and, therefore, discharge ability. Crystals, called dendrites, were beginning to form in the battery and a ‘memory effect' was beginning to take root.
This old drill slowly began to lose charge capacity and it slowly but steadily lost power output over time.
Besides lost output capacity, as you were using the drill, you would know it was running out of ‘juice' because the RPM's would start to drop and we all would try to nurse the thing along to get that last possible screw counter-sunk before giving up and finding the charger. A few hours later, the battery was recharged enough to turn a few more screws.
Lithium Ion to the rescue! This technology has given us a battery without the memory effect, so plugging in a half-charged battery into the charger is no longer detrimental to its service lifespan. Lithium batteries tolerate a much wider temperature range and as a bonus, are much lighter than other batteries of the same rated voltage.
Lithium battery tools are great because they deliver full power right to point where they just stop. This is due to their built-in protection circuit which is there to maintain safe operation by limiting cell peak voltage during charging, and floor voltage during discharge.
The second important area is the development and cost of the solar panel.
Since the first practical implementations of the photo voltaic cell in the 1950s for the space program, solar power technology in the U.S. alone reaches close to seven million households, and millions more retail and commercial facilities.
Over the last ten years, the cost of solar panels has declined by approximately 60 percent, which has brought their price per watt of energy down to a very attractive level, and the cost trend, despite tariffs on Chinese panels, still points down.
Today, there exist many portable solar panel options, with panel efficiency in the 15 to 20 percent range. Simply put, it has become affordable and convenient to pack 100 watts or more of portable power to take along with you on your weekend camping trip.
What's So Damn Great About Your Precious Renogy Products?
Sure, there are many companies out there producing products for the solar power industry, but Renogy stands out for me due to their consistent quality, value and their great service.
Renogy was actually started by students at Louisiana State University and together with the Louisiana Business and Technology Center has, as of 2014, earned a spot on Inc. 5000's top 500 fastest growing private companies.
When you study their product line, from solar panels to charge controllers, inverters, batteries, even installation kits, you will notice that the quality is evident and the price is competitive. Personally, unlike lots of other companies in the solar industry, I believe that money spent purchasing Renogy products is a safe investment. I don't want regrets, I want value and Renogy has always delivered.
Renogy actually has a line-up of these portable power packs, but the 400 watt hour system, pictured above, is likely the best for most practical situations. This is due to its lightweight, (18 pounds), power output (600 watt peak), and incredible versatility.
This unit is bristling with connectors for everything from a 12 volt socket, to 5 volt USB as well as 110 AC. It features a built-in inverter, although it is modified sine wave, and even built-in charge controlling.
So, not only is it easy to tap into this power pack, it is easy to keep it charged while away from home!
This is because Renogy ships these generators with an AC wall charger, 12 volt car charger and best of all, a solar charging cable. The thing is built for power, both incoming and outgoing.
Check out their list of features:
Renogy Multi Function Solar Generator Specs
Quiet-natural physical cooling tech
Safe-over 20 kinds of protection functions
High Energy Density-compacted and lightweight
All In One-built-in inverter, li-ion battery and chargers
Lithium lon Battery-safe and 1,000 times long cycle life
Multiple Outputs-standard AC outlets,4xUSB&3x12VDC; output
Powerful-500WAC+DC output, jump starter with 400A peak at 12V
User Friendly-LCD shows battery level,charging&discharging; power
Convenient-can be charged anytime from solar panel, car and adapter
1x12V10A:power car refrigerator and other car devices
2x12V3A:power laptops, LED bulb, etc.
4xUSB:charge phones, tablets,Pads,digital cameras, bluetooth devices, etc.
2xAC Outlets:Power various standard AC devices below 300W together
Jump Starter: 400A peak starting current at 12V to save you from unexpected car emergency
PS5B Technical Specification
Battery capacity 400Wh
Battery Type Li-ion Battery
Charge AC Wall Charger 7~8hours(70W)
DC Car Charger 10~11hours(48W)
PV Input Voltage 120W Max (14~40Vdc)
AC Output Rated Output Power 300W
Peak Output 600W
Output Voltage 100V/110V/120Vac/220V/230V/240Vac
Output Frequency 50Hz/60Hz
Overload Ability 116%
DC Output 4XUSB Port 2x5V 2.1A;2x5V 1A
1X12V Car Port 120W
2XDC 6mm Port 2x12V 3A
General Relative Humidity 5%~90%
Discharge Temperature -10~60℃
Charge Temperature 0~45℃
Product Dimension 230x140x235mm
Net Weight 5.6kgs
Gross Weight 6.2kgs
Oh yeah, did you notice it also comes with a car battery jump starter clamp set? This is now a must-have device for campers and RV'ers. The 400 amp cranking output this generator is capable of, might just come in handy at the end of your weekend.
What else is in this price range?
Here are three direct competitors:
The Suaoki is, on paper, possibly the most worthy contender here. It has similar power output to the Renogy, but it does include a Pure Sine Wave AC inverter. Also lightweight due to its Lithium Ion battery. It is also more expensive and I don't know about the quality of the build or how well Suaoki stands by their product.
Based on reviews I have seen, there are some build quality issues, which are expected. The warranty (1-year) is half as long as the Renogy's.
This is a neat device and looks good from a power storage standpoint. But it uses a lead acid battery and I'm not sold on that idea for a small, portable generator. At almost 30 pounds, I want to read reviews praising the company for such a long-lived battery and crazy power output, but those reviews are really not there.
The pure sine wave inverter is a big plus. The warranty is only 1 year and it is more expensive than the Renogy.
Jackery is a young company but they sell quality portable products and appear to be positioned to be a long-term, viable competitor in the portable power industry.
Their 440 Watt hour solar generator features lithium ion and a pure sine wave inverter. It is light, but almost 20% more expensive than the Renogy. It also features a 2-year warranty.
Also, missing is the ability to charge directly from a 12 volt system, as with the Renogy. However, the Jackery does allow solar charging in addition to 110 Volts AC.
Don't Forget Your Solar Panels!
Don't even bother trying to find a bigger bang for your buck when it comes to portable solar panels. Just head to Renogy:
This 100 Watt panel kit is capable of 500 watt hours per day. The cells are German made and the frame is aluminum. Monocrystalline is a little more expensive but this ensures better performance in low light conditions and excellent energy yield.
This is the perfect complement to your portable generator and it truly affords unlimited power capability!
69.1 x 6.1 x 50.5 inches
30 Amp BUILT-IN 4-stage solar charge controller
Negative ground charge controller for RV, boat, trailer compatibility
For most applications, the Renogy Rugged Power Pack (Check current price) together with the Renogy 100 Watt Foldable Suitcase solar kit (Current price) are a potent combination of on-demand, portable, unlimited power.
They represent a best-in-class choice based on their build quality, materials used, price and warranty.
I understand that for some of you reading this, a pure sine wave inverter is a ‘must have' item. I might be inclined to agree, especially for extended trips away from the power grid.
My suggestion if this is the case would be the Jackery Portable Power Station Generator Explorer 440 paired with the Renogy solar panel suitcase kit.
Either way, you are buying quality and the promise of unlimited portable power for years to come.