Solar Generator - should we buy one?
System Posts: 2,511 admin
New to solar stuff here but we've been reading about it for almost 30 years but never had the extra cash to do anything. We have found a solar generator for sale (new). It consists of 1800 watt solar backup generator, high efficiency "quick charge" solar panel, Sunsaver Charge controller, and 25 feet of solar panel cable for about $1,500. We are looking for something that can keep our freezer going mainly - plug it in and run it for a couple of hours, then unplug it (putting sleeping bags, quilts, etc. over the freezer also helps keep it colder, longer). We already have a gasoline generator but don't want to have to pay for the fuel if we can help it. Has anyone had any experience with a portable solar generator like this? Thanks!
0 · Share on Twitter
This discussion has been closed.
i don't think any of us can say for sure on the one you have in mind as we don't know the make and model of the pvs (they are called photovoltaics and not solar generators) and if approved by nrtl, csa, ul, etc, to comply with the nec. we also don't know what gage of wire they are providing you with and you make no mention of batteries, fuses, switches, or pv mounts. if don't have dc appliances then you'll need an inverter too of which we recommend using the more expensive sine wave inverters. your costs will be much higher than that $1500 without a doubt. you may also need more pvs than that kit would supply to properly power the freezer as we don't know what its typical daily draw in watt hours will be so a kill-a-watt meter is recommended to measure that power. even if the wattages would match up there are losses involved that will up your pv requirements at least 20-30%.
quite frankly, you may be better off piecing together a system once you know the exact load requirements.
Welcome to the site,,, and the world of solar power.
A couple of points that you should realize.
First,, if you think that doing this is going to save you any money,,, be advised that it won't.
Second, before you can even consider what loads any given system can handle,, you have to get a real clue as to how much power you expect to use on a daily/weekly/monthly basis.
Third,, since it would appear that this is a battery system it will require twice as much energy from the sun as similar grid tie system would be. My rule of thumb is that battery based solar PV systems get ~1/2 their rated output per hour of sun (net/net) after you take all the systematic efficiencies into account.
So,, for example,, I would guess that they are trying to sell you ~200 watts of panel.
So if you take that 200 watts, put it into a battery, take it out to run the freezer here would be a number: 200 watts X 6 hours of (perfect) sun= 1200 watt/hours day, divided by 50% efficiency of ~ 600 watt hours. Enough to run 1 60 watt light bulb for ten hours. How much does your freezer draw? How many hours of sun do you have,, how often is it cloudy?
Ask (and answer) the relevant questions,,, then you can see what you should buy. Avoid the classic Ready, fire, aim!
1800 watts for 1500 dollars? That can't be right...not even including the charge controller or the wire, no one is selling solar panels for under a buck a watt.
New that is...if it's a used system, it's a hell of a deal. (But even so, it will take a long time to pay for itself.)
Or did you mean 180 watt panel and typoed it?
It will be interesting to see what it is. I can't remember where I saw it but a system was listed as 1800w of solar power system. Then in the fine print I noticed the system (panels, battery & inverter produced 1800w a day in southwestern USA, maybe that’s what this is. It had thinfilm panels...
My guess is that it is either an 1800 watt inverter,,, or more likely,,, a (optimistic) ups system that might power 1.8 kwh? It aint 1800 watts of panel capacity.. My guess is that it is being advertised to people who don't have a clue. I've seen all kind of stange "systems" advertised.
If you read the post, its a "quick charge high efficiency solar panel" so its a single panel, super low cost pwm controller, some wire and what else?
Need a link to know just how bad it really is
This is the link http://www.mysolarbackup.com/
I almost choked when I saw the solar panel is only 75 watts.
And you have to listen to the audio for a real ShamWow sales pitch - with emphasis on the sham and damned little wow.
amazing what a good search digs up. did you notice it says 'in your home' nearly first thing? now that's a wow as pvs work best outside.:roll:
this is not a good thing for you to purchase libertymtn and i think we can guarantee you to be getting, excuse my bluntness, screwed in purchasing it.
ps i moved the thread as this is asking for an opinion and is determined to be a scam.
I was trying to find a polite way to say these systems were advertised to people without a clue. I guess the hope is that by the time people find this site,, they have begun to "have a clue" Hope the OP is still around to read all of this.
That site is like a beginners class in high-pressure, scare tactic, rip-em-off before they figure it out sales strategy.
"Home Backup Power: Will run a fridge, freezer, sump pump and 1000 W microwave, fish tank light and air pump, home alarm system and garage door."
"51 amp-hour AGM battery"
"Before you buy a Solar Generator, you might want to listen to an interview on the “Call To Decision” radio show hosted by Pastor Butch of Nettie, West Virginia."
"I realize the complete absence of a "normal" flashy sales approach is a little unusual, but don't you think it's safe to agree we're all a bit sick of those hyped up things anyway?"
Oh god...I'm dying over here. If I was an AOLer I'd be typing ROTFLMFAO over and over and over again.
it is a shame there are so many lowlifes out there that prey upon people and i fully agree with you on that. people like that give the whole industry a bad name and the industry has enough going against it without this kind of crap. the only way people can protect themselves is to know something about the subject before buying. i commend the op for his asking here and i do hope he comes back to read it.
I enjoyed the pic of the guy holding the single crystal solar cell panel, but the panel they are selling is a polycrystalline solar panel.
We want to thank everyone for their comments on this. Yes, that's the one - at my solar back up. Solutions from Science. What caught our attention was their calling it a generator. We live in a very rural area and our elec. can go off just anytime for whatever reasons. Sometimes it's for obvious reasons like bad ice storms. We live in SW Arkansas on 40 acres, and we are a mile and a half from our mailbox up on the road. The power lines back in here to us end here. We have a gasoline powered generator for these times when our power quits but the solar generator got our attention due to not using the gasoline, etc. We would not be using this all of the time - it is for power outages. Getting our money back out of it is not the issue - it's the keeping our freezer full of beef, etc. from being lost due to no electricity issue.
We also have a well for our water and we wanted something that could run a pump for water when we don't have power. The gas generator can do this but the thought of a solar generator was intriguing. We did not know whether or not solar technology had reached a point of being able to have a system this easy and affordable. That's also why we asked here if anyone knew about this system.
This is what the flyer says:
"The Solar Powered Generator is an electric generator which will provide up to 1800 watts of household electricity (3600 watts peak); enough to run almost any electonic product or appliance you might connect to your wall outlet at home....it consists of a battery pack that stores electric energy, state-of-the-art electronics that convert 12 volts from the battery pack to household power, an AC power panel that contains five standard outlets, and a DC power panel that is used to run 12 volt products. The Power Source is packaged in an almost "indestructable housing" and it is easy to move around as needed."
It also says you can plug in your refrigerator for two hours and then off for two hours.
Ok, so the general consensus on this "solar generator" is it is a scam? Anyone ever heard of this Solutions From Science? We were also looking at this product:
We are also looking at a propane generator that can run the whole house but we are mainly concerned with the freezer/well/etc.
I lived in Arizona for a while back in the early 70's and I have a sister who still lives there - and lots of friends in Tucson, Phoenix, Kingman, etc.
The problem is that, as far as how useful it would be for you--yes it becomes a scam.
Basically, it is just a UPS (battery+inverter) with a 75 watt solar panel attached.
For the typical person, a 75 watt panel will produce:
5 hours of full sun * 75 watts * 0.52 derating = 195 Watt*hours per summer day.
Take the 195 watt*hours and divide by your desired load... Say a freezer that may average 120 watts:
195 watt*hours / 120 watts = 1.6 hours per day of usable power
So--for larger appliances, that is almost a useless amount of power per day from the solar panel.
Take the 1,800 inverter and run it at full power:
195 watt*hours / 1,800 watts = 0.108 hours or 6.5 minutes per day at full power from solar panel
So... In the end, the system is hopelessly miss-matched between solar panels, inverter and battery storage.
We cannot say that this system won't function--the parts are all probably just fine (the solar panel and charge controller are good units--if small).
And if you have a specific use where you only need a very small amount of power (just enough time to save your files and turn your computer off, or a few hours of lights)--it will work for you.
If you expect more power from the unit--then it will not work for you.
You can price out the components on the web (such as our host's store) and see what the markup may be...
But, in the end--you need to define your needs--how much power, both peak watts, and watts*hour. Then you can start looking at a system to fit your needs.
In general, solar power really makes sense if you have done all of the conservation possible (it is cheaper to "save a watt vs make a watt").
Also, solar purely as a back up power source is quite expensive. Solar panels only "make money" if they are used ~9 months or more of a year. To have a large enough system to run your house for emergency use is almost always a waste of money.
For the rare ice storm and such--a genset with a sizable fuel source (propane in tank, natural gas, etc.) is probably a better investment.
Add--to compare with a "real" generator...
A Honda eu2000i (1,600 watt 120 VAC 15 amp) will run a 400 watt load for ~15 hours on 1.1 gallons of gasoline...
400 watts * 15 hours = 6,000 watt*hours of power
6,000 watt hours for $900 + $2.35 for a gallon of gas. Vs $1,500 for 195 watt*hours for one day of sun worth of power.
To call the solar package a "solar generator" is a terrible stretch when compared with a "real" generator.
6,000/195 = 30x or more power for a day's of use for a small gasoline genset...
After seeing what they try to sell as a "solar generator" I would be pretty skeptical of buying anything else from them.
Well, it won't run your freezer for long. The problem with that system is simple - it's a *small* system and they are marketing it like it's a real whole-house system. It surely is not.
Basically, a 51 amp/hour (at 12 volts) battery won't produce power for very long if there is any significant load on it.
(At this point everyone be warned - I'm definitely going to round off and rough calculate enough to stick in the craw of the (many) engineers around here. I KNOW that the math isn't strictly correct - I'm just making it very very simple to give the idea.)
To make the math easy here's a quick example:
A 120 watt bulb @ 120 volts draws 1 amp.
That same bulb running from a 12volt system (inverted to 120) would draw 10 amps.
Thus, the 51 amp/hour battery would run a 120w bulb for 5.1 hours.
Theoretically... Actually, it wouldn't since the battery voltage would be low enough to cause the inverter to shut down long before the battery was fully drained. To get properly technical, you also have to figure in that the inverter draws some power (that's part of the "efficiency" that you'll see mentioned here frequently) and so that cuts down on the time as well.
Then there's the solar panel itself. It's 75 watts. It probably puts out around 17 volts in full sunlight, but let's stick with 12 just to make the math easy.
So, 75 watts divided by 12 volts means the panel puts out 6.25 amps or 6.25 amp/hours per hour.
Thus it would (again, very roughly) take 8 hours of *full sunlight* to recharge the 51a/h battery if it was fully dead. Most people are lucky to get 4-5 hours a day of full sunlight on their solar panels. To do the math properly you need to look at B.B.'s post above - again, I'm just rounding off to make it easy to understand.
My laptop draws 60 watts, so that makes the math again easy. That's .5 amps at 120volts, or 5 amps at 12v, so that little "solar generator" system would run my laptop for about 10 hours, but it would take probably two days to recharge itself enough to run my laptop for another 10 hours - IF they were nice sunny days.
Anything less than real true *full sunlight* REALLY cuts down on how much a solar panel will put out.
So does the thing work?
Well sure it works, but it's a really *tiny* system. There is NO POSSIBLE WAY that it can do what they imply it can.
Can it run all the stuff they say it can?
Absolutely it can run all that stuff...for a few minutes anyway. And then it's gonna take a LONG time to recharge it unless the power comes back on and you can recharge it from the wall plug.
There are some threads on here which discuss in full and excruciating detail about powering water pumps from solar. Do a search and get ready to spend some time doing your homework.
Once you do though you'll be the first person on your block...well in your county I guess...who knows the FACTS about solar.
WindSun sells water pumps, so no doubt they've done the math to the last decimal point and can spec you out a good deal on a REAL solar powered well pump system.
(I don't work for WindSun, I'm just a journeyman electrician in California who is teaching himself about solar - and these forums are a fantastic place to learn the subject.)
Well no, it's not exactly a scam. It seems like a decent *little* solar rig. The scam is in the marketing BS that they are laying on with a trowel.
To me, this would make a very nice little backup UPS for a computer. It's too small to be of much use for anything else though. Although, for 1500 bucks I think our hosts at WindSun could sell me a system with a lot more capability.
And it really won't do much good when the U.S. economy collapses and everyone turns into ravening psychos tearing down the power poles to burn for heat (which is what I think the marketing BS on that site is trying to say).
For now, you are MUCH better off with a good generator. To buy a REAL solar system to give you as much power as a generator can cost quite a lot. To put in a no-BS real solar system is a bit of an investment...a bit like a new roof with new sheathing.
These Solutions from Science guys are trying to sell you a tarpaper roof and saying it will keep the tornados out. Uh uh.
Well I wont waste any more of your time slamming that "generator", as I think that's been well covered by now. Just wanted to encourage you to look a bit more into potential solar solutions (such as a solar powered water pump for example); check out the host's store and look into piecing together a back up system of your own (with good, high quality components). NAWS is a great resource, and they have treated me quite well with the handful of purchases that I've made over the years, having dealt with several companies they are quite possibly my favorite to buy from. You asked if Solar power had become this simple and affordable, and the answer is yes... and no. All in all there are really simple, and reliable system components out there (and lots of good options, depending on ones specific needs), but things have not become anywhere near as affordable as the "generator" you were looking at. As with all good things in life... you get what you pay for...
What you really want to look at is what loads you "need" to power during outages, and which ones you'd "like" to have powered. Calculate up how long you need to power things that you "need" like your freezer, that will tell you how much of a battery bank you'll need to support those loads, then you'll need to decide how you'll charge and maintain that size of a battery bank. You can probably charge your battery primarily from the grid, unless you're looking at long power outages where you'll want to be able to at least partially charge those batteries with solar panels.
No doubt you'll spend more money on a reliable system that will last for many many years, but on the other hand if you're looking at this as a "back up system", that sort of implies a certain need for dependability. If you can spare a bit more cash, I think you could do quite well to add in a small back up system of batteries and a couple of PV panels. Be sure to also read all the tutorials on the NAWS site, lots of good info on how all this stuff works (if nothing else, you'll learn enough to not become victim to some other scam)
Google is such a useful tool! I am one of those people without a clue when it comes to solar power. I was really interested in the solar generator but felt if it was for real it would be big news. That's how I found this site and the bad news about the solar generator... Shame on the web site that is displaying the ad....
Ah...thanks for posting kfinto. I needed a reminder since I've been meaning to post something else in this thread.
Okay, on the solar generator site, there is a pic of the unit:
Now, this pic starts looking to me like a photoshopped version of this pic...
BUT, looking at the .pdf of the tech specs for the Duracell unit, at the bottom it says Xantrex Technology.
So, I browse over to the Xantrex site and I find that Xantrex makes this unit with both Xantrex and Duracell branding:
So I guess the "solar generator" is actually a Xantrex UPS.
Strange, but I can't seem to find anything in the product literature that mentions connecting a solar panel to it. I wonder how that's being done.
There is a .pdf file on the Xantrex site that does give some idea of how long different types of loads will run from the unit.
nice, as you did your homework on this. that ups normally has no dc input to it and was designed to only charge from the ac wall outlet. to do it with solar, one would have to modify the ups for the connection to it. if i recall correctly any modifications to a product made without the approval of the manufacturer will most likely void any warranty for it. on closer examination it looks like a shoddy connection to the ups was made.
Ah yea. I forgot that there was a pic that showed the connection.
I downloaded the pic and zoomed it, and it looks like some sort of solar charge controller bolted to the side of the UPS. It's too blurry to read, but maybe someone here can ID which CC it is.
I'd have a very hard time believing that Xantrex would approve of that mod and honor the warranty.
And yea, it's a cheesy install for sure. I see exposed crimp connectors and if anyone trips over the cable between the PV and the UPS it's going to rip something out.
it says it has a sunsaver for the cc and in looking at the pv i think it may be attached to it in a back corner. i bet it was glued to the pv and may void that warranty too.
Well, at this point I think it's about time to work up an estimate of how much it costs these guys to build this abortion.
But I'm too tired at the moment, and I have to get up at 5am so not tonight.
If you are interested in a DIY version, and have a shop, garage or basement to build in, here are plans. You can use any PV panel you want, to get the power you need.
I've thought of adding 2 more panels on "fold out wings", but haven't gotten
a round tu-it yet.
Photo is of what I call, my Solar Monolith. (How-To) A group of us bought several Unisolar 64 panels back in 2001, as part of the Alternative Energy Zone Village at Burning Man. I wanted to make a self-contained "box" that was portable [ha!] and did not drag a bunch of wires around. Well, it's all in one box, and fairly neat, but with a full sheet of plywood, and a couple of deep cycle batteries, it's barely lug-able (photo of innards) . I used Mayor Roger's idea of a 4" PVC pipe as a roller, to load and unload from my truck. It's been to several fairs, and many trips to the Playa .
From top of my page http://www.mike-burgess.org/PVinfo_1.html
|| Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
|| VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A
gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister ,
The negative comments about our solar generators on this blog are totally unfounded! My name is David Fink, I am the product development engineer at Solutions From Science. If any one has questions about our products you may call me directly at (no spam). We sell only high quality solar power products. Our systems are marketed as emergency back-up power systems. We stand 100% behind our products and all claims made in our advertising. In our systems we use Xantrex converters, MorningStar charge controllers, and only high-efficiencey mono-crystal solar panels. Our solar panels are custom made for us to our own specifications by one of the worlds largest producers of solar panels.
The unit being so ignorantly bad mouthed on this blog was designed and marketed as a portable back-up power system. How big a battery can you pick-up and throw into the trunk of your car? Our experience shows that 50-60 Ahr batteries are about all the average adult can easily handle. Our solar panels are not poly-crystal, they are monocrystal with 20 year warranties. The panels shipped out with these systems are 90 watts, not 75. The internal AC battery chargers are of the "very-intelligent" type. They will not overcharge batteries, and our inverters "auto-shutdown" before batteries can be discharged to harmful levels.
I challenge anyone reading this blog to find a more powerful portable solar electric system sold anywhere for $1600.00. The DC power run times on our runtime charts are very conservative. I personally know of one of our customers who runs her kitchen refrigerator for 10 hrs. of normal cycling every day with this system. We also manufacture larger systems for those who do need more power than the PS 1800 system can provide.
Our website is (sorry it didn't work).spam.
i think anybody could piece together their own here for that or less, but your 1 shot spam effort is now kaput. niel
I don't think anyone was bad-mouthing your stuff, more like a critique of what was blatantly wrong/bad. (exposed wires...)
And as to running a fridge 10 hours off a 51AH battery, I'd like to know more on how to do that. Really.
|| Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
|| VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A
gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister ,
you can probably do that for 10hrs with that 51ah battery, but that would be taking the battery to 0% soc with an efficient frig.
It's a forum, not a blog.
INverter - not CONverter.
From the photos, you are using the entire Xantrex portable power unit, and then just adding a solar charge controller and solar panel.
You make it sound like you actually had something to do with the fact that a XANTREX product uses XANTREX components....
THEY chose which inverter/charger to put in that box, YOU had nothing to do with it.
Sorry, but I do not believe that statement about custom made panels AT ALL.
Actually, most of the regulars around here are exactly the opposite of ignorant.
Again you act like that was your decision...
XANTREX chose the 51ah battery that THEY use in THEIR product. YOU had nothing to do with that.
That's great - who made the panels?
You can't claim it's a trade secret since anyone who bought one of your units would have to register the panel with the manufacturer to get the warranty.
Yes. Xantrex 3 stage chargers. We know - because we are not ignorant.
That's called "low-voltage disconnect". See...not ignorant.
I challenge YOU to PROVE that Xantrex, MorningStar and the PV manufacturer will honor their warranties after you get done HACKING their products. For that matter, I challenge you to PROVE that you are even an authorized reseller of those products.
You obviously either stumbled in here after seeing your name come up in a Google search, or else someone told you that your work was being slammed. Since I know that Google crawls this site regularly, and these pages always come up high in the search results for "solar" - I think it was the former. It must have been painful to find out that people searching Google were seeing the truth.
Oh, I don't doubt you thought that you were doing some SEO magic by putting the URL to your site in your post - but what you probably did was to shoot yourself in the foot by helping to insure that others would find this thread and learn the truth. Woops. Well, I'll help you get the truth out by quoting your web site plug in my reply so that even more people can find their way here.
Here you come...wandering in without the slightest clue that this is a place where you can find REAL ENGINEERS, and REAL SOLAR EXPERTS (and no, I don't claim to be either). Wake up and smell the coffee pal, you simply CANNOT fool the people around here with hyperbole, verbal sleight of hand and impassioned rhetoric.
[EDIT: Hrmmm. After having slept on it, I think I see what's going on. This guy probably gets slammed all over the net (and with good reason) so he's got this boilerplate response sitting on his computer. He logs in, and just does a cut-and-paste of his response.
Not only does it end up plugging his web site, but the uninitiated can call his phone number where he can feed them his BS sales pitch directly.
I could be wrong...we'll see if he comes back.]
[EDIT: I have been contact by Xantrex concerning the relationship worked out between them and Solutions From Science. Mr. David Fink is speaking the truth about the two companies working together and Solutions From Science is authorized by Xantrex to make changes to their equipment. Solutions from Science is an authorized reseller of Xantrex equipment.]
I'm just glad that at my age I can still lift a 100 Amp/hr battery without difficulty. In fact I can lift a 200 Amp/hr battery. So long as it's 6 Volt.
(Necessary comedy relief.)