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Small Cabin Forum / General Forum / Portable solar generators
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skootamattaschmidty
Member
# Posted: 4 Jan 2023 15:03
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Hello all! Hope everyone had an amazing holiday season with family and friends. I have not posted in a while but I continue to read the great information here. I am just wondering if any members have used or looked into the new portable solar generators that seem to be all over the internet. In particular the Ecoflow, Bluetti or Jackery to name a few of the brands. They range in sizes, can be joined together to increase capacity, numerous ways to charge them, including solar. They have the battery and inverter all in one. On the surface they seem like a good product and would be very convenient. I'm just wondering if anyone has real life experience with a system and their thoughts.

Thanks in advance!

gcrank1
Member
# Posted: 4 Jan 2023 21:52 - Edited by: gcrank1
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Ive looked at a bunch of them online and read a fair bit on 'diysolarforum.com'.
Imo, calling them a 'solar generator' is a misnomer; they are a battery power pack. That doesnt sound sexy though, does it.
Most are not LFP batteries last I knew, though that looked to be changing as LFP is currently the best chemistry for safety and number of recharges.
The simplicity of use and hook-up is attractive, as is a nice case all inclusive, and could be handy for small scale.
If I am understanding correctly the inverters used in them are too large a capacity power hogs, cheap high freq. with a high idle consumption, that is my big objection. They will eat up most of the available amp-hours running themselves over 24hrs. even if you are only running a few LED lights and a fan or radio.
Ive basically made my own (and instructions to do so are on that 'diysolar' site) with a 100Ah LFP battery, a 300W PSW inverter with dual 120vac outlets and USB port.
I can hook my solar panels via the charge controller up at will and/or use a battery to battery (DC2DC) charge unit off the car or a generator or grid powered smart battery charger.
Lots more power available, little lost power to my small inverter and I can upgrade any component easily.
Yet, I'll admit, for 'small scale' (micro-mini?) cabin, tenting, low draw overnight or two an All In One unit could be handy. Just dont expect it to run too long or power too much.

Brettny
Member
# Posted: 5 Jan 2023 06:04
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I had an ecoflow river for about 15 days. It died over night running a small fan that it should have ran for many many hours longer than its screen said. I then tried to charge it via solar and that failed. After that it took being plugged into 120v for 30hrs before it would even turn on. I returned it for a refund.

travellerw
Member
# Posted: 5 Jan 2023 10:01
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I have 2 smaller 240wh units (cheap chinese off brand). We use them every time we go out to the cabin. We run a ceiling fan on medium speed and a 120V 2W LED night light. They last about 6 hours each (so perfect for a standard weekend).

I would love a bigger 1000wh unit, but I have the same concern that gcrank1 mentioned. However, I think the higher end units (Bluetti, Ecoflow, ect) don't suffer from that issue. I'm just too cheap to shell out the dough for a high end unit.

gcrank1
Member
# Posted: 5 Jan 2023 10:35
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Doing a realistic 'energy audit' is necessary to not end up with too small a unit (I dont recall anyone ever complaining they bought too 'large' a unit).
For instance, over 24hrs a steady draw of only 2.5amp/30W @ 12v nominal will use up 60Ah/720W, a 5a draw double that at 120Ah/1440W. That 5a draw with no accounting for 85% unit efficiency will use up a 100Ah battery (LFP you can easily use 80% and more, but 80 is a good number) in Less Than 20hrs.
That said, ime, I use most elec.at evening, generally a fan most of the time when there (to mix the air in heating season and move air for cooling/ventilation in hot season, LED lights as needed (9W@=60W incand?), usually no more than 2 at a time, often just one. Sometimes we watch a VHS movie on the old tv/vcr unit so thats 2 hrs of the 'big draw' along with the other stuff. We can run like that for about a week with no recharge daily (then I swap batteries).
If I try to run the little absorption fridge at 6.5a I suck a battery down Way To Fast. So we happily use a Yeti clone ice chest instead.
Point: It is easier and way cheaper to conserve energy than 'generate' it.
If I want to have the ability to run up to 10a (120W) draw an hour I have to have HUGE (read-expensive) storage and recharge capacity. A little 'solar generator' box, especially if it has a way oversize inverter to power way too much load than the internal battery can handle, will run out of beans quickly.

Steve_S
Member
# Posted: 5 Jan 2023 13:29
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Virtually all of these grew out of Crowdfunding which in itself is not a bad thing as it gets products to market quicker & with fewer burdens. The problem is the initial versions tend to be buggier and require refinements while using the crowdfunding buyers as technically Beta Testers. So avoid new versions and new products until they are debugged and mature... this seems to take 3 versions of product to get to that point.

Many of the "matured" products are actually pretty darn good but NOT ALL ! There have been some doozies... so do Due Diligence & research the short list of products you are considering.

Also, take the time to "understand the tech" being presented. For instance know the difference between High Frequency vs Low Frequency inversion LINK: https://www.magnum-dimensions.com/knowledge/high-vs-low-frequency-inverters/inversion -methods-explained-high-frequency-vs-low the types of battery cells being used as some perform better in Hot temps while others perform better in cooler temps and others that will not work below freezing temps. Currently the safest Lithium Cells being used are LFP (LiFePo4) and the majority of these systems are not using Prismatic Cells but rather Cylindrical LFP due to the structural strength given the use cases.

Brand Names are no guarantee as to quality and naming has been a trick to pull people in. There are products out there that appear to have a Brand Name (ie Energizer) but have NOTHING to do with Energizer Batteries... Some companies play Fast & Loose with their "labeling" and these are not exclusive to any Nation either... some pretty shady stuff popped out of Europe recently. So VERIFY that it is a Genuine Brand Product.

As these have gained in popularity, many companies are jumping into this type of portable energy tech and some big names are showing up like Generac. Now also there are companies like Greenworks who are connecting the dots across product lines, SEE HERE: https://electrek.co/2023/01/04/greenworks-unveils-electric-bikes-home-batteries-vacuu ms/

2023 is already seeing some Big Players buyout existing brand/labels and folding them into their own product lines. I expect that a LOT of this will happen as this market space is expanding exponentially.

travellerw
Member
# Posted: 5 Jan 2023 19:05
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Oh wow.. I think delving into low vs high frequency is peeling the onion a little too much. Low frequency inverters are usually reserved to industrial use due to the size and weight. I know one low frequency inverter that is 30kg for a 2000W unit. Not always, but low frequency inverters usually have a higher stand-by current. Frankly they just aren't well suited for a power station application.

There is nothing wrong with a high frequency inverter that is properly designed. Many properly designed ones have low standby draws (Victron, Mastervolt as an examples).

Its important to look at the Stand-by (or sleep) current of any unit you choose. If they don't list that spec, then I would skip that unit. I have actually been doing some research after first posting here. I was surprised that one of the Bluetti units draws like 20W just sitting idle and its only a 200Wh unit. So in 10 hours it kills the battery all by itself.

gcrank1
Member
# Posted: 5 Jan 2023 20:04
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Yep, you got it, the self consumption is a result of using cheap, poorly engineered and/or poorly constructed inverters (that just happen to be HF). If they used high quality inverters they would miss the price point and be so expensive people wouldnt buy in any quantity.
Btw, for the best use of available amp-hours of a battery pack use 12v stuff, NO conversion (inverter draw). USB ports can be powered off the bat (my LFP has a port on it). Idk if those AIO's have to be switched on to also activate the 12v and USB ports; if so that 120vac inverter would be running for no good purpose if you were not needing 120.

skootamattaschmidty
Member
# Posted: 7 Jan 2023 16:36
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This is all great information! Thanks for the feedback. Just been seeing a lot of them out there lately and thought they sure seem easy but definitely come with a price.

KelVarnsen
Member
# Posted: 11 Jan 2023 10:15
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I have a couple of "solar generators" from Ecoflow. I have a River and Delta. I bought them both through their initial Kickstarter campaign, so I got a great deal on them. They are too pricey for me now. Both products are great.

The Delta is a beast. It can run power tools easily. I've run my angle grinder, electric pole saw, etc. with no problems. I plug my cabin directly into the Delta and can run it for a couple of days, although we have very little draw. The reason that I bought it is because of the rapid recharge speed. I can run the battery to 20% and then I fire up my generator and recharge it to 100% in an hour or so. It also has the ability to plug a solar panel right into the unit but I haven't tried it yet.

Typically we get 2-3 days out of our Delta then run the generator for an hour and get another 2-3 days. It's the reason that I haven't finished my permanent solar set up yet.

My Delta did fail last year with some unknown error. One of the Kickstarter perks was that my unit has a lifetime warranty on the battery. I don't think that the battery failed but some other component. I called support and explained the issue. I sent the old unit back and they sent me a brand new unit with no questions asked.

Overall Ecoflow products and support are very good. I know some of the other companies and products are a bit sketchier.

https://ca.ecoflow.com/pages/delta-solar-generators

gcrank1
Member
# Posted: 11 Jan 2023 10:31
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Did you have to pay shipping back?
Either or both LFP battery?
Your use sounds like mine, and for the same reason my solar did not get redone, the recharge is FAST. Actually thinking of selling my complete 600w system now.....my location/orientation is not great for solar and the gen with an ac charger is sooo easy.

KelVarnsen
Member
# Posted: 11 Jan 2023 12:57
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Quoting: gcrank1
Did you have to pay shipping back?
Either or both LFP battery?


I did not pay for shipping for the faulty unit. They sent me a prepaid FedEx slip. I think all the Ecoflow products are Lithium, I'm not 100% sure of the chemistry.

I paid $699USD for the Delta 1300W in 2019. They go for $1399 now but are currently on for $999.

I see that Ecoflow has really expanded their product lines. They now sell solar kits, power kits, self heating batteries that can be charged down to -4F. Even a dual fuel (gasoline LPG) generator that you can connect to their other products.

Sorry if this seems like spam. It's not, I just have been very happy with their products and support.

gcrank1
Member
# Posted: 11 Jan 2023 13:42
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No worries, Real World honest user feedback is what we want

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