Having portable and backup power is a need everyone should cover to enjoy a nice quality of life under every circumstance. Portable power stations show up as a flexible, practical, and green solution to provide you and your family with energy independence and resilience. They provide portable and backup power suited for emergencies and outdoor adventures, powering lamps and electronics, as well as some appliances.
If you are looking to dive into the world of portable power, this article is for you. Here you will learn the basics of portable power stations, components & applications, how to charge them, how they compare against traditional gas generators and even learn about some of the best manufacturers in the market that create top-of-the-shelf products.
What is a portable power station?
Portable power stations are integrated backup energy systems that feature different charging methods, a large capacity battery, a built-in power inverter, and several DC/AC ports to power electronics and appliances for several hours or even days at a high power rate.
One of the best aspects of portable power stations is the balance of robustness and portability. These products are suited for practically any situation, whether it be indoor or outdoor applications. These integrated energy systems are entirely silent by not requiring a motor to deliver power and are eco-friendly because they do not release any carbon emissions, especially when charged with solar power.
After understanding the basics of portable power stations, you are now able to dive into what are the major components of these devices and how they operate.
How does the portable power station work? Components & operability
To become a flexible energy solution, portable power stations integrate several features that allow them to deliver AC and DC power on the go. The main components in portable power stations are the following:
- Built-in power inverter
- Large capacity battery
- Battery management system
- Charge controller
- Various AC and DC ports (Including a solar panel input)
- High-quality portable casing
- Display screen
Portable power stations work by converting DC to DC voltage from the battery to power the different DC outlets, and converting the DC energy into AC by using the built-in power inverter to produce a stable AC signal to power even the most demanding appliances.
To charge the battery for a portable power station, you may use a 120V AC outlet and the device will convert that energy into DC to charge the battery, but you can also charge the battery with a 12V car outlet or even connect a solar array to use clean energy on the go. The device also features a display screen that shows you the remaining capacity, power input and output.
Portable power stations are perfect for as many applications as you can think of where you would need portable DC or AC energy, but they are regularly used for emergencies as backup power for critical loads and as portable energy systems for outdoor usage, road trips, wood escapades, camping, and more.
Applications for the portable power station
Having a charge power station will provide you with AC or DC energy to power critical loads for hours or even days, depending on several factors. This device is perfect to increase the energy independence at your home for you and your family, making it an excellent ally in the direst situations.
Most power stations are not suited to power a fridge or A/C system (some of them are), but they are perfect to power coffee makers, mini coolers, pressure cookers, electric grills, microwaves, and others. This energy solution can provide you with several hours of power for your TV or computer, to stay entertained during any type of power outage.
Outdoor usage is where portable power stations shine and outstand, especially for adventurers looking to enjoy nature while staying in touch with their electronics during camping, road trips, and other types of escapades. Portable power stations are also excellent for powering appliances, electronics, and important gadgets in RVs, boats, and other transportations suited for vacations.
Using a power station for camping will allow you to keep your connection to nature while also powering night lamps, your coffee maker, and keeping electronic devices charged. Coupling a photovoltaic power station for camping with solar panels will result in a solar power station generator that provides you with power for indefinite days to enjoy your nature escapade at its best.
How to charge a power station with solar panels?
Portable power stations can charge through a 120V AC outlet, USB-C charger, car charger, or the best option which is plugging a solar array to enjoy clean energy and promote sustainability, allowing you to have never-ending solar power for as many days as you need.
To charge a photovoltaic power station with solar power, you have to set the power station at the desired charging place, connect the solar array featuring one or several solar panels, and verify that the power input is charging the battery by checking the display.
Technical specifications to consider when charging the power station
Setting up the portable power station to charge with solar panels is relatively simple, however, there are certain aspects that you have to consider:
The rated power of the solar array should always match the maximum input power set by the manufacturer of your portable power station. You can always set a solar array with equal or lower-rated power but never exceed the generation capacity specified by the manufacturer.
The charging time for different portable power stations varies depending on the charging method. Some models allow for AC charging with a regular outlet, and include a DC port for charging the battery with the car and a solar array, while some options even include charging with an USB-C port.
The fastest charging method is always an AC outlet, taking only a few hours or less. The second fastest option may vary, since some models charge faster with an USB-C port than the 12V port, while others charge just as fast with the car port as with the AC outlet. Finally, charging with solar panels generally takes longer than using AC charging, the time will vary depending on the maximum PV input and climate conditions.
If you are looking to charge a portable power station in as little time as possible, we recommend picking a high-duty model that can be charged with several methods simultaneously. Some options like the EcoFlow Delta Pro and the Renogy Phoenix 300 combine different charging methods to charge the whole battery in less time.
Find the right connector
Few portable power stations feature input for the classical MC4 connector of traditional solar panels. While the solar array input port at the portable power station varies between manufacturers, most of these energy devices feature 8mm or Anderson connectors. To connect the solar array to a portable power station, you would require an MC4 to 8mm or Anderson adapter, which can be included with some power stations.
Portable solar power station generators vs. Traditional gas generators
Traditional gas generators are used for backup power or as the main power source in remote locations. These generation devices are bad for the environment since they produce power from gas and propane producing loud noises while operating.
Portable power stations coupled with solar panels have most of the benefits of traditional gas generators while removing their major flaws. Here we feature a comparison table contrasting both technologies.
Comparing Solar Power Station Generators vs. Traditional Gas Generator
|Solar Power Station Generator||Tradition Gas Generator|
|Rated Power||Up to 3.6kW continuous power||Up to 15.0kW|
|Capacity||Up to 25.0kWh (EcoFlow DELTA Pro)||No battery capacity|
|AC Voltage & Frequency||120V AC / 60 Hz||120V AC / 60 Hz|
|DC Ports||USB-A / USB-C / Car DC port||No DC port|
|Portability||Easy to carry, designed for portable applications||Heavy, not designed for portable applications|
|Dimensions||Compact design||Large design (includes AC motor)|
|Affected by Temperature||Batteries affected by very high and low temperatures||Affected by high temperatures|
|Protection System||Includes Battery Management systems||May include protections|
|Lifespan||Up to 4,500 cycles (10 years) for the most durable options||2,000-3,000 hours (125 days)|
|Required Fuel||Solar power (can use regular power)||Natural gas (Not environmentally friendly)|
|Autonomy||Autonomous (with solar panels)||Requires fossil fuel source|
|Carbon Footprint||Zero carbon emissions||High contamination source|
|Portability & Applications||Indoor/outdoor applications||Better for indoor applications|
|Noise Level||No loud noises||Loud noises due to the AC motor|
The benefits of solar power station generators surpass those of traditional gas generators. The solar solution features no loud noises, flexibility for indoor/outdoor applications, almost endless autonomy during sunlight hours, zero carbon emissions, and more.
Traditional gas generators only have in favor the fact that they produce a higher power rate, but portable power stations are not designed to power a whole home. For this purpose, PV systems with battery backup can provide a home with an autonomy of one or two more days, depending on the specifications of the system.
With an outstanding superiority and a much larger lifespan for solar power station generators, traditional gas generators are a thing of the past. Solar power generators can be used indoors/outdoors, powering electronics and appliances for hours or days with solar power, delivering the family a good life quality without uncomfortable noises or pollution.
What to look for when choosing a portable power station?
To get the right portable power station for you, it is important to match the technical specifications of the device to your energy needs and desired applications. In this section, we advise you on how to choose the ideal portable power station for you.
What type of appliances do you want to power?
Portable power stations can power most appliances, but they have some limitations according to the rated power.
The continuous power rate of a portable power station limits the number and type of appliances you can use simultaneously. Options like the Jackery 1,500 can power coffee makers, pressure cookers, electric grills, and other appliances, but not all at the same time since the power station can only supply a continuous power of 1,800W.
When acquiring a portable power station, you should take great consideration about the frequency output of the AC signal. It is important to pick a power station with an output frequency of 60Hz to use regular appliances, since some models might work at 50Hz and this frequency is rated for appliances in other countries.
The battery is one of the most important components in the portable power station, which is why you have to pick the right one to suit your needs. Here we detail some specifications to consider when picking the right model for you.
The capacity of the built-in battery limits the autonomy of power appliances and electronics. There are decent high-capacity batteries with 1,000-1,500Wh like the Jackery power stations, other options far surpass those with expandable capacities of 19,200Wh (Renogy Lycan 5000 Power Box) or even 25,000Wh (EcoFlow DELTA PRO).
Cell Chemistry is one of the major factors defining rated discharge power, capacity, operating temperature, lifespan, and stability of the battery. Some portable power stations feature Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) that are lighter, and others feature Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) technology which is safer, operates at a higher temperature, has a longer lifespan, and is more resistant to thermal runaway.
Lifecycles limit the lifespan of a battery by setting the number of charge and discharge cycles at a certain Depth of Discharge (DOD). Some Li-Ion batteries have around 300-500 cycles, at an 80% DOD, like the Jackery power stations (500 cycles @ 80% DOD), while others featuring LiFePO4 technology have 3,500 cycles (EcoFlow DELTA Pro) and 4,500 cycles (Renogy Lycan 5000 power station) at an 80% DOD.
Making sure the battery of your portable power station, which is the heart of the equipment, is protected at all times, is of vital importance. This is why we recommend selecting a power station that includes an advanced management system with protection against over-voltage, overheating and short circuits.
To enjoy solar power during the day and at night, you must pick a portable power station that includes a fast-charging system, avoiding running out of power at night or during camping days with bad weather. We recommend choosing power stations charging in 5 hours or less. For instance, the EcoFlow DELTA Pro charges the 3,600Wh battery in around 2.5 hours with a PV input of 1,600W, while the Jackery 1500 charges the 1,534Wh capacity in 5 hours with a PV input of 400W.
Ports & outlets included
Depending on the type and number of DC/AC appliances and electronics that you want to power at the same time, you should pick a power station with more or fewer ports and outlets. For regular usage, a few USB-A and USB-C are more than enough to power laptops and cellphones, featuring one AC outlet to plug a splitter and power several AC appliances, but the most demanding applications might require several more ports.
Power stations cannot be entirely lightweight and have small dimensions, since they feature a high-capacity battery and several electronic components. For indoor usage, this might not be a problem, but a portable power station for outdoor applications should have a relatively low weight and smaller dimensions. Small ones should include a comfortable handle, while larger ones should include carrying wheels.
Brand compatible solar panels/accessories
To increase compatibility between the portable power station for camping and the solar array, consider acquiring products from a brand that produces both options with perfect compatibility since they will most likely fit perfectly together without the need for additional connectors. This is the case for portable power stations from renowned brands like Jackery, Renogy, and EcoFlow.
Reputable power station brands
When picking a portable power station that will provide you with energy independence, we recommend acquiring an option from a reputable manufacturer. These are some of the most reputable brands for power stations:
Jackery was founded in 2012 by engineers enthusiastic about making solar power portable, accessible, and outdoor-oriented. In just 9 years, this brand has become a considerable contestant in the solar industry, producing excellent portable power stations and solar generators.
High-quality power stations from this brand include the Jackery Solar Generator 1500, Jackery Solar Generator 1000, and others. Jackery also manufactures solar panels with 23% efficiency, which perfectly matches the solar power station generators.
Renogy operates since 2010, featuring the noble mission of erasing the barrier between people and energy independence, improving the world one person at a time with increased sustainability and solar products suited for any energy requirement.
While Renogy produces solar panels, deep cycle batteries, power inverters, battery chargers, monitoring systems, and of course, one of their strongest points is portable power stations. Some outstanding options from Renogy are the PHOENIX 200, PHOENIX 300, and the large capacity Lycan 500 Power Box. All of them are perfectly compatible with the Renogy solar panels.
Founded in 2017 by a smart team of battery engineers, EcoFlow produces high-quality, durable, and valuable technological battery solutions for residential applications and outdoor usages. EcoFlow produces high-quality solar panels, smart home battery systems, and outstanding portable power stations.
EcoFlow has power stations suitable for every need. The products of this company range from the DELTA Mini with a compact capacity for personal applications and a low weight, to the DELTA Pro which can power appliances for the whole family and is considered one of the largest power stations available.