A budget solar generator is essential whether you’re a full-time RVer, enjoy the occasional off-grid trip, or want to be prepared for an extended power outage. Solar generators use the sun and attached solar panels as their primary power source. However, the best solar generators will have alternative charging methods if the sun isn’t shining.
The only thing better than finding an excellent solar generator is finding one that’s affordable and fits your budget. Finding a superb budget generator is challenging but extremely important if you’re tight on cash. You want to be prepared for any type of power outage or situation, but you don’t want to go broke.
If you’re in the market for a solar generator but want to stick to a budget, you’ve come to the right place. Solar generators are never cheap, but there are certainly some that are more budget-friendly than others. We’ll look at the top budget generators for every occasion, no matter what type of situation you want to prepare for.
What is a Solar Generator?
A solar generator is one of the best investments you can make in your life. They’re essentially large battery packs that you can operate for free and charge via the sun.
You can also plug your solar generator into a wall outlet and charge its battery. They work very similarly to gas-powered generators, except for the obvious fact that they don’t need gas to operate.
A solar generator, like a gas one, can power electrical devices and appliances. While they have solar in the name, they don’t always need sunshine to operate. If you have an extremely tight budget and can’t afford solar panels, you can use your solar generator without them. The main thing is that your generator doesn’t need gas to operate.
How Do Solar Generators Work?
While they don’t have gasoline or an engine, solar generators don’t operate on magic. They work very similarly to how battery packs or battery-operated devices do. They have an internal battery that stores power and keeps it in reserve until you need it. Here’s how the process works.
- You start by charging your solar generator.
- Connect solar panels to your generator or plug them into a wall outlet.
- If you use solar panels, they absorb energy from the sun and transfer it via wires to the internal battery pack.
- Suppose you use a wall outlet; your generator charges by harnessing electrical energy that flows through the cord plugged into the outlet. The energy flows through the cord and into the battery pack inside the generator, where it gets stored for future use.
- When you need to use your generator, you simply turn it on.
- There are various outlets and ports outside the generator where you can plug cords into.
- Energy travels from the internal battery pack through the electrical cord and powers whatever device the cable gets connected to.
It’s important to understand that solar generators operate best when they transfer internal energy to whatever you’re trying to power. Unlike gas generators, they aren’t meant to power things while charging. Instead, it’s best to fully set your generator, use up the stored energy, and recharge it when the generator is out of juice.
While a solar generator will always have solar panels as one of the charging options, the best solar generators will have multiple charging methods. After all, even if the sun isn’t shining, you’ll still need a solar generator that’s fully charged and ready to roll. Here are some of the charging options your solar generator should have.
Since it’s a solar generator we’re talking about, the primary charging method will be via solar panels. Solar panels get connected to your solar generator and transfer the energy from the sun to a battery pack inside the generator. Unfortunately, the sun isn’t always a viable option depending on where you live.
Wall or AC Outlets
Aside from the sun, wall outlets are the next best charging option for solar generators. Whether the sun is shining or not, being able to plug your generator into an outlet and charge it that way will be the fastest method. If a solar generator doesn’t have a wall outlet charging option, you should walk away from it.
USB ports are another excellent charging option. This method isn’t used as often as wall outlets or solar panels, but it’s a good backup option if the other two aren’t available. Having a USB port as a charging option also means you can charge your generator in your car while driving to your next destination.
The Best Solar Generators for Any Budget
Here are the best budget solar generators for any occasion.
Jackery Explorer 160 Portable Power Station
If you need a small, lightweight, portable solar generator, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better option than the Jackery Explorer 160. While it gets listed as a portable power station, it’s most definitely a solar generator. It’s roughly the size and weight of a small toolbox and costs less than $150.
This little generator charges very fast and has a surge capacity of up to 150 watts. However, it’s best practice never to use more than 100 watts simultaneously with the Jackery Explorer 160. You can charge it with solar panels sold separately, plug it into a wall outlet or use a car charging USB port.
- Weighs less than 4 pounds
- Multiple charging options
- Very affordable at less than $150
- USB and AC outlet options
- Not very powerful and is only useful as a phone or laptop charger.
Rainier Outdoor Power Equipment
Keeping with the trend of smaller solar generators for emergencies, let’s look at the Rainier Outdoor Power Equipment Solar Generator. Like the Rockpals listed above, this little guy is roughly the size of a toolbox and weighs around 10 pounds.
While it’s capable of charging several different devices simultaneously, it can only store around 115 watts of power. This little generator is better suited as a portable charger than a backup power source for your home or workshop.
- Very portable and affordable
- Capable of charging numerous devices at once
- Quick recharge time
- Includes seven different ports of three varieties
- Only good for smaller devices and lights
- Charging time is quick but can vary depending on your climate and charging method
Rockpals Portable Power Station
The Rockpals Portable Power Station is another nifty little solar generator smaller than the EcoFlow River listed above. While it’s essentially a glorified phone and laptop charger, this little power station is great for getting out of a jam. It packs 300 watts of electricity, weighs less than 10 pounds, and has six different types of ports and outlets.
While you’re not going to be able to operate large appliances or provide backup power to your home with the Rockpals, it’s an excellent solar generator for emergencies. You’ll be able to keep your electrical devices charged and some of your lights on with this little power station.
- Very lightweight and easily portable
- Packs up to 300 watts of power
- Numerous power ports and charging methods
- Everything you need to get started is included with the solar generator kit
- Very much on the small side
Jackery Explorer 500
If you’re looking for a happy medium between the Jackery 1000 and the Jackery 160, give the Jackery Explorer 500 a try. This solar generator is compact, durable, portable, and lightweight at less than 15 pounds.
Like any good solar generator, you can charge the internal battery via solar panels, an AC cable, or a USB port. And, like any good budget-friendly solar generator, the Jackery 500 costs around $500.
Ideally, you should use the Jackery SolarSaga solar panels with this generator. Keep in mind, however, that this panel gets sold separately, so it will slightly add to the generator’s cost.
This generator also has a durable lithium battery and will last for over 500 charges. Throw in the fact that the Jackery Explorer 500 has a carport, two DC ports, three USB ports, and a power outlet.
- Very lightweight and highly portable, weighing less than fifteen pounds
- Multiple charging ports and power supply options
- Up to 500 watts of power and charge capacity
- Not as powerful as some of the other options on this list
Best High-Power Budget Solar Generators with Solar Panels
EcoFlow River Pro Portable Power Station
Another dynamite option from the experts at EcoFlow is the EcoFlow River Pro Portable Power Station. The EcoFlow River is much smaller than the Delta 1300 and is one of this list’s most compact solar generators. It’s similar in size to a toolbox and weighs around the same, making it very portable.
This power station from EcoFlow utilizes the same X-Stream quick-charging technology that the Delta does, leading to a very fast recharge time. It can store just over 700 kilowatts and has an output rating of around 600.
Because of this generator’s size, it is recommended as a portable charger for hiking or camping trips rather than as a power source for an entire house or RV. However, you will be able to power small appliances such as TVs, coffee makers, and lights with the EcoFlow River.
- Weighs less than 20 pounds
- Very quick charging time
- Highly portable and easy to carry with one hand
- Enough power to charge a phone more than 50 times and a laptop around a dozen times
- Excellent bang for your buck
- Not powerful enough to operate power tools or large appliances
Jackery Explorer 1000 Portable Generator
For a slightly more powerful Jackery Explorer option, check out the Jackery 1000 portable generator. It has a battery capacity and outlet capabilities of up to 1000 watts.
You can also use multiple charging methods to charge this generator. While it’s slightly heavier than the Jackery Explorer 160, it’s still very lightweight and easily portable.
While only weighing 22 pounds and roughly the size of a small moving box, this solar generator packs a punch. You can power a mini-fridge for up to seventeen hours, a television for up to thirteen hours, and simultaneously charge multiple phones and laptops.
It also has multiple charging methods, including solar panels, wall outlets, and USB ports. Just as it has multiple charging methods, it also has multiple power supply options.
- Very lightweight and easy to transport, courtesy of the solid handle on top
- Charging time of around eight hours with solar panels and less with a wall outlet
- It has four USB outlet ports and three wall outlets
- Includes a built-in flashlight
- Easy to read LED screen to monitor charge and storage capacity
- Fairly slow charging time
EcoFlow Delta 1300
One of the best all-around solar generators money can buy the EcoFlow Delta 1300. This generator has a great compact size and storage capacity, making it ideal for RV-living, tailgating, or anything else you enjoy doing. The EcoFlow Delta has a unique shape and design with a handle on the front rather than the standard handle on top.
The generator also uses patented technology only available to certain generators, allowing it to recharge in less than one hour, giving it the fastest recharge time out of any generator on this list. It packs 1260 watts of storage capacity and an output rating of 1800 watts. Throw in that it only weighs around 30 pounds and has multiple charging and output ports, and this generator is a force to be reckoned with.
- Only weighs 31 pounds
- Numerous charging options, including solar, car, or wall outlet
- Extremely fast recharge time
- Unique shape and design
- Slightly awkward to carry with one hand
- The charging ports are on all sides of the generator, which can lead to tangled cords
Goal Zero Yeti 1500x Portable Power Station
If you want the solar generator that’s considered by many to be the best in the business, try the Goal Zero Yeti 1500x Portable Power Station.
This generator comes with the Yeti guarantee of being durable, high-quality, and reliable. While it has 1500 in the name, this generator has 2000 watts of storage space. You can even power this generator via the Yeti app with the push of a button.
All in all, this is one of the most high-powered and efficient solar generators on the market. It can power a refrigerator and television and simultaneously charge multiple phones and laptops. It even comes with a two-year warranty and is surprisingly lightweight and portable despite its power and size.
- Weighs right around 40 pounds
- Packs the biggest bang for your buck
- 2000 watts of storage capacity
- Multiple charging methods and power options
- Includes a two-year warranty
- On the top end of the pricing spectrum
Bluetti Portable Power Station
If you need something that packs a little bit more of a punch, consider the Bluetti Portable Power Station. This solar generator has double the storage capacity and output of the Jackery Explorer listed above.
At 2000 watts, it can store enough electricity to power multiple appliances and electrical devices simultaneously. You can even power certain medical devices, such as a C-Pap machine!
It also has a surge capacity of up to 4800 watts and a lithium-ion battery with an incredibly long lifespan of 3,500 plus charges. With the surge capacity combined with the storage capacity, this generator is enough to power most appliances in your home for a short time.
Despite all the benefits this solar generator provides, it’s surprisingly budget-friendly despite its capabilities. If you like Bluetti but want a smaller option, check out the Bluetti AC200p.
- Insane surge capacity that’s almost triple the output
- Five charging methods and seventeen power outlets
- Charges in less than five hours
- Easy to read and understand displays
- 2000 watts of power capacity and storage
- While very affordable, it’s at the top of the pricing spectrum for a budget-friendly solar generator.
Other Excellent Options for Best Budget Solar Generator We Considered
Tacklife P50 Portable Power Station
The Tacklife P50 portable power station is about as close to the Jackery Explorer in looks and performance as you can get. While having a power capacity of 500 watts, it has an output capability of 300 kilowatts, slightly less than we’d like.
However, the Tacklife P50 has enough upsides, including being budget-friendly, to make it on our list of best solar power generators.
Like the Jackery Explorer, this little 500-watt generator weighs around 15 pounds and is extremely easy to move about.
It has multiple powering options, including a USB and a pure sine wave inverter with two 110-volt power outlets. In addition to being chargeable via solar panels, a car charger, and a wall outlet, this little generator also comes with a wireless charging pad.
- A wireless charging pad is a nice bonus
- Lightweight and very portable
- Includes a 200-watt lumen light for dark spaces
- Ten outlet ports that you can use simultaneously
- Fairly low charging capacity
- Slower charging time
- Not as tough or rugged as its twin, the Jackery 500
Point Zero Energy Titan Solar Generator
The Point Zero Energy Titan Solar Generator is one of the most powerful solar generators on this list. It has a storage capacity of 3000 watts and a surge capacity of more than double that amount. It includes six outlet ports, a dedicated 30-watt outlet, and multiple USB ports so that you can charge or power anything necessary.
One of this solar generator’s best features is that you can add multiple backup batteries to increase the storage capacity. You can also charge these batteries with solar panels, AC outlets, or a car charger. Best of all, this generator charges in less than four hours under optimal conditions. While it’s slightly more expensive than many other solar generators on this list, it’s at the bottom of the budget in terms of size and power capabilities.
- Extremely high power output and storage capacity
- You can optionally add extra batteries for additional storage
- Multiple charging and power output options
- Includes the new USB C-port as a power option
- Quick charging time
- Fairly expensive but still budget-friendly
- A little heavier than many of the options on this list but still portable
General Solar Generator Power Generator
General is one of the top names in traditional generators, so it only makes sense that they should have one of the best solar generators. The nice thing about this General solar generator is that they sell the generator, solar panels, and all the equipment you need to get started in a neat bundle.
The generator comes in a small package weighing around 20 pounds and packs 1000 watts of power. It can also store power for up to a year once fully charged. The only downside of the General solar generator is that it doesn’t have a super-fast recharge time.
Another great option for a budget-friendly solar generator kit is the Patriot 1800. It comes with a generator, solar panels, cords, wires, and whatever else you need to start storing solar energy.
The Patriot 1800 has a storage capacity of up to 1800 watts and is one of the longest-lasting generators on our list. While it has a fairly slow recharge time, it’s also one of the more efficient solar generators.
Goal Zero Yeti 400
The Goal Zero Yeti is another great power station for people on a budget. It has 400 watts of stored energy, multiple charging options, and a decent variety and number of power ports. It only weighs 13 pounds and has a nifty carrying handle for easy transportation. While this power station isn’t powerful enough to provide electricity to an entire house, it’s ideal for a weekend camping or road trip.
Maxoak Portable Power Station
If you’re on a very tight budget but want a quality solar generator, check out the Maxoak Portable Power Station from Bluett. While the name says power station, this generator packs 1000 watts of power, has a 1500-watt-hour lithium battery, a quick recharge time, and high power output.
It’s one of the best all-around solar generators for people on a budget and is guaranteed to last a long time. It also includes over ten output ports of five different varieties, ensuring you can power any device. Throw in the fact that the Maxoak only weighs around 40 pounds, and it’s also a highly portable generator.
How to Choose the Right Budget Solar Generator
If you’re buying a solar generator on a budget, you may have to sacrifice certain features. However, two things you should never sacrifice are quality and reliability.
No matter how much you pay for your solar generator, you should always receive a product that meets your needs and fulfills your goals. Here are some things to remember when choosing your budget solar generator.
One of the first things you should do when picking out your solar generator is to decide what you will use it for. If you want a solar generator to serve as a backup power source for your home, you’ll need one of the larger options on this list.
If you want a solar generator that you only want to use as a glorified phone or laptop charger, you don’t need a generator with as much power.
Intended use is a huge factor when choosing your generator. You also have to think about where you’re going to be when you need to recharge it. Does it have alternative charging methods such as a plugin or a wireless charging pad? If not, you need a solar generator that can charge quickly via solar panels.
How Much Power You Need aka Storage Capacity
Your solar generators’ storage capacity will play a big factor in what you can use them for. For example, you don’t want to take a generator with a storage capacity of fewer than 500 watts on a weekend camping trip unless you have a way to charge it while you’re off-grid.
Five hundred watts will get used up surprisingly quickly if you charge a few devices and try to power a television or other large electrical appliance.
At the same time, using a solar generator with 2000-plus watts of storage capability is overkill if you don’t want to power an entire RV or house.
As with all things in life, your budget will play a massive role in your ultimate choice. You need to buy a solar generator that meets your energy requirements and demands, but you don’t want to go broke. Remember, you’ll have to purchase things to go with your generators, such as solar panels, extension cords, and more.
When you’re purchasing a solar generator, there’s a good chance that you’re doing it because you either want to live off-grid, take weekend excursions into the wild, or are concerned about your safety during a power outage.
No matter your reasons, there’s a good chance you’ll want to purchase other things besides your generator. Blowing your entire budget on a single item is never a good idea, especially regarding survival preparations.
One of the nicest things about solar generators is that they’re very portable. As such, you want to choose a generator with a size that accommodates your needs. If you’re planning to take your generator hiking with you, it’s necessary to pack one that’s small and lightweight. If you need one with a little more juice and power that you’re not planning to move around as much, going up in size is a good idea.
Charging speed is extremely important whether you use your solar generator while charging or typically use up all the stored energy before recharging. No matter the generator you’re using, it won’t do any good unless it charges quickly.
Chances are you’ll want to recharge it during your travels between stops or want to use it constantly. Either way, quick recharge time is very important for an effective generator.
It’s also worth noting that different charging methods will have different speeds. Make sure to choose the generator with the fastest charging speed for your preferred charging method.
Type of Battery
You may not have realized this, but there’s more than one battery option for solar generators. In general, it’s best to choose generators with lithium-ion batteries rather than acid-based ones. Lithium batteries are more powerful, last longer, and have more storage capacity than acidic ones.
Additionally, solar generators operating with lithium batteries often have the option of a battery bank. A battery bank is where you have the option of adding extra batteries to the one that’s already installed on your generator. This way, you can double, triple, or even quadruple the total amount of stored energy you have!
Budget Solar Generator FAQs
What is the Best Solar Generator for Home Use?
If you’re looking for a solar generator to serve as a backup battery source for your home, you should check out one of the Bluetti or Titan options on this list. They can store more electricity and are more affordable than larger Jackery or Yeti solar generators.
Are Solar Generators Worth Buying?
You should invest in a solar generator if you want free, unlimited electricity during road trips or power outages.
How Many Solar Panels Do I Need to Power a Generator?
You can have as few as a single solar panel or as many as a dozen for your solar generator. It all depends on the size of the generator and how quickly you want to charge it.
What Size Solar Generator Do I Need to Power My House?
For a solar generator to power an entire house, it should have a storage capacity of at least 2000 watts and numerous solar panels for ongoing recharge.
Investing in a solar generator is one of the smartest decisions you can make for your home. This is especially true if you already have solar panels as your source of electricity or want to live off-grid. Solar generators come in various shapes and sizes to accommodate everyone’s needs.
Whether you want a glorified phone charger, need electricity for your RV, or live out of a van, there’s a solar generator on this list that can make your life easier and better.