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Does a minimal Solar setup make sense for prepping?

624 Views 20 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  fasteddie565
I’d like to get some opinions here.

I have been looking into getting a solar Generator, AKA Battery pack with convenient inputs/outputs for charging and powering devices.

My needs:
In a power failure:
- Charging batteries for flashlights/lamps
- Charging batteries for 2-way radios
- Charging phones – Though if the grid is down, the cellphones are probably worthless

That’s about it. If I need something bigger powered, I have two small generators (2000W & 1200W) and 30-40 gallons of gas.

Parameters:
Seems like a 300W-500W system would meet my needs. And since I don’t want to wait 18 hours to re-charge the power bank, I’d go for a 200W panel over the 120W or the 100W options.

Costs:
A system as described above, from a reputable manufacturer (opposed to Bob’s Truck Bumpers and Solar Systems) would run $650 for the power bank, solar panel, a couple of extra cables and sales tax. Specifically, I’m looking at the Rockpals brand. Jackery brand could roll in at $850 or more for a similar setup. Which is a lot of money to spend prepping for something that may never happen. I pretty much have zero use for the panel and the power bank other than for emergencies.

So, I’m beginning to question if it is worth spending $650 for something like that? I could buy 6 more 5-gallon cans and fill them with clear gas and Stabil for around $300, thus giving me 60-70 gallons of gas which, with small generators that have eco settings, could last a long time.

But yes, gas eventually does run out.

Side Note: Was looking for a small 300W-500W gas generator as another option, but haven’t found anything viable. Most of the smaller gens are 2-stroke which is a deal killer for me.

I already have 3 Dietz lanterns and a lot of lamp oil for lighting and some heat, and LOTs of batteries (rechargeable and regular) for the flashlights and radios.

So, I’d like to hear the various opinions Pro & Con. . .
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· NRA Life Member
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4 stroke engine and very quiet--no oil gas mixture.. We have had one like this and use it a our duck blind to run ice eaters all night. Have had it for 10 years and only one operator induced problem which was easily repaired. Will run 7 or 8 hours depending on the load. OK for sensitive electronics like computers and cell phones. Solar is such an iffy proposition depending on where you are. If the sun don't shine you are outta luck baby. It sips gas...

If you can swing the extra dough the small Honda generators are even better. But you are looking at a grand.

I personally think anyone who is a prepper and doesn't have a gas generator is an idiot. They are the first thing that sells out in the local stores when there is a disaster! What's that tell you?
 

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I think you will find that a 500W setup can’t benefit/use 200W panels.

I have a Jackery 500 and 1500 (iirc). They hold a charge well. I have 4K propane/gasoline generator. But at night the 1500 solar generators give limited quite power to run a fridge or tv.

If it’s cloudy you get little charge and they are not rated for rain.

I also have portable power packs to charge small devices like phones, flashlights, camera batteries, etc.

My plan if power is out a bit, is to use my vehicle’s 110 plug, to charge the Jackery in a few hours vs hours and hours with DC 12V, if not using my generator.

You might be better with two or three power packs and solar panel to charge, if it’s small stuff.

Just understand, odds of getting 100w or 200w of full solar charging, is unlikely. Plan on 60w to 100w.
 

· Mr. Awesome
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I hope it makes sense. I recently got these for the purpose of bridging the gap between the whole home generator and replacement batteries.

Font Camera Camera lens Cameras & optics Rectangle

There are other brands that look exactly like this one, but their capacity was a little smaller (one is the AMPACE). I need to get the jumper clamps, mine didn’t come with them.

I also got a portable solar panel:
Product Font Rectangle Screenshot Software


I haven’t tried it, yet, but gets good reviews and should match up nicely with the Landnor power station.
 

· Scottish Member
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Generally, a generator is a much better - and cost effective - solution for power for moderately short term power outages compared to solar + batteries. In most cases, the only advantage of solar is that it doesn’t need fuel.

And I’ve designed standby/peak shaving stationary solar systems - comparable to, but better than, the Tesla Power Wall.
 

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I think it comes down to how long you plan to be off-grid. I live 100% off-grid now and spent a fortune running generators until I put in a solar system.

This may be a worthless comment, but even with no solar panels and just an inverter/charger and a battery, if your power goes out, the system can IMMEDIATELY switch to battery backup with NO loss of power. That means all your electric clocks and stuff stay on. It can snap over to the battery in a milisecond or so, and your stuff will never know the power ever went out. With a generator, when the power goes out, it all goes dead and you're in the dark for about 30 seconds before you generator spools up on-line.

Tony Rumore
Tromix
 

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This may be a worthless comment, but even with no solar panels and just an inverter/charger and a battery, if your power goes out, the system can IMMEDIATELY switch to battery backup with NO loss of power. That means all your electric clocks and stuff stay on. It can snap over to the battery in a milisecond or so, and your stuff will never know the power ever went out. With a generator, when the power goes out, it all goes dead and you're in the dark for about 30 seconds before you generator spools up on-line.
You're not getting a system like that for $650!
 

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Get a battery power station in the 300-500Wh range and skip the solar. You can top it up with one of your generators, which presumably you'll be running occasionally anyway in an extended outage for the fridge or whatever. I always recommend a dual fuel generator, gives you more options. Even better is one that runs on natural gas, but they tend to be the whole house ones. If you plan on recharging the power station with a generator make sure you get one that can accept a high recharging current so you don't have to run the generator as long. You could even recharge it from your vehicle.

A 300Wh power station is more than enough to keep small batteries charged and even run some LED lighting, a laptop, etc.

Avoid Jackery. Overpriced and falling further behind in bang for the buck every day.
 

· Combat Diver
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I have a custom made set up with 2 x 160 watt panels and 3 x 100 AH AGM batteries. I can run three separate 20 Amp circuits at once. I use it for refer/freezer and some lights. I also have an 8 kw gas generator for higher power requirements. The solar generator is great for charging batteries, lights and even runs the shop vac and power tools. Its about 6 years old and still going strong.
 

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I second the Jackery or a much cheaper Lithium 1000 Ah 12V Battery with a charger and Inverter-Half the cost o f a Jackery.

I hactually have the 1000Ah _ a 1000Ah + 2000Ah in parallel on a separate circuit so I can power a TV, Computer, LED lights for a couple days without running my gernerator
 

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We had a deal here to install solar for the cost of your monthly power bill, I went for it as long as I can run my fridge and freezer for the apocalypse I'm good to go. Here in Tucson we get 360 days of sunshine a year but water is scarce.
 

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A persons situation, needs, concerns all matter. Stories of off grid folks during hurricanes that amazingly suffered no damage to solar system, but had weeks without grid power but not only had household power. We’re able to charge Tesla for constant use in area, run additional freezers, charge medical equipment… while I would assume it was closer to $100k then $700. It sounded impressive.
Look at honest needs. My running EU2000i 24/7 would get expensive. (over months). If I had system that could provide @15 amp at 110 constantly . I should be able to rotate freezers, run furnace
 

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I have a custom made set up with 2 x 160 watt panels and 3 x 100 AH AGM batteries. I can run three separate 20 Amp circuits at once. I use it for refer/freezer and some lights. I also have an 8 kw gas generator for higher power requirements. The solar generator is great for charging batteries, lights and even runs the shop vac and power tools. Its about 6 years old and still going strong.
I agree. I wrote an article on this general subject a few years ago.

DIY Solar Well Pump. Cost was less than $650 USD.
 

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I would recommend an Ecoflow River Pro Ebay refurbished. 720 watt hours. Right now, they are listed at $379, shipping included. They also list an extra battery, also 720 watt hours for $279. That combo should also keep two small fans going, which is really nice while sleeping. And probably leaving plenty of power in reserve, which is good. But keep in mind that this combo uses lithium ion technology, which is now left in the dust, compared to the state-of-the-art technology, LiFeP04. Or lithium ferro phosphate. I would encourage the reader to research the differences. Maximum input for the River Pro is 200 watts. For just a few dollars more, you could go with the Delta, which accepts up to 400 watts input.

Someone mentioned the possibility of using a solar generator as a UPS. That would be my preference by far. Use between one and four 100 watt panels, buy the cables, etc, preferably find a way to route the power inside the house, and you should be all set. But in the event of some terrible times advancing upon us, I would stay at least somewhat close by, and keep watch for as long as the solar generator is being charged. Research whether your solar generator requires that you connect the panels with the solar generator in parallel, or in series.

As far as a generator goes, in the case of someone wanting to power a few lights, a couple compact fans, etc, an inverter generator is by far the best option. I would recommend the Champion 100889. With or without solar panels If you also plan to run a window A/C, then we're probably talking about a 3500 to 4000 watt generator. I would avoid letting a generator run completely out of fuel before refueling.

Dewalt makes a nice little work fan.Be sure to get the model with both battery and AC hook up
 

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1. thank you for raising the issue. It is one of the issues that I research annually along with other concerns including generators and night vision equipment. I have been doing the research for over 40 years and during that time my situation has changed in terms of family size (call it the situation right then and there). So I know that everyone's situation is different and one size does not fit all.

2. thanks to everyone with a comment.

3. remember the Sizzler advertisement. Three women are walking down the street. "I want something inexpensive, I want something fast, and I want a lot of choice". There are no good solutions.

4. I have a couple of Goal Zeroes from years ago. I don't use them. I don't practice with them. If I did they would have been broken by now. I didn't want to get into the "buy a used bus battery and do this and that". I simply didn't have the physical store space or the mental space to remember technical details.

5. Any time I read about a potential solution using gasoline, I want to do a a shout out. I had a girlfriend in Los Angeles who had an actual underground tank and gasoline pump at her home. Rare. She stopped buying gasoline because the help stealing it. If you can afford to do it, then do it.
Do you know what a PITA it was for me to have to lift, transport, refill my 2 and 5 gallon containers and store them outside? And do it at least once a year. Yeah, I know "buy stabile". You do it. All it does is extend the life of the gasoline a bit, but doesn't affect how much you need.

6. There is a song "you have to know when to hold them, you have to know when to fold them." You have to think about survival in that way. I gave my generator to my girlfriend's son. It was gasoline operated. Over the years, I refined my thinking about long term. I shifted to propane over time. The tanks were easier to store and never rotted or broke. If they got too old to be recycled when I went to the now closed pumping station nearby, I could trade the empties at the grocery store.
I started buying and restoring hand tools that did not require batteries or electricity. I purchased cooking and lighting sources that used propane. If you know of a low cost machine that will allow me to hook up a large propane tank to a device that will allow charging a battery charger that normally would into a wall socket, let me know. But there would still be a problem. Not enough capacity. How many rechargeable batteries fit into a flashlight? It may be anywhere from 1 to 4. Do you a spouse or a friend who has a flashlight like yours that needs to recharged? Oh, and let's add on batteries being recharged for your shortwave radio and your multiple group hand helds.

7.
 

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7. continuing. Recently we had a shutdown for an epidemic. The following is what I did and it took a lot of time.
Rechargeable batteries are shipped not fully charged. I decided that given the demonstrated idiotic mandates from our elected politicians that I needed to charge a number of rechargeable batteries. I have multiples of top quality rechargers with some having a capacity of 8 batteries. It took days using chargers and electricity from the wall.

I have three game motion detectors in the backyard. They take 8 batteries each. Just three units. And you figure out how long they take to charge up. That goes in the equation. I have multiple motion detector lights. They take only one 18650 rechargeable.

So you have conclude that there is no good solution. You plan so that you rely, as little as possible on batteries and gasoline. Then you are way ahead of the one trick pony solutions and the guys who forget how many devices rely upon electricity and the flow from wall outlets.
 

· RIP Stan Lee.. . .
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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
When I was growing up in Chicago, our house had a fuel oil stove for heat.
Had a 250 gallon tank in the basement.
 

· Combat Diver
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I would recommend an Ecoflow River Pro Ebay refurbished. 720 watt hours. Right now, they are listed at $379, shipping included. They also list an extra battery, also 720 watt hours for $279. That combo should also keep two small fans going, which is really nice while sleeping. And probably leaving plenty of power in reserve, which is good. But keep in mind that this combo uses lithium ion technology, which is now left in the dust, compared to the state-of-the-art technology, LiFeP04. Or lithium ferro phosphate. I would encourage the reader to research the differences. Maximum input for the River Pro is 200 watts. For just a few dollars more, you could go with the Delta, which accepts up to 400 watts input.

Someone mentioned the possibility of using a solar generator as a UPS. That would be my preference by far. Use between one and four 100 watt panels, buy the cables, etc, preferably find a way to route the power inside the house, and you should be all set. But in the event of some terrible times advancing upon us, I would stay at least somewhat close by, and keep watch for as long as the solar generator is being charged. Research whether your solar generator requires that you connect the panels with the solar generator in parallel, or in series.

As far as a generator goes, in the case of someone wanting to power a few lights, a couple compact fans, etc, an inverter generator is by far the best option. I would recommend the Champion 100889. With or without solar panels If you also plan to run a window A/C, then we're probably talking about a 3500 to 4000 watt generator. I would avoid letting a generator run completely out of fuel before refueling.

Dewalt makes a nice little work fan.Be sure to get the model with both battery and AC hook up
I would recommend a pure sin wave inverter, as you would likely have sensitive electronics hooked to it.
 

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3. remember the Sizzler advertisement. Three women are walking down the street. "I want something inexpensive, I want something fast, and I want a lot of choice". There are no good solutions.
I do not remember that though I remember Sizzler. mmmmm
 

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I would recommend a pure sin wave inverter, as you would likely have sensitive electronics hooked to it.
Thanks. But Champion states in so many words that their products do not have this problem. Plus, when said inverter is recharging a solar generator/battery bank, I would think during the conversion process, any remaining wavelength issues would be cleaned up?

Also, I have been using Champion generators and inverters for years, and have never had any such issues.
 
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