If your area loses power, a backup generator can be a lifesaver. But with so many options on the market, it can be difficult to know which is better: a solar generator or a petrol generator.
When shopping, you need to consider upfront and ongoing costs, power output and storage capacity, reliability, and convenience. Solar generators perform better over time in all of these areas — except for upfront cost. But other factors may impact your decision and make a traditional fossil fuel generator seem more enticing.
Whether a solar generator or petrol generator is better for your backup power comes down to numerous factors.
Here’s a one-on-one comparison so that you can decide which option is best for you.
How Does a Solar Generator Work?
A solar generator begins with a portable power station, which acts as a giant battery that stores backup power. With EcoFlow’s portable power stations, all you need to add is solar panels. The inverter, charge controller, and other essential balance of system components are built-in.
Solar panels capture the sun’s clean, renewable energy via photovoltaic (PV) cells. The portable power station (PPS) converts the DC power into AC (household) electricity with the built-in inverter. Depending on the power output capacity of the PPS model you choose, you can power major household appliances and heating/cooling systems.
You can also safely power sensitive electronics. The MPPT charge controller built into EcoFlow’s products regulates solar charging and power output, ensuring your computers, HDTVs, and other expensive devices are safe from harm.
If you’re connecting a whole-house solar generator solution to your home electrical wiring, you’ll need to connect the PPS to your home circuit panel using a transfer switch. It’s best to hire an electrician to complete this job quickly and safely.
You can purchase the solar panels for a solar generator separately or bundled with a PPS and optional components like extra Smart Batteries for additional power storage capacity. Keep in mind that any solar power your panels generate after you reach maximum storage capacity will go to waste.
Once you’ve either plugged the appliances you want to run directly into the portable power station’s inputs — or connected the PPS to your home circuit panel — you’ll be good to go.
How Does a Petrol Generator Work?
A gasoline generator uses a combustion engine similar to your car (unless you’re already driving an EV). By burning fuel, the generator creates mechanical power and then converts mechanical power into AC or DC electricity.
A solar generator gathers, converts, and stores electricity from sunlight, while a petrol generator only provides electricity when it’s burning fuel. As long as you have a sufficient supply of petrol, propane, diesel, or natural gas — depending on the fuel type of your model — a traditional generator produces electricity quickly and delivers it to your home.
Because traditional generators burn fuel, the engine produces toxic and greenhouse emissions — and ear-splitting noise when operating.
Traditional generators can’t be used indoors. It will need to be operated outside your home, at least 20 feet (6 meters) away, to protect the health and safety of you and your family.
What’s Better for Backup Power? A Quick Comparison
Choosing the right backup power source comes down to what matters most to you. Consider all the following factors before purchasing a backup generator for your home.
Initial and Long-Term Costs
The initial cost of a solar generator and solar panels is typically higher than that of a petrol generator. Over time, though, the solar generator can end up costing less.
Once you’ve purchased your solar power system, you have the option to reduce your dependence on the utility grid — and your electricity bills. You can even achieve complete energy independence with clean, renewable solar energy.
Traditional generators run on gasoline or other fossil fuels and only operate when fuel is burning. Petrol generators also require ongoing maintenance to keep them operational.
Petrol also has a limited shelf life — typically 3-6 months — and it’s unsafe (and possibly illegal) to store large quantities of gasoline at home. Since you burn fuel every time you operate the generator, your petrol costs can quickly skyrocket — as can the price of petrol itself. Traditional fossil fuel generators only run at full throttle, so you’ll still consume the same amount of petrol even if you’re only running a few appliances.
By contrast, solar generators require no fuel and virtually no maintenance. In most countries, solar tax rebates and incentives are usually available for switching some or all of your home electricity to solar. Financing is typically an option as well.
Over time, the return on investment (ROI) can be much higher for a solar-powered generator than a petrol-powered one.
Petrol generators tend to be more compact than their solar counterparts, and you don’t need to worry about installing solar panels. On the other hand, some solar generators, like the EcoFlow RIVER 2 Pro, are incredibly lightweight and compact — and you can buy it bundled with a 220W portable solar panel.
For more extensive home power backup needs, EcoFlow’s Smart Home Ecosystem lets you build a solution to meet your specific energy consumption requirements. You can even get the best of both worth worlds with the Smart Generator (Dual Fuel), which integrates seamlessly with EcoFlow’s DELTA Pro to offer a propane and petrol-powered last line of defence if your batteries run low.
Fossil fuel generators require regular maintenance because of the grease build-up and other side effects of burning fuel while running.
Solar generators have very few moving parts and typically don’t require maintenance for many years. If you opt for a permanent rooftop solar panel installation, you may need to clean debris from your solar panels every six months to a year — depending on your local conditions.
Indoor vs Outdoor Usage
Petrol generators emit toxic fumes, which is why the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) advises only using a petrol generator outside. If you have a petrol generator permanently installed, it must be set up at least 20 feet (6 meters) from the house.
Other than protecting solar generators from exposure to liquids or extreme temperatures, they don’t have any restrictions on indoor vs outdoor usage.
Larger petrol generators can generally provide more power than portable solar generators. Even so, you can get enough electricity from a solar backup generator to power your entire house.
For example, whole home backup generator solutions like the EcoFlow Delta Pro can provide either 3.6 kWh or 7.2 kWh/240V of power output and offer expandable storage up to 25kWh — enough to power most homes indefinitely.
Over time, the engine and mechanical parts of petrol generators wear down. Even with regular maintenance, an engine failure can occur just when you need it most, leaving you in the lurch when you need backup power.
Solar generators are comparatively more reliable. You have a clean fuel source whenever there’s daylight — even on cloudy and rainy days. The solar battery in a portable power station typically requires no maintenance and should last for many years before diminishing in performance or capacity.
A petrol generator uses fossil fuels and creates harmful emissions like carbon monoxide, which can prove fatal with improper use. Burning fossil fuels also contributes to climate change by releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Beyond the health risks and climate impact, petrol generators run extremely loud.
A solar generator powers your appliances and home silently, with no emissions. It delivers safe, quiet, clean energy to your home.
Which One is Suitable For You?
In most scenarios, a solar generator will meet your needs better than a fossil fuel generator. Sometimes, a petrol generator can be a quick solution in a pinch, especially if you already have one in the garage. However, in the long run, solar generators beat their fossil fuel counterparts in almost every way.
Solar generators are catching up even when it comes to sheer power. EcoFlow offers a Whole Home Backup Power Solution that you can customise to meet your needs. Simply work out what appliances you need to power, and you can build a backup solar generator solution that meets your electricity consumption requirements.
Solar and fossil fuel generators are two of the leading options for home backup power, but solar comes out on top. You can store the clean, renewable power that you generate in your portable power station — and with the sun as an energy source, you never need to worry about running out of fuel or rising petrol costs.
Solar is the best choice for the environment, your energy consumption needs, and — in the long term — even your pocketbook.
EcoFlow has a range of solar generators equipped to provide what you need efficiently and effectively, with best-in-class technology at an affordable price.