How Does a Solar Generator Work?

Solar generators are becoming increasingly popular thanks to innovations in solar panel efficiency and the new ultra-safe LiFePO4 battery options. Technological improvements have also brought falling prices, making them even more appealing. 

Unlike petrol or diesel models, with these, you use clean, limitless energy from the sun that produces no greenhouse gases and releases no toxic fumes. As such, they’re so safe you can even use them indoors. 

If you’ve ever wondered what exactly a solar generator is and how it works, we’ll explore everything you need to know.

What Is a Solar Generator?

A solar generator isn’t a generator in the traditional sense. Instead, it’s a battery and battery management system with standard wall outlets, USB, and even DC outlets to provide power for appliances, devices, lights, and anything else you would use a generator to supply power for. 

Unlike traditional generators that run on fossil fuels, producing carbon dioxide and numerous toxic fumes, solar models generate clean and carbon-free electricity when attached to solar panels, also called photovoltaics, that charge the battery. 

How Does a Solar Generator Work?

Solar generators use photovoltaic panels that capture photons from the sun. The semiconductors within them, usually silicon, release electrons in the process. Those electrons then flow in one direction through the panels as DC (direct current) electricity. 

That DC energy then flows from the photovoltaics into a portable power station (PPS), which contains a battery that gets charged by the energy produced by your photovoltaics during the day. The PPS includes a built-in inverter and other balance of system (BOS) components, which help efficiently convert the DC electricity in the battery into the AC (alternating current) electricity that most of your appliances and devices need to run. 

From there, you can plug your appliances directly into the PPS to run them or connect them to an EcoFlow Smart Home Panel for easy integration into your household electricity; that way, your appliances can remain plugged into the wall outlets.  

Solar Generator Components

When purchasing a photovoltaic generator for your home, it’s important to understand the essential components they should contain.  


The battery stores the DC energy that your photovoltaics produce during the day when the sun is shining. It’s then available to use at night or during stormy weather when your panels are not performing at their optimum capacity. 

Different types of battery chemistries are available (more information on this below), and they come in a wide range of capacities, so you’ll have no problem finding one to suit your needs. 

First, you must calculate your energy usage to determine what size of generator you’ll need to run all your essential appliances, factoring in how long each appliance runs each day. Then, choose an appropriate capacity. Choosing more capacity than necessary or an expandable system is a good idea in case your energy needs increase. 

For example, the EcoFlow DELTA series Solar Generators offer 1-6kWh capacities that are robust enough to run any household appliance. Thanks to their expandable capacity, allowing you to add extra batteries, you can get up to 25kWh of electricity, more than enough to run large households with high energy demands. 

The bonus of these PPS is that they’re still portable enough to pack into your motorhome to run your fridge or portable AC, allowing you to travel comfortably. 

However, suppose you’re looking for a PPS with a smaller, lightweight battery that you can carry with you hiking, fishing, or out for a day on the beach. In that case, the EcoFlow RIVER 2 series comes in 256Wh – 768Wh capacities for a lightweight but powerful model. 

Charge Controller

A charge controller is a necessary component that regulates energy as it travels from your photovoltaic panels to your battery. It prevents electrical surges that could damage your battery, optimising its performance and ensuring a long life span. This should always be included with any quality PPS.


The inverter is essential to convert the DC electricity stored in your battery into the AC electricity necessary to power most household appliances and devices. Any new PPS will already have this built-in, so you don’t have to worry—your electricity will be ready whenever needed. 

What’s the Difference Between a Solar Generator and a Petrol Generator?

The main difference between a solar and a petrol generator is simply the type of fuel they use. Petrol models run on petrol, but they’re loud and produce numerous toxic fumes, making them unsafe to bring indoors. They also weigh more and need constant refuelling and regular maintenance. 

A solar model uses clean, limitless energy from the sun, which is converted into electricity via photovoltaic panels. Since they produce no toxic fumes, bringing them indoors or inside your motorhome or tent is perfectly safe. They’re also much lighter and ultra-quiet and require almost no maintenance other than occasionally rinsing dust off your photovoltaics. 

What Are the Benefits of Choosing a Solar Generator?

Going solar has numerous benefits over traditional petrol and diesel generators. 

Low Maintenance

Since they run on power from the Sun, there are no moving parts to maintain or break down on you. Your LiFePO4 batteries require no maintenance like older lead-acid models, and all your photovoltaic panels may occasionally need is a rinse to remove dust buildup or bird droppings. Just plug them in and use them; that’s it.


Solar is the best option if you want to buy a portable generator. Even though petrol or diesel models are also portable, they weigh significantly more because they contain internal motors and heavy liquid fuels, requiring additional jerry cans of fuel to refill them. 

Clean and Safe Energy

Unlike petrol and diesel, photovoltaic-charged PPSs produce no toxic fumes. This means in addition to producing carbon-free and pollution-free energy that’s good for the planet, these can also be safely brought inside your home, motorhome, or tent without worrying about toxic fumes harming you, your family, or your pets.  Since they don’t produce the heat that fossil fuel models do, they’re also better to run during extreme heat or other extreme weather events. 

Limitless Energy

With a solar PPS, you can go off-grid camping for weeks or months without having to go back into town to fill up a jerry can. When you pack your EcoFlow 400W portable solar panels with you and charge your PPS using free, limitless energy from the Sun, you’ll never run out of power.

Multiple Charging Options

One of the bonuses of a solar PPS over a traditional generator is that most can be charged using AC electricity via a standard wall plug if necessary. If multiple charging options are especially important to you, you could get an EcoFlow Smart Generator that can be hooked up to photovoltaics but can also run on petrol or propane, giving you versatile charging options. 

Solar Generator Battery Types

Several different battery chemistries are available for these generators. Let’s discuss the four main models and some of their advantages and disadvantages. 


Due to their low upfront costs, deep-cycle lead-acid batteries were the leading choice for many years. However, they typically have very poor charge cycles, often only getting between 200 and 500 charges before starting to lose capacity. Better quality AGM and gel models can get more, but they’re more expensive and still don’t compare to the newer options. They also off-gas toxic fumes. 

The cheaper models with liquid electrolytes are prone to leaking if they tip or experience strong temperature fluctuations, which will corrode anything it touches. They also have a shallow depth of discharge before their performance suffers, and they require trickle charging, topping up their liquids, and other maintenance to achieve peak performance. They’re also incredibly heavy compared to most other models.  

Nickel-cadmium (NiCad)

Nickel-cadmium batteries were an early alternative to lead acid that has been around nearly as long. They function better than lead acid in extreme temperatures, require much less maintenance, and aren’t prone to leaking. Before the lithium models were manufactured, these were the high-end alternatives with twice the energy density of lead acid; they also weighed less and got more charge cycles. 

One major drawback is that their cadmium is highly destructive when extracted from the environment. It’s also extremely toxic in its disposal phase, where it must be kept out of the waste stream and handled by professionally trained recycling centres.  

Lithium-ion (Li-ion)

When lithium-ion came out in the 1990s, it changed everything. They boasted a much higher energy density than lead acid or NiCad, so you could get much more power in a smaller package. They also last for 2000-3000 charge cycles before their capacity starts diminishing, and they can be discharged nearly completely without ruining the battery. 

The problem with older lithium-ion models is they’re more prone to thermal runaway, which can occasionally cause fires or explosions, mostly due to improper handling, storage, or charging with the wrong cords.   

Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP/LiFePO4)

LiFePO4 batteries are quickly becoming the gold standard in solar power thanks to their superior safety over all other models. They produce no toxic fumes, contain no heavy metals like cadmium or cobalt, and aren’t prone to thermal runaway like their predecessors. They also have better charge cycles with 3000 or more charges before losing capacity. 

Since their energy density is nearly the same as lithium-ion, they’re also lightweight and highly portable without sacrificing capacity. As their popularity has soared, they’ve recently dropped significantly in price. 

Even though lead-acid is still cheaper, when you factor in that you would have to replace your lead-acid model 3-5 or more times before replacing your LFP model just once, those initial savings would cost you enormously in the long run.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Worth Getting a Solar Generator?

With the falling prices, the need for clean energy alternatives, and the superior performance and safety of new LiFePO4 batteries, getting a photovoltaic generator is definitely worth it. You can use it for travelling, backup power, or even go off-grid and eliminate your electricity bills altogether. 

Final Thoughts

Solar generators are a fantastic investment that’ll supply you with clean, green energy: no more running to town to get more petrol or diesel. All you do is plug in your photovoltaic panels and harness limitless energy from the Sun. They’re low-maintenance, highly portable, ultra-quiet, have multiple charging options, and are incredibly safe, even indoors. 

You can get small portable models like EcoFlow’s RIVER 2 series to pack hiking, fishing, or going out for a picnic with your family. Or, you can get a more robust but still portable EcoFlow DELTA model that’s powerful enough to run portable ACs and refrigerators. They’re even expandable, enabling them to have enough capacity to power large homes with high energy demands, allowing you to eliminate your electricity bills completely. 

With all the advancements in photovoltaics and batteries and the declining prices, there’s never been a better time to invest.

EcoFlow is a portable power and renewable energy solutions company. Since its founding in 2017, EcoFlow has provided peace-of-mind power to customers in over 85 markets through its DELTA and RIVER product lines of portable power stations and eco-friendly accessories.


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