There will be times the power goes out and a generator comes to save the day. They are also great for supplying power for off-grid homes, farms, worksites, RV and other off grid out of power situations.
There are two types, and in this guide, we want to break down the difference between a gas generator and solar generator. They all do the same thing but different in design. We are here to help you decide which one to use and why one over the other.
Learn more below:
How Do Gas Generators Work?
Gas generators converts gas energy through motion into electrical energy. The process is very similar to the mechanics of a car.
- Injects fuel and air into combustion chamber
- Piston compresses the mix
- Spark plug ignites the fuel
- Crankshaft spins the generator rotor in an electromagnetic field to generate electric current
Why Use A Gas Generator?
Consistent and Reliable: The amount of energy available from a gas generator is stable, making it a reliable choice for your power needs.
Fast & Ready To Go: As long as the gas is filled it’s ready for use in no time.
Higher Power Output: Gas generators can be found with far higher ratings for wattage output than solar generators to keep household appliances and AC system running until primary power returns.
Uses an Unclean Fuel Source: Produces outdoor air pollution: ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and sulfur dioxide (SO2).
Costs More For Frequent Use: It’s like your lawn mower, every time you use it, you gotta buy gas. It’s great for short term use, but absolutely not a good deal for long term use.
Noise: It’s loud, and may not want to turn it on all night in your neighborhood
Difficult to Move and Set Up: Weighs about 45-50 lbs, hard and cumbersome to carry period
How Do Solar Generators Work?
A solar generator does the same thing as the gas generator, however it uses solar energy instead of fuel. Once the generator is charged with power, it can be detached from a solar panel and acts like a battery.
It consists 3 parts in a compact package that’s easy to carry around:
- Deep cycle battery
- Charge controller
In simple terms:
- The solar panel collects sunlight and convert it into Direct Current energy stored in the battery bank
- Charge controllers prevent your batteries from being overcharged by limiting the amount and rate of charge to your batteries.
- The inverter converts DC power into AC power for various appliances use..
Why Use A Solar Generator?
A solar generator provides many benefits to the off-grid user. Below we have listed a few of the most notable advantages and disadvantages of using a solar powered generator.
Longer Overall Lifespan: An average solar generator will last 55,000 hours (or 25 years at 6 hours per day) in comparison to the much shorter lifespan of a gas generator which on average lasts only 2,500 hours (about 1 ½ years at 6 hours a day).
Requires Practically No Maintenance: While the gas-powered generator requires annual maintenance, solar panels require no maintenance outside of an occasional dusting for optimal photon absorption.
Basically Free Energy: Collects sunlight energy and you’re ready to go. Yes! it’s that simple
Power Without Noise or Air Pollution: Solar generators run silently and have no exhaust or runoff.
Dependent on Sunlight: Without the sun or if you have stored it away for some time, it’s not going to be ready when you need it for an emergency.
Takes Time to Charge: Solar panels act as a trickle charger for your battery bank and takes time to charge. This slow charge time can be problematic when you want it right now and it’s not ready.
Requires BMS: Excessive heat can be ruin the battery, causing corrosion or even catch on fire. A BMS (battery management system) or charge controller is needed to monitor and protect the battery from operating outside of its safe temperature range.
Gas generators are the lower priced investment. A portable solar generator with a built-in inverter and BMS that is capable of outputting 1,800 watts of power paired with a 100-watt solar panel will cost around $1,000 total. A portable gas generator capable of putting out 1,800 watts of power will, on average, cost about half that amount.
The cost of running a gas generator adds up quick for long term use because it eats gas and you gotta pay for it. On the other hand, solar collects energy from the sun basically for free.
Gas generators require annual maintenance around $150-$200 based on usage. In comparison, solar generators require no annual maintenance.
Frequency of Replacement
We learned earlier that a solar generator has a much longer lifespan than a gas-powered one. Based on data presented earlier in this article, you will purchase a whopping 20 gas generators for every one solar.
What Size Generator Will Supply Enough Power for My Needs?
Calculate the size generator you need by calculating the wattage of the appliances you use on a daily basis. As a rule of thumb:
- A backup home generator should be a minimum of 5,000 watts.
- An RV generator should be around 2,000 watts if planning to run all systems entirely off of the generator.
- A 500-watt generator being used as a backup power source for an RV (lights and basic devices) would likely suffice.
Do You Need a gas Generator if You Already Have Solar Power?
Solar generator is a good choice to have, but it takes time for it to charge and it has to be prepared before use. The gas generator is ready to go as long as the gas is filled.
If you are in a hurry, a gas generator is the way to go.
While you don’t need a generator to supplement your solar system, it can be useful. As explained above, solar is reliant on available sunlight to produce energy. While a sufficiently sized battery should be able to get you through a two- or three-day stint of bad weather, an extra generator on hand doesn’t hurt.
Can a Solar Generator Power a House?
The short answer is, if the solar system is set up properly with all of the needed components.
There’s many situations where it’s better and more beneficial to use solar power to power your entire house, but in some situations, it can end up costing you more than you would’ve spent on electricity bills.
Learn more here about power a house with a solar generator