A solar generator is a device—usually working alongside solar panels—that provides essential automatic backup power to your home when you need it the most, like during power outages.

But it can be confusing because there isn’t just one type of generator. They range in type, style, brand, size, and function. Generators have a huge lineup that offers a wide range of coverage to suit your needs, so let’s talk about them and see if we can’t give you a little clarity about solar generators, how they differ from other generators, and some key information that may help you decide whether or not to buy a solar generator.

What are the different types of generators?

Good question. There are three main types of generators that we feel are the most prevalent to residential homes, and those are:

Portable generators

Inverter generators

Standby generators

What’s the difference between each type of generator?

Portable generators are exactly what they sound like—a generator that’s portable, meaning one you can use on the go. Normally powered by gas, diesel, propane, or a hybrid of each, portable generators are basically made up of an engine, a fuel tank, and alternator. The benefit of a portable generator is that you can take it around with you when you need to power your electronic devices outside of your home (camping, tailgating, boating, or social distancing at a park). This doesn’t mean you can’t use a portable generator to backup power to your home—you can do whatever you want—it just means you can also use a portable generator for times when you’re not at home as well. If you do use it at home, the downside of the portable generator is that you have to manually turn it on when you need to use it, but that’s pretty easy to do.

Inverter generators are similar to portable generators in their core components (engine, fuel tank, and alternator), except they are also connected to an inverter. Just like with a solar energy system, the inverter takes the DC current and changes it back to AC current. Inverter generators also have the benefit of generating more stable, cleaner energy, and (here’s the kicker) some are even portable. So, an inverter generator can also be a portable generator, but they’re usually meant to help you provide backup power to your home during times when you need it most, like when the power goes out.

Standby generators are not portable. Usually, run on propane or natural gas, standby generators are installed outside of your home and will automatically kick on once your power goes out. When the power is back on, your standby generator will detect the reinitiated power and automatically return to standby mode until it detects the next power outage. Standby generators are more permanent and require a more complicated set up than an inverter generator or a portable generator, but having one means you don’t ever have to manually set up your generator to cover your power needs when an outage occurs.

So, what is a solar generator?

Solar generators are also portable but don’t include the moving components. They are essentially made up of an inverter, solar panels, a solar panel battery, and a battery charger. The solar panels on a solar generator capture energy from the sun and store that energy in a battery that is built into the generator. The inverter then takes that energy and converts it from DC power to AC power before releasing it. Once released, you can use the energy to power various household appliances and/or electronic devices when they need them most, such as during a power outage.

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