Solar vs Generator – Which One is Better?

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Last updatedLast updated: February 03, 2021
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The solar vs generator battle is not something that is new. However, if you are thinking about living off the grid or traveling, it becomes important for you to know the answer to the debate. Our lives have become intertwined with technology, which is seen in the fact that we cannot leave the home without our devices. If you need your phone, laptop, tablet, and appliances like an AC unit, fan, or coffee maker, then you need to have a reliable source of power whenever you need it.

One of the most popular ways of getting power is through the generator. However, solar power has become one of the increasingly popular ways of getting power in and around the home in cases of emergencies. Which of the two is the better option? And why? In this post, we will consider the two options to see which one offers you the best features. We will delve into the pros and cons in this in-depth review.

Solar Power

The benefits of solar power will help us to see whether it is the right source of power for you.

Pros of Solar:

Let us have a closer look:

  1. Clean Energy

There is an increased focus on clean, renewable energy today. Due to human actions, the earth is more polluted than ever before, and there is concern about the use of energy sources that are not renewable, and that do not contribute positively to the environment.

In terms of clean power, you will be hardpressed to find any other source of energy as good as solar power. Clean energy is the most important pro of using solar panels. Apart from the obvious benefit of zero emissions, solar panels are also noiseless and harmless to the environment.

  1. Free Power

Solar vs Generator - Which One is Better?

Another advantage of using solar panels and solar energy is that you don’t have to refuel it or spend more money after you have installed it. They are free to run. The energy from the sun is free of charge and isn’t regulated by anybody that can charge a fee. Hence, once you have bought and set it up, you don’t have to pay anything else, on the contrary you can even earn money, especially with solar systems.

Cons of Solar:

Although this source of energy has several advantages, there are also downsides. Let’s consider some of the downsides to using solar energy.

  1. Long Charge Time

To use the solar panel at night, you must ensure that the panels are charged. And charging is one of the biggest flaws of solar panels. It takes a relatively long time to charge solar panels. Therefore, if your RV or home has appliances that use plenty of power, for example, if you have an air conditioner or a heater, solar energy might not be adequate for your needs.

The energy that the solar panel will produce is severely limited to the size of the panels and the number of panels that you can fit on the roof.

  1. Reliant on weather

We have said how pleased we are that solar energy only needs the energy from the sun to function and give you power. While that is great, it can be a problem if there is consistent bad weather that keeps the sun hidden away. When this happens, you would be unable to charge the batteries. And without charging the batteries, there is no way that you can have power. You certainly do not want to go on a trip and find yourself stranded without any power.

  1. Cost

In the advantages of the solar panel, we talked about how economical it is, so it might be somewhat confusing that we list the cost as one of the reasons why we don’t fancy this source of power. Well, solar panels are rather expensive when you first purchase them. The initial costs of these panels are usually high, which can be a drawback for some.

Some of the things that you need to spend money on, apart from the panels themselves include a long cable for charging, a charge controller, and a battery to supply power to your appliances.

Generator

The benefits of using a generator are enumerated below.

Pros:

  1. Quick Charge

Well, if the generator needs any form of charging, you best believe that it would be fast, at least faster than what you’d get from a solar panel. To charge the battery quickly, you can simply run the battery charger off the AC output of the generator. This would quickly charge the battery safely.

  1. Direct running

Another advantage of the generator is that it runs the appliances directly. With a generator, there is no need for you to first charge the battery.

If you have appliances that use up plenty of power, running them on a generator is better. Appliances like an air conditioner and a coffee maker are better used with a generator instead of solar energy.

  1. Independent of weather

One of the drawbacks of using a solar panel is that it is rendered useless when the weather is consistently bad. With bad weather, it would not charge the battery. You don’t have to worry about that when you are using a generator, no matter whether propane or any other. The ability to use a generator in all kinds of weather is the biggest advantage that this energy source has over solar energy.

Cons:

  1. Fuel Consumption

Solar vs Generator - Which One is Better?

Well, generators need fuel to run. They consume fuel. Therefore, not only do you have to put up with the initial cost of the generator, but you also have to continuously provide fuel before it can run. This can make it more expensive in the end than your solar panels.

  1. Pollution

As these consume fuel, they burn the fuel and will produce emissions. The emissions are certainly not good for the environment. Apart from that these also produce a fair amount of noise. However, it should be noted that the amount of noise that is generated by the generator depends on the model of the generator. There are some models on the market that are relatively quiet. Nevertheless, despite the relative quietness, these still will make a noise.

This is one of the reasons why some places like national parks and other public spots do not condone the use of generators. Even if they did, they set a time limit on when and how long it can be used for.

  1. Size

Another downside of using generators is that they come in a bulky shape and are even heavy. Generators generally weigh between 13 to 30 kilograms, which can be a hassle to move around. Apart from the weight, the size means that it might take up room that you don’t have in your home or your RV.

As in the noise aspect, you can find generators that are compact and lightweight and specifically made for those that is going camping.

Solar Vs Generators

Now that we have considered some of the pros and cons of the two sources of power, which of them is the better one? In this section, we will see how they compare in some important categories.

  1. Emissions & Restrictions

It is reasonable and safe to say that out of the generator and solar sources of power, solar energy is the best for the health. It is a friendly option for the environment. For one, no fumes are produced when you use a solar panel system. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about the impact it might have on the environment or your health.

Contrast that with what you get from using a generator. Generators burn fuel and give by-products like carbon monoxide which is highly harmful to your health. Some of the things this fume can cause include nausea, suffocation, dizziness, headaches, and cancer. You certainly need to keep that in mind if you are thinking about getting a generator.

So, in terms of the effect on your health and the environment, a solar panel is certainly a better option.

  1. Cost

When choosing a new source of power, it stands to reason that you consider the cost of your purchase. When it comes to the cost, the two sources of power have an upfront cost that depends on the size.

Well, most people prefer the lower cost of buying a generator. It is cheaper to purchase a generator than to buy solar panels.

However, there is a catch. A generator runs on fuel, so you will have to think about how much fuel you will have to buy over time. You certainly do not have that worry with a solar panel.

Another thing that you should note is the cost of service. Generators require more servicing than solar panels. With the solar panel, you don’t have to worry about always keeping an eye out for maintenance.

  1. Capability

If the appliances that you have in the caravan use plenty of power, then getting solar power might be a waste of funds. The solar panel is often not powerful enough to cater to these appliances.

On the other hand, generators are built to provide more power. It will help you to handle all the power needs of your caravan or RV. And as the efficiency of the solar panel is highly dependent on the weather, you need to take all of that into account.

Final Thoughts

So, what do we think about the solar vs generator argument? We believe that the best way to use these two sources of power is to combine them. When the weather is great, you can use solar panels to charge the battery at no cost. If you need to run appliances that need plenty of power or the weather is bad, then you can switch to the generator. Reviews indicate that the Ecoflow EFDELTA model is an excellent solar generator that can power your devices. As for a generator, Champion Power Equipment 76533 is an excellent unit with a good power rating and engine capacity.

You can choose whether to go for solar, generator, or the two depending on your power requirements.

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