Whole-house Solar Generator Systems Comprehensive Guide

A whole-house generator supplies power to your entire house in the event of a power outage. This can be a lifesaver during a storm or other emergency when the power is out for an extended period of time.

A solar generator has the added advantage of recharging using solar power which adds to another advantage. Through the lessons of natural disasters where people lost access to power, access to roads, and even gas. Solar generators gained more importance as they could continue to provide power in extreme circumstances as the sun will always shine.  

In this article, we take you through the development of solar generator technology, how to size your system, choosing to buy the best one to fit your needs and different solar generator systems configurations.

Evolution of the Solar Generator 

There are various types of solar configurations; Grid-tied systems, off-grid systems, and hybrid systems that combine the two. We’ll cover these in detail later in the article but all three have an option to configure a solar backup system. 

A solar backup system also called a solar battery bank designed to supply power to the home when a power outage occurs. Solar energy from the panels is fed to the battery through a charge controller, from the battery it goes through an inverter that powers your appliances. 

As batteries became smaller through the use of AGM and later Lithium batteries, charge controllers, and inverters became more efficient, these components were combined in a box to create a power station that could be recharged using solar panels. 

The name solar generators came to be because of the similar look to inverter generators. But a solar generator is not the conventional type of generator. For it to qualify as a generator it has to have some dynamo mechanical movement that is converted to electrical energy. However, it will power your appliances all the same as with generators it has an inverter rating and it does produce electricity. 

What Size Solar Generator to Run a Home?

In order to size your solar generator, you’ll need to add up your power requirements. The wattage of every appliance is indicated on the nameplate. Take every appliance in your home take the Wattage and multiply by how long you use the device. This will give you the Wh requirements for your solar generator. Be sure to also take into consideration the surge watt rating of the devices vs the running watts.

According to the EIA, the average power consumption in a typical household is around 893 kWh per month or shy of 30 kWh per day. To match this consumption to a battery you will need around 1,250 ah battery to run a house, that’s around fifteen 200 ah batteries. Even the Tesla Powerwall only comes to around 13Kwh and costs more than $10,000. Quite a lot and expensive endeavor. However because we are looking at a backup, you will only be powering your most critical appliances. This includes refrigerator, lights, laptops, and maybe through in a coffee maker once in a while. For this setup, you won’t need as much power. 

ApplianceWattage (Watts)Running Time Watt-Hours
Refrigerator200 Watts8 hrs1600
5 LED Lights 25 Watts10 hrs  250
Laptop60 Watts5 hrs  300
Coffee Maker (Single Cup)600 Watts10 mins  100
Hair Dryer1250 Watts10 mins  208
Microwave1000 Watts12 mins  200
  Total2658 

Just to run the essential items in a home you will need around 3000 Watt-hours a day.  The best thing about a solar generator is that it can be recharged using a solar panel so you can use the high wattage devices early in the morning so that you can recharge the battery pack during the sunlight hours. 

To completely run a house off a solar generator you’ll have to run it like a camper reducing unnecessary appliances, replacing some with 12v appliances, and running only your critical loads off your solar system. You can also combine a battery back with a solar generator. 

Our Recommendation: The Best Solar Generator for Home

Our Recommendation is the EF EcoFlow 1260Wh with an 1800 watt running watt rating and 3300 surge watts Inverter. The best thing about the Ecoflow is that you can recharge it from 0 to 80% in one hour with 400W Universal Solar input.  

Features

  • 6 Pure Sine Wave AC outlets
  • USB ports
  • Standard DC ports
  • Portable

Portable Solar Generators (Quick Guide)

Unlike having portable chargers, you will still be needing a straight power source for power-ups. Even indoors, solar generators will always come in handy and useful as well. Most of the solar generators will only just power up a house for a pretty shorter time, but if you want larger power-ups you can just typically find yourself a bigger or larger generator for boosts.

The solar panel gathers and harnesses the energy that the sun emits, and stores this energy in the battery(Lithium Battery Bank) that can be used later on. It also has an inbuilt Sinewave Inverter that allows AC Power to be produced and used safely with your devices.

The key details that are very important in a portable solar generator are portability, component quality, battery storage capacity, balanced system design, and solar PV input.

Portability

The mobility factor must be given utmost importance. A portable power station is a great energy solution for families who love camping or staying outdoors. These handy and small portable generators can be a great choice considering that they can function efficiently and yet do not take up a lot of space. Some generators are designed like a briefcase which makes handling and moving a lot easier.

You can use them on travels and long trips wherein your batteries may not sustain in terms of power. There is only one thing that you will ever need, and that is the sun. There are also smaller versions of the solar energy generator which are typically very lightweight and can be assembled easily as well. It can also be taken anywhere you want to. Their ability to be very portable makes them very popular and are used widely by travelers and energy enthusiasts.

Component Quality

Quality and durability are TWO essential components that you should find in a portable solar generator. The generator must not only be handy but it should also pass all the set quality standards to ensure its efficacy and reliability. Never go for a cheap one that does not guarantee the best quality and performance. For example, an MPPT controller gives a better performance than a PWM controller for many reasons.

Battery storage capacity

An effective portable generator must have ample battery storage which allows the owner to use it even during times of limited sun. Always follow the battery recommendations or better yet, do your own research through portable generator reviews so you can have an idea of the ideal storage capacity of the battery.

Balanced system design

The important combination for a balanced design for the generator system should have the following factors: solid PV input, usable storage capacity, and as well as an applicable inverter rating. The components of the solar generator must complement each other so it will function at its best level. Having a balanced system design will ensure that the generator will last for a good amount of time which will give you the best value for your money.

Solar PV Input

Solar generators must have the best solar panels; otherwise, the purpose of the device will only be rendered useless. Buyers should also stay away from solar panels that lack efficiency and take a lot of time to charge especially during winter and cloudy days.

Identify where you are going to use the solar generator, so you can choose which size you will need. If you typically have a node of how much energy you will need, you can actually talk about this with the technician so they can recommend it for you. Larger generators will typically cost you more, so do not settle on the cheaper ones, go for the great brands, and ask for the durability of the product as well.

There are so many kinds of generators, it is best if you also have one mini generator for your gadgets and other smaller devices where you can bring it anywhere you want. If you’re fond of camping and you want power while you’re out in the wilderness, you’ll find that investing in a portable solar generator is a smart strategy.

There are three different types of Solar Generators depending on configurations:

  1. Solar Rooftop System (Grid-tied System for homes)
  2. Battery System (Off-Grid and Grid-tied System)
  3. Hybrid System
  4. Portable Generator (Home and Outdoors)

Grid-tied Whole House Solar Generator

Solar Panels produce electricity through a reaction between light and the materials that solar power cells are made of. This reaction causes the flow of electrons which in turn produces energy in the form of electricity. An “on-grid” generator ties directly into the regular electric lines of the local utility company.

One benefit of this approach is that you will never be without power since you will be using both solar and conventional electricity. Each system backs the other up. Other benefits include that with this approach there is comparatively less maintenance required and that in many states you would be able to effectively “sell” excess electricity (back to your utility) that you produce with your solar generator.

Grid Tied System

To maximize the energy production of the solar panel system, the panels need to be installed where they are exposed to a good amount of sunlight. This is the reason why the rooftop is an ideal location. Your home must have a very large and sunny roof with a 30-degree pitch.

However, if your roof does not meet this criteria, you also have the option of installing the panels on the ground. Nevertheless, the most ideal conditions are not needed and in fact you do not have to live in a sunny area.Solar power generators can range in efficiency from just a few watts to power lighting and other auxiliary appliances to thousands of watts to power every appliance that you need.

How Many Solar Panels do I need for My Roof

This will be based on your current energy usage. You can find that out by looking at your power bill which should tell you how many kilowatts you have used in the last month. If it does not, do not hesitate on calling your power company and they will give you all the details you will need. It will only take a few minutes to get that done.

To give you an idea, here are some typical household items and their approximate wattage requirements: cell phone – 5 watts, clock radio – 8 watts, laptop computer – 20 watts, table lamp – 40 watts, 18 cubics foot refrigerator – 120 watts, desktop computer – 200 watts, microwave oven – 1000 watts or more. As you can see, the size of the device points you in the right direction in terms of wattage requirements most of the time, but some items need a surprisingly high amount of watts to run. 

Once you get that done you will then be able to decide how many solar panels you will need to install to meet that energy requirement. If you’re interested in solar installation for your home or business you could be on the way to making some great savings.

Plus, you’ll be helping the environment at the same time. To get the most out of your investment though, you’ll want to ensure that your solar installation goes as smoothly as possible.

Hooking up to solar power generators gives you the option of connecting to the electrical grid as a backup or being off the grid and fully dependent on solar power. You do need to check with local regulations on what is best for you in terms of connection. Permits and approvals will need to be taken especially if you are living in a community and are part of a homeowners association. Commitment to being fully reliant on solar power will mean that you need a dependable storage system for your power needs.

How Much Will the System Cost? 

Costs to install full systems of solar power generators will greatly vary on your location and energy needs. You can expect to spend a couple of $1000s so that the system can provide for your whole house. This includes the entire system of solar panels, inverter and batteries.

The best systems are custom-designed systems to fit your specific needs. Some of the considerations are the size of the home or building, is it used year-round, how many people live there, what types of power draws; water pumping, air conditioning, Jacuzzi, appliances, etc.

Off Grid Solar Generator

This system is completely independent of conventional utility lines. All electric power used will come through the generator or its battery. While this system is more expensive and may involve more maintenance, sometimes it is the only choice. This is especially true in very rural areas or other properties that do not yet have standard electric lines in place. But other times it is simply a personal choice.

If you happen to live in a place where utility-generated power (electricity from the power company) is either unavailable or too costly to hook up to then stand-alone solar cell systems are often best.

How it works

Several components are involve to ensure the system works effectively.

how solar works

The sun shines on the PV Array producing direct current (DC) electricity.

The charge controller receives this electricity, it also controls the flow to the batteries to prevent overcharging damage.

The batteries receive the DC electrical energy and store it.

The Inverter converts this DC power to AC.  The power from the inverter is then connected to your house breaker box from there it goes into your home.

Stand-alone solar cell systems have several advantages that make them suitable for these jobs. First, they produce energy where and when it is needed. Second, small systems are easy to transport and install. And solar cells (PV modules) only require an occasional inspection and cleaning.

Hybrid Back up Systems

So if you see the value in being immune to energy disruptions and not being so dependent on the utility companies then it makes perfect sense to install backup power for your home or business. A solar backup power system is designed for when power outages occur, they kick into gear and start supplying your home or office with power so you can live your life without disruptions. In this system energy flows from the Panels to a battery, once the battery is full excess power generated is can be fed to the grid .

Typical kits include some variation of three main parts. They are the solar panel(s), the battery bank, and a charge controller. The charge controller regulates the flow of energy into the battery. Since the amount of the sun’s energy reaching the solar panel can vary by the minute it is important that the flow of power going into the battery remain reasonably constant or else the battery can be damaged.

Another option with a generator kit is to build your own from scratch. The basic parts you would need to acquire individually might include a solar panel, charge controller, 12-volt battery, 12-volt cigarette lighter adapter, and a 100-volt inverter. This system would provide power to both AC and DC devices, and would cost much less than a pre-manufactured model.

Science Behind the Generation of Solar Power

Solar panels are what is used to generate solar power as they have photovoltaic cells the common name being solar cells and when they are arranged in a pattern on a grid surface they collect the energy. Silicon is one material used in solar cells and when the solar energy falls on these solar panels the energy generated knocks lose the electrons and then they can be free to flow.

The current then is an electric field and the free electrons flow in that direction. Contacts of metal have to be put in place on the bottom and top of the solar cells to draw this current for use externally. The cell made from silicon known as the single-crystal is one solar cell to consider.

Properties of different chemicals are in silicon in the form of crystalline. There are 14 electrons in one atom of silicon and they are set in shells of 3 varieties. Two shells being the inner ones are joined to the nucleus and then are full as the outer shell has 4 electrons.

Then there is an outer shell which is short 4 electrons and the silicon atom will be looking for ways to fill up that last shell. To complete the outer shell the 4 electrons will be shared with the near silicon atoms and this process forms a crystalline. This explains crystalline silicon but pure crystalline silicon is such a poor conductor as all the electrons are locked in.

In order to have the solar cells conduct more, there are some impurities put into the silicon in order for the solar cells to work properly so these impurities help in this process. An atom of silicon has 5 electrons in its shell which is the outer one. Phosphorous is free and there is 1 electron in phosphorous so that when the silicon atom bonds with its neighbors the phosphorous is then freed.

When the heat or energy is also added to this most of these electrons will then go free too so then there are many free carriers produced. This process which takes place when you add impurities is named doping and when the doping of phosphorous into the silicon atom takes place then and only then will the silicon which we will get is then called N for negative or N-type because of the free electrons domination which takes place.

The solar cell then has this N-type but to get another part of the silicon atom it is doped with some boron and this has 3 electrons instead of 4 in the outer shell of it in order to turn it into P-type silicon. P is for positive where the other one was negative and this P-type actually has free holes.

When you put the N-type and the P-type silicons together and the free electrons from the side of N so then this requires someplace for the holes to fall into so the free holes on the P-type side and then they rush in to fill up the hole. This then completes the field of electricity which in turn makes our cells of solar power work.

Solar Power Generators Vs Gas Generators

So let’s compare this system to a generator that’s powered with gasoline. The problem with typical gasoline-powered generators is that they run on gas. If you’ve been to the gas pump lately you’ve seen how prices are creeping up. So it costs money to run these generators.

The second drawback I think you’ll agree is a big nuisance is that generators are very loud. And if you’re ever in a situation where the power goes out and you don’t want people nearby hearing that you do have power while they don’t then you’re at a disadvantage. Maybe a bit too survivalist in thinking, but it’s a consideration for some.

The next drawback is that once the gas in the tank runs out, and then your power is disrupted till you can refill the tank. And if you don’t have enough gas on supply, then guess what? No power for you. Obviously, if your power is out, then the local gas station probably won’t be able to provide gas as it’ll be shut down too.

Used Portable Gas Generators

The next thing to consider is that gas-powered generators leave a significant carbon footprint. In other words, they pollute the environment. If you have a solar backup power system installed, then you have an advantage because you still get the electricity you need without the loud noise, there’s no need for gas, and there are no gas fumes to breathe.

Another advantage of a solar backup power system is that it has a long life span – twenty-five years without any down take – with little to no maintenance. It’s a no-brainer; it just makes sense to invest in a solar backup power system. It pays for itself in spades. However, there are some cases where you can combine a gas generator with a solar generator.

Solar Energy Benefits to the Environment

Solar generators offer several advantages not only to people but also to the environment where people are living and roaming around. First, solar generators are reliable sources of electrical energy during electrical power interruptions. No one will have their operations disrupted with a solar generator in hand.

Second, solar generators are very valuable in places where electricity is rare. Third, which is very essential, is its environment-friendly nature. Solar generators pose no harmful effects to the environment because they simply make use of the natural energy coming from the sun.

Solar generators aren’t the main sources of electrical energy. They are merely alternative resources of electrical energy. Yet, their presence keeps businesses and homes ongoing and without any interruptions that may cause hefty inconvenience or loss of revenue. Not only that. Utilizing the free sunlight saves you money in ways that are not harmful to the environment. By utilizing solar generators, you are in a way saving the environment.