It’s a great time to buy a solar generator

I’ve been interested in solar generators for a long while, but very few of them ever felt worthy of specific comment. Many of them historically boasted of running laptops, TVs or coolers, but their constrained outputs made them incapable of powering kettles, washing machines or air conditioners. CES 2024 has shown that the industry has moved beyond those limitations, with newer units capable of fulfilling the promise inherent in their names.

Take the new , the company’s flagship whole-home backup, which can pump out 7,200W. The company claims the unit is strong enough to power a three ton central air unit, one of the most demanding appliances in the home. Plus, because it’s a modular design, you can add up to three of these units to the same home for a cumulative output of 21.6kW — and, with enough batteries, a total storage capacity of 90kWh.

Solix, Anker’s big battery division, was here at CES showing off its new portable power station. The company moved into the but even something designed to be wheeled around is shorn of the older limitations. The F3800 can pump out a peak of 6,000W – a figure you can double if you buy two – enough to add juice to an EV in a pinch. And, best of all, it’s currently available to buy for $3,499 which, depending on how much solar you pair it with, should mean payback considerations are less than five years.

Jackery, which has been a name in this market for a long while, will sell you its 2000 Plus, complete with two 200W solar panels, for just $3,300. That small unit, if you use the right accessory, can be wired into your home’s breaker box and similarly has a surge peak of 6,000W. It’s not quite as muscular as some of its competitors, but the low cost means that it’s hard to argue against if you’re looking to dip a toe into this world.

Cost for solar panels and batteries have fallen dramatically in the last few years, with reporting that the cost of a panel has dropped from $2.32 per watt in 2010 to just $0.26 per watt in 2022. reported that lithium ion battery prices have fallen from $780 per kWh in 2013 down to $139 per kWh in 2023. And it’s this that has enabled this surge in home battery uptake.

Emma Ross, who heads up communications for Jackery, says that customers are drawn to these falling prices. She added that, second to cost, the plug-and-play element of the gear is key, offering “the perfect combination of convenience and environmental friendliness.” The low cost and ease of installation means these systems “require less investment than other, larger solar options,” making it a “less intimidating” way for wary neophytes to get involved.

Nick Bowers, head of business development at EcoFlow in the US, says that consumers are frustrated with the domestic energy market. He claims rate increases, natural disasters, power outages and climate change have all driven people toward buying solar gear. “The pain points pushing people toward renewables,” he said, “will only grow more acute,” with users looking to “be less reliant on the grid.”

And the solar industry writ large is gearing up to address a surge in demand expected to come as these prices fall. Eric Villines, head of global communications at Anker, says that the only roadblock right now is the fact most homeowners aren’t investing in storage alongside their solar gear. “In 2022, only ten percent of installed home solar systems in the US included energy storage,” he told Engadget, “preventing homeowners from securing protection against blackouts.” To address this, the company surveyed users and found most were either put off by the high price, or didn’t even know that it was a viable option for them.

Which is why the knock-down prices on hardware the likes of which we’ve seen at CES 2024 is hopefully going to address some of those issues. After all, whereas some of this gear would have cost tens of thousands of dollars a few years ago, they’re now less than half that price. Perhaps these units will serve as a gateway drug to investments into more expansive whole home batteries further down the line. And that’s a good first step towards our bigger, and hopefully brighter solar future.

We’re reporting live from CES 2024 in Las Vegas from January 6-12. Keep up with all the latest news from the show here.

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