Solar generators, like gasoline and natural gas generators, are fantastic backup energy sources when a home’s primary power source fails. They’re also a great addition to RV rigs equipped with solar panel systems. But can you keep a solar generator running continuously?
You can keep a solar generator running continuously if your power consumption is lower than your solar power input. Solar generators rely on batteries and solar panels to continue operating. The generator will fail if you consume all the stored power in these batteries.
In this article, we’ll discuss whether you can keep a solar generator running continuously and explore the factors impacting a solar generator’s ability to provide power. Keep reading to discover how to access consistent solar energy via a generator!
How Long Can Solar Generators Run Continuously?
Solar generators can run indefinitely with access to stored or active solar power. So, when a solar generator is connected to batteries or solar panels that consistently output energy, they can run continuously for months or years.
Like standard gasoline-powered generators, solar generators require a fuel source to continue operating. This “fuel” is solar energy, gathered via solar panels and stored in solar batteries.
As long as a solar generator has access to stored energy (via batteries) or active solar energy (via solar panels), it can continue to provide electricity to solar power systems in homes and RVs.
However, several factors can impact your solar generator’s ability to operate continuously.
Factors Impacting a Solar Generator’s Ability To Operate Continuously
If you plan on utilizing stored solar energy to power your recreational vehicle or home, you might be tempted to run a solar generator continuously. But a solar generator can fail over time, leaving you without power.
Essential factors affecting a solar generator’s ability to run indefinitely include:
- Power consumption
- Battery capacity and quantity
- Solar energy input
- Generator size
Let’s explore these factors to discover how they can lead to solar generator failure when a generator is run continuously.
If you’re consuming more power than you’re generating, the solar generator will eventually run out of energy and fail.
Solar generators are essentially complex solar batteries. They require energy input from batteries or solar panels to function. When they don’t have access to these energy sources, or when their energy input sources produce less energy than the generator outputs, they fail.
For this reason, power consumption is the most vital factor impacting a solar generator’s ability to run continuously.
Determining your average power consumption can be challenging, making it tricky to determine how long you can run a solar power generator continuously.
Fortunately, there are resources and devices you can use to gauge the electricity you use daily.
Determining Household Power Consumption
Are you looking to keep a solar generator running continuously in your home? Fortunately, you can reference your electricity and utility bills to determine your household’s average power consumption.
Based on this average consumption rate, you can calculate how long a solar generator can power your household’s appliances and electronics, with or without supplementary battery power sources.
Determining RV Power Consumption
Although an RV’s battery helps power the engine, most RVs require external or additional power sources to consistently run kitchen appliances, air conditioning or heating units, and electrical devices like televisions and laptops.
RV parks and RV-friendly campgrounds offer visitors access to power outlets to help with charging. Still, many RVers choose to install portable solar power systems in their recreational vehicles to reduce reliance on these external (and often costly) power sources. Nevertheless, the capability of a solar power system to continuously power an RV varies depending on the relationship between power input and power consumption.
To run a solar generator continuously in an RV, you must ensure that your energy consumption is consistently lower than your energy input (the power you get from your solar panels and batteries).
To determine your RV’s power consumption and prevent your portable solar generator from failing, you can invest in an electricity usage monitor. Plug each of your RV’s appliances into the monitor to gauge daily watt consumption. Although this method takes time, it can help provide you with a close power consumption estimate.
The P3 P4400 Kill A Watt (available on Amazon.com) is one of the most popular monitoring devices for RVers. It connects to the power outlets in your RV and features a standard AC socket that allows you to plug in appliances directly into the monitor.
This device can generate power use estimates for virtually all of your RV’s electrical appliances, and you only need to add these estimates together to create a daily, monthly, or yearly consumption estimate.
From there, you’ll have an excellent idea of whether running a solar generator continuously in your RV is possible.
Battery Capacity and Quantity
Because solar generators rely on power from batteries or solar panels to function, the capacity and quantity of your solar batteries can significantly impact the runtime of your generator.
Adding more batteries to your solar power setup increases the power storage of your system, and high-capacity batteries can store more energy than low-capacity ones. Using these can make it possible to keep a solar generator running continuously.
The Power Queen 12.8V 200Ah LiFePO4 Battery (available on Amazon.com) is a fantastic example of a high-capacity solar battery that can increase the maximum runtime of your solar generator.
This battery can power the average laptop for more than two days when fully charged. It’s one of the most efficient solar batteries available, with a clean output that reduces wasted energy and ensures you’re getting the most out of your stored solar power.
You can connect these batteries to your solar system’s maximum power point tracker (MPPT) and inverter for direct access to power or connect them to your solar generator to power your RV or home.
In short, the more high-capacity batteries you have connected to a solar generator, the greater the likelihood of running the generator continuously.
Of course, these batteries can’t store energy without an active solar energy input. Considering your energy input is just as crucial as increasing your energy storage.
Solar Energy Input
The number of solar panels your solar power system utilizes can significantly impact how much energy your solar batteries can store. Consequently, your system’s solar panels directly impact your solar generator’s maximum runtime.
The more solar panels you have connected to your solar batteries, the more energy you can generate to keep your generator running. However, ensuring consistent energy input from solar panels is not always possible.
Several things can reduce your solar panel’s efficiency and decrease your maximum energy input. These include:
- Cloudy weather
- Dirt on the solar panels
- High temperatures (heat build-up)
And while you can clean your solar panels to boost their efficiency, you won’t be able to control the weather. As a result, a solar generator might fail to run continuously during long bouts of cloudy or hot weather, even when connected to several high-capacity batteries.
The size of your solar generator can also impact its ability to run continuously. It’s crucial to consider generator size when selecting a model that can potentially run indefinitely.
For example, suppose you’d like to invest in a solar generator to power your home during power outages or keep your RV’s appliances powered on. In that case, you’ll likely want to choose a large model with a comparatively high power output (3,000 watts or more). Otherwise, the generator might struggle to keep up with your energy demands.
Larger solar generators generally have a higher power capacity and output, making them far more capable of providing continuous power, especially when energy consumption is consistent.
The EF ECOFLOW DELTA Pro (available on Amazon.com) is an excellent example of a high-capacity solar generator with an above-average power output. This device offers a 3,600-watt output with a maximum potential output of 25kWh when connected to batteries and/or supplementary generators.
It features an easy-to-read backlit display screen that allows users to monitor power input and output, and it’s equipped with USB and AC power sockets for powering crucial devices, including smartphones and laptops.
Benefits of Running a Solar Generator Continuously
Most solar power generators are built for short-term emergency use. While these devices can run for long periods when their power output is lower than their power input, should you run a solar generator continuously?
In most cases, running a solar generator continuously won’t damage the generator or your solar system. Besides, running a solar generator for several days, weeks, or even months can be beneficial, especially when living in an RV or camper van.
The two most significant benefits of running a solar generator continuously are:
- Consistent access to electricity, and
- Avoiding generator overcharging
If you’re on the fence about operating your solar generator for short periods or allowing it to run indefinitely, you’ll want to consider these potential benefits.
Consistent Access to Electricity
Although you can power a household or RV solar system using solar panels and batteries (no generator required), having a solar generator on hand can ensure consistent access to electricity, even on cloudy days when solar energy input is low.
Because so much of our lives and livelihoods rely on electricity, this backup power source can be a lifesaver.
For example, let’s say that your home or RV’s solar batteries have run out of energy. So long as you have a fully-charged solar generator, you can access power to make emergency phone calls, use kitchen appliances, or do any other task requiring electricity.
Even though you won’t be able to run this generator continuously without a power input (from batteries or solar panels), a solar generator can provide access to electricity during sudden power outages, guaranteeing consistent access to electricity.
When running a solar generator continuously, you can also enjoy a boost in available day-to-day power, as a generator will act as a supplementary battery that helps store and output more energy to your system.
Avoiding Generator Overcharging
A fully charged solar generator is a wonderful resource, but it’s possible to overcharge a generator. If you leave your generator plugged into a wall outlet for too long or exposed to excessive power input, the internal battery in the generator can suffer damage.
This damage could significantly decrease your solar generator’s lifespan and power capacity.
One of the primary advantages of running a solar generator continuously is that you’ll likely never need to worry about overcharging, as the consistent power consumption will balance out the power input.
Of course, you could also install a solar charge controller to prevent overcharging your system’s batteries and generator.
No Power When You Need It: The Downside of Running a Solar Generator Continuously
The major drawback of running a solar generator continuously is that you’ll consume the stored energy inside it. If your solar power input is less than your energy consumption, the generator will eventually run out of stored energy and fail.
So, let’s say you run a solar generator indefinitely in your home or RV, and your solar energy input suddenly increases due to cloudy weather or a mechanical failure. In this case, your generator might not have enough stored energy to power your vehicle or household appliances.
For this reason, it might be best to rely on your solar generator only when necessary, allowing your standard solar power system batteries and panels to provide day-to-power.
You can keep a solar generator running continuously if your solar system’s energy input exceeds your energy consumption. You can use a kWh meter to monitor your power consumption, but many solar generators have display screens showing energy input versus energy output.
Increasing the number of batteries you use to store solar energy or investing in high-capacity batteries can help you run a solar generator for longer periods. Ensuring that your solar panels have access to plenty of sunlight can also help, as these solar panels will replenish the energy drained from the batteries.
- Amazon: P3 P4400 Kill A Watt
- Amazon: Power Queen 12.8V 200Ah LiFePO4 Battery
- Leonics: Basics of MPPT Solar Charge Controller
- Easy Being Green: Solar Panel Efficiency
- Amazon: EF ECOFLOW DELTA Pro
- CAMPER GRID: Average rv electric usage at campground
- ENERGYSAGE: How many watts does it take to run a house?
- ScienceDirect: Charge Controller
Share this Post