I think if you’ve stumbled upon our site and you’re reading this, you probably know fullwell what a solar generator is. You may refer to them as a “portable power station” or know them more by brand names, such as Goal Zero or Jackery.
If this were a conversation with friends and customers, the typical response we'd receive (after that momentary facial expression where the eyes light up with surprise and delight) is “Oh cool. You guys make those?”. Which we respond with, “We have made them, and you can too.”
Nomatic Supply was founded on the notion that power is personal, and we place a high value on empowering our customers to build systems that meet their specific needs. That’s not to say that there’s no place in the market for pre-built do-it-all systems like those mentioned above. (We’re the little guy here, after all...they are the market.) With the right knowledge though, you can save hundreds of dollars and get something that has a better battery, better componentry, and meets your specific use needs.
Let’s dive into that, starting from the basics.
A solar generator is essentially a self contained DC power station. Everyone is familiar with gasoline powered generators or natural gas generators. A solar generator is the same thing (and so much more), but it uses a battery, such as our Nicolet Power System, for fuel instead of gasoline or natural gas. Like their gasoline counterparts, solar generators can come in various shapes, sizes and capabilities.
The unit itself can be sized to fit your needs, but also upfitted with the componentry to fit your equipment and application. (This is where the prebuilt box may be doing you a disservice. I’m not going to dive into that kind of comparison here, but be on the lookout for a future ramble.)
Below you will find a list of the parts in our own DIY solar generator. This monster powered our fun in Kentucky for over four days and still had 50% of the battery's capacity left.
- A battery
- A fuse panel
- Switch Panel We liked this one because each switch is a 15amp breaker.
- A battery monitor Best or Budget
- 12v Outputs
In addition, you may also find:
This is meant to be an example of what you could put in your box rather than a checklist of what should be in your solar generator.
We generally recommend that if you’re going to build your own solar generator, identify your needs, procure your equipment, and then identify your box or mounting solution. If you think you’re going to cram a 300AH battery into a shoebox with an inverter, fuse panel, connectors, and all the wiring, you’re probably going to be looking for Plan B really soon...also, don’t use a shoebox. Don’t compromise on your needs to fit everything into a particular space unless, of course, space is your most limiting factor. If that’s the case, you may need to work backwards to determine what you really need in the box vs what can be housed outside the box.
There are many, many, many cool things that you can do with portable power. Like all technology, you need to carefully consider your options, and buy the best product that meets your needs and fits within your budget.
Let us know how we can partner with you. Afterall, Power is Personal.
MARK & AJ