Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

This solar generator gave me a tiny, sweet taste of living off the grid

Published Jun 10th, 2021 7:02PM EDT
jackery solar generator review
Image: Jackery

If you buy through a BGR link, we may earn an affiliate commission, helping support our expert product labs.

Maybe it’s the fact that I spend so much time reading and writing about technology, but every few months I let myself fantasize about what it might be like to leave all of it behind and live off-grid for a while. There are endless ways to disconnect, and you can go all-out or land somewhere in the middle. One of the easiest ways to feel a bit more freedom is to provide yourself with your own sustainable source of power.

Many newer homes are built with things like solar power and geothermal heat in mind. Reducing or eliminating your reliance on various forms of infrastructure is not only liberating but can also be great for the environment. Unfortunately, I’m in no position to build a new off-grid home or even move to a little cabin in the woods, so when Jackery reached out and asked if I wanted to try one of the company’s solar generators, I said heck yeah.

Jackery sent me their new Solar Generator 1500 package, which includes the Explorer 1500 portable power supply and 4 of the company’s own 100W SolarSaga portable solar panels. It’s quite a package, and while you wouldn’t be able to power your entire house with just one of these things, it’s capable of some surprising feats.

The Explorer 1500 has a claimed 1,488 watt-hour capacity. That’s a lot, and it’s enough to run. A modern refrigerator, for example, uses roughly 130 to 150 watt-hours of power per day, once it’s up and running, and a washing machine needs around 250 watt-hours to complete a cycle. Some other appliances like clothes dryers and air conditions use considerably more, but as a source of backup power, a fully-charged Explorer 1500 would keep your fridge cold and your gadgets charged without issue.

You can buy the Explorer 1500 unit separately and charge it using a home power outlet and save it for backup power, but the biggest draw of this package is obviously the solar charging. Using the quad solar panels on a bright day can charge the battery to 80% within four hours, the company says. I don’t have a way of verifying those exact claims, especially since those numbers are likely ideal conditions, but I did find that the battery was replenished rapidly when all four panels had a clear view of the Sun.

To test it out, I tasked it with powering my garage and attached shed. It handled a half dozen lights, a small refrigerator, and tools I was using. I had it recharging battery packs for my cordless leaf blower and drills, running a large blower fan, and recharging my pone on top of that. It provided plenty of power for my Saturday, and after making sure the solar panels had a good angle on the Sun, I went inside for a couple of hours in the late afternoon. By the time I came out, it had boosted itself back up and was almost fully charged again.

If I were ever going to really test myself by living off-grid and wanted to reduce or totally eliminate my reliance on the electrical grid, I’d definitely need something like this. Probably several of them, actually. For now, though, it gave me a small sampling of what that might be like, and it was pretty awesome.

Jackery offers several possible use cases for the solar generator package, including camping, remote work where power tools are needed, and as a backup energy solution if the power goes out. Based on my time with the hardware, I can safely say the solar generator would be incredibly useful for all of these scenarios.

I’m especially keen on trying it on a long camping trip, as it would make life a lot easier to not have to rely on a vehicle or a bunch of small backup batteries to keep everyone’s smartphones or laptops up and running. The main unit and the solar panels are very portable, and while the battery weighs over 30 pounds, being able to charge it wherever the Sun is shining makes it worth its weight for any outdoor excursion.

One really awesome bonus that isn’t immediately obvious is that each of the solar panels can actually be used independently. Each panel has two charging ports, one for USB-A and one for USB-C, allowing you to bust out a single panel to charge your phone, tablet, or other devices when the Sun is out without needing to pull out the battery. If you need power for multiple gadgets at once, the trio of AC outlets, dual USB-A ports, single USB-C port, and single 12V car outlet on the Explorer 1500 should have you covered.

At a package price of $2,699, the solar generator package isn’t cheap, but when it comes to stuff like this you tend to get what you pay for. The solar panels and battery unit are versatile, easy to use, surprisingly powerful. Power is something that most of us really can’t live without, and if you’re a lover of the outdoors, a contractor that needs an outlet wherever they can find it, or just a homeowner that wants some peace of mind, it’s an investment you’ll be happy you made.