DIY Solar Generator with Renogy 100 Watt Solar Suitcase (50ah/100ah and Great for RVs!)

Using Our Solar Generator to Boondock/Drycamp in Bridger-Teton National Forest Across from the Gran Tetons.

Using Our Solar Generator to Boondock/Drycamp in Bridger-Teton National Forest Across from the Grand Tetons.

What is a Solar Generator?

Do a search on Amazon and you will find a bunch of "Solar Generators" such as the Goal Zero Yeti, Ecoflow, and Renogy. Except for the Renogy Phoenix, most of these are just basically battery packs with USB ports and an inverter(for small AC devices) in a nice package that can be charged by a solar panel.
We purchased a cheaper PAXCESS PA100W unit about a year ago to use mostly as a USB charger for camping trips and other extended outings. We did use the AC plug to run a small fan for a few hours once.

*Disclaimer: Most if not all links on this page will be Affiliate Links. It doesn’t cost you any more to purchase through them, but it does help us to pay for things like website hosting and more tech & gadgets to write about.

GRUCORE 151Wh Portable Generator Power Station 40800mAh CPAP Battery Pack with 110V 150 Watt AC Inverter, DC12V, DC 12V, USB Ports
  • Powerful AC, USB and 12V outputs keep all your devices charged up: Whether you’re looking to keep iPhone, iPad, laptop, DSLR camera charged up, or running lights, CPAP machine and Small appliances
  • EASILY RECHARGED FROM SUN, WALL OUTLET OR CAR: No matter where you go, keep portable generator charged through 3 easy ways: Simply use the included AC adapter from wall outlet to charge up the generator in 7-8 hours. On the go, use 50w solar panel to charge it from the power of the sun and works as a portable solar generator(The compatible solar panel is sold separately). Lastly, charging while on-the-road is easy with the included 12V car charger cable.
  • Clean and portable power, no gasoline required: Since there’s no gasoline required and no toxic fumes, The generator is completely safe to use inside your house, tent, and car. It’s also silent which makes it the perfect generator alternative to have on hand for any event; only weights 3. 3lbs and ideal size for traveling, Fits perfectly in the backpack or backseat on long road trips.
  • Safety: Battery management system (bms) undertakes voltage control, temperature control and more advanced safety operations, ensuring complete protection for you and your devices.
  • 100% SATISFACTION : At , your satisfaction is our first priority, that's why we offer you 100% satisfaction . If you are not satisfied with your purchase within 45 days, you can return with 100% money back. No hassles, no question asked. If your generator failed within 1 year time, we will send you brand new replacement. 100% Risk Free.
Renogy 246.24Wh/150W Portable Generator All-in-one 20W Built-in Solar Panel for Outdoors Camping Travel Emergency Off-Grid Applications, Phoenix Kit, Black
  • The Phoenix is an all-in-one portable solar power system specifically designed for mobile, off-grid applications and is ideal for emergencies
  • This compact, lightweight back-up system combines highly efficient Renogy 20W Mono-crystalline Solar panels and can expand up to 100 watts with additional paves
  • The Phoenix can be charged by solar, AC power, or car power and comes with a 17. 1Ah li-ion(neck) Battery
  • The included 17. 1Ah li-ion(neck) Battery, giving the capability of limitless power. Charging temperature range 045C°
  • Minimum inverter efficiency: 80 percentage, max Continuous Output power: 150W, Output AC Frequency: 60 Hz
EF ECOFLOW River Portable Power Station Generator 412Wh 114000mAh High Capacity 500W Output Max Quiet Rechargeable Emergency Power Supply 11 Charging Ports with Padded Carry Bag Black
  • PORTABLE POWER STATION: The RIVER is a silent, lightweight lithium ion (Li-on) battery portable generator weighing just 11 lbs, but delivers 412Wh (114000mAh) of power.
  • 11 POWER GENERATOR OUTLETS: Power up to 11 devices at the SAME time - (2) USB Quickcharge 2.0, (2) USB, (2) USB-C Type, (2) AC Outlets, (2) DC Outlets, and (1) 12V Car Port.
  • PORTABLE SOLAR GENERATOR: At EcoFlow we also have a product line of solar panel kit. Pair the RIVER with EcoFlow Solar power generators/solar panels (not included) to create a solar backup generator when you head off the grid. The extreme solution as portable generators for camping, perfect camping generator in the market.
  • BATTERY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM: The battery holds a charge for up to 1 year, and the advanced, smart tech regulates safe and efficient charging for your devices. Recharge fine with car battery, ultimate mini generator portable solution is here!
  • VERSATILE USE: Ready for home, camping, emergency power source or commercial use - take the RIVER to camp, a photo shoot, for your RV or camper, and it can also be for portable CPAP power.

Last update on 2024-04-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Without solar, you can charge these units from your house AC or car DC and then take them with you. Since they have AC outlets on them you can run smaller devices like a fan or charge your laptop. Some of these also have 12V DC Outlets so you can plug in and run car accessories that use the cigarette lighter plug.

Most of these units have a basic solar charger built-in and can be charged from a solar panel with the right cables. This is where they are getting their name "Solar Generator" from.

What sets them apart?

As you can see from the few samples above, the prices can range from a little over $100 upwards to over $3000 for the Goal Zero Yeti 3000.

The main difference between them will be battery size and type. A larger battery will let you run devices longer but this will also usually come at the expense of a heavy unit. Other features to look for are how many and what types of charging ports it will come with. (The Yeti 3000 weighs 68lbs and comes with a detachable roll cart!)

If you are looking to run AC powered devices, pay attention to how many watts the unit can output. The little PAXAcces can only do 100 watts. The Ecoflow can output 500 watts and the Yeti Goal Zero 3000 can output 3000 watts!

Watts = Volts X Amps

Look at the AC device you want to power and it should have an amp rating on its power adapter. Take that number and multiply it by 110 to get its approximate watts usage. If you are planning to run multiple AC devices on a regular basis, add their watts usage together to see what size solar generator you need.

Units with Lithium batteries will be lighter than units with SLA(Sealed Lead Acid) batteries. Lithium batteries will also last longer(aka more charging cycles).

Another measurement you will see these units listed with is Watt Hours. What is a Watt Hour? It is a measurement of power over time. If you run a 100 watt light bulb for 4 hours that equals 400 watt-hours. If you had a 500 Watt-Hour rated solar generator, you could run that 100-watt light bulb for 5 hours before running the battery out. (Note: while it's generally ok to run Lithium batteries down to 90%, SLA(Sealed Lead Acid) batteries should not be run down more than 50% or else you start to dimish the battery's capacity). Goal Zero goes into a deeper explanation here:

Later on, when we are looking at building our own Solar Generator, we will be talking battery capacities. Deep Cycle batteries are rated in Amp Hours(AH). To convert to Watt Hours, just multiply by 12. For example, a 12volt 50ah battery would equal 600 watt-hours or capacity.

What about Solar Panels?

As mentioned earlier, you can charge these "Solar Generators" at home or in your car and then use them for a couple of hours (or days depending on the size) until the battery runs out. For example, many people use these Solar Generators to power CPAP machines while tent camping. This is also a great way to power a fan if you are tent camping in the Texas Summer!

But what if you need the extended use of your Solar Generator? Simply add the right sized solar panel and you can get a "free" recharge of your batteries from the sun! That's right, just about all of the Solar Generators for sale do NOT come with Solar Panels!

For our project, we picked the Renogy Eclipse 100 Watt Solar Suitcase for ease of portability, but there are many choices out there. Check out a fe woptions below:

Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Portable Solar Panel with Waterproof 20A Charger Controller, Foldable 100W Solar Suitcase with Adjustable Kickstand, Solar Charger for Camping RV Off Grid System Power Station
  • 【SMALLEST IN SIZE】The Renogy Eclipse solar panels using SunPower solar cells, allows higher efficiency and minimized panel size, provides more flexibility for outdoor and off-grid use, easy to carry, store and set up.
  • 【Plug and play solar kit 】complete kit includes a 100W solar suitcase, a 20A waterproof charge controller, and alligator clips. Compatible with multiple kinds of 12V batteries, easily add to your existing system.
  • 【Incomparable efficiency】Renogy Eclipse solar panels using SunPower solar cells with high efficiency of up to 24% compared with the majority of solar panels falling in the 18% to 21% efficiency range.
  • 【Safety guarantee】Advanced smart PWM technology charge controller with multiple protections, ensure charging efficiency and safety.
  • 【Reailable quality】coming with a premium rugged canvas protective case, low iron-tempered glass contributes to the added durability and long-lasting quality of the panel.
HQST 100 Watt 12Volt Off Grid Monocrystalline Portable Foldable Solar Panel Suitcase with 10A Charge Controller
  • HQST 100W monocrystalline solar suitcase is a plug and play system.
  • Solar Panel with Charge Controller is the key component to a system when going solar Off -Grid system. These panels are relatively compact and are a breeze to set up. Whether you are going camping in the mountains or taking a trip to the beach, this panel can be a great start to your off-grid system! This panel has several uses including marine, dry camp, RVS and other off-grid applications.
  • The charge controller is optimized for a 12V/24V system; Deep Cycle Sealed (AGM), Gel and Flooded battery option ready. Smart 4-Stage PWM charging (Bulk, Boost, Float, and Equalization) and temperature compensation increases battery life and improves system performance. Intelligent protection against reverse polarity, overcharging, short-circuit, and reverse current.
  • The 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Portable Solar Suitcase is an entire solar power system incorporated into a single, compact package. This solar suitcase includes two 50 Watt Monocrystalline Solar Panels, one 10 Amp Charge Controller with an LCD Screen for power regulation. The 100 Watt Solar Suitcase will make charging on the go as easy as 1-2-3!
  • The HQST 100W monocrystalline solar suitcase is integrated with highly efficient Monocrystalline panels, sturdy aluminum stands, and a handy traveling bag, making this a perfect portable solar system.
ACOPOWER UV11007GD 100W Foldable Solar Panel Kit, 12V Battery and Generator Ready Suitcase with Charge Controller
  • Solar Panel Kit: 2 pieces of foldable 50W high efficiency Grade A monocrystalline solar panels with 10A charge controller, can work as a battery ready kit or a generator ready kit or BOTH
  • Capable Solar Panel Kit:charge generators with MC-4 connectors, charge 12V Car or Marine batteries (Sealed, GEL, Flooded) with the alligator clips; or both at the same time. Additional solar panel (Max 40w) could be connected by MC-4 connectors to charge battery faster
  • Portable and Easy Setup: with pre-installed stands, the PV kit does not need separate mounting brackets; weight: 33.1lb and size: 19.69 x 25.6 x2.9 inches; comes with a protective suitcase, you can take it wherever you want and set up in 1 min
  • Designed with Details: corner protectors, Anderson plug, MC-4 connectors, Junction box with diodes, handle, latches, fuse, carrying bag/suitcase; aluminum frame for solid and lightweight structure; from design to packing, every detail is our effort for you to have reliable green power
Renogy Flexible Solar Panel 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Semi-Flexible Bendable Mono Off-Grid Charger for Marine RV Cabin Van Car Uneven Surfaces
  • [Extremely Flexible] This flexible solar panel is capable of meeting a wide range of applications where standard panels can be inconvenient to mount, such as on the curved roof of an airstream
  • [Ultra Lightweigh] Thanks to advanced polymer materials, these flexible solar panels weighs 70% less than conventional solar panels, making transportation and installation a breeze
  • [Super Thin Lamination] Hardly noticeable, the Renogy flexible solar panel 100 watt laid flat is only a tenth of an inch tall. Approximately 95% thinner than its rigid counterpart, this panel is ideal for a stealthy solar setup
  • [Highly Durable] Rigorously tested, the 100W solar panel flexible was designed to withstand extreme wind of up to 2400 Pa and snow loads of up to 5400 Pa
  • [Potential Uses] The renogy flexible solar panel can be primarily used on off-grid applications that include marine, rooftop, RV, boats and any curvy surfaces

Last update on 2024-04-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Build a DIY Solar Generator vs buying a Pre-made unit?

Goal Zero Yeti 400 Lithium Portable Power Station, 428Wh Rechargeable Generator and Backup Power Source with 300 Watt (1200 Watt Surge) AC inverter, USB, 12V Outputs
  • 428Wh lithium portable power station can power up to 7 devices at once (39,600mAh at 10.8V/119,000 at 3.6V)
  • Continuous 300W, 1200W surge pure-sine wave inverter, 2.4A USB ports, 120W 12V ports
  • Charge phones, tablets, laptops, cameras, and most small devices. Provides power for small appliances, lights, CPAPs and more
  • Recharges from AC or pair with a solar panel (sold separately)
  • Designed and engineered by power station experts with a US-based customer service center
Anker PowerHouse, Compact 400Wh / 120000mAh Portable Outlet, Generator Alternative Rechargeable Power Source with Silent DC/AC Inverter, 12V Car/AC/USB Outputs for Camping, CPAP or Emergency Backup
  • The Anker Advantage: Join the 10 million+ powered by our leading technology.
  • Portable Power: Off-grid power supply for camping or emergency backup, capable of powering lamps, phones, laptops, TVs and even mini fridges. PowerHouse boasts triple output modes: a 12V car socket, an 110V AC outlet (for devices up to 120W) and 4 fast-charging USB ports.
  • Remarkably Compact: PowerHouse is possibly the smallest and lightest 400Wh power supply on the market. A high-density lithium-ion battery allows for a more compact build than that of lead-acid power packs.
  • Safety Guaranteed: Battery Management System (BMS) undertakes voltage control, temperature control and more advanced safety operations, ensuring complete protection for you and your devices.
  • What You Get: Anker PowerHouse (434Wh Portable Power Supply), 10ft / 304cm AC adapter, 2ft / 60cm Micro USB charging cable, welcome guide, our worry-free 18-month warranty and friendly customer service.

Last update on 2024-04-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Great question that has a few reasons WHY and maybe a reason or 2 why you would NOT build your own DIY portable power station.

Cost - A Goal Zero Yeti 400 Portable Power Station, 400Wh Battery Powered Generator Alternative with 12V, AC and USB Outputs costs about $400 (The Lithium version is about $600)

Here are the parts I used to build my Goal Zero Yeti 400 equivalent (this DIY system actually has 420 watt-hours of capacity)

Keyko 35ah GEL Battery $78

(Keyko Batteries seem to be currently unavailable on Amazon but you can get a Mighty Max Battery 35AH U1 Deep Cycle AGM Solar Battery for $67)

MinnKota Trolling Motor Power Center $50

Quick Charge 3.0 Car Charger 12V/24V 36W Waterproof Dual QC3.0 USB Fast Charger Socket $18

Giandel 600W Modified Sine Wave Inverter 12V DC to 120V AC 20A Solar Charger $45

Core Tools CT126-LS-B Black Push Button Waterproof Switch $7.25

Suaoki Car Battery Charger 4 Amp 6/12V Fully Automatic $35 (I haven't actually purchased an AC to DC charger yet and have been solely charging from the Solar Panel for the last few months!)

My total parts total about $233 but add another $50 to $70 if you want or need to run a Pure Sine Wave inverter. So let's say $300 total. That is $100 cheaper with a little more capacity, but what are the other advantages and disadvantages to DIY vs pre-made Solar Generators?

Packaging - Pre-made Solar Generator Wins!

Look how nice that Goal Zero Yeti is packaged up vs my DIY! Nice and neet with cool led displays.

Warranty - Tie

With a DIY, there is no single source for your warranty but on the other hand, if one piece of your DIY Solar Generator fails, you could easily replace just that one part. Let's call this a tie.

Education & Learning - DIY Solar Generator Wins!

I have been building this project with my 10-year-old, explaining to him what each piece does and how we convert 12v to 110v. I have also learned a lot myself! We have a 33ft RV and plan to add solar to that in 2019.

Expandability - DIY Wins!

With my current Minn Kota battery case, I can easily add another 35ah battery and double my capacity. This would only cost me another $90(with cables) and now I would have an 840 watt-hours capacity system(although it would now be another 23 pounds heavier). You can also add external batteries to a Goal Zero Yeti, but you would have to carry it separately which would be less convenient.

Easy To Build

Starting with the Minn Kota Trolling Motor Battery Case make this build pretty easy. That case includes two 12v cigarette lighter ports. I added a Dual USB QC 3.0 Charging Port with Volt Display to mine. Most of my needs are 12v and USB so I don't always need the 120V Inverter. Put your battery in and connect the positive and negative cables, charge it up and you're ready to go!

Not shown in these pics, but I do have an on/off switch wired to USB QC Charger to save some battery when not in use.

I did use the modified sine wave inverter on a recent tent camping trip to inflate an Aerobed(sooooo comfy). This only took about 2 minutes and the battery was back to full charge after hooking back to the Renogy Solar Panel for a few minutes. We also use the battery to run some 12v 5050 LED Light Strips.

Future Upgrades

We are currently waiting for delivery of a 50AH LifePO4 Battery. These lithium phosphate batteries are about 1/3 the weight of Sealed Lead Acid batteries like our Keyko and can charge much quicker(our Renogy Solar Charger supports the LifePO4 charging profile). We will update this post once we have had some time with the new battery.


Our new Suncycle 50ah LifePO4 battery arrived and it is currently soaking up the sun (charging). It weighs about 10 pounds less than the 35ah Keyko Gel we took out and there is easily room for one for to make 100ah total.

The cost for this new 50ah LifePO4 battery was about $270 and we now have 600 watt-hours.

LiTime 12V 50Ah Lithium LiFePO4 Battery Built in BMS, 10 Years Lifetime 4000+ Cycles Output Power 640W, Perfect for Boat Marine Trolling motor Camping
  • 【5 Times Faster Charging】LiTime 12V 50Ah LiFePO4 lithium battery has 640Wh energy and 100% DOD (12.8V×50Ah×100%DOD=640Wh ), which is close to the real energy of 12V 100Ah lead-acid battery (12V×100Ah×60%DOD=720Wh), as the depth of discharge (DOD) of lead-acid is about 60%. It means 12V 100Ah lead-acid battery can run an 80W load nonstop for 9hrs while 8hrs as our 12V 50Ah battery can. And it takes 10-20hrs to fully charge a 100Ah lead-acid battery while 1-2.5hrs of our battery.
  • 【Top Protection & 8 Times Lifespan】LiTime 12V 50Ah LiFePO4 battery is made of automotive grade LiFePO4 cells, which has higher energy density, more stable performance & built-in BMS. Compared with the 200-500 cycles and 3-year lifespan of lead-acid battery, LiTime battery has more than 4000 deep cycles and a 10-year lifespan, which means that the lifetime of one of our 12V 50Ah LiFePO4 battery is equivalent to the total lifetime of 3-8pcs 12V 100Ah lead-acid batteries.
  • 【95% Efficiency】LiTime LiFePO4 battery’s flat discharge curve holds above 12.8V for up to 95% of its capacity usage, providing astronomical boosts in run-time compared to only 50% in Lead Acid. This product is your best choice for outdoor camping power and indoor easy installation.
  • 【4 Times the Value for Money】LiTime 12V 50Ah LiFePO4 battery ensures you 5-year warranty while the best-selling lead-acid battery is only 1 year. In terms of lifetime use, the value of our 50Ah battery is almost 4 times than 12V 100Ah lead-acid battery.
  • 【1/6*Lightweight & More Flexible Applications】LiTime 12V 50Ah LiFePO4 battery has an extremely lightweight of 11.57lbs, only 1/6 of a 12V 100Ah lead acid battery (about 60lbs), and a 10-year-old child may be easy to tow or move. Meanwhile, LiTime battery has various connections in parallel (max. capacity of 200Ah) and series (Higher voltage of 24V, 36V, 48V), it’s ideal for home back up system such as security devices, lights, solar and outdoor activities like boat, camping, trailer, etc.
ExpertPower 12V 50Ah Lithium LiFePO4 Deep Cycle Rechargeable Battery | 2500-7000 Life Cycles & 10-Year Lifetime | Built-in BMS | Perfect for RV, Solar, Marine, Overland, Off-Grid Applications
  • Trusted by Industry Professionals and Installers: With a proud legacy of 36 years in the industry, now our LiFePO4 batteries have earned widespread adoption across various industries, endorsed by professionals and installers alike. Selling over a million batteries and over 80 Megawatt-hours of energy every year and growing, our track record speaks volumes about our product's reliability and performance.
  • Unmatched Cell Technology: Our LiFePO4 batteries are crafted using state-of-the-art cells, setting a new standard in battery design. Our cells recently ranked #3 globally in shipping by volume. Held to the highest standards and quality checks, our cells make our batteries outshine the rest. Our LiFePO4 batteries provide 4000 to 7000 cycles & a 10-years expected lifetime compared to others in the industry.
  • Cutting-Edge BMS for Superior Battery Performance: With our proprietary Battery Management System (BMS), precisely optimized to complement our specific cells, you can expect maximum useful life and unparalleled battery protection, ensuring years of uninterrupted enjoyment. Our industry leading built-in Battery Management System (BMS) protects the battery cells from overcharge, deep discharge, overloading, overheating, low-temperatures and short circuits.
  • Unparalleled Resilience through Rigorous Testing: Our prismatic cells undergo rigorous testing across a multitude of conditions: from puncturing, to fire, short circuit, and even high impact damage, our cells are tested against all types of damage, providing outstanding resilience and the peace of mind you deserve.
  • The Expert Promise: Experience Hassle-Free Purchasing with Our Unwavering Warranty and World-Class Tech Support: When you choose our LiFePO4 batteries, rest assured of a seamless and reassuring buying process, backed by our exceptional warranty and dedicated technical support.

Last update on 2024-04-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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