All About Portable Power Stations
The modern world is dependent on electricity. From the WiFi router to the kitchen blender, we use electrical power nearly every minute of the day. So when the power goes out, or you find yourself off grid, a portable power station (PPS) fills the gap until you return to your normal power source.
Portable power stations come in all shapes, sizes, and capabilities. There are small, solar versions to take backpacking or larger units that can run tools while working on the job site.
You may be in the market for either or both types, so we’ve put together a list of options to consider, including a DIY hack.
Are Portable Power Stations Worth It?
The short answer is, if you need it, it’s worth it. As they’ve increased in popularity and availability, the price has dropped on most types of portable power stations, making them more accessible to everyone.
How Long Does a Portable Power Station Last?
This is actually two questions in one. The first is asking how long the charge will last during use. The answer is, it depends on many factors, including the wattage of the unit. A small power pack can last around three hours, while a large unit can last several days. Those being recharged by solar can last longer.
The second question is how long will a portable power station last before I need to replace it. The answer is, it depends on the quality of the device and the amount of usage. You can reasonably expect any portable power station to last at least two to three years. Most units will function much longer--a decade or more.
What Should I Look for in a Portable Power Station?
You’ll need to find a unit that meets your needs. That means evaluate what you plan to use it for. The needs for supplemental power for a home appliance are very different from the needs to charge a cell phone or laptop.
You’ll also want to check out the features, such as how many power ports there are and what type of ports they are. Look for AC, DC, USB, and anything else you might require.
Noise level is another factor to consider. How loud or quiet is the device? Most PPSs are very quiet, but you’ll want to make sure you don’t encounter any surprises.
Power is obviously a primary factor. Will it power small appliances or power tools?
Also take into account the size and weight of the portable power station. You’ll need to store and transport it, so make sure it fits your needs.
Recharge time may also be a factor, unless the device is only for infrequent use. Even with solar charging capabilities, relying on solar alone is problematic. Solar power can extend the run time of a PPS, but it’s not reliable as the primary source of recharging.
As Consumer Reports states, when reviewing PPSs, they evaluate “runtime, power delivery, power quality, ease of use, and noise.”
What is the Best Portable Power Station?
Again, it depends on what you’re looking for. Below we earmarked several options that might do the job.
What’s the Difference Between a PPS and a Generator?
The primary advantage of a PPS is that it can be used indoors. In contrast, gas-powered generators emit toxic carbon dioxide, so they need to be kept a safe distance from the house.
You should note, though, that power stations will not provide as much power as gas generators. Also, while adding more gas to a generator will keep it running, a PPS requires recharging, which can take quite a while.
If you’re relying on a PPS during an extended power outage, you’ll be able to use it for several hours if it’s fully charged to begin with. However, unless it’s capable of a solar recharge, you won’t have power to recharge it with, making it useless as a backup power source.
How Much Does a Portable Power Station Cost?
Prices vary wildly, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $40 for a simple cell phone battery pack to over $3,500 for a large unit.
The brand has made a name for itself as a reliable power source. Customer reviews are nearly five-star across the board on Amazon.
Review sites also put Jackery at the top of the recommended list.
There are several models to choose from, each with its own features to consider.
Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 300
Starting with the smallest model, the Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 300 runs about $300 on sale. It features two AC plug-in ports and three USB options with 300 watts.
This small unit weighs only 7.1 pounds, recharges in a few hours, and can be charged using your car’s outlet when you’re on the road. It can also be paired with a solar panel.
Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 500
This is a slightly more powerful 500-watt model at around $200 more. It features one AC outlet (110V 500W 1000W Peak), three USB-A ports, two DC ports, and one car port.
Still small and compact, the Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 500 weighs 13.3 pounds and is also compatible with solar panels. The power provided can charge a laptop four times or run a television for over seven hours.
Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 1000
For around $1100, this model brings a lot more to the table. The Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 1000 has enough power to charge smaller appliances like an electric grill, coffee maker, or even a microwave. It can also power a refrigerator if needed.
Paired with solar power, the 1000 can provide nearly endless energy, and it features three AC ports so you can plug in multiple devices. It also has two USB-C, and one quick-charge 3.0 port.
The Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 1000 is still quite portable at around 22 pounds.
Jackery Explorer 2000 PRO
Double the power again with the Jackery Explorer 2000 Pro. Of course, the price nearly doubles as well. However, this model offers generous charging power for off-grid living or power outages. Plus, it still only weighs around 43 pounds.
Anker Portable Power Stations
Again, there’s a lineup here. This brand ranks high for clean, quality power. However, there have been some issues with durability. Some reviews report these models lasting a shorter time compared to similar models.
The price and features make them appealing nonetheless. Plus, they offer unprecedented warranty coverage for at least five years.
The Anker 521 Portable Power Station is the smallest option. It weighs around 8 pounds but provides 200 watts of power that can charge small devices, like a laptop or cell phone, multiple times on a single charge.
The Anker 535 Portable Power Station offers 500 watts of charging power with fast recharges and four AC charging outlets alongside three USB-A and one USB-C port.
From there, you can jump to the Anker 555 Portable Power Station with 1,000 watts and weight under 30 pounds. Power a portable fridge or fan alongside your smaller electronics.
There are also larger models, and all options can be paired with solar panels for better output and charging capacity.
GENSROCK 120W Portable Power Station
An inexpensive option for power on the go, the GENSROCK 120W Portable Power Station costs around $75 on sale. Use it for camping, travel, or to power the CPAP machine when the power goes out. It offers 150 watts of power in a compact and light two-pound design.
It offers two QC 3.0 USB ports, one USB port (5V 2.4A), one USB-C port（18W, two DC ports (12V/10A), and one two-pole and one three-pole output socket. It also has a built-in flashlight and comes with a 24-month warranty.
ROCKPALS 300W Portable Power Station
Company testing reports the ROCKPALS 300W Portable Power Station can provide power for iPhone 12 (5.4 inch) with about 28-29 charges, iPad Mini about 14 charges, 12'' MacBook (41.4wh) with about 5-6 charges, Mini car refrigerator (40W) for about 5-6 hrs, Gopro (5.9wh) about 40 charges or other small home appliances.
It weighs in at 7.7 pounds.
Westinghouse iGen200s Portable Power Station
For just over $100, the Westinghouse iGen200s Portable Power Station and Solar Generator offers 150 watts of power in a lightweight 4.3-pound design. There is an impressive number of charging port options for any device this little machine has the power to power.
It also features a flashlight and is easily light enough to use as one. The convenient LED information center provides information about battery levels and other key information.
HOWEASY Portable Power Station
The HOWEASY Portable Power Station is another budget-friendly option at around $150 for the 330-watt model or $340 for the 600-watt option. Both are highly rated on Amazon.
They are easy to charge via car, solar panel, wall outlet, or PD type-C charger. The built-in flashlight offers three settings—SOS, strobe, and standard.
EF Ecoflow Delta
This beast will take care of any charging needs. At around $3,400 it should. Still fairly compact for what it offers, the EF Ecoflow Delta will take up about a two-foot by one and a half foot space. It weighs in at 99 pounds, so the portability is questionable here, but it is equipped with wheels to make the process easier.
With a whopping 3,600 watts of power, the EF Ecoflow Delta can provide power to pretty much anything. Use it in the RV, count on it for home power backup, or use it as supplemental energy to save on utility bills.
It can be charged by your home’s solar power source or electric vehicle charging station, in addition to the standard 110v plug-in option.
As a smart device, you can monitor all your EF Ecoflow Delta activity with an App on your phone.
Can I Use a Car Battery as a Power Supply?
Yes. However, you’ll need an inverter to convert the energy.
Step 1 - Choose an Inverter
The battery works on a 12-volt direct current. However, the devices you want to power function on a 110-volt alternating current. The inverter converts the DC to usable AC.
Another obvious requirement of the inverter is to provide a plug where you can insert cords for devices you need to charge. Pick an inverter with both AC and USB ports.
You’ll be looking for an inverter that clips onto the battery terminals. Inasmuch it will be equipped with wires and clamps. Some inverters will also offer a wall plug or even a cord for use inside the car (cigarette lighter port).
Since there are different types of converters, look for one labeled as a 12-volt to 110-volt converter.
You’ll also want to achieve the right wattage. As per our discussion above, 150-watts can tackle the small stuff, but you might need 1,000 watts for bigger jobs. The battery can power either, but will last much longer at the 150-watt level.
Note that although you can convert your car battery into a charging port, it offers limited power. However, you can certainly charge a phone, flashlight, radio, or another small device.
Step 2 - Attach the Inverter
You can use the battery on your car or any 12-volt battery to have around the house. Ensure the inverter is off. Connect the black clamp to the black/negative pole on your battery. Then attach the red clamp to the red/positive post on your battery.
Alternatively, you can use the interior car plug and simply plug in.
Step 3 - Plug in Your Device
Start by making sure your device is off. Plug it into the inverter port. Then turn the inverter on followed by turning the device on.
By the way, if you need to do the process in reverse, find out How to Make a DC Battery Charger. For related information, check out How to Use Portable Battery Chargers and How to Use a Backup Power Generator.
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