Three power stations

Leave the generator, take the power plant

A new breed of large portable battery packs equipped with household outlets and USB ports is touted as the next generation of generators – even though they don’t generate electricity at all. He called them “power stations”.

Large parts of the United States in risk of power failure This summer, according to a report released Wednesday by the North American Electrical Reliability Foundation. Power plants are of interest to people who want power off the grid, whether planned or not, without the fuel, emissions, and drag wire of a gas generator. If you can get the charging time to work in your intended use scenario, this could be the modern alternative to a built-in alternator.

I spent some time with two excellent examples of power plants like the ones we keep arranging List of CNET’s Best Portable Power Stations: The Jackery Explorer 1500 and Anker PowerHouse II 800. The Jackery unit is twice the capacity and twice the price of the Anker product, and is therefore aimed at different use cases. A look at the basic specifications of a power plant will tell you what you need.

The venerable Honda EU2000i gas generator combined with Jackery Explorer 1500 (center) and Anker PowerHouse II 880 power plants (right).

Brian Cooley/CNET

Watt/hour (Wh) It is the best single measure of uptime for a power plant. A 500 watt hour power plant can supply 500 watts for one hour or 1 watt for 500 hours or any combination of both, with a caveat I’ll explain later. Also, take the watt-hour rating of a power plant and assume you’ll only get 85% of that to be safe.

Here are some rough examples of household energy needs so you can practice your math in watt-hours:

  • 55 inch LCD TV: 150 watts
  • Large laptop charger: 100 watts
  • 100 watt equivalent LED bulb: 8 watts
  • desktop computer: 250 watts
  • space heater: 750 or 1500 watts

electric power It is the simpler brother of watt-hours and represents the maximum amount of wattage that a power plant can provide on a sustainable basis, no matter how long it can provide. For example, a power plant that can provide 500 watts can easily power both the above TV and laptop charger but can’t come close to powering a space heater and might strain to power the TV, desktop, and laptop.

Add the wattage of all the appliances you need to run at once and make sure your power plant can supply that with a 15% cushion. Note that the power consumption of the device can be expressed in amperes; Multiply that by the household current (115 volts) to get an approximate wattage estimate.

Rapid Intervention Capacity: This is the instantaneous increase in power that some appliances require at startup, the most famous example being refrigerators that can require four to five times the energy to start their compressors initially. If you plan to run something with a good sized motor in it, check for excess power requirements and purchase a power plant that can cover that without shutting down to protect itself from overload.

The number of air conditioning outlets Important because enough can prevent you from needing a messy connecting tape. Power stations excel at being a tidy set, so it would be a shame if that was hampered by the lack of another outlet built in.

Anker Power House II 800 . Power Station

The Anker 778Wh power station is compact but features plenty of power outlets, from several forms of USB to 12V automotive outlets and household outlets.

Amazon

real sine wave force Indicates the quality of power coming from AC outlets. Power stations that provide true sine wave energy the best approximate commercial current and can feed microelectronic devices what they want to run properly.

USB fast charging technology. While any USB port on a power station will provide a base charge, two main fast charging technologies – QC and iQ – are also available in many of them. Having the kind that your phone or tablet can take advantage of will ensure a fast charge from your power station without having to plug a USB charger into it.

AC charging time. This is usually the fastest way to charge a power station, assuming you have network power to plug your wall charger into. But expect the charging ratio between power plants with a similar watt-hour capacity to be roughly the same.

Solar compatibility. Look at the solar charging capacity of any power station you’re considering, especially if you intend to use the device as a camping accessory or as a backup for multi-day blackouts. Solar charging can be a great equalizer between power plants and gas generators if you’re concerned about long deployments.

Jackery Solar Panel Kit

Jackery offers several options for charging its Explorer 1500 power station with solar energy: a single panel will charge the device in 16 hours, dual panels can do so in about eight hours and four panels in under four hours.

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price Per watt-hour is a good apple-to-apple comparison for value but should be roughly $1 per watt-hour MSRP.

size and weight. Battery-based devices get heavy in a hurry when you scale watt-hours, and no power plant can evade the lithium-ion battery physics rule. Don’t buy a huge power plant that you won’t be walking around with when a smaller plant can cover your needs and is already being used.

warranty period. By their very nature, power plants tend to sit a lot and get little use, so a long warranty is key. Up to 24 months may cover only a few uses.

Once you get around the power plant specifications, you may find that you don’t need a gas generator at all.

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