Your Guide to Portable Power Stations: Backup Power On The Go
Lately, power outages and blackouts have been commonplace in the U.S. Extreme weather conditions inspire people to use their HVAC units at full capacity day and night. Consequently, some states have been experiencing blackouts and other electricity supply problems. The grid system in America seems to be saturated, and it will probably get worse before it gets any better.
Having a backup power source handy to juice up your essential appliances is perhaps the smartest idea to offset these inconveniences. A portable power station can be a clean and safe solution to your power-related problems. Not only will owning one keep you better equipped in case of an emergency, but it can also come in handy for work or leisure purposes.
However, with the hundreds of alternatives readily available on the market nowadays, it's easy to get a tad overwhelmed. So, to make your life much easier and help you navigate the many power station options you may find online, we created this comprehensive guide that covers all the basics. If you're ready to invest in a reliable portable battery power station, read on. You can rest assured that by the end of this article, you'll be better armed to make the most suitable choice for your specific power supply needs.
What Is a Portable Power Station?
In short, a portable power station is a device with a built-in energy inverter that can turn the power of an internal battery into wide-range power. This enables it to charge any external devices you want, individually or at the same time — provided it has the right capacity and watt hours to do so, of course.
Portable power stations come in all shapes and sizes, but you'll find that most aren't bigger than a toolbox or a countertop microwave (although there are a few exceptions). Most of these gadgets contain lithium power cells to provide you with stored electricity when and where you need it — whether that is a camping trip, a shooting location, or right at home.
People often confuse portable power stations with more traditional power generators or with their lower-capacity sibling: the power bank. But portable power stations are none of the above. Although designed to fulfill a similar purpose, they have numerous different settings that enable a safer, more complete charging experience.
Portable power stations can offer some or all of these features:
- Numerous charging ports
- A control panel
- An LCD monitor
- Different input and output alternatives
- Power safety features
- Supply control settings
Additionally, these devices are much cleaner and safer than other types of power generators, especially fuel-based ones. They offer a more sustainable energy source that won't put your home or your loved ones at risk. Electric power generators are also much quieter than gas or diesel-powered ones are. This is because they lack all the moving pieces required for fuel to burn.
What To Consider When Buying a Portable Power Station
Portable power stations are not cheap. That's why, before buying one, you might want to put some thought into your final choice. Determining your emergency power supply goals and doing a little bit of research will spare you many headaches down the line. Here's what you should evaluate.
As mentioned above, portable power stations come in all kinds of sizes. You could find something as small as the Jackery Explorer 160 watt portable power station, which is merely 7.4 x 4.5 x 6.7 inches (18.8 x 11.4 x 17 cm). Alternatively, you could end up needing something larger, like the EcoFlow Delta Pro 3600 watt portable power station, which is 25 x 11.2 x 16.4 inches (63.5 x 28.4 x 42 cm).
Keep in mind that the more capacity you need, the bigger your device could become. If you don't have enough storage space to keep a bulky piece of equipment, you may want to consider sacrificing some capacity. Or, you could invest in a couple of small-sized portable power stations rather than buying a larger one.
Is your dream power station portable? The biggest draw of this type of electric power generator — besides allowing you to juice up your devices — is being, well, transportable. Purchasing one that's a little too heavy for you to comfortably move it around kind of defeats the whole purpose. Some power stations can be as heavy as 110 lbs. (50 kg), and that could be an inconvenience. Although, these tend to come equipped with wheels and a handle top to offset the heavy poundage factor.
Again, your choice when it comes to power station weight depends entirely on your particular needs. If your portability requirements are limited to moving your power station around your own home, you could get away with purchasing one that's on the heavier side. Alternatively, if your priority is being able to take your power station on the road with you or from one site to another, you could benefit from getting a much lighter one.
Consider purchasing one or two medium-capacity power stations if weight is a concern. These could be much easier to carry around when required.
Your portable power station can't do much for you if it doesn't have the correct power capacity to provide your devices with the energy they need to function.
Before you make a purchase decision, you need to determine which electronics you might need to charge and for how long you want them to run. Some of the most common devices that could fulfill their energy requirements through your portable power station are:
- Mobile phones
- Smart wear
- Desktop computers
- Gaming consoles
Once you've decided which appliances and gadgets you need to juice up, you'll have to check how much energy they use — that is, how many watts they need. You can find out this information by reading the numbers on your device's AC adapter, the manual, or the box. Some electronics, like LCD televisions, microwaves, fridges, and more, have the wattage specified on a label on the back as well.
Alternatively, you could investigate the amp value and calculate the watts yourself with this simple formula:
Volts X Amp = Watts
After you've determined the watt usage you'll need, you need to decide how many hours you'll require your devices to run on your power station. Then, by multiplying the sum of your devices' Watt usage by your expected hours of operation, you'll find out the total watt hours you'll get. These calculations will give you the most accurate value for deciding the best capacity for you.
Battery Life and Battery Type
The battery life of your power station will depend on three main factors:
- Use frequency
- Battery type
Most power stations use either lithium or LifePo4 batteries to keep things running smoothly. The latter tend to be heavier, but they are more stable in chemistry. This characteristic makes them less likely to combust or explode.
Lithium-ion batteries, however, have a higher C rate, which means they may charge faster and have a higher discharge. Yet, LifePo4 batteries have about two times the number of recharge cycles of other battery chemistries.
Each cycle is the usage a battery has from fully charged to zero charge. However, regardless of the type of battery that your power station has, using it less frequently could help it last much longer than using it several times a week.
Solar Panel Support and Solar Charging
One good thing about portable power stations is most offer you a variety of ways in which you can charge them. For example, you can use a typical AC outlet or even take advantage of your car system for a little bit of emergency power.
Solar energy is another great option to keep your power station alive when you need it the most. It's a lifesaver when out in the wild with no power sources to keep the battery operational. Most portable power stations have an inbuilt charge controller for solar panel compatibility. Although some brands sell their own collapsible panels, you should be able to use pretty much any available on the market.
If there are no clouds or any obstacles that could block your solar panels, you can get as close as possible to your power station's rated capacity. However, on overcast days, you could get close to nothing when trying to charge your device. So your decision on using solar panels to power up your portable station will depend pretty much on the area you're located.
If you live in California, for example, you'll be able to charge your solar generators with no problems throughout the year. Yet, if you call Seattle or New York your home, you'll have far fewer days of proper charging conditions and end up with increased charge times.
Most electronics have AC adaptors to allow you to plug them into your wall outlets. These consist, at the very minimum, of two metal contact prongs designed to match those connected to a power supply through an electrical outlet. If your power station doesn't have this type of connector, you may find it challenging to keep your appliances working.
Depending on the use you're giving your portable power station, you'll need to have more or fewer AC outlets. Otherwise, you may find yourself in need of purchasing power adaptors or additional accessories.
Keep in mind that both AC power plugs and outlets abide by the electrical codes of the country they come from. If you're buying your power station abroad, just make sure the AC outlets match the connectors you use at home.
The standard AC plug in the U.S. works with 15 amps at 125 volts and consists of two parallel metal blades of 0.625 x 0.25 inches (1.6 cm x 6.35 mm). Some may also include a third cylindrical prong.
Part of what differentiates an electric power station from a power bank is the wide range of outlet options it offers. Purchasing one that has at least two alternatives is essential for versatility and convenience. If you want to keep smartphones and other devices charged, a power station with USB ports could be useful.
Universal Serial Bus ports enable you to supply a wide variety of gadgets with electric power through a cord. In some cases, it might even support wireless charging.
There are numerous kinds of USB ports with different charging capabilities, including:
- USB 1.0: 1.5 Mbps
- USB 1.1: 12 Mbps
- USB 2.0: 480 Mbps
- USB 3.0: 5 Gbps
- USB 3.1: 5 Gbps
- USB 3.2: 10 Gbps
Optimal Operating Temperature
Temperature can affect battery capacity on most devices, and portable power stations are not the exception. As temperature goes down, battery capacity is reduced. Contrariwise, higher temperatures increase how many amp-hours a battery can hold. Unlike battery capacity, battery life reduces at high temperatures.
Batteries have so much mass that they will change internal temperature much slower than the air temperature around them. That's why you must ensure your portable power station of choice has temperature sensors and the correct insulation to regulate heating elements. If your power station is exposed to constant temperature variations, having charge control and temperature compensation will also come in handy.
A warranty is a manufacturer's way of telling you that you're in good hands. It indicates your product should meet all the quality, performance, and ability industry standards, or otherwise, you're entitled to certain rights. These privileges may vary according to the warranty's terms and conditions.
When purchasing a new portable power station you must ensure it comes with at least a limited warranty. Some sellers also allow you to purchase an extended policy for an additional cost if you feel like you need extra protection in case your product is faulty.
Many power station manufacturers have pretty solid warranties to protect their customers. For example, Goal Zero offers a 2-year limited warranty on all its products. They also have an Open Box product warranty that's valid for six months.
Jackery also offers a 24-month extended warranty from the original purchase. They, however, require the original receipt as documentary proof to establish the start date of the warranty.
Whichever brand you pick for your emergency power supply purchases, just make sure you read and understand their warranty first. This could potentially save you some money on repairs and even give you access to product replacements if your power station breaks or malfunctions too soon.
You'll also need to check out what the maximum load current your portable power station can provide is. Keep in mind no power supply can provide more current than its rated power output unless there's a short circuit or another fault.
Be sure your power station can detect power overloads to protect your devices from excess current. A good portable power station should be able to regulate momentary power surges and shut down in case of impending damage or danger.
To allow your power station to provide your electronics with enough energy, it should operate below the maximum output rating.
As stated earlier, portable power stations are not typically cheap. Prices will vary from one brand to another depending on the specs of the power station you're looking at. It's best practice to compare and contrast prices before you set your sights on a specific model.
What Can a Portable Power Station Power?
A handy power station can juice up all sorts of devices, including:
This type of equipment includes plasma TVs, computers, microwaves, or any other appliances that are not considered to have a tough nature. Because a good power station has the ability to protect electronics from a power surge or any other electric faults, it offers you a secure way of powering them up.
Portable power stations are incredibly versatile. As long as you purchase one with the right output capacity, you'll be able to power up appliances that demand more electricity, including electric grills.
Portable power stations are so reliable and secure that they are a trusted source of power for medical devices. These power supply sources can keep delicate and expensive electronics running smoothly and with little to no risk.
The Benefits of Having a Battery Backup
In today's uncertain power supply scenario, having a backup power battery is no longer a luxury. You need to be prepared to prevent blackouts and other issues from disrupting your day-to-day indoor and outdoor activities. A portable power station is an excellent battery backup. Some of the main perks it provides are:
- Peace and quiet: A power station will never be nearly as loud as a fuel-based generator. In fact, the noise it may produce could even be unnoticeable, even if you're standing right next to it.
- Clean energy: Portable power stations don't emit toxic hydrocarbons like nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter. The lack of dangerous emissions makes these power sources a cleaner and safer option for the environment and for you.
- Continuous power: Generators may take a while to cycle up during a power outage. Your portable power station can be turned on instantly, allowing you to keep up with whatever you were doing before the blackout in a matter of seconds.
- Reliability: As long as you keep your power station charged, it will offer you a solid electricity backup whenever needed.
- Substantial savings: Unlike power generators, a portable power station will not require you to purchase fuel, gas, or diesel. Additionally, if you use solar panels, you can have all the electricity you need for free in any power station emergency.
- Energy independence: Once you have a power station, you won't have to rely on the grid anymore. An emergency backup will enable you to produce and store your own electricity.
Notable Power Station Brands
Now that you know the ins and outs of portable power stations, it's time to find the right manufacturer. If you're asking yourself, "Where can I buy a portable power station?", then here are three of the most reputable brands out there.
This company was founded in 2017 to help the world transition into a cleaner, more sustainable future in terms of power sources. They offer solar technology and other power solutions to keep the homes of thousands of Americans powered up no matter what.
Founded in the Golden State, this company has provided American households with alternative power supply sources since 2012. Jackery is a well-established name in the solar generator industry in the US, and a global energy leader. Their goal is to help fight climate change through an eco-friendly twist to power supply as we know it. Jackery's solar generators have numerous certifications and awards to back up their reputation.
This brand emerged in a bid to generate cleaner energy that benefits everyone, everywhere. Their portable solar power solutions are meant to offset extreme poverty and help build a better future. This company strives to create award-winning power generators that allow customers to fulfill their energy supply needs whenever they need to without having to rely on what they've deemed the "power villains."
Find the Best Power Station for Continuous Output
Electricity is something we can't live without. Unfortunately, there are numerous situations in which access to this powerful resource is difficult or nearly impossible. Additionally, the insufficient power supply system in our country has us experiencing more blackouts than ever before. That's why having a backup power source is essential.
An emergency portable power station is an excellent tool to stay powered up rain or shine. It provides an eco-conscious source of reliable power to keep things running smoothly in case of a power emergency. The guide above will help you understand what's behind a smart power station purchase. Now you can go ahead and type "buy portable power station" in your browser. If you want to learn more about the best and newest power stations on the market, visit our partner site and check out our reviews.