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Jackery Solar Generators: Are they any good?

Solar panels might be great in sunny climates, but how well do they work with overcast Scottish skies?

I'm spending a few weeks off-grid (my definition of off-grid being no fixed power), and given that I'm traveling in a car and not a truck, van, camper, or RV, I can't just plug everything into my vehicle.

I decided to take the Jackery Explorer 1000 solar generator system with me -- but will it work in the weaksauce Scottish sun of early May?

Well, I've been spending the last few days finding out.

Review: An Upgraded Jackery Solar Generator: 1500 watts for powering life on the go

Briefly, a bit about the setup I'm testing. I have a Jackery Explorer 1000 (note I have the UK version, which differs from the US version in the number of AC outlets it has -- the US version comes with three 110V while the UK version has two 230V outlets, but both models are capable of the same 1000W output continuous and 2000W surge), and two Jackery SolarSaga 100W solar panels (the Explorer 1000 comes with the requisite Y-cable to connect two solar panels).

Let's take a look at the specs for these units.

Jackery Explorer 1000 solar generator

Jackery Explorer 1000 solar generator
  • Capacity: 1002Wh (46.4Ah) lithium battery 
  • Power output: 1000W (2000W surge)
  • Outputs: Two USB-C, two USB, one DC carport and three AC outlets (featuring the pure-sine wave)
  • AC Output: 110VAC, 60Hz, 1000W (2000W Surge)
  • DC Input: 12V-30V (163W Max)
  • Car Output: 12V, 10A
  • USB-C Output: 5V, 9V, 12V up to 3A
  • Quick Charge 3.0 Output: 5-6.5V, 3A / 6.5-9V, 3A / 9-12V, 1.5A
  • USB-A Output: 5V, 2.4A
  • Weight: 22lbs
$999 at Amazon

Jackery SolarSaga 100W Solar Panel

Jackery SolarSaga 100W Solar Panel
  • High conversion efficiency: up to 23%
  • USB outputs: One USB-C output port and one USB-A output port
  • Output: 18V DC, 5.55A, 100W
  • Weight: 9.1 lbs
  • Dimensions: 13.1 x 9.2 x 11.1 in (33.3 x 23.3 x 28.3 cm)
  • Compatible with: Jackery Explorer 1000/500/300/240/160
  • Protections: Surge, over-voltage, short-circuit
$299 at Amazon

I've been testing this setup from the comfort of home for several weeks, but this is the first time that this has had a chance for a proper test.

So, my plan has been to not hook up the Explorer 1000 to a vehicle or a mains outlet, and to only use the sun. It's May, so there's some sun here, but also a lot of rain.

Which brings me to the biggest downside of the system.

Nothing is water-resistant.

Now, I don't expect the Explorer 1000 to be happy outdoors -- it is, after all, a box containing a lot of power that can output AC power -- but the SolarSaga 100 panels are also not rated for exposure to water. This means I can't have the Jackery charging up in the tent with the panels outside as I have to put them away when rain makes an appearance, which is quite regularly.

Jackery do make a panel that is weather-resistant -- the SolarSaga 200W -- but these are currently not available and only compatible with the larger Explorer 1500 and 2000 power stations.

Despite all that rain, I've not had any problems keeping the Explorer 1000 charged up. And I'm running quite a lot -- iPhone, iPad, AirPods, A MacBook Pro, a couple of power banks, three drone batteries, and a couple of rechargeable lights -- and the twin solar panels have no problems keeping up with my usage.

The two panels can deliver a maximum of 200W between them. I've not seen this, but I've been getting anything between 25W from really overcast skies to about 130W from moderately clear skies.

For Scotland in May, I'm quite impressed.

For me the pack is big, but not too big, and it's heavy, but not too heavy. I'm not lugging it too far, so that's not a problem for me.

So how long does a charged Jackery last, and how long does it take to recharge?

Jackery has data on this, but out in the field a chart might not be all that useful, so here's my rule of thumb.

The Explorer 1000 is a 1000Wh unit, and this means if you hammer it with a 1000W load, you're going to get less than an hour (because the Jackery will use some of that power for cooling at heavy loads). A 100W load will last about 10 hours, and a 50W load will last about 20 hours.

Same goes for charging, if the Explorer 1000 is flat, at 100W input, it will take roughly 10 hours to charge. Put in 50W and it will take roughly 20 hours to charge.

I say roughly, because there are no guarantees. These are ballpark figures.

I've been asked about using power stations like the Explorer 1000 for things like CPAP machines, and I've come across a lot of reviews that talk very confidently about CPAP runtimes and power station recharge times, and yet these reviewers then go on to say they don't have a CPAP machine.

That's worrying.

I don't use a CPAP, but based on my research, they use between 50W and 200W of power, which translates into a runtime range of anything between 5 and 20 hours.

If you're going to run an essential bit of kit from a power station, my advice is to test it out before relying on it, and then consider your recharge routine. Recharging an Explorer 1000 from the AC outlet takes about 7 hours, or 14 hours from a car outlet, or about 8 hours using two SolarSage 100W panels (if you get good sunshine).

Plan for this. Don't guess or assume, and definitely don't take the word of some guy on the internet.

In fact, my advice for anyone using power stations or power banks or any portable power supply is to be careful not to overestimate how long it will last and not underestimate how long it'll take to charge up.

Overall, I'm very happy with the setup. A part of my monkey brain wishes I had the huge Explorer 2000 with the 200W solar panel, but that would be overkill (no kill like overkill, though, am I right?).

Everything is well-built, tough, takes being knocked about, and it delivers what it promises without needing to rely on crazy, over-inflated specs.

Anyone else using a power station when off-grid? What your experience? Let me know in the comments below!