Thinking of getting a battery powered portable generator? Think twice.

I’ve started seeing quite a bit of advertising for battery powered portable generators lately. Quite possibly because I reviewed a couple of portable outlets (aimed at small gadgets,) recently.

Now on the whole these aren’t a bad thing if you want to charge low power consumer electronics (cell phones, laptops,) keep some lights on during a power outage, go camping, etc these – things are great for a very limited run engagement.

What the advertising I’m seeing now claims is that you can power anything, anywhere, anytime. This particular statement is from EcoFlow’s upcoming product, which we’ll use as an example as they straight up banned me from their Facebook ad for commenting on how long it would actually last if you had to use it in a power outage. (FB app keeps telling me people are liking my comment, but content always gone when I go there)

Power anything, anywhere, anytime. Now, perhaps you can but there are quite a few things to consider they’re directly comparing their upcoming 1300Wh power directly to gas powered generators.

While I’m using Ecoflow’s Delta as an example, they’re not the only ones (they’re just the ones that banned me for posting the specs and problems on their advertising, and then evidently left my comment up) – the advertising on other competitor products runs about the same: battery powered so you’re safe from carbon monoxide poisoning, quiet so you can sleep, charges quickly with new fangled charging tech.

OK, so here’s what you need to think about – what’s different between a 53 pound gasoline generator and a 30 pound battery? In a power outage the 53 pound generator can run for up to 11 hours on a gallon of gas and can continue running with a quick stop at the gas station.

You can keep your fridge running, maybe power an AC if you were so inclined. If it’s an emergency you can continue power by grabbing gas out of your car or any gas powered vehicle around.

With the electric, you’re dead once that battery runs out. Power outage? Enjoy that hour or two of added runtime. I mean maybe you can go and spend an hour and 20 minutes somewhere with power and bring the battery back fully charged, but whatever.

But wait you say, what about the ability to recharge via solar and such? That’s great an all for the cloudy monsoon day after the power got knocked out… there’s also that your average solar panel is maybe capable of running a phone.

We’re looking at a 1300Wh portable electric generator. Your average solar panel is capable of charging at 60 Watts in full sunlight. That’s about 21 hours of full sun to achieve 1300 Wh, but probably 80% efficiency so 26 or so hours to full, probably 3-4 days to solar charge one of these things to completely full.

And it can run a fridge for an hour or two. Maybe more if you get to the fridge quickly enough so that it’s maintaining rather than restoring cold.

Don’t get me wrong, these things would be really good on projects – like when you need to power up a bunch of tools and recharge batteries and such, but the advertising is literally people sitting around with their generator in the dark playing on their devices because there’s been a power outage. This is the advertising on all of them.

Yeah, we’ll recharge that 30 Watt laptop, 7Ww light, and 80 watt stereo, 20 watt router for 13-17 hours. Let’s hope the ISP didn’t lose power as well.

While you’re not going to use these to power your house, some things to think about are the average US home uses 867kWh a month / 28.9kWh a day, or 1.2kW per hour. A 1300Wh generator is 1.3kWh. This would be discharged in an hour. It shouldn’t be considered “home backup power” it’s a few backup power outlets that you can have wherever.


The issue here that’s being exploited as a selling point is people don’t understand power. I’m sure someone will comment that I don’t also. They’re also being fed fear about carbon monoxide deaths. I mean the death thing is really something you should worry about. Like seriously, never put a gas generator inside a house. You will probably die.

But the usage scenarios of these things needs to be examined by the consumer. If you want it to keep your food from rotting due to a power outage, you can’t last particularly long with an electric generator.

Are you on a job site trying to recharge or power all your tools and there’s no electricity? Let’s hope you remembered to recharge this and let’s also hope you don’t run out of power because when you do work’s over.

These are great for consumer electronics which don’t use much juice. No really, your computer… let’s take a look at a MacBook Pro battery – 58.2 Watt hour battery. Cell phones 5-20 Wh. That’s 80Wh to recharge both from dead.

A fridge, especially when attempting to return to cool can pull between 350 and 780 watts and run over an hour. Generator Grader claims you want 800 Watts for running although that seems a little overkill. Maybe if you got it switched over instantly and could maintain cool you’re set.

Assuming 800 Watts return to cool though, a battery generator containing 1300Wh will last you 1 hour 37 minutes and 30 seconds. Looking at my fridge’s energy use as long as we’re maintaining at about 5-8 hours a dedicated generator would be dead.

Maybe that’s enough, and if it’s not with a gas generator I go to my car and siphon out some gas if I can’t get to the station.


What’s Paul selling?

Nothing. Just make sure you understand that these things probably aren’t going to be nearly as useful as they’re being sold, although in the case of camping, having to bring power to some place like a park, or carrying around a 30 pound battery in your car to act as an extra battery for you electric car.

Is Paul ticked at being banned from their ad? Nope.

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Paul E King

Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he's evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids. Facebook | Google+ | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul's posts