What to Do When Investing in a Portable Power Source

If you start looking for a portable power source — online or in-person — you’ll find plenty of them on the market. Now that RV and van travel are rising in popularity, more people are looking for compact, powerful options to keep their devices charged. 

However, not all of them will have the features you’re looking for. Some are better suited for campers, while others are for full-fledged RVs. 

Before you start your search, you’ll need to know what factors to look for. Here are a few important steps to take before investing in a portable power station for your RV. 

Determine Your Budget

As always, budget is one of the first things you’ll need to consider. Know your budget and browse accordingly — you can always upgrade later down the line. 

Some solar power generators come with a more modest price tag, including units that are $500 or even $250 or less. If you want greater power capacity, however, the price can quickly increase. You can expect moderate generators to land around $1,000, while high-powered stations can cost up to $5,000. 

Consider Your Power Requirements

The power capacity of whatever unit you buy is an equally important factor. The more power it has, the more expensive it will be. And most importantly, the more it can do for your RV. 

That being said, not everybody needs massive amounts of power. It all depends on what devices or appliances you need to power and for how long. 

Most inverters are rated in watts, which is calculated with this formula: watts = (amps x volts). 

Keep in mind that if your RV fridge takes 200 watts to run continuously, it might take even more just to get started. Make sure to calculate starting and continuous wattage into your calculations, or you might find that you don’t have enough power to even get your devices powered up. 

Before you buy, take a moment to sit down and look at all your appliances and devices. How much power do they need to run? To start and power these devices for several hours, what’s your best estimate for how many watts you’ll need?

Understand the Capacity of Various Portable Power Stations

Once you’ve added up all the amp-hours you expect to consume, you’ll want to buy a power station with enough capacity to meet your needs. 

If you only need something for light use, like charging phones, running a small fan, or charging a small device once a day, you could get away with 300 watts. To charge more devices or power something bigger, like a mini cooler, 500 watts might be a better choice. To manage a full-size refrigerator, electric grill, or other high-powered devices, you might need 1000 watts or more. 

To help you understand the capacity of each device, some companies will give you a basic breakdown of how much their product can charge. For example, some 1000-watt power stations can charge the average smartphone about 100 times. 

Think About the Length of a Typical Camping Trip

The next factor you’ll need to consider is how long you’re using the device. Even if you only need a lower-capacity generator like 300 or 500 watts, what if you’re going to be gone for a week or more?

This can also help you decide whether or not to get a solar-charged option. For longer trips, you might need a way to charge your power station on the go. While most units can also be charged through a wall outlet or your car’s outlet, you may not have access to those options while camping somewhere remote. 

Review Warranty Options

While most portable power stations are designed to run long hours, they’re still complex pieces of equipment. That means they’re prone to damage, wear and tear, or technical malfunctions. It’s important to consider what each device offers in terms of a warranty. 

Review what kind of warranty each company offers. How long does it last? What kind of damage does it cover? 

Consider the Charging Time 

Something that consumers often miss when considering a portable power station is the charging time. In addition to calculating how much power you need, you’ll also need to know how quickly your device can recharge. 

This is especially important if you’re going on a longer trip or you need the station for the long term. You may have to rely on solar panels or other power sources to recharge the station as needed.

The charging time can depend on what method you use. Some models will let you charge with a regular outlet, which is the fastest, while others include a DC port for charging it as you drive your car. Others will let you hook up the battery to a solar array, which tends to take the longest but is the most sustainable when you’re camping outdoors.  

Know the Different Types of Portable Power Devices

When you start to look at the different portable power devices on the market, you may notice there are different types of devices available. Some might be lithium batteries, while others are rechargeable deep cycle batteries. Others will run off solar power, while others need to be recharged with an outlet.