Is There a Solar Panel You Can Plug Into? 

Plug-in solar panels can be alluring for money-minded solar enthusiasts. Most of the cost of solar panels is installation, so the promise of an easy DIY solar panel you can plug into the wall sounds almost too good to be true.

Plug-in solar panels, also known as solar generators, are a great option for road trips, camping, and people on the move. You can connect devices via an AC outlet and USB connectors.

Although there are similar systems, called plug and play which are a basic setup without the control panels to regulate the system.

Plug in solar generator

What is a Solar Plug-in?

A plug-in solar panel is a panel you can set up on the ground and plug into an outside outlet to provide clean and easy power to an electrical grid. There are no messy installations, just setting up the solar panels and plugging them in to feed the power into your grid.

At least that’s the concept behind it. On paper, it sounds like an easy way to take advantage of the clean solar power everyone has access to, but in practice, this gets messy fast.

Should You Use Plug-in Solar?

Plug-in solar isn’t a choice to make lightly. Adding power to your electrical system is a complicated and dangerous process that, when done poorly, can set fire to your home or completely ruin your electrical system.

Pros of Plug-in Solar

In a way, plug-in solar delivers what it promises. Solar power feeds directly into your home by placing the panels in a sunny place and plugging it in.

  • Clean power feeds your grid.
  • Easy to install and takedown
  • Saves money on the upfront cost of solar

Plug-in solar panels seem to have no downsides on the surface: cheaper, more accessible, and truly a lifesaver when it comes to solar power. 

And there are some benefits. It’s far cheaper than professional solar installation, and it’s easier to install and take down, so you can theoretically take it with you when you move.

Cons of Plug-in Solar

The dangers of plug-in solar lay in the fine print. One or two solar panels won’t make much of a difference to your power bill, but larger solar systems risk overloading your grid.

  • Dangerous if installed incorrectly
  • Requires several safety measures
  • Unreliable may damage delicate appliances and electrical lines

The cons of plug-in solar are many and beware sellers try to gloss over them. You’re just getting a more straightforward DIY solar kit at a higher price than standard kits.

Solar Panel FAQ Video x
Solar Panel FAQ Video

You still have to do the math and figure out how to safely connect the new power source to your home.

Ultimately, plug-in solar panels are best for very niche situations, where you just need one or two panels set up to power something small or off-the-grid power.

Solar Panel and Solar Generator – Plug in Solution

The best solution for a plugin solar panel is a solar generator. Which is a solar panel hooked up to a power bank.

They are pretty much ready to go from out of the box. Just connect the panels to the generator with a simple plug and leave it in the sun.

You can then plug in your devices to the generator using the USB connections or the standard AC outlets. So instead of having a noisy gas generator, you have a quiet and powerful machine.

Two of the most popular, reliable, and advanced companies on the market that manufacture solar generators are Jackery and Ecoflow, and here are two great options from them.

Jackery Solar Generator 1000, Explorer 1000 and 2X SolarSaga 100W with 3x110V/1000W AC Outlets, Solar Mobile Lithium Battery Pack for Outdoor RV/Van Camping, Emergency
1,606 Reviews
Jackery Solar Generator 1000, Explorer 1000 and 2X SolarSaga 100W with 3x110V/1000W AC Outlets, Solar Mobile Lithium Battery Pack for Outdoor RV/Van Camping, Emergency
  • SUPREME SOLAR POWER: This Solar Generator 1000 set features the a Explorer 1000, pairing with 2 SolarSaga 100 solar panels. Unlock the true solar power, and experience the energy from mother nature while at your road trip, camping trip, RV, and over-landing.
  • PEACEFULLY QUIET, CLEAN AND CONVENIENT: Unlike gas generators, the Solar Generator is clean. The Solar Generator produces almost no noise, and it features an on-button design for easy use. It is powered by solar energy, providing a green and sustainable solution for our living condition.
  • BOUNDLES CAPACITY & & EUDURANCE: The Explorer 1000 is geared with a massive 1002 Wh capacity and 1000 high running wattage to power your full-size refrigerator, TV, heater, electric grill, blanket, and more for your outdoor and home needs.
SALE
EF ECOFLOW EFDELTA Solar Generator 1260Wh with 160W Solar Panel, 6 X 1800W (3300W Surge) AC Outlets, Portable Power Station for Outdoors Camping RV High-Power Appliances Emergency
172 Reviews
EF ECOFLOW EFDELTA Solar Generator 1260Wh with 160W Solar Panel, 6 X 1800W (3300W Surge) AC Outlets, Portable Power Station for Outdoors Camping RV High-Power Appliances Emergency
  • Kit Includes: 1x 1260wh Solar Generator and all its accessories; 1x 160W Foldable Solar Panel and all its accessories. May be in different warehouses because the products are in the form of a Bundle. Don’t worry when you receive only part of the product, you can send us an email and we will provide you with another tracking number.
  • 6 x 1800W AC OUTLETS AND 1260Wh CAPACITY: DELTA can power up to 13 devices simultaneously with multiple outlet options, including 6 pure sine wave AC outlets. It offers up to 1260Wh power, which is ideal for home backup situations where you need to power smartphones, laptops, refrigerators, and more.
  • RECHARGE FROM 0% TO 80% WITHIN 1 HOUR: The patented EcoFlow X-Stream technology enables you to charge the DELTA from 0-80% within 1 hour and offers a full charge in just 2 hours. Use the EcoFlow 160W Solar Panel to charge DELTA in 10.5-21 hours at a recharging rate of 10-65V/10A max, 400W max input.

If you’re on a smaller budget, then the Bluetti is not as powerful, but it’s well made and packs most features of the other two.

BLUETTI AC50S 500Wh Portable Power Station with Solar Panel Included, 300W/Dual AC Outlet Solar Generator Camping Battery Backup for Travel Trip RV Home Bundle w/120W Solar Charger
230 Reviews
BLUETTI AC50S 500Wh Portable Power Station with Solar Panel Included, 300W/Dual AC Outlet Solar Generator Camping Battery Backup for Travel Trip RV Home Bundle w/120W Solar Charger
  • 【Portable Power Station with Solar Panel Included】1*BLUETTI AC50S Solar Power Station (500Wh/300W) and all the accessories and 1 pcs 120W foldable solar panels and all its accessories.
  • 【BLUETTI AC50S Power Station】500Wh/300W Portable power station with a wide  14V-40V(Max),Max 120W, 10A Max. solar Input, MPPT, allowing recharge from AC wall outlet and solar panel. Two 120V AC outlet (Continuous 300W, pure sine wave) can load Max. 300W devices continuously.
  • 【BLUETTI 120W Solar Panel】It’s made of high qualified monocrystalline silicon cells which is 5% higher efficient than traditional monocrystalline. It features with ETFE lamination thus has better light transmittance, more durable, scratch-proof, and easy to clean by wet cloth. Foldable design with handle, weight only 9.48lbs. Convenient to carry around for outdoor camping. Easily adjust the angle by the kickstands for better solar absorption.

That’s the solar generator solution. Now we will look at the basic plug-and-play system.

How Do You Hook Up a Solar Panel Plug?

A plug-in solar panel requires a lot of equipment to operate correctly, much like a traditionally installed solar system. Each one is necessary for safety and getting the most out of your solar panels.

See also  Photovoltaic Vs. Solar Panel (What’s The Difference)

Inverters

Most plug-and-play solar panels come with microinverters on the panels. This converts the DC the panels produce into usable AC, the current most electrical systems take.

Plug and play panels also come with extra safety features, like shutting off electricity when the power goes down. If you want these panels to help relieve blackouts, you’ll find their functionality lacking.

This is so power doesn’t get fed into downed lines that can electrocute workers. However, this safety feature also prevents the panel’s usage during blackouts.

Charge Controllers

If electricity is fed directly into a power grid from solar panels, it will cause problems. The power from the panels is inconsistent, with varying voltage and current that wreaks havoc on electrical lines in houses.

As clouds or shadows block the panels, their output decreases and increases in direct sunlight. A charge controller takes that inconsistency and smooths it into a reliable power supply. While not perfect, you need one to avoid damaging your electrical lines.

Inconsistent voltage and power output damage delicate electrical equipment like appliances and grids. A charge controller is essential for a solar system.

Batteries

While batteries aren’t necessary for your system to work correctly, they are essential to get the most out of your solar panels. While your solar panels feed electricity into your grid, that power isn’t much use if you aren’t using it.

And without batteries, if you don’t use it when it’s created, it disappears. That means you’ll lose out on a ton of power from your solar panels. 

Batteries can store this power for future use, so you can get a lot more from your solar panels than just the power you happen to use while they’re on.

Dedicated Electrical Lines

While this is created during traditional solar installations, it’s something you have to worry about in plug-in solar panels. Your solar panels have to be on a dedicated electrical line that runs to your electrical box and can turn off automatically if something goes wrong.

This line is created and installed in your electrical box as part of the installation process in traditional solar installations. No Christmas blow-ups, no grills, just solar panels.

See also  Why Inverter Generators Are So Expensive!

So if you use the outdoor outlet you have in mind often, then plug-in solar panels might not be for you.

When You Should Get Plug-In Solar Panels

If you have an outdoor line capable of carrying the power generated by plug-in solar panels that you never use that runs directly to your electrical box, this might be for you. 

Keep in mind that the charge controller and batteries need to match the system and be shielded from the elements. Moreover, this work won’t be worth it unless you install a sizable solar system. Most house electrical grids can handle about 1.5 kW.

If you fulfill these conditions and have the know-how to ensure the installation goes smoothly and safely, plug-in solar panels are great.

Alternatives: Solar Generators, Professional Solar Installation, Solar Sheds

As you just read, there are a lot of drawbacks to plug-and-play solar panels. The chances of overloading your electrical system if you don’t know what you’re doing is high. However, some safer alternatives may better suit your needs.

Solar Generators

Solar generators are the entire package in one compact machine. About the size of a large grill, you just unfold the panels to collect sunlight, and the generator does the rest. 

It contains the wiring, charge controllers, inverters, batteries, and everything a solar system needs to function. All within a portable generator that you can use anywhere outdoors.

It’s great to use solar energy for outdoor power equipment, and it requires no installation. The one con is that you can’t use it to add power to your electrical grid.

Professional Solar Installation

If you haven’t noticed, solar plug-ins require a lot of the same things as professional solar installation. It’s even worse because you can’t add too many solar systems without frying your electrical lines.

So if you mainly want solar power to reduce or even eliminate your electrical bill, solar plug-ins are no replacement for professional solar installation.

Solar Sheds

You can set up a solar shed reasonably quickly if you’re handy. It just requires some handiness and math, especially if there isn’t an existing electrical system.

Just take all the basic requirements of the solar system, the panels, mounts, inverters, wiring, charge controllers, and batteries. You can buy a small solar kit and get everything you need and instructions on installing it.

It provides outdoor power for electrical appliances, and you can professionally hook it up to your house grid at a later date to reduce your electrical bill.

How to Run Outdoor Electrical Equipment Off of Solar Plug-ins

Now, keep in mind that solar plug-ins are meant to be plugged into the house’s primary grid, so essentially everything you run off of that grid will benefit from solar power.

However, the solar panels themselves will always need a dedicated electrical line to operate safely, so no using the same plug for holiday blow-ups or electrical lights.

It should go without saying that you should keep the panels and wiring away from water and appliances that use water like pools and hot tubs.

Electrical Lights

It’s common for small garden lights to soak up sunlight during the day and light up the night. However, if you want to set up a more substantial solar light display, it might be prudent to have it on a separate grid.

Some lighting systems come with solar collectors that store energy and automatically come on when daylight fades. Solar lighting is a fantastic option to light up a patio or garden path.

There’s more freedom because they aren’t reliant on an outside power source, and they come in various styles.

Different voltages

Charge controllers control the voltage of the solar power panels put out. Different appliances need different voltages, however. For example, most outdoor equipment and small appliances would need 120V, but larger ones might need 200V or more.

But there’s an easy solution. Some charge controllers come with the option of switching different voltages at the flick of a switch, making it easy to power various appliances.

These charge controllers are a great option if you work with equipment that requires different voltages.

Creating a Solar Grid

At the basic level, electrical systems aren’t hard to figure out. You just need to understand the terminology, the principles of electric systems, and the math to figure out how much power and equipment you’ll need to work with it.

That means it’s possible to set up your electrical grid with solar panels. It’s relatively simple to do (at least compared to, say, wiring the complicated electrical system of an entire home), and the resulting grid is clean endless energy.

You can run whatever you like on the system as long as it’s within the limits of the power the panels can produce, making it easy to keep one or two appliances on the system.

Are Plug-in Solar Panels Legal?

It depends on your local and state laws. Some states do allow them. However, the majority do not, as plug-in solar systems require much of the same as professionally installed systems, except without professional installation.

Naturally, this leads to people ignoring the safety procedures needed to safely hook solar panels to your house grid, leading to accidents and fires. So it’s understandable why many states ban them.

And if the state allows it, that doesn’t mean local laws do. It’s best to check with your local housing and building safety authorities to ensure you follow all the rules in your area.

Most of the time, installing solar panels or other types of power generation will require a safety check from fire safety inspectors to ensure you’ve followed all the correct procedures to hook up your solar panels safely.

Plug-in Solar Panels and RVs

One widespread use for plug-and-play solar panels is to use them in conjunction with RVs and campers. Solar panels allow these vehicles to go off-grid but provide power for their occupants, allowing a more free range of movement.

However, this runs into many of the same problems as residential plug-in solar panels. They need a dedicated line, charge controllers, inverters, and batteries to operate safely and get the most out of them.

However, you can circumvent these problems by getting an RV or camper designed to work with plug-in solar panels. Since solar panels can be hard to put on top of a vehicle (lots of equipment up there, requires going up and down the roof every time you stop), manufacturers can have dedicated outlets for solar panels.

This streamlines the entire process. The solar panels are stored away in a compartment, and when you stop, you just get them out and plug them in.

The dedicated outlets already have all the equipment necessary for a solar system, making the solar panels truly plug and play.

Jackery Solar Generator 1000, Explorer 1000 and 2X SolarSaga 100W with 3x110V/1000W AC Outlets, Solar Mobile Lithium Battery Pack for Outdoor RV/Van Camping, Emergency
1,606 Reviews
Jackery Solar Generator 1000, Explorer 1000 and 2X SolarSaga 100W with 3x110V/1000W AC Outlets, Solar Mobile Lithium Battery Pack for Outdoor RV/Van Camping, Emergency
  • SUPREME SOLAR POWER: This Solar Generator 1000 set features the a Explorer 1000, pairing with 2 SolarSaga 100 solar panels. Unlock the true solar power, and experience the energy from mother nature while at your road trip, camping trip, RV, and over-landing.
  • PEACEFULLY QUIET, CLEAN AND CONVENIENT: Unlike gas generators, the Solar Generator is clean. The Solar Generator produces almost no noise, and it features an on-button design for easy use. It is powered by solar energy, providing a green and sustainable solution for our living condition.
  • BOUNDLES CAPACITY & & EUDURANCE: The Explorer 1000 is geared with a massive 1002 Wh capacity and 1000 high running wattage to power your full-size refrigerator, TV, heater, electric grill, blanket, and more for your outdoor and home needs.

General Solar Panel FAQ

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