Recently, the Jackery team sent me one of their portable power stations: the Explorer 1000. Some companies call these “solar generators” because they can act like a generator, but they are in fact a solar panel, batteries, and an inverter to supply 110 volt power for household appliances. Full disclosure: Jackery is giving me the unit to keep after my reviews, but I don’t give good reviews to bad gear no matter who paid for it.
Fortunately, that doesn’t look like it’s going to be a problem. Everything is pretty solid so far.
The only complaint I have is that the box for the power supply came in a box which came in a box, like a Russian nesting doll. One or two boxes would have been enough, but I suppose Jackery wanted to make sure it arrived in one piece. Which it did. The rest of the unpacking, along with the unpacking of the folding solar panels went well.
It was getting later in the day, so I was only able to take it out to my lush garden for a few minutes to test. But, before we talk about that, let’s talk about the features and build quality.
The power comes from two 100 watt solar panels. After some difficult math, I determined that this totals 200 watts. These plug into a Y connector, which has an Anderson Powerpole connector on the end, which plugs into the power station.
The power station itself has a lithium-ion battery with a capacity of just over 1 kWh (21.6V, 46.4Ah). It has an inverter capable of supplying 110 volts for U.S. household style plugs, and there are three of those on the front. It also has a cigarette lighter-style plug, two USB-A ports, two USB-C ports, and the input receptacles toward the top.
It has a small backlit LCD display that shows the current charge percentage, watts going in, and watts going out. There is a power button for the low-voltage plug, and a power button for the high voltage plugs. A light comes on in the button when you turn each bank of plugs on, giving you control and also letting you know that it’s giving power in case something isn’t working so you’ll know the problem is not with the power station itself.
One neat little touch: it has a little LED flashlight on the side that can point forward when you are carrying it by the handle. This might not seem like a big deal, but if you’re carrying the power station in one hand and solar panels in the other hand at night, you won’t have any free hands. Having a built-in flashlight makes this great for emergency situations, and also is good for lighting things up at a campsite.
The build quality of the power station is good. I feel no flex whatsoever in the handle, sides, or bottom. It’s heavy (a 1 kWh battery is inside), but not too heavy for me to carry in one hand without straining too much. I’m not going to drop-test the unit, but it seems like it could handle a few drops, especially outdoors on grass or dirt. Just make sure you don’t drop it on your toes or into water, as the unit is not waterproof.
The solar panels are wrapped in a coarse canvas material that should hold up well in the wilderness, but once again, the setup is not waterproof. If it rains, put the panels and power station in your vehicle or tent. They close magnetically, so you don’t have to mess with latches. The handles on the end are very sturdy and thick, but I can carry both panels in one hand. Velcro keeps the legs tight against the back of the panel until you’re ready to deploy the panel, so it’s not a pain to carry or put in a car.
When you set the panels up, a system of adjustable straps helps keep the panels from falling over, but you’re going to want to tie or stake the panel down if you’re facing windy weather like I was today. The wind got behind one of my panels and threw it down HARD, but aside from some iron from the dirt stuck to the latch magnets, there was no damage. I put it back up and it started providing power again, no problem.
Another cool thing about the panels is that the power cord comes out inside a little zipper pocket. When not in use, the cord stays coiled up and out of the way for transport or storage without having to use a bread tie or anything. Also, inside the pocket are two extra USB plugs (one USB-A, one USB-C) in case you need to charge a small device without the power pack. When used with the power station, you have two extra plugs, just in case.
There’s also room inside the zipper pouch for the Y-connector for two panels and other things you might want to carry along, like charge cords.
Because it was late in the day, I didn’t get very good light on the panels, especially the one in front in the picture because it was barely getting light on all of the cells. Despite that, the power station said that it was getting between 120 and 124 watts in for a few minutes.
When I unplugged the panel that wasn’t getting great light, the other panel showed that it was producing 75-80 watts, so even in the late afternoon you can still get at least 150-160 watts out of these panels. They’ll probably get their best power in summer in the middle of the day, and could likely get close to the 200 watts as advertised, but that’s only in perfect conditions. I did this testing in the southwest, so you’ll probably get less power if you live further north.
Another cool feature about the power station is that it can be used without the panels at all. If you just want to have some emergency power for around the house, you can charge it with the included wall adapter. It can also be charged in your car, but that takes longer. Because it’s a lithium-ion battery, I wouldn’t recommend leaving it in your car regularly, but it can charge in your car on trips, etc.
Max output power is 1000 watts, so don’t count on using it for large space heaters, hair dryers, or things like that. You could use some smaller heaters, but you’d only get 1-3 hours out of that so it’s not good for keeping a tent warm overnight. It can be used for cooking, but you’ll use 1/3 to 1/2 of the battery pack if you cook fast or the whole thing if you’re cooking something that takes a while.
Figuring out how long it will last is fairly simple, though. Figure out how much power your device pulls (assuming it’s under 1000 watts) and then divide 1000 by the number of watts the device uses. That’s the approximate time it will run in hours. Charging the thing up again from dead with panels will take all day if you get good light, so the thing will do well if you’re realistic about what it can do for you.
One other word of warning: avoid drawing it down below 20% or leaving it at 100% for storage. That’s never good for lithium batteries. Store it somewhere around 50% charge and don’t do things that would draw it down to 20% too often and you’ll be fine.
One of the great things about newer technology is that it doesn’t take much power. A regular 100 watt light bulb would have drawn this thing down in about ten hours, but newer LED work lights and camping lights draw only a handful of watts, so they’ll run all night for over a week before the thing would die. Because you can charge it the next day on solar or in your car, it can make camping trips a lot more pleasant, even if you’re far from power.
In the next few days, I’m going to put the station out earlier in the day and charge it up, then I’m going to test it and see how it performs with a few heavier loads using appliances from around my house. Sometime after that, I’ll take it out on an expedition of some kind to put it through its paces in the great outdoors along with some of my other emergency/adventure gear.
So far, I don’t think any of that is going to be a problem, but stay tuned for more rigorous testing.
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