When a company sends me a product to review (and keep), I like to test it to the limits. Sometimes that’s a pain, because things can break. For example, I have a couple of e-bikes in my shed that need minor things fixed, but I know their real limits. With power stations and solar generators, that’s usually a little easier. Just plug things in until you figure out what works and what doesn’t. This time, I was able to use the AlphaESS 1000W power station to cook a meal!
This actually turned out to be the perfect test load for the unit. It’s rated for 1000 watts of continuous power, and my cheap Walmart electric griddle pulls about 1050 watts. But, before we get to the meal, let’s talk a bit about the unit’s strengths and weaknesses.
Good Things About The AlphaESS 1000W Power Station
The first thing that I noticed about the AlphaESS 1000W is the price. It comes in at about $100 cheaper than comparable power stations on Amazon. By comparison, I’m talking about stations with about 1000 watts of output power and 1000 watt-hours of storage. This basically means that they’ll run a 1000 watt load for an hour (minus whatever the conversion losses are from battery DC to AC inverter output, of course).
The second cool thing about this station is its form factor. It’s big and heavy like any power station with similar capabilities. Lithium batteries have come a long way, but they still have to weigh a fair amount (around 25 pounds) to hold that much energy. Despite this, it’s fairly easy to carry. It’s got a folding handle that you can put out of your way when using it. It also has some good shock protection on the corners. Some of the unit’s shell sticks out further to protect the screen and internals.
The folding handle also serves another vital purpose: getting out of the way so you can use the station’s two wireless charging pads. Yes, I said two (2). As Nute Gunray would say, “This is getting out of hand. Now there are TWO of them!” But, when you’re trying to serve up electrical power to a whole family at the campsite or during a power outage, you really can’t have too many ways to charge phones, watches and tablets. I found this to be a very handy feature.
It’s worth noting that this is the first time I’ve seen charging pads on a larger power station (I’ve only reviewed small stations like this one with wireless charging). That the AlphaESS 1000W unit came with two is pretty neat.
Another really cool feature is that they didn’t waste the space on the back of the unit. Instead of some blank plastic, they included a very large LED lantern. It’s diffused and spread across multiple diode clusters, so it’s not blinding. It also has three power levels to suit your needs and maybe save a tiny amount of power. Being LED, it doesn’t use much power, despite being quite bright on the top setting.
There’s plenty to like about the availability of plugs. It has the usual power input that can be fed with solar power (sold separately), a 12-volt cigarette lighter-style outlet, two more 12v ports, two USB-B power outlets, one USB-C PD outlet, and three 120 volt outlets (max 1000 watts total).
Like some of the smaller units I’ve tested, this one allows you to charge it with USB-C PD chargers, like you’d get with a laptop computer or tablet. You can put up to 100 watts of power into it this way (or, take up to 100 watts out to run devices).
Let’s talk about running this device to its limits. After some trial and error with big devices in my home (it did run the fridge, but that’s only about 250 watts), I found something that tested it to the limits: my cheap electric griddle from Walmart. It pulled 1050 watts. Once I saw that it could handle the load, I started dropping food onto it. The kids got a nice bedtime snack (eggs in a basket) cooked from portable battery power. In total, this drained the battery down to 62%, so it’s possible to cook two meals on one charge and still have room to charge phones and run some emergency lighting if you’ve got sun to charge it up (panel sold separately).
The AlphaESS 1000W unit did put out just above the 1000 watts of advertised power, but it required the unit to turn its cooling fans to full blast and even then, it got a little hot. Not hot enough that it concerns me, though. It did a good job of shedding its heat once the meal was finished and the fans kept going.
One final test was my typical ham radio test. This doesn’t pull much power from the AlphaESS 1000W unit (I only transmit 5 watts maximum, hams call this “QRP” power), but it does test to make sure the device can output clean power to multiple outputs simultaneously and that it doesn’t make a bunch of radio noise. The unit passed this test well, and I traded signals with people as far away as the Caribbean.
Gotchas & Downsides
There were only two small downsides to the unit.
First, it was initially very confusing to turn on the wireless charging plates. A quick read of the manual, and I found that you have to press the “info” button next to the display twice like double-clicking a mouse to get the plates to turn on. If you end up buying one of these, you’ll know this from the beginning and probably won’t have to read the manual.
The only other small thing that was annoying was the lack of a time left readout on the display. The higher end Jackery units and some of the small ones from other brands tell you how much time remains if you use the battery at the present load, which takes some of the math and guesswork out of things. If you know that the unit has about 1000 watt-hours of power, you can divide the 1000 by the watts you’re pulling to get the approximate number of hours that remain, but doing math in an emergency kind of sucks.
Despite these two little problems, I’d still recommend the unit for its strengths and its low price. Next, I’ll be passing the unit off to a family member so they can give it a long-term test. Expect some results in 6-12 months, or sooner if they have a power outage that they use it for.
All images by Jennifer Sensiba.
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