Compact, Portable, Solar Power & Inverter / Battery Kit

Why I like Black People… Probably something about a shared heritage of poverty. “No Irish Need Apply” signs were common in NYC in prior times. “Irish are all drunkards and have tails” and other slurs. Yes, there was some amount of tension between Blacks and Irish, because both were trying to get just One Step up off the bottom in the 1800’s. Fighting for the same “crap jobs”. “Indentured Servitude” of the Irish was something that “in theory” you could buy your freedom from. In practice not so much. I think those days are gone now.

Then on Mum’s side, a sailor didn’t exactly make a bunch of money in the 1800’s to early 1900’s. Her stories of having ONE lump of coal, the size of a melon, and needing to sit in the cold until her father returned to burn it and have warmth…

Dad, 12 years old in the Great Depression, hunting wild rabbits for food, otherwise no meat on the table. Being a German / Irish mix during the W.W.I and W.W.II era (and folks not caring that HIS German were Amish pacifists and had moved from what is now Holland to Switzerland and on to the USA always running from persecution…)

Let’s just leave it at “My people have lived persecution for generations and I have sympathy for any persecuted persons.”

So for what ever reason, I like to watch “Black Guy” videos. They often have the same “compulsive cheapness” I have from the same roots in poverty. They often have the same “compulsive reality basis” I have. Not a lot of bogus “Social Networking” and “Virtue Signalling”. Just “This is” honesty. I can relate.

So in this video, the guy is a little bit repetitive. Likely it could be 1/2 as long. Basic point is that you need some kind of alternative power source any “Aw Shit” and you can get it for about $100, with solar charging, if you buy things on “clearance”. A highly variable but about $45 “Go Power” battery + inverter package and a $60 “Briefcase solar charger” at 13 Watts. All from Harbor Freight. (Likely made in China…)

Now, for me, I’ve got plug in inverters for my car and in an emergency, the car becomes a power source. I’ve got them from about 100 W up to 2000 W (That needs direct battery connection with heavy cables).

Realize that a car alternator produces about 80 Amps at 12 volts (really about 14 volts when charging), or about 1 kW per hour when running. A 13 watt solar panel will take about 77 hours to make the same energy as one hour of the alternator. For that reason, I’ve avoided the solar route. Basically, 13 W for 10 hours is about the same as running your car / alternator for 7 minutes. I’m generally OK with 7 minutes a day of running the car when on the road, as usually I’m doing 16 hours a day of driving.

OTOH: IF I’m static in some location camping for a while… I really do not want to be drawing down my car battery and then running the engine to recharge it on any regular basis. Both the “Go Power” and the solar panels are quite small, and a 13 W x 10 hours charge time (or 130 W-Hrs) covers most of my “small stuff” use. So I’ll likely get one of these sets just to cover cell phone, laptop / Pi battery , hotspot, 9 W LED “camp light” for a few hours etc. with zero need to resort to gasoline or Diesel.

I could not find the “battery and inverter in a box” device on Harbor Freight, and the Walmart price was over $100. OTOH, my car already has a battery and I already own inverters, so only the solar briefcase is needed for me, and it is available on the other side of town…

Unavailable at San Jose, CA
In Stock at E. San Jose, CA

So guess where I’m going tomorrow ;-)

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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19 Responses to Compact, Portable, Solar Power & Inverter / Battery Kit

  1. Pingback: Harbor Freight Santa Clara Screwed Me | Musings from the Chiefio

  2. YMMV says:

    That link is weird. If I click on it I get a 404, but if I copy and paste it, it works??

    In my experience, small wattage solar panels are worthless, especially amorphous cells.
    This is a clearance item, all the more reason to beware. 0.4 A at 12 volts is not 13 Watts, and that at best.

    If you are only interested in charging small devices, you can do better than this panel, even at the same price.

    “a car alternator produces about 80 Amps at 12 volts (really about 14 volts when charging)”
    Maybe. I would question the 80 A. Possible but … The other thing is alternators are not usually rated for heavy duty cycles. They can get hot and melt their insides if pushed too hard. Hard use should really have a regulator which senses alternator and battery temperatures.

    Alternators are also bad at topping up a battery. Battery acceptance goes down when they get full (lead acid). Solar panels can do very well because there is no cost to running them for long periods. (But you do have to be careful with panels bigger than trickle chargers, to protect your battery.

  3. philjourdan says:

    Most of us were not born rich. Indeed, over 80% of the rich were not born that way either.

    I have suffered my share of bigotry (try being Catholic in the KKK south). BUt I do not equate that to what blacks had to go through. And yet through all of that, they persevered! Until the liberals stole their family with the welfare state,

  4. E.M.Smith says:


    I know that my lower end lighter weight Mercedes alternators are 65 Amp and IIRC Diesels with extra large batteries have an 80 Amp alternator (though those have not been made since about 1985, I still have one in the driveway ;-)

    I’d not expect anywhere near that in a Honda or Chevy…

    I do know that when I’ve had to jump start the car, 20 minutes of driving has put more than enough charge into the battery to be “Just Fine” and in an hour of driving it tests “full”. It’s an 80 Amp Hour battery… (The diesel has a larger one by about 50%. IIRC about 120 Ah in the high quality ones, though the Autozone brand was something like 98 Ah).

    So I’m talking specifics to my “fleet”, not generalized to other cars.

  5. Taz says:

    For what it’s worth, really small propane generators are available, though in not nearly enough variety. I’ve used one 24/7 for electronics….refilling with a new 30lb propane tank every 2.5days.

    I wish I could find a 100W or 200W peak power fuel cell for such duties….but the engine powered substitutes work fine.

    Not widely known, but most of the residential optical fiber in the US is passive. It feeds directly into central offices without amplifiers of any kind. So if you can keep that optical transceiver powered – your connection to the world can be maintained indefinitely. And most telephone central offices still have big diesel generators for backup. (except in California where they allow land line residents to burn).

  6. YMMV says:

    “I do know that when I’ve had to jump start the car, 20 minutes of driving has put more than enough charge into the battery to be “Just Fine” and in an hour of driving it tests “full”.”

    Fine. But when you have expensive deep cycle batteries, that “full” may not be full enough. For normal chemistry, batteries which are not recharged to 100% quickly after discharge lose capacity. Measuring when a battery is full is a harder problem than you might expect. The best battery monitor is this one: or the new/improved model SG205.

    When a battery is heavily discharged, it can make use of a big alternator. But as the charge comes closer to full, it may only accept a couple amps, no matter how large your alternator is. Whether it matters just depends on how much you have invested and how much you care.

    Other chemistries, such as LiFePO4, are different.

  7. jim2 says:

    Taz – how small of a propane generator is it – or them?

  8. H.R. says:

    Hey, jim2 – I was curious about how small the propane generators could be, too.

    On my initial search, I found one called “The Sportsman” which was only 2500 watts and looked like something to throw in the back of a small SUV or pickup when going camping. Alas, the link to the details of the product was dead.

    Then I found this link. Scroll around. They have all sorts of small generators, though I didn’t look at their site long enough to find the really small ones. I noticed a lot of dual fuel models; gasoline/propane.

  9. jim2 says:

    Found a 1kW one.

  10. jim2 says:

    Found a 1kW one.

    1 kW gen set

  11. H.R. says:

    @jim2 – I didn’t search Amazon. We no longer buy anything from Amazon. Starve the Beast.

    A little more searching and I’m guessing that someone out there is making a propane-powered version of that 1kW unit you found.

    In the brief time I spent on that Generators Direct site, I noted there were several dual fuel models available.

    I’m not a fan of two-cycle engines. It just seems to me they are too prone to fouling if you are not meticulous on their maintenance.

    OK…. that’s true of any engine, but I think more so for 2-cycles.

  12. E.M.Smith says:

    @H.R. & Jim2:

    How do you get oil into the fuel / air mix in a propane fueled 2 stroke?

    I suppose it could be splash oiled or something fancy like a pumped oil system, but traditionally 2 strokes had the oil in the fuel…

    You can get conversion kits (aftermarket propane carburetors )

    Introducing Motor Snorkel – The world’s fastest and easiest way to run your gasoline generator on propane, natural gas AND gasoline.
    Motor Snorkel installs in three easy steps

    Step 1:
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    the studs on your carburetor

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    Now, no matter if you have a Briggs and Stratton engine on your generator or any other type of generator, we have a classic conversion kit or a Motor Snorkel kit to help with your do-it-yourself hybrid generator conversion.
    Use our product finder to find a kit for your generator right now.

    Couple of $Hundred for the kit.
    Yamaha 1000 W
    Pricey at a $kilo but you might like it:

    Yamaha EF1000i
    This Hybrid model can run on gasoline, propane or natural gas. The picture shown is with the NPSK-6 accessory.

    Yamaha EF1000i Key Benefits
    bullet Can run for up to 48 hours on a 20# grill type cylinder at 1/2 load
    bullet Only weighs 27 pounds and is very quiet (47-57 decibels)
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    bullet Full Factory Warranty and Nationwide Service at any Yamaha Dealer from coast to coast.
    Complete unit detail links
    Note: The first three links below will direct you to the Yamaha-Motor website. After reviewing the information use your “Back” button to return to our website.

    0 Generator Specifications This page has the links to the Yamaha Generator Sizing Chart and any available Yamaha Accessories.
    0 US Carburetion Accessories available for the EF1000iS
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    Yamaha EF1000i Pricing
    Hybrid Tri-fuel Gas Ready with Tachometer/Hour Meter EF1000iS-H $1071.19 Add to Cart

    Shopping around can likely get the price down.


    I’ve actually got 2 chemistries and 2 vastly different sizes in play when charging appliances while camping. The large car lead-acid then the little lithiums in phone, laptop, etc. Alternator just needs to put a big chunk in the lead-acid. The lithium batteries get to charge as slowly as they like…

    So “start engine” and run it up to about 1500 to 2k RPM. It’s stuffs back into the battery the “starting drain”, and any drain from overnight, at a fairly high rate. It also doesn’t need to get to absolutely 100%, just “more or less full”, and that happens at a high charge rate.

    Basically, if the Alternator is rated for, say 80 amps. I can run the thing for 15 minutes and that either gives me 20 x 12 = 240 W-hrs if I need it, or if it gives less (like 5 x 12 = 60 W-hrs) then I didn’t need it as the car battery was already pretty full. (and yes, I know it’s 14 V when full and 18 V under charge – examples for illustration only.)

    I usually don’t even bother with that, as the amount of electricity I use is very very low. Usually just charge the phone (and that often from an external Li battery pack) and run a 9 w light while unpacking / setting up. I just let that get replaced in the battery when the car is started to leave and gets driven anyway.

  13. The True Nolan says:

    @jim2: That gen set looks VERY similar to the Harbor Freight version which sells for maybe 50$ less. I have had one of them for maybe 7 or 8 years and it has been a very nice adjunct to the bigger gen sets. Often one needs just enough power to run lights, fans, and a battery charger, but not enough to justify the (louder and more gas guzzling) 5KW. If you also have a 2 stroke chainsaw, it is not that much hassle keeping fuel/oil around. On the other hand, you can cobble up a propane carb and you CAN run a regular gas gen on it. But don’t try to run a 2 stroke on propane. That oil is mixed into the fuel for a reason.

  14. H.R. says:

    @The True Nolan – I think that was me that didn’t care for 2-cycles engines, not jim2.

    I was going to look further for a very small generator that runs on the camp cylinder size propane bottles.
    Raise your hand if you have an old model airplane motor around. Some of the larger ones had mufflers and would probably power a half-dozen or so bicycle generators. Sure beats Ossqss’ idea of a leg-powered bicycle generator 😜

  15. jim2 says:

    That was a mistake on my part. Was looking for propane powered, not gas-only.

  16. p.g.sharrow says:

    Back in 65 while at the PX in Subic Bay, PI. I saw a Honda generator that powered 1 – 60 watt light bulb. The entire unit was a desk lamp complete with shade. Like you said, looked like a medium sized model airplane engine but a 4 stroker with a beer can sized generator. Always wished I had bought it. I think that was how Mr.Honda started his company, making little gen sets after the war…pg

  17. Jim Masterson says:


    Ahhh yes. My dad was Chief-of-Staff, COMNAVSUBIC in’65. I was in high school at the time. It brings back memories.

  18. E.M.Smith says:


    That is what I read of the start of Honda. His first product was an engine driven lamp.

    Yes, I want one!

    I’d love to find a 50 W miniature fuel driven generator… A LOT of time all I need is in the 10 W to 40 W range.

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