A portable power station is an incredibly useful tool to have on hand when things get rough, and the power goes out. Whether you’re concerned with powering small items like your smart devices or more substantial things, like your lights, there’s a power station out there to accommodate all your needs.
The trick is figuring out which power station will suit your needs as well as your budget. If powering lights, fans, and small appliances fall under your needs category, and you’re on a budget, then the Jackery Explorer Portable Solar Power Station 500 may be the perfect option for you.
The Jackery Explorer 500 Solar Power Station
Of all the compact solar power stations, the Jackery Explorer 500 is loaded with features and is a budget-friendly option.
With a running 500 watts and a surge of 1,000 watts combined with its battery capacity, this power station can give you up to seven hours of stable power for all your smart devices and small appliances. The best thing about this power station is that it can be charged via a solar panel, a charging station, or an AC wall outlet. To charge, it will take up to 14 hours in full sun, 16 hours on or off the road, and 8 hours by a wall outlet.
The recommended solar panel for solar-charging is the Jackery SolarSaga 100W, which you can buy separately. It’s also compatible with solar panels that have an output voltage range between 12 and 30 volts. The Explorer 500 is the perfect power station for RV camping and powering small appliances.
Features and Specs:
- Battery Capacity: 518Wh (24Ah, 21.6V)
- AC Output: 110V, 500W (1000W peak)
- Carport: DC 12V, 10A , 2*DC Output: 12V, 7A (Total 120W)
- USB Outputs (3): 5V, 2.4A each
- Input: 8mm DC, 12V~30V (100W Max)
- Dimensions: 11.84×7.59×9.2 in
- Weight: 13.32lbs
What is a Portable Power Station?
A portable power station is exactly what it sounds like—an all-in-one power unit designed to power your devices and appliances during power outages, camping trips, and on job sites. Power stations typically come with a rechargeable battery-generator, an AC outlet, a DC carport, and USB charging ports.
They work similarly to portable generators, only they don’t require fuel, and they’re safe to use inside. They’re smaller, lighter, and quieter than portable generators, and they have different voltage outputs, which may determine which one better suits your needs.
What Can the Jackery Explorer 500 power?
The Jackery Explorer 500 has three 2.4A USB outlets so that it will power any of your standard USB ready devices. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way let’s talk about its 110V (500W) inverter and its 12V outlets.
Within the power station is a 500-watt pure sine wave inverter that can take on up to 1000 watts of power surges. What this means is that the unit can handle 500 watts of running power from devices that require 1,000 watts to startup. Those devices include:
- Laptops and most desktop computers
- A CPAP machine
- A small refrigerator
- A Playstation and Xbox
- Desk lamps
- Other smart devices
The appliances and devices that won’t work with this power station include:
- Most toaster ovens
- Air conditioners
- Space heaters
- Electric water heaters
- Standard-sized refrigerators
It’s safe to say that any regular-sized household appliance won’t work with the Explorer 500. To be sure of which devices and appliances you can use, check their data plate for wattage compatibility.
The Explorer 500 also has three 12V outlets, and one is a cigarette lighter style that can manage 10 amps alone. The other two are 6mm outlets that can handle a total of 7 volts together. All three of these outlets can be used together, but the most output you’ll get collectively is the 10 amps.
The portable power station also has internal breakers for protection that will trip if you try to power anything over the allotted 500 watts.
What’s the Battery Capacity of the Explorer 500?
The Explorer 500 has a 518 Watt Hour lithium battery. In regards to RV and camper setups, this unit’s battery powers 41 amp hours at 12.6 volts.
Its charging capacity is 12V-30V, 3.5A (100W Max). What this means is that once the battery life is completely drained, it will take a while to recharge. Depending on how often you’re using the portable power station, the battery life is estimated at 500 recharging cycles before it drops to 80% capacity. After the 500 recharging cycles, you’ll begin to see a steady decline in battery capacity.
For heavy users, you’re looking at about four years of regular usage before the battery capacity begins to take a noticeable dive. For less frequent users, you can expect a six-year shelf life before a noticeable decline. Ultimately, batteries are disposable and will decay naturally over time, even when treated well.
What Are the Alternative Solar Panels I Can Use With it?
The Jacker Explorer 500 was designed for use with the Jackery SolarSaga100W panel. While the solar panel is sold separately, it’s a wise investment if you’re looking to spend time off the grid.
The SolarSaga comes with a nylon fabric shell and a snap-button closure that allows you to fold it neatly for more comfortable transport. It also has two kick-stands that enable you to prop the panel up at the perfect angle to catch the sun’s rays. The solar panel stands at about two feet tall and three and a half feet wide. It weighs about five pounds and has rubberized handles for easy carrying.
While SolarSaga is recommended, there are other solar panels that work with the Explorer 500. The one thing you need is an MC4 to Anderson Connector Adapter and solar panel compatible with the adapter. This will allow you to bolt a solar panel to the roof of your RV or camper rather than lug it around or worry about taking up storage space.
Additionally, you’ll want to look out for a few other things to ensure compatibility, including:
- A rated power of 100 watts
- A power voltage of 18V
- A power current of 5.5.A
- An open-circuit voltage of 21.6V
- A short circuit voltage of 6A
Keep in mind that a solar panel addition isn’t 100% necessary as you can conveniently charge your portable power station via carport or AC outlet. It’s also good to keep in mind that Solar panel charging takes the longest of all charging methods. However, you can power your devices and appliances while recharging. Of course, doing this will add to the already long recharging times.
There are a few other things to take into consideration when looking at the Jacker Explorer 500. While it’s a great power station—and as big as it gets—for portability and price, It’s missing a few key features.
The unit comes with three USB ports, but they’re standard. It’s missing a USB-C output, which isn’t a deal-breaker, but it is becoming the new standard with popular smart devices and laptops. The unit is also missing warning indicators for when the battery gets low. The LED screen is easy to read, but unless you’re checking it frequently, you have no way of knowing your battery percentage. A warning light or audible indicator would be a nice touch.
Lastly, while the unit is advertised for rugged outdoor and camping use, it comes with several warnings about sun exposure, rain and moisture, extreme temperatures, and keeping it at a safe distance from fires. It can still be used outdoors, but only when weather conditions are optimal.
Is the Jackery Explorer 500 the Right Power Station For You?
The Jackery Explorer 500 is a great portable power station for its size, weight, lifespan, and price. It’s perfect for RV and regular campers who need to power their smart devices and small appliances.
Of course, this power station isn’t for everyone. For example, if you need to power appliances that require more than 500 watts or need to use more than 30 amps of power each day, the Explorer 500 won’t work for you.
To figure out whether this power station is suitable for you, you’ll want to run a power audit to determine what your power needs are daily.