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Solar Generator #1

Maxoak Bluetti EB 240 -- $1754

   Yup, that price is right, there’s no decimal point.   But this thing is a true Beast. 


    First of all, the term “solar generator” is misleading at best and bullshit at worst.  These things do not “generate” a damn thing.  They are basically large, portable  battery packs.  They store power for future use, and they create (generate) nothing.


Maxoak Bluetti EB240    Also, they are not limited to solar; they can be recharged by “shore power”, which, I learned, is what RVers and van-dwellers call the basic 120/110V AC power that you run in your house.  (I guess the metaphor is that you are adrift at sea when you are on the road, but can tap in to “shore” power when docked at campgrounds or at home.)   In most cases, they can also be charged by your vehicle as you drive, though with limitations.


    I watched hours of videos about these things.  Will Prouse was the YouTube King  when it comes to these.  Manufacturers would send him a prototype and he would run it through the wringer with rigorous tests and meticululous number-crunching.  Unlike many of the YouTube ilk, Will is not sponsored by anyone.  His reviews are neutral and brutal.  If something sucks about a device, he tells you it sucks.  He calls most of these units “total garbage.”  But when something is good, his zeal is over the top:  “Guys, this thing is pulling just 6 amps!!  INCREDIBLE!!” 


    So I watched and watched, weighing the pros and cons.  The Goal Zero YETI was the heavyweight:  it’ll hold 3000 watt-hours (Wh) of power, but it was a whopping $3000 and took 25 hours to fully charge, even from shore power.  The EcoFlow Delta was a real contender, with 1300 Wh, a $1400 price tag, and the abilty to fully charge in only 2 hours, but its charging efficiency, according to Will, was “reaaaally bad.”  Maxoak had their Bluetti EB120 on the market for a while, offering 1200 Wh for $1100, but it had only a 1000W inverter versus the 1500W one that the others had.


    When 2020 began, I couldn’t have told you WTF the term “watt hours” meant.  But my solar research taught me much, notably that Watts = Volts x Amps.  So, when I see 1200WH, I divide that total by the wattage (for instance, a typical laptop uses 60 watts) and you’ll see how many hours (i.e, 20 in this case) you can expect to be able to run that 60W device before you tank the battery. 


    [A laptop running on 110V, pulling around 0.5 amps, uses about 60 watts.  20 hours of 60 watts equals 1200 watt-hours.]


    I was just about to pull the trigger on the Delta, when Hobotech posted a video on the just-released Bluetti EB240.  He gave it all the trials that Will would have, and it passed with high honors.  With 2400 Wh, it was double the capacity of the Delta, and it cost less than $1800.  This was a winner. 


    The lower-rated inverter didn’t bother me; I’m not going to be running any high-power devices.  This will run my power saw in short bursts, charge my other tools, power my 900W microwave for my short reheating sessions, and have plennnty left for my lights, fan, laptop, TV, and more.


Maxoak Bluetti EB2450 front panel    It has a three-level readout screen that displays, top-to-bottom, how much power you’re taking in, how much DC power you are currently (get it?) using, and how much AC power you are using.  It also has a five-bar full-to-empty gauge so you know how much juice you have left. 


    Unlike most of the solar generators that use multiple Lithium Ion battery cells to store the charge, this EB240 uses the type of cells that Renault uses in its electric cars.  Goal Zero and EcoFlow tell you that 500 cycles (1 cycle = 100% full to 0%) will take its toll on their Lithium Ion cells by 40%, meaning that your new maximum charge will be only 60% of what it was when new.  For someone on the road, running lots of devices and using up their 100W of solar every day, this means you’re lucky to get even a year-and-a-half (500 days) out of your expensive battery.


    My EB240 promises 2000 cycles, and even claims only a 20% reduction after that time.  With my 370W of solar, depleting this battery is going to be VERY rare.  If I use 800 Wh in a day (which is a lot for my devices and such), I’ll still only burn 1/3 of a cycle, and a good day of sunshine will easily top it off the next day.  I doubt I will EVER reach 1000 cycles, let alone 2000.  I’ll be leaving this sucker to somebody in my will.


    So, yeah, this took a lot of research, but I consider it to be the single most important element to off-the-grid living.  And, after much gnashing of teeth, I powered up my Discover card and ordered one from Shop Solar Kits (SSK), largely because they offered a limited-time-only $152 price cut, free shipping and, somehow, no sales tax.  It was a no-brainer, which is perfect for me.   


    The shipment was delayed due to COVID-19 issues with FedEx, but I didn’t care all that much.  No deadline here, so whenever.  But when it arrived, a week late … it was broken.  Arrrgh. 

    But this is not a complaint about a broken device; rather, it's praise for quality customer service.

    It’s a 60-pound device, and it must have been dropped on its side somewhere during the journey.  The box looked fine, as did the inner packaging, but once all that was removed, the AC outlet panel dangled forlornly from the back side. 


    I immediately emailed photos to SSK, and the owner (named Max, fittingly enough) responded the next morning, assuring me that all would be made well.  In the next few days, we exchanged many emails.  No complaints whatsoever about SSK’s customer service; Max was on it.


    The SSK techies, though, thought this unit could be fixed … by me.  Umm, oh kaaay.  I can try, I guess, but I wasn’t all that thrilled about it.  I could tell that the metal support frame within had been badly bent, and I didn’t think I could fix that.


Maxoak Bluetti EB240 - damaged    They expedited me a new full back side panel, with the AC subpanel secure in it.  I took it into work and to the operating table in our back room and performed some brain salad surgery (though I needed to drop another $20 on a set of Torx wrenches to get it open).  The frame was indeed beyond repair.  I took both pix and a vid of it, and sent them to Max.  He confirmed right away that a new unit would be needed after all, and arranged for a FedEx pickup.  Once he got the busted unit back, he’d send me the new one.


    Two more weeks later, it finally arrived … intact!  


    When I hooked it up to the Trina Solar 370W panel, I watched that display’s top row zoom up to 324W; the EB240 was chugging in sunshine like a frat boy chugs keg beer.  I bet Will Prouse would be losing his freaking mind over that.  I know I was. 


    And if the sun’s not out, I can plug one end of the 300W inverter (which I already had) into Maxx’s “Power” socket, plug Maxoak’s AC plug into said inverter, and charge it up while I drive.  Good to have a Plan B.


    The two AC outlets on the back work just fine, thank you, and the four USB ports on the front do their job spot on as well.  The DC lighter-style socket, well, that was reserved for one very important gizmo.


Solar Generator #2

EcoFlow Delta Solar Generator -- $1100.00 (eBay)

EcoFlow Delta

    Hang on a tick, right?  The Maxoak Bluetti EB240 won that job, didn’t it?  What happened to all that gushing about the 2400 watt-hours and chugging solar rays and all that?


    Well, it is all still valid.  I love my Bluetti.  It has run my DC fridge, my DC fan and DC lights, my USB charging ports, and my laptop without a hiccup for six months.  All of that stuff is well within the range of its 1000W inverter.


    And I fully expected that a nice 900W microwave oven (MWO) would be within that range.  I mean, wouldn’t you think so?  900 < 1000, yes? 


    Nope.  I know cuz I tried.  I bought a 900W MWO at Wal-Mart for, like, $45.  Crazy good bargain.  I brought it to van, plugged it in, put in a Hot Pocket (Ham & Cheese Croissant, yum), set it on high for 2:00 and sat down salivating.


    But it soon stopped and sat there, dark and cold.  The Bluetti’s screen was showing “E600” – or something like that – it began with “E” and that’s what you always dread seeing.


    I shut it off and then turned it back on to reset it, and realized that the DC outlet was still using power for the fridge.  Maybe that was the problem.


    So, I cued up the Hot Pocket again, hit go on the MWO and watched the Bluetti screen.  It jumped immediately to 1020 …1050 … 1100 … E600.  Ugh.  Whattup with that?


    I pulled out the phone and asked Google, “whattup with that?”  but with different words, something like, “How much power does a 900W MWO use?”  


    Well, turns out that the “heating power is 900W”, but the operational power is a lot more -- like 50% more!.   Well, shit, that sucks.  No wonder it was tripping the switch.  Bluetti has a surge function, like all solar generators do, but it will handle “up to 1200W” for 120 seconds, and once it gets over 1200W, it shuts off.


    Google eventually informed me that the 900W output requires a 1350W input!!  No wonder Bluetti was flipping out.  Poor Bluetti.     And, even worse, if I scaled down to a 700W oven, it would still take 1050W to run it. 


    Soooo, I’d just have to make do with a tiny MWO, like the 600W, 0.6 cu.ft. model that I got from Amazon, right?


    Welllll, maybe not, Scott.  One absolute priority of the Blue Maxx Project is to Have Enough Power.  I’m not big on cooking, so I had no plans to actually have a propane stove – I have a 4-burner gas stove in my cottage and I think I’ve used it 6 times in 2 years – hence, having a MWO that is merely “capable” was just not gonna cut it. 


    One of my adventurous moods struck, and before I knew it, I was searching EcoFlow Delta on eBay.  As luck would have it, a brand new one was on the auction block. 


    This was the solar generator that I almost bought when I heard about Bluetti at the last minute.  In fact – full disclosure – I actually had pulled the trigger and bought the Delta on Amazon, but it was going to take a week-plus to ship it.  In that span, though, Professor Hobo of posted a review video on the Bluetti, and it looked tremendous enough for me to cancel my Delta order. 


    Now I had a chance to add the Delta to my mobile domicile (mobicile??) after all, and at a significant savings.


Image result for will prowse    The current bid was about $500.  They typically retail for about $1400.  I got in the mix and periodically checked in over the next 36 hours.  In the waning moments, I thought I had it for under $1000, but some snake jumped in with $1050 with 1:00 to go.  I cued up my winning bid and counted down in my head.  With what I figured was about 10 seconds left, I submitted the bid and laid claim to my prize.


     Yeah, it was $1100 over budget, but this thing is a Beast.  I said that about the Bluetti too, but they are both Beasts.  Check out Will Prowse’s YouTube review.  [Those two guys were HUGE helps to me in sorting out what was what and what I needed in my van:  Will, especially, when it came to solar panels.  The man is a wizard.]


    Bluetti kicks ass on Delta in storage, 2400Wh to 1260Wh, almost double.  But Delta has 6 AC outlets (vs. 2), charges from 0% to 100% in less than 90 minutes (which is insanely fast) and, most importantly, it has an 1800W inverter!  Delta is also compact enough at 8x15x10 to fit under the desk without interfering with anything.  


    So, here is The New Blue Maxx Power Grid:


    The Bluetti will handle everything mentioned above: business as usual for the Maxoak.


    The Delta will have its own dedicated AC outlet (I get to use the hole saw again!) on the back corner of the dresser, and it will handle the MWO and whatever TV/Monitor that I end up getting.  That cord from that outlet will connect to a power strip that plugs into the back of the Delta. 


    The 5 other AC outlets on the unit will be available for any other 110V devices that I might need at any given time.  It’s portable enough (only 30 pounds) to grab-n-go if I need AC power somewhere outside the van. 


    I’ve already used it to run my corded handheld circular saw and it handled the power tool with ease.  I’m told that I cannot jump-start my van with the Delta, but I can use it to charge the battery.


    The 600W MWO is still on the job, for now.  I might upgrade to 900W or more, but then space becomes an issue.  The 900-watter that I had originally was too big to fit in the upper cabinets, so I stored it on the floor in the front compartment under the bed.  I had to pull it out and heft it up onto the counter in order to use it, and then put it back before driving anywhere. 


    Was that a big deal?  No, not compared to having no MWO at all, but it was kind of a medium deal.  The 600W box is barely small enough to fit up top.  I just slide the cabinet door open and it’s right there awaiting my whims.  Pretty sweet.


    So, I’ll need to decide – at some point – if the convenience is worth the lower power.  (Funny that “lower” an “power” don’t rhyme, hm?)


    It’s been suggested that I make the MWO permanent on the counter, and I could do that.  Trouble is, that spot is reserved for the TV (or monitor), which will be on a swivel stand so I can view it from the desk while a work, and from the bed while I lounge.  There is not enough room for both. 


    Anyway, I have an additional 1260Wh of power now.  Google tells me that a 24” TV uses 40W.  If I use Delta for TV alone, I can watch 31.5 hours of non-stop telly.

    If I ever watch television for 31.5 straight hours, just shoot me, OK?   =)

A year-plus later......

Solar Generator #3 !!!

EcoFlow Delta Max 2000 Solar Generator -- $1399 (EcoFlow)

3” Recessed Grommet Outlet with 2 AC Outlets and 2 USB Ports – $23.99


            Yup, more power.  Humans crave power, yes?  Well, this is my version of that concept.  I don’t want power over you, necessarily (though maybe….). 

            A lot has happened since the last paragraph, and i have a lot more stuff to run.  I want power over my freezer, reefer, fans, lights, microwave, laptops, tools, air compressor, battery chargers, and whatever other AC or DC gizmoes or doodads come my way.


            And yeah, I already had a lot of power (see above).  Seemingly enough.  But now I have a lot more!  Bwahahahaa.


            The commitment to both the freezer AND the reefer made another power box a never-enough-must to make me go for it.  Those two appliances are the only things in BM – apart from my internal organs – that run 24/7. 


The reefer ain’t so bad.  It pulls 30-35 watts part-time and then rests, literally “chilling out” – har har har, I kill myself sometimes (most people can only kill themselves once) – for about half the time.  When the temp in the box climbs to a certain point, the thermostat kicks the compressor awake, he runs on the treadmill for a while and brings the temp back where it should be.


The Bouge RV freezer, though, was humming pretty much all the time.  It didn’t help that Bougie’s Eco/Max switch was stuck on Max.  There are a lot of “Max” things in Blue Maxx – MaxxAir MaxFan, Maxoak Bluetti, PowerMax, ZMax brackets, and now EcoFlow Delta Max – but being forced to use “max” for maximum power instead of “eco” for economical, where the compressor shuts off far more often, is not a good use of the term “max”.


So, Bougie was pulling 55-60 watts almost around the clock.  60 watts times 24 hours (1440 watt hours) will eat up the Delta’s 1260 Wh supply way too fast.  Even with a full day of summertime sun within that 24-hour span (well, within roughly half of it), I was working on a negative progression.  After a rainy day or two, Delta would be down for the count, and I would have to go find someplace to plug in.


Bluetti’s 2400 Wh certainly seemed like the solution, but the very slowrecharging time (plus occasional exasperating trip-outs over amperage) kept him from being effective. 


If only Delta had the same capacity as Bluetti, I’d be all set.  So, “just to see”, I clicked over to to peruse the units.  Well, whaddyaknow, EF has a Delta MAX unit!  2016 Wh!  Everything you loved about Delta, but with an extra 756 Wh – 67% more!!  And it’s on sale for $400 off!


I admit, I craved that power.  (Crove it?)  I immediately started formulating justifications for getting it.  I could sell Delta.  I could maybe trade in Delta.  Then, I thought, I don’t need to justify a damn thing.  I want BOTH, dammit.


(Nothing punctuates sentences better that a good “dammit.”  It should have it’s own punctuation mark.  Like maybe a “!” with a “+” through it.  I’m gonna create that and start using it.)


So I bought it.  And now I have 5676 Wh of power at my beck and call.  True, it is all still subject to the whims of Sol and the availability of shore juice, but that supply is enormous.


I relieved Bluetti of any attempt to chill things, tagged Delta with the lighter task of the reefer, and gave the beefy D-Max the reins of the more demanding freezer. 


I also plugged the AC/USB outlet of the new and improved Driver Desk (see Driver Desk Maximus Deluxus) into Delta.  The identical AC/USB outlet that serves the microwave and electric fans is now hooked to D-Max’s 1800W inverter.  In theory, I could cook on high for 80 minutes or so.  (I’m not gonna do that.  I don’t think I have gone more an 4.)


 It seemed like an odd decision to make an expenditure of $1400 to run a $280 appliance.  Smart economics, yes?  Especially when it is all to avoid buying $3 bags of ice.   But the Delta Brothers have been tremendous.  Worth every penny.


A year of van life has taught me that their ultra-fast charge time has enormous value.  When shore power is available to you for only three hours or so – like when you’re hijacking it on the sly, for instance, or even when you are legitimately sucking it from the power outlet on the wall of the bar that you’re grabbing supper in -- it is great to be able to fully recharge both EcoFlow units (3276 Wh total) in the time it would take for Bluetti’s gauge to crawl from 2 bars (out of 5) all the way up to 3 (out of 5) … maybe.


Strangely, though, Bluetti can charge faster from my 370W solar panel than the Deltas do.  It also charges faster from the panel than it does from shore power, which is even stranger.  Blue has a built-in limit of 213W when connected to shore, but it has pulled in 250+ from the panel when the sun is strong.  When it was brand new, it sometimes topped 300!  That’s nuts.  The Delta Boys seem to level off at 220 or so from the big panel.  (They do not even register any input from the 100w panel.  Dunno why.)  


But each of the D-Boys can suck in 1650 watts from the shore (110 volts x 15 amps), so you can see why the charging time is so much shorter. 


Power Cords

Iron Forge Cable 100ft Outdoor Extension Cord with 3 Electrical Power Outlets - $93.98

Woods 50 ft. 12/3 SJTW Multi-Outlet (3) Heavy-Duty Extension Cord - $87.97


Beware, though, that with great power comes great … cords.


That much juice requires a properly-rated cord, and that the cord should be connected directly to the source outlet, not to some scrawny extension cord.  Ninety minutes of that much heat will overpower most such wires, leaving melted plastic in its wake and creating a genuine fire danger.


I have two cords:  an orange 50-footer and a yellow 100-footer.  (How colorful, yes?)  Both are rated for 1875 watts — 15 amp x 125 volts — so they can handle not just the 1650 intake by either of the Deltas, but the additional 213 for Bluetti as well.  


If I have two very separate outlets available, my two cords can buzz up all three SGs simultaneously.  I would not try plugging both HD cords into one 2-socket outlet, though.  That might release some demons.  Maybe even a balrog.  And I wouldn’t want that on my conscience.

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Solar Generators DC Converter Fuse Box Wiring AC-DC Outlets Lighting
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