Once you’ve made the life-enhancing decision to buy a portable power station, how do you figure out which model/size is the right fit for your needs? How do you find the perfect combination of cost-efficiency, capacity and longevity?
Here are some key things to factor in when you’re evaluating your power station options:
- How often will you use your portable power station?
- How much power will you need each time you use it?
- What’s the battery cycle life of the model you’re considering?
The lifespan of a battery
There are several main data points to pay attention to when you’re calculating your portable power needs:
Usually measured in watt-hours (Wh), this value is used to indicate the total amount of energy a battery can store. Knowing the watt-hour rating of your portable power station is important to help you choose one that can handle your power needs.
The number of times a battery can be charged and discharged before its capacity begins to drop below acceptable performance levels.
Percentage of battery health
The total capacity left after a battery has been used a certain number of times. The higher the percentage, the more “life” a battery still has in it.
Batteries deteriorate over time whether they are being used or not. If you will rarely use your portable power station, your battery cycle life could be more impacted by time than by usage.
Translated into practical terms, the lifespan of your portable power station depends on how much capacity it had to start with, how often you use it, and how much power you pull each time.
Estimating your power needs
To estimate how much power you’ll need each time you use your power station, make a list of the devices/tools/appliances you expect to run each time – along with their wattages. If your usage needs might vary, calculate for the highest energy load you might have at any one time.
(Some of your devices will have their wattage information easily accessible – others will require a little detective work. The product pages for your devices/tools/appliances, and resources like the Appliance Energy Calculator from the US Department of Energy, are a great place to start.)
The next step is to multiply the wattage required by each of your devices with the estimated number of hours you expect it to be pulling power from your power station. Adding all of the estimated wattage totals from your list will give you an idea of what kind of capacity you’re looking for in a power station.
Watts Required x Estimate Hours Expected = Total Expected Capacity
There’s no one-size-fits-all
Even if your current capacity needs are relatively modest but fairly frequent, you might still decide to choose a higher-capacity model because its cycle life will be longer. For example, if you use only 10% of your power station’s capacity each time, then you have roughly 10 uses for each cycle. However, if your battery has a lower capacity, and you use most of that capacity each time, then the battery cycle life will be used up more quickly.
If your goal is to extend the total amount of time before replacement, and given two devices with similar cycle life, you may want to lean towards the device with a capacity that exceeds your needs for each use. If, however, your usage will be infrequent and calendar fade is more of a threat than using up your capacity, a lower-capacity model might be a better fit.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. But when you’re trying to figure out the best power station for your needs, take a good hard look at your total capacity requirements for each use, how often you plan to use portable power, and the projected battery cycle life of the models you’re considering. Armed with that information, you can make the most informed choice possible – and begin to take advantage of the many benefits of having an efficient, portable, eco-friendly, “off the grid” power source.