Written by Angus Jones.
We rely so heavily on all our modern-day electronic devices and appliances, which make our lives just that little bit easier. However, to run this equipment, we need access to power, whether that be 240-volt mains power or 12 volts from your car. At the same time, we want to travel more and use these devices away from home or business. This guide will look at the new growing category of Portable Power Stations and what you need to know before you buy.
A portable power station or NRGVault and sometimes called a solar generator is a rechargeable battery pack with an AC and or DC outlet. A portable power station allows you to charge or power your electronic devices or appliances
WHY would I buy a portable power station?
If you have a critical device that needs to be powered, such as a CPAP machine or refrigerator, no
matter if you are at home or camping, a portable power station will guarantee power supply in the
event of a blackout or if mains power is simply not available where you are.
The big benefit of this unit is portability, which is just as useful at home as on a camping trip. If you are a tradie that needs to power a 240-volt saw on a job site or recharge your batteries for your cordless drill with no mains power, you are good to go. In a remote camping spot, you can run a 12- volt fridge, recharge your phone or drone or perhaps power a TV so you don't miss that important game.
Other uses for the portable power station could include powering a hair dryer, DJ or music setups, lighting, pumps, kettle, microwave, air fryer, coffee machine, blender, grinder, circular saw, PC, tablet, or camera.
The alternative to a Portable Power station is a petrol generator. A noisy petrol generator cannot be used indoors since it emits carbon monoxide. It requires you to carry flammable fuel and be regularly serviced.
A portable power station is limited to its battery capacity and does take time to recharge.
Unlike some gasoline generators, a portable power station produces a sine wave output, ensuring your electronic devices, such as computers, are kept safe.
WHAT do I need to know before buying a Portable power station?
The NRGVault is powered by a Lithium LiFePO4 battery developed over the last decade to be a safe and reliable solution. This technology has benefits, including being lightweight, providing more power and recharging thousands of times. A NRGVault has an internal brain called a BMS for further peace of mind. A BMS monitors environmental data and will ensure the battery stays safe in all circumstances or switch itself off.
A Lithium based technology is more expensive to buy upfront than older battery technologies like Ni-Cad or Sealed Lead acid. Still, the total cost of ownership will be lower over time as the older, cheaper technologies have a much shorter life and will need to be replaced. Lithium also holds its charge better over time, while older technologies drain power when not used.
Models will have different-sized batteries and different-sized inverters. The battery capacity measured in Watt hours (Wh) indicates the available power. Usable capacity will differ by model but is likely around 80% of the stated wattage. If we had a usable battery of 240Wh using the formula watts = voltage x amps, the battery would supply 1 amp hour at 240 volts or 20 amps at 12 volts for 1 hour. More simply look at the label on the side of the appliance you wish to power, and it will indicate a wattage usage amount. For example, my 18-volt cordless drill battery charger uses 50 watts an hour; using the 240Wh battery, it could charge drill batteries for almost 5 hours.
An inverter takes the battery power and converts that to 240 volts, just like you get from the power point. Your NRGVault will have an AC power rating measured in watts. This rating is the maximum wattage a portable power station can supply at once. If the rating was 1000W, you could not power a 1500W kettle.
When deciding which model to buy, ensure you have enough battery to run for your expected usage and that the output power is large enough to support your device.
A NRGVault can be charged from 240-volt mains, a 12-volt cigarette socket or a solar panel. Any charging you can do whilst using the NRGVault will extend the device's usable power.
HOW do I decide which model to buy?
Once you are ready to buy a NRGVault, you should consider the following features when deciding.
Capacity: Measured in Wh with a larger number having more power but also increasing the size and weight of the solution.
Battery Type: We recommend LifePO4 batteries, but be sure to compare the number of recharge cycles that give you an indication of life (measured by when batteries will no longer charge to 80% of quoted capacity)
Charging time: How long the NRGVault takes to charge from 240v mains power from empty 12-volt charging: Does it come with a car charging plug and cable
Solar Charging: What size panel and voltage solar panel can you use to charge AC output: How many plugs and what wattage outpower will it support. A peak power rating will also be referenced, indicating what you can draw for a few seconds to support a device like a motor that will surge on start-up.
Wireless charging: Can you charge your phone by resting on NRGVault.
USB support: Can you support USB-A needs as well as USB-C up to 100w Cig lighter output: Commonly used to power a portable fridge.
Other 12 volt: Can other 12-volt devices be plugged in Light: Is an LED light built in, and would you need that.
LCD display: Screen showing the remaining battery percentage, calculated available time and input and output wattages Weight and dimensions: How easy is it to move, and will it fit.
Keep your NRGVault fully charged so it is ready to use at a moment's notice, whether during a blackout or to assist with that unexpected need for power.
SUMMARY - NRGVault
A portable power station is a safe and potentially environmentally efficient way of supplying both 240 and 12-volt power, whether at home, camping or on a worksite. It may be for health, emergency or just ensuring you have the comforts of life. You can now power or charge your electronic devices or appliances everywhere.
A NRGVault can be charged from the sun, your car, and a power point and will power your devices needing 240 volts, 12 volts or USB.