We have a few tips and pointers to think about before you buy a portable power station.
capacity: Find out how much power you need. Capacity is given in watt-hours (Wh) or sometimes kilowatt-hours (kWh). When you start thinking about what devices you want to run and how long you need to run them, you can start calculating the capacity you need. Manufacturers often give claims such as 12 hours of TV viewing or 30 minutes of use of an electric chainsaw, but keep in mind that not all TVs use the same amount of electricity. You need to calculate how much the devices you own are actually using.
portability: The term “portable” is sometimes a bit of an exaggeration. Batteries are heavy. The larger capacity power stations are usually wheeled and equipped with telescoping handles, yet are difficult to transport. If you’re looking for something that you can actually walk a significant distance, you may need to lower your capacity expectations.
battery technology: There are different battery technologies, but the two main ones used in portable power stations today are lithium-ion (Li-Ion) and lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4 or LFP). The latter is safer (less prone to burns) and tends to last longer (more cycles). In its SuperBase top model, Zendure also offers semi-solid-state batteries that are said to be more stable and resilient, i.e. safer and have a higher energy density.
ports: While you’ll find specific connectors everywhere on portable power stations, from AC outlets to USB-A, it’s important to check the maximum charge rate and supported charging standards to avoid disappointment. You might find USB-C ports, car ports, keg ports, and maybe solar power inlets, but don’t assume you will. Check the specifications before purchasing.
loading speed: Large-capacity power plants can take a long time to charge. If you intend to use solar panels, a car battery, or any other power source to charge, make sure you know how quickly your chosen power station can be charged from the grid and other sources. Some power plants allow fast charging via two or more inputs.
heat and noise: Batteries generate heat. When you’re in a hurry to charge your power station or have half a dozen things plugged into it, things get hot fast. Every power plant we tested has fans to keep the temperature down, and these things can get surprisingly noisy even under relatively light loads, especially if you’re carrying it in an enclosed space. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do about it.
Maximum Performance: If you’re going to use power tools, an AC appliance or, in the UK, a kettle, you need to be able to draw thousands of watts. Power stations all list maximum power, but often they have an overvoltage feature that allows them to step up for short periods of time. Sometimes they give it a silly name. For example, Zendure calls this AmpUp and EcoFlow calls it X-Boost. Make sure the power plant you choose can handle the power you need.
UPS and EPS: Some power plants can act as an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). others are considered emergency power supplies (EPS). If you have your power station connected to the mains and then connect devices to it, they will work from the mains. However, in the event of a power outage, a UPS will immediately (less than 10 milliseconds) switch to battery operation. An EPS will also switch over in the event of a power failure, but this may take a little longer (about 30 milliseconds).