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What Types of Power Sockets Do Portable Solar Generators Provide?

Portable solar generators provide a renewable and mobile power source for charging electronics and small appliances on the go. A prerequisite for evaluating whether a generator can satisfy your electrical needs is to determine whether it offers the right types of power sockets to help you establish an electrical connection.

Basics: What are power sockets?

Power sockets, aka electrical outlets, can firstly be grouped into AC and DC power sockets according to the types of current flow.

Power Sockets on Portable Solar Generator

All power sockets are the "female" component of an electrical connection, and they are typically mounted on a wall or embedded on a power strip. In contrast, power plugs are the "male" connector at the end of a power cord or electrical cable. Only when the plug is properly inserted into a power outlet can an electrical connection be established between the electronic device and the power supply.

The same mechanism applies to accessing electricity from a solar generator.

Due to the variety of types and standards of power sockets across countries, it's crucial to confirm if the power sockets on the candidate choice of solar generators can accommodate your devices and appliances.

Plug & socket types in the United States

Globally, 15 types of AC power sockets are currently available for use in domestic and light commercial environments based on universal classification principles; each one is assigned a letter of the alphabet starting from A and moving onward.

Power sockets have their own supported amperage, voltage and frequency. They typically accommodate plugs with 2-3 pins. It should also be aware that sockets are actually classified with plugs together, meaning that each socket type is mapped to a particular plug type. However, some socket types are also compatible with other plug types.

In the United States, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) sets the standards for AC power sockets. There are mainly two socket types: Type A and Type B.

  • Type A: This is the most common type of power socket in the country, which uses the NEMA 1-15R standard. Type A outlet is characterized by two parallel flat prongs and is designed for a voltage of 120 V and a current rating of 15 A at 60 hertz (Hz). This type of socket is commonly found in homes and is used for most small appliances and electronic devices.
  • Type B: Type B power sockets are similar to Type A but with an additional grounding hole. The NEMA 5-15R variant of Type B has two flat parallel prongs and a round grounding hole below them, while the NEMA 5-20R variant has two slots (one T-shaped) and a grounding hole (please refer to the image below). Both NEMA 5-15R and NEMA 5-20R sockets provide the same volts and operate at 60 Hz, but the former is designed for a current rating of 15 A, whereas the latter is for 20 A.
NEMA 5-20R Socket
NEMA 5-20R Socket

In Europe, AC power sockets vary from country to country. But the two most common types are Type C and Type F. Here's a Reddit post using a chart to illustrate power plugs and sockets used by country, for your reference.

Regarding DC sockets, they are typically designed for universal use and do not have any significant variations between countries.

So...what types of power sockets do portable solar generators provide?

Just don't overcomplicate it: a portable solar power generator is akin to a wall in a building with power sockets embedded, or simply a special type of power strip.

The provision of AC power outlet types a generator provides can vary by country. The provision of DC socket types, however, do not differ much from one another.

Suppose the brand or the portable generator is tailor-made for the market in which you are located. In that case, you have nothing to worry about because portable solar power generators are required to meet the domestic electronic standards and pass necessary certifications before being imported and sold, just similar to those for other devices with sockets/plugs.

Nevertheless, we want to repeat that some socket types can accommodate more than one plug type. For the US market, most manufacturers would give priority to the Type B socket as it can apply to both Type B and A plug types. Plus, if electrical design suffices, manufacturers would use the Type B NEMA 5-20R variant as the socket standard on their solar generators since it can be compatible with all plug variants of Type A and B.

When DC power sockets are concerned, following the trend of the prevalence of various consumer electronic products, such as mobile phones, laptops and tablets, most portable generators incorporate USB output ports with mainstream voltages and amperage for choice. Some generators also include USB-C ports with a Power Delivery (PD) feature to support flexible, fast charging (and recharging) at a power rate of even up to 240 W.

You will also come across portable solar generators for RVs. These generators include a NEMA TT-30R socket (see the image below) for travel trailer plugs, providing mobile, clean energy for RV trips.

NEMA TT-30R Socket
NEMA TT-30R Socket

Furthermore, some "all-in-one" generators include cigarette lighter outlets, while some advanced models even incorporate wireless fast charging to charge your smart gadgets.

For retailers or wholesalers: Considerations on the power socket types

In parallel to people's pursuit of a quality outdoor lifestyle and demand for reliable, resilient and sustainable power supply, the market for portable solar power generators is promising.

As a retailer or wholesaler interested in trying out some sweetness, there are a few things to weigh when it comes to the socket types on portable solar generators.

  • Power Rate: If the customers you want to target merely look for an affordable generator to power small appliances, a combination of Type A and Type B NEMA 5-15R sockets is enough. If they are "road warriors," you'd better pick the design with Type B NEMA 5-15R sockets, not just because these sockets accommodate more plug types but also support higher voltage output.
  • Usage Pattern: The usage pattern of your customers matters, which could determine the types and quantities of power sockets arranged on the generators. Digital aficionados would prefer more USB ports, while traveling chefs would request more high-power sockets.
  • Particular Uses: Some power output ports are designed for specific groups of customers. If you plan to target RV trip lovers, choosing generators with a NEMA TT-30R socket is recommended, as they provide extra power support for their recreations on the journey.

In the course of negotiating a portable solar generator OEM deal with your manufacturer, you'd better include your in-house market research team. By doing so, the products you plan to sell and your marketing strategy can be more aligned.

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A portable generator can cost hundreds of dollars to several thousand dollars. Comprehensive market research and manufacturing inspection are crucial to safeguard your OEM investment. 

You can definitely procure stock products and sell them on a small scale for a test. In this case, the design and arrangement of power sockets on these stock products may not perfectly suit your target customers. You can gift them adapters to broaden the use cases and meanwhile wrap this practice as a bonus or selling point to bolster the competitiveness.

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