Southwire announced new portable power stations on social media late last year, describing them as delivering “power wherever, whenever.”
Shown above, the Southwire Elite 200 battery power station (53250) has a 222 watt-hour battery and delivers a Sine Wave output to 2 AC outlets. It has 4 USB ports, a built-in LED light with SOS function, and can power a 32″ TV for as long as 4 hours.
The power station can be charged via auto DC outlet, solar panel (not included), AC wall outlet, or USB PD. Two more charging methods – AC via generator, and AC + USB C PD – provide for what Southwire describes as “an industry best” 6 ways to charge.
It can be used to charge or power your drone, phone, laptop, mini fridge, LED work light, camera, speaker, CPAP machine, or slow cooker.
Digging through the online user manual, this Southwire power station can deliver 120V AC at up to 200W. That’s just 1.67A.
They have other sizes of portable power stations.
The Southwire Elite 1100 series portable power station can handle more, such as blenders and griddles. According to the online user manual, it has a 1166.4 watt-hour battery and can deliver 120V AC at up to 1000W (8.3A).
Duracell has their own portable power stations of a similar design, advertising them as “backup portable power pack for power outages, emergency kits, home electronics, and outdoor use.”
Klein announced a 500W power station last year, KTB500.
The Klein KTB500 has a 505 watt-hour battery and can deliver pure sine wave AC power up to 500W continuous and 1000W surge. It has 2 AC outlets, 4 USB ports, and a 12V auto DC port.
Klein says that this power station was “designed with the jobsite in mind” and that it:
provides power to electronic devices and mid-power corded tools in a lightweight portable device that is a better alternative to loud, exhaust emitting gas generators.
They recently got back to me about the types of equipment it can power, saying:
4.2A is still perfectly capable of running smaller tools and powering smaller devices. Fans, battery chargers, laptops, phones, and small handheld drills are some examples of devices that can be powered by the KTB500.
The KTB is a highly portable power source that doesn’t require you to fill it up with gas, nor do you have to worry about noxious fumes or noise. In that light, I find it to be an alternative to gas generators that fits many more use cases that gas generators can’t.
There are larger consumer-focused portable power stations as well, such as the Anker PowerHouse 767, which has 2048 watt-hour of battery capacity and can deliver up to 2000W of power.
The downside is that it’s the size of a small gas engine generator.
So, here’s my question. Are these types of products useful or practical for tool users? If you’re a contractor, tradesperson, technician, or other such professional, would you bring a portable power station like these to your jobsite?
The concept isn’t new. Anker – a company that specializes in mobile device charging products – launched their first product of this kind nearly 7 years ago. Bosch launched a large mobile battery bank 7-1/2 years ago in Europe.
Milwaukee has a new M18 power supply that works with their cordless power tool batteries, and launched their Top-Off compact adapter 2-1/2 years ago. The Top-Off is limited to 175W AC output, and the M18 power supply a full 15A.
I can see the benefit of a small power station for charging the increasing number of small tools and personal electronics with built-in batteries. But are smaller power stations, which cost several hundred dollars each, a practical solution?
On one hand, nothing short of 15A/1800W continuous power seems very practical to me. On the other hand, power stations capable of 15A AC output at 120V require a lot of energy storage capacity. Bigger batteries mean higher cost, larger size, and greater weight.
You don’t need 1800W of continuous and 3600W surge pure sine wave AC power output to charge a laptop, tablet, or digital meters.
Some corded power tools can be powered by a couple of hundred watts of power, and certainly the same could be said of worklights and small fans.
I find solutions that work with off-the-shelf cordless power tool batteries to be convenient. But, smaller units with built-in batteries might also be convenient for lighter needs.
Such products seem more tailored towards outdoor recreational use than for the workshop or jobsite, and yet tool brands seem very intent to describe them as potential gas generator replacements.
All of the many smaller power stations out now, whether by Southwire, Klein, or the multitude of consumer brands, are smaller, simpler, and focused on low-wattage and USB charging. Many of the smaller units can also be charged by different means, including optional solar panels.
Is there a sweet spot with regard to capabilities?
If you’re already onboard, which brand have you used and could recommend?
If you’re hesitant, what would it take for you to be convinced?
Brands and Products Discussed in this Post
Buy the Duracell at Amazon
Buy the Klein at Acme Tools
Buy the Klein at Home Depot
Buy the Southwire at Acme Tools
Buy Anker at Amazon
As with lots of the latest battery platform solutions it seems that they are targeting the demographic that will be hardest hit by the ban on small gas engines, which seems to be contractors and maintenance fleets. So does it make sense today, when you can bring a gas generator to site, no but in three years time when you won’t be able to run a gas generator then these power banks will be useful. And just like the recently announced Milwaukee concrete finishing tools, the industry will have to be patient because 25 minutes of usage on one battery is not going to cut it for power troweling a concrete slab but hopefully in 5 years it will become much better.
In any case like a contractor- get a inverter and mount it to the truck. for 4000 watts it’ll cost you $300-400 and $20 in parts. You could idle your truck for $5-10 a day.
$10/day is $400/month.
I just bought an Ecoflow Delta Max and the accompanying dual fuel gas generator. It’s a 2kWh battery with a 2400W (5000W peak) pure sine inverter with 20A AC outlets, 12v DC outlets, USB-A/C outlets, and solar, car and AC charging inputs. It’s expandable if you need more capacity, and they make a bigger model on wheels if this one’s not powerful enough.
The generator connects via DC communication cable and starts automatically when the battery drains to a set capacity. This means the generator runs at high load (high efficiency) for short bursts and the battery stores the energy.
I’m not a contractor, but if I was I can imagine this paying for itself in short order with fuel savings vs leaving a gas generator running all day every day. This is not ultra rugged jobsite-tough equipment (not water resistant for example), but kept out of the rain and used with any sort of care it’s a nice concept. Maybe they should make a ruggedized version for job site use?
$10/day is $400/month?.?.?.? What calendar are you using? Besides that, he said $5-$10/day which is closer to $100-$200/month since most people wouldn’t be using it on a job site 7 days a week, just weekdays.
Lol, yes, got the maths doubled. Thx for pointing that out. Still, $200/month plus the wear and tear of stop/start/idling your truck’s engine all the time. Expensive, and a pita to manage.
LOL… that response just made me spit coffee all over my desk.
Lance makes a good point. But also, it’s not just $5-10 a day…it’s also wear and tear on your vehicle which costs a minimum of $500 for just about anything we have to get fixed on a service vehicle.
Engine oil needs to be changed based upon hours not miles if idling often. May end up needing to change it every week or two with many quarts of oil for a truck compared to a very small amount for a gas generator. Also the alternator is not designed to be recharging significant loads like that
Something like 15 or more years ago, in our plumbing business we collected fines for excessive idling. Anti-idling laws will probably become more pervasive in urban areas and locales with goals to reduce their carbon footprint and/or reduce emissions.
But, I do remember often lending a truck-mounted diesel-engine-welder to a local Scout Council for use as a temporary field generator.
I wonder how many cycles the batteries are good for. Can they be charged while using. Example: Driving while charging the unit with 12v DC, and using the generator to power items in the pickup camper. How long are the charge times? Nice to see pure sine wave power. Might be a good generator for a motor home, not producing an carbon monoxide.
Between 500 and 5000 to a degradation of 80% capacity typically, depending on the battery cell chemistry.
They are warranted for 2-3 years, along with 10 on solar panels (Ecoflow). However, with some, I am determined that the 2-3kW models ARE ideal for home emergencies and can run a fridge or AC unit for a day (or more). The problem is, for residential, a gas generator like Generac, runs all day when no power. Where these can be inside the home, charge from solar during the day (ideally, rotate one out for charging while using one or more per appliance…like a sump, fridge, heater controls, networking…). The technology for LiFe (Lithium Iron) is much better than LiPo or LiOn, but heavier. My concerns are cost. There is already news and showing of a solidstate powerstation, https://yoshinopower.com/pages/solid-state-power-stations
but no pricing or timeline. These can charge fast and safer. But the cost is prohibitive either way to be green. Commercial use though, is the question, and I think it will be slow in gaining traction unless some incentives are there.
As far as cycles, that is usually use up, charge up is a cycle so… I consider these great for tools that are useful but corded.
I was ready to buy an EcoFlow until the total cost because prohibitive vs NG (home) or petrol burning (I can get 4-5 Harbor Freight Honda i2000 knockoffs for the cost of one EcoFlow and solar setup).
Still, to have a quiet battery waiting to keep food longer or home cooler/warm is prospect to consider…weather is the key.
1. They are useful for when you need A/C power off-the-grid. Back in the early 2000’s I used one for battery recharging for cordless tools. Power an AC battery charger since there were not DC chargers, and back then NiCad batteries were only a few Amp Hours.
2. I used one two years ago when I needed to power a heat tape to thaw our well water line. (It is a surface water supply and the water line had gotten above the water level. So the water line was no longer insulated by the surrounding water.)
Although the version I used did not have a good low voltage cut-off . It seemed to draw the 40V batteries down too far. So the 40V batteries used on it would not take a full charge.
3. The versions with swapable batteries I find to be more useful. Especially since I have a number of Ryobi 40V batteries – trimmer, mower, snow blower.
Although this is only a slow sequential charger for four 40V batteries – takes all night to charge them.
I used my larger unit that SDGE provided for power outages to charge my electric SurRon bike. Outside of that, it’s taken up space for the better part of a year.
I live in a condo in a hurricane prone area. I’ve been evaluating different models for personal (non-professional) use, but I haven’t seen anything that checks all the boxes. I have tools for woodworking (table saw, jointer, planer, etc.) that I would love to be able to use in the breezeway outside of the condo without having to keep the door cracked with an extension cord running out to the hallway. It would help to keep bugs out of my home, and gas generators are banned by our condo association.
In addition, it would be great to have something that could power a full sized fridge for a day or two. During storm season we typically lose power at least 3-4 times per year, sometimes for a few days if we get a near brush with a hurricane.
However, I haven’t found anything economical that meets all of these needs right now. I’m hoping that in 5-10 years the technology gets there, but by then my needs will likely have changed. I wish these companies all the best, but for now running a 50 foot extension cord is my best option.
For your fridge, look at Bluetti — specifically the AC500 control unit, with at least one B300S battery.
I’m considering getting the pair — I’ve got a manual transfer switch for a generator, but the AC500 has a NEMA14-50 outlet, so I could plug it into my house instead of the generator and keep the fridge going.
I’m not familiar with the power requirements of a jointer, but this system does do a 10,000W surge and 3072Wh capacity per B300S battery.
…but they are rather pricey. I’m mainly attracted because I hate dealing with the generator and a proper house-scale battery installation is difficult for my situation, so YMMV.
I appreciate the suggestion, but the $5K price tag for that setup is really tough to justify for my needs. I’m hoping that as the technology matures and more competition enters the market prices will come down, as this is essentially a luxury item for me (frozen water bottles in the fridge and a couple of coolers packed with ice at least keep the food good for a day or two).
Regards your Breezeway area Woodworking tools. Why not just extend a 20AMP weather resistant receptacle box to that outside wall?
No more cracked door or bugs.
HOA’s are the worst haha. I wish that was an option, but that’s one of the trade offs for living in coastal Florida.
Rob G Mann
An in-depth discussion of the demands that power tools place on such products
“Inverters don’t like power tools.”
My father has one of the larger Ecoflow models for his camper van, and he absolutely loves it. I know he’s thrown it in the back of his work van a few times when heading out to do some work at his cabin or a backwoods survey.
I think these smaller ones make more sense for individuals, rather than powering a whole jobsite. Something that could fit into the base of a packout tower seems like it would be a no-brainer.
I just got an Ecoflow with the gas generator. I use it to supply power to two diesel heaters keeping the foundation warm in a house I’m building over the winter. So far it’s working well, though the battery and generator need to be kept within their operating temperature.
My opinion, electric vehicles are the power stations of the future. Look at the F-150 Lightning, battery pack is large enough to keep your house running for 1-3 days during a blackout. Cost per kWH is about half a home system, much cheaper than the portables discussed here.
So today I would only buy a power station if it was an absolute necessity. Buy an EV in a few years and you will get a vehicle plus the biggest portable power station you will ever need for free
That works as long as you don’t need your truck for towing or heavy long distance hauling. There are lots of examples of people disappointed in the Lightning’s towing capabilities. Ok to replace residential vehicles, not so much work trucks (yet). And it’s pretty expensive, unless you’re looking at it solely as a battery system for powering stuff.
I said of the future. I used Lightning, which is pricey, as an example and should stayed generic.
Wait 2-3 more years. There are many EVs coming. And prices are dropping.
If you want to tow any distance an ev truck is not for you.
That is like me complaining that my 1/2 ton truck can not load or tow like a 3 ton truck.
But back to the topic, I can see myself using something like these power stations because the power outages here are not that bad so I do not want to invest into a whole generator setup.
Quite literally it’s saying a 1/2 ton truck cannot be used as a 1/2 ton truck. The Lightning is like a 1/2 ton truck with a 3 gallon gas tank that takes a long time to fill.
Not sure where you are going with this.
Towing with an EV truck eats up its range like it does on an ice truck.
Different levels of course and refueling is different but who buys trucks or vehicle in general not doing some basic research before hand.
I am a remodeler and the range of a say lightning would be sufficient for something of in high 90ties of my needs.
Would I tow my backhoe cross country using roads that offer very little chargers properly not
But if I would I had no right to complain because I would know before hand about its limitations the same way with an ice.
I really do not get this fuzz about ev’s.
If it does not fit your bill move on, at least that is what I would do.
I would counter that, as a small contractor, my use case history over 10 years and $10 million or so in project value completed, the F-150 lightning would have covered me for a full 100% of my work use except for driving from Alaska to move to Oregon. Even living in the country and visiting multiple jobsites a day, I very rarely hit 100 miles. I tow 1-5 times a year, a few miles. Everything else is delivered, usually for free. My time of use charging is only 9 cents a KWH, where I park at home in my shop. Most of my colleagues have similar use cases.
I live in the Pacific NW and our local electric utility (all Wind/Hydro/Solar source option) is as phenomenally cheap though I’ll not be personally towing anything.
And it’s a blast from stop lights.
That’s a more interesting question. Has anyone powered their tools from the Lightning’s plugs? They have 120v and 240v, right? That’s a big ol battery.
I’m not against the lightning or bidirectional charging at all, it’s a cool option but are we just assuming that because it’s so expensive people who but it will of course have multiple vehicles? What happens on power outage day 2 if you have to go to family members house to check on them or something. Your house goes dead and your vehicle has almost no charge?
I think I would only use bidirectional if the house was also set up with solar or had a small battery pack of it’s own.
That two-way charging looks pretty spendy:
I don’t think they make sense – except maybe for someone who doesn’t want to think about how else to get AC power and wants the simplest possible approach. Lots of times people are willing to pay a premium to avoid even a small hassle.
The problem is they are heavy, expensive and very limited on how much power they can deliver. The Dewalt or other cordless tool company “power stations” make a bit more sense because they’re not so expensive if you already have lots invested in batteries.
It would be far less expensive to just buy an inverter and connect it to a car, but I realize not everyone will want to leave a car running or use a long cord. A generator in the same price range is far more powerful and can produce many times the electricity, albeit with the hassle of a gas tank and the occasional oil change.
In that context that just leaves: I need only a little power, for a little while and I’m willing to pay lots to avoid gas, noise and/or having to “connect things”.
Still hard to beet the energy density of gasoline/diesel and a amall quality portable generator like a honda EU2200i. There are reasonable use cases for the portable power banks but the price climbs quickly if you need more power for longer time periods.
Those little Hondas are awesome! Hands down the quietest, longest lasting best quality small gen/inverter I’ve ever used.
Recently picked up an anker 400 watt unit for $200. It’s small enough to run our office with printer out of the van and charge a few batteries. Zero concerns about the quality of power for our laptops. The built in lights are a nice touch. Very happy with it.
I bought a third party Dewalt 20V to 230V UK power 200w inverter from Aliexpress.
I only intend to use it in emergencies as it only cost $40.
The main thing it is useful for to me would be to run the electrics in my home’s gas boiler in the event of a power cut.
For emergency use, as a backup ” generator ” or as a multi-purpose battery for camping? Sure. Probably should pair it with a solar panel. Then it would be wise investment for something that is portable and not tied to any specific vehicle or location.
DIY or contractor. I don’t see it yet. I have a medium and small generator. While they do burn gas and are noisy, at least the mid size one can handle the average house load or some space heaters, etc or some power tools. Mix and match.
Yikes! The Anker “pull along” is $2 Grand!
Just wish they would give actual specifications on square wave, modified sine wave, sine wave and pure sine wave so I can make an educated decision on what I’m actually buying. It’s all marketing terms.
For the most part there are no pure sine-wave inverters made any more. All switch-mode power supplies will NOT be Pure Sine-wave. The better ones, with many individual digital levels, will be nearly sine-wave and with good filtering, will round off the nasty square corners.
A lithium battery generator with swappable batteries seems to be the best solution. It’s lightweight compared to most of these generators and uses batteries you probably already have. I got my dewalt 1800 watt generator for $200 about 5 years ago, now they’re not so cheap, but my 20+ batteries can keep it running for a while. Every battery eventually dies, so those built in generators will become door stops eventually.
I bought a few of these kinds of electric generators, one was 330Wh lithium, then one 614Wh LiFePO4, and then a Bluetti EB70 716Wh LiFePO4. I use them to power lights in remote places and the Bluetti to run the fridge for a bit if the power goes out.
As was said, portable power stations are all fairly “consumer” oriented thus far, but that should change over time. Before I went heavy into Milwaukee’s battery powered tools, I used a Jackery 1000 WH to drive large-bore holes in 300-yards of split-rail fencing using my largest corded drill (installing cables to keep the split-rails from falling out), and it worked like a charm, and was manageable carrying. With any of the modern lithium battery technologies, sizes up to about 1500 or 2000 WH are fairly hand portable.
Having followed this sector for several years (as part of my camping-overlanding hobby), the major brand innovators in the portable lithium battery sector are Jackery (who came out with the first practical model), Goal Zero, and Ecoflow (who all offer larger capacity devices) and maybe also Bluetti. I would be pretty confident that the Southwire, Klein, and Duracell models listed above are all simply repackaged from generic suppliers. Anker is a mixed-case as it is perhaps the leading batter *charger* technology company a the moment (the first reputably company to bring out GaN chargers), and almost certainly does its own research–but it is a relatively new entrant to the portable lithium battery space.
I personally would not buy something like this from Southwire or Klein (as complex electronic devices and battery chemistry are so far from their core competency) unless they were substantially marked down–but of course, different strokes for different folks.
I have a 5,000 watt Honda gas generator which I used for a week straight during super storm Sandy.
I never bought a natural gas whole house generator system because I read 10 years ago that the government was replacing the Nat gas pumps on the country’s nationwide natural gas pipelines Why ? To lower carbon they were switching to electric pumps.
Accordingly if the electric power grid went down from solar flairs, EMP devices or just plain human error the natural gas would cease to flow after about 3 days. Somebody please tell me I was wrong.
I personally think Vehicle to jobsite will actually become huge. Take an electric F150 and you realize its not a great tow vehicle. But it would work great for a jobsite. Tool boxes in the back wont hurt the aero dynamic and it will cost less than a gasoline generator. As of right now Ford doesn’t count the usage against he battery warranty. With 9.6 kW output at either 120v or 240v with a 131 kWh battery, you can ran a job site. You can set a buffer so you always have enough power to make it back to charging. So unless you are really far away from DC fast charging, home and office, it should have plenty of power.
We have the Duracell for emergency use to power my wife’s CPAP machine if the power goes out. Guess what…if you don’t have to use it for an extended period of time, the batteries go bad and it isn’t there when you need it. In my experience, having bought several models of these power supplies, they’re not worth it because of the short battery life.
What trade-offs come to mind when comparing tool-battery powered portable power supply solutions (EGO, Milwaukee, Makita, Dewalt, etc.) to some of the ones mentioned above for remote work, emergency back-up, or other battery-powered AC needs?
Does anyone have any hands-on experience with the M18 Carry-on portable power supply (2845-20).
Size, weight, capabilities, charging, and cost.
Let’s say there’s a power outage. A small power station can be placed on the kitchen table to recharge everyone’s tablets, but I don’t see them doing much more – hence this post asking for opinions.
I have an ecoflow. We have a portable fridge the size of a cooler. The ecoflow has been great at powering the fridge for camping, roadtrips, etc. We have used it for powering lights. We considered using it for Christmas lights. We would probably try to power our fridge in a power outtage. I considered trying to use it for tools. Honestly does not seem like a great use case. Most of the tools I want to use with it would be wattage hogs. Other than lighting I would not want to blow a fuse. I could see these being awesome for using a fridge cooler like the oneI have. That would be a good use case. Cold drinks on a hot day or food kept cold at worksites without power.
Stuart, none of the tool company offerings, nor the Ego, offer pass-through charging (that I’m aware of). The Ecoflow and other dedicated “solar generators” can be charged while they’re being used, either by solar, AC wall outlet, AC generator, or DC generator in the case of Ecoflow.
I have a TON of Ego batteries and still bought an Ecoflow because Ego’s offering cannot pass-through charge, and the solar input requires an expensive add-on adapter that only accepts 180W of solar input which would take more than a day of good sun to charge four large batteries.
Ego’s Nexus as a bare tool (no batteries) + the solar charge brick costs nearly as much as an Ecoflow Delta 2 which has a built-in 1kWh battery good for 3000+ cycles (to 80% capacity), accepts 500W of solar, has better connectivity (everything the Nexus has + USB-C and 12V outputs), charges WAY faster on solar or AC, and all it’s inputs are handled by its internal inverter, not clumsy external bricks like the Nexus uses.
I ABSOLUTELY LOVE my Ego tools and I don’t think anyone makes better battery powered OPE. I have lots of Ego batteries and I really wanted to use the Nexus, but it’s just not competitive in today’s market in my opinion. I really hope Ego comes out with a GEN2 Nexus that builds all of these necessary features into a badass solar generator that’s more cost-competitive with newer offerings.
I’ve built a couple truck mounted battery-invertor-charger systems this past year. The bigger system runs everything including my insulation machine with a 30 amp/120v plug and has capacity to spare. It’s a victron 10kw surge inverter, 70?amp charger. I run it on a single 24v, 200ah (5kwh) battery. The software is programmable so I can limit incoming current so as to not trip a residential 15amp outlet. I can work for 1-2 hours with no power input at all. I have a 12v 30amp convertor that feeds power from the 24v system battery into my trucks electrical system. In essence it reduces the electrical output needs of the alternator while driving to save a little bit of fuel theoretically. For the price point of these all in one systems you can get far more for the money by building a custom system. Plus if something fails individual components can be swapped. Victron equipment is considered heavy duty. People run houses on them. There’s many details I’m not even hitting about how awesome this custom system is.
Custom is definitely the way to go if portability is not a concern. Many companies offer plug-n-play systems that anyone handy can hook up themselves, though grid-tie should still be done by an electrician.
These all-in-one systems are definitely pricey, but they are extremely portable and offer lots of flexibility while being a safe turn-key system that requires no knowledge or electrical experience to set up.