Choosing a Portable Power Station.

Picking the right battery power station can be a tough decision. You want to find the "Goldilocks" unit. But you also don't want to be without power by picking one with a low capacity. The market has been flooded with various brands offering many different sizes and features and they have proven to be able to replace gasoline generators in many scenarios on production. Most have feature sets that overlap but some certainly have some worth considering over others. The gold standard used to be the Yeti series from Goal Zero but in the past few years others have come to market with much better options and they have found their way into my kits.

These include:Regardless of the brand, when shopping for power stations you will notice their capacity is rated in Watt-hours (Wh). This can range from 150Wh to over 3000Wh+. I think this is the hardest thing for many to wrap their head around because they aren’t quite sure how to determine their needs and the marketing that goes along with them can be a bit misleading.

To determine the capacity you will need you must know how you intend to use it. Will it be used for solely for charging camera batteries, phones? Powering a wireless monitor for clients? Powering your entire workstation on a cart? Each one of these scenarios could require significantly different capacities.

Calculating your needs can be made easy with a Kill A Watt. It's pretty straightforward to use and will give you a very accurate number. Simply plug the Kill-A-Watt device into a household outlet and then the device you need to learn the consumption of into it. This will give you the consumption in Watts, log this number and move onto the next device. Once you have your total watts tallied multiply it by the hours you expect to use them for and can get the total Wh. So if you have 278W for a 10hr day you will need 2780Wh.

180W Power supply for CalDigit TS3

A less accurate method would be to refer to the power supplies for the devices. It's worth noting that the rating will be the absolute max draw for the device. For example a 20V/9A=180W power supply for a device doesn't mean that the device will draw 180W 100% of the time. It will constantly fluctuate and depending on the device it could be a fraction of this. For the worst case scenario you could factor in 180W for X hours of time you intend to use. However, it will certainly be overkill and you definitely won't be without power at wrap time.

Additionally, you can refer to the manual for your device. Often “typical” and “max” consumption will be listed. Use the typical number for your calculations. It’s worth noting that various things can affect the power consumption of a device, for example a monitor’s consumption will vary based on the brightness or if you're using the USB hub in it.

Eizo CS2740 power specs

After your power consumption needs are solidified compare that number with the max output of the power station and confirm you're well within the max limit. Then you can move on to the other features; like number of AC outlets, DC outlets, battery chemistry, charging time, weight, USB-C outputs.

Two features I think are most important are the battery chemistry and charging time. Below, I explain the battery chemistry types you might come across. But in the world of battery power stations you will typically come across two; Li-Ion and LiFePO4.

SLA = Sealed Lead Acid
Pros: Cheap, robust, simple to charge/use long lifespan, often easy to replace.
Cons: HEAVY, not practical for portable options. Large size needed for higher capacity.
Found in Cars, Golf Carts, UPS systems

LiPo = Lithium Polymer
Pros: High discharge, low power, compact, retain charge.
Cons: expensive, low capacity, short life
Found in drones, RC cars.

Li-ion = Lithium Ion
Pros: High density, no memory, cheaper than LiPo.
Cons: Lifespan = 300-500 cycles (~80% of full capacity after this time). Needs BMS (battery management system) for safety.
Found in laptops, phones and small devices.

LiFePO4 = Lithium Iron Phosphate
Pros: High Density, stable, long life (thousands of cycles), affordable. Safer than Li-Ion and LiPo
Cons: heavier than li-ion, less density than LiPo, slower to charge.
Found in electric vehicles and battery power stations.

Personally, I don’t think you should get too hung up on the overall lifespan of the battery chemistry. For example, I have an Ecoflow Delta 1300 which uses (Li-Ion). I figured that after 300-500 charge cycles there would be 80% battery capacity left and I would still find use for it and it should offer 3-5 years+ of use. But, now LiFePO4 is becoming the standard and offers a much longer overall lifespan making for a better investment. It just comes with less density meaning the same physical dimensions will be lower capacity and weigh more than Li-ion units.

Charging time is another crucial feature. The newer generations of power stations offer built in chargers and fast changing. They can be charged up to 80% capacity in about 1 hour while older models could take 8-10 hr to recharge. This could make it difficult to recharge and be ready for another day on set. With fast charging you can even top off to 80% during lunch. This feature would allow you to get a slightly lower capacity unit that might be a bit more affordable and lighter to lug around.

Finally, I would suggest looking at the USB output options especially for USB-C. Some offer only up to 20W PD while others offer up to 100W PD which is much more useful and save you from needing a USB power supply/charger.

Hopefully this information will help in selecting the right unit for your needs. I found having two units from Ecoflow met my needs (River Max [576Wh] and Delta 1300 [1260wh]) If you're still on the fence, rental houses are starting to have a better selection of power stations so rent one for a job and see how it does for you. It's been great to get rid of noisy, smelly gas generators.

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