Portable Power

I’ve been looking at Power Stations. By that, I don’t mean Battersea or Hinckley Point. I mean the battery backed boxes that can power mains kit when there is no mains electricity available.

There are multiple reasons for this:

  • We are currently facing a potential power crisis, where periods without mains power may happen, if demand exceeds supply.
  • For some time, I have been considering how my BBQ kit might be made independent of a mains lead.
  • Amazon’s Black Friday Week sale is upon us, and if there’s ever a time to look at it this year, it’s now.

They come in all sizes, and price points. As it happens, I picked up a really cheap little device before the sales even started. I am really glad I did, as it taught me a lot, before I spent big money.

Ecoflow River Mini

This item has a small 210 Wh battery, has 3 USB ports, a 12V car socket and a 13A 3 pin socket, capable of up to 300W, with peak 600W. I’ve already proved it can support my CPAP for up to 12-14 hours. That was the first part of my education. The literature for the device mentioned CPAPs, and said it could run for 4 hours. Based on the 50W max draw of the CPAP, that makes sense. But devices often don’t work at their maximum power, and calculations that assume they do are simplistic. If fact, when in use, my CPAP draws 10-25W during my inhalation, and practically nothing during exhalation. Hence 12-14 hours, which was verified when I tried it out.

A friend mentioned the idea of running a Ninja Foodi off one, but it turns out that may be quite expensive. My Foodi has a max power draw of 1760W, and power stations that can do that, and do it for a useful length of time are expensive – we are talking £1,500-3,000. So I am ruling that idea out.

But my BBQ pellet grills are different. They only use electricity to run the grill, not heat it up. This is my Louisiana Grill 1200 and my little table-top GMG:

The big grill has a max draw of 410W, but only uses that for the initial ignition of pellets – 5-10 minutes. After that, it is no more than about 30W, for the electronics and auger motor. The little one will actually run off a 12V supply. For simplicity, I am going to assume that if a power station will drive the big grill, it will more than manage the little one.

So let’s say we want something that can supply 450-500W and have at least a 500Wh battery – which should power the big grill for 14 hours (10 minutes @ 410W and 14 hours @ 30W = 70 + 420 = 490Wh).

For the moment, I am restricting my search to Ecoflow. They seem reasonable, and you can control/monitor them from an app, so it makes sense to have one that can use the same app. I’m also looking at tabletop items, for ease of use.

The Ecoflow River 2 is out of contention. It could probably cope with the wattage – rated at 300W, but capable of short periods of up to 600W. But it only has a 256Wh battery. It is barely better than my River 2 Mini (210Wh).

The Ecoflow River 2 Max is £549, 6kg, has a 512Wh battery and can do 500W comfortably (1000W at a pinch). This looks good, but I do see it is not reduced in the sales. Can we do better?

Hmmm. I have to be careful here. The next item I was looking at I thought was the River 2 Pro. Instead it is the “River Pro, 2 13A socket” device. Why does it matter? The River Pro 2 devices use Lithium Iron Phosphate (LIFEPO4) batteries and have life cycles of 3000 (they don’t stop working after that, but the battery may lose capacity). The earlier River Pro devices use plain Lithium batteries and have a life cycle of about 500. This includes my little Mini, but it was cheap, and I knew this when I bought it.

As it happens, the River Pro has a higher life cycles of 800, but I am still not thrilled. In its favour is a nice design with a more stylish carrying handle and the ability to be expanded with a second battery. At the same time, the discount is only 7% (price £699).

My decision? At the moment, I think the River 2 Max is best for me. But I’m not going to buy it. It is not reduced, so there is no reason to get it now. That price may improve, or they might come out with a River 2 Pro in the future. Or I may be tempted away from Ecoflow.

One Comment

  1. Chris
    November 18, 2022

    Turns out the Ecoflow River 2 Pro is already a thing. It’s just that no-one has stock of it.

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