Portable Power Station Outlet Guide
If you’re shopping for a portable power station, you might be super confused by the different outlet ports. While AC outlets are familiar to most, what about the rest? What do they all do? Why do they have different watts, volts and amperes? Will they work with your devices?
Power stations come with a lot of outlet ports. You need to understand how each works to charge your devices efficiently without causing damage.
We’ve put together this guide to help you understand AC, DC and USB technology, how they work and how to ensure compatibility with your gear.
Types of outlet ports
The list of outlet ports below provides the basic information you need to understand how each work.
Alternating Current (AC)
AC outlets are common in North America and are identical to the wall sockets in your house. They can be used to power most things large or small, from mobile phones to kitchen appliances.
- Considered safe, stable and the least likely to cause electrical fires or damage, as compared to Direct Current (DC) power.
- Efficiently travels over long distances with a minimal loss of energy. This makes it ideal for carrying electricity to homes and businesses.
- Usually less expensive than DC.
- The majority of devices in the US are designed to use AC power.
Direct Current (DC)
DC outlets are less common than AC and USB, and are specifically designed for appliances that run on 12V electrical current, like industrial equipment, UPS backup systems or electric vehicles.
- Charges devices more efficiently (quickly) than AC.
- DC ports are small, making them ideal for compact, portable devices.
- They come in lots of connector sizes, from 2.1mm – 18mm.
- They deliver DC and can be used to charge low wattage devices.
- They typically have 5V voltage of 5V and can provide different levels of current, depending on the version.
- Not all USB are capable of delivering the same amount of power. Some can provide more, while others provide less. Some are also capable of sending power in both directions, meaning they can simultaneously charge and allow data transfer at the same time.
- Connects a wide range of devices, from storage devices to peripherals.
- Easy to use and plug-and-play, meaning that you can quickly connect and it will be recognized by the computer automatically.
- Transfers data at high speeds, allowing you to quickly transfer large files between devices.
- Simultaneously connects and powers devices, eliminating the need for a separate battery supply.
- Transfers data at higher speeds than USB-A, allowing you to quickly transfer large files.
- Supports USB Power Delivery (USB-PD) technology to deliver higher power output.
- Simultaneously deliver power to and connect devices.
- Transmits video and audio signals, and eliminates the need to use HDMI or DisplayPort cables.
USB-C Power Delivery (PD)
- Designed to provide higher output up to 100 watts and can charge much faster than a standard USB-C.
- Allows devices to be charged at different power levels.
- Provides bi-directional power flow, meaning that can be used to charge other devices.
Connects to USB-A ports with a converter.
Fast Charge USB
Also known as a Quick Charge port, this type can charge devices up to 80% faster than regular USB.
High Power Port
Also known as a high current outlet, this provides higher levels of power output and can handle bigger loads. It can support appliances, like air conditioners, microwaves, and power tools.
These deliver a consistent voltage output, regardless of incoming voltage. The voltage will not change, which is important for devices that are sensitive to variations.
Solar / Car Charge DC Port
This is an all-in-one connector that allows you to attach and disconnect gadgets easily and safely. It can handle a wide range of current and voltage levels, meaning that you can use one port for multiple devices. It’s often used for camping, RVing and tailgating.
In addition to all the different types of outlets, each delivers different levels of electrical output, aka energy. This is because devices each require different amounts of energy. For example, your phone needs less energy to charge to 100% than your laptop, and your refrigerator needs way more energy than your laptop.
This ensures devices are charged correctly, safely and quickly possible. It also allows users to connect multiple devices to the generator at the same time.
For this reason, you’ll notice that the outlet ports on a power station each have different output levels. To understand what these values mean, you need a basic understanding of how energy is measured.
Watts, volts and amperes
- Watts (W) measure the amount of energy used by a device.
- Volts (V) measure the pressure that pushes current through a circuit.
- Amperes (A) measure the flow of electrical current.
The relationship between watts, volts and amperes units of measurements is Watts (W) = Volts (V) x Amperes (A). A device with a higher wattage requires higher volts and/or amperes.
Outlet ports by output levels
- 110V / 120V AC: Standard in North America and can support most small / medium low-power items, like coffee makers, computers, and televisions.
- 220V, 15A AC: Used for large appliances like air conditioners and refrigerators.
- 20A AC: A non-standard outlet used for high-power appliances or equipment like washing machines. It’s larger than the standard AC port, and are usually protected by a circuit breaker. Thus, 20A is more stable and secure.
- 12V to 10A DC: Works with small items like portable fans and lights.
- 12V to 10A DC car port: Typically found in automobiles and boats. Supports small gear like portable air compressors, refrigerators, and vacuum cleaners.
- 12V to 10A Cigarette Lighter: Supports GPS, car phone charger and other small devices that can be powered by a DC connection.
- 24V / 10A / 20A DC: Used in industrial and commercial settings, such as in electric forklifts, electric pallet jacks, and other heavy equipment.
- 5V, 0.5A to 3A USB: Smartphones, tablets, e-readers, portable speakers, and headphones.
- USB-C Power Delivery (5V, 3A to 20V, 5A): laptops, smartphones, tablets, and other USB-C compatible devices.
- Quick Charge (5V, 9V, 12V, 20V): smartphones, tablets, and other devices that support Quick Charge technology.
- Qi Wireless Charging (5V, 1A to 15W): smartphones and other devices that support wireless charging.
- Solar panel input (12V, up to 10A): solar panels for recharging the battery of the portable power station.
Input versus output ports
Input ports are the power station’s charging points, like the ports on your devices where you attach power cords. They are used to recharge a power station’s battery.
Output ports are like wall sockets or “outlets,” and are used to send power to external devices.
In short, input ports bring power in, output ports send power out.
Compatibility is based on two things – how much power a device needs and the type of outlet port it connects to.
For example, if you have a phone that requires 120V and the portable power station only has 110V, your phone won’t fully charge. If you have something that requires a USB-C port and the power station only has USB-A, you won’t be able to plug in without an adapter.
If the outlets aren’t compatible with the devices you want to use, your stuff won’t charge, or worse they may get damaged. In the worst case scenario, you might start a fire or hurt yourself in someway.
Tips to ensure compatibility
- Figure out wattage for your devices so you know what battery capacity you need for the portable generator.
- Check the connectors to determine the type of outlet ports that you need.
- Review the voltage and amperage power requirements.
- If necessary, search the manufacturer’s website for information. Look for make and model and the words “power requirements” or “specifications.”
- Make sure that the portable power station has the specific outlets that you need, including any unique ports or adapters.
Remember, compatibility between a power station and your devices is key. If you can’t connect your gear, the generator is useless. If you have questions, reach out to the manufacturers. It’s better to error on the side of caution rather than risk wasting money on the wrong machine, or damaging your devices.