Glossary of Power Words

Reading about portable power solutions and need some clarification on some words? Here are some basic definitions!

Portable Power Station: A device that powers electronics with a rechargeable battery. They can usually be charged via AC power, another battery, solar power, and sometimes by a car outlet.

Generator: A device that creates electricity from physical motion. They generally run on gas or propane.

Capacity: Measured in watt-hours (Wh) or amp-hours (Ah). It’s the size of the battery in how much electricity it can provide.

Amp (A): A measurement of electricity flow, like the amount of water flowing from a hose.

Volt (V):The level of electricity flow, like the water pressure from a hose. If the voltage is too high for your device, it could be damaged, and if it is too low, the device may not have enough power to operate.

Watt (W): Amps times volts, the combination of the amount and level of the electricity flow.

Charge Cycle: A battery completes a cycle when it goes from 100% to completely dead.

Cycle Life: How many cycles the battery has until it drops in capacity with age and use.

Shelf Life: Batteries age and lose charge even when being stored. Shelf life is the longest you should let your battery sit between recharging. 

Output:  The max amount of watts that can be sent to the electrical device plugged into the power source. If a power station has an output of 1000W, it can power a 800W toaster, but not a 1600W hair dryer. 

Surge:  A surge rating or peak wattage is the extra bit of wattage a power source can provide in  short bursts for electronics that require an occasional spike in power.

Overload: This happens when the devices plugged in try to draw more watts than the source can supply.

Input: How much wattage a portable power station can take in from what is charging it: wall outlet, car charger, solar panel, etc. The higher the input wattage, the faster it will charge.

Charge Time: How long it takes for the battery to charge. 

Fast Charge: USB ports that use more than the standard wattage allowing compatible devices take in more energy and recharge faster.

Alternating Current (AC): The type of electricity your wall outlet or a gas generator supplies to your power station or battery. The current of electricity changes direction periodically. It’s represented as ∿ on the back of some devices.

Direct Current (DC): Electricity that flows in only one direction, provided by methods such as solar panels, cigarette lighter outlets, USB outlets, and battery supply. It’s represented as ⎓ on the back of some devices.

AC to DC Conversion: The AC coming from the wall needs to be converted to DC for almost all electronics. This happens during charging and uses wattage.

DC to AC Inversion: Converting DC power in a battery or power station to AC for use. Uses an inverter.  

Monocrystalline: The premium solar panel with higher efficiency; blacker in color.

Polycrystalline: The budget solar panel with lower efficiency; bluer in color.

Chaining: Connecting together individual solar panels to increase the solar power generated.

Series Connection: One solar panel’s positive (red, male) connector is connected to the adjacent panel’s negative (black, female) connector, and that panel’s positive connector is connected to the adjacent panel’s negative connector, and so on.

Parallel Connection: Panels don’t connect to each other, they connect to a branched cable – one side is positive and one side is negative. Every panel’s positive end connects to one branch of the cable and likewise for the negative ends.

USB-A: The larger, rectangular USB port. 

USB-C: A smaller, rounded USB port popular in smartphones and laptops.

XT60: A common plug that connects portable power stations to solar panels and cigarette outlets.

Solar Connector: A standard solar panel connector where the positive and negative ends are separated and used to chain panels together and connect them to a battery. 

Anderson Port: A high voltage DC port commonly used to power the circuitry of camping trailers.

DC 5521: Also known as a barrel plug, this outlet is for recharging some smaller electronics like headlamps and radios.

Car Outlet: the 12V plug in available in most newer cars and requires a specialty cable or plug-in. These used to be cigarette lighters in classic cars. They use DC power.