November 17, 2021
Consumer Tech Consumertech Innovation Technology

Review: Jackery Explorer 1500 Portable Power Station Has The Power To Run A Heater

Portable power stations have changed a lot over the past several decades. Technology has improved significantly, and the use-case scenario has also changed. Back in my twenties, I would bring a power station equipped with a massive lead acid battery on all my camping trips. It was probably the heaviest item in my gear, but it would keep a portable boom box playing for five or six hours. Fast forward to the current situation. High density lithium-ion batteries and sophisticated power management technology means portable power stations have unprecedented capacity. They’re still popular for camping, but with a rise in extreme weather events — which often knock out electrical power — they are increasingly considered a must-have as part of a home emergency kit.

The reality of a fragile electrical system came into the spotlight once again when an ice storm caused blackouts in Texas earlier this year. With that event in mind, I’ve been putting Jackery’s latest portable power station — the Explorer 1500 — through its paces. For the first time I’ve ever been able to do so, I even tested using this massive battery to power a portable heater.

A Bit of Jackery Background

A few years ago, you may not have heard of Jackery. I suspect that’s changed. The company was founded in 2012 in California, by a former Apple battery engineer. Its focus has been on portable power stations (the Explorer series) and solar panels (the SolarSaga series). The distinctive black and orange color scheme is recognizable and Jackery is trusted enough that the company was even tapped by Honda to release a Honda-branded portable power station.

Over the past few years, I’ve reviewed a number of Jacker Explorer power stations. The company has pretty much perfected the design aspect. But every year new models are released with higher capacity batteries. The Explorer 500 (reviewed here) had a 518Wh battery that ran a 27-inch iMac plus external drives for over 4.5 hours. The Explorer 1000 I reviewed last year ran a full-sized refrigerator for over 13 hours.

The Jackery Explorer 1500 I’ve been testing over the past few weeks ups the ante with a 1488Wh battery. It also adds support for up to 1800W AC power output with the ability to handle a peak surge of up to 3600W. That last part is what makes this power station so much more capable and able to handle high-demand devices like a coffee maker, microwave oven, and even a portable heater.

Unboxing: This Thing Is Big — But Still Portable

The appearance of the Explorer 1500 is exactly what I was expecting. It follows the established Explorer design, but it’s larger. It weighs just over 33 pounds, which is beginning to push the envelope on portability. But it’s equipped with the Explorer series curved handle that makes it comfortable enough to lug around. 

Inputs and outputs are on the front. Every power/charge capability you could possibly need is here: USB-C, USB Type-A, and three AC outlets. You can recharge the Explorer using AC, a 12V car port, or solar panels. The sides are vented so the integrated fans can keep air flowing. There’s a built-in LED light on one end. An excellent LCD display is front and center.

Most portable power stations have a display these days, but they can be hit and miss in terms of both quality and usefulness. Jackery stands out with a display that is bright, uncluttered and provides the information you want to know in a way that makes sense — no guessing about how much power a device is drawing, how much battery time is remaining, or even the wattage attached solar panels are delivering.

The Jackery Explorer 1500 is also equipped with a wide range of safety features. They protect the battery and your devices. That’s always important, but even more so when you you have a lithium-ion battery of this capacity. Just don’t use it where conditions will be wet, because it is not water resistant.

What Can It Charge?

If you’re looking for a power station to charge your phone or tablet, this one is overkill. Unless you plan on being off the grid for weeks or months. However, Jackery says you can expect to charge an average smartphone 136 times. That should give you some idea. You can charge/run up to seven devices simultaneously.

The Portable Heater Test

After reading the reports about the devastating winter storm in Texas, it was natural to see if the Explorer 1500 would have helped in terms of providing emergency warmth. Most power stations can’t handle the high power demands of a portable heater, but this one is rated to handle a constant 1800W draw. I ordered a 1500W portable ceramic heater for the test.

At the time, we were well below freezing and the yard was still buried in snow. I shut the door to my office, closed the furnace vent and opened the window wide. The temperature immediately plunged. I set the heater for its maximum heat and pressed the button to start power. The Explorer 1500’s fan came on almost immediately, but that was the only sign that the ceramic heater was working the power station hard. Once my office had warmed up to a comfortable 72 degrees, I turned down the heater to maintain that temperature. 

After 70 minutes, the Explorer’s LCD display started to flash a 20% battery warning. It ended up lasting for 85 minutes.

That may not sound like much, but I think it was pretty impressive and a capability that would be very useful in a winter power outage. To put things in perspective, my office is about 14 feet by 12 feet. So it’s equivalent to a small bedroom people might huddle in for warmth. I kept the temperature at 72 degrees, which is much higher than you’d need, especially if you put on a sweater. And most importantly, I had a four foot by three foot window wide open the entire time, so freezing air was constantly coming in. It was basically a worst-case scenario.

In a relatively sealed room kept at a lower temperature so the heater wouldn’t need to run constantly, the Explorer 1500 could likely provide the power to keep you warm for the better part of a day. That could be a life-saver. 

And because it’s battery powered, it is completely safe to use the Explorer 1500 indoors and in a sealed room. Unlike traditional gas-powered generators, which must be used outdoors. 

Staying Entertained When The Power Is Out

As the parent of teenagers, I know what it’s like to have a power blackout (or be camping on a on-electrical site) and have boredom quickly set in. Streaming video on smartphones will only buy you so much time.

So I tried plugging in an entertainment system consisting of a 55-inch 4K TV and Playstation 4 into the Explorer 1500. The combination used a steady 10% of the battery for every hour of use. That’s 10 hours of gaming on a big screen! I could probably have eked even more out of it if I’d reduced the TV’s brightness a bit.

Jackery Explorer 1500 Key Specs

  • 1488Wh (36V, 41.3Ah) using Panasonic 18650 Li-ion batteries rated for 500 cycles to 80% capacity
  • BMS, Over Voltage Protection, Short Circuit protection
  • Integrated fan
  • Integrated LED flashlight
  • LCD status panel
  • 3 x 110V AC outlets 1800W (3600W Peak)
  • 1 x 5V USB Type-A
  • 1 x USB Type-A Quick Charge
  • 1 x USB-C PD 60W
  • 1 x 12V DC
  • Recharge takes approximately 6 hours via AC adapter, 13 hours using 12V car adapter, 4 hours (using 4 x SolarSaga 100 panels)
  • Includes AC adapter, car cable, solar panel parallel adapter, accessories pouch 
  • 14 x 10.4 x 12.7-inches, weighs 33.1 pounds
  • MSRP $1,599.99
  • Manufacturer’s warranty 24 months

Adding SolarSaga Solar Panels for “Endless” Green Power

As I mentioned earlier, Jackery also makes solar panels. I previously reviewed the company’s SolarSaga 100 panels and could not believe how far they had come since the heavy, bulky, inefficient solar panel I bought years ago for camping.

Jackery SolarSaga 100 panels ($299.99 each) are highly efficient, light, and each folds up nicely into an easy-to-carry unit. They have a built-in charger with USB ports so you can charge devices like a smartphone directly. The Explorer 1500 can also be recharged using these solar panels. You need to use a pair (the power station comes with a parallel panel adapter in the box) and have the option to use up to four of the panels. 

I tried it out with a two-panel setup. Keep in mind, this was done in early spring, in Canada. And during my evaluation period, the best I could get was a mixed sunny day. Not exactly ideal conditions for a solar panel… Regardless, a pair of SolarSaga 100 panels connected to the Explorer 1500 for five hours yielded a 15% charge.

If the power is out for an extended period, or you’re spending a week camping on a non-electrical site, you could realistically expect to have continuous, green power. Especially of you spring for the four-panel setup. Maybe not a full charge every day (depending on weather), but enough to keep topping up the power station to a useful level.

If you’re interested in the green, solar-charging option, Jackery sells the Explorer 1500 in bundles with panels to cut the cost a bit.

Recommendation

When it comes to high capacity portable power stations, the elephant in the room is cost. It’s becoming more apparent every year that having one of these things is a good idea — not just for camping or working outdoors, but to help keep the lights on, the fridge running, phones charged, and critical gear like CPAP machines operational. However, there’s no getting around the fact that these represent an investment. In the case of the Jackery Explorer 1500, that’s $1599.99 plus the cost of solar panels if you choose that option.

However, with the Jackery Explorer 1500, you are getting an very capable and versatile portable power station. And one that is truly portable, so it can be used for a variety of activities as well as providing a power safety backup for your home. It is also safe to use indoors, unlike a traditional generator, which is an important distinction. 

If the Explorer 1500 is too expensive for your budget, or too much power station, the company offers a wide range of options, making it easy to find a portable power station that’s ideal for your needs. 

Disclosure: Jackery provided an Explorer 1500 for evaluation but had no input into this review.