Watch on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijADa34NeXk
Making My DIY Solar System More Useful With An EcoFlow RIVER 2! [Review]
Purchase from Amazon: https://amzn.to/3NvIeC2
The EcoFlow RIVER 2 is the baby brother of the EcoFlow Delta, and is a brand new portable power station with 12V, USB A, USB C PD and a mains inverter. It can also be charged directly by solar. But is it any good?
A while back, I made a video all about solar power that went viral and got over half a million views believe it or not, and then a follow up that went over 100,000 views. Typically my videos get 4 or 5,000 so, yeah, crazy stuff.
Anyway, off the back of those my inbox absolutely exploded with offers of all sorts of - well, crap, basically. From companies desperate to shove their products in front of your eyeballs in exchange for a carefully orchestrated “review”.
But one email really stood out to me, and that was from a company called EcoFlow, and the reason for that is because - unlike a lot of that stuff - they actually have a really good reputation, and I’d genuinely been looking into their range of powerbanks to help make my little solar setup here a little bit more useful, and allow me to take some of the power that I generate to where I actually need it rather than being confined to this one room here.
So I was more than happy for the chance to get hands on with one and if it turned out to be terrible and I gave it a bad review and they never sent me anything again… Well, I’m sure you’ll agree that I already have far too much stuff, so they’d be doing me a favour really.
So this is me sticking to my side of a contract and having a bit of fun with it in the process, and if you’re wondering - apart from a few important specs that I’ll go over in a second and of course I would’ve mentioned anyway, EcoFlow haven’t dictated any part of this review in advance, and this is my genuine experience.
Right. So what exactly are we looking at here? Well, it’s a portable power bank designed for camping and emergency situations and the like, it’s called the River 2 and is the baby of EcoFlow’s new range, with a capacity of 20Ah which is 256Wh at its nominal output of 12.8V, and it weighs in at a very lightweight 3.5kg or 7.8lbs.
Now, personally I’m not sure that’s heavy enough for use in a gym setting, but I guess that depends on your personal level of fitness.
But seriously, it weighs next to nothing.
A big part of the reason for that is that it uses LiFePO4 battery technology - a very modern, lightweight, and safe lithium based chemistry and the same type that I chose for my little DIY solar setup here - with an integrated Battery Management System to protect against short circuits, over and under charging and all that bad stuff that lithium batteries don’t like meaning that that internal battery will survive for over 3,000 charge cycles for a useful lifespan of 10 years - and EcoFlow back this up with a 5 year guarantee.
As you can see, it features a standard 12V socket just like the one you’ll find in your car, which can deliver 100W or 8A of power, which is plenty for my modern portable devices here, and would also easily handle something less entertaining like a portable fridge for example.
There are two USB-A ports rated at a rather meaty 12W, which is 2.4A at 5V…
…and a USB-C port that supports the PD or “Power Delivery” standard and puts out a very respectable 60W.
Of course there’s also that mains power socket, and that’s hooked up to an internal pure sine wave inverter, which on this model can handle 300W continuous with surges of up to 600W.
Here in the UK, one of these will set you back £269 - nice - and EcoFlow are positioning this as the best portable power station under 1kWh - a very bold claim indeed - and I wanted to see whether it lived up to that.
So when it first arrived, it had around 30% usable charge, and I really wanted to see how it would charge from my solar panels here, which meant running that down to zero. Of course, zero isn’t actually zero when it comes to lithium batteries, the battery management system will prevent it from getting down to a level where it would cause any damage, but… You know what I mean.
So I hooked up all of my usual day to day load to it - the LED lighting that I use for recording, my hifi amp and laptop, and some stuff that needed charging, and that little setup was pulling around 100W and took about half an hour to drain that initial charge.
After a few minutes I noticed the internal fan had kicked in - it’s certainly not noisy by anyone’s standards and my other inverter also has a fan as they do generate heat but worth mentioning that this isn’t completely silent when under a heavier mains load like this.
It’s also worth pointing out that when it died it just cut out without any kind of audible warning or anything like that, and I think that’s a feature that would have been useful so when it’s not hooked up to a power source it’s worth periodically checking the display on the front or the app just to keep an eye on the charge level. I’ll talk a little bit more about the app shortly.
So I have 480W worth of panels here and it’s a mid October late afternoon in the UK and the panels are mostly shaded but I’ll plug it in anyway. Now, for this you’ll need an MC4 to XT60 cable which isn’t included and the official EcoFlow one is about £60 but they’re industry standard connectors - I hear XT60 is very common in the drone community - and I picked up a third party cable on Amazon for £13 which I’ll link down below.
The RIVER 2 can charge at a rate of up to 110W from solar, and because of the time of day and time of year my panels were only outputting 60W at this point. But, being an MPPT charge controller, it should be able to handle much more than that, only drawing the current that it needs - and as it happens it wouldn’t be long until I got a chance to test that.
It was at this point I had one too many glasses of wine - as you do - and it kind of slipped my mind that I’d left it plugged in. So while I was enjoying my lie in the following Sunday morning, I suddenly became aware of a very loud noise.
Two of the panels were in full sun and the EcoFlow was maxed out at 110W - I think the panels were outputting about 150 based on previous experience - so the fan was running flat out.
This is known in the solar world as “over-paneling” and it’s something that some charge controllers support and some don’t - often with fiery consequences.
So I thought I’d test it so you don’t have to.
It was also at this point that I noticed that EcoFlow had sent through the new version of their app - the River 2 was pre-release at the time so it wasn’t supported by the publicly available version. Of course by the time you’re watching this, it will be.
Initially it uses Bluetooth to connect to the unit, and then, optionally, you can enter your wifi credentials and it will use that going forward.
The app has some quite nice features actually, obviously showing the current state of the various inputs and outputs, but also allowing you to set the maximum charging current on the AC and DC inputs if, for example, you’re charging it from a small inverter or whatever and don’t want to put too much load on that.
There’s also the X-Boost mode, which on the River 2 ups the inverter output to a maximum of 600W for short periods of time, and if you’re using this as a kind of UPS or don’t need the full capacity and want to save unnecessary wear and tear on the battery, you can limit the minimum and maximum charge level.
Anyway, just over an hour later and now all 4 panels are in full sun and the EcoFlow is fully charged. Swapping back to my main charge controller I can see that that’s getting around 300W. So I guess that makes the over-paneling experiment a success but I’m far from an expert on this stuff and this isn’t a thorough scientific test so it’s worth doing some further research if this is a setup that you’ll be using regularly.
Now, one of the use cases that EcoFlow market the River 2 for is camping, and all of us basement dwelling tech types love camping.
I must confess that putting the tent up on my own was somewhat of a struggle but my wife was out and I wanted to get it all done by the time she got back because… Well, this is just the kind of thing that men get up to when their wives are out and that’s our business.
It ran all of this very realistic camping setup for over an hour before I got bored and gave up. Admittedly it’s not a very useful test as I’m sure most people won’t be using an incredibly inefficient mains powered fridge and CRT TV these days, but I had a nice time. I also took the opportunity to top up my phone using the USB-C port.
On a more serious note, if you are taking this thing camping you could pair it up with one of EcoFlow’s portable solar panels to keep it topped up, or if you’re out and about in a car during the day you could charge it from the 12V socket, and of course it would be more than sufficient for things like LED lighting and charging phones up overnight, and maybe even running a small TV for a few hours if you hate the outdoors so much that you spend your camping trips glued to that.
But, for me personally, I’m planning on treating this as a bit of extra capacity for my solar setup that also happens to be portable for emergencies. The other day the sun was out, my batteries were full and the EcoFlow was running low, so rather than that solar power going to waste I decided to use it to charge this thing using my inverter, which it did at around 340W. Not the most efficient way to charge it but hey, it’s only free electricity I’m wasting that would’ve gone to waste anyway.
If you were wondering, the River 2 takes under an hour to charge from a mains socket at its maximum charging rate, which EcoFlow claim is up to 5X faster than their competitors. Oh, and as alluded to earlier, you of course can leave it plugged in and plug your devices into it, and it will act as a kind of UPS, switching over in less than 30ms in the event of a power failure. I’m not one for doom and gloom but if you’re at risk of power cuts and have essential or medical equipment, it’s certainly a very viable option for that use case too.
For example, it’s very reassuring to know that it could run our wine fridge for up to 7 hours in a disaster situation, giving us plenty of time to finish it all off before it gets too warm.
And of course, it can also handle things like lights…
…our home entertainment setup…
…and keeping us online.
So thanks to EcoFlow for sending this new River 2 to me, and yeah, it works as advertised, it’s very solidly put together, and I’m genuinely going to get a lot of use out of this, and I hope I’ve shown enough in this video for you to make an informed decision on whether you’d like one in your life too. If you would like to get your hands on one there’s a link in the description that makes me a little bit of money without costing you any extra which of course helps the channel out.
Big thanks to my channel members and patrons for your support as always, and I’ll hopefully see you again next time when I’ll be back to my usual retro gaming and electronics shenanigans.
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