As you may or may not know, we decided to use a Goal Zero Yeti 1250 as the basis for our power needs in the van. Now that our system has been in use 24/7/365, I’d like to report back on how it’s holding up.
The short answer is: mediocre
The Yeti 1250 came with a one year warranty upon purchase, which I didn’t think much of at the time. I figured it was a relatively short warranty mostly because of the battery. The life of a lead acid battery can be drastically reduced if it is run completely dead (more than 50%-60% depth of discharge) multiple times, and especially if it is left uncharged for extended periods. I can understand how Goal Zero would rather not be responsible for replacing abused batteries, so a one year warranty makes sense. Besides, the battery in the 1250 is user replaceable, so when the battery does eventually need replacing, it’s much cheaper than the entire unit, and very quick and easy.
I also didn’t think that there’s much risk of any other problems with the unit past the first year of use. I figured, if there was going to be a problem, it would present itself fairly early on. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Within days of the warranty expiring a few problems popped up.
First, the Anderson Power Pole solar charging input port broke. Not the Anderson connections themselves, but the custom plastic oval housing they reside in.
For simplicity, we bought the Anderson-to-MC4 solar adapter cable from Goal Zero to allow us to plug in Grape Solar panels with MC4 connectors instead of buying Goal Zero’s inadequate and overly expensive Boulder solar panels, which have Goal Zero’s proprietary plug, an 8mm round jack.
Anyway, the cable works okay, but it is stiff and sticks out the front of the Yeti, prone to being whacked. Even being very careful with it, after a year of use, the internal oval plastic housing inside the Yeti broke. We could no longer connect our solar panels. I guess it would have been better to craft our own adapter cable that wasn’t quite so thick and stiff. It looks to be stiff only from the outside casing and not from using large gauge wiring internally, which I would guess is 12AWG at best, which is disappointing.
So we modified the Yeti to allow us to once again plug in our solar panels, but also to move the connection to where it won’t stick out so much and break even more.
We drilled a hole in the side of the Yeti and re-routed the solar wires (which are surprisingly small gauge wire, I would have liked to see larger gauge wire here, but I guess it’s consistent with the adapter cable…) to exit out of the side, and the stiff adapter wire now hangs straight down, next to the side of our cabinet wall, protected and safe.
The second problem we now have with the Yeti is that the LCD screen with charging and usage status has stopped working. It started acting a little funny, displaying strange characters and flickering, but after powering the Yeti off completely for 20 seconds and turning it back on, the display would work fine for another week. Rinse and repeat, this lasted for about a month. Now, though, it doesn’t display anything. If we’re lucky, it will flicker just 1 or 2 pixels randomly. The back light works, but no display. So now we have no clue how much solar is coming in, how much power is being drawn, and how much power remains (even though it only showed us 20% increments of battery remaining, pretty vague). Very disappointing. This is not a cheap device. I expected it to last a while.
On the plus side, it does appear to still be charging and powering everything correctly, despite no status display. Luckily, our National Luna fridge has a display showing voltage of the battery, so at least we have something.
So I guess my point is this: We like the Goal Zero Yeti 1250. It has been working well. It is nicely compact with battery/inverter/solar and mains charge controller/USB outlets/12V outlet/etc. That’s why we bought it; it’s compact and easy. However, the durability of some of the components is upsetting. While it still functions okay, it doesn’t give me good feelings that we can rely on it for many years to come. Buyer beware.