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Portable Generator

Jun 20, 2017
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Hello and a Happy Christmas to everyone,

I’m thinking about getting a portable generator so that we have the opportunity to try “going back to basics” with the caravan, I.e, no shower blocks or electric hook ups etc. I accept to some generators won’t be popular due to their noise, so I’m looking for a quieter model, that not only provides some power but will also charge the battery in the caravan, I suppose solar panels would be a good idea too?

Any suggestions or personal experience gratefully received.

enjoy the festive holidays.

sincerely

Nic
 

Damian

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Mar 14, 2005
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Whilst initially it seems like a good idea to have a generator, when you get into the actualities it is somewhat different.

First of all they are heavy, so that is some of your payload gone.

Secondly they need fuel which is expensive and also has to be transported safely.

Thirdly they are very inefficient in producing electricity.

Fourth, they need regular maintainence.

Fifth, even "quiet" ones are noisy and many sites either ban their use or restrict when they can be used.

Sixth, you absolutely must use a true sine wave unit and not a 2 stroke unit.

Seventh .For power supply, depending what you actually mean, you would need an output of a minimum 3Kw to power all the items in a van using mains power.

Eighth. They are expensive.

Solar panels would need at least 100w panel, but are cheaper than a genny, make no noise and are quite efficient in producing energy to charge the battery, as long as you have sunlight. As long as you make good use of gas powered items in the van, such as heating, cooking and fridge, and sparingly use the electric 12v you can do most things.

I am sure others will have more to say about them.
 
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I have a 100w solar panel fitted, primarily to keep our leisure battery charged during storage. We have found it of sufficient capacity to supply our electrical needs during our summer off-grid stays. I published an article on it's installation on my website that may be of interest.
 
Jul 18, 2017
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Whilst initially it seems like a good idea to have a generator, when you get into the actualities it is somewhat different.

First of all they are heavy, so that is some of your payload gone.

Secondly they need fuel which is expensive and also has to be transported safely.

Thirdly they are very inefficient in producing electricity.

Fourth, they need regular maintainence.

Fifth, even "quiet" ones are noisy and many sites either ban their use or restrict when they can be used.

Sixth, you absolutely must use a true sine wave unit and not a 2 stroke unit.

Seventh .For power supply, depending what you actually mean, you would need an output of a minimum 3Kw to power all the items in a van using mains power.

Eighth. They are expensive.
Some very good points raised by Damien.

However why would your payload be affected as more than likely it would be carried in the vehicle? Fuel need not be expensive if the generator is run using gas. Not sure about true sine wave as not entirely necessary. A 1kw should be more than ample to power the caravan and most modern caravans can use gas for heating, fridge etc plus most lights in a caravan are now LED lights.

The Hyundai generator with the facility to use gas is reasonably priced and just as good as the over priced Honda. We looked at buying one mainly to be used at home due to the number of power failures during the winter months.

However what I cannot understand is that you state you want to go back to basics, but want to buy a generator? Surely it si cheaper to pay the extra and go to a CL or CS with EHU?
 
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Mar 14, 2005
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Hello Buckman,

Generators take up room and have weight so whether they are carried in the caravan or car they will take up some of either the car or caravans payload capacity. But its not only the space they occupy, its the additional space needed to prevent other items from touching them in case they become contaminated with oil or fuel traces.

Its obvious that when you need power the generator needs to be run, but even when you are using very little power, the generator will still be using fuel to keep it ticking over. As a result running a gen at less than full load is always going to be its most inefficient, and so you will always be spending more than is necessary. If you use petrol it will most likely be road fuel and that will carry the road fuel duty. Road fuel LPG will be slightly cheaper, but not a lot, and bottled gas per unit cost is often even more expensive than petrol, so gas is not that much cheaper.

Due to the inherent very poor efficiency of small generators, it is always more efficient to run multifuel appliances directly on gas (even LPG) not on small generator electric power, which means the generator will not be running at its most efficient anyway.

The cost of purchase and running, bearing in mind generators also need periodic servicing, and replacement parts so realistically using any portable generator will ultimately cost more than practical and much quieter alternatives.
 

Parksy

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Nov 12, 2009
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A less expensive way to
Some very good points raised by Damien.

However why would your payload be affected as more than likely it would be carried in the vehicle? Fuel need not be expensive if the generator is run using gas. Not sure about true sine wave as not entirely necessary. A 1kw should be more than ample to power the caravan and most modern caravans can use gas for heating, fridge etc plus most lights in a caravan are now LED lights.

The Hyundai generator with the facility to use gas is reasonably priced and just as good as the over priced Honda. We looked at buying one mainly to be used at home due to the number of power failures during the winter months.

However what I cannot understand is that you state you want to go back to basics, but want to buy a generator? Surely it si cheaper to pay the extra and go to a CL or CS with EHU?
1
Hello and a Happy Christmas to everyone,

I’m thinking about getting a portable generator so that we have the opportunity to try “going back to basics” with the caravan, I.e, no shower blocks or electric hook ups etc. I accept to some generators won’t be popular due to their noise, so I’m looking for a quieter model, that not only provides some power but will also charge the battery in the caravan, I suppose solar panels would be a good idea too?

Any suggestions or personal experience gratefully received.

enjoy the festive holidays.

sincerely

Nic
 

Parksy

Moderator
Nov 12, 2009
10,138
103
40,735
Hi Nic, Happy Christmas
I have an 80 watt roof mounted solar panel and I also have a Honda suitcase generator, but I only use the generator once or twice a year at music festivals where there are lots of other generators in use.
I'd advise against connecting the caravan ehu to any generator, it's a better idea to use a generator to top up the leisure battery charge.
A good way to try going back to basics would be to try weekend caravan rallies hosted by one of the two main clubs.
These club rallies are usually held in various locations not too far from your home, some have ehu and shower blocks etc but many are held on farms, deer parks, close to village halls with nothing more than a drinking water tap and a chemical waste disposal point.
The best thing about weekend rallies is that there are lots of other like minded caravanners who can offer support help and advice, you can socialise or keep to yourself, there's no pressure either way.
Replace any 12v interior lights with 12v led bulbs to save battery power, the fridge, water heater and heating system will run on lpg and it's entirely possible to stay off grid for a long weekend using a well maintained leisure battery and a 100 watt solar panel.
The use of petrol generators is discouraged on many sites and on caravan rallies.
 
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Sep 29, 2016
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I'd advise against connecting the caravan ehu to any generator, it's a better idea to use a generator to top up the leisure battery charge.
Hi Parksy,

Why would you advise against hooking up the caravan EHU to any generator,
would you also apply this to inverter generators, is your Honda an inverter generator?

Cheers Parksy.
 

Parksy

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Nov 12, 2009
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Hi Anseo
I think that mine is a sine wave generator, I do have a separate inverter from 12v to 230v but I can't remember the last time that I used it.
The caravan rallies that I've been to here in the West Midlands are primarily social events as are the music festivals and 1940s weekends.
We can easily manage a weekend on 12v, we don't need the tv and it's been 2 years since I last used my generator.
Caravan electronics have become increasingly sophisticated and I'm not an electronics expert, so I take no chances.
Unless they were really 100% sure of exactly what they were doing I wouldn't advise any other member to plug in and hope for the best either.
 
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Mar 14, 2005
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Hello Anseo
All generators and especially small ones, have to be able to modulate their throttles to try and keep their output voltage as close to nominal as possible. Because smaller units are lighter, they don't have as much rotational inertia, and a change of load like switching on hair dryer will cause the RPM to drop until the governor can re establish the correct engine RPM. Having lower inertia means that for a given load the RPM will drop further before recovering.

Equally when a big load is turned off, becasue the throttle is open the engine will start to over speed, and being light weight it will spin up more quickly and further than a bigger heavier engine.

For Non inverter generators, this will cause quite large voltage and frequency fluctuations, and these can be damaging to connected equipment.

For inverter generators there is a electronic filtering which should reduce the worst excesses of switching big loads o or off, but there are limits to how effective the electronics will be at preventing voltage and frequency changes.

(The next part will apply to inverter generators and also to stand alone inverters you can connect to a battery.)

Its also worth being aware that just becasue a generator has an inverter, it will depend on the quality of the inverter - Not all inverters are created equal. Some of the cheaper offerings may only produce a quasi sine wave output, and these can sometimes not work very well with some electronics, Better quality inverters will produce a pure sine wave which mimics mains supplies more faithfully.

I don't know which generator models use pure sine wave inverters, but its almost certainly the more expensive ones.
 
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Sep 29, 2016
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Thanks Parksy and Prof,

I don't use any particularly electrically sensitive equipment such as critical medical devices etc.

My little 1200w inverter generator is very much a cheapo (Parkside Brand from Lidl), bought over 2 years ago and has yet to be used, although I will be using it for the first time come March.

What research I have done (google and you tube reviews etc.) has not highlighted any major concerns other than they do not produce an absolutely pure sine wave; reviewers who have tested the product using oscilloscopes report that the results, though imperfect, are within acceptable tolerances.
And, as expected, they are less well sound deadened than more expensive options.

One minor concern for me is the replacement 12v LED lamps that I have installed, I now know that there are types of 12v LED lamps that can tolerate voltage fluctuations better than others, I need to check if I have the better quality type or not :unsure:.

Perhaps I should have some concerns regarding 240v\12v television or laptop\tablet when connected; again, I have not read of any concerns or reports of damage to such items when using an inverter generator for EHU.

With regard to the in situ caravan battery charger, I have not read of any adverse outcomes when using an inverter generator for EHU.

But I live and learn, and any advice and comments are always welcome.

Will I get comments relating to noise pollution :tonguewink:
 
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Parksy

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Nov 12, 2009
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There was a thread on another forum some time ago (can't remember which one) about a guy who bought a brand new Swift caravan.
He took it back to the dealers to get his onboard battery charger replaced under warranty.
The dealer had agreed to the replacement, that was until the owners wife mentioned that they'd been off grid with a petrol generator plugged into their mains socket.
This invalidated the warranty and the owner was left with a hefty bill.
Its less risky just to use the generator to connect to a disconnected leisure battery to charge it
I have two 110 a/h leisure batteries, one on charge and the other on the caravan.
I have charging leads with my generator that will connect to the spare battery.
I never needed the generator when we were off grid last summer, the solar panel kept the batteries going due to the bright sunshine .
 
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Hello Anseo.

I have experienced quite a number of equipment failures that occurred when using power supplied from generators and inverters. For a hobby I operate mobile equipment used at many venues, including outdoor festivals where power is often supplied by generators (large and small) and from battery driven inverters supplied by the venue.

Generally large generators such as those mounted on their own trailers are usually ok, but smaller ones like those available to caravanners (Inverter and non inverter) including battery only ones are the ones that can sometimes cause problems or damage.

Poor voltage control of non inverter generators have caused brown out (over voltage) problems. Cheaper Inverters with quasi or modified sine wave outputs have caused some of my power supplies and equipment to fail to work or to be audibly noisy, and in some cases to blow internal fuses or to damage equipment.

Some of the equipment now used in caravans may be equally susceptible to poor quality 230Vac supplies.

I am therefore very sceptical about the use of small generators for producing substitute mains supplies.

I now insist on minimum specifications for mains supplies, or I provide my own.
 
Nov 11, 2009
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Hello Anseo.

I have experienced quite a number of equipment failures that occurred when using power supplied from generators and inverters. For a hobby I operate mobile equipment used at many venues, including outdoor festivals where power is often supplied by generators (large and small) and from battery driven inverters supplied by the venue.

Generally large generators such as those mounted on their own trailers are usually ok, but smaller ones like those available to caravanners (Inverter and non inverter) including battery only ones are the ones that can sometimes cause problems or damage.

Poor voltage control of non inverter generators have caused brown out (over voltage) problems. Cheaper Inverters with quasi or modified sine wave outputs have caused some of my power supplies and equipment to fail to work or to be audibly noisy, and in some cases to blow internal fuses or to damage equipment.

Some of the equipment now used in caravans may be equally susceptible to poor quality 230Vac supplies.

I am therefore very sceptical about the use of small generators for producing substitute mains supplies.

I now insist on minimum specifications for mains supplies, or I provide my own.
Prof
are you a steam buff who likes the chunter of a nice single cylinder generator. I love going to our local steam rallies in summer. Most of the folks with their engines attend them too so I am probably seeing them 4- 5 times in the season. Then the finale is the Great Steam Fair at Blandford.
 
Sep 29, 2016
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I have two 110 a/h leisure batteries, one on charge and the other on the caravan.
I have charging leads with my generator that will connect to the spare battery.
Steve,

What type of connection point is on your generator that permits you to charge your battery direct from the generator.

My generator has only single 3pin 240v socket, I would have to connect a battery charger to the generator, and in turn connect the battery charger to the battery.

Unfortunately my battery chargers are of the 'smart' variety and have low amperage output, it would take quite some time to top up a low battery.

Begs the question, what battery charger (brand\model), reasonably compact, can be used for relatively quick charging of batteries without causing damage to the battery.
 
Sep 29, 2016
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Hello Anseo.
Some of the equipment now used in caravans may be equally susceptible to poor quality 230Vac supplies.
Thanks Prof,

What types of commonly installed equipment that is now used in caravans would be susceptible to poor quality 230v ac supplies.

If I can identify susceptible types of equipment then I could either isolate them or perhaps protect them, I am thinking of the on-board battery charger in particular, perhaps a surge protector would give adequate protection.

My reason for asking is that ideally I would like to power 230\240v equipment whilst simultaneously charging the on board battery.

 

Parksy

Moderator
Nov 12, 2009
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Steve,

What type of connection point is on your generator that permits you to charge your battery direct from the generator.

My generator has only single 3pin 240v socket, I would have to connect a battery charger to the generator, and in turn connect the battery charger to the battery.

Unfortunately my battery chargers are of the 'smart' variety and have low amperage output, it would take quite some time to top up a low battery.

Begs the question, what battery charger (brand\model), reasonably compact, can be used for relatively quick charging of batteries without causing damage to the battery.
Mine is the Honda E10i suitcase generator John.
It has a 230v socket outlet and spade connector 12v charging lead sockets on the front control panel.
I bought the generator second hand and the charging leads separately from Ebay, the leads have crocodile clips on the other end which connect to the battery.
I plugged my C-Tek charger into the generator once but shortly afterwards the C-Tec stopped working.
Coincidence? I don't know but I'm taking no chances with the caravan electrical system.
I don't think that PCBs fare well with petrol generators, even the relatively expensive models.
 
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Mar 14, 2005
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Thanks Prof,

What types of commonly installed equipment that is now used in caravans would be susceptible to poor quality 230v ac supplies.

If I can identify susceptible types of equipment then I could either isolate them or perhaps protect them, I am thinking of the on-board battery charger in particular, perhaps a surge protector would give adequate protection.

My reason for asking is that ideally I would like to power 230\240v equipment whilst simultaneousi ly charging the on board battery.
Hello anseo,

I can't give you a specific list, as I haven't tried most of the gear presently in use. I would hope that all new appliances were adequately tested during development to ensure compatibility with less than ideal designs of generators and inverters.

As a general point though, brand named products do seem to be more reliable than many of the chinese copies or clones, but even now I recall at least one member of this forum reported a branded electric toothbrush charger was irreparably damaged and of course Parksy has now related his experience with a very well established brand of battery charger.

It's therefore very difficult to offer any clarity of advice other that to avoid off grid generators if possible.

Parksy did also mention using direct charging of battery from the generators 12V output. This should offer a safer option as the caravan battery will act as a good stabiliser as load changes,. but of course not all appliances can use 12Vdc .
 
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Mine is the Honda E10i suitcase generator John.
It has a 230v socket outlet and spade connector 12v charging lead sockets on the front control panel.
I don't think that PCBs fare well with petrol generators, even the relatively expensive models.
Steve,
I like that your generator has connectors for directly charging a battery, mine does not have that facility :disappointed:.

I had not taken into account the appliances that have PCB's, I can see why you exercise caution in relation to such devices, unless I can find a means of providing absolute protection to such devices then I am going to follow your advice and just use the generator for charging the battery.

I may fry some component or other in the remote battery charger though :smiley:.

Cheers Steve.
 
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