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Old 12-13-2017, 10:28 PM   #1
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Power Surge/Generator

Question about generators and surge protectors.

We're taking the family and the TT to Wisconsin for Christmas. We'll be "camping" in Walmart lots on the way. My girlfriend won't let me buy one of those cool, quiet inverter generators yet (it's our slow season so money's tight) so I bought a cheap "Tailgater" at Harbor Freight to run the power outlets to charge cell phones and the TV while we're stopped. (as long as we can find a secluded area in their lots)

My question... should I use a surge protector with the generator? I've read that generators usually can't produce enough of a jolt to do any damage and this Tailgater is a lot less powerful than most generators. It's just a 700 watt generator that'll be just enough for what we need it for.

Thoughts?
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Old 12-14-2017, 01:06 AM   #2
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I would only use a surge protector for shore power, not with generator.
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Old 12-14-2017, 12:08 PM   #3
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Yeah, that's what I'm thinking. New to all this and just wanted to see what others around here say.
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Old 12-14-2017, 12:22 PM   #4
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I use my ems with my generator but I am powering the whole RV. I trust the generator even less than commercial power. If you do use an ems you may need a neutral ground bonding plug depending on the generator. They are cheap and easy to make. I am more concerned with voltage drop than surge so if just a surge suppressor then I would not bother.

If you don't power the trailer you could just run cords to the TV and chargers directly and then I would not use it either.
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Old 12-14-2017, 12:30 PM   #5
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Most of the power problems that occur when using generators happens when the generator runs out of fuel while under load. When running out of fuel, the generator can surge wildly and voltage and frequency can take huge swings. I try at all costs to keep this from happening when using a generator.
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Old 12-14-2017, 12:38 PM   #6
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The surge you need to be concerned about is a voltage surge and has nothing to do with how big the generator is. As mentioned you need to worry about running dry. In addition, you may have issues running a generator in some Walmart lots.
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Old 12-14-2017, 08:42 PM   #7
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Two comments:

1) Contractor style generators are not only loud, the power they produce is poorly regulated and not kind to sensitive electronics. They're fine for a circular saw and a bank of halogen lights, not so good for the TT's 12V converter and the laptop plugged into a 120V outlet. Inverter gennies are electronically regulated and by design produce much "cleaner" current.
2) As Flybob noted, a generator might be frowned upon by a Wal-Mart manager. Many Wal-Marts will allow RV's to overnight in their lots, assuming you will buy a few supplies from them as well, but discourage actual camping. The understanding is that you will park in the back of the lot, come inside and make a few purchases (most have a decent RV section), spend the night then leave in the morning. No awnings, tables and chairs, grills and the like. It's best to even leave the TV hooked up and avoid extending the leveling jacks and slides if possible.
A lot of Wal-Marts are banning RV parking because a few folks abuse the privileged. I'm not saying you intend to do such a thing, just something to keep in mind.
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Old 12-15-2017, 01:50 AM   #8
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Yeah, I've read up on the dos and donts of staying the night in Walmart parking lots. Everything that I read was that using a generator wouldn't be a problem. And, again, we'd only use it if we're able to park in a secluded area.

I appreciate the info on generators. It's such a small generator and tank that I might not risk running out of fuel in the middle of the night and just use it for a couple hours before bed. The battery will keep the heater running and that's the important part once I fall asleep. The kids? They'll have to do without if their batteries die. They can read a book or play cards or something. Lol
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Old 12-15-2017, 02:41 AM   #9
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I'm not sure where you're reading that but I've been on various RV forums for 13 years and running generators while overnighting at a Walmart IS frowned on.

It's that kind of behavior that is driving more and more Walmarts to ban overnighting.
RVs are self contained so use the batteries.
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Old 12-15-2017, 07:32 AM   #10
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Don't confuse a surge suppressor with an EMS. The later provides a lot more protection and is a great idea with any electrical service.
The only generator that might be acceptable at Wal-Mart is an inverter type, which is quiet. The type generator being considered by the OP is going to sound like a gas weed eater running at full throttle. Not socially acceptable.
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