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Old 04-17-2011, 07:41 AM   #1
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Generators & Boondocking

Somewhere in one of the threads it was suggested that one could purchase a Gas Generator. Could you expect to run the bare essentials on the TT using a generator. Obviously there are benifits having your own power generator at the site, but could someone explain a bit deeper.
Thanks
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Old 04-17-2011, 07:54 AM   #2
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A good 3000 watt generator will run pretty much everything in a trailer. You however cannot run the A/C and say a coffee maker at the same same time with a 3k. You would need to look at something like a pair of Honda Eu2000's jumpered together in that case.
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Old 04-17-2011, 08:13 AM   #3
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You can run from the "bare essentials" to everything in the TT depending on the size of the generator. The Hondas and the Yamahas are popular because they are quiet, dependable and provide a consistent power source safe for use with electronics such as computers. Some of the less expensive (non-invertor models) can have power spikes.

1000 watt - charge batteries, run lights & misc (will not run AC or microwave)
2000 watt - charge batteries, run lights, microwave (will not run AC)
3000 watt - charge batteries, run everything but not AC and microwave at same time
4000 watt - will run everything as long as you have a single AC unit

We have 2 Honda EU2000i generators with a parallel kit. We went that route over a single larger unit, because they are lighter and easier to move around than a single larger unit. When boondocking I will run one about every three of four days to recharge the batteries. We try to mostly run off the batteries, which will run everything except the microwave and AC. One will run everything except the AC. We run both when we need the AC.

Hope this helps.
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Old 04-17-2011, 01:43 PM   #4
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reinreb, i'd seriously look at your TV. you made the mistake by believing the dealer, which you should never do.

IMHO, a 34' TT with a GVWR near 9000lbs., is in 3/4 ton land, not 1/2 ton land even with a Hemi.

that said, having a generator allows for more camping options. dry camping and boondocking can open up whole new areas and places to go, without needing hookups.
we primarily dry camp and shun RV parks. our state parks have virtually no sites with electric, so a generator is a must.
some campgrounds will have generator hours or certain restrictions.
one of the biggest issues with generators is noise level. educate yourself on decibel ratings.
for boondocking, noise levels aren't as big a concern, except for the owner.

for that size RV, you'll have at least one 15k a/c, if not two 13.5k a/c's.

i also suggest two Honda/Yamaha 2000 units to parallel. you'll only need the second one for the a/c, otherwise one is sufficient. and they only weigh 50lbs. each and are the most quiet made.
you just plug in the shore cord and fire it up.
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Old 04-17-2011, 03:05 PM   #5
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I'm going to start another Topic in General Tech and Repair addressing the weight questions and points.
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Old 04-17-2011, 05:19 PM   #6
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I bought a cheap 3500 watt generator and it will power my AC and micro at the same time. It is suprisingly quiet but not on the level olf a Honda. I use it when we boondock at a friends farm but not sure if I would use it in a campground.
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Old 04-18-2011, 07:44 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Glenn5995 View Post
1000 watt - charge batteries, run lights & misc (will not run AC or microwave)
2000 watt - charge batteries, run lights, microwave (will not run AC)
3000 watt - charge batteries, run everything but not AC and microwave at same time
4000 watt - will run everything as long as you have a single AC unit
Glenn, I think you're right on with this!!
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Old 04-28-2011, 04:32 PM   #8
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The Yamaha EF2400 generator is quiet and will run a newer 13.5K AC unit, as well as other "basic" stuff, but not a MW,Coffee maker etc.
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Old 04-28-2011, 06:02 PM   #9
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I have a Gen Pro 3500 RV generator that is rated at 67db and has a 30 amp RV specific plug-in, and one 15 amp standard double 15amp plug, and a 12 volt charge plug. It is also electric start, or rope start, and has a 6.5 hp engine. It runs my AC, and an electric skillet at the same time, with lights on, as well without any trouble. 479.95. NO, it's not as quiet as a Honda or Yamaha, but it is less than half of the price, and I really don't go boondocking but 2 or 3 times a year, max. It works fine for me! Randy
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Old 04-30-2011, 11:07 AM   #10
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I'm not sure why a generator is such a must? I do have one it is only a 1300 watt and in the last 2 years I bet it only ran 5 hours.

I only use it to charge up the battery if we stay in 1 spot for or 5 days.
if you have a good battery it will hold the power for a long time.

Who needs all them electric gadgets like a coffe maker, blenders for the slushy drinks etc.
we go camping for peace and quiet.

I find it actually very anoying when there are generators running all the time, to me might as well stay home and listen to all the lawnmowers that go off in the neighbourhood.
One lawnmower shuts off and another one on the other side starts up and that seems the same with generators at campground.

sorry for the rant.
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Old 04-30-2011, 11:18 AM   #11
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The rant is not a problem, so don't worry. For every purist there is a tech guru who needs the big screen to keep one or the other happy. I found a good inverter and a solid battery bank will do both and keep the generator use to a minimum. I also broke the budget with an ultra quiet Yamaha EF3000 to keep the neighbors happy. Most don't even know when I run it.
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Old 04-30-2011, 01:14 PM   #12
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I have an Onan 5500 Platnum (fuel injected) and it is very quiet. I was in a primitive campground and running the genset to run the AC and desulfate the battries and one of the neighbors come over to look at the rig, he said boy, you must have a big furnace, I can really hear the fan moving air, then I informed him it was the genset, he was in shock. you get 10 feet away from the trailer and you can't hear it. The only time we really use the genset is to desulfate the battries (once a year a year), or to run the AC if it is really hot out (keeps the wife and little dogs happy). We have stayed as long as 15 days on battery power and inverter with the solar system (six 6 volt battries) but we do watch TV sometimes and use the coffee maker daily. If it is cloudy and rainy all the time, we use it more. We boondock or dry camp in random camping areas (BLM land in the US) most of the time, might get a serviced site at max 2 or 3 days a year.
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Old 05-01-2011, 12:18 AM   #13
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So let's say I don't plan on running A/C; and would pretty much just run the generator to recharge the battery. Other than the noise level benefit- would I gain much by getting an inverter/ sine wave model? I am looking at the basic inverter/sine model being about $500; or I could get a basic generator for $200.

I would say most of my boondocking will be just a couple of nights; so I would probably only need the generator once or twice per year.
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Old 05-01-2011, 05:46 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by ken0042 View Post
So let's say I don't plan on running A/C; and would pretty much just run the generator to recharge the battery. Other than the noise level benefit- would I gain much by getting an inverter/ sine wave model? I am looking at the basic inverter/sine model being about $500; or I could get a basic generator for $200.

I would say most of my boondocking will be just a couple of nights; so I would probably only need the generator once or twice per year.
IMO, a 200 dollar generator will rattle your teeth (and your neighbors) while running and will be no fun while you power your battery charger.

You also will be unable to hear the TV you are trying to watch.

Running it on a rainy day will be impossible and possibly dangerous to you and the generator.

Even with your 200 dollar teeth rattler, you will need an inverter large enough to power what AC equipment you do need powered.
Again, in my opinion.
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Old 05-01-2011, 06:47 AM   #15
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So let's say I don't plan on running A/C; and would pretty much just run the generator to recharge the battery.
I had a 800 watt 2 cycle cheapie for a short while.
Similar to this one on Ebay--
800 RATED WATTS 900 MAX WATTS PORTABLE GENERATOR | eBay

It worked fine with a 25 amp quick charger to charge
my batteries.
It was about as loud as a weed whacker so it was just
too noisy for me and any neighbors.
I used it a few times in CGs that had specific generator
run times but people just walking by would always look
my way to see what was making all the noise.
If you camp out on grandpa's farm and no one is around
it will work as you say.

I still have and use a simple little cigarette socket
plug in 12v/120v inverter and it works fine for running
my small LCD TV and for charging any cell phone or
camera batteries that need 120v to work.

If you can stand the noise these little units will work.
My son actually used it after an ice storm to keep his
small chest freezer running.
It wouldn't start the compressor on his side by side
refrigerator.
When I bought the honda we have now I gave him the
little 2 cycle.
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Old 05-01-2011, 03:22 PM   #16
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I guess the one thing I still need to wrap my head around is how long the deep cycle battery takes to charge up. I keep thinking of car batteries that will fully charge in 90 minutes; but that isn't the case with a deep cycle- right? It needs a slower charge rate.

Looks like I should see what this season of camping brings us.
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Old 05-01-2011, 03:43 PM   #17
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My experience

All generators hate to be left with gasoline in them for any length of time. They all work better when used regularly. IMO, the cheaper ones are slightly more susceptible to problems of infrequent use than the high quality units, but a generator that gets used only a couple times a year is going to be a maintenance challenge. At a minimum, you should be draining the gas every time you put it away. For infrequent use, I would look at renting; let someone else maintain it.

Any generator will work fine for charging a battery, but be prepared to be disappointed. Lead acid batteries charge slowly. Donít be fooled into thinking a high amp charger will get the charge in quicker. With modern chargers, the battery determines how quickly it will accept the charge, not the charger amp rating. Cycling a lead acid battery to less than full charge will kill it relatively quickly, but the cost of a battery isnít that much so I simply accept the fact that I might kill one every year. It is frustrating that my generator can generate all the power I need for a day in just a few minutes, but there is no practical way to store it that fast. I couldnít find a reasonable lithium ion solution, but that might be the best technology for frequent boondocking. Solar didnít seem like a cost effective solution for my purposes since I would still need a generator.

There is one difference in chargers that is important, voltage. Most trailers have a built-in charger that is designed to be gentle, maxing out at about 14.5 volts. Look at the voltmeter in most vehicles and you will see that they charge at over 15 volts. This does make a big difference in getting the charge in. Some chargers have selectable battery types that will change this charge voltage. I think mine operates close to 16 volts in the deep cycle setting. Donít use an AGM setting as it will create a dangerous situation in a standard lead acid battery. An AGM battery might be a better choice as it will charge faster (with the right charger), but you can replace a cheap deep cycle several times before paying for one AGM (I have been running with only one standard deep cycle).

Even with maximizing charge voltage, lead acid batteries are expected to fully charge in many hours (about 10). Since the charge rate slows as the total charge accumulates, most of that time is spent taking it from 80-100%. Even a slightly discharged battery requires a significant amount of time to fully charge, far more time than any of us wants to run a generator, especially a noisy one.

Last year I probably spent 100 days without hookups. I would simply run the generator while eating breakfast and/or dinner, whenever I had a convenient window of time. I bought my battery in May and it is still alive, but I think it is almost done. This year I will be on hookups most of the time so the battery isnít too important. I think it helped that I usually found a spot with hookups about once a week so I was able to return to full charge. I think our longest stretch without power was only nine days.

I have a Yamaha 1000 and it is a wonderful machine, small, light, and quiet. It wasnít cheap, even when Costco was practically giving them away. It runs everything in the trailer (while charging the battery) except for the air conditioner. The toaster is borderline, typically tripping out the generator. The microwave will run on low power so it can be used for defrosting, but we rarely use it even when we have power. Hair dryers are unacceptable (might be possible with a 2000). We would often run the heater on only battery power, typically first thing in the morning to warm the trailer back up. It was no problem as long as we ran the generator each day (marginal for the second day). Water pump is no problem since it is infrequently used (especially if you are trying to conserve water as well). We turned it off when not in use as we have a small incandescent indicator light that indicates Ďoní (I canít imagine why they didnít put an LED on that). Refrigerator and hot water control circuits will trip out if the battery charge drops too low, but they donít draw much power on their own. Be careful of the lights in the trailer. The incandescent bulbs are very inefficient and suck down the battery faster than I ever imagined. We bought some portable LED lights that last for months on a few AA batteries. I donít have an inverter; TV signals were pretty rare last year anyway.

For infrequent users, I would recommend trying to rent a Yamaha or Honda 1000 (the 2000ís are fine, but bigger and heavier without typically adding anything useful). Get a battery charger that puts out more voltage than the one in the trailer. Run the generator every day for at least a couple of hours. Make sure you fully recharge the battery when you get home and keep it charged when not in use. You should be able to get several years out of a battery, but if you completely discharge it (e.g., someone accidentally leaves a light on), you can be buying a new battery tomorrow. Keep an eye on the battery terminals as bad connections will reduce both charge rate and usable power.
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Old 05-01-2011, 04:08 PM   #18
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Quote:
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I guess the one thing I still need to wrap my head around is how long the deep cycle battery takes to charge up. I keep thinking of car batteries that will fully charge in 90 minutes; but that isn't the case with a deep cycle- right? It needs a slower charge rate.

Looks like I should see what this season of camping brings us.
All I can give you is what I've found.
I don't have true deep cycle batteries. Mine are 12v
marine crank/deep cycle. Some here scoff at them.
I've had pretty good luck.
Last summer we camped 7 nights in Shenandoah National
Park. No hookups. We were fairly careful but we did
watch TV a short time every day. We had good reception
and we watched the national news each evening and caught
the local weather. I use a little cigarette socket plug in
inverter to power my LCD tv.
I also have a MaxxAir fan over our bed.
Similar to a fantastic fan.
We ran that on low speed at least a couple hours each
day.
I didn't have to charge batteries until the 5th day.

Some folks here will tell you to run your genny every
day for a couple hours. I don't.
I have an automatic 2/10/25 amp charger and I can
get a pretty good charge in 2 hours.
What you find will depend on how much power you use!
We're all different.
I actually plug my trailer in to the genny AND use my
charger at the same time.
Putting them both online gets me more amps at once
than either the charger or the trailer power center will
do alone.

Keep in mind that Watts = Amps times Volts
so a 25 amp charger times 12 volts = only 300 watts.
Even the smallest generator is loafing at that load.
You don't need a big genny to just charge batteries.

You'll figure it out.
Have fun and happy camping!
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Old 05-01-2011, 04:44 PM   #19
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Quote:
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I guess the one thing I still need to wrap my head around is how long the deep cycle battery takes to charge up. I keep thinking of car batteries that will fully charge in 90 minutes; but that isn't the case with a deep cycle- right? It needs a slower charge rate.

Looks like I should see what this season of camping brings us.
Ken,

As in all things RV; your experience will differ. However, I can tell you my 150 AH battery bank was sitting at 50% capacity when I got it home from being inspected and the roof serviced (not plugged in at dealer). It has been on shore power since 20 April when I got it back (it is 1 May). I just went out and checked and it is sitting at 98% and still being charged by the converter at 0.6 amps.

Car batteries are designed to hemorrhage amps in and out. Deep Discharge batteries are designed to be misers; giving up their charge grudgingly. Unfortunately the very design that allows them to hold on to their power also limits the charge rate that can be pumped back in.
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Old 05-01-2011, 05:04 PM   #20
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All generators hate to be left with gasoline in them for any length of time. They all work better when used regularly. IMO, the cheaper ones are slightly more susceptible to problems of infrequent use than the high quality units, but a generator that gets used only a couple times a year is going to be a maintenance challenge. At a minimum, you should be draining the gas every time you put it away. For infrequent use, I would look at renting; let someone else maintain it.
I add fuel stabilizer to any gasoline which I put into my generators and have had good results. My Honda EU2000i generators are 7 years old and I have never drained gasoline out of them and have had no issues.

There is no disagreement that untreated gasoline can cause problems relatively quickly in a generator with infrequent use. I am just saying I have had good results using Sta-Bil to prevent some of those issues.

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