What kind of generator or generators should you buy. We bought our generator online and perhaps you will choose to do the same. Our needs were fairly typical when it comes to power.
Our rig is equipped with two deep cycle batteries. We use those batteries for minor power tasks like powering light bulbs, exhaust fans, things of that nature, but you know we like television sets and coffee makers and hair dryers and air conditioners and that is why you get a generator.
You can bring these niceties of life out to your campsite and have literally all the comforts of home. A generator is a game-changing piece of equipment. It gives you a lot of freedom that you otherwise would not have. Some people choose other power supply sources like solar. Solar is great, but in fact when we ere trying to solve the power issue several years ago a generator made the most sense for us. It was the fastest, simplest and easiest solution to our needs. Put some gas in it, hook up your camper and crank it. You are done. There is no installation process, there is no going to a special dealership to have it installed; its literally just grab and go.
What type of generator should we buy.
If you are buying a generator for camping get an inverter generator that is meant for camping; do not get a construction site type of generator because those things although they are cheap and produce a lot of power are incredibly loud and they will spoil the ambience of the campground in short order. We have actually experienced this in a couple of national parks where we’ve been in the generator loop of a campground and someone will fire up the old construction site generator and pretty much scare off any animal within a large radius. It is terrible – people will hate you, you will make enemies – no need to be that guy.
So inverter generators are the way to go. They also by the way are the best quiet generators and produce clean sine wave energy that is safe for all of those little portable electronic devices you take with you camping.
How much power do we need?
Even though you can get generators that produce a thousand watts of power, if you get them you’re not going to be able to fire up a microwave oven for example, or her hairdryer or an air conditioner. So for most of us the decision comes down to two thousand watts or 3000 watts. So lets talk about two thousand watt models for a minute. First of all they produce enough power to power most appliances. That means microwave ovens, television sets, hairdryers, that sort of thing. What a 2000 watt generator will not power for the most part is your air conditioning unit, so what you can do with a 2000 watt generator you can buy two of them and you can link them together with what is called a parallel cable and suddenly you have 4000watts and that is plenty of power to power an air conditioning unit. Advantages of the 2000 watt generators – they are smaller, they weigh about 45 pounds and most of us can pick up something that weighs 45 pounds and move it around if we need to. They are certainly cheaper.If you look at it from a wattage standpoint you can buy two of the 2000 watt units for less money than one of the 3000 watt units so why would you buy one of the larger ones. Well, we did.
The key advantage of our 3000 watt generator is that the larger units can power an air conditioning unit so you only need one of the 3000 watt units If you get the 2000 watt units you are going to buy two of them. Two generators means two oil changes, two air filters, fueling twice as often, it means more noise. Most inverter generators put out about 60 decibels so instead of having one little machine with 60 decibels you are going to have two little machines putting out 60 decibels each. There’s additional complexity with the two generator approach and you have to have that parallel cable attached and it is just another thing to go wrong and to fiddle around with when you are out camping. Also it is easier for someone to steal the 2000 watt generators just because they do weigh less and they are easier to carry. Positives of the 2000 watt generators. If one of them dies you’ve got another one there so it is like having a little backup. Another benefit of the 2000 watt units is that if you’re camping at a time of year when you know you don’t need air conditioning one at home and just use one unit when you need it. So why did we choose a 3000 watt unit? Well, one generator means one thing to maintain and it’s just enough to power our air conditioning unit and actually the added weight and bulk of the generator can be an advantage. It’s much more difficult to steal. Nobody’s going to be lifting that 150 pound bad boy out of the bed of our truck without us noticing. So for us the three thousand, one unit covered our needs and it was the simplest solution and really from a price standpoint was justifiable.
What brand of generator should we buy?
The two leading brands of generators when it comes to RV camping are Honda and Yamaha. They are far and away the leaders in this field. They have the the best reputation for producing the best design, the best quality equipment, been around the longest. They have the most service centers and the most dealerships. Unfortunately quality does not come cheap. Honda and Yamaha are significantly more expensive than their competitors. Who are the competitors? Honeywell, Westinghouse, Hyundai. Believe it or not, I am hearing good things about Champion generators and there are a number of Chinese knockoff brands. Often the knockoffs don’t include all the features of the Honda and Yamaha generators. For example, our generator has a turnkey electric start which is a very nice feature. Some of these cheaper generators only have the good old fashioned lawnmower pull start. You know when it comes to the off-brand generators its like that line from Clint Eastwood in the Dirty Harry move -“Do you feel lucky, punk?”
Because if you’re lucky you might get a good unit or alternatively it dies within a year and you have to go buy a new one. Sometimes buying cheaper equipment can actually be more expensive in the long run, especially if you are not equipped to open up the motor yourself and do some service work. Now if you are a particularly handy person, are good with a set of tools and are comfortable opening up a generator and you can do that kind of repair yourself then it might make good sense to get one of these cheaper generators and just do the repair work yourself when it is needed. Or maybe there is a great small engine mechanic that you would feel comfortable bringing your generator to who could repair at a reasonable price, because everything dies, that\’s for sure. Weigh up all your options before doing your shopping
Now we happen to own a Yamaha so you might think we are Yamaha flag waving fans. Not so. Whether you buy a Honda, Yamaha or a made in China special pick what is best for you. You are the one who will deal with it every day so you make the choice.
I will admit that I have sometimes been tempted by some of these lower cost generators because sometimes the cost is half of the cost of a Honda or Yamaha. I think the thing you get with buying a Honda Or Yamaha is peace of mind because for the most part you’re going to get a quality piece of equipment that at least is going to provide good service during the warranty period and if it doesn’t then it is under warranty and there is a good service network that will stand behind the product whereas some of these other off-brand generators have no service network. It will be very difficult if not impossible to find parts for them and when they die you are on your own. I am absolutely comfortable recommending Honda and Yamaha products and sometimes they are actually cheaper. You pay a little more upfront for the quality product and you’ll have a much more enjoyable experience and it’ll last longer.
What other features should we consider?
I mentioned that we have the Yamaha EF3000iSEB model which is quite a mouthful. The B stands for boost and what our generator will do is provide additional boost of about 500 watts of power output when needed for about 10 seconds. What does this mean? It means when we’re powering up our air conditioning that it kicks out a little extra power and that is better for the aircon because when those air conditioners start the compressors really demand a lot of power.Another nice feature that our generator has is an economy mode and the economy mode will modulate the power output depending on demand. In other words if the hair dryer is flipped on it revs up but when the dryer goes off it revs back down and our generator actually gets wonderful fuel economy. The claim that at the lowest demand setting you get about 19 hours off two and a half gallons of gas. So it really is remarkably fuel efficient.
Our Yamaha ownership experience
We bought our Yamaha generator in April of 2007. It worked perfectly fine for about five and a half or six years and then one day we went to crank it and it just would not do anything. So we called a local Yamaha dealership that did servicing and we took it to them and they called us a couple of days later to come and get it. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it and they gave it back to us in pieces and then they charged $150. Well part of the problem was that they didn’t know what was wrong with the generator. It was going to cost several hundred dollars to get in there and even make a diagnosis of what was wrong and then it might cost an additional several hundred dollars to repair what was wrong, so in other words the generator was totaled or not and we had really a less than glowingly positive experience with that dealership but the good news is we brought the generator home and we called my Dad, Harry. He can fix just about anything and he looked at the generator, took it apart and he found that there was a piece of broken weld that had got caught in the head of the motor and that was what was causing the problem. So he went in and removed that, then cleaned things up in there and put it all back together, cranked it and it has been fine ever since. Now in Yamaha’s defense, at the time that we had the issue with our unit it was five or six years old and being well beyond and no longer under the three year warranty
What lessons have you learned
Looking back on our generator ownership experience, lessons learned? Would I get the same brand and model? Yes I probably would. For us the 3000 watt unit has worked out pretty well. I like the simplicity of having one unit. I must mention here that many fellow RVers have praised the quality and reliability of their Honda generators so either a Yamaha or Honda would make a suitable replacement if and when we need one.
What would I do differently? I would get a cover for the generator from day one. I didn’t do that last time. We keep our generator in the bed of our pickup, locked and chained down and we use it on a moments notice and I wasn\’t quite sure how the cover would integrate with the locks and chains we have on it but if I could go back in time I would get the cover that will protect the unit from the ravages of weather. You don’t have to get the manufacturers cover, in fact you are probably better off getting a plain generic cover because it is not emblazoned with a Honda or Yamaha logo that is basically a big red flag for a thief.
One last thing to tell you about is a magnetic dipstick. I we had known about the magnetic dipstick several years ago I would have had it on our generator from day 1. Its basically a dipstick to screw into your generator that puts a super magnet inside the oil reservoir so if there are any little bits of metal inside the oil in your generator they will stick to the dipstick so when you pull the dipstick out you are pulling out that metal. So a magnetic dipstick is something that can actually in theory promote the longevity of your generator.
There are maybe other solutions out there for other people but for us a good old-fashioned politically incorrect fossil fuel burning generator makes the most sense and I hope this article has helped you