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What is a Generator?

What is a generator?
How will you know which size will fit your requirements.

Honda 2kVA Generator

"A generator is a machine that converts mechanical energy into electrical energy."

Regardless of where you are camping there just times when you want the convenience of power.  If no 240V power is available, a portable generator is handy to supply power for electrical appliances or to charge up the batteries.  Generators are available in petrol or diesel fuel.

A few common brand names are Honda, Yamaha, Onan and Phantom.

If you are having an RV built it would be a good idea to first determine your power needs as this will then determine the type and size of the generator you will need .  The physical size (external dimensions) of the generator will then determine the size of the hatch required during the build stage or if you want to have a customised box fitted to the draw bar.

In the Honda EU series generators, the EU10i generator is rated at 1000 watt AC/ 12 volt 8 amp DC.  This can power such things as lighting, television, video and a laptop.   The EU20i is rated 2000 watt AC/ 12 volt 8 amp DC and can run appliances and charge batteries simultaneously. Pure sinewave output technology is recommended for computer laptops and it is a standard feature of these generators.

The Honda EM50i and EM70i are the largest capacity inverter generators in their class. The EM50 is has a maximum output of 5 kw (5000 watts), and its rated output is 4.5 kw (4500 watts) and the EM70i has a maximum output of 6.5 kw (6500 watts), and its rated output is 5.5kw (5500 kw).  Honda claims these generators deliver better than commercial quality electricity.


Using a generator in a motorhome or RV

There has been a recorded fatality from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from a portable generator which was located in an unvented compartment with no exhaust system to remove the CO fumes.  The fumes seeped into the motorhome from a poorly sealed compartment.

For safety reasons, consider the installation of a carbon monoxide detector.  Choose one with a digital display as this will monitor even low levels of carbon monoxide.

Honda recommend the EU30i (3000 watt) for motorhomes.  The manufacturer claims it features a microcomputer controlled sinewave inverter than provides commercial quality electricity.  Other features are an Eco throttle and it has the option for electric start and remote start.

Honda Generator


Dometic TEC 30 Generator/Inverter – for large motorhomes

The manufacturer claims this to be the first generator/inverter that runs on diesel.  They state it weighs 70 kg and is suitable for supplying many electric appliances, such as the toaster and microwave, with pure sine wave curve and all Dometic AirConditioners where there is no power hook up. Power output is 4.5 HP and diesel consumption 0.7 l/ph.  The unit is operated and controlled from a remote operation panel, will an illuminated LED display, located inside the vehicle.  If you need extra power you can operate two generators in parallel. No extra fuel tank is required.   

Will a generator run my air conditioner  ?

Some known brands of airconditioning units able to be run with the Honda 2.2i and 3.0i generators are Air Command, Heron and the Wren range.  The Dometic B1900 reverse cycle air conditioner is another reported to be able to be run by a 2kVA generator. To enable the generator to start the air conditioner it requires a ‘boost’ so you may have to shut off other appliances including the battery charger (if any) to obtain sufficient power to run the airconditioner.

If you expect to travel in places where the temperature exceeds 40 degrees C then discussions on RV forums indicate the Honda 2kVA generator may ‘trip off’ when operating in those extreme temperatures and needs restarting.  You should then consider if you will need a generator larger than the Honda EU20i to run an air conditioner.  One downside for RV’ers of the larger generator can be their weight and size.  So ensure you make your enquires with the manufacturer to ensure the generator will meet your needs.

Safety Precautions

  • Read and understand the Owner’s Manual before operating
  • Exhaust gas contains poisonous carbon monoxide so never run the generator in an enclosed area.  Be sure to provide adequate ventilation.
  • Be careful not to touch the muffler/exhaust as it becomes extremely hot during operation and remains hot for some time afterwards.
  • Let the engine cool before placing the generator back into storage.
  • Never connect a cable other than the special cable for parallel operation to the parallel operation socket.
  • Place the generator at least 1 metre (3 foot) away from your RV or other equipment (you may care to secure it to a fixed object such as a tree to avoid it being stolen) and avoid exposure to full sunlight.
  • Do not let the generator get wet or operate it in rain or snow.
  • Do not run the generator continuously at more than 80% of its rated capacity.
  • Use a heavy duty, outdoor extension cord that is rated (in watts and amps) at least equal to the sum of connected appliance loads.  See article on Electrical extension cords
  • Before refuelling your generator, turn it off and let it cool down as fuel spilt on a hot generator may cause it to ignite.
  • When transporting or storing your generator make sure the fuel valve is turned to OFF
  • If travelling over rough roads for extended periods drain the fuel.
  • Do not connect your generator to a wall outlet at home as this can cause ‘back feeding’ which can result in death.

Take into consideration the power consumption of electrical appliances when selecting them for inclusion in your RV and know which appliances can be safely powered by a portable generator. To prevent power overload note the power loading (wattage rating) marked on the nameplate of your appliance.

Electrical power calculators can be located by doing a Google search from the search bar below.

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