Whether it is traveling around the country or a small fishing trip, having access to portable power can be a great addition to your setup. Lets have a look at some important factors that you should consider when purchasing a portable recreational generator.
The most common question that everyone looking to buy a generator asks is 'What size generator do i need..? We have put together useful and much needed information that you can use to size the correct generator needed so you don’t waste your time and money.
You have to work the amount of watts that the tools / appliances you’ll be running use, and remember that with some appliances or tools the number wattage that is listed on the appliance is not an exact representation of the amount that it takes to run it. For instance, a 900w microwave simply means that’s how much power the microwave itself puts out. The key point to remember is that a appliance will always require more power to run than the amount of power it puts out.
You need to figure exactly how much wattage your appliances require, look at the data tag by the manufacturer. This is the tag on the unit that lists volts, amps, horsepower, cycles, phase, etc. Most often, appliances list their power consumption in amps rather than in watts. In order to get the watts the device requires to run you simply multiply the number of amps by the number of volts it lists.
Another factor you will need to calculate is the starting wattage. What this means is that some appliances, such as those that contain an electric motor, require more watts to start up than to actually run. These include refrigerators, air conditioners, power tools, air compressors, bore pumps to name a few. To calculate the starting watt requirement, with most appliances it is generally 2 to 3 times more than the running watt requirement.
Make a list of all the appliances / tools you wish to run at the one time, and once you have compiled an accurate list of what you will be operating, you can calculate the maximum power requirements.
The specific criteria to really look at when talking generators includes the overall size of the unit (footprint and height), the unit’s output capacity expressed by kVA output, and finally its weight. As a rule of thumb, the bigger the output requires a bigger generator all round.
Use the following as a general guide when you’re thinking about getting a generator to determine which size you’ll need for the job.
SMALL: 1kVA generator: Suitable as a battery charger. running lights or charging phones , computers etc
MIDSIZE: 2kVA generator: Suitable to run a fridge, lights and a battery charger, and some smaller air conditioners
LARGE: 3kVA generator: These can run most air conditioners and multiple appliances all at the same time
Depending on the make and model, the sizes and weight may vary slightly. A big generator might be able to run everything at the same time, but will take up a lot of space and add to your weight load.
Most portable generators come in four-stroke fuel mixture, and the larger permanently mounted units may use diesel fuel. So by no means do their fumes smell like roses, and venting needs to be considered. Aim to store a generator with an empty fuel tank including the carburettor. This process will still leave a residual smell, so it’s important to consider where you’ll store the unit while travelling. Let’s take a look at the options.
Storing a generator in your vehicle can offer flexibility and convenience, but you’ll need to be mindful of vapours that can easily be smelt in a wagon (even after the unit has been emptied and vented). Secure the unit well by placing it behind a cargo barrier and latch it in place as a safety precaution. While popular utes or vehicles with a canopy provide separation from the vehicle occupants, it’s possible fumes may infiltrate other items stored in this area such as food tub contents and clean clothes.
By bringing a generator onboard you’ve just added anywhere between 13-35kg to your rig’s payload. That weight could go directly to the towball weight if it’s added to the A-frame, or it could induce a pendulum motion if it’s mounted on the caravan’s rear bumper bar. And placing it inside the RV has the same fume and anchoring issues as storing it in a vehicle. So while it’s possible, it’s not the perfect solution.
HATCHES AND SLIDES
If you know you’ll be travelling with a generator regularly, the best option is to have the RV manufacturer include a dedicated vented storage solution, i.e. an integrated hatch with a pull-out slide. You’ll need to request a slide that’s strong enough so the gennie can run in situ. Not only will it save your back from having to lift the unit in and out, but most insurance companies cover them in the event of theft, as they’re treated as an appliance when installed this way. For adding a generator to an existing caravan, talk this over with the original manufacturer who’ll be in the best position to advise you on a solution.
DEDICATED AFTERMARKET STORAGE BOX
This is the next-best option after an integrated hatch, as its purpose-built to suit the style of generator you’ll travel with. The design should include attachment methods – the generator to the box, and the box to the RV. Look for venting filters and strong robust locks, but you’ll need to consider the box weight in addition to the generator’s weight. Before having it installed by a business that has experience in this type of install, talk to them about how they’ll attach it to the RV, and what effect it has on RV weight distribution and handling. These days there are some cleverly insulated and well-vented designs that allow the generator to remain inside the box while it’s running.
A generator needs highly flammable fuel (petrol), so you’ll need a suitable vessel that complies to Australian standards. There are many types of storage vessels available, but there are also regulations as to how much you can store, and where and how you store it. Importantly, fuel containers can’t be stored anywhere on your car or RV that might be prone to impact in a collision. Plus, every litre of fuel eats into that valuable payload too.
Fuel can off and become stale quite quickly, adding a fuel stabilizer can keep your fuel fresh for up to 48 months.
Like all engines, a generator requires maintenance and service. A major overhaul is best left to the professionals, but there are a few things you can do to keep it in good condition.
Fuel – Never store the unit with fuel for long periods as it goes stale; fresh fuel is best.
Oil – Check and drain the oil yearly. Refill using the manufacturer’s recommended spec.
Spark plug – Carbon will build up, so consider replacing the spark plug when replacing the oil yearly.
Air Filter – Periodically inspect the air filter as they can become dirty quickly. Remove the filter and blow it out for cleaning, but also carry a spare as there will come a time it becomes too clogged for re-use.