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What kind of generator is best for RVing?
Russ and Tina DeMaris

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It's a question many RVers have to ponder: What kind of generator to buy for RVing? There are several choices, but experienced RVers all seem to concur on one thing: Don't fall to the low price of a "contractor" generator if you can avoid it.

First, let's talk about generator types: There are built-in generators (gensets) and there are free-standing (portable) generators. Many RVs come from the factory "genset ready," meaning there's a dedicated space, electrical wiring, and fuel source built into the RV, but the genset itself may be missing.

Built-in gensets are a blessing in they require less fussing around with, and typically have a remote start switch inside the coach to allow you to fire up the generator without stepping outside. Really great on those cold, windy, wet days when somebody wants to whip up something good to eat. They can be a bit of a pain to service. To change the spark plug or oil on our genset requires a bit of yoga-like bending to get under the rig and fish above the head with a wrench to make appropriate contact, but that remote start really makes up for that inconvenience.

Built in gensets also offer great fuel flexibility. Our little Onan in our truck camper runs on the house propane system. We don't have to fuss around carrying an extra fuel can, nor getting gasoline dumped on our tennis shoes when fueling. Motorhome gensets often draw off the engine fuel tank, diesel or gasoline. Fill up your coach tank and you're done worrying. Portable generators typically must see the gas can to be satisfied.

Portable generators fall into two basic classes: Portable generators really designed with RVers in mind (Honda makes their "EU" series that are VERY popular with RVers) and the "contractor grade" generator available at any big box hardware store. What's the difference?

Put simply: NOISE! Contractor generators give more power for the dollar, but they create HUGE amounts of peace disturbing noise. For years we've disparaged the use of generators, then we wound up living on the Arizona desert in May. A generator became a sudden necessity, but that nasty old contractor generator sure blasted the peace away.

The small, lightweight Honda, Yamaha, etc, generators do cost more, it's true. But quiet they are. We've stood within three feet of these little marvels and carried on a conversation in a normal voice. Are they big enough to run your air conditioner? Typically you'll need a 3,000 watt or larger generator to successfully fire up most RV air conditioners. Honda builds an EU series generator that fits that bill, or you can start smaller, running your microwave oven, battery charger, and the rest. Later if the dollars allow, you can buy another Honda and a kit that allows you to "bridge" two identical generators together to have more than enough power to handle larger assignments.

If we had to choose, we'd be picking up one of the little quiet guys. By the way, our contractor generator hasn't got enough muscle to fire up our new trailer's air conditioner unit. Anybody looking for a noise maker?

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