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Post Info TOPIC: Is an RV generator worth it?


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Is an RV generator worth it?


My RV has an Onan Microlite 4000 generator that has been well maintained.  It now starts but stops running as soon as I release the Start button.  My mechanic identifies the problem as electrical and mostly likely due to wires being chewed by a rat or mouse.  To fix the problem he says he'll need to drop the generator out of the RV to get access to all the wiring and check for other damage, and I suspect the work won't be fast or cheap.

In the interim, I can run my inverter with the RV engine idling and get the same power I get from the generator.  At idle, my Ford E350 Triton V10 burns about 0.7gph, while running the generator burns about 0.5gph.  At $3/gallon for gas, that extra 0.2 gallons costs me 60 cents per hour.  BUT... for every 150 hours of generator usage I pay Camping World $150 for a generator service - which means NOT running the generator saves me $1 per hour in maintenance.  In other words, looking only at these factors, it is 40 cents an hour cheaper for me to run the inverter with the engine idling than it is to run the generator.  And for what it's worth, the RV engine runs quieter than the generator, and its exhaust is less of a nuisance.  So my question is:

IS AN RV GENERATOR WORTH IT?

The replacement cost for my generator is over $3,000.  And if the RV didn't have a working generator it would lose a lot of resale value, so that alone justifies going forward with repairs.  But other than that, once it's repaired:

WHY RUN THE GENERATOR IF RUNNING THE INVERTER WITH THE ENGINE IDLING COSTS LESS PER HOUR?

One response I'd expect is that running the engine has a maintenance cost too, but at $75 per WalMart oil change every 3 months or 3,000 miles regardless, I'm not sure the incremental wear and tear would even be measurable.

WHAT AM I MISSING HERE?



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Your generator produces 4000 watts of power so I don’t think it is correct to say that running the motorhome engine to charge the batteries that provide power to the inverter is the same. I get it that the engine provides enough power to charge the batteries and the AC power ultimately produced is the same. How long that engine alternator will live regularly being asked to charge low batteries may need to be factored. What about high draw components like microwave and roof air? Do they work off your inverter when the engine is running? I suppose if you don’t have those or don’t use them, you really do not need a generator. Lots of folks don’t have a generator and figure out how to manage their power needs. You can ditch the generator reducing weight and gaining storage space. Maybe add a small Honda portable for those times you need more.

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“And if the RV didn't have a working generator it would lose a lot of resale value, so that alone justifies going forward with repairs.”

Possibly but not positively. I rarely use my inverter generator preferring to camp in cooler areas and using solar to recharge 97% of the time.

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Winnebago TT 2101DS & Silverado LTZ Z71. 300 watts WindyNation solar w/MPPT, 2 Trojan T-125s. TALL flag pole. Prefer USFS, COE, BLM, USF&WS, NPS, TVA, state/county camps. 14 year Army vet-11B40 then 11A - old MOS 1542 & 1560.



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You mention taking your RV to Camping World for generator annual or 150 hr maintenance. Is that were your mechanic works?

I have seen topics in other forums with the same symptom you have and as I recall it didn't require dropping the generator or a problem with the wiring. I have not paid that much attention to what fixes this kind of symptom so I'm not much help there. If there aren't knowledgeable replies here you could join the Escapees forum www.escapees.com/ and see what responses you get there.

BTW, have you looked at your generator owners manual? There should be and error code display or a blinking light where the number and sequence of the blinking light gives some good info about where to start looking for what is wrong.

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I'd also recommend getting a second opinion.  Sad to say, but Camping World does not have the best reputation with regards to technicians and their ability to repair things.

Terry



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RV-Dreams Community Member

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I apologize. I neglected to mention (a) I have 2 solar panels on the roof feeding 5 marine batteries to augment my inverter and (b) both the mechanic and I saw at least some of the rat/mouse chewed wires.  I wonder if that might have changed some of your responses (which I appreciate).



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Bakery, I believe a proper solar system shouldn’t just augment your recharging. On most days it should completely refill the batteries or it isn’t adequate.

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Winnebago TT 2101DS & Silverado LTZ Z71. 300 watts WindyNation solar w/MPPT, 2 Trojan T-125s. TALL flag pole. Prefer USFS, COE, BLM, USF&WS, NPS, TVA, state/county camps. 14 year Army vet-11B40 then 11A - old MOS 1542 & 1560.



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bikerv1369 wrote:

I apologize. I neglected to mention (a) I have 2 solar panels on the roof feeding 5 marine batteries to augment my inverter and (b) both the mechanic and I saw at least some of the rat/mouse chewed wires.  I wonder if that might have changed some of your responses (which I appreciate).


 It totally depends on your booddocking style.  We have 600AH and an RV (not residential) fridge. So 600AH is right for us.  We have 720 watts of solar.  720 watts (or 800 watts for that matter)  will not totally recharge the a depleted bank without the generator to give them the initial bulk charge and yes, my system is operating properly. Totally metered.

It depends on how much battery power one uses.  In our case we need and want the generator (5500 watts) and I wouldn't have a rig without at least 4,000 to run at least one AC unit.  Even a 2,000 watt Honda can not fully recharge the batteries if used down to 50% to 60% level which is common - for us.  The charger wants too many amps and one has to throttle the smaller generators down to allow the Honda at 2,000 watts to keep up with the demand.  Seen this over many days.

All of this, again, "depends."  There is no hard and fast rule.  If you don't use hardly any 12 volt power that's one thing.  We do.  So "it depends" and as noted sometimes it gets hot and I want some AC to cool things off.  So that means a generator for us.

BTW, I agree, I'd get a second opinion on the problem.  'Don't have any idea why Camping World would say its wiring based on what you said.  I have zero faith in that evaluation. Sounds like fuel starvation (fuel filter?) to me assuming its gas.  Low LP tank level assuming its LP.  Just my opinion.

YMMV

Bill



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A fairly common Onan generator failure that causes the "Run while held" symptom is a failed voltage regulator board. The folks at Flight Systems, Inc can walk you through trouble shooting to narrow down the source of the problem.



-- Edited by Dutch on Saturday 9th of February 2019 11:38:49 AM

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RV-Dreams Community Member

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Is an RV generator worth it? Yes, it is.


I started this thread by asking:

IS AN RV GENERATOR WORTH IT?

The answer seems clear:

YES, IT IS.

Even with my solar/inverter setup, I cannot run the coach a/c or microwave without the generator, and without sunlight I can't run much else without running the engine.  There's also the RV resale value to consider.  So yes, I will be contacting Flight Systems and repairing my generator.

THANKS FOR ALL YOUR INPUT!



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Is an RV generator worth it?


CORRECTION: NO, For me RV "Generators" are NOT worth it.

I previously posted that I would be repairing my Onan Microlite 4000 generator. After reading this article and using an inverter generator, I realize the Onan is a "conventional generator" and old technology. I'm dumping it and here's why:

yamahaef2000is.com/conventional-generators-vs-inverter-generators/

For those of you with hands-on "inverter generator" experience, I welcome your advice as to which make/model I should buy.

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bikerv1369 wrote:

CORRECTION: NO, For me RV "Generators" are NOT worth it.

I previously posted that I would be repairing my Onan Microlite 4000 generator. After reading this article and using an inverter generator, I realize the Onan is a "conventional generator" and old technology. I'm dumping it and here's why:

yamahaef2000is.com/conventional-generators-vs-inverter-generators/

For those of you with hands-on "inverter generator" experience, I welcome your advice as to which make/model I should buy.


 A couple of things to consider.  First,  the site you link to is an advertisement for the Yamaha Generator, of course it will be better at that site.  The second thing is that they are comparing the Yamaha generator to a non-name brand portable generator.  I don't know what kind of regulation a Onan generator has but I'm pretty sure that it's better than the $500-$1,000 portable models you pick up at the local big box store.  If you go to their web site they claim frequency regulation of better than 5% which is what the Yamaha site claims for their generators. While the Onan does cost about 50% more than the same wattage for the yamaha portable generators the specs are about the same and the Onan has a MUCH longer run time as it draws from the coach fuel tank, likely has autostart and can be controlled from inside the coach.  My point being that you are asking if an RV generator is worth having and is it worth having if you can get the same power from idling his coach motor?  I think that the appropriate answer is it depend on the convenience you want.  The second thing to consider is does the coach produce sufficient amperage to supply the same wattage as the Onan generator.  Most automotive type alternators don't produce enough amperage.  For the coach engine to produce the same 4,000 watts as the Onan it would have to put out 333 or so amps, a pretty tall order for an automotive alternator, but maybe Ford has a really big alternator.  Just my thoughts, but I think you might be heading down a bad road. 



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arcaguy wrote:
bikerv1369 wrote:

CORRECTION: NO, For me RV "Generators" are NOT worth it.

I previously posted that I would be repairing my Onan Microlite 4000 generator. After reading this article and using an inverter generator, I realize the Onan is a "conventional generator" and old technology. I'm dumping it and here's why:

yamahaef2000is.com/conventional-generators-vs-inverter-generators/

For those of you with hands-on "inverter generator" experience, I welcome your advice as to which make/model I should buy.


 A couple of things to consider.  First,  the site you link to is an advertisement for the Yamaha Generator, of course it will be better at that site.  The second thing is that they are comparing the Yamaha generator to a non-name brand portable generator.  I don't know what kind of regulation a Onan generator has but I'm pretty sure that it's better than the $500-$1,000 portable models you pick up at the local big box store.  If you go to their web site they claim frequency regulation of better than 5% which is what the Yamaha site claims for their generators. While the Onan does cost about 50% more than the same wattage for the yamaha portable generators the specs are about the same and the Onan has a MUCH longer run time as it draws from the coach fuel tank, likely has autostart and can be controlled from inside the coach.  {Edit} Just my thoughts, but I think you might be heading down a bad road. 


The problem with "no-name" inexpensive generators is mostly the "quality" of the power, not just voltage or watts.  Most of these inexpensive "construction site" generators coming from a "box store" are intended to run motors (hand saws, etc.) have terrible spikes and what is known in the trade as "dirt power" output.  (Not true of dual / double conversion generators which actually have inverters in them.)

This is really important when connecting expensive electronics - and even a high quality charger / inverter - to dirty power.  It can fry the power supplies in the electronics as well as refers, etc., etc.  The harmonics and like "bad things" coming from these construction quality generators are real.  I've seen stuff "fried."  So I just pass this along FWIW.  You do get what you pay for in most cases.

Bill



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