RV Generators

For us, the big point of having an RV was being able to go anywhere we wanted and setup camp; this is commonly known as boondocking within the community.

We haven’t picked a solar setup just yet, however solar won’t cut it when you need air conditioning. It is cost prohibitive to setup enough solar, batteries and a strong enough inverter charger to put out the amperage to run the AC all day; I’ve seen people that done it, but it’s not in the cards for us.

So, I knew I needed a generator, but which?

  • Honda 3000
  • Honda 2200s in Parallel (2 generators)
  • Champion 3400/3500 Inverter (Single Fuel)
  • Champion 3400/3500 Inverter (Dual Fuel)

I really considered all 4 of these generators strongly. I briefly looked at the Yamaha generators, however I removed them from consideration due to the cost/benefit of them. If I was going to step away from the Champion brand, I might as well go to Honda.

Now, why did I not consider a lot of the other brands of inverters? Support in case something goes wrong. A lot of the “Small” or “no” name brand generators have zero repair parts available. Honda, Yamaha and Champion do well in this arena.

Champion makes 2 lines of inverter generators, however branding would make you think there are 4. They produce the “3400” and “3500” – which are actually the EXACT SAME generators, just with different model numbers. This is done strictly for advertising reasons; so some vendors don’t have to price-match others. The 3400 generator actually puts out 3500 watts. With that said, the Duel Fuel and “Standard” inverter generators are rated the same. The difference is the Duel Fuel model can run off of propane with a reduced wattage output. Fact of the matter is that propane just doesn’t have the same energy available as gasoline does.

By this point, you’ll see that I keep referring to inverter generators. There’s a reason behind that. Standard “contractor grade” generators are a LOT less expensive, however with that cost savings comes noise. A lot of noise.

When we rented an RV a few years ago, the owner had a standard contractor grade generator mounted to it. When it was running, it would shake the whole trailer to the point that no one could sleep at night – it was THAT BAD. Not only was there a lot of vibration, but it was very VERY noisy. With the generator at the front of the trailer, it was loud enough to cover conversations at the rear of the trailer. Not exactly relaxing.

So, when it came time to pick a generator for our use we knew it had to be an inverter due to the significant noise reduction.

When an inverter generator is run in “eco” mode, it throttles down to produce only enough energy to meet demands. This further reduces it’s already low noise.Honda 3000

Honda EU3000iS $2349.95 MSRP (#ad)
Pros & Cons:
-Single Unit to transport
-Large fuel tank -3.4 gallons – runs 20 hours on 1/4 load.
-Quiet – 50db 1/4 load, 57db full load
-3000w output – 25 amps
-electric start
-HEAVY – 134 pounds (Dry)

Honda EU2200i & EU2200 Companion (#ad) $1159.95 & $1289.95 MSRP
Pros & Cons:
-Lightweight – 46.5 pounds (dry)
-Options! (Depending on power needs, only run one generator)
-Size – Much smaller
-Quiet 48db 1/4 load, 57db full load
-2200w output -18.3 amps – each
-smaller fuel tanks – .95 gallons – runs 8 hours on 1/4 load (*optional aftermarket kits extend run time)
-recoil start
-easier to steal due to size & weight

Champion 3400/3500 Inverter Generator (Duel Fuel Specific marked with a “*”)(#ad) $975 MSRP (*$1100 MSRP)
-Heavy – 95.5 pounds Dry
-* Options – Ability to run off of Gasoline or Propane
-Quiet – 59db (Champion doesn’t list full load or 1/4 load differences)
-3500watt output – 28.3amps (*Reduced to 3100 on Propane – 25.5amps)
-Recoil start (electric start is an option on gasoline only models)
-7.5hr run time on Gasoline @ 1/4 load (14hr runtime on Propane @ 1/4 load)

I spent a lot of time and was convinced that I was going to buy the Champion 3500 Inverter Dual Fuel. I liked what I read about it, they have a great reputation for reliability. The flexibility in being able to run off of both gasoline and propane is HUGE. Propane doesn’t go bad, I have quite a bit of it on the trailer already. If I needed to save my propane for a longer camp, I could easily just run gasoline from a few gas cans.

So, why did I buy the Honda 2200 (standard and companion)? Flexibility, ease of transporting, availability of parts, and some aftermarket accessories.

The standard Honda 2200 has your general household 15 amp plugs on the front panel. If you are going to power an RV or other equipment that uses a 30amp plug, you’ll want the Companion model to go with it. Really, it is the same generator with a different front panel; it has a 30 amp plug and a 15 amp plug. If your goal is to run two Honda 2200’s in parallel to meet your electrical needs, the second needs to be a Companion, provided you want to stick with OEM Honda equipment. There are aftermarket parallel cables for running two standard 2200’s, where the parallel cable has a box for a 30 amp plug, however it’s not supported by Honda. I didn’t want to rock the boat with my 3 year warranty, so I went with the way they want ya to do it.

Most generators use a standard gravity fed carburetor system. Honda went a little different and went with a system that uses a vacuum. Why does this matter? Well, if you buy an aftermarket gas cap, some fittings and some fuel hose, you get to use a 6 gallon marine gas tank. The vacuum will draw the gasoline from the tank, extending your run time. When the 6 gallon tank gets low, you simply top that tank off. People have reported running their Honda 2000/2200 generators for 30+ hours using this method.

Another perk of going this direction was the additional amperage I gained. The Champion peaks at a max output of 28amps. I’ll have about 36 amps peak available with this setup – more amperage than my trailer can use under it’s current design. I should never have to worry about overloading the generators and causing them to shut down. That’s a distinct possibility with the Champion and the Honda 3000. Now, you do need to purchase the parallel kit with the Honda 2200s, which cost me $50. It comes with the proper cables to link the generators together and a 30amp twist-lock to RV adapter for the companion generator, so my RV can easily plugin.

So, in the end I spent more than twice as much as I planned to buy the Hondas. I’ve run the trailer on them a few times without any issues at all. In fact, with the generators at the rear of the trailer, we can’t even hear them running when we are sitting inside the rear of the trailer on the couch. We were thrilled about that after our experience with the rental unit. Now, since I have 2 generators, I do have some options. If we are not going to use our microwave or AC on a trip, I only need to pack one generator and my fuel consumption will go down greatly. Additionally, if I do have both and one fails during the trip, I still have the output of the remaining generator to get us by until it’s repaired.

I’m still debating how I’m going to transport them. There are a few options for mounting them to the front hitch area of the trailer, the rear bumper area (in locked boxes that they can run inside of), or just simply transporting them in the bed of my truck and putting them on the ground wherever we go.

Now, the casings on all of these generators is plastic. One of the drawbacks to the 2200’s light weight is that they are easier to steal. I ended up buying some aftermarket metal handle brackets for security. The brackets go over the handles to keep someone (well, slow them down) from cutting through the handle, if you loop a chain or cable through the handles for security.

I also installed a small little bracket on the air cleaner assembly along with an hour meter. This isn’t required, but it’ll help me keep track of how much use the generators have gotten and when maintenance is due.

Another thing that I purchased go with the items is a bonded neutral plug. If you havn’t read my post about the Progressive Industries EMS(#ad), running an EMS creates a problem with inverter generators and their floating neutral. Really, the problem exists without the EMS, you just don’t notice it because there’s nothing on your RV monitoring your power in-depth.

The floating neutral will cause the EMS system to trip non stop. To fix this, you need a bonded neutral plug adapter. You can build one yourself for about $5-10 or you can buy one for a little bit more. I took the easy way out and just bought one(#ad). If you don’t have one of these and you are running any power protection system, the generators will NOT be able to power your trailer.

In the end, if you are hesitant to buy a gasoline powered generator because you want options, remember that if your vehicle runs off gasoline, you can always share fuel cans between your truck and your generators. If you have enough gasoline in your trucks tank, you could always syphon off a little bit for the generators too, if needed.

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