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Old 09-14-2013, 08:04 PM   #1
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Propane or gas generator, which is better on a motor home?

Hello everyone,

I'm VERY new at this so please excuse my ignorance. Purchasing a 2011 Coachmen Mirada 34BH, 6,000 miles. A couple of questions:

1. It has an Onan 5500 propane generator. Is this better or worse than gas? Any pros/cons?

2. If anyone who owns this same unit can give us some feedback on the quality, performance, etc. of this unit, I'd appreciate it.

Thank you everyone.

Rose
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Old 09-14-2013, 08:21 PM   #2
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no better, no worse. The good side is you won't have to worry about ethanol screwing up the carb.
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Old 09-14-2013, 08:25 PM   #3
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no better, no worse. The good side is you won't have to worry about ethanol screwing up the carborator.
The bad part is that you'll use a LOT of propane to run it. In 5 days we used two 10 gallon tanks and most of our onboard 40 (32 usable) gal tank. Plus it was LOUD and quit twice due to overheating and that was only in 90 weather
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Old 09-14-2013, 10:58 PM   #4
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A propane generator would be a deal breaker for me. If you expect to very RARELY use it, it would be okay. If you expect to use it on an average to more than average basis, it will be a pain to keep up with the propane use. They're generally louder too.
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Old 09-14-2013, 11:17 PM   #5
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I have a propane generator and I've had no problems. It's cheaper than diesel or gas. You may have to plan a little to refuel. Propane burns cleaner and I have ran mine for two days straight in temps between 95 and 100 degrees, it has never over heated. It's what you like. Good luck.
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Old 09-14-2013, 11:31 PM   #6
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A propane generator would be a deal breaker for me. If you expect to very RARELY use it, it would be okay. If you expect to use it on an average to more than average basis, it will be a pain to keep up with the propane use. They're generally louder too.
Same here and was one of the reasons for upgrading to the 2002 DSDP we now have. Until we had a propane gen and used it I never realized how much fuel they used and how noisy they were. When we bought the 2000 DSDP we didn't realize how much we would use it and how much fuel they used. Our present gen is a third more powerful and burns about the fuel. Yes, diesel is more expensive but you use about half as much. Evan at full load our PowerTech 8.0 Kw uses .72 gph and, being liquid cooled should never overheat. Those Kubota 3 cyl engines last forever in small tractors and I expect the same life in a gen.
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Old 09-15-2013, 06:23 AM   #7
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I agree with the Ethanol statement. Propane has about 75% the power of gasoline so for every 3 gallons of gasoline a same size Gas generator would burn this puppy will burn 4 of propane... There are some other differences as well.. I carry 27 gallons max of Propane, 70 of which the generator can use about 50, of gasoline.

Propane generators tend to be quieter (Due to the lower power of propane) and propane burns cleaner (Less CO) so in many ways Propane is better. But make sure you have enough propane.
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Old 09-15-2013, 07:34 AM   #8
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A propane genny would be an absolute deal breaker for me as well. With a 26 gal useable tank to feed hot water, range, fridge and furnace, that isn't enough for us to begin with, so we carry an extra/emergency bottle.

I like having a 75 gal tank of gas. It's certainly much more convienient to find and fill up than propane is. We do use our genny quite often and where and how we travel we also use the furnace often. The genny and the furnace are both propane hogs, so it's a no-brainer for me.

It just depends on how you use your coach.
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Old 09-15-2013, 07:44 AM   #9
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Thanks everyone for your feedback. It's very informational, especially for a newbie. Our camping would be in parks with electricity so the propane would be used rarely. Thanks again.

Rose
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Old 09-15-2013, 07:53 AM   #10
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My opinion, having used both:

The propane will not use up the fuel you need to drive with.
Mine would use about a half pound per hour, was quieter.
You don't have to worry about carb fouling up from extended non-use.
You can (not easily) have a spare tank.

On the down side, it was often awkward getting the MH to the fill up location.

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Old 09-15-2013, 08:08 AM   #11
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No propane generator for us please. You may use it more than you think. But either way, propane is a pain. There is no do it yourself with propane. Unless you are in an area where a truck comes to you, you will be going to it. You will wait for an attendant. You have to do that when your refer, furnace, and hot water heater consume your supply as it is. The furnace is a hog. The hot water heater and refer are surprisingly low consumption. Nothing beats a diesel generator - but gas is second IMHO. When you fill the tank with fuel, you have filled the generator. When I had a gas generator I got Onan to put a petcock on the generator fuel line. Before storing for a few weeks or more, I would start er up, let er run a while, the turn off the fuel supply and let er run dry. No more carburetor issues. With fuel injected diesel there is never a problem with that. Yes anything can have a problem - just seems fewer with diesel. Trick is to follow maintenance and run recommendations in down time for any generator.

Search here for threads on propane generators. Of course more people post problems, but there are lots of them reported. YMMV
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Old 09-15-2013, 08:33 AM   #12
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Being new to the MH world, you may not realize when you are going to use the genny. I have no experience with the propane genny. I have had both gas & diesel gennys. The diesel is much quieter.
Something to consider is that you may use the genny when you travel from point A to point B more so than when actually camping. We use ours almost exclusively when on the road or between locations. We use it so we can run the ac units to keep the mh cool while on the road, We use it when parked at a rest area when needing to use the microwave or take a nap while traveling, ect, ect. For example this past Wednesday we took the mh in for service I started the genny when I was pulling into the shop at 7:30 am, it ran until 4:30 pm that afternoon when we arrived at our campsite an hour down the road from the shop. Not all this time was spent at the shop, some when we were shopping after the repairs were completed at the shopping center down the road. My point is that in most cases most people do use their genny's even though when camping at a campground they are plugged into shore power.
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Old 09-15-2013, 09:03 AM   #13
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I have a little bigger 6.5 LP generator and only use at times when traveling for the AC when outside temps get over 90. And a few times shore power went off for storms etc.
Plus running once a month for a hour to exercise it.

Over a 10 year period have only needed to fill it once a year, do at the same time filling the house tank. Average usage per hour has been from .73 to .78 gal per hour.
I just filled tank 2 weeks ago for $2.78 a gal. A 5.5 may burn less per hour.

Pro is it is a clean burner and no need to use stabilizer. LP doesn't go bad like gas.
Maintenance is so much cheaper then a diesel generator. No belts, antifreeze and less oil used. Plus it is a lot less weight to carry.

All the noise complaints baffle me. As mine is under the drivers area and can hardly hear it when inside the MH. Not at all when driving. When I turn a AC on. I have to listen very good to hear the generator take on a bigger load. It is running at 1800 RPM so some noise is expected.

All gas Onan generators have a noise level of between 64 dBa and 71 dBa Normal speech is 60 dBa and inside a car at 50 MPH 80 dBa. And by post some on here can tell a big difference between 64 dBa and 71 dBa to say a LP generator is much louder.

Onan says a 5.5 is 67 dBa at 1/2 load.

All Onan diesel generators are rated between 66 and 71 dBa
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Old 09-15-2013, 09:17 AM   #14
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I've had both types and have no problems with a propane generator...(Onan 6500). The major factor will be intended use. For boondocking and extended periods off the grid, propane is not your best choice. Otherwise the type of generator would not be a deal breaker.

We normally are on shore power overnight, and occasionally use the generator. Our high usage is in very hot weather to supplement the dash air, we use the genny up to 6-8 hours per day to run roof ac. We have 136 lb tank with 108 lbs useable and average about 4 lbs per hour (1/2 load). In cooler weather using mainly for heat or fridge, it may be months between re-fills.
Propane is available at most RV parks, dealers, camping stores, or propane distributors. I have not found it to be a hassle.

Gasoline does not burn as clean, engine needs to have carbon deposits removed periodically, and ethanol does not store well.
Normal maintenance on both types is not difficult. During non use periods both need to be exercised a couple hours each month to keep moisture out of the windings..(Keeps gas fresh too.)
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