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Old 05-05-2016, 09:27 AM   #1
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Onboard vs Portable Generator

I'd like to hear the pros and cons of installing an onboard generator in a 5th wheel with dual A/C vs using a portable unit.

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Old 05-05-2016, 09:48 AM   #2
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I weighed the options before installing my 5.5kw Onan.
less hitch weight

Easily handles the two A/C units. However, never use that way.
Don't have to manhandle generator.
Easy start from inside.

The Onan cost about $3800 plus installation, maybe another $1k. For me it was worth it. But not all will agree.

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Old 05-05-2016, 12:59 PM   #3
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A Honda EU3000i would be the way I would go. Quiet, economical, and will easily store in the bed of your truck. Be sure to put a cable and a round lock on it. People we know had one stolen out of the bed of their truck while they were sleeping.
A friend of mine has a 5th wheel and uses the EU3000i. He loves it and so do his neighbors--you can hardly hear it. The Honda's are a little more $$ to buy but will pay for themselves, both over time and they are always easy to sell when you are ready.


You can find them for under $2000

If you get a portable, stay away from those cheapo contractor ones.
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Old 05-06-2016, 12:02 AM   #4
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I went with a portable generator for two main reasons: I can and do use it for more than just my 5er; and secondly, value.

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Old 05-06-2016, 12:49 AM   #5
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I went with two Yamaha 200 watt generators that I gang together. Operates one of my A/C units and gives me the power I need when I am boondocking. I did this because my preference is stay where there is power. The two units are easy to store and comparatively light. They were around $1800 for the pair. You can get Champions for quite a lot less I hear.
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Old 05-06-2016, 10:35 AM   #6
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Having come from a class a, I would have preferred the built in generator. I went with the twin Honda 2000 generators, and they get the job done with minimum noise. This is my first 5th wheel, and has some age on it so I thought this was the better move. Plus I can use them for other things.

Next 5th wheel I will try for a built in. Nothing like the convince of just flipping the switch inside and having power. Plus you can get some auto switches that will fire the generator when the battery gets low or the rig gets too hot.

With 2 ACs, i think you are going to need something bigger than a typical portable setup anyway.
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Old 05-06-2016, 02:08 PM   #7
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This is my setup. Just bought them this week. Cheap units, have the ability to parallel, can use elsewhere, quiet as the expensive brands, I can lift into the bed by myself and should run both A/C's.

$1223.00 for both including the parallel kit...otd.
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Old 05-06-2016, 02:47 PM   #8
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In my 5th wheel I had a installed 5.5kw with a 35 gallon gas tank. I also have a Honda EU3000. The 5.5kw Onan would run my two A/C's no problem. One A/C WAS 13.5k btu and the other was 15k btu. The on board Onan would power both. The Honda would only run the smaller A/C, and it struggled to do that, as in every now and again it would trip the overload on the Honda.

The fuel consumption on the Onan is about 1/2 a gallon an hour at no load, 1 gal per hour at full load. The Honda runs for really long time on 4 gallons of gas if the AC isn't running, it's definetly more than 12 hours but I want to say it was some thing like 16 hours. The specs on the Honda fuel consumption are readily availible.

My new rv has an inverter system on board, I haven't had the need to bring the Honda along yet. But I've only had it out on two trips so far.
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Old 05-06-2016, 03:30 PM   #9
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I installed a 6.5 LP onan in mine. I like the convenience of just flipping the switch. I carry 2 extra 30lb bottles as the LP models are hungry.compared to gas. We are in the southern climates so with the dogs we wanted the ability of the gen to auto start and run both air conditioners if the power goes out.
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Old 05-08-2016, 06:03 AM   #10
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We have a portable. Well maybe one that is not built in is the better word. It's a Kipor diesel. A big one. We got it for a specefic purpose and not that purpose is gone but I'm keeping it. It's too heavy to put it in the back of a truck, so I have to pull it behind on a small trailer. We've actully only used it twice with our 5'er but have plans on using it more. It's beg enough that I can run my mig welder with it for odd jobs far away from a plug and I can use most of my power tools with it. Funny, since we got it, our electricity at home has never been off long enough to warrant walking out to the shop to fire it up to keep the fridge going.

But being not built in, I can use it for anything anywhere, anytime.
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Old 05-08-2016, 06:39 AM   #11
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We have a 3600W inverter portable with a proper house connection plus 30 amp plug in on the unit itself for the 5er. The gen set serves multi purposes since we are at the far end of a very old National Grid line that fails all too often. It only weighs in at about 70 pounds full of gas, I can and have plunked it in the back of the TV just in case. But, it has served us well for several days on end during a couple of hurricanes and a couple of nasty winter storms. Now would I like a built in - sure, but why haul around that weight if it is seldom used camping. If we did mostly boondocks, that would be a different story.

A built in gen set should be based on a need - and if you have that need, by all means, go for it. Just be aware that you may be placing your RV out of the rated GVWR
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Old 05-08-2016, 09:52 AM   #12
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We installed an onboard Onan 5500 LP generator in our 5th wheel. We had 2 Honda 2000W but since we have a diesel truck, we never had any gasoline and when we needed it because of wide spread power outage, we had a great deal of difficulty finding a fuel station open, the last time taking over 2 hours to find an open station. We do not have to worry about the portables getting stolen and all we have to do is flip a switch from inside. We also installed a Magnum 2000 PSW inverter charger and along with the generator and it has opened up many different camping options. We exercise our generator every month for an hour under load and still only use about two 30 lb tanks of propane a year unless we are doing some dry camping. On our trip to Alaska, we dry camped quite a bit using the generator and still only went through two 30 lb tanks of propane on that trip. I will say if it is so hot that we would need to run the generator overnight for a/c, we would just find a campground. Portables are certainly lighter and cheaper but I think a built in is more convenient.
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Old 05-09-2016, 09:32 PM   #13
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OK a newbie question?
Could you not plug a battery charger into your generator, keeping your battery charged and power your AC appliances/AC through the inverter? I've never tried it. Or will the AC only work with power through the shore power ? I bought a Champion 3100 when I had a 30 amp TT, now i,have 50 amp. 5er.
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Old 05-09-2016, 09:46 PM   #14
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A 5500 Onan weifhs right at 300 lbs

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