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Old 07-31-2021, 08:00 PM   #1
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How do Generator work in the bush?

I feel a little stupid asking this, as I have been camping most of my life and 40 of it in an RV. We have always had propane and 12v battery system. The propane was used for the frig and cooking and 12v for lights and ignition. When the batteries got low, we went home or a long drive. We then move to solar panels that maintained the battery, we hoped. My son rented a trailer and it had a generator and no solar. He just ran the generator for a few hours a day. I assume the generator creates 120 v, that then runs a convertor, that then change it to 12 v that then charges the battery. How do you know when to turn the generator off? My RV has a generator and I only use it when I want pop corn from the microwave! I was wondering if I should start using it and for get about the solar.

I also have an E-bike and I will need to charge it's battery but it takes 4 to 5 hours to charge. That is a long time to run the generator! I was also thinking of using a solar panel, connect it to a 120 convert, then plug the e-bike charger into it and charge the battery.

Thanks for your input!
Stay Safe
Wayne
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Old 07-31-2021, 08:07 PM   #2
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Perhaps you should consider a monitor for your Solar and or Battery Bank. Solar is a plus, when monitored.
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Old 07-31-2021, 08:08 PM   #3
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Generators NEED to be exercised at least monthly to dry out any moisture in windings and clear the fuel system

Generators provide 120VAC to RV and can charge batteries

Couple hours each day should maintain battery voltage

Generators can run 24/7 ---they are designed to run
Fuel supply and oil changes otherwise run it
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Old 07-31-2021, 08:25 PM   #4
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My take: I would have some solar and battery capacity, and also a small generator for bigger loads and cloudy days. Both have their place, and they complement each other well.
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Old 07-31-2021, 08:41 PM   #5
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Depending how low you run your batteries, the genset will get them up to 75-80% quickly.

I like using the solar panels to top up the batteries to 100%. We seldom need to run the genset while dry camping, but occasionally for the microwave or toaster in the morning or evening.

It depends how much power you need, as others have said.
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Old 07-31-2021, 08:55 PM   #6
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How strange. Do the RV dealers fire up all the generators on their lots once a month and then put them under a full load?
I doubt it.
Our Onan III propane generator last was run last October, and now the coach sits here in our drive and I haven't run the generator yet. So, am I to believe my generator is "toast" because I didn't run it at least once a month in all that time?
Of course it is old, seeing as it is a 1989 model coach, and I have no idea how the previous owners treated the generator.
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Old 07-31-2021, 09:00 PM   #7
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We monitor or battery voltage. We have solar and a gen. When it gets to 12.2V we know we need to run the gen. Our normal is run gen for one hour at dusk needed, or for the microwave.
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Old 07-31-2021, 09:14 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NITEHAWK View Post
How strange. Do the RV dealers fire up all the generators on their lots once a month and then put them under a full load?
I doubt it.
Our Onan III propane generator last was run last October, and now the coach sits here in our drive and I haven't run the generator yet. So, am I to believe my generator is "toast" because I didn't run it at least once a month in all that time?
Of course it is old, seeing as it is a 1989 model coach, and I have no idea how the previous owners treated the generator.
My answer to you would be to call the manufacturer and ask them what is required. Onan has instructed me to run my generator once a month for two hours under load. But who knows...I didn't do that for the first 3 years but do now. We learn as we go I guess.
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Old 08-01-2021, 06:41 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NITEHAWK View Post
How strange. Do the RV dealers fire up all the generators on their lots once a month and then put them under a full load?
I doubt it.
Our Onan III propane generator last was run last October, and now the coach sits here in our drive and I haven't run the generator yet. So, am I to believe my generator is "toast" because I didn't run it at least once a month in all that time?
Of course it is old, seeing as it is a 1989 model coach, and I have no idea how the previous owners treated the generator.
Propane generators do not suffer from some of the challenges that gasoline generators suffer from. Mainly gumming up of the carb from letting fuel age in the bowl and jets. Whether you would benefit from full heatings of windings etc would be environment the coach is stored in. The additional benefit from running the generator is to the loads themselves. I mainly use my ACs as my load. This keeps all of the seals from completely drying out, which may prolong the life of the units.
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Old 08-01-2021, 06:48 AM   #10
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I will ask this again. Do the RV dealers all fire up all the generators on their lots and run them under load for two hours?
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Old 08-01-2021, 07:05 AM   #11
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Quote:
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I will ask this again. Do the RV dealers all fire up all the generators on their lots and run them under load for two hours?
Of course they do. Just ask them.
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Old 08-01-2021, 07:35 AM   #12
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I will ask this again. Do the RV dealers all fire up all the generators on their lots and run them under load for two hours?
Of course not. The dealers do the bare minimum. All of the RV's on the lot are dying a slow death. Each RV owner needs to know what is "recommended" and then decide what they plan to do. Over time I would suspect the best results would be for the people following the OEM plan.
I had two Onan 4ky that threw magnets likely because the PO's did not follow the plan.
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Old 08-01-2021, 07:36 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Waggy View Post
I feel a little stupid asking this, as I have been camping most of my life and 40 of it in an RV. We have always had propane and 12v battery system. The propane was used for the frig and cooking and 12v for lights and ignition. When the batteries got low, we went home or a long drive. We then move to solar panels that maintained the battery, we hoped. My son rented a trailer and it had a generator and no solar. He just ran the generator for a few hours a day. I assume the generator creates 120 v, that then runs a convertor, that then change it to 12 v that then charges the battery. How do you know when to turn the generator off? My RV has a generator and I only use it when I want pop corn from the microwave! I was wondering if I should start using it and for get about the solar.

I also have an E-bike and I will need to charge it's battery but it takes 4 to 5 hours to charge. That is a long time to run the generator! I was also thinking of using a solar panel, connect it to a 120 convert, then plug the e-bike charger into it and charge the battery.

Thanks for your input!
Stay Safe
Wayne
I still think this is the best place to start after all these years....
https://handybobsolar.wordpress.com/...ging-puzzle-2/
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Old 08-01-2021, 08:54 AM   #14
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Wayne,

The only way to know for sure if your batteries are completely charged is to install a battery monitor or, if they are regular flooded cell, test them with a hydrometer. You can get a very very rough idea by looking at the voltage but if you are charging them, you need to let them rest for an hour before you'll get accurate state of charge voltage reading. Even this needs to be taken without a load.

The solar vs generator questions will get you responses all over the map because everyone's needs are different. If you are only camping for a few days and have light loads, a small-ish panel, or an hour of generator time each day may be fine because you'll not be draining your batteries before heading home.

One thing to note about charging your batteries with a generator that isn't talked about much is generators are great for doing the bulk charge to about 80-90%. Lead acid batteries can accept a lot of amps from the charger at first, but as the state of charge goes up, the number of amps the battery can accept goes down. I have a battery monitor and use both a generator and/or solar to charge my system. My onboard charger is a 100 amp model and when I get up in the morning and decide to do a charge with the generator, I see an average of 85 amps going into 4-AGM batteries that are at around 75% state of charge. However, it isn't long before this drops to 40amps, and a while later 20 and should I decide to fully charge the batteries to 100% that last 5-10% can take a couple hours because by then the batteries are only accepting a few amps.

I was in an RV service place one day and overheard a customer complaining he had to run his generator for HOURS to fully charge his batteries so there must be something wrong. I suspect his system was fine and his "problem" was the nature of lead acid batteries.

I have 600 watts of solar and four 245amp hour 6-volt AGM batteries and overnight my residential refrigerator and other small draws leave me at about 75-83% charge by morning. On good sunny days my batteries will charge to 100% using solar only, usually by early afternoon. In less optimal conditions, I'll get up in the morning and fire up the generator for an hour while fixing breakfast for a quick charge to about 90%+, then let the solar top them off. On short winter nights, I'll run the generator for an hour or so before bed too.

We have electric bikes and I also occasionally need to charge a small portable battery for powering my telescopes and my system handles that just fine.

I started off with 100 watts of solar and no generator because I'd attend astronomy starparties on a remote hilltop and needed to extend my battery power. It was a four day event, I had a propane refrigerator at the time, and used minimal electricity because I was out at the scope most of the night, and slept quite a bit during the day. The 100 watts never fully charged the battery, but it did help enough for me to make it for those four days.

So, what's best for you? It's almost impossible to know. Some people go full solar, some use only generators, and some use both. You said you had some solar installed but didn't mention any specifics as to how many watts you installed. It also depends on how long you camp off grid, how much power you use, and how often you charge your bikes. Small "maintainer" panels are usually sized just to keep a battery charged when the rig isn't in use. These will be 100 watts or less. A common opinion is the most economical way to recharge your batteries is running a generator if you have one. The argument is; you can buy a lot of gas for the price of a good solar system. The attraction of solar is; once it's installed, and assuming it's sized right, it's silent and maintenance free. The downside? Trees and clouds.

So, to make a long story even longer . . . See the first paragraph above. Victron is the big name in battery monitors, and Renology makes one too. I use a cheap imported model similar to Renology's unit. If you are just a weekend camper, you'll probably be fine with an hour or so of generator time in the morning, and once again in the evening but this is just my S.W.A.G.
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