RV Nation: Electric Power Generators for the American Camper



Copyright © 2007 Will Gruver

Millions of Americans families each year embark on long road trips in their RVs, and spend countless days in the wilderness. In many instances, portable power is one necessity that these families need when they want electricity, but are way off the grid. Each time the family hits the open road, its becomes a little more complicated, mostly due to the ever increasing number of electronic gadgets that people bring along, including cell phone, iPods, laptops and televisions. The problem is that all of these gadgets need electrical power of some kind and all have rechargeable batteries, which always seem to be running low on power.

Luckily, many camps nowadays have plugs available that campers can use to recharge their batteries, which do come in handy since most people do not want to use their electric power generators when other campers surround them.

Portable power generators are increasingly being used in recreational capacities, and good old-fashioned camping trips are definitely a thing of the past for most families. DVD players and air conditioning units must accompany many of today’s generation of campers. This tendency to bring along every modern electronic gadget is called "flash camping" in high tech new-speak. Ultimately, much of a camper’s modern power supply is obtained from portable power generators.

With most vacationing families, no expense is spared when it comes to entertainment and comfort. This means that the power generators are needed to support a heavy load of energy use. A majority of families cannot even think of going without power, or even running the generator on minimal capacity, although generator-free camps do exist. Opponents of power generators always complain that the machines make too much noise and send pollutants into the open country air that they came to enjoy.

For lighting purposes, instead of using the more energy efficient fluorescents and LEDs, most RVs are packaged with 12v incandescent lights, and those require a good deal of energy to run. Most campers should check into fluorescent lights, before their next trip. For the most economical use of power, campers should always utilize the fluorescent lights for their RVs and reserve the use of the built-in incandescent lights only for spotlighting needs.

Thoughtful people choose only to run their electric power generator at certain times, due to the noise emitted from the unit. As a result, people generally schedule specific times in order to recharge batteries in their electronic equipment. Even people who are not carrying a power generator on their trip generally try to take advantage of those who do, simply by asking a camping neighbor if they could plug into the charger while the electric generator is scheduled for operation.

Most portable electric generators are generally configured for a 12v charging output, usually at 8 to 12 amps. Whenever the power generator is operating, most RVs are also configured to charge the RV battery as well.

Electric power generators are a worthwhile investment, so long as they are used according to their manufacturer recommendations. Most manufacturers recommend that people who use generators installed in RVs should use the generator during scheduled windows of time. Aside from charging batteries and running the A/C powered electronics, electric generators are very practical in doing short jobs, like a few minutes of microwave cooking, or running power tools for an hour while building camp.

Another very positive angle to the managed use of an electric power generator is that short bursts of usage won't be nearly as annoying to neighbors, as hours and hours of smelly exhaust and a loud rumbling noise coming from your campsite.

Having access to a reliable power supply helps reduce stress and aids in the efficiency of the whole camping experience, so long as you don’t stress your neighbors with overuse of the power generator.

Sometimes when multiple families embark on a joint camping trip, they realize that they will be in serious need for power due to the mechanics of a large campsite. To avoid having to rely on many small generators in the camp, many families have taken the route of renting a larger diesel generator and sharing the electricity, through power distribution cables. When properly implemented, having a larger generator is much, much better than having a collection of smaller ones. The larger units tend to be more efficient, burn less fuel, make less noise, and emit less pollution per KW than smaller gasoline generators.

The main downside to a larger shared generator will be that it is on for long periods of time, and you won't have the freedom to fire it up briefly for spot demands. The main thing to take into consideration when deciding to use the larger generators is the fact that it defeats the purpose of having it, if you run it all the time at idle, even when there is no power demand. Larger generators tend to use more fuel than smaller generators, even when the unit is set to run at idle speed and no one is drawing power from the unit.

If you foresee that you might need to keep your shared generator running all the time, then it might be just as wise to stick with your individual power generator stations and only fire them up when there is a demand for power.

One must always be careful to get a electric power generator that suits their exact needs. If you take the time to analyze what equipment you plan to operate with your power generator, then you will have a solid idea as to how big of a generator you will actually need. Buying a power generator is like the story of the three bears. One should never get a power generator that is too big or too small; instead, one should focus on buying the power generation unit that is “just right.

About The Author:

Written by: Will Gruver of US Power & Environment. USPE's Eden Prairie, MN headquarters, assisted by in-house product technical and operations specialists, has the experience gained from supplying, installing and maintaining on-site energy systems across the country and around the world. They buy, sell, rent and repair natural gas and diesel power generators. To learn more, visit their website at: http://www.uspowerco.com or give them a call at: 877-772-6018