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Open Roads Forum  >  Tech Issues

 > Is an RV generator worth it?

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bikerv1369

Texas

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Joined: 08/29/2018

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Posted: 02/08/19 11:10am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

My RV has an Onan Microlite 4000 generator that has been well maintained. It now starts but stops running as soon as I release the Start button. My mechanic identifies the problem as electrical and mostly likely due to wires being chewed by a rat or mouse. To fix the problem he says he'll need to drop the generator out of the RV to get access to all the wiring and check for other damage, and I suspect the work won't be fast or cheap.

In the interim, I can run my inverter with the RV engine idling and get the same power I get from the generator. At idle, my Ford E350 Triton V10 burns about 0.7gph, while running the generator burns about 0.5gph. At $3/gallon for gas, that extra 0.2 gallons costs me 60 cents per hour. BUT... for every 150 hours of generator usage I pay Camping World $150 for a generator service - which means NOT running the generator saves me $1 per hour in maintenance. In other words, looking only at these factors, it is 40 cents an hour cheaper for me to run the inverter with the engine idling than it is to run the generator. And for what it's worth, the RV engine runs quieter than the generator, and its exhaust is less of a nuisance. So my question is:

IS AN RV GENERATOR WORTH IT?

The replacement cost for my generator is over $3,000. And if the RV didn't have a working generator it would lose a lot of resale value, so that alone justifies going forward with repairs. But other than that, once it's repaired:

WHY RUN THE GENERATOR IF RUNNING THE INVERTER WITH THE ENGINE IDLING COSTS LESS PER HOUR?

One response I'd expect is that running the engine has a maintenance cost too, but at $75 per WalMart oil change every 3 months or 3,000 miles regardless, I'm not sure the incremental wear and tear would even be measurable.

WHAT AM I MISSING HERE?

Bill.Satellite

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Posted: 02/08/19 11:22am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

bikerv1369 wrote:

My RV has an Onan Microlite 4000 generator that has been well maintained. It now starts but stops running as soon as I release the Start button. My mechanic identifies the problem as electrical and mostly likely due to wires being chewed by a rat or mouse. To fix the problem he says he'll need to drop the generator out of the RV to get access to all the wiring and check for other damage, and I suspect the work won't be fast or cheap.

In the interim, I can run my inverter with the RV engine idling and get the same power I get from the generator. At idle, my Ford E350 Triton V10 burns about 0.7gph, while running the generator burns about 0.5gph. At $3/gallon for gas, that extra 0.2 gallons costs me 60 cents per hour. BUT... for every 150 hours of generator usage I pay Camping World $150 for a generator service - which means NOT running the generator saves me $1 per hour in maintenance. In other words, looking only at these factors, it is 40 cents an hour cheaper for me to run the inverter with the engine idling than it is to run the generator. And for what it's worth, the RV engine runs quieter than the generator, and its exhaust is less of a nuisance. So my question is:

IS AN RV GENERATOR WORTH IT?

The replacement cost for my generator is over $3,000. And if the RV didn't have a working generator it would lose a lot of resale value, so that alone justifies going forward with repairs. But other than that, once it's repaired:

WHY RUN THE GENERATOR IF RUNNING THE INVERTER WITH THE ENGINE IDLING COSTS LESS PER HOUR?

One response I'd expect is that running the engine has a maintenance cost too, but at $75 per WalMart oil change every 3 months or 3,000 miles regardless, I'm not sure the incremental wear and tear would even be measurable.

WHAT AM I MISSING HERE?


Running the engine and the inverter is no where nearly the same as running the generator. Limits plugs will be working, you can't run your A/C AT ALL and if you are using much more than lights and the TV, the engine alternator will not be able to keep up with the losses from the battery.


What I post is my 2 cents and nothing more. Please don't read anything into my post that's not there. If you disagree, that's OK.
Can't we all just get along?

BFL13

Victoria, BC

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Posted: 02/08/19 11:23am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

"In the interim, I can run my inverter with the RV engine idling and get the same power I get from the generator."

Doubt that. What about air conditioner?

Anyway, your inverter cannot run the converter to recharge the battery bank, like your gen can. To do that with no gen, you need to turn off the inverter and use alternator charging. Solar can help with that too.

Our used C came with no gen so we use a portable inverter-gen to run a battery charger.


1991 Oakland 28DB Class C
on Ford E350-460-7.5 Gas EFI

Matt_Colie

Southeast Michigan

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Posted: 02/08/19 11:37am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

BikerRV,

If this is your coach, then keep this up. I hope you know that nothing good happens to an idling engine. Running at idle from a cold start may allow the engine to collect internal moisture and the HEGO will have to heat itself and this shortens its life. This may not be a bad plan if you rarely dry camp.

I am guessing that the 150 at CW is just an oil change. This is something that you could learn to do yourself. Then the cost would be about 10$ for the oil (No oil filter). The new tools would also cost less than 20$. Tools: A funnel, a Torx tool for the drain plug cover, a set of rubber mats to lie on.

We don't use our generator to watch TV. We use it to run the microwave or the A/C. Both of these would take a serious inverter. If you do this to charge the house bank as required, then that is also part of your plan.

I never let any body work on my coach, but then it is different than most.

Matt


Matt & Mary Colie
A sailor, his bride and their black dogs going to see some dry places that have Geocaches in a coach made the year we married.


RLS7201

Beautyful Downtown Gladstone, MO

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Posted: 02/08/19 11:57am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

What you are experiencing with you Onan generator is a common phenomenon with gas burning Onans. It is electrical but usually it's something like brushes, voltage regulator, armature, circuit board, oil level or oil pressure sending switch. If rats chewing wires are your mechanic's first guess, you may want to seek other expertise.

Richard


95 Bounder 32H F53
460/528 stroker
Web Master
MWPSchooners.com

2oldman

Salton Sea

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Posted: 02/08/19 12:03pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Consider a portable generator. Long-term idling isn't a good thing. That 40 cents/hour may end up costing you a lot more.

Chris Bryant

Arden, North Carolina

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Posted: 02/08/19 12:33pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

4000 watts at 13 volts is 300+ amps. Doubt your idling alternator will do that.


-- Chris Bryant
My RV Service Blog
The RV.net Blog

CoeyCoey

Colorado

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Posted: 02/08/19 12:45pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

You can get a 120v alternator and have an “underhood” generator if your engine allows for a second alternator. That bypasses the inverter altogether. Also, look into a high idle option for our engine. That will eliminate any issues from idling, and get you more power from the alternator.

I am looking at a sprinter class C, and plan to do this with four Tesla batteries. I should be able to run the AC for 7 hours a day for three days without having to recharge the batteries. Recharging would make 7 hours from the engine.

2oldman

Salton Sea

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Posted: 02/08/19 12:59pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

CoeyCoey wrote:

.. and plan to do this with four Tesla batteries. I should be able to run the AC for 7 hours a day for three days without having to recharge the batteries. .
What voltage do those Teslas run?

CoeyCoey

Colorado

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Posted: 02/08/19 01:11pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

2oldman wrote:

CoeyCoey wrote:

.. and plan to do this with four Tesla batteries. I should be able to run the AC for 7 hours a day for three days without having to recharge the batteries. .
What voltage do those Teslas run?


24 volts.

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