Selecting a Generator for Your Caravan

Selecting a Generator for Your Caravan
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If you’re planning a caravan trip that involves free stay camping, then chances are you’ll need some power to run your appliances(caravan generator). Many caravan owners will pack a portable generator as an option to charge their deep cycle batteries, or to run those appliances that generally require a bit more power such as caravan air-conditioning units, washing machines, microwaves, kettles, hair dryers and the like.

caravan generator

If you plan to holiday in your caravan in areas without power, then a portable generator can be a great piece of equipment to take with you

Our team of generator experts sell portable generators for caravans to customers every day from all over Australia. So here, we have compiled responses to the most commonly asked questions by customers wanting a generator for their caravan. If you’re in the market for a caravan generator, then the below will likely help you make the best choice for your upcoming trip:

1.     What size generator do I need to run my Caravan A/C unit? 

If you need to run a caravan or motorhome A/C unit, the most popular caravan generator models are typically between 2000 – 3000 watts. However, every A/C unit is different, so you need to find out the wattage requirements for your particular unit before you invest in a generator. You’ll find wattage information on the A/C data plate or in the product manual, otherwise just get in touch with the manufacturer; popular brands such as Air Command, Dometic, Coleman and many others have helpful service departments to help you find the wattage information you need for your model.

It is also important to note that many A/C units have a start-up power requirement and a continuous running power requirement. The start-up power can be 3 to 4 times the running power (often this is not stated in the manual), so use the higher number when determining your caravan generator size. Get the right info from your A/C unit (starting and running wattage), and you’ll get the right generator. We find that the Yamaha EF2400iS is the best suited generator to run caravan air conditioners…some people can get away with a smaller generator, but this is less common – again, it comes down to making sure you have the correct wattage information for your particular air-con unit, and getting in touch with the manufacturer of that unit is often the most reliable and accurate way of obtaining the required wattage numbers.

If you want to run other appliances at the same time as the A/C, you need to find out all the running power watts for your other appliances too (e.g. fridge, computer, TV,  lights etc.), then add that total to the A/C start up power wattage amount to determine what caravan generator size you need. Check out our buyer’s guide to generators for a step-by-step example to help you select the right sized generator for your specific uses.

2.     Can you recommend the best generator for a caravan trip?

No doubt about it, the number one caravan generator is the Yamaha EF2400iS. Why? Because it’s ultra quiet for its power output (around 54 decibels at quarter load) and extremely fuel efficient – you’ll get around 9 hours of run-time at around quarter load. We’re not the only ones who think so – the Yamaha EF2400iS was recently ranked as the number one generator against its counterparts in the Caravan & Motorhome on Tour Magazine. (Read all about the battle of the generators here)

The reasons the Yamaha EF2400iS is the most popular model of caravan generator is largely because it can run most caravan A/C units. That said, some people will opt for a Yamaha EF2800i which has little bit more power if required. In any case, to be 100% sure you get the right caravan generator size for your appliances, you can refer to our buyer’s guide. You may be able to use a smaller unit such as the Yamaha EF 2000iS (although this is less common) or you may need a larger unit such as a 3000w model … but as mentioned, its best to know your air con wattage particulars first, before you select your caravan generator. Another unit worth considering is the new Cromtech Outback 2400w generator (more on this below). All of these generator models are inverter generators, meaning they are suitable to run all your other sensitive electronic appliances like TV’s, laptops, mobile phones etc.

caravan generator

The Yamaha 2400W Inverter – rated best in class by Caravan & Motorhome on Tour Magazine

If you are looking for a built-in generator mounted externally to your vehicle which can be turned on inside your van, then you can’t go past the Dometic TEC29 Built-In 2900w Inverter Generator – once installed, this unit is easily controlled remotely from inside the vehicle via the wall-mounted digital control panel and also has high operating safety with integrated alarm functions, service reminders, running hours and kilowatt output on the digital display panel.

If you only require a generator on your caravan trip to top up your deep cycle batteries and not to run larger appliances (such as an air conditioner, microwave, kettles etc.), then you can consider a smaller option such as the Yamaha EF1000iS. This model is definitely the most popular for charging your battery packs (often used in conjunction with your solar set up) – its extremely lightweight at less than 13 kilos and is the quietest generator on the market. Just remember it is recommended to use a battery charger between the AC outlet of your generator and your batteries – that way, the power charge is correctly regulated. If you want to run a few more small appliances as well (lights 12 volt fridge, TV, smart phone/tablet etc.), then the Yamaha EF2000iS is worth your consideration.

3.     We are interested in a generator for our caravan – what can you tell me about the Chinese brands? Are they just all the same and should they be avoided?

In many areas, Chinese manufacturing has come a long way. Even some premium brands are using parts manufactured in China and Taiwan these days. However, not all Chinese generators are made equal – some are more reliable than others. Cromtech is one such brand. Manufactured in China and backed by Australian manufacturer Crommelins, Cromtech generators are getting a good reputation for certain types of uses. There are two things we especially like about them:

  • Firstly, they actually deliver the power output as stated (e.g. many Chinese brands on eBay claim to produce 4000 watts, when they actually struggle to put out 3000 watts!)
  • Secondly, they come with a one-year warranty which is backed by Crommelins’ award-winning service network in Australia. Most Chinese budget generators are not backed by national service networks.

Our most popular Cromtech generator for caravans is the Cromtech 2400w Inverter Generator. It produces a peak of 2400 watts, is super quiet and a 5-litre fuel tank for 6 hours continuous run-time.

When it comes to choosing between a ‘value for money’ brand (like Cromtech) or a premium brand (like Yamaha), there are a few important questions to ask before you buy… Essentially, Cromtech is a good value for money option if you only need the generator for occasional or ‘just in case’ use. If you will be using your generator more frequently, intend to go on extended remote trips or use your genset for more than just caravanning, then it makes sense to opt for a premium brand; designed for more intensive use and they come with longer warranties – you can justify the higher spend with the higher usage!

caravan generator

Cromtech is backed by a national service network

Another budget brand inverter generator made in China which also has a national Service Agent backing is Supaswift. These Supaswift generators are backed by All Power Industries and supported by the All Power nationwide Service Dealer and Spare Parts Network. They are good for light recreational and home backup use.

4.     Do you think a generator cover is necessary to maintain the unit in the best condition? Most of the time we would have the generator stored within our caravan.

Generator covers are designed to protect those generators stored in a garage or shed from dust. The cover should never to be used when the unit is operating and they are not weatherproof. If your generator will be stored in a small caravan storage enclosure, a cover is not essential.

Here’s a quick tip: if your generator is on the ground, always sit it on a board when running. This prevents the ground dirt and dust being sucked into the machine.

5.     Do I need a generator for my caravan or can I just use a solar power set up? We plan to be free camping, not using power from caravan parks. 

It all comes down to what appliances you intend to run and how much power they require. Some people get by on solar power alone. Others may own a generator as a backup just in case the sun isn’t shining for a while. While some like to run appliances, such as air-conditioning units or some coffee makers, washing machines, kettles, microwaves etc. – all of these types of appliances can require more power. More often than not, solar power isn’t enough for these types of appliances and you’ll need generator power (especially to start them up).

To determine the power required to run your appliances, start by checking both the starting and running wattage of each appliance. This can be found in the product manual, on the product data plate or from the manufacturer of that product. Once you know the power required, you can determine whether your solar set-up will be enough or if you also need a generator. If you decide you need a generator, check out our step-by-step buyers’ guide to make sure you get the right one to run your particular appliances.

caravan generator

For Caravan Free Camping, you may or may not need a generator. It just depends on the type of appliances you want to run.

6.     Any other advice regarding selecting a generator for a caravan?

Just be weary that with any generator, there are some external factors that will slightly affect it’s performance. The most common one is temperature – running a generator in hot weather (over 30 degrees celsius) will slightly de-rate the generator’s power output. As a rule of thumb, for every 5 degrees in temperature above 25°C, the generator’s capacity will be reduced by around 10%.

Another factor that can slightly reduce the power capacity of a generator is extension leads. The longer the lead from the appliances to the generator, the more the power will be affected, noting that anything over 3-4 metres will slightly de-rate the power of the generator.

Also just be conscious of additional demands that you may be unintentionally placing on the generator when running a particular appliance. For example, we often speak to customers who are trying to run their caravan air-con but having trouble as power is also being drawn to charge their battery system. Once they isolate the power to run just the air-con only, then the generator runs it with no problems.

So just keep the above in mind when selecting your generator size for your caravan. You might need to make sure you have a bit of extra generator power up your sleeve for your caravan trip. This is often why the Yamaha EF2400iS is the best choice – for many caravan sets ups requiring air-conditioning and other appliances, you’ll need the power that this generator model produces.

More Info:

For more information on caravan generator recommendations, you can read the following article which our experts pick the best models:

Any other questions?: You can contact us directly at mygenerator.com.au or on 1300 400 122!

Sean Connolly

Sean Connolly

Managing Director at My Generator
Sean is the co-founder and Managing Director of My Generator (mygenerator.com.au)
Sean Connolly

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Comments

  • Gary Vaughan February 23, 2017, 4:46 am

    I went in search of a generator and decided to attend the caravan and camping show in Flemington Victoria in 2016. My business partner and I decided to buy a Honda eu20i from the generator place stand. After an expert presentation on how good the generator and assured it runs all the appliances in a typical caravan. Feeling very happy with our purchase I gladly parted with 1800.00 per unit and eagerly took at home and looked forward to using it on our planned trip from Melbourne to the Kimberley. In May we set off and went on our travels and confidently pulled up to a free spot on the road to Alice, my wife was looking a tad worried about cooking dinner etc etc as we have four kids under 10 but I assured her all will be fine as I have a super duper Honda generator that will run anything…pigs arse that’s all I will say. after about 20 resets I realised it is grossly under powered and turned everything off as in hot water, battery charger , air con even all the phone chargers. eventually after about an hour with my wife enraged at my sneaky little purchase I made at the caravan show I decided to get the bbq out on the side of the road and cook dinner. As time went on I realised my little red brick of disappointment was about as much good as a pork chop at a jewish wedding and was only suitable for running one appliance at a time and basically useless at meal times. I came to realise that when the aircon is happily humming away forget anything else. Anyway 2017 caravan and camping show came around and I decided to attend and bumped into the Generator Place and as I was there a fellow owner who was duped the same as us was complaining with exactly the same problems. Then I was greeted by the owner of the generator place and I introduced my self and went onto explain that we purchase an eu2.0i each and they run like shite. After an initial rant about how he has sold 10000 units (same spill last year)and Russel the vic manager who was looking rather sheepish would never have told me it will easily run my caravan and that how dare I insult his product (wow this dude responds well under pressure and can see why Honda let him sell their products).
    Anyway after the initial pear shaped introduction he started to breath again and offered to trade our units in for a bigger one( yeh righto mr director). Any way what I would like to say is unless you like constantly resetting your generator and juggling appliances like a court jester trying in impress a king I would seriously encourage you to avoid buying this generator as it isn’t suitable for a caravan. If you have a trailer tent it would be fine.

    • L Adams February 23, 2017, 5:06 am

      Hi Gary, thank you for that very entertaining and comical post! You certainly wouldn’t be the first person to tell us a story about retailers promising their generator model “will run anything in your caravan”. I’m sorry you had to find out the hard way that in most cases a 2000 watt generator is not enough power to run a caravan. Its disappointing you were given that advice.
      As this article points out, for most caravan owners, we will recommend a 2400w, 2800w or 3000w model generator. If only other generator retailers would also adopt this approach of providing correct advice rather than just pushing for the sale, then there would be far less disappointed customers.
      Thanks again for sharing.

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