Inverter vs. Generator Purchase

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GaryB

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Hi - am looking to buy a new NuWa Discover America 5th wheel. Although I may not boondock a whole lot, I would like the capability to stay for an occassional 1-2 nights without relying on shore power.  As I understand, my two options are: 1) generator, 2) inverter.

I'm leaning toward an inverter for a few reasons: less noise and no need to carry fuel.  Of course I realize I'll need to find a way to recharge my inverter batteries.  I have a few related questions:

1)  Other than having to recharge bateries, are there any other disadvantages to an inverter as compared to a generator of the same wattage?

2)  How viable are solar panels in recharging batteries?  I imagine their performance is highly weather dependent.

3)  Is it possible to recharge inverter batteries somehow using the tow vehicle alternator?

4)  NuWa charges $2074 for a factory-installed inverter and another $286 for two additonal inverter batteries (don't know the inverter brand).  I noticed Camping World offers a Xantrex XPower 3000W inverter for $400 plus $300 installation.  Based on this limited info, it looks like it would be best to buy an aftermarket inverter.  Am I missing something as to why the NuWa inverter could cost 3 times that of the Camping World inverter?  Is wattage the main consideration in differentiating inverters?

Thanks
Gary
 

Ned

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1. A generator will supply power as long as it keeps running, an inverter will only last as long as the batteries.  Of course, you can use a generator to recharge the batteries.

2. Solar panels generally won't supply enough power to keep up with most people's energy usage.  And, yes, they depend on sunlight, so cloudy days will reduce the power available considerably.

3. Possibly, but if you're going to run the vehicle engine, why not just get a generator?  A generator will use less fuel than the vehicle engine and produce more usable power.

4. The factory installed unit is probably an inverter/charger while the cheaper unit is just an inverter.  Since you need a good 3 stage charger for the deep cycle batteries, the inverter/charger is usually the better choice.
 

GaryB

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Ned said:
3. Possibly, but if you're going to run the vehicle engine, why not just get a generator?? A generator will use less fuel than the vehicle engine and produce more usable power.

Thanks Ned for the good info.  I was hoping that I could run the tow vehicle for 30-60 minutes/day to recharge the batteries for a full day's operation.  That seemed alot easier, cheaper and would require less space than a generator (in conjunction with the inverter).  Is that not possible?  Thanks
 

King

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All true, except I have found that converter/chargers usually charge the house batteries at a relatively slow rate. Using a generator with the factory converter/charger will probably not give you the quick boost to the batteries that you're looking for. ?Use an add on charger with a your generator. ?The engine alternator can charge up house batteries fairly quickly, but will probably use up to 4 times the fuel.
Art
 

GaryB

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King said:
?Use an add on charger with a your generator. ?Art

Thanks Art.? I was looking to buy an inverter without buying a generator, and then use my tow vehicle alternator to recharge the inverter batteries in case they discharge before I can get to shore power.? I'll be boondocking VERY INFREQUENTLY.? So I don't mind if using my tow vehicle's charging system requires some extra fuel those few times.?

I'm confused when you said "Use an add on charger with your generator".? Do you mean an add on charger with my inverter instead?? I'm trying to avoid getting a generator.? I definitely don't want to buy BOTH an inverter and generator.

Thanks
Gary
 

Ned

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A generator is not just an alternative to an inverter.  An inverter won't run an air conditioner, for example, while a properly sized generator can.  A generator with a modern inverter/charger will charge your house batteries much quicker than the vehicle alternator and us a lot less fuel.  Probably be quieter too, which makes for a good neighbor.  We don't boondock a lot, perhaps 20 days a year, but we wouldn't be without our generator or inverter.

For only occasional boondocking, say 1 weeks a year or less, I would suggest the generator only rather than just an inverter.
 

woodartist

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Your tow vehicle has to be near the 5th in order to have the cable reach for charging. We tried that years ago and quickly found it to be a pain and opted for a generator. Seemed we would use power at night ( computer, TV radio, etc.) and batteries would need charging in the morning for showers and such. Most folks don't like a diesel running at 5 am to charge the batteries  ;) We have seen people use their vehicle to charge batteries and it is a pain...but some do it ???
 

GaryB

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Ned said:
A generator with a modern inverter/charger ...

Ned, sorry to be dense, but in your statement above, are you implying that a combination generator/inverter exists?  Or are you implying to buy both a stand-alone generator and inverter?  Now that you mention it, a combo unit would seem to be ideal.  I would normally power everything off the inverter (for less noise and to save fuel) and then only use the generator to recharge the batteries.  If I get a 4000W model, the inverter may even be sufficient to run one AC.  Does such a combo unit exist; if so, is it more cost-effective than buying one of each?

Gary
 

Ned

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I was referring to a generator and a separate inverter/charger.  They are separate items and can be used together or individually.  By using a generator to power an inverter/charger the charger section will charge your batteries much quicker than your alternator.  An inverter/charger is really two separate devices too, just packaged in one box for convenience.  You can get just an inverter or just a charger, but if you're getting an inverter you might as well get the combo unit unless you already have a modern 3 stage charger.

Forget about running an A/C from the inverter, you can't carry enough batteries to do it.  For large power items like A/C, electric heaters, etc. you need the generator.
 

John From Detroit

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I have seen a couple of generators that had decent 12vdc outupts, including a couple designed to jump start cars for a living

But most generators that 12vdc out has not enough power run much of anything, perhaps 100 watts total (10 amps) and it's not all that good for re-charge

Better to feed the gen-set's 120 vac out to a Progressive Dynamics box and charge with it
 

GaryB

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So if I need to get a generator anyway, I guess the only advantage to also having an inverter is that I can use it during "quiet" hours.  But being quiet may not be too important when boondocking - guess it depends where I'm boondocking at. 

I probably should wait until I know what I'll be doing before I spring for a major investment like a generator, inverter, charger, etc.  I was trying to get by with one or the other.
 

GaryB

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woodartist - are you referring to your generator recharging your normal coach batteries, or recharging your inverter batteries?

Actually I was just surfing around and saw a Honda "inverter-generator".  Does anyone know anything about this?  The link is http://www.hondapowerequipment.com/gensup.asp

It would be great if it would run as a stand-alone inverter (for quiet operation and no fuel).  Then the generator could automatically take over when necessary long enough to recharge the batteries.  Then the inverter would automatically take over again once the batteries are recharged.  Not sure if anything like this even exists.  Would seem to be the best of both worlds in a single "combo" unit.
 

woodartist

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The EU200i is what I see most people use and it has a 12vdc output as well as 120vac. Don't know about the charging details of the 12 output but I know of people who charge batteries with it. The 5th wheel and TT don't have separate batteries like a MH would...so I charge the 5th and TT batteries with the generator. No difference between inverter batteries and such. I use the 120 AC to run AC items and use the batteries ( as they are charging) to power 12 vdc stuff.

Honda's are expensive but a quality generator.

Oh, I only use the inverter when I can't run the generator..like in a Wal MArt lot...
 

N Smock

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GaryB said:
Hi - am looking to buy a new NuWa Discover America 5th wheel. Although I may not boondock a whole lot, I would like the capability to stay for an occassional 1-2 nights without relying on shore power.  As I understand, my two options are: 1) generator, 2) inverter.

If you are only hanging out for a night or two, is it imperative that you have 120V? The trailer comes equipped with 1 or 2 house batteries to power the lights, heater (limited use big power hog), fridge and hot water control boards. You might have to resort to the old perk style coffee rather than an electric. Another alternative to make limited 120V for small appliances like laptop or small TV is a small inverter that plugs into a 12V outlet in the trailer.

Nelson
 

JohnSandyWhite

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:) One thing I have NEVER come across in all the Battery, Alternator, Generator, Solar power, Charger threads. Is the use of a Battery to Battery charger that fools the Alternator into giving MUCH more amps for charging the Coach batteries:- >> Where From << >> How it Fits <<.? ;)
 

woodartist

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If you are only hanging out for a night or two, is it imperative that you have 120V?
We find it very desirable, but you could do without it for a few nights. We need power for the computer, cell phone charger, printer, business stuff, etc........not to mention a fan, heater, or even a small AC. Comes down to creature comforts :D
 

King

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Regarding "fooling" the alternator into providing more amps to the house batteries.  With a simple diode isolator,  a normal alternator output voltage of 14.5 volts will provide up to 60 Amps to the house batteries if the chassis battery is fully charged and the house batteries are below 50%.  The current is limited by the internal regulator in the alternator.  In my class B, there is a 50A circuit breaker in series.  If the house batteries are fully discharged, (as they were when I bought the unit) the alternator will pop the circuit breaker...  I had to charge the batteries with an external charger to bring them up to taking less than 50A. If you have a more powerful alternator and an Isolator relay, you could probably expect to deliver almost the full alternator rating, less the engine requirements, to the house with what is already there.  You might have to run a faster idle, though.
Art
 

GaryB

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Thanks all for the advice.  Let me try to wrap this up so I understand correctly.  Please let me know if I'm mistaken in anything I write below...

If I want to boondock with "sufficient" AC power to run for 1-3 days everything except an air conditioner or portable electric heater, then I need a generator and/or inverter.  If I want silent operation or fuel-free operation, then I need an inverter.  But if I get an inverter, then I'll also need a generator to recharge the inverter batteries (they likely won't last 1-3 days running all those things, including microwave).

Now, with the help of the Library article on inverters, I think I can figure out what size of inverter I'll need based on what I'll be running simultaneously (probably 2000-4000W).  But how large of a generator will I need if I'll ONLY be using it to recharge the inverter batteries?  Will the Honda EU2000 portable generator suffice (I believe it's 2000W)?  Does the generator size only matter with regards to how long it takes to recharge the inverter batteries?

Also, based on what I've read, a portable generator (such as Honda EU2000 or EU3000) may be better than a permanently installed generator, since I won't need to get the "generator prep" package when I buy the 5th wheel and also will have flexibility with regards to where to put things.

Please let me know if I'm mistaken on anything I've said
Thanks
Gary
 
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