Question

It has always been a dream of mine to own an RV and travel across the country. Like many people I’m going to have wait on this dream until my kids are older and the wife and I can slip away for a few days at a time. Those of you who are lucky enough to cruise across the country stopping at your leisure I envy you. Such freedom. Being able to wake up each morning, point somewhere randomly on the map, and start driving.

It is not all fun and games though. There are always problems and hiccups that can occur when driving and camping in your motor home. One of the most common is not having a reliable power source when camping. Most camp sites nowadays have a RV thirty or fifty amp plug-ins available. When these are available it is as easy as plugging in and then you have power to run whatever you need within your RV rather it be your air conditioner, coffee maker, microwave, etc.

When you arrive at a campsite and discover that there is no plug-in, or if you decide to dry-dock it and camp in an off-grid manner then you are going to need an alternative power source. This is where generators come in handy. The generators, either built-in to your RV or a standard portable one, provide alternating current (AC) power to your RV. Most of the appliances in your RV require AC in order to function.

A common question though is will the generator also charge your RV’s batteries? The batteries in your RV are similar to your vehicle’s batteries. They provide you with the power to start the engine. They provide basic lights. With RVs they also provide some other basics such as water pump functionality and even a small television. But that is about all they can do. You need the generator or the plug-in to power the rest of your appliances.

With RVs and motor homes there are two types of power sources. We covered that generators/plug-ins create alternating current (AC) power. This is just like your home. Everything in your home uses AC to power it. This could be your furnace, air conditioner, refrigerator, water heater, etc. The other power source in RVs is known as direct current (DC) power. DC power is just like what you find in your personal vehicle. This is the power that is generated and stored in your vehicle’s batteries. If your batteries drain completely then you will not be able to start the motor home, just like what happens to a car.

The good news here is that most RVs come with what’s known as an inverter and a converter. The inverter converts the DC energy over to AC energy. The converter converts AC energy over to DC energy. SO, if you have your generator plugged-in and running then you are also generating DC power which in turns charges your batteries. The opposite is also true. If you are driving down the road then you will also have AC power based on the DC power inverting over to AC power.

These two power sources loop into each other so as long as you have one you have the other. That being said, DC power is significantly weaker then AC power. Remember, DC is only powered by your vehicle’s batteries. AC power is powered by either plugging your RV into a power source or by an actual generator. You will always have more power from an AC source. As an example, you could technically run an air conditioner using only your batteries… but your batteries would be drained after only an hour or two of use. If you had AC power then your air conditioner can run indefinitely or until your generator runs out of fuel.

Conclusion

In short folks, yes your RV’s batteries will be charged by your generator. They will also be charged if you are docked at a camp-site or RV park and plugged-in. Either way the batteries will be charged and ready to go for the next day’s journey. Lastly, please note that this article is intended to give advice and informational value only. We here at ToughAssTools are not liable for any damage when it comes to using generators rather it be personal, injury, or property.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools

Driving across the country with your RV or motor home has to be one of the most liberating things that I can think of. Being able to wake up each morning, point somewhere at a map, and start driving. No timeline. No objective. Just drive. When you’re tired you find a spot to setup camp and rejuvenate. It is something that I look forward to in the next ten years or so when my kids have grown. For now though, it is just something that I get to write about. All you folks out there who are doing this should enjoy it!

When you do go on these road-trips with your recreational vehicle a constant question is where can I get power? In most cases if you decide to stop for the night at a rest stop or at an RV park you will find power available. These power sources found at these locations are typically thirty or fifty amp and your RV can plug right in so that you can enjoy all the creature comforts of home such as air conditioning, furnace, coffee maker, toaster, etc. Using these plug-ins is known as ‘Shore Power.’

The question that arises now is how do you obtain power when one of these shore power plug-ins is not available? Or, perhaps you do not enjoy the RV camps or rest stops but instead want complete peace and quiet. While this is great you will still need to find a way to power your appliances.

Generators

Before we look at generators lets first look at your RV’s batteries. There is a misconception that your RV’s batteries can power everything within the RV. RV batteries are there as a temporary power source. They are not meant to power large appliances like air conditioners. While they technically can do that, you will drain the battery very quickly. Without a power source you could only run an air conditioner for an hour, maybe two, before the battery dies.

Motor home batteries produce DC power. This is the same type of power that your car produces. When your RV is running it will charge these batteries just like your car charges its batteries. When it comes to RVs this direct current power from batteries is then converted to AC (Alternating Current) power using an inverter. The AC power allows you to turn lights on and run basic things within the RV such as the water pump or television set.

So, now, to answer your question of do you need a generator for your RV? It depends. Do you plan to always have a plug-in available for shore power? If so, then you may not need a generator. Or, will you be RVing in a minimalist fashion? In other words, will you not be using any large appliances such as air conditioners, furnaces, coffee makers, toasters, etc? If so, then you can most likely rely on battery power for an overnight stay. In most cases these batteries can last for a couple of days.

However, if you wish to run more then the basics in your RV then you are going to need a generator. The good news is that most RVs nowadays come with a built-in generator on one of the outside compartments. These built-in generators have a few benefits. The first is that since they are built right into the RV they are most likely tied to the same fuel tank that your RV uses. (Diesel most likely.) This means that you do not have to worry about lugging fuel around with you wherever you go. Just be sure to pay attention to your fuel gauge… you do not want to run out of fuel while camping and be stuck there waiting for someone to bring some more diesel your way! The second beneficial point of these built-ins is that they are built-in and covered with insulation. This insulation helps to dampen the noise these generators produce. A very common complaint at campsites is the noise of generators. In some cases they can reach as high as one-hundred decibels. That is the equivalent of a lawn mower running next to you. Quite loud!

A downside of these built-in generators is that they were built specifically with your RV in mind. While that sounds like a Pro what this means is that the generator is sized to power everything in your RV and not much else. So, if your RV does not come with a standard air conditioner but you have installed one… then your generator most likely will not be able to power it. Or, if you bring in a bunch of additional appliances then your generator may not be able to power them as well.

The solution here is a portable generator. A portable generator can be as big as you want it. They range from a thousand watts all the way up to twelve-thousand watts or higher. They will definitely be able to provide you with the power that is needed. Set the generator about twenty feet away from your RV, turn it on, plug-in, and you have power! Easy as that.

As you can imagine there are downsides of these types of generators as well. The first is that they can be rather bulky and difficult to move. This only increases as the wattage increases. If you decide to go with a six-thousand watt generator then you may find it difficult to move around as it could weigh over one-hundred pounds. Along with that weight you also have to lug around a fuel source for your generator. This could be propane, diesel, gasoline, or even solar. Whatever fuel you decide on though it will have to be brought with you.

The other big con here is noise. These portable generators can be quite noisy. I had mentioned this earlier but they can reach decibel levels between seventy to one-hundred. These louder ones can be as loud as a lawn mower. You can imagine how disturbing this would be to fellow campers. In fact many camp sites do not allow louder portable generators due to noise complaints. There is a solution here though folks. There is a type of portable generator known as ‘Inverter Generators.’

Inverter Generators are known as ‘super-quiet’ generators. Their decibel volume ranges from fifty to seventy. That is about the sound of the dishwasher running in your kitchen. Much different then a lawn-mower running nearby. Inverter generators are overall better then standard portable generators, the only real downside here is that they are much more expensive then the standard units. I won’t get into all of the details of inverter generators in this article, but if you wish to read more on them click here to read an article we wrote dedicated to the topic.

Conclusion

So folks to answer your question, yes I do believe you need a generator for your RV. Even if you do not plan to dry-dock it is always better to be safe then sorry. If you are in a situation where there is no shore power nearby you can rest easy knowing that you have a generator that can power everything up without issue. Even if you are into minimalist RVing… it still makes sense to have a generator with you, just in case.

Lastly, please note that this article is intended to give advice and informational value only. We here at ToughAssTools are not liable for any damage when it comes to using generators rather it be personal, injury, or property.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools

Question Marks

Hello folks and welcome to ToughAssTools.com. Today we will be taking another look at RVs, batteries, and air conditioners. There has been a trend lately of dry camping, also known as boon-docking. This consists of going off-grid for your camping adventures. No power-source nearby. Just you and nature. While this sounds appealing it is not for everyone. Many folks find that they miss the creature comforts of home, such as air conditioning.

This is where today’s question comes from. Is it possible to run your RV’s air conditioner while only on battery power? To answer your question… yes, it is possible. The distinction here though is how long do you want to run your air conditioner? You see air conditioners require A LOT of power to run. If you are running the unit solely on your batteries then at most you are going to get an hour or two out of it, and that is if your power inverter is even big enough to convert your wattage over from DC (Direct Current) to AC (Alternating Current).

With RVs, or motor homes, there are two different power sources. DC is the same type of power that your car or other vehicle produces. This type of power is created by the engine and alternator. It is then stored in your batteries. The other type of power is known as AC. This power is just like what we have in our homes today. Since RVs are a mobile home it makes sense to have both vehicle and home power sources.

Since an air conditioner is a home appliance you are going to need AC watts to power it. There are four ways to obtain AC power for your RV. The first is what is known as ‘Shore Power.’ Shore power is when you are at a camp-site or RV park and there is a thirty or fifty amp power source nearby. All you need to do here is plug-in your RV and you now have full AC power. You’ll be able to power your air conditioner and any other appliance you need.

The second type of power source is using a portable or built-in generator. The generator acts the same as shore power, but it is mobile. In other words, you are not tied down to using a camp-site. You can get AC power as long as your generator has fuel. This is the top choice for most dry-dockers. Another option for creating AC power is storing DC power in your batteries as your RV’s engine runs. Then, when you need AC power, a power inverter runs and converts the energy from DC over to AC. As we mentioned above though, this is not sustainable for air conditioners. They simply require too much power.

The last option to get AC power for your RV is by using solar panels. I’m going to tell you the same though as I did when it comes to battery DC power. There just isn’t enough power provided by solar panels to allow the powering of an air conditioner. You would need a ton of solar panels to make it feasible and no one is going to have the space required for this. If you have your heart-set on using solar panels then you will NOT be using your air conditioner. It is as simple as that.

A Further Look

Let’s look at this a bit further now. Most RVs, or motor homes, come equipped with a standard fifteen-thousand BTU air conditioner. They require around thirty-five hundred surge watts just to start and can take any where between fifteen-hundred to two-hundred watts to continually run the appliance. On these larger appliances, like air conditioners, they require an extra boost of power just to start the appliance up. This is known as surge watts. Once the machine has been turned on and begins to run it moves over to running watts. These running watts are much lower then surge watts. If you do NOT have enough watts to cover the initial surge then you cannot start the appliance. Simple as that.

To power this fifteen-thousand BTU air conditioner you are going to need an inverter that converts the battery’s DC power over to AC power. Some RVs do come with inverters… but the factory installed models are typically only rated to convert between one-thousand to two-thousand watts. To power an air conditioner you would need a power inverter rated at a minimum of four-thousand watts. In some cases, on larger RVs, they have a larger sized air conditioner or multiple air conditioners. So, now you would need a power inverter of nearly seven-thousand watts.

For example’s sake though lets say you have the inverter in place and you have three one-hundred amp-hour lithium ion-phosphate batteries (These are the top recommended batteries for RVs). With all of this in place you would be able to run one fifteen-thousand BTU air conditioner for a few hours before the batteries are drained. It just is not worth it.

Conclusion

In short ladies and gentlemen, if you want to power your air conditioner for your RV you need one of two things. You either need shore power by plugging in your RV directly or you need a generator. There are not other options here. The good news here is that most newer RV models out there come with a built-in generator and if your unit comes with an air conditioner then chances are the generator is strong enough to run the air conditioner. To make this even easier most of the built-in generators share the same fuel tank that the RV’s engine uses. SO, this allows for a seamless setup and gets you cold-air right away.

Lastly, please note that this article is intended to give advice and informational value only. We here at ToughAssTools are not liable for any damage when it comes to using generators rather it be personal, injury, or property.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools

Question

Hello folks and welcome to ToughAssTools.com. Today we will be doing another in-depth article on generators, only this time we will be focusing on recreational vehicles and motor homes. I love the idea of RVing across the country. My grandparents did in the 1990’s and my parents are doing it now. There is so much freedom involved in it. Every morning being able to wake up, point at a map, and start driving. Not having to be anywhere. Just enjoying the open schedule and the open road. I am definitely envious.

All that being said, it is not all glory when living in a motor home. One of the biggest challenges folks face is finding a source for power. Sure many campsites nowadays have the option to plug-in your RV but not all of them do. When you come across this situation how do you get power to your vehicle? How do your run your air conditioner or your furnace? Up until recently there was not a good answer for this problem.

Generators for recreational vehicles are still a relatively new concept. It originally started when recreationists started bringing more and more appliances from home. These could be toasters, coffee makers, hair dryers, computers, whatever. Each new appliances required more and more power. The batteries on these RVs could not keep up with the demand. This led to folks bringing in their own portable generators to campgrounds. This offered power but it also came with other problems. Portable generators are noisy and can be very disruptive when trying to enjoy the peacefulness of the campground. Another solution had to be created.

It was at this time that RV manufacturers begin including built-in generators with their models. These built-in models were insulated which caused a significant reduction in noise. This solved the noise pollution problem and made things a lot easier for novices to get power to their vehicle. In today’s world nearly every RV or motor home comes with a built in generator. In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find one that does not come with one. In this article we’re going to take a look at exactly what the generator is used for and the various types that are out there today.

What is an RV Generator Used for?

Most recreational vehicles come with two electrical systems: Alternating Current (AC) and Direct Current (DC). The AC system is what you normally find in your home whereas the DC is what is typically found in vehicles. The DC system runs off the batteries that come with your RV. DC power will provide you a basic source of power for things like lights, fans, water pump, and even your television. However, if you want to run larger appliances like a furnace or an air conditioner then you are going to need a source of AC power. When it comes to motor homes AC power comes from an outside source. This outside source could be you plugging your generator into an outlet at a rest stop/campsite… or if there is no plug-in available then from a generator.

The good news here is that the two AC and DC systems in your RV are connected to each other. So, if you are at a rest stop and have your RV plugged into an AC connection then your batteries, which provide the DC connection, are being charged automatically from the AC feed. The component that does this conversion from AC to DC is called a converter. There is also an inverter that comes with most RVs that converts DC over to AC. SO, it is possible to run your furnace or air conditioner using only your batteries… it just won’t last very long without a direct AC power source.

When camping most folks use what’s known as ‘Shore Power.’ Shore Power is just a fancy name for plugging your RV directly in at a camp site or other rest stop facility. These plug-ins are typically thirty amp or fifty amp. They will provide you with plenty of AC electricity to power whatever you need rather it be your air conditioner, furnace, refrigerator, television, etc. When you approach a campsite that does NOT have a plug-in connection though is when generators come into play.

A generator accomplishes the same thing that as Shore Power does. It provides you with a continual source of alternating current power. This power allows you to have all of the comforts at home while travelling and it also charges your batteries so you have DC power for when you put the generator away. Generators can provide a lot of comfort to those of you on the road, but they can also be quite intimidating. There are a lot of factors and options to consider when looking at generators. Let’s look at some of them now:

Permanent VS Portable

As I had mentioned in a previous section there are two different types of generators that you can use with your RVs or motor homes.  Nowadays many newer RVs come with built-in generators. These are located outside of your RV in their own compartment. In many cases the compartments are insulated so that the noise of the generator is reduced significantly. A generator out in the open can be extremely loud. Their average decibel volume ranges from seventy all the way up to one-hundred. This could be as loud a lawn mower running next to you. It definitely kills the mood of the campsite.

The generators built-in to the RVs are known as permanent generators. They are not meant to be removed from the unit and used for other purposes. They are stationary and serve only one purpose which is providing power to your RV. These are the easiest generators to work with as everything is done for you. The downside with these units is that they can be expensive. Many cases RV OEMs require specific brands and types of generators to be used. This can result in an expensive repair or replacement bill. In most cases you’ll have to go to the dealer to get it repaired as well.

The other major downside to built-in generators is their size. These generators are sized to handle the exact amount of power of the appliances that come standard with your RV. There is going to be some buffer room there but in most cases if you try to add a significant amount of additional appliances/electronics then your RV’s generator will NOT be able to handle them due to you exceeding the wattage limit.

It is important to note that these permanent generators are found in motor homes but not in towable campers. There may be the occasional instance where you find a generator on a camper but the camper would also have to have a fuel tank added to leverage the generator. A motor home, or RV, leverages the existing fuel tank to power the generator. So, if you own a camper or an RV that either doesn’t have a built-in or the built-in generator no longer works then you need an alternative solution.

This my friends is where the trusty portable generator comes into play. Portable generators give you the flexibility to provide power wherever you want without the restraint of a limited power supply that a built-in has. While you can have ‘unlimited power’ these portable units come with a host of downsides. The biggest con to these units is the noise. In many cases campsites will ban portable generators if they are TOO loud. Remember earlier how I mentioned that they can be as loud a a lawn mower? If you do opt to go with a portable generator you should research inverter generators. I’ll get into these in our next section.

The other major downsize to these portable generators is that you now have one more thing to pack with you when you go RVing. Portable generators can quite heavy as well. In some cases they could be over one-hundred pounds AND they will need their own fuel supply as well. This can take up needed space and also end up being a hassle to set up as you have to lug around that generator to get sufficiently far away enough from the RV. (Remember, these are engines and they produce carbon monoxide.)

Inverter Generators

The noise of the product will have to be a consideration when looking at generators. You’ll notice that when looking at generators there is a decibel rating on the units. The higher the decibel the louder the machine will be when running. Ideally, you would want one under seventy decibels. This would be the about the sound of a dishwasher running in your kitchen. You can find some as low as fifty or sixty decibels though.

As you look at these you may see some that are marketed as ‘super quiet.’ These generators are known as ‘Inverter Generators.’ These generators are built differently then your standard units. You see a standard generator has two major sections: The engine and the alternator. The engine creates power by burning fuel. That power is fed to the alternator which converts the power to AC electricity. You now have the ability to plug-in your appliances/electronics. An inverter generator operates in a similar fashion only the engine and the alternator work together and actually share some of the same components. This means that there are fewer components in this machine which makes for an overall quieter noise level.

Inverter generators also produce what’s known as ‘Clean Power.’ A standard generator produces ‘Dirty Power.’ What this means is that the standard generator’s power production can fluctuate and is not a constant stream of electricity. The power provided to your electronics is directly tied to the performance of the generator’s engine. So, if the engine stalls, stutters, or does not perform exactly how it should then you can have variables in your power source which can in turn damage your electronics or appliances. An inverter generator on the other hand produces power FIRST as DC and then converts that DC power over to AC through regularly scheduled intervals. This provides you with a consistent power source, or ‘Clean Power.’

Overall inverter generators are a better product. The only downside there is with them is that they can cost significantly more. So, if you are on a budget and noise level/clean power is not a concern then go ahead and get the standard generator model. However, if you want to spend the extra money to get the premium product then opt for the inverter generator model. Our recommended inverter generator for RVing is the WEN 563080i thirty-eight hundred watt generator.

Fuel Type

The last point to look at is the type of fuel that you want your generator to use. If your motor home comes with a built-in generator then you most likely do not have a choice as to what fuel it uses. (Most likely the same as your vehicle’s engine takes.) However, if you have a portable unit then there are a variety of fuel choices to review before you make a decision. Now, I’m going to tell you right off the bat here that the best choice out of all of them is diesel. It burns the cleanest and is the most efficient. In other words, you get power for longer and do not have to worry about the same pollution that gasoline causes.

That being said, there are a few other options. There is gasoline and it is very easy to get as you all know. The problem with it is that it burns fast and hot. It is not very efficient and will not last as long as other fuel types. You also have the option to have propane. Propane works great and lasts longer then gasoline… but not as long as diesel. The upside to propane is that it is a lot more environmentally friendly then diesel.

The last option to consider is solar powered. These can be more expensive then the other fuel types we mentioned above. The obvious upside here is that they are environmentally neutral. They do not harm the environment in the slightest. The downside here is the increased expense and also the fact that you now have to lug around the solar panels with you as well. BUT, you do not have to carry the extra fuel.

I am still a fan of good old reliable diesel, but each one of these choices here will get the job done of providing power to you and your family.

Sizing

Size is important. If you purchase a generator with not enough power then you could be left out in the cold… literally. Finding the correct size of generator for your RV can be quite tricky. Generators come in all sizes ranging from just one-thousand watts going all the way up to fifteen-thousand watts or higher. It can be a bit overwhelming trying to determine what sized of product you need. To help with this we created a ‘RV Generator Sizing Guide,’ that can be found by clicking here. It is a bit of a long read but it should answer any outstanding questions you have when it comes to sizing your generator.

Conclusion

Alright folks well I think we have covered nearly everything there is when it comes to RVs and generators. I do hope that this article was helpful and was able to answer some of your outstanding questions. If you see anything that we missed please reach out to us and we will get this article updated. Lastly, please note that this article is intended to give advice and informational value only. We here at ToughAssTools are not liable for any damage when it comes to using generators rather it be personal, injury, or property.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools

Question

There is nothing quite like driving across the country, seeing an interesting spot, and then setting up camp. There is a lot of freedom that comes with RVing and overall it can be a great past time. I have been on plenty of these trips before but have yet to purchase an RV. I am hoping here in the next ten years when the kids are older the wife and I can start having our own adventures. When that time comes we will need to be prepared with a power source.

Not all RV parks will have power provided. Or, like in the example above, perhaps we do not stop at a park but decide to rough it by setting up camp in the middle of nowhere. Perhaps it is in the middle of summer and the cabin is sweltering. Having an air conditioner could make things much more comfortable. Or, I want some cold beer from the fridge. When these situations arise there is a need for a power source. Now some RVs do come with built in generators, but not all. If you discover that you do NOT have a built in then it is now time to purchase a generator for your RV adventures.

The question though is which one should you purchase? What size do you need? In this article we will take an in-depth look at the various sizes of generators out there as well as what size you will need for your situation. Along with that we will also take a look at the various features and considerations that have to be made before you purchase your generator.

Considerations

Before we get into determining the right size generator for your needs we first need to discuss the various considerations that should be taken into account. There are many types of generators on the market today and to be honest it can be a little overwhelming with just how many options there are out there. Hopefully after this section you have a little bit better idea on exactly what you are looking for.

The first major factor is if you want a permanent generator that is built into your RV or if you want a standard portable generator. There are pros and cons to both options here. In the case of a permanent generator you are most likely replacing an existing generator that was built into your RV. In these instances your best bet is go through a dealer to ensure that you are buying the right unit. If not you run the risk of purchasing a generator that is too bulky to fit in the compartment or that is not compatible with your recreational vehicle. These permanent generators also have a built-in transfer switch that allows you to easily switch the power over to the generator at the flip of a switch. This makes it very easy to get power going.

The downside of these permanent generators is that they can be expensive, especially if you go through a dealer. Dealers are notorious for high mark-up. So, if you have your heart set on replacing a permanent generator try to see if you can get the part number, make, model from the dealer and then see if you can purchase it somewhere else either online or through an aftermarket parts company. The other con here is rather obvious. The unit is permanent. In other words you will not be able to use it for other applications like you would with a standard portable generator.

Portable generators are great for those of you who wish to either save money or who wish to go with a dual use scenario. Say for example you want a generator with you when you’re RVing but you also want one on hand in case power goes out in your home. Or, you also go camping and need a power source. A portable generator will accomplish these goals. You will also notice that they can be much cheaper then the permanent generator option. The downside here is that you will have to lug the portable unit around with you when you are RVing. In most cases these units are NOT light and can be rather bulky.

It is not just about permanent and portable generators. There are other considerations as well. Another major one is the overall noise that the generator produces. This can be a big deal as generators decibel volume level can range from fifty all the way to one-hundred. That is like a the sound of rain falling all the way to a lawn mower running nearby. Quite the difference there. You will notice that when looking at generators they have a decibel rating. Pay attention to this. To gauge each generators noise level I like to use this decibel chart. It gives you a clear impression on what to expect before purchasing.

One thing you will notice is that when you are looking at decibel levels there are generators marketed as ‘super quiet.’ These generators are known as ‘Inverter Generators.’ These generators are built differently then your standard units. You see a standard generator has two major sections: The engine and the alternator. The engine creates power by burning fuel. That power is fed to the alternator which converts the power to AC electricity. You now have the ability to plug-in your appliances/electronics. An inverter generator operates in a similar fashion only the engine and the alternator work together and actually share some of the same components. This means that there are fewer components in this machine which makes for an overall quieter noise level.

Inverter generators also produce what’s known as ‘Clean Power.’ A standard generator produces ‘Dirty Power.’ What this means is that the standard generator’s power production can fluctuate and is not a constant stream of electricity. The power provided to your electronics is directly tied to the performance of the generator’s engine. So, if the engine stalls, stutters, or does not perform exactly how it should then you can have variables in your power source which can in turn damage your electronics or appliances. An inverter generator on the other hand produces power FIRST as DC and then converts that DC power over to AC through regularly scheduled intervals. This provides you with a consistent power source, or ‘Clean Power.’

Overall inverter generators are a better product. The only downside there is with them is that they can cost significantly more. So, if you are on a budget and noise level/clean power is not a concern then go ahead and get the standard generator model. However, if you want to spend the extra money to get the premium product then opt for the inverter generator model.

Ok folks, a few more points of consideration before we get onto sizing. The next one is the overall weight and dimensions of the generator. As I had mentioned earlier, if you are going with the permanent option then you need to ensure that it will fit in your RV’s compartment. If not then you are going to have a bad time! However, if you are going the portable generator route then you need to ensure that the unit is not TOO big. After all, you need to be able to transport it back and forth. If it is a larger unit then look to see if it has wheels on it to make transportation easier. Also note that inverter generators are lighter then standard models, so there is another feather in the cap of inverters…

Last point to mention here is the fuel type your generator uses. There are variety of options here such as diesel, gasoline, liquid propane (LP), and even solar. There are pros and cons for each type of fuel source here. The most recommended fuel type is diesel. This is because it burns cleaner then gasoline and can actually produce more for your dollar then propane. Chances are your RV also takes diesel so you’ll be looking for diesel pumps in the first place. However, if you are not comfortable with diesel then propane and gasoline will get the job done. Personally, I am not a fan of the solar units as they are inconsistent. They may be great for short camping trips but I want a generator that is going to be reliable.

Generator Size

Now that we have considerations out of the way we can begin to focus on sizing your generator for your recreational vehicle. When I say size I am not talking dimensions or weight of the unit but the amount of watts that the generator can produce. The more appliances and electronics you want plugged into your generator then the higher the watts you are going to need. Generators can range from a few thousand watts all the way up to twelve or thirteen-thousand watts. You may even be able to find some larger then that in standby models.

The best way to determine exactly what size you need is to add up all the watts of the appliances and electronics that you plan to plug-in. Most appliances will have the wattage that they require. However, if you find that some do not then they are most likely displaying their amps. You can calculate the watts using this amperage number. All you need to do is take the amp number times the volt number. The volt number is the type of connection the appliance uses. For example, a coffee maker plugs into your standard one-hundred and twenty volt outlet. So, let’s say a coffee maker uses five amps. Five amps times one-hundred and twenty volts equals six-hundred watts.

Before you start adding up all of the that you will require we need to understand the difference between surge/starting watts versus running watts. You see in some cases, especially on larger appliances, they will need an extra boost of power to turn on. This is known as starting/surge watts. After the appliance has been turned on the surge watts go down and transition into running watts. The point here is that if you have enough running watts but do NOT have enough starting watts then you will not be able to run your appliances using your generator. Some example appliances that will have surge watts are air conditioners, refrigerators, and freezers. Basically anything that is going to have a compressor.

Alright, so now that you know how to find the wattage required for each of your electronics or appliances add them all up and see exactly how much wattage you need. In every instance it is best that you physically add up everything you want to power yourself. I can give you some estimates here but every situation is different and only you know what you are dealing with. That being said, lets take a look at some average wattage usages.

In nearly every case the air conditioner will require the most wattage out of everything in your RV. These things are power hogs and also come with a high amount of starting watts due to the compressor needing to start up. Just like generators, air conditioners come in a variety of sizes. For example, a five-thousand BTU unit will need between one-thousand to fifteen-hundred watts of power (This includes surge watts). A ten-thousand BTU air conditioner will need between fifteen-hundred to twenty-five hundred watts. Lastly, a fifteen-thousand BTU air conditioner will require between three-thousand to thirty-five-hundred watts.

Besides air conditioners some other estimates that we can provide to you are:

  • Hair Dryers – 600-900 watts
  • Electric Grill – 1,200 – 1,800 watts
  • Electric Heater – 1,200 – 1,800 watts
  • Microwave – 1,000 – 1,300 watts
  • Mini Refrigerator – 700 – 1,200 watts
  • Coffee Maker – 500 – 800 watts

In every instance it is best to overshoot the wattage you think you need by around twenty to twenty-five percent. This gives you assurance that you have enough power and also gives you a little bit extra juice in case something else comes up. Let’s do some basic math here to determine what sized generator we need. We need to power a five-thousand BTU air conditioner at fifteen-hundred watts, a refrigerator/freezer at twelve-hundred watts, a coffee maker at seven-hundred watts, and a microwave at one-thousand watts. So, all in we need forty-four hundred watts. If we add another twenty percent then we need a generator that can produce between five-thousand to six-thousand watts.

If that is too much and we only want to spend our money on a four-thousand watt generator then we can shrink some of our list. Perhaps we can hold off on using the microwave which will cut a thousand watts out of our calculation. Another example we can do, which I am not quite a fan of, is to play around with the surge watts. What I mean here is to find the exact surge watts and running watts on some of your appliances. So, if the air conditioner requires fifteen-hundred surge watts but ONLY one-thousand running watts then you could technically plug-in the air conditioner first, wait about a minute, and then plug-in the other appliances. By doing it this way you use fifteen-hundred watts at time of plug-in but afterwards you are only using one-thousand watts.

Personally, I’m not a fan of the above method as there is a lot of finagling just to get power to all of your appliances. The best option here is to just buy exactly what you need or to buy above that and give yourself that twenty percent buffer. Ultimately though, the choice is up to you.

Conclusion

Ok folks, well I believe we have covered nearly everything there is to cover when it comes to sizing a generator for your motor home. As you can see by reading this article there are a lot of considerations and factors that have to be taken into account before purchasing a generator. In most cases though you will find that with RV generators you are safe if you buy a generator between three-thousand to five-thousand watts. There are always exceptions and you should check your own wattage numbers, but you should be fine with these suggested wattage amounts.

To get you started we have a few portable generators we recommend for RV usage. The first is this four-thousand watt model from Champion. It is an inverter generator so it will run very quiet at only sixty-four decibels. It also comes in at only eighty pounds. That is a light weight generator. Lastly, it has a three year warranty to assure you that if something does go wrong you are covered. Just note that this is an inverter model so it will be more expensive.

The other model we will recommend to you is the Durostar DS400S portable generator. This model produces right around the same amount of power as the previous unit but it is about half the price. The reason for this is that this is NOT an inverter generator. It will be louder, bulkier, and produce ‘dirty energy’ rather then ‘clean energy.’ If you are on a budget then get this model, otherwise I am going to steer you towards the inverter model.

I hope that this article was helpful to you and that you were able to find what you are looking for. Generators can be a complicated business and hopefully we were able to clear some things up. Lastly, please note that this article is intended to give advice and informational value only. We here at ToughAssTools are not liable for any damage when it comes to using generators rather it be personal, injury, or property.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools

Question

There is no better way to unwind after a hard week at the office then taking the family out in the wilderness for some camping. Depending on your preference there are quite a few ways to go camping. Some of you may have an RV or camper to take with you. Others may like to rough it a bit and only bring a tent and some supplies. My personal favorite is sleeping in the back of your truck or SUV. No need to setup a tent that way.

Regardless of how you go camping one thing is certain. In today’s world many folks will need a power source during these outings to nature. It could be for their phone or laptop. Or, perhaps you do have an RV and would like to have the air conditioning running while you sleep. Whatever the reason is many people will pack a generator with them during their camping trips. The problem though with generators is the noise.

Any of you who have been around generators know exactly what I am talking about. A standard diesel generator can cause noise levels ranging from seventy all the way up to one-hundred decibels. To put that noise volume in perspective that ranges between a vacuum cleaner running or as loud as a lawn mower running nearby. Both noises can be extremely intrusive when camping and trying to enjoy the serenity of nature.

So, the question is, how can you get around this noise pollution but still provide generator to your electronics? There is a solution here, but before I tell you I first want to alert you that these types of generators are expensive. They can be quite a bit more expensive then your standard generators. SO, if you want that peace and quiet then you are going to have to pay for it. Just keep that in mind.

There is a different kind of generator known as an inverter generator. These types of generators have a noise volume ranging between fifty to sixty decibels. That is the equivalent of the sound of rain falling or the dishwasher running in your kitchen. Both noises are MUCH less then the standard generators. This is accomplished because the standard generator is made up of two distinct machines. You have the engine and then you have the alternator. Each of these work independently from each other. The engine produces power and then passes that power over to the alternator to be converted into alternating current (AC).

An inverter generator works in a similar fashion, the difference is that the engine and the alternator work in tandem with each other and even leverage some of the same components. This results in a much quieter operating volume. It also leads to an overall more efficient design which will result in a longer runtime. Because these inverter generators share some of the same components you will find that the overall size and girth of the unit is much lessened as well. This makes the generator easier to transport and move around.

Here at ToughAssTools.com we recommend this inverter generator model from Champion. It provides thirty-four hundred watts of power and operates at a volume at only fifty-nine decibels. Again, that is the equivalent of a dishwasher running nearby. It has an expected runtime of seven and a half-hours which is more then enough time to sleep through the night either with your air conditioner on or with your phone charging. You also qualify for a three year warranty when purchasing this unit. Overall it is a great buy, but if you are unsure then follow the link I provided to Amazon and check out the hundreds of reviews on the product.

Conclusion

So folks, in wrapping of this article there are a few takeaways. The first is that the quietest generator to take with you on camping are what’s known as inverter generators. These generators operate very quietly compared to other standard models on the market today. The downside though is that these inverter generators can cost significantly more then the standard models we are used to. Like many things, it all boils down to cost and your budget. Do you want to pay for that extra quiet? Or, will you make due with the roar of a standard generator? Or, perhaps, you will truly rough it and opt to not bring any power providing machines and enjoy nature they way God intended? Either way, it is up to you.

Lastly, please note that this article is intended to give advice and informational value only. We here at ToughAssTools are not liable for any damage when it comes to using generators rather it be personal, injury, or property.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools

Hello folks and welcome to ToughAssTools.com! Today we will be continuing our in-depth look at the various options and kinds of generators. I have always been a country guy at heart and that is exactly why I live nearly an hour outside of the Kansas City metro area. I like my peace and quiet. I like being able to see for miles ahead of me with no obstructions. The downside to all this serenity is that we are far away from most utility companies. This means that when we do experience a power loss it can be a day or two before power is restored.

We typically experience a power loss either during winter ice/snow storms or during the spring months through severe storm season. After all, Kansas is in Tornado Alley. When these power losses do occur we are prepared. We have a generator stored in the garage that is ready to come out and provide us that much needed power. Generators are not just used for power loss events though. They can be used during camping trips, RVing, outdoor gatherings, or even at a job site.

Whatever the reason is you need a generator you should know that there are a variety of types of generators on the market today. When most folks think of a generator they think of the standard portable diesel generator. They provide the power we need… but they are loud, bulky, and can be intrusive to nearby parties. There is an alternative solution here though known as inverter generators.

What is an Inverter Generator?

To understand inverter generators we first have to understand the standard portable generators. Your typical portable unit consists of a fuel powered engine and a separate alternator that produces the electrical current. These generators can use a variety of fuel types such as diesel, gasoline, propane, and even solar power. Depending on the wattage of your portable generator they can become quite bulky and large. Some twelve-thousand watt units can weigh over three-hundred pounds and have a fuel tank capacity of nearly ten gallons. This is a monster of a machine to move around even if it does come with wheels.

A standard portable generator’s engine is meant to run at thirty-six hundred rotations per minute so that it can generate one-hundred and twenty-volts at a frequency of sixty hertz. This the type of electricity required to run most basic machines and appliances. Each engine rotation produces a wave of electrical AC power in this format. For the engine to produce enough power to meet the standard one-hundred and twenty-volts it MUST run at thirty-six hundred rotations per minute.

A common disadvantage we can find with these types of units is that they cannot constantly maintain that thirty-six hundred RPM. This variance of rotations per minute can result in fluctuations in the voltage and hertz output from the generator. Variances like this can end up damaging more sensitive electronic devices such as  laptops, computers, and or phones. You can see this occur with newer appliances and electronics that require a constant and steady stream of electricity.

Inverter Generators

Remember how earlier when we discussed portable generators we stated that they produce AC power with each rotation? It is critical for the standard generator to maintain that thirty-six hundred rotations per minute. When it fluctuates it can cause inconsistent power to your devices. If the fluctuations are bad enough they can end up damaging your electronic devices or appliances that are hooked into the generator’s power.

An inverter generator on the other hand produces consistent AC power per rotation then a standard generator. The difference is the electrical energy is created as DC instead of AC. Once the energy is produced the inverter generator then converts it from DC over to the standard one-hundred and twenty-volt AC. This AC energy is no longer produced in block waves like that of the standard generator but in sine waves. This allows you to power your devices with no risk of the electricity amount fluctuating. I like to think of it as a metering device. All of the power is created as direct current (DC) and then it metered over to alternating current (AC) in a steady and controlled manner. This is why an inverter generator can create ‘clean electricity’ and a standard generator creates ‘dirty electricity.’

This point alone is one of the biggest pros when it comes to an inverter generator. You know that your electronics and appliances will be provided accurate and consistent power. But, there are also additional benefits to using an inverter generator. Besides the consistent electricity another great benefit is the overall sound that comes from the generator. You see a standard generator can produce sound levels ranging from seventy up to one-hundred decibels. This can range from to your morning alarm clock all the way to a lawn mower. Anyone who has been around these generators knows first hand how loud they can be. Try having a conversation next to one of these things…

On the other hand an inverter generator’s average decibel ranges from fifty to sixty. This is MUCH quieter and can be compared to that of rain falling or to your dishwasher running in the kitchen. Both examples are so quiet that you barely notice. If you are running a generator outside your home due to a power loss your neighbors will thank you for the peace and quiet. Along with the lower noise you will also find that inverter generators can run longer then the standard generator models. This is because they are around twenty percent more efficient. This means more savings to you and longer run times.

The last pro of these inverter generators is their size and maneuverability. As I had stated earlier, a standard generator is almost like two different machines. You have your engine and your alternator. An inverter generator actually leverages some of the same equipment for the engine as well to produce electricity. The result of this design is less components required to run the generator which results in a smaller and lighter weight generator. This is another reason why you see inverter generators becoming very popular with the camping crowd. They are much easier to move and haul around.

Conclusion

Overall inverter generators are a great tool to have around your home or for camping trips. There are many benefits to these machines which we have listed above. There is only really one downside to these tools and that is the price. As you can imagine inverter generators are going to cost significantly more then your standard generator. This increased price is directly due to the various pros we listed in the previous section.

The question that you need to ask yourself is which type of generator do you want? Do you want the extra benefits and features that comes with an inverter generator? Or, do you want to save your money and make due with the louder and less efficient generator? I will say this before closing this article though, if you are planning to power newer large appliances in your home like furnace, air conditioner, water heater, dishwasher, microwave, etc then I would recommend purchasing an inverter generator. The risk of inconsistent power on these devices is real and I would hate to have you damage any of these appliances during a power loss event.

Lastly, please note that this article is intended to give advice and informational value only. We here at ToughAssTools are not liable for any damage when it comes to using generators rather it be personal, injury, or property.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools

 

Over the past few weeks here at ToughAssTools we have been focusing on portable and standby generators for home and commercial use. That’s how we work around here. We find a specific type of tool and then read, learn, and write everything we can about it. Today, with generators, we are going to focus on what’s known as Starting Watts and Running Watts. If you already own a generator or are familiar with the term already then this article may not be for you. However, if you are in the research stage of your purchase then I highly recommend you keep reading to ensure that you get a firm grasp and understanding on the differences between these two measurements. Knowing these two measurements and how they can affect your generator are crucial.

First let’s start with that all generators, rather they be portable or standby, have the amount of power that they can provide measured in watts. Watts are a unit of measurement for power and are used to quantify the rate of energy that is transferred. The higher the number the more power or energy is transferred. Appliances, computers, phone chargers, or anything else that you plug into the wall will have a wattage rating. On some of the larger appliances like refrigerators or air conditioners the watts will be right on the label. However, with smaller things it may not be as obvious. If you were to look at a toaster for example, you may only find amps and volts. Nothing to worry about though as these two numbers can easily be transferred over to a watts. All you have to do is take the amps multiplied by the volts. You then have your watts. Measuring how many watts you need is a key step when figuring out what size generator you need.

Here’s the thing though, it is not just as simple as adding up all of the watts of each appliance. No, you also need to take into consideration what’s known as staring watts. Most appliances, especially larger ones like your refrigerators and air conditioners, will have two different wattage ratings. There will be starting watts and a running watts. Running watts are what we discussed above. These are the required watts to continuously run the appliance. (These watts are also known as rated or continuous watts.) Most of the time when you are looking at a toaster or coffee maker you will only find the running watts. This is also the wattage measurement that most folks are used to.

It is when we get into the larger appliances, especially ones with a motor, that we run into what’s known as Staring Watts. These watts, also known as Surge Watts, are the amount of power required to turn or start one of these larger appliances such as refrigerators, furnaces, air conditioners, and power tools. In order for these machines to start up they need a short and brief boost of power to get the motor going. This boost requires more watts then the standard running wattage. Once the motor has turned on the amount of watts required slowly goes down until it reaches the rated running watt level. Most of the time these extra watts are needed at the start of the appliance being turned on, but there are occasional instances where a compressor or motor will need to run during regular operation of the appliance. Again, starting watts will be used these scenarios as well. Starting watts are only meant to be used for a very short period of time. (Just a few seconds at most.) If you try to run numerous applications and you exceed the running watts but are still within the starting watts you will still overload your system. For more information on exactly what sized generator you should purchase please click here to be taken to our Generator Sizing Guide.

Starting watts are what’s known as maximum watts. When purchasing a generator you should pay very close attention to what the maximum watts of the generator is and the running watts. The worst thing you can do is purchase a generator, get it setup, and then find that you don’t have enough power because you bought based off of running watts and not surge watts. When looking at generators you should be able to find the specific maximum starting watts and the running watts. If it is unclear or you cannot find it on the product either ask for help or move onto a different product. As an example, if we look at Westinghouse’s WGen7500 portable generator on Amazon by clicking here we can see that it’s running watts are seventy-five hundred and the starting or surge watts are at ninety-five hundred. This is a great example as it tells you right in the product description. I’m a big fan of making things easy.

Lastly, if you are planning to purchase a generator check out our Best Generator Article by clicking here and also our Generator Safety Guide by clicking here. Remember folks, it is always best to be safe then sorry. Generators are not toys and they can be very dangerous if not used correctly. Please note that this article is intended to give advice and informational value only. We here at ToughAssTools are not liable for any damage when it comes to using generators rather it be personal, injury, or property.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools

Question

Hello folks and welcome to ToughAssTools.com . Generators are by far one of my favorite appliances to have around. You never truly know when you are going to need them. Your power could go out due to a blizzard, storm, or hurricane. Or, perhaps you are an outdoors men and enjoy camping, but still like to have some power to charge your laptop, phone, or whatever other electronics you need. While a generator will get this job done for you it can be very loud. After all, when your generator is running it is a diesel engine burning through fuel. You can expect it to be loud.

The problem is if you are out camping the point of it is to enjoy the outdoors and the peace and quiet that comes with it. Or, perhaps you aren’t camping but are having a party outside with a lot of guests. A friend of mine has a Fourth of July party on some land of his every year. It is vacant land with no buildings or power routed to it. Just a ten acre pond and fields all around it. It makes a great place to launch fireworks, but not so great of a place to host food or a gathering. Every year they bring their generator out and it provides enough power for some floodlights and crock-pots to keep all the food cooking and warm.

As you can imagine, the downside to this is that the generator is very loud. If you are too close to it then you won’t be able to hear what anyone is saying. In fact it is so loud that when it comes to fireworks time they turn it off entirely so that the noise won’t be distracting. The area goes pitch black except for the few tiki torches. To get around this problem a lot of folks have asked the question if a type of silencer can be put on these loud mouthed generators.

Silencers on Generators?

The first question here is exactly how loud are generators? Obviously, it can vary from model to model but the average tends to be between seventy to one-hundred decibels at around twenty or so feet. This could be the equivalent of a vacuum cleaner running or as loud as heavy city traffic. It depends on the unit.

The first solution here is to actively look for quieter brands of generators out there. In most cases the products will have an indication as to how loud they are. If they do not then it is best to check the reviews to determine exactly how loud the product is. For example, the Westinghouse Generator doesn’t display the noise level but when looking at reviews I found a few that state, ‘The noise is loud, but tolerable compared to other generators.‘ Or, ‘The noise level is not bad – much better then our CAT unit.’

Another option here is what is known as inverter generators. A typical portable generator is made of two separate mechanisms. You have the engine and then you have the generator. Each one has its own set of components. An inverter generator is actually one mechanism and leverages some of the same parts for both the engine and the generator. This results in an overall quieter sound. As an example, lets look at this Briggs & Stratton inverter generator. It is rated to run at around sixty-six decibels. That volume is between a standard conversation or the sound of a running vacuum. Much quieter then some of the other generator models out there. The downside here is that inverter generators are much more expensive then your standard generators.

If expense is an issue then do not worry! There are a few other options that can be done to quiet your generator. The first may seem a little odd but there are actually generator mufflers or silencers out there on the marketplace today. Depending on the make and model of your generator they can be found online either at Amazon or through the manufacturer’s website. That being said, not every muffler will fit to every generator. Research will have to be done to ensure that it will fit. It is also worth mentioning that many of these mufflers are aftermarket products. In other words, they are not backed by the original manufacturer.

In one such example on the Westinghouse model we mentioned earlier I found this quote from the seller, ‘We do not recommend modifying any part of the WGen5500 portable generator. Additionally, any permanent modification to the WGen5500 will result in nullification of your warranty.’ So, adding a muffler is ultimately up to you. It is your product. You should just be aware that you could void the warranty by doing so.

The last option there is out there to reduce the noise from your generator is to leverage your own do-it-yourself skills by making a silencer box. There are many ways to do this from the simple to complex. The simplest would be to get some plywood and enclose the generator on three sides. (Ensure the exhaust can still get out.) This enclosure will help to reduce the decibel level of the machine. Note that the generator is still producing carbon monoxide and should be set away from homes, rvs, etc. This is why it is important to ensure the monoxide has a place to vent to. Do not enclose the whole machine.

The other more involved option is to create a full silencer box using wood and even insulation. I was reading about this solution from the generatorgrid.com . They built an entire wooden frame that slides over top the generator. In one instance they built the outer shell, lined the inside with insulation, and then build an inner wooden shell. This provided the best noise reduction. As mentioned before though you need to ensure the exhaust can escape and also that your generator has enough air flow so that it doesn’t overheat. Do not fully enclose the unit.

Conclusion

As always when dealing with generators there is a variety of options and answers to your questions. I hope that this article was able to guide you in the right steps to silencing your generator. If it was me I would look at purchasing an already quieter generator and if possible the inverter generator. The inverter will get you what you want without any do-it-yourself. Just be aware of the cost involved. Lastly, please note that this article is intended for informational purposes only. We here at ToughAssTools are not liable for any property damage or personal injuries that can occur when operating generators.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools

Question

As winter approaches many folks begin prepping their homes for the oncoming cold and snow. This could be cleaning the gutters, caulking any drafty areas, and making the home as efficient as possible. Another step in preparing for winter that a lot of folks don’t consider is having a generator on hand in the event of a power loss. Generators can be a lifesaver especially in those cold winter days when the power goes out and your furnace won’t start.

Generators can give you that much needed power, but they can also be dangerous if ran or setup incorrectly. In this article we’re going to cover what’s known as ‘Backfeeding,’ your generator.

What is BackFeeding?

Backfeeding is routing power from your running generator and plugging that power straight into an outlet of your home. This is done with a two male sided extension cord. (Why these cords exist, I do not know.) By doing this you are flowing power throughout your home in reverse. The power will move backwards from the outlet, to your electrical panel, and back throughout the rest of your home.

While this may seem like a very easy way to power your whole home I will warn you now that it is illegal and dangerous to you and others. Many people do this without realizing the risks.

The first is that by backfeeding the generator into your home you negate the circuit breaker/fuse in your power panel. For those of you that do not know, a circuit breaker is an automated electrical switch that protects a electric circuit from a short or excess current overload. When your circuit breaker trips it shuts off automatically normally to prevent damage and to prevent over heating. Without a circuit breaker, or by negating your circuit breaker by backfeeding, you risk your home and your generator catching fire.

A lot of times these fires begin when the homeowner’s normal power comes back on line. There are now two sources of power flowing back and forth between the panel and the generator. This causes the overload that we mentioned earlier and poses a large fire risk either at the panel or the generator itself. In one such incident a backfed generator caught on fire, the fuel tank exploded, and caught the user’s house on fire as well as a neighbor’s home. The story on this extreme example can be found by clicking here. The worst part about these fire accidents is that most of the time the homeowner doesn’t realize anything’s wrong until it is too late.

Along with the fire hazard you should also know that backfeeding your generator is against the law. No, that’s not the government being overreaching. There is a good reason for this. If you do backfeed your generator the electricity that you are generating through your generator can be routed back through your home and back through the electrical grid. That means if a power company employee is working on the lines he is at risk of being electrocuted. The lines they are working on are supposed to be dead/off but if a generator is backfed there is risk of electrify running through the lines during maintenance. Do you want to be responsible for that? I certainty don’t.

The Right Way

Ok, so we’ve gone through the wrong way to hook up your generator. Let’s look at the right way. Now when most people backfeed their generators they do it because they want power throughout their home. They don’t want to just power one or two things, they want the whole shebang.

This can be done, and done safely, using portable generators. The difference here is that instead of backfeeding your system you get what’s called a ‘manual transfer switch,’ installed on your power panel. A transfer switch will allow you to do just that. It allows you to transfer the power from your generator over to your home all the while blocking new power from the gird. This prevents your overload and prevents damage or overheating.

Installing a manual transfer switch can be rather tricky and complex. The best way to do this is to hire a trained electrician. This way you get the switch installed correctly and have nothing to worry about during your next power outage. Also, if you have a trained professional come to your home be sure to ask if he recommends a grounding rod for your generator. Most of the time you will need a grounding rod if you are going with a manual transfer switch.

Conclusion

Ok folks, we have now gone over the dangers of backfeeding. For more information on generator setup, install, and running safety please check out our Generator Safety Guide by clicking here.

Also, please note that this article is intended as advice and is for informational purposes only. We at ToughAssTools are not liable for any property damage or injuries that can occur when using generators.

Thanks for reading and stay safe,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools