Back to Basics: How to Use a Generator
Author: Jeremiah Date Posted:3 May 2019
Generators can make caravanning much more enjoyable, and encourage the reluctant camper to hit the open road for a change.
Having a portable generator on board your motorhome, caravan or camper during your travels can be a much needed back up for when you want to power those essential small appliances including your lights, TV, washing machine stove or oven and in some instances even your air conditioner to allow you to sleep in comfort.
However, with great ‘power’ comes great responsibility. The following are some basic guidelines and recommendations to keep in mind while using a generator.
First things first – do your homework:
If you plan on traveling to national parks, generators are a BIG no- no primarily due to the noise and potential fire hazard that they pose. There are also a number of camp ground and caravan parks that do not permit the use of generators. You will need to do some research to find out whether the caravan parks or campgrounds along your route will allow you to use a generator and if so, whether there are any guidelines governing generator usage; in the interest of a hassle-free caravanning holiday, it’s always best to check these out in advance.
Basic generator etiquette at camping grounds:
Just because you are out on the open road, doesn’t mean that common sense and basic manners and etiquette should go out the window. Please continue to be a good neighbour. Set up your generator in a way that its exhaust faces away from fellow campers. Not only is inhaling ULP fumes highly unpleasant, you definitely don’t want to perpetrate a carbon monoxide poisoning situation! Even if you do need to use your generator in a relatively constricted space, inform your fellow campers well in advance. Try not to run the generator when everyone’s trying to sleep, and if you absolutely have to, invest in a silencer to reduce the noise.
Regular generator maintenance:
Powering most modern generators on or off is quite simple, even for an amateur. What’s slightly trickier is developing some basic generator maintenance routines. These can range from periodically checking lubricant and coolant reservoir levels, to replacing a dirty fuel filter or faulty spark plug, to having a professional mechanic take a look at anything that looks or sounds different. If yours is an electric generator that uses your vehicle’s fuel, ensure that your fuel tank is at least 1/4 full. Most modern motorhomes with inbuilt generators come with this self-checking feature, but to avoid running to a fuelling station, it’s always good to be aware of how much fuel you have available.
Regarding security and possible theft:
Unfortunately, theft of any kind is always a possibility, no matter where you venture, and this can also include your generator. You can secure your generator any way you like, from chaining and locking it to a tree, to placing it in a dedicated box with an inbuilt locking mechanism.
A few safety precautions:
Your generator fuel is combustible and needs to be stored safely. It’s always best to keep your ULP containers outside your motorhome, both for safety reasons, and because the smell of petrol isn’t a very desirable attribute in a motorhome or caravan! There are many safe-carriage solutions available for generators and generator fuel; essentially, these are compartmentalized boxes affixed to your caravan’s exterior, wherein the generator and the fuel containers can be stored separately. Don’t forget that any fuel stored will need to be included in your weight calculations for your van.
Another important safety measure is, if you want to use your air conditioner with your generator, ensure that you power down all other appliances before start up as your air conditioner will spike its energy consumption on start-up, unless your air conditioner has inverter technology such as the Dometic Harrier and Dometic Ibis 4.
Generators can make caravanning much more enjoyable, and encourage the reluctant camper to hit the open road for a change. Taking the above measures just ensures that you will maximise the benefits from your generator, and have that comfortable camping trip you’ve been looking forward to all year.
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