Built-In generator or portable for RV?

Built-In generator or portable for RV?

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A generator in rv comes as number one on the checklist, if you are heading out for dry camping. Most motorhomes come with built-in generators, but not all of them would be having them pre-built. Travel trailer or fifth wheel miss the built in generators mostly. And thus, people using trailers go for portable generators.

Portable generators are manufactured by many brands like Honda, champion, WEN and many more. For camping, we need generators that should be making very less noise (as quite as possible). Also, you want minimum weight on the rv. Portable generators do satisfy many of these things and thus one can use them on RV.

In this post, lets see whether you should opt for a in built-in generator for your rv or you should skip and try a portable one? Lets see the pros and cons of built-in generator and portable generators in rv or travel trailers.

Built in RV generator – Advantages

Built-in, as it suggests are pre-built inside the motorhome or rv. They are designed to be properly accommodating inside the rv, and this gives them advantages that you cannot get from a separately bought portable generator. Lets see some of the pros of built-in rv generators. Most people in motorhomes prefer using built in ones, lets see exactly why.

1. Built in generator are mostly high watt output generators

They give good watts and thus, can be good to even charge the batteries. Even at campground you can use them instead of hookup. They can be good enough to run a large 13,500 BTU air conditioners or even two 10,000 BTU air conditioners.

Onboard generators are really good enough to power those air conditioners which may not be easily possible for portable generators.

2. One can use built in generator to run roof top air conditioner in motorhome

A dash air conditioner can be run using engine but that may not be good enough for a large motorhome like class A, which will be 30 or 40 feet long. A dash ac will give cool air for the driver, but for passengers it is always going to be roof top air conditioner.

A 7,500 BTU air conditioner may only be run by a built in generator that can have better kw output. Also, the air conditioner or refrigerators have high starting watts requirements and thus, a large watts output built in generator is always going to be the need for your rv.

3. Built in generator can be easily used while travelling in motorhome

Built in generator can be easily run while driving, same may not be easily possible with portable generator. This is only for motorhome like class A or class C and not for travel trailer. As one cannot travel in a trailer and thus, no question of using generator while driving. So, why would you use the built in generator while driving the rv?

Well, most of us would be using it to power the air conditioner and also the refrigerator. Enjoying your favorite coffee and a sandwich while watching a tv could be great while traveling.

You can also use it to charge the rv batteries and then use them latter when needed. Running the built in generator while driving is more safe, as you get feeling of it being an integrated part of your motorhome, same is not true for portable generator.

Also, you would think twice before using portable generator while driving. Arrangements can be made, but then again a built in one is a built in one. No matter how much better you fix the portable generator, you will always think twice before running it.

4. With built in generator you have control over fuel being used

A built in generator which runs off diesel or gasoline will mostly be using the same fuel source as the motorhome is using. That’s a big advantage. With the same source being used, you are not much bothered about separate fuel tank or source for your generator.

And, on top of that, the built in generator would help you by not utilizing the fuel, if the fuel in the tank goes below. Generally, the level is around 1/4th when the generator stops using the fuel. That is a great thing, and you wont be draining the fuel empty, which is also needed for your motorhome.

This will however, may not be applicable to trailer for obvious reasons. Most travel trailer however do not come with built in generators. However, you will find fifth wheels with built in generators, at-least more than travel trailer.

5. Built in rv generator are convenient to use

You just push a button and start using it. There will be multiple buttons for set up, but most of the times you would have them preset. Its not that every time you want to use them you have to do set up. Its just that simple. There aren’t any connections to be made, no plugs to be connected. With continuous use, you are used to it. And thus, at the campsite when you need them, just press the button and start the generator.

6. With built-in generators in RV, you don’t have to be bothered about doing the setup

You are not worried about taking out the generator, doing the connection. It will be fixed inside the rv and you only need to push start it and start utilizing the power for whichever appliances you want to run. This is a very nice thing for those who don’t want to do much at the campsite, just go there and start camping.

This is definitely the lazy men’s thing. It is kind of great also, you are there for camping and not to do some wiring and electric stuff. Imagine a portable generator that isn’t working at the site. Will you be okay with removing all the electric tools and start fixing it?

Well, not all portable generators would fail at the campground, but with built in you are kind of relaxed and little bit more sure that things will work. Best thing with built-in again will be you would be using it continuously so you know if its working fine or not.

Built-in generator for rv – disadvantages

Built in generators have more benefits then the disadvantages. Lets have a look at some of their disadvantages or cons.

1. Repairing or servicing a built in generator can be tough

Imagine, you are on a long camping vacation deep inside an area where there isn’t any electric hookups available. And, suddenly the generator that you were using breaks down. You try to look for things that you can access, but you cannot reach out to the generator easily.

That’s the problem with built-in generators. You cannot access it very easily if you want to troubleshoot or look for a reason why it may be not working. Also, you will have to take the entire rv to the repair dealer. With portable, you could simply take it using your car or truck.

2. Its dedicated for rv use only

A built in generator will always be lying inside your rv and thus, using it for other purposes at home could be difficult as you cannot take it out. And, if you have other usage needs, then you will have to buy another one just for that purpose, even though you had a big one lying in your rv.

Portable generator for RV – advantages

Portable generators are common among travel trailer users. They are very light and are best for boondocking. A pop up camper rver can make use of a light portable generator for the camping needs. They are common among people who go camping in their towable rv’s and don’t want much weight behind their cars. Lets see some of the pros that a portable rv generator gives.

1. A portable generator as it suggests is portable enough for usage

They tend to be lighter, with weight being as low as 40 lbs to 50 lbs in most cases. They give you freedom of taking them out and doing the setup where you want. That is something not possible with built in ones in rv. You can also use them for other things and not only camping.

That kind of an advantage is not possible with built in rv generator. Thus, making the portable generator multipurpose. Specially, during off seasons when you wont be using the rv, you can just keep the generator in home and make use of it. Or even suppose if you happen to go rving in some other rv or a rented rv, you could use it.

Some people use multiple rv’s and that time a portable generator could be a solution for using in all the rv’s. Going dry camping in pop up camper for example is very popular and that time a portable generator could come very handy, as pop up campers wouldn’t come with built in ones. Or even while camping in light weight trailer, you would need a portable generator for camping.

2. A portable generator can be serviced easily when there are faults

Servicing could be a bigger pain with built in generator. You would have to take the entire rv to the technician and check the fault. Also, accessibility is a big problem. You can access it easily even if you wanted to check on it. You would have to work on may screws, and fixture to get to the generator out.

Especially, if the rv is old and equipped with a built in generator, then there are more chances that you may have to face this issue. If its a new motorhome then you will enjoy the advantages of the built in one, as it wouldn’t give you those issues during early years. smaller things like changing oil, checking on filters or replacing parts in generator will be little difficult in built in one as you don’t have great access with them.

3. Portable generator tend to be more clean and efficient

Portable generator are clean energy, at-least as compared to built in ones. Manufactures like Honda, WEN, champion and many other have stiff competition from each other and results in producing better and efficient generator for rv. Its a big market and thus you would always get products that are better and good enough for rving.

4. They tend to make less noise

The portable generator make noise that can be as low as 45-50 decibels. The better ones make lesser noise but mostly the noise levels remains in the rage of 55-65 decibels. That’s a very less noise and similar to what a soft conversation would be like.

5. Portable generator are light weight

With rv’s, one important thing is the weight. Its critical that you have correct weight. Specially with travel trailers, the weight can be a limiting factor. And thus, generator that weigh less can be great. Such portable generators can weighs as little as 45 lbs.

6. They are less costly

Portable generator tend to be less costly than built in ones. A built in one needs design changes for rv and thus manufacturer charge more. A portable generator for rv of around 3000-4000 watts can be bought in sum of around $500-$700. There will be little more costly ones, but they will come with added features and will have noise which will be super less and so on. But, on an average they are less costlier overall.

Portable generator for rv – disadvantages

Lets see some of the cons of using portable generators.

1. Watts or power loss due to long connectivity or extension

You may have to use long extension wire or connection to make use of the portable generator and this can result in watts being lost before reaching the appliance at the receiving end. Even though the losses wouldn’t be heavy, still as a camper and with limited resources, that can be a significant consideration. Using proper connecting extensions and reducing the distance can be one of the solutions, but still you will see losses whatsoever.

2. Issues in handing the portable generator

It may be portable and still you would need to handle it. Like moving it in and out at camping place. Pulling it out of the rv, or keeping it in while wrapping up camping could be an extra task for you. This is not the case with in-built ones as they are fixed and you just use it on push of a button. Considering using a portable generator while it is raining or snowing, it wouldn’t be great, right? So, it kind of gives that handling disadvantage.

3. Extra watts on portable generator means more bulky

We already saw that portable generators are great in terms of weight and they are so convenient, but that point was for the ones that are less watts. If your need is to go for a bigger watts like 7500 watts then a portable generator would be heavy, and may not be that light, to be able to say that its an advantage. Also, the weight would be an issue not only for carrying it inside and outside of rv but also an liability for the rv in terms of overall weight.

4. You need storage during off season

When you are not using the rv and the generator isn’t on use, you will have to store it separately and with proper care. Else, it may have hard time the next time you bring it out. With built-in, you are not much worried as it sits inside the rv on its own. You could also keep the portable generator inside the rv, but ideally you shouldn’t be doing that.

G. Yoganand

A RV enthusiast who spends countless hours researching and learning various things related to RV camping. He believes in spending time doing Outdoor activities.
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