The need for a generator with a caravan solar system is substantially a matter of where you will travel and when, what you plan to use the solar for, and particularly your type of fridge. This article explains why and what is needed to run your system.
There is far less need for a generator with a caravan solar system if you have a three-way fridge (i.e. one that runs on LP gas whilst away from 12/214 or 230 volt power). For camper trailer, caravan (travel trailer) and motor home use, solar modules (in temperate areas) are best located horizontally. There will be some loss (of about 20%) but readily compensated by adding that much more (and now cheap) solar capacity.
If you have a 12/24 volt compressor fridge however there is likely to be a need for a generator with a caravan solar system if travelling where is less than about 4 Peak Sun Hours a day (see How sun input is measured and also How much solar energy is available)
Charge via the 230 volt outlet and a good battery charger
For most small to medium sized RVs, a 2 kW generator is about right. Even if labelled ‘battery charger’ do not use the 12 volt dc output to charge a 12 volt battery. This is because it output is usually an unregulated 13.6 volts (at a maximum of 8 amps) and far too low to charge an RV battery beyond about 50%.
Further do not (routinely) use the generator to power the system directly for light loads or it will gobble fuel. Reserve that for rare high current loads such as an air compressor – or a microwave oven used for a long time). Instead,use it to run a 30-40 amp battery charger from the 230 volts (or 110 volt) output. If you do this the need for a generator with a caravan solar system is usually only an hour or so a day.
The best choice of generator for small to medium sized RVs are the inverter-generators made by Honda, Yamaha etc. They are very quiet and produce electricity that is often ‘cleaner’ than grid power. Beware of $99 eBay cheapies – their very ‘dirty’ output can damage electronic equipment.
Large motor homes etc are likely to need a bigger generator. Many owners use the (Cummins-made) Onan range of ultra-quiet units. These too are best used as noted above (to charge the battery bank rather than to run the motor home electrics directly. This is quieter and they use less fuel. Pic:Onan Cummins.
Large motor homes etc are likely to need a bigger generator. Many owners use the Onan (Cummins) range of ultra-quiet petrol and diesel units. These too are best used as noted above (i.e.to charge the battery bank rather than to run the motor home electrics directly). This is quieter and uses far less the fuel.
Full details of how to size, buy, install and use generators to back-up solar in cabins, camper trailers, caravans and motor homes is included in my book Solar That Really Works!
For generators with home solar systems – see Need for a generator with a home solar system.
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