Though we normally rely on our 200 watt solar system for power, one of the essentials in our technomadic toolbox is our small Honda EU2000 generator that has been modified to run off of propane.
We rely on this generator to top off our batteries when the solar is not able to keep up due to shade, weather, or our own heavy use. And we also turn to the generator to power our air conditioning on the hot days when our roof fans aren’t enough to keep us cool and comfortable.
The Honda EU2000i is a fabulous 2000 watt generator that is small, quiet, weighs just 46lbs, and it gets great fuel economy. We found ours online for just $850, with free shipping – way less than from any other retailer. (Honda stupidly prohibits dealers publishing prices online – but I suffer no such limitation…)
Most RV air conditioners require a much larger 2400 watt or even 3000 watt generator to work, but we specifically sized the air conditioner in our Oliver to work with this generator. Instead of the (formerly standard) 13,000 btu model, we specced a power-efficient 9,200 btu Coleman Polar Cub that still cools great, but which we can manage with the smaller, lighter, and more economical Honda EU2000 option.
Of course, the big downside of any generator is the need to deal with fuel. Carrying around canisters of gas for the few times we might need our generator isn’t ideal.
Instead of dealing with gasoline, I tracked down a propane conversion kit to allow our Honda EU2000i to run off of our Oliver’s ample 50lb propane supply. I installed the “Tri Fuel Kit” from Central Maine Diesel that allows the Honda EU2000i to run on gasoline, propane, or natural gas.
(The kit is $179, or a pre-converted Honda EU2000i is $1269 + shipping…)
When I bought the kit last year, I was the very first customer to get the “installs in minutes” kit, so it actually took me several hours to figure out how to swap out our Honda’s carburetor and reroute the necessary hoses with only a picture to go on. The carburetor removal instructions I found posted here were invaluable, and in theory my feedback has by now helped Central Maine Diesel create better documentation to include with their kit.
We have been thoroughly happy with how well our generator setup has performed over the past year. It worked great on the playa at Burning Man, and even during sweltering 100+ degree days in Zion National Park the generator was able to keep up despite the high altitude (near 4000 feet).
And when charging the batteries, I am able to sustain a 60+ amp charge current, which allows for a very rapid recharge of our battery banks.
Of course – you have to pick – you can’t charge batteries and run the air conditioner at the same time without overloading the generator. But, this setup sure beats carrying around a 135lb 3000 watt Honda.
Unlike some RV’s, our generator is not permanently mounted and there is no electric start. But setup is still easy. The Oliver factory folks hooked up a low-pressure propane hose on the tongue for us so all we have to do is plug in a hose and power cable, open a valve, and then pull the starter cable a few time to get our generator fired up for use. This detached setup also allows us to take advantage of the flexibility that comes from having a small generator that is so portable.
For us, this setup is the perfect backup power source. And though we haven’t ever needed to, if we ever do need to resort to gasoline, this kit (unlike some conversions) still gives us the option.
We love it – particularly in the summer! *grin*
September 2012: We have sold our Honda generator with the propane tri-fuel kit. The Honda wasn’t enough power for our set up any longer, our bus conversion came with a generator and we’re going propane free. We loved our Honda & the kit and still recommend it. However, at this point – any questions we answer about it are from a fading memory.