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Propane Powered Generator – Honda EU2000i + Propane Conversion Kit

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.

[wp_campaign_3] 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.
Oliver - Propane Generator

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.

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  1. Has anybody using a Honda inverter generator running the tri-fuel kit with propane or NG run into a issue with their generator’s life being cut short due to the higher temperature from these fuels?

    I had contacted a few people who were running for about 3 to 4 years who didn’t experience any issues, but I was looking for additional input. Thanks.

  2. I have the EU 3000 with a self installed central Maine diesel tri fuel kit. I have a cabin deep in the woods and have 2 large propane tanks (like in people’s yards in the country). I can run 8 amp and 5 amp window units at the same time. I opted for the larger unit so I could quickly cool the cabin, have electric start, and have more gasoline to make it all night on hot south Arkansas nights (which are frequent). I got it way before I realized the tri fuel option.
    It looks like y’all crank your unit only when absolutely necessary and then run full speed. I have experienced problems trying to run Eco throttle (with propane) on mine…. Particularly when the ac compressor kicks in. The unit can’t “idle up” as fast as it can on gasoline and then chokes out.
    People also need to understand that propane expands when it is hot outside and therefore has less power per cubic foot. It is a 3 carbon molecule and inherently is less power than octane/gasoline. If you go to bed at 100 degrees, and it cools to 70 during the night, your mix may get “too rich” and you will be walking outside when your generator starts spuddering. sometimes I choose to run gasoline for this reason.
    I can get the generator running off of Eco throttle and let the ac compressors get going and eventually switch to Eco throttle. I do have to set the window units to the coolest setting so the compressor never kicks off and back on again as this would choke out the generator…. That works ok in south Arkansas in the summer though because 70 is the coolest I can get the cabin when it’s 100 degrees+.

    Please comment on your experience with Eco throttle.. Do you think a high pressure propane option could prevent this mishap? I may just be adjusting the lean/rich screw improperly. Please advise if I’m making a foolish and simple mistake. Do you even use eco throttle? You guys are my heros!

    • We actually used the eco throttle all the time, but we had to follow the procedure you described of getting the AC started with it off, and then setting the thermostat on low so that the compressor wouldn’t cycle. Only then would we turn the eco throttle on. The generator would sometimes be able to handle the compressor cycling with eco throttle on, but there was always the chance that the generator would stall so we found it easier to either leave eco-throttle off or the compressor always on.

      I understand that there are kits that limit AC startup surges that will solve this problem – I just read some great reports on the Dometic Smart Start here, including tests with the Honda 2000 and Eco Throttle: http://www.sailnet.com/forums/gear-maintenance/62158-honda-eu2000i-air-conditioning-4.html

      I have no idea whether or not higher propane pressure might help, but I don’t see how it would make much of a difference.

      I never saw much need for constantly adjusting the lean/rich screw either – but we never ran our generator overnight, usually only just in the heat of the day and thus the ambient temperature never varied all that much.

      Good luck, and report back here!

      – Chris

  3. Hi there, I noticed that you sold your Honda generator? What will you use in it’s place? This thread is amazingly helpful, thanks to everyone!

    • The little Honda can’t keep up with the current demands of our bus’s battery charger unless I limit the charging current. And our bus’s current AC units are too power-inneficient for the Honda to handle the startup surge when they kick on.

      So we need something larger (4000W – 6000W would be great), and ideally something that burns diesel so we don’t need a second fuel source.

      Our bus came with a 7.5KW Onan diesel generator that is loud and prone to overheating, but sticking with it for now it is our best option until we figure out something ultimately better.

  4. With propane it is very important to “lean” out the propane. The saying goes, “don’t be mean, be lean.” If you have a richer air to fuel mxture with propane you will burn a lot hotter and that is not good for any engine. The trick is to lean out your mixture with the fuel tube adjustment to the point the engine starts to run rough then increase till it smoothes out. Any richer than that setting will be a waste of fuel, burn hotter, and shorten the life of your engine. Lean is really best for any propane operation.

  5. For how many hours did your EU2000 run on propane yet? Did you have any issues with burned valves? I was told that specifically this model will have issues from 200 hours on if converted to propane… Thanks

    • I am guessing we logged more than 200 hours, but there isn’t an hour-meter and I’ve lost track over time. I do know that it still runs just as well today as it did when it was brand new.

  6. This is the same Ken from the earlier posts. S. California got hit hard with hurricane-like winds, hitting my area the hardest. After 2 days without power, I realized that this qualified as an “emergency” so I pulled the still-brand new eu2000 out of the box. Yes, I still couldn’t bring myself to drilling holes in the unit to install the propane kit. I’ll have to get the kit attached before the “big one” hits us here in earthquake country. Any way, my wife lamented about how the generator wasn’t powerful enough to run our refrigerator. I chuckled from the memory of her balking at the eu3000 price tag at $2000 back then! The home centers here were cleared out of their lawn mower engine generators. Hearing this noisy things running 2 blocks away was a wake up call: even my super quiet eu2000 was still loud when the entire block was blacked out. This noise will be a consideration when running it during a big disaster! LA won’t be the law abiding society that Japan is, post tsunami! Thanks folks, and I still have to get that Teflon additive!

  7. Hey Guys! Looking fwd to purchasing my H2000 with propane conversion for the boat! I am looking for a better backup power system. And already have propane onboard…not to mention it is anywhere you might need it the world over. I’ll let ya know when the system is installed and plummed into the propane manifold onboard. Nice idea for sure!


  8. What are you using to charge your batteries at 60A? It can’t be the 12VDC output from the generator, since that is rated at only 8A. I’m guessing you’re running a 60A charger off the 120VAC generator output? Part number or link to a product on the web would be really great, since this is such a cool use of the generator. Thanks.

  9. Does this get the same fuel economy as gasoline? If you burn 5 gallons of gasoline, is the run time the same as a 5 gallon propane tank? I have a 3000 EU and I am wanting to convert to propane.

    • Jake – If I remember right from my research, propane has a slightly lower energy density than gasoline so you should get slightly less fuel economy, but in practice the difference shouldn’t be very noticeable.

      On the other hand, propane canisters are a lot easier to handle and less messy than gas cans, and the engine runs a lot cleaner and should thus last longer. For us, the advantages of propane were many.

    • The engine will produce the same rated power on propane but will use a little more volume. With the auto throttle or eco throttle being used you probably won’t notice much of a difference. I use an older EM3500S and where I would average about 4 hours to a gallon for my electrical demand, with propane I may be just shy of that 4 hours per gallon mark… It may be a 5 to 6 percent difference in comparrison but depending what you pay for propane which at rack price is much cheaper than gasoline offers bigh savings. The engine stays clean namely the combustion chamber.

      The Em3500 I recently converted was de carbonized and now that propane is the only fuel it will stay clean in the combustion chamber and out the exhaust, as well as the oil. No varnishing, no ethanol problems especially as thet are going from 10 -15 persent.

  10. I too like the Honda EU2000. But as I always do tell people, make sure you know what you are doing when you are running propane anywhere in, near or around your house. I know so many people who just don’t have a clue and are accidents waiting to happen. How can people be so senseless. I would also like to see more overt education regarding this. But funding is hard to get. And none of the major suppliers are willing to assoicated themselves with funding this type of campaign.

  11. My generator and tri-fuel kit arrived. Hey Chris, you were the first customer for the kit? The instructions look like they assume we already know how to install the kit, and I’ll wince when I drill the first hole in the brand new Honda chassis. Bummer that I still have to hit the store to get the missing required items: 3/4″ brass fitting, coupler, 3/8″ fuel hose, and primary regulator. Good thing my wife doesn’t know that I still need to buy more parts! It looks like you folks are traveling through my neighborhood right now, but probably a good thing you are stopping elsewhere since this is Los Angeles after all! ha ha ha

  12. GEEEEEEPUUURS! Brilliant! We live in Kuwait and I’m desperate to fit a normal boxtype AC and electric runner like the Honda EU2000. Check out “mikeemans” on http://www.cardomain.com to see our two vans, which we use to go camping in the desert (coz theres not a lot more to do, or any place else). Our summer temps regularly run 50C, so a fair setup is expected. My plan is to nosemount the generator. Thanks for a cracking good site here yall, awesome. Mike

  13. Hey want a great article on the Honda EU2000 generator that has been modified to run off of propane. I live in South Florida and this will come in handy for us during Hurricane season. Instead of transporting gasoline containers around as I have in the past I can use my BBQ grill propane tanks. I already have 4 of these. Thanks for the picture.
    .-= paul@ truck lift kits´s last blog ..ReadyLift 3″ Lift Kit =-.

  14. Hey again folks!
    I just ordered my EU2000IAC (California model) from http://www.wisesales.com The tri-fuel kit is being ordered tomorrow from Central Maine Diesel. Thanks for all your help! I told a friend, and he plans to order the same from them. Do they give you referral fees? ha ha ha

  15. Thank you both for your advice on the warranty thing. I too have heard of other brand (cheaper) generators dying after a few hours. And thank you Tim for the info. I used to work as a mechanic in my youth, so you are spot on. I will bite the bullet and get the whole package since I recently convinced my wife that this is a sound purchase, especially here in earthquake country!

  16. I can also agree with the concern about warranty void. The conclusion I came to was that I’d rather have a honda with a voided warranty than a Kipor with two warranties. I could have purchased about three similar Honeywell gens at Home Depot for what one Honda costs. I own a toyota and did not purchase the extended warranty… toyota IS the extended warranty. Besides, if push came to shove… I could always buy a new carb and install it, but the propane actually tremendously extends the life of the gen. Far as I’m concerned, the propane use is better than a warranty! Notice that your oil change with exclusive propane use looks almost new… oil change with gasoline use gets darker from the carbon deposits suspended in the oil contributing to more rapid (normal expected wear) abrasion. I would wager a bet that exclusive propane use will more than double the expected engine life with gasoline use.

    Improve your “warranty” beyond propane use by adding a teaspoon of X1R teflon additive, I prefer it over duralube/etc, some walmarts still carry it. 20 years ago I replaced the engine, 360ci V8 in a 1960 ford truck, and it had a screw idle adjustment on the carb… unlike the newer automated vehicles. After about 10k miles, to allow ring seating, etc, I added a bottle of duralube… just so happened I added it with the engine running in idle. I really couldn’t believe what I heard! The engine started to idle up right there in front of me! It idled up significantly enough that I actually had to adjust the idle screw (adjusts idle jet fuel volume) down! It is however imperative to run a few tanks of gas or a single tank of propane before adding the teflon to allow contacting metal parts to adopt a wear pattern for maximum surface contact at the molecular/atomic level.

    Bottom line to me is that exclusive propane use with x1r (teflon) additive turns the internal components into a sewing machine instead of an internal combustion device! The teflon reduces friction thereby adding fuel efficiency, reducing friction heat, and friction wear. Propane is exceedingly clean with minimal solid carbon exhaust deposits. The exhaust (from properly mixed propane fuel) is carbon dioxide and water vapor, little if any solid carbon deposits from properly mixed fuel… and ALWAYS carbon monoxide in greater and lesser degrees. For instance, when a motor throttles up, there’s a fuel dump with incomplete burn with incomplete burn products: solid carbon deposits and carbon monoxide… far more solid carbon deposits with gasoline than propane, maybe even none with propane.

    So, long way around… “Honda”+propane+teflon beats any warranty. In fact I would be willing to wage a bet that that combination would probably quadruple oil life… maybe even more if oil change was based on a certain number of metallic wear particles + carbon particles per given volume of oil… how do “they” establish when an oil change should occur??? The “liquid engineers” probably make that suggestion!

    In fact, it’s worth considering that cheap home natural gas (as opposed to bottle propane)+Honda+teflon may very well compete with grid wattage cost!

    Good luck with your honda… much above is conjecture as I have not yet finished the first propane bottle. I have not worn out a honda generator on propane. But, very sound theory! I do have an engineer friend who told me years ago about generators used to run the electric motors that drive the huge rocker arm crude oil pumps in the middle of nowhere Texas. The generator cylinders had so little wear that they could push pistons and rings through the top of the cylinder without using a ridge reamer to cut down the top quarter inch of cylinder wall not subject to piston ring contact and wear! That was how little wear occurred from start to manufacturer recommended replacement of rings and bearings! Astonishing! I don’t remember if those generators were running on propane, more than likely natural gas in it’s natrual abundance in an oil field, but definitely not gasoline! And, that was before teflon oil additives!

    I don’t sell teflon, and I don’t sell generators, and I’m not planning on replacing my Honda in the next 20 years of my expected lifetime! Take the leap of faith. I will only use gasoline in emergency situations. And I’m not expecting a breakeown during those special occasions with loved ones which come too seldom in this flesh life! Like Cherie suggests: “… live the life we want!”

  17. Thank you for these tips and links. The one thing that worries me after talking to the folks at Central Maine Diesel, is that the tri-fuel kit will probably void the Honda warranty. Kind of a scary thing since I heard of other brand generators pooping out after a few uses! I’ll probably get the generator and tri-fuel kit, and then worry everytime I fire the thing up! Thanks again!

    • Yes, it would be an anticipated conclusion that modifying anything would void a warranty. In our opinion, life is too short to stop us from voiding warrantis if it allows us to live the life we want 🙂

      – Cherie

    • The Honda warranty on a new unit is 2 years, use it on gas which is suggested to wear the engine in and then adapt it to propane. Or buy a used Honda that no longer has a warranty… Chances are you won’t have to worry about the warranty because it is a Honda… I have several Honda’s some converted, some adapted, my 2000 I have set up with a gas can for extended run time, but I have yet to run it prolonged time as it it usually carried from place to place to power a heater and hot water maker for showers for people that don’t have anything… If propane works for you, don’t worry about the warranty.

  18. Dude and dudette! (affectionately) I searched around and decided on the 2000i with the conversion kit… both from the suppliers you suggested. The gen is now $890 with free shipping after$14 insurance. They sell NIB on ebay after shipping for around a thou. So, you’re advice is right on target. I haven’t cranked up… waiting on the conversion tri fuel kit… went ahead and bought the hour meter for about fifty bucks shipped. I have significantly remodeled a 1990 Grumman Olson bread truck which I lucked up and found… after about 5 years searching, the older dude bought it to make into a motor home… had 26k on the chevrolet 350 v8 and came with a NIB Onan 4000, all for $4k. Absolutely a fantastic deal. Exterior is clear coat over aluminum… looks like an airstream with an nose job. Got about $12K in it so far… probably another two will finish the job. Despite three inches of extruded polystyrene insulation, it’s worthless in these GA summers. The roof top ac’s just worry me with in transit air flow which doesn’t appear compatible… so I’m gonna use a five thousand btu window unit mounted inside which exhausts through the wall. Had to have air, and retro fitting an engine ac and then adding a roof unit doubled the weight and cost… So, I got the honda genset and propane tank to run the ac and even micro, etc.

    I really envy yall’s adventures. I’m an old hippie, and this project has been reliving my original 1964 ford supervan conversion in the early 70’s. Several adventures thus far, many more to come. I now get about eight miles to the gallon in extreme circumstances… but looks like gas will be about a buck seventy five before Xmas. The van’s tough enough to take the dirt roads, forest service roads… bit of a low rider being a step van, but I can see some compressed air lift kit on the horizon. We have a full roof rack on top for the kayaks/canoe, etc.

    Anyhow, thanks again for your advice. I came full circle and found your suggestion quite well researched, experienced and appropriate.

    On the road again… in the summer!

    Thx Tim.

  19. Thanks a bunch for this post! I was searching for information on this genset and kit, and your post is very helpful. I can’t wait to order mine and start enjoying it.

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