Why did you buy a generator

The small, quiet power generator | Power generator around 1000 watts in a practical test

A small power generator as an emergency solution or primary energy source - the motivation to buy a generator is manifold. Some want it as a backup to the solar system in case the sun stays out while camping, others to operate their power-hungry air conditioning in the motorhome in summer. Still others need their emergency power generator in the event of a widespread power failure, as could occur during a massive zombie attack.

We are dealing here with small power generators. Small in the sense of approx. 1KW power. That is enough to maintain your emergency power supply, to recharge a battery in the motorhome, to operate a hedge trimmer in the allotment garden, to have light in the bunker in the event of an air raid alarm. And it's just like this: if your generator should be quiet, it should also be small.

Power generator - FAQ

To go into too much technical detail, I don't have the technical expertise - so I'll let it go. To be honest, I don't really care how exactly our generator turns gasoline into electricity, somehow this seems to be physically justified and possible. So let's deal with the questions that (should) directly influence your purchase decision:

How does an inverter power generator work?

An internal combustion engine is powered, usually by gasoline, which generates electricity. The built-in inverter turns it into a pure sine wave, so that sensitive, electronically controlled devices can also be operated directly with it. Or a battery is charged, which requires a charger in between. This converts 230V into 12V or 24V. There is also a 12V output on all generator sets (presented below), which can also be used to charge a battery directly. But here it is charged with a ridiculously low charge current of 4-8 amps, which doesn't make much sense. The charging characteristic is also only taken into account to a limited extent.

A big problem with cheap, small power generators has always been - at least in the past - that the sine wave generated is not a real sine, contrary to the claims of the manufacturer and the product description. If I connect a device to it that absolutely requires a pure sine wave, it can turn out stupid - for the power generator or the device. One of them is broken, and afterwards nobody knows how that could have happened.

What can generators be powered with?

Usually a generator runs on gasoline. There are also diesel generators or gas generators. However, I will not go into these here. The purchase price alone makes diesel or gas-powered generators quite uninteresting - at least as pure emergency power generators that are only needed occasionally.

How loud or quiet are encapsulated power generators?

Are you looking for a power generator that works quietly, then it should be an enclosed generator set. Because these are soundproofed, so that you and your neighbors get less of the noise that such an internal combustion engine makes. However, the differences are also enormous with the encapsulated power generators. It makes a lot of difference whether a Moppel runs at 50 or 100 decibels - for hours. Unfortunately, it has been shown that the decibel information in product descriptions somehow does not quite correspond to reality. It is also often not stated whether the specified noise development occurred at full load, ¼ load or when idling.

What can I charge / operate with a small generator set?

So that electronically controlled equipment is not damaged and the battery charger can also cope with the fed-in charging current, it is especially important with a mini power generator that it works constantly. Fluctuations are rather clumsy. Tools, electronics, cooling devices, etc. can be connected. A Schuko socket is attached to the generator for this purpose.

Usually there is also a 12V output, which provides approx. 14V charging voltage for batteries. But mostly the charging current is limited to about 6 amps, which is not exactly generous. It is therefore better, for example, to charge a mobile home battery using the charger / electroblock that is usually already available. Here charging currents of up to 50 amperes are possible, even with a small power generator with a nominal output of 1 kW. After an hour of charging, your battery will be 50Ah fuller, so your emergency power situation should be defused again.

Do I really need a generator in the RV + when camping?

Well, that depends. I saw large British motorhomes that stood on the free parking space by the lake and ran their (not so small) generator during the day - to run their air conditioning. I assume that this is not your intention. And if it does: be ashamed. Because this is a prime example of reckless behavior.

Usually, the emergency generator is about having power in an emergency. If the weather is persistently bad, no solar system can provide sufficient charging current. If you are standing around with the motorhome without a shore power connection at the same time, the charging booster is hardly used.

Unpack the generator here, set it up a little away from the motorhome (and further away from the neighboring motorhome, please), let it run for two hours, and the power supply is secured for at least two days. (50A x 2h = 100Ah, plus a bit of solar ...) At least that's how I imagine the sensible use of a nice, small, portable, soundproof power generator. It remains to be seen whether this situation occurs twice a month or three times a year.

We use the generator on the fifth rainy day at the earliest. I once learned to appreciate it in particular, namely when my starter battery in the Ducato was finally flat after eight years - just connect the generator and charger to the starter battery, and my Ducatolein started after 30 seconds. Another time we helped out the neighbor, he was standing there with empty batteries.

Do we need a generator in our motorhome? No, mostly not. But having it with you has proven extremely useful. In other words, not having a generator with you in an emergency can be annoying.

How mini are the smallest power generators?

There are also smaller power generators with less than 1000 watts of power, the smallest generator I could find had a continuous output of 650 watts. However, it was a 2-stroke, not a 4-stroke engine. With higher fuel consumption, high decibels, then strong voltage fluctuations are reported ... In short: if your new power generator is to be quiet and small, a sensible product selection starts from 1000 watts and a 4-stroke engine.

Are there really very, very quiet power generators?

You will hardly find whisper-quiet power generators - even if I stumbled upon corresponding product descriptions during my research. The minimum is 50 decibels (at a distance of 7m), but that's "relatively" quiet. If you do not place the generator under the bedroom window (of your neighbor), but a few meters away, then it should hardly be perceived as disturbing. Unless the wind turns.

Even the smallest power generators work with an internal combustion engine, and this just makes noise. A generator set can be quiet, but only to a certain extent. A decent soundproofing makes a lot of difference, buying an uninsulated (i.e. not encapsulated) generator, I would generally advise against that.

Your emergency generator will be even quieter if you install it accordingly. For example, in the insulated garage of the mobile home, with the appropriate exhaust hose to the outside. With frequent use, this makes friends instead of foes, especially when camping.

Mobile or permanently installed generator

Some motorhomes have a built-in generator or an underfloor generator. This investment makes sense, perhaps in a diesel or gas powered generator if it is used frequently / regularly. Then a higher rated power of 2 kW or more makes sense - of course, always depending on the power your battery can absorb. For casual use, I would prefer a portable power generator. Simply because you can also lend it to your neighbor. Depending on the current wind direction, it can be cleverly placed so that it disturbs you and your neighbors as little as possible.

Which manufacturers have small, mobile, quiet power generators?

Honda, Zipper, Güde, Einhell, Voltherr, Denqbar, Kipor - if you are looking for a compact power generator, you will find a wide selection, including the small models with around 1,000 watts of power. You can find some compact power generators such as those from Einhell in the hardware store, sometimes at a low asking price. There is a larger selection on Amazon, all common brands are represented here, including the China import copies.

Four small generator sets around 1000W in comparison

Here I look for a direct comparison small power generator with approx. 1KW Nominal power selected. There are a few more, but a possible power generator should work quietly, and for example the very cheap generator from Güde should be quite loud - up to 100 decibels. That's why I chose a different manufacturer for this price segment. So in the following I only pose encapsulated power generator in front.

Price on Amazon (as of 03/2017)approx. € 350approx. € 440approx. € 460approx. 900 €
volume64 dB (A) at 7m (at full load)53 dB (A) / 7m54 dB (a) at 7 meters @ 1/4 load57 dB (A) / 7m
rated capacity1300 watts1200 watts1000 watts1000 watts
Continuous output850 watts1000 watts900 watts900 watts
engine4-stroke, max. 5,500 rpm4-stroke4-stroke with 49cm³ displacement, max. 4900 rpm4-stroke with 49.4cm³ displacement, 6000 rpm
Weight14 kg13.5 kg14 kg13 kg
Tank volume2.5 liters2.7 liters2.6 liters2.1 liters
Consumption (petrol)approx. 420 (g / KWh)n / aapprox. 450 (g / KWh)n / a
Practical experience mobile homeAt least older zippers do not produce a pure sine wave. This problem could be solved, I found a corresponding YouTube video.no empirical valuesQuite loud, even without a load.Quiet, fuel-saving and reliable. Runs well even after a long period of standstill.
Notable featuresDigital display, integrated operating hours counter2 year guarantee8h running time in eco mode

Do you have personal experience of the generator sets presented here? Please write to me [email protected] and I can enrich this article with your experiences.

One more word about volume: The decibel numbers given above somehow do not correspond to reality! The Atima, for example, is relatively loud, significantly louder than the Honda. Here is a short impression, in this video from Andre he even runs without load, and also quite out of round: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtnR3I5C4QY

We are using the Honda 10i - and we are not alone with the conviction that this generator is the best, other motorhome owners confirm this statement. The Honda 10i is probably the quietest generator around 1kW, at least this is confirmed in practice. In addition, it is simply reliable - not a negligible feature of an EMERGENCY generator!

Generators should work quietly, especially in mobile homes

Which small, quiet generator set for the motorhome has proven itself?

The noise generated by generators is always an issue on the motorhome park. If an electricity generator were to work quietly, quietly and secretly, nothing would be a problem. The Honda 10i has proven to be a relatively quiet generator. Even if the individual data sheets of the cheaper alternatives listed above estimate similar decibel values ​​- in practice it looks different.

The second, even more important point that speaks for the Honda as a power generator is its reliability. It must be clearly stated here: Quality has its price. Reliable starting, even after a long downtime, proves to be priceless, especially when there is no electricity. Because, when do I need an emergency generator in my motorhome? If my battery is not charged via solar due to bad weather. So there I stand in the pouring rain in front of the mobile home, preferably at night, desperately trying to get the generator running, which just doesn't want to start ... no thanks.

The third point to be mentioned is that the Honda in particular can also cope with sensitive battery chargers (such as the one from Fraron). This is not the case with every generator.

With the Honda 10i, charging currents of 50A are possible at full load. It uses comparatively little fuel. This aspect is of course particularly interesting if it is used more than just a few times a year. Especially then, this Honda is my clear buy recommendation anyway.

Gasoline or diesel?

Normally, electricity generators are fueled with gasoline. There are also diesel generators, but I couldn't find a really small generator here. Diesel-powered generators are primarily used for continuous operation and when there is a higher demand for electricity.

Diesel gensets are quieter, have a higher degree of efficiency and the fuel is also cheaper. But the high purchase price does not make a diesel generator more economical due to its high purchase price - especially if you want to buy it as a small emergency power generator. Diesel generators are primarily used in the industrial sector - or where electricity is primarily obtained from the generator.

Firmly install the power generator in the motorhome

If you want to use your "Moppel" regularly, you should think about a permanent installation. Not only to avoid having to start the generator by hand every time it is windy or rainy. But also because of the noise level. Permanently installed generators can - if installed correctly - be almost silent.

It would be practical if the power generator could get its fuel directly from the vehicle's tank. Therefore, a diesel generator could be considered for the built-in power generator in the mobile home, which is installed in the garage, for example. A clever placement so that vibrations from the generator do not feel like a permanent earthquake would be recommended here. In addition, an exhaust gas duct to the outside. Then there may be the question of the fresh air supply ... But I have no further experience. An underfloor-mounted power generator could therefore also be a good solution. Especially when it can be conveniently controlled via a control element in the living area, it automatically draws its fuel from the diesel tank.

An interesting video that shows what it is like to have your generator in operation outside or inside, how it affects the volume when you operate its actually loud power generator quietly in the vehicle can: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmqZuBK6MMc

Problems that too cheap power generators can have

I am always a friend when it comes to saving money. But when electricity is involved and things can smoke, I'm quite sensitive. A smoking inverter in the motorhome was enough for me ...

The (almost) pure sine wave in a cheap generator

Electronically controlled chargers prefer a pure sine wave. However, some cheap parts can sometimes not produce a clean, pure sine wave, even if they claim to be.

Real sine waves are generated from a magnetic field. A beautiful sine curve, beautifully harmonious and even. Cheap devices work differently, they model their sine “curve”, sometimes more, sometimes less well. The worse the implementation, the more choppy this curve becomes - and what is propagated as a pure sine is no longer any.

In other words: To operate tools like a Flex on it, I wouldn't worry too much with a cheap generator. Sensitive electronically controlled devices like my beloved coffee machine, I wouldn't dare to do it here.

Many electronically controlled battery chargers also have a problem with unclean sine waves - and that can ultimately destroy the electronics of the power generator. The Schaudt electroblock, which is often installed in mobile homes, should be somewhat more tolerant in this regard.

It's like this: a good 1,000 watt brand inverter (aka voltage converter / inverter / current converter) costs around € 400. It is to be expected that a good generator set for 400 € will also have a good sine wave voltage converter built in… Well.

The problem with the load change + reliability

What emerges, especially if you believe the experiences of cheap generator owners on Amazon and among motorhome drivers, is that the cheap generators often have a problem with changing loads. It is good that they regulate their speed independently, but not so well when they run unevenly and sometimes like to go out.

In the case of longer periods of standstill over a few months (if you have solar normally do not need a generator in summer), there can also be problems getting the generator up and running again.

I buy an emergency generator to have electricity in an emergency. But when the need is greatest, when it's raining cats outside, I can't get the cheap part to work. Certainly, the profitability calculation may turn out less positive with a generator that is rarely used, but it would be nice if I could also get emergency power in an emergency ...

(Now just imagine you're standing in the forest, a horde of zombies are slowly surrounding your lonely wooden hut. And you just can't get this stupid generator to run so that it can electrify your electric fence. This can turn out really stupid 😉

The problem with reviews on Amazon

Small generator sets are a fine example of how caution should be exercised when viewing product reviews on Amazon. Because two things come together: firstly the field of application, secondly the human error factor. Anyone who buys a mobile emergency power generator to operate a flex or hedge trimmer should hardly have any problems with a cheap mini generator. Charging a battery using an interposed charger (which converts the voltage from 230V to 12V), this could be more problematic - with one it works, with the other it doesn't.

If you want to charge your electric toothbrush directly via the generator, you will probably have to buy a new one tomorrow. Because these parts are really very, very sensitive if they don't get a clean sine wave. Whether an Amazon customer is happy with his power generator is often mainly due to whether he has bought the right device for the right purpose. My 1500 watt coffee machine doesn't run on a 950 watt generator. And if a small emergency power generator runs at full load for days, it makes sense to check the heat development every now and then.

Emergency generators and the warranty problem

If you buy an electricity generator as an emergency generator, you might need it 3-10 times a year. Last year we only had ours in operation twice: once during a bad weather phase, a second time because my starter battery was over. So if you only have your generator running 4 times a year and it goes up in smoke the tenth time it is started up ... then any chance of warranty is long gone.

Useful power generator accessories

  • Motor oil 10 W-30 and gasoline, normal or E10.
  • Transfer hand pump for quick, easy, spill-free filling of the tank
  • Extension cable with at least 10 meters. Be careful when using a cable reel: always unwind it completely!
  • Replacement canister, approved for fuels. 10 liters, that's enough for about 4x refills.

Conclusion: if you buy cheap, you buy (maybe) twice

The relatively cheap zipper has a problem: own experiences with this power generator coincide with the Amazon reviews. That's a shame, especially since this is an Austrian manufacturer, and also because unboxing YouTube videos actually promise a very useful product.But if a product has not proven itself, unfortunately this is often only recognized later.

Denqbar and Atima come off better here, even if some experiences are partly contradicting. This may also be due to the lack of experience with comparable devices. If you want to buy a small, relatively cheap power generator, you could still find it here. However, I personally find it very important to buy a generator that is as quiet as possible, especially for camping.

However, if you want to be sure that you are buying a high-quality product that has also proven itself in practice, then the Honda 10i remains. It has definitely proven itself in practical tests: for example, it is quieter than the Atima generator, and significantly more so. It delivers constant power, generates a pure sine wave, consumes little fuel ... and thanks to a charging current of up to 50 amps, this small power generator is definitely sufficient to properly recharge a battery in a mobile home or when camping in a relatively short time.