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Generator Vs Solar Power


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Loads of questions I am afraid.


We have a new Van (less than a year old) with Schaudt electrics, - We have used the van for the summer and find after 3 days the leisure battery is pretty much flat, we have never had it go completely flat but the warning flashes on the control panel. There is no fault here, we have a 100AH leisure Battery and the drain is expected, TV, lights etc - We have discovered that probably 80% of our vans use is on CCC rally meets which almost never have hook-ups so want to do something to extend our "off hook" facilities.


I am at the point of deciding.


- Solar Power, - This would mean panels on the roof, wiring, probably a new Schaudt electroblock - reading that 13.4v is much better than 13.8 and it will resolve the issue of the engine battery going flat after maybe 4 weeks of standing idle that we also have. Being realistic - probably £600 of work maybe more, but always on (in daylight at least) professional fitting.




a Honda eu10I LPG generator - We have 2 Propane cylinders anyway. - My concern is partly noise, how quiet are they really? My experience so far is that they are all noisy and annoy the heck out of everyone, I am guessing it is are lighter than the solar install? - Presumably you can plug the generator straight into the vans hook up socket?


If the generator doesn't do it - it can be sold, once solar power is fixed, it's there for the duration.


My wife has a disabled scooter - with the generator we should be able to charge those batteries off the generator via the mains plugs which we cannot do easily from Solar, at least not without an Inverter which doesn't seem an ideal solution, and they consume a lot of power.


Roughly how long would you need to run the generator for to charge the vans batteries? - Would the generator take this in it's stride?.


What are the views on this, I have been reading AACaravans details which seem honest and informative - Has anyone tried the generator route?

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Solar power is certainly the avenue of first resort - and get a proper Schaudt solar regulator, properly hooked up to your Electroblok and configured onto your Schaudt Control Panel, not some cheaper alternative.


Go to a proper specialist like Solar Solutions.


Unlikely to be worth changing your Electroblok simply to get a 13.5 volt float voltage.  Don't waste money!


I don't try to charge a mobility scooter but our Honda generator has stayed at home ever since we installed solar panels.


Unless you have a special purpose need for independent 240v, a generator is just not worth bothering with.  And they are heavy too, don't forget that.  Even Honda generators are noisy enough to be an irritant to other campers.


A 1kw generator isn't big enough to drive a microwave oven, because of the reactive startup load.


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Generators are like barking dogs...Their owners never seem to hear 'em.


How long do you envisage your average "offf-ehu" stint to be?..

With our previous, all-standard van, we could comfortably manage up to a week off ehu (having said that, we didn't sit in, watching the tele, nor cooked with a microwave...)..


If your experience of generators is that they are, quote " noisy and annoy the heck out of everyone..", then why would you still be considering them?


Now if these "meets" have specific policies in place (that allows their use during certain times) then fair enough.. but if they don't and you "need" a power source (to charge the scooter?), then I would've thought that rather than risking pishing other people off, you'd be better looking at altering where you stay for somewhere where power is available..


Some on here will tell you that the Hondas are "silent"..they aren't.

They are just quieter than the average cheapie interweb/Aldi rattle boxes.


This is with no load

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I forgot to add that my Honda 2kw generator wasn't particularly good at charging the leisure battery either.  Hooking up using 240v means you are charging via your Electroblok and you will already know that's not quick.  You are talking many hours to get anywhere close to a full charge probably all day.


It should be a bit quicker if you use the generator's 12v output connected directly to the leisure battery but you are still talking several hours minimum.


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Your priority is to be able to reliably charge your wife's scooter and you are not going to achieve this by solar. A small generator will be able to do this very easily, however use it sensibily so as not to annoy your neighbors. Anybody with a bit common sense, although a few about, would understand why
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You don't need to replace the EBL, the Solar charging is taken care of outside the EBL box via an independent Solar regulator, like the LRM 1218 or Votronic models.


I would guess that if you are getting to the point the Elektroblock is giving out warnings you are probably taking around 75% out of the battery. If 75% gives you 3 days 'running time' then that equates, very roughly, to about 25Ah a day.


Charging a 40Ah Scooter battery could be done using an Inverter and mains charger from the 12v habitation batteries, but as you say it wouldn't be the most efficient.

You would most likely end up taking from the Habitation batteries roughly double the Ah of whatever you put into the Scooter battery.

So for example if the Scooter battery is 40Ah and half discharged, it will need about 24Ah to charge it up. Add in the losses of the charger and Inverter and around 40ah is probably what you will end up taking out of the Habitation batteries?

Charging time for the Scooter battery should be similar to whatever it normally is when charging directly from Mains?.


So I am guessing you need around 65Ah a day from Solar, but that is obviously a wild guess.


A single 100watt Solar panel should be able to provide this much power between May and August, but outside these months the Solar Harvest drops off quite quickly.


For example the Hymer Motorhome (Schaudt EBL 99) we worked on today was delivering 4.9 amps just before 12:00 on a bright Sunny day from 2 x 100watt panels. It wasn't the most efficient setup, a Steca regulator with less than ideal location, but it wasn't bad.


He was on target to harvest about 40Ah today from the 200watts of Solar.

But by the end of the month that is likely to be down to about 20Ah a day.


By mid December a 100 watt panel in Glasgow can give as little as 4Ah on a sunny day, less if it is heavily overcast.

However, mid December in Spain can deliver up to 12Ah, well up on 4Ah of Scotland

So calculate your power needs, the time of year you wish to holiday and where. .




A Schaudt equipped Motorhome with an auxilary charger can deliver up to 35 amps to the batteries, so able to put back the bulk of 65Ah in about 4 hours. Provided they are not Gel batteries, like Stuart favours, which can take twice as long to charge, even longer still as they age.

In your case the generator would be charging the 40Ah Scooter battery and driving the Charger putting back the overnight 25Ah taken from the habitation batteries in parallel, so probably half that time?.


You can choose your charging time with the Generator to be when people are not around on the site. Or in the middle of the night if they complain. :)


We are aware of a Honda EU10i that runs an 800w microwave. The microwave has adjustable power so you start it on low power and slowly wind it up, so overcoming the 'start up' power 'surge'. An Eu10i has a continuous rating of 900watts, but can handle peaks up to 1,000watts for a short time. Just choose your Microwave carefully to have a 'soft start' and adjustable level during cooking. The very basic 'dial' ones are probably ideal?


One thing to bear in mind on the videos is that the EU10i has an Eco setting, which drops the revs dependent on the load. It isn't usually activated in the videos as it can cause the unit to stall unless it is fully warmed up.

It makes quite a difference to sound levels when just handling the light 150 watts of a mains charger, as does a Rain Hood. Just angling the exhaust under the vehicle or into a Hedge also makes a big difference.


In one of the Videos we have seen, the exhaust was angled at a PortaCabin which would most likely 'bounce' the sound back some distance towards the microphone.


A Honda Eu10i is little heavier than a single big battery.


Those who are anti-Generator will find the most extreme examples to highlight their case, when the reality of careful placement, a Rain Hood (also disguises the unit for security purposes) plus considerate use means most around you won't even notice you have a Honda Eu10i.




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Have you considered simply adding a second leisure battery and ensuring both are fully charged at home prior to departure? Probably the most cost effective solution for extra battery power?


I have had discussions with generator users and as has been said if they are located and used with care they need not be too intrusive.


We met a couple at a show a few years ago who used their generator only for scooter battery charging and only during the day time and they had a laminated sign by the generator explaining what they were doing and for how long which seemed to placate most people who saw it.



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Only recently got a new MH with a solar panel so can't really comment on them yet.


However, I've used a Honda 20i generator when off-piste and found it does everything that MHU can do. As others say, a Rain Tent and angling the exhaust keeps any noise down.



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Addressing what on the face of it seems a high power usage might be a worthwhile avenue. One course if not already done is to replace any bulbs in lights that are in extended use with LED bulbs. That would give something of the order of an eight times, power reduction on that aspect.


Like others, our Honda, an older 650 has not seen camping action since 2007 when I went solar.

I am a lot more frugal on power use having 100% LEDS, a gas fridge and a low power 18" TV.

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I have both. 2x100w panels and a Mitsubishi 1kw generator. Solar keeps the two leisure and one cab batteries topped up when left on the drive. When not on EHU the leisure batteries get too low after about 4 days of general use. Used to be 2 days before solar was fitted.


So clearly you can't rely on solar for much else than keeping the van from 'going flat' when stored or getting a bit more life out of your leisure batteries.


The generator is only used when not on site and when it's not going to annoy others e.g. An ASDA car park :)


But in the winter (not much sun for the solar) it's quite useful as an alternative to running the van engine.


Personally I'd always have both.

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Tracker - 2016-10-05 7:17 PM....We met a couple at a show a few years ago who used their generator only for scooter battery charging and only during the day time and they had a laminated sign by the generator explaining what they were doing and for how long which seemed to placate most people who saw it.


The notice sounds like a good idea and using a generator to charge a scooter battery is certainly not unreasonable.  But isn't daytime when you want to using a scooter and overnight the ideal time to charge the battery?  If you need a mobility scooter because of mobility problems wouldn't you be ill-suited to wild camping and better off on a campsite with an EHU anyway?


I have been toying with the idea of getting a mobility scooter myself.  Not because I have serious mobility problems but they are very popular where I life for popping down to the pub.  No licence or insurance needed, not so fast you would hurt yourself badly falling off.  A marvellous invention!


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I have used the scooter - but to get home from the pub, it was very dark thank heavens - although that's a story for another time *-)


Thanks for the input - a fair bit to think about, I think my next step is to visit a Honda dealer, I would like to see one of these little generators in action for myself before I reach deeply into any pockets. The versatility and the 5 year guarantee appeal, it isn't anchored to the van, and if it really doesn't do it for us for whatever reason we could sell it on and then go down the solar route which could also work. - When and if we trade the van, the Solar would go with it and we might finish up having to have it done again, I don't think anyone sees a return on their investment in Solar at sale time, it becomes a "feature".


The generators I have seen to date are either the Aldi specials, or possibly older versions which do the job, there is something of a second hand generator market in our area but I suspect some are probably "knock off" or ex industrial - wouldn't touch with a pole, the things are LOUD and smelly and fall apart after a while, or huge great generators that could power several houses, under load the noise is fearful - a real "snarl" .


The other half is fairly disabled, the scooter will go over light to moderate ground so we manage, it's easier on some sites than others though, going up and down hills dramatically shortens the scooter battery life. We do use our van all year round although probably if it came to thick snow or really heavy frost we would most likely give it a miss.


The van is fitted with all LED, the consumers I think are the telly plus signal amp, the water pump, and the heating fan, other drains are fairly negligible. I think because of the O/H,s condition we probably need to use more power than some and I don't see much option to reduce that.



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Hi Tall Mike I have bought a Hyundai 2000sei this year off eBay from a firm in Wales who sell there demo models off a bit cheaper. Mine has remote start as well as pull cord, they also sell the Hyundai 1000 which is smaller and lighter in weight. The Hyundai give similar noise decibels as the Honda but are cheaper to buy.

I have solar, extra battery, and 1000 watt inverter, but this year I have been put on a CPAP machine at night because of sleep apnoea so the generator is for back up and can be used at home if needed.



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Hi, we use our van mainly off grid and have 5 solar panels which give 300watts on paper. On our last van I fitted a Telair 2500 LPG generator, having transferred it from the previous (2005) as we are away a lot but at the end of seven years we had only run it for less than 300hrs. So on the next van 2012 I decided not to fit it. I have fitted a 2000 watt inverter that runs off the engine battery, and a battery mate to trickle charge the engine battery from the leisure ones when the van is not in use. This has worked fine in the uk between May and September the solar gives use all we need and the TVs gets quite a bit of use. I can run the microwave for around fifteen minutes without pulling the starter battery down to where it won't start the engine. If I needed mains power for any longer I just run the engine. Lees intrusive the a genny, nothing to lift out or set up. I use a mttp blue star regulator which gives a slightly better charge rate. Using this set up you may be able to top the scooter battery via solar, and the vans engine if the weather not so good. To use an inverter to charge another battery is not a very efficient use of power, it takes around 28 amps 12 volt d.c. To provide 1amp 220 ac. Depending what voltage and type off batteries in the scooter there are chargers that will charge a scooter direct from the vans batteries. My dads scooter were 12volts max charge rate 10 amp, most are of the sealed type and care has to be taken not to charge them at too higher rate.sorry a long story but hope it helps.
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I think I would be buying as much solar as I could eg 2x200W panels such as to get a half-decent charge even in winter.


I'd also have one of these (check suitability) https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mobility-Scooter-Battery-Electric-Wheelchair/dp/B00EZ53JH2/ref=sr_1_3_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1476099098&sr=8-3&keywords=mobility+scooter+car+charger


Charging a mobility scooter via an inverter using its mains charger is massively inefficient - the above will be far more efficient.


The other option would be a dual output solar regulator that can be switched. You could then choose to pump all the power from the panel into the scooter. Regulator would need to be chosen based on battery technology/voltage on the scooter. If scooter above 12V, Wire panels in series, and use a 12V MPPT regulator for van, and a 24V/etc regulator for scooter, and switch the solar input between the regulators. If you are not a DIY man speak to a dealer.


I'd also have as many leisure batteries as I could fit, and make sure I was hooked up at home before any trip to ensure 100% capacity.



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  • 1 month later...

After a lot of research - My dealer must think I am the customer from hell asking all manner of complex questions. Hopefully this might help other forum members making the same choices.


Honda LPG Eu10 generators are expensive, the most expensive being £1060, the cheapest I found £860, I have also found out that Honda will not warranty these, - they are all conversions, done with a recognised kit against a Petrol model. There is no doubt that these work well - in fact really well.

They first came out in 1999 but have been upgraded a few times.- make sure you get the current model.


What happens is that the supplier will often put a warranty on these equalling Honda's however for repairs the thing might need to go back to wherever in the UK - with a "full" Honda domestic warranty the generator can go back to any Honda dealer worldwide for repair which is handy.


The second thing is that these are small 50cc engines are running without a liner, - possibly fragile and there is a question about the longevity of the exhaust valves because of lack of lubrication with LPG

Clearly these are meant for the domestic market only. - Saying that there is no recognised issue and I suspect if you used the thing sparingly for a few hours here and there - life would be good for a very long time.


We have gone for a 140 Watt panel with the votronic box - it seems Schaudt units are tricky to get hold of at this time (and more expensive) votronic are acknowledged as an acceptable and recommended alternative - this fits nicely with our EBL 208 which isn't one of the boxes that must have a Schaudt and no other.


I am currently exploring the warranty on the solar panels, - I want as long as possible with the maximum power generation before they deteriorate - also want some kind of display so I can see how well (Or not) the thing is performing.


I realise that now in the depths of winter, it's going to make little difference, just about ticking over but in full summer we should be able to run almost indefinitely. We can charge scooter batteries. - a fair bit of our winter camping is done in areas with a hall, - it wouldn't be unreasonable to plug the batteries indoors for a while.


When I feel richer again, I might consider a generator for winter use, but it would probably be a Petrol model. - Even the petrol models when in ECO mode are not that loud, and we have the justification in that it's for keeping a disabled person mobile.


Let you know how we get on.

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That's interesting. I never realised that the LPG conversions invalidated the Honda warranty. I have the i20 version which I bought from new and always assumed that the warranty was from Honda. But, it's now 10 years old anyway, so academic now.


One point I'd mention is that the noise level isn't noticeably different in petrol or LPG mode. Or is that just me?



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Solar panels and Generators are as different as chalk and Cheese, I would recommend Solar Panels if it is just for keeping Batteries charged, it will not cost you £600 either, my Solar panel and regulator cost me £250 installed , you just get a panel fitted on the roof of your van [ or can have a free standing one to put out side your van in the sun but risk breaking this in transit and of course need to store it ]  a fitted regulator to control the power input to your batteries and connection to your batteries via a fuse, you do not need any other  connections and do not need to go through your vans other electrics ,unless you want to, if you live in or near the South of England I recommend you contact Solar Solutions at Poole.
   Generators are heavy , noisy ,smelly and anti social, you need to carry a can of smelly petrol or get a generator converted to run off gas , not cheap  , depending on what you want to power from the Gennie is what  governs the size [ output ] and weight of the Gennie, I actually have an Honda 10i  Gennie but have only run it for about 5 hours in the 15 years I have owned it, it only puts out 4-5 amps  1000 watts  and is only really fit for a few lights  , battery charging and not much else. Choices really.
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I would also add that like you we use CCC rallies when in Britain ,as you do, most of our camping is Wild camping off grid Spain Portugal etc etc and are away for months at a  time and never have battery problems I have 2 X 125 Amp hr, batteries [leisure ] on my van and of course an engine battery, I also have a 600 watt inverter bought from MAPLINS and I hard wired it to my Leisure batteries , this inverter would easily power your scooter or wheel chair, we charge electric bikes with it.
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Expanding on Tracker's post regarding an additional Leisure Battery.

This augmented by a spare battery for the scooter would solve your problem in a simple & least expensive option.

Also eliminating fixing Solar panel on roof & upsetting other campers with Generator noise.

Sometimes the best answer is the simplest ???

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colin - 2016-12-06 7:08 PM


Whenever I read threads about charging 'pensioners hot rods', I always think about the chap I see at GDSF, he has a small generator strapped to the back of his mobility scooter. Got to be the ultimate hybrid. :D


Technically a 'REEV' (and not a Hybrid) as the engine cannot directly drive the wheels, but still amusing :D






Edit. Corrected technicality.

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Based on my personal experience and no technical reasoning, your usage seems high for summer use, I had 105ah battery which lasted me 3 days in winter off grid, that includes the fan for the heater and lighting for several hours a day which you do not have in the summer, so I could go easily a week in the summer, Solar will not charge at the rate i use it in the winter so I fitted an extra battery £100 (2 x 105ah), now I get 6 days in the winter, more if i have a few hours driving each day.


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