Nature

Dear RVers: Keep Your Construction Generators at Home

Now I have to admit that I’ve been one of the main encouragers as far as this boondocking movement goes – I have been telling folks to get out of the commercial campgrounds, cut the plug-in electrical umbilical cord, and go out where the real natural world is. I should have been more specific – make sure you have the right equipment to do this before you do it.

Dawn at Assateague. Fiona and I had the sunrise all to ourselves.
Dawn at Assateague. Fiona and I had the sunrise all to ourselves.

I am at Assateague National Seashore, which is technically not boondocking but is still very close to nature. In fact, the Atlantic Ocean is right over that sand dune, and wild horses stroll through the campground several days a week. There are assigned campsites, to keep people from camping all over and tearing up the vegetation, but they’re pretty spartan. You get an asphalt pad to park on, a picnic table, and a fire ring. There’s water and a dump, and the price has gone up to $10 a night since I was last here four years ago, but it’s still a pretty good deal.  The problem with being in a campground, though, is neighbors.

Many of the people here are usually in a campground with hookups somewhere. These are trailers or fifth wheel models, with nary a decent battery bank nor an inverter to their name. If you don’t plug them in, nothing works. NOBODY has solar panels. These units were designed to get their electricity out of a campground pedestal.

gen1No problem, they say. I can still go to Assateague, all I need is a generator. So they go online, or to Walmart, looking for a cheap generator. What they find are Chinese-built models like Champion. Their main selling point is that they are cheap, and face it, these campers aren’t going to use their generator much, so a $2,000 generator doesn’t make much sense for them. They buy a Champion. For $250-$350, they can run the stove, microwave, even the AC. It’s 10 cents per watt of generating capacity, and maybe a dollar or two an hour for electricity over the short life of the generator, depreciation and fuel included. These generators last maybe two hundred hours before they finally rattle apart, and when they break you just buy another one.

This one drove us nuts - it's 40 feet from our open back doors, through those bushes to the left. At least 100 decibels of bad engineering noise.
This one drove us nuts – it’s 40 feet from our open back doors, through those bushes to the left. At least 100 decibels of bad engineering noise.

I call these construction generators because you see them on construction sites to run the power tools. They usually have two wheels and a rectangular pipe frame around the motor so it can be thrown in a truck along with lumber, concrete blocks, and so forth without being damaged. They are usually yellow and black. I hate them.  The reason I hate them is that they are loud and obnoxious-sounding. These are air-cooled, four-stroke motors with no provisions whatsoever for sound deadening, harmonic balancing, or any of the niceties of engine design. They may not last very long because of the cheap parts and assembly techniques, but if you have to listen to them you’d swear they’re immortal. Hour after hour, they rattle on, ruining an otherwise pristine setting with their racket.  And the people can’t turn them off, because if they do everything in their trailer stops working.

These little red ones are the good guys- Hondas. You can't even hear them running 50 feet away.
These little red ones are the good guys- Hondas. You can’t even hear them running 50 feet away.

So please, folks, come on out to the unspoiled beauty that is America’s wilderness. But leave your construction generator at home.  Please. I have one on the campsite just to the south of me, and one each on the two campsites north of me.  I may have to go to the Walmart in town just to get some sleep.

13 thoughts on “Dear RVers: Keep Your Construction Generators at Home”

  1. Assateague is one of our two favorite campgrounds (the other is Ocracoke). I can certainly relate to the noisy generators and lack of consideration from some of the fellow campers. My experience has been that the campground host(s) are pretty good about enforcing quiet hours. If you canvass the rigs to note license plates (i.e., which state the person is from), I think you will notice a trend. Even though our 2014 CS has an on-board generator, I am often tempted to buy a nice Honda simply for the noise reduction.

  2. Poor baby. Get over yourself I use a Honda EU1000 most of the time but there are times I need more power and then I get out my champion 4000 watt that I have on the back of my camper yes it is loud but I can not justify spending $2000 on a Honda 3000 watt for 10 or 20 hours of use a year. And by the way most campgrounds that you pay to use have quite time overnight.

    1. A Honda or Yamaha 2000W true portable can be had for about $1000 and is almost as quiet as a 1000W and is sufficient for everything but AC (though mine does drive my 9500 BTU AC in my Truck Camper (most are bigger and require a 2400W or larger). Costco also has a new Chinese 2000W Honda/Yamaha clone that uses a Yamaha engine (not a crap Champion) for under $600. Please consider these units. I agree with the author. Don’t be an inconsiderate neighbor.

    2. thank you, Robert. you have made my point for me. there are some people you don’t want to camp next to, folks.

    3. For 10 or 20 hours of use a year one can’t help but wonder why you can’t just go without. I’m sure a hotel would be much more comfortable for you.

  3. Construction generator? Your description doesn’t sound much different than an Onan, other than the physical appearance. What I’d give for a Honda and its superb quietness except for the problems: carrying a gas can, finding a place to store it, worrying about it “walking away.”

  4. I agree. This is also one of out favorite campgrounds. We try to get a spot in one of the loops with electric to stay away from the generators.

  5. `It is not just the construction generators some of the big motorhomes must not have house batteries, since they run their generators all day. It was nice camping next to your new very quiet rig
    I do not like running the onan except to use the microwave or at supper time enough to throw a charge in the batteries if the sun did not do its job , we watch tv, stream movies, wife has a cpap machine, wifi hotspot and we have a compressor fridge.

    1. I agree. I hate to camp around people that run their generators for extended periods of time. Except, Honda generators… they are nice and quiet.

  6. To everyone butthurt over generators: Some people require a generator for medical purposes. Ask before you jump to conclusions. While recovering from a brain tumor, my wife required oxygen at night from an doctor-prescribed oxygen generator. That vital piece of medical equipment requires substantial energy and when camping, we have to run our generator at night. It barely registers 59db at 50 feet and allows her to enjoy nature while recovering. This infantile rejection of a generator is silly.

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