Portable Generators, Inverters and Power-packs


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I want to go to the desert this summer but my wife won't go unless I can keep the camper cool. I took the AC off my '85 years ago; it didn't cool well from day one. The only way I can think of to really keep the interior cool is get a portable AC and run it off a generator while I'm driving. The best place I can think of to mount the generator is on the front. Has anyone tried this? I'm not sure how to best go about putting a rack on the front end.
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Capt. Mike

I don't want to be pessimistic, but you've suggested getting into a deal where the cure is far worse than the disease. The most practical way to re-aircondition your Westy is to re-install the old system, perhaps using the opportunity to install some new components like latest rotary compressor & R134a sytem.

Occassionally you will see a small AC unit in the rear or side window. I've never seen a good installation -- they all looked like the Beverly Hillbilly's truck after the wreck.

Next, get to an electrical guy who can bring you up to speed on amps, watts & voltage. The smallest A/C's will require 1,000w running and 2,000w starting. All will call for a 15a circuit. That's a BIG generator -- in physical size and weight at over 100 lb.!

On my pic post (access from the home page) you can see a picture of my '79 with an extended REAR bumper for 2 5-gal. gas cans for extended travel in the NWT. One can was removeable so it would hold a 1,000w generator, which weighs 65 lb. But that's not enough to drive an A/C. It will also get your run out of most campgrounds!

Physically you have to consider weight AND weight distribution. Most of us have trouble staying below the maximum GVWR anyway. Your Westy was not designed to hang another 100+ lb. on the front bumper. Heck, the max towing tongue weight on the rear is only 100 lb. The strain on front suspension, steering and tires will be substantial.

This subject has been covered many time in posts in the archives. One posts suggests a modern version of the swamp cooler, pre-A/C water-cooler devise that fits on the window and incoming air crosses a water bath, cooling it and picking up moisture. Suprisingly effective and your next best choice.


  • VW 79 rear extended bumper.JPG
    VW 79 rear extended bumper.JPG
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New member
Hi All!

In 1999 I picked up a Honda generator/invertor (model EU1999i) that I'm more than pleased with. This baby weighs in at 28.7lbs, gives me 1000w and comes with the 'ECO' throttle system. The 'ECO' runs the generator at idle until a heavier load is applied. A very quiet unit, you can barely hear it running.
I plan to install a stand-alone deep cycle for accessories and will probably use the Honda to recharge as necessary.
From what I understand, the newer units are even better! Isn't that always the case???

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Thanks to Peter Kote for the informative info on inverters.

Two things to consider with a Westy. Remember, no matter how big the inverter, you are ultimatly limited by your battery capacity. These days we seem to "need" all manner of electrical stuff. Even with a good dual battery set up, the ability to run all this stuff is very limited. The short answer is, do you really need it?

I live part of the year on an island with no grid power. We have a basic solar system that provides most of our daily needs, but we use very few high draw items. Our fridge is propane, our lights are compact flourecents. We invert for the lights, to charge the computer batteries, and run the satelite internet system. We don't have a tv (don't need it!) Our total draw is under 100 watts. Having said that, with a big battery bank, we still need to run the generator if we don't get sun for a few days. I guess the point is, the lower the demand side, the easiser the supply side. If you think you can run your portable a/c, your tv, dvd and all you lights for the night you will be rudely awakened. Remember, as Capt. Mike says, do the math. The promo stuff that comes with many inverters says that you can run a 100 watt tv for 8 hours on a car battery. I don't think your battery would like that very often. Read the posts regarding care and feeding of batteries on this site. There is also considerable information on the web on solar sites that explain the physics and chemistry of batteries very well. There is information of equalization charging, boiling the electrolight etc that is way beyond the scope of most of us. The general consensis is that routinly drawing a battery down below 80% significantly shortens the life of a battery. I try to keep ours above 80% at all times, and I have had 5 year batteries that are now going on 9 years and still show little sign of wear. Given that batteries are the biggest long term expense of such a system, it pays to take care of them.

One other note on inverters. Most small modified sine wave inverters have what is called a floating neutral. If you wire them into a gounded neutral system (like any proper wiring) you will burn them up instantly! I know I learned the hard way by burning up two of then in rapid sucsession. The other thing about modified sine wave inverters is that they induce noice to other electronics. This can range from an annoying buzz to a howling scream on some radios. (Plug in voltage adapting (power bricks) can and do add similar interferance.

Good luck,


Capt. Mike

Back in 1991, I sold my reliable but noisy, old Honda 1000w with my '79 camper. I eventually replaced it with an ultra-quiet Yamaha 1000w. It worked great, quiet, easy to start . . . for about 100 hours. Then it decided to quit. It would start but any load made it hunt -- speed up & down -- and then finally kill the engine. I went through every possible check in the factory shop manual. It acted a little like an intake air leak so that was rebuild from cover to cylinder head. I could get it to run at a reduced speed and power maybe 500 watts, but as soon as I got close to design, it pitched a fit and quit.

I got mad and bought another Honda -- a 2000w ultra-quiet. My big generator is a Honda from 1984 and still going strong. The Honda 2000w weighs the same as the Yamaha 1000w; same decibels; twice the output.

I took a flyer and decided to try our BIG Yamaha dealer. They kept it a month and decided it needed new fuel (the fuel in it was a week old), fuel system cleaning (done within the last month) and a new spark plug (a few hours old). $85. But they did get it running and it seemed to start & run steady. :mad: However, now I had no AC output, so I left it.

Another month and it's still not "finished". They had to backorder parts (carb float) which is funny because that was all working when it was supposedly finished the first time. Asking about the AC, and the service mgr. 'didn't know.' I reminded him that it was working when I brought it in, they broke or disconnected it, and the engine was working fine first time.

This is going to be interesting. I had long ago decided with the new Honda, I was not going to put any serious money -- <$100 -- into it. The generator is very nice and expensive but nobody is going to pay for a used and not running. Running, the market would only be a couple hundred dollars because you can get new cheapo 1000 watters for $189. $100 to recoup $200 was the limit.

So will this end up in Yamaha's district office or court? Probably. I've thought Yamaha's overall reputation with bikes, etc., was excellent but suggest you stay well clear of their generators. All glitz and no substance. No reliability. No service.

[Update 5/1/07: I finally got a little threatening. Told their "answering machine -- they don't answer phones too well even during business hours -- to call me that the generator was either fixed and finished, or else give me the name and phone of Yamaha's District Service Mgr. Next day they called, my generator was ready. When I got there, the only guy in the shop had to call for the generator that was somewhere a mile up the road. When it came, he started looking for the invoice. I said "It's already been paid for under Invoice #...," which I had with me. "Oh, OK." But I peaked at the one he pulled up, which was an additional $60 or so.

"We fired up the generator and I plugged in about 750w of consumptions. It held. So I brought it home. No clue as to what was wrong." They never came back at me for add'l charges -- good thing.]

Oh, dealer: Matison Motorsports, Raleigh NC.
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