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Guide to buying a caravan generator

Taking the first few steps on the path to becoming a caravanning genius can be a challenging experience.  Nothing can seem more baffling to the newcomer than choosing a caravan generator. All this talk of watts, amps and volts can leave you scratching your head and trying to remember your GCSE physics lessons.

Getting a generator for your caravan means you’re not restricted to pitches with power sources provided. This opens up a host of new opportunities and new caravan destinations, and finding the right generator is nowhere near as confusing as it might at first seem.

Generators are rated accordingly to their electrical output, given in watts, and while a minimum size for a small caravan would be around 1,500-2,000 watts, they can go up to 6,000 or far more.

In order to work out what size of generator you’re going to need, you first need to sit down and figure out what you want it to power.  Simply write down a list of which appliances are likely to be operated by the generator, particularly which of them you’re going to be using at the same time.

Next, write down the wattage of each of these items. Obviously, this will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but as a general rule most colour TVs require 250 watts and kettles around 1,800 watts.

Finally, add up the total wattage of everything in your caravan that may need to function at the same time and this will give you an idea of the power your caravan generator needs to supply.

It’s worth bearing in mind that whilst its unlikely you’ll have all these appliances operating at the same time, it’s a good idea to choose a generator slightly more powerful than what you think you really need – in other words, try to leave a bit of a margin to make sure your generator doesn’t get near to its capacity at any point.

Also, you need to take motor starting into consideration when looking at the size of generator you need to buy.  Many large motors, like those used to power items such as pumps, fridges and other items commonly found in caravans, actually need up to three times their listed running watts just to get going, so for example, a one horsepower motor, which runs on 1,110 watts, will need 3,300 watts to be started. Most generator suppliers can give you information about the size you need based on the type of appliances you’ve got, but the general rule of adding up the total wattage of your various pieces of equipment is the basic starting point when it comes to choosing what you need.

Another factor worth thinking about is how much weight you can comfortably lift in and out of the storage area. The larger generators can be bulky and weighty – and to be realistic, you don’t want anything more than 20-25kg.

A very important consideration is how noisy your caravan generator is going to be. After all, a powerful industrial hum coming from your caravan would make you very unpopular with your neighbours and would destroy the rural calm of the caravan site – the very reason why you have chosen to go there in the first place.  Noise levels are given in decibels (dB), and you would certainly want to avoid anything higher than 60dB if you want to avoid being the least welcome caravanner on the site.

Finally, make sure your generator is covered by your caravan insurance policy - make sure you check what equipement you will be required to purchase extra cover for.

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