Power supplies

Submitted: Friday, Jan 11, 2019 at 21:07
ThreadID: 137667 Views:3228 Replies:8 FollowUps:4
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Hi everyone
Hope you’re all enjoying the weather and holidays if you have them. I’m after some advice about power supplies. Considering battery vs generator. I want to be able to run a fridge, microwave, charge phones and kettle/toaster (I assume kettle/toaster and microwave are the biggest drawers of power). Mostly will be used for one or two nights away. Considering a battery pack that recharges via Anderson plug and/or solar or a generator. I have never used a geni before so am pretty unsure of what to look for. My questions are
1. Opinions of geni vs battery
2. Re genis, is something like the $300 job from the 4WD Supercentre any good or more specifically will it do the job for what I want? Or do I need something more expensive/powerful? I don’t really understand the kVa numbers or what they mean. I understand that kW =more power but not sure how kVa related to kW????

Thanks in advance for any advice
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Reply By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Friday, Jan 11, 2019 at 22:15

Friday, Jan 11, 2019 at 22:15
Hi Tastpa

I am no expert and you will get some replies.

But what I can tell you, is that you better off to have gas to boil your water and cook your toast.

A $300 cheap geni will be a complete waste of money, as at that price they would not be a good clean power supply, and secondly will not even start them up for one main reason....1KVA which in return =1000w.

You toaster and kettle will require a 3KVA or 3000w geni, as they will both be using 2400w when working, not unless they are a very special sub 1000w specialised camping kettle and toaster.

Just my 2 cents worth.


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Follow Up By: Tastpa - Friday, Jan 11, 2019 at 22:24

Friday, Jan 11, 2019 at 22:24
Thanks Stephen
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Reply By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Friday, Jan 11, 2019 at 23:00

Friday, Jan 11, 2019 at 23:00
Hi Taspa,

Stephen is right about cheap generators. Absolutely useless.

As for battery versus generator, heating devices such as toaster, kettle and microwave draw a lot of power and so would need a lot of battery capacity to handle such loads. Even if you did install enough battery capacity you still need the means to recharge the battery. Heating devices really need to be by gas or other combustible fuel.

The fridge may be run by a battery but even then it must be sized and charged adequately to do the job and the fridge cannot be oversize for the available supply.

Member John has written a very good blog called Electricity for Camping which may help you.

Kw and Kva are near enough to being the same for your purposes.


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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Friday, Jan 11, 2019 at 23:17

Friday, Jan 11, 2019 at 23:17
Oh, and I should have said.... Yes, the weather here is great, always is in Camelot.
But as for "holidays", nah, never get any. Or RDO's or long weekends. Nothing.
I'm retired you see. One day is the same as the next. But I can Go Bush whenever I want. lol

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Reply By: RMD - Friday, Jan 11, 2019 at 23:07

Friday, Jan 11, 2019 at 23:07
You haven't mentioned the wattage of each of the appliances you wish to run. They should be labelled as to their wattage/current draw.
An accurate rundown of what you would like to achieve will guide replies more accurately.
I agree with Stephen, to cook, heat water and make toast, gas is best and most convenient.
You can use a generator but that is more weight, and fuel to carry and requires a Yamaha, 2400w unit at least. Honda Eu20 1800w continuous = not enough, or even the new one which is 2.2kw 2000w continuous will hardly cope.

A $300 cheapy is only any good to run a decent battery charger for replenishing battery charge. Most are unreliable anyway. Never rely on the inbuilt charger with any generator, at only 8 amps the gen needs to run full speed all day everyday/almost.

If the fridge is a 12v fridge, not 3 way, it needs reliable battery, solar and regulator to run it. Again a whole new concept of tech stuff. Any of the above will cost hundreds of money, which leaves gas as the king.

If money isn't a restriction then poeople can recommend many things, genny, solar, batteries,
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Reply By: Mick O - Friday, Jan 11, 2019 at 23:19

Friday, Jan 11, 2019 at 23:19
Ditto to the two previous replies. Cheap gennies…..more trouble than they are worth.
You really need to sit down and assess exactly what your requirements are for camping. All the mention of microwaves, kettle and toasters is superfluous when you then mention you're only going away for two nights at a time. Better off getting a motel or B&B for that length of time.

If you really want to set up to be self sustainable for two nights or 30, you need to understand what it is that you actually require. Do you have young kids that need bottle every 4 hours?. Are you going to travelling remotely or are you talking about spending a night or two in the national park 80 km from home? Can you survive without access to television and cable TV?

I'm going out on a limb here but I can assure you that 4x4 supercentre stuff is right up there with crystals and self generating (perpetual motion) power systems :-). Be warned. If you need to rely on it for power, spend the dollars and get a decent gennie...Honda or Yamaha etc. Accept no substitutes.

If you're serious, spend $25 on a butane stove and four gas cylinders. That will heat/cook everything you need for two-four days at least. If you have a car fridge, look at a good dual battery system and a Redarc dc-dc charger with solar input. Buy a couple of decent solar panels (cheap as chips these days) and take it from there.

Above all, read these two blogs for a bit of info.

Electricity for camping

Building a DC power system for you 4x4



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Follow Up By: Member - McLaren3030 - Sunday, Jan 13, 2019 at 14:44

Sunday, Jan 13, 2019 at 14:44
Mick O,

The only drawback with Butane Gas Stoves is that in cold temps, they do not work very well. Even in the Desert, Night time temps can be at or below 0 degrees. LPG is better, but more bulky.


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Follow Up By: Mick O - Sunday, Jan 13, 2019 at 22:32

Sunday, Jan 13, 2019 at 22:32
Totally agree Macca. Just trying to make a point that you don't need to spend a fortune to get by.

LPG/Propane is good to minus -42C but there are issues with legally carrying the supply within your vehicle etc, bulkiness etc

Butane will stop vaporising from it's liquid form at -0.55C which is pretty cold. Even less if you get a Butane/Propane mix in your cans. The other issue affecting performance is volume left within the can. The less 'liquid' volume of butane left within the can, the less volume of vaporised gas and thus less gas pressure to feed the burner, naturally further compounded by cold temps. I deal with the issue by swapping out the cans. Above the Tropic of Capricorn, not much of an issue, but below and the further south you go, simply swap out you near empty can with a full one and alternate them when it warms up….or use the fire to boil the billy (my personal favorite :-)

Cheers mate and safe travels for 2019.

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Reply By: Kenell - Saturday, Jan 12, 2019 at 08:34

Saturday, Jan 12, 2019 at 08:34

You have already received some consistent and reliable feedback. My 2 bobs worth is that high wattage anything is not designed for camping. As an example many of the grey nomads carry coffee makers that require lots of battery power to support a high wattage inverter. These batteries then have to be recharged by extensive solar panels or a generator. Don't get me wrong we DO love our coffee but at what cost? I have 2 fridges - 1 in the car and one in the camper. 2 batteries in the camper for the fridge supported by a solar set up, and the car runs pretty much every day or at least every second day so the alternator takes care of that one (fuel is cheap - especially when warm beer is the alternative). I have a 600w inverter for computer, camera batteries etc and only use it when the solar panel is performing at close to peak re charging rates. I also carry a 1kva Honda generator in case the sun goes on holidays (but don't tell anyone). You see you are somewhat of a social pariah these days if you have a generator. You have to stand next to mine to even know it is on but I only use it as a last resort. Gas is your friend, for cooking. Microwaves, hairdryers, toasters, coffee makers and $300 generators are best left at home.

Oh and when you are in a shared camping area get to know the older campers around you - one of them is bound to have a coffee maker and they will want to show you how good it is. Problem solved !!

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Reply By: Iza B - Sunday, Jan 13, 2019 at 07:51

Sunday, Jan 13, 2019 at 07:51
23 Volt powered kettles and toasters and microwaves are not that consistent with the ethos of camping, however, driving those devices with something like a 2KVA Honda keeps Mum happy.

Other side is that these items will only require a few minutes per day off a expensive and somewhat difficult to carry, generator.

A good sized battery pack charged by alternator and solar and a bit of a think about how things get cooked when camping is my recommendation.

Late thought - if you do get a generator, please think of your fellow campers before you start one up.

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Reply By: Tastpa - Monday, Jan 14, 2019 at 06:34

Monday, Jan 14, 2019 at 06:34
Thanks so much everyone for the great info and links
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Reply By: Greg J1 - Monday, Jan 21, 2019 at 16:03

Monday, Jan 21, 2019 at 16:03
The old generator vs battery(solar) can be a highly emotive subject.

At the moment I’m doing a job on a station near Tambo and will be living in my caravan for probably the next few months. I have enough solar on the roof of the van to supply the aircon from about 5am till 6:30pm. I have enough solar on my ute to keep 2 Engels (1 as a freezer) and the compressor fridge in the van going.

At night my 2400 Yamaha genny powers the aircon and the battery charger in the van. Before anyone canes me for running a genny all night I’m the only person for about 40 kms.

I know this is different to camping for a few nights but it is the same principle.

As others have said, steer clear of the cheap genies, they have have a great sounding warranty but not much use if you camp in the middle of nowhere and they die. False economy I believe.

The biggest factor I can see with fridge power requirements is not to open them up every five minutes. Every night I reach into the beer fridge and get my 2 or 3 beers and close it. The freezer I open and get the nexts night steak or chops or whatever out and close it. I put the steak in the van fridge and get out what I’m cooking tonight. I know that’s hard if you have kids wanting a cold drink but that’s the way I do it.

Good luck with your decision !!

Cheers Greg.
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