Small diesel generator?

Submitted: Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 13:27
ThreadID: 95393 Views:13007 Replies:19 FollowUps:17
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I am doing the planning for what will be my last touring rig which will be based on a small Isuzu 4wd truck. My aim is to have diesel as the only fuel needed. The vehicle, space and water heating and cooking is no problem with Webasto products etc. Unfortunately I have been told that an airconditioner should be included and so a generator has had to go back on the menu.

I have searched but only found large diesel generators. I only need a 2 Kva preferably with remote electric start. Anyone aware of something out there?

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Reply By: Member - Wamuranman - Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 13:47

Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 13:47
Probably the best option for what you want is Onan. They sell models that can be hard wired and mounted as fixtures in your motor home with diesel fuel sourced straight from your main tanks. When you arrive just press a button to start from inside your motor home. I think they can even operate in transit as well.
Have a look at:

Probably not cheap but in what your building probably worth the expense.

AnswerID: 485122

Follow Up By: Member - Alastair D (NSW) - Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 14:38

Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 14:38
The smallest they seem to have is a 3.5 Kva and it is a bit heavy. I know they go well in boats but it would be hard to fit in. I am being picky but am trying to find something not too different to the Honda 2KVa in noise & weight - a big ask.
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Reply By: Shaker - Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 13:49

Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 13:49
Try Google! Yanmar have a 2.2 Kva diesel genset.

AnswerID: 485123

Follow Up By: Member - Alastair D (NSW) - Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 14:42

Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 14:42
I spent a lot of time with Mr Google but did not see the small Yanmar. Have now looked directly and it is probably the best bet so far but is much noisier and heavier than I would like. My benchmark is the Honda 2 & 3 KVa and the Yanmar is way above. I know I am being picky.

thanks for the suggestion.

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Follow Up By: Wilko (Parkes NSW) - Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 19:05

Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 19:05
I had a Yanmar 2.2 for 10 years and it is heavy and noisy, but it was quality. IMHO far superior to my Honda, It just feels like it would last for 50 years.

Cheers Wilko
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Reply By: Rosss- Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 13:57

Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 13:57
Why not go for a deisel air conditioning unit like Road Transport Prime Movers have to air con the sleeper when the driver is parked up for a sleep.

Cheers Ross.
AnswerID: 485126

Follow Up By: Member - Alastair D (NSW) - Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 14:45

Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 14:45
Cost I would think although I will look as this is not an option I had considered.
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Reply By: Witi Repartee - Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 13:57

Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 13:57
I have come across a couple...but the weight and noise made them in my opinion not worth the possible advantages.
AnswerID: 485127

Reply By: Ross M - Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 14:09

Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 14:09
G'day Alastair
A few months ago Bunnings had a small diesel generator alongside their petrol models.
I think it was an AEG unit and around 2000w. Price I think was over $1000 but seemed reasonable for the features. Not sure if it had inverter technology though.

Ross M
AnswerID: 485130

Follow Up By: Member - Alastair D (NSW) - Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 14:47

Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 14:47
I am very wary of the stuff that Bunnings sells. I will look into it though as I hope it will not be used much. Noise is the big factor from my point of view.
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Follow Up By: Member - Alastair D (NSW) - Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 15:11

Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 15:11
The only one Bunnings have now is a 4.5KVa Kipor which weighs in at 177Kg !!

Still I will look at Kipor further and perhaps Bunnings had something smaller.

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Reply By: member - mazcan - Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 14:44

Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 14:44
hi alastair
have a look at this sight i think they have what you seek
AnswerID: 485135

Follow Up By: Member - Alastair D (NSW) - Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 15:03

Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 15:03
Yes the Yanmar looks to be the best fit but it is heavy and noisy.

On the basis of cost, noise, weight and performance I think I am going to fail on my diesel only wish and probably end up with a Honda and a jerry can !!!

Still I have plenty of time to keep looking.

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Reply By: Bigfish - Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 16:05

Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 16:05
Just do yourself and family a favour. Get a 2kva honda. Seperate fuel tank or direct connect to a large fuel cell. Quiet, reliable and about $2000.00 plus spares are available and normally anyone witha little mechanical knowledge can get em goin. Havent heard of any around our way that have suffered any sort of mechanical problem, and there are dozens being used in my area.Running 24 hours a day for 7 days we used 80 litres.

Greatest generator invented!!
AnswerID: 485141

Reply By: Bob Y. - Qld - Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 16:48

Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 16:48

Haven't done any recent research on this subject, but have been around diesel generators for many years.

Would suggest you google Kubota gennies, as they have a couple of smallish "Silent type" gensets. Think the smallest may be 5 KVA, but while a little bulky, compared to a Honda anyway, they would be quiet, and will last and last and......etc

Over this weekend, have been refuelling a Kubota 30 KVA silent unit, and you could carry on a conversation easily, within a metre or two of it. Know you don't need that much power, but these units are quiet. But would have to agree with the post above about Hondas, They are a great unit, but would need very regular servicing to keep them in peak condition. They also have the weight advantage, over a diesel unit.

Enjoy your search,


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AnswerID: 485144

Follow Up By: pop2jocem - Monday, May 07, 2012 at 12:32

Monday, May 07, 2012 at 12:32

Agree with Bob re the Kubota range if you want quiet and smooth (minimal vibration). I think their smallest is as Bob has said about 5kva with a 2 cylinder diesel. Unfortunately any diesel is going to be more expensive and heavy compared with a petrol unit.

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Reply By: Ron N - Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 19:18

Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 19:18
This post has been read by the moderation team and has been moderated due to a breach of The For Sale/Wanted to Buy Rule .

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AnswerID: 485158

Reply By: Ron N - Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 21:47

Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 21:47
This post has been read by the moderation team and has been moderated due to a breach of The For Sale/Wanted to Buy Rule .

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AnswerID: 485167

Reply By: Member - Alastair D (NSW) - Monday, May 07, 2012 at 17:39

Monday, May 07, 2012 at 17:39
Thanks everyone for your input and comments.

Over the last couple of days I have spent quite a bit of time on the web and today I did a drive around to look at a few.

My judgement is that in the larger sizes the diesels are good and the way to go. The smaller ones designed for marine use (Onan etc) tend to be ~4.5KVa up, heavy and not so quiet. The Yanmar 2.2KVa looks to well made but is an open frame style and was disappointingly noisy with quite a lot of vibration. Even with good mounts I think it would cause a lot of noise when mounted in the truck.

The cheapy at Bunnings is branded AEG but marked as made in China. It is 4.5KVa and very big. Would be good on the back of a ute.

I found that there were many different brands with the same basic design and casing as the Honda and Yamaha. Most of them were less than half the price and quoted the smae basic sepcs in terms of noise, weight and performance.

I have not made a final decision but in the past whenever I have tried to save money by buying cheap I have regretted it. When the crunch comes, unless I come across something new in the meantime I will probably buy a Honda and resurrect a jerrycan.

There is certainly a slot in the marketplace for someone to make a small, quiet, compact diesel generator.

AnswerID: 485216

Reply By: Member Boroma 604 - Monday, May 07, 2012 at 21:38

Monday, May 07, 2012 at 21:38
Why hump all the extra weight of a diesel generator around, just install a Domestic Inverter A/C , there are many many people I know with caravans who have fitted them, they will start and run from 1KVA Yamaha. Far more efficient for both heating and cooling, quiet and very efficient. The only way to go if you are planning from scratch. Cheers,
AnswerID: 485248

Reply By: Eric Experience - Monday, May 07, 2012 at 21:40

Monday, May 07, 2012 at 21:40
I have tried air cons in motor homes and have ended up removing them, they are just to much trouble. The weight on the roof tends to cause noise and fatigue and starts leeks. if you have air scoop facing forward so you have bulk air in the vehicle plus a slight positive pressure to keep out the dust you will have a cool vehicle. If you are concerned about the odd hot night you can get a 12 volt evaporative cooler, I have been told that they are very good . Eric
AnswerID: 485249

Reply By: GT Campers - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 at 08:49

Tuesday, May 08, 2012 at 08:49
Not your original question, but are you also considering full insulation of your cabin (I assume you are having this vehicle built from the ground-up)?
AnswerID: 485270

Follow Up By: Member - Alastair D (NSW) - Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 06:59

Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 06:59
yes it will probably be built using a steel frame and a shell of a sandwich composition fibreglass with a foam centre. The total thickness is ~4cm. I have seen this material and it is both very strong and a good insulator. I had originally thought aluminium was the way to go but have changed after having considered various options.
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Reply By: energy marty - Wednesday, May 09, 2012 at 11:31

Wednesday, May 09, 2012 at 11:31
An Australian company called Eniquest do small Diesel generators - as far as i know, they are still under their old website -

their gen-sets are called powermaker.

hope this helps

AnswerID: 485344

Follow Up By: Member - Alastair D (NSW) - Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 07:20

Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 07:20
A quick look at the website only shows units larger than I need.

I think I have to accept that the mass produced petrol generators are the way to go on cost, size, noise and reliability.

That company has other things of interest so thank you.


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Reply By: Member - Keith Berg - Wednesday, May 09, 2012 at 16:29

Wednesday, May 09, 2012 at 16:29

A small domestic inverter aircon on low setting will draw a little over 20 amps (I think) through an inverter. That's about 160 A/H for a good night's sleep.

A good battery bank, plenty of solar and maybe an auxiliary alternator on the truck's motor might be an easier solution - and certainly quieter

You can also get a special "Smart" regulator which will put a lot more charge into the batteries than will a normal automotive regulator. They even have a temperature sensor for the battery bank and cut back the charge if the batteries start to warm up. Ample Power make them and you can also buy them locally. I had one on my boat with a 130 amp alternator and a 400 AH battery bank and it was great.

You'll be able fit a 130 amp (1,900 watt) Bosch auxiliary alternator with dual belts and pulleys and smart regulator for less money than a 2 KVA Honda.

You can by a 12 volt aircon to suit a truck from Rencool in QLD for about $4.5K - $3.5K dearer than a domestic one.

Just a thought. Sounds like you'll have a great rig.
AnswerID: 485358

Follow Up By: Member - Alastair D (NSW) - Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 07:29

Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 07:29
A quick look at the specs for say a 1HP domestic ac unit (750W) suggests that they draw about 1000w when operating. Given the ~90% efficiency of an inverter this means nearly 100A operating. Assume 50% duty cycle and 8 hrs running equates to 400AH. So that the batteries only go to 50% discharge I would need 800AH capacity. Too much weight and I really doubt the robustness of a domestic a/c on an offroad vehicle.

I will look into Rencool that looks interesting but again the battery capacity since I want to run when stationary.

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Follow Up By: Member - Keith Berg - Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 09:51

Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 09:51

I am going through a similar exercise with a little off road caravan that I am trying to build. The consensus on this forum is that domestic split systems hold up very well on caravans and are certainly cheap enough to replace every five years.

Toshiba has a small inverter unit that draws just 260 watts on low setting, which might be enough for a small-ish space. Rencool says that it is commonplace for truckies to run a 12 volt battery aircon to cool truck cab and sleeper overnight.

Lithium iron batteries are always an option, but the dollars are huge. Maybe you could have a low voltage cutout on your inverter which will switch the aircon off before the batteries are damaged. You'd then have the option of getting out of bed and turning the main engine on, or rolling over and going back to sleep. Either way, it will be a hard life for the batteries.

I had a 500cc single banger sea water cooled diesel generator on my boat that ran at a fixed 3,000 rpm. It was a big job to cut down the vibration and and even bigger one to soundproof it properly - with inlet and exhaust air silencers needed to make life bearable. The soundproofing weighed in at about 75 kilos! An air cooled one would be even noisier.

I wonder if running a diesel generator when you're trying to have a kip might drive you crazy. For aircon all day a generator would be the only choice.

Please do a fresh post after you've resolved the issue because I, for one, am really interested in how you get on.
Good Luck!


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Follow Up By: Member - Alastair D (NSW) - Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 17:43

Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 17:43
Yes I will post a new thread if I solve the issue in an interesting way but currently I doubt it.

This vehicle will be for offroad touring and initially I was not going to have an a/c or generator. Since I will be spending a fair bit of money and our trips will be of reasonable duration, often months, and sometimes in humid conditions, I was told that we should include a/c for comfort reasons. I agreed rather than have a dispute in the planning phase.

We are travellers not stayers - by this I mean we do not tend to stop for many days in one place so daytime a/c is not an issue as it will be provided by the cabin a/c whilst travelling. Even now we rarely put the a/c on unless the conditions are really bad. If we were stayers I would be buying a caravan to tow behind the existing Landcruiser rather than going down the route I am.

Since we travel in remote areas and overseas I want reliability, minimum weight and space and standard units that are most likely to be supported away from home base. If the a/c or generator breakdown then I will not see it as a major problem as I will not be dependent on them.

At the moment for all the above reasons I expect I will go for a Dometic roof a/c and a Honda 2KVA petrol generator. This will meet the operation requirements and keep the cost down.

I thought I had come across something possible in the form of a Nanni diesel 3.5KVA generator with electric start and low noise figures. It was heavy but I thought it was not impossible. Unfortunately when I read the specs properly it was designed for seawater cooling !!!

Whilst I respect the experiences of people who have used domestic a/c units I just don't believe they would stand up on some of the roads I have travelled on and also they would take up a lot more space.

I will let you know what my final decision is. It will probably be about 12 months before the fitting out decisions will be actioned.

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Follow Up By: Member - Keith Berg - Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 19:29

Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 19:29

I think you've made the right decision as there's a certain attractive KISS principle to it.

I have also decided on a 2kVa Honda, but will go with a new domestic (not Dometic) spit system aircon unit every five years - largely for quietness. The hard bit is keeping the gennie whisper quiet, around other campers.

So the plan is to put the Honda into an acoustic enclosure and feed the fuel via a remote tank directly into the carbie. There will be two 12V four inch centrigual blowers with a silenced intake and an air outlet that mixes the outgoing air with the exhaust to cool it down, again through a silencer made from ceramic wool.

I am thinking about putting in a temperature triggered extinguisher and a solenoid valve that will simultaneously shut the fuel off in the event of fire.

I hate noise in the bush, but I'd love to meet up with you on the track some day. Good luck with your adventure. We're all green with envy.

All the best,
Keith (lapsed engineer)
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Follow Up By: Member - Alastair D (NSW) - Saturday, May 12, 2012 at 08:45

Saturday, May 12, 2012 at 08:45
Yes KISS is a principle that should guide most designs.

In that regard I think you should simplify your own design. The amount of heat 'generated' by even a small generator like the Honda 2KVA is quite substantial, especially when under load. With the fans, sensors, shut off valves etc you are proposing I see not only significant cost but scope for problems.

I will have the generator in a side locker, fully lined with sound absorbent material, with a flap door that hinges at the top and a gas strut so that it acts like a sloping roof. I will have the generator on a slide for easy of access but intend that it will operate only partly out but still under the 'roof'. At the outer end of the slide there will be a baffle (easily removed) that is covered on the inner side with sound absorbent material on the inside. The baffle will be made of a dense material to reflect sound back through the absorber.

I used this approach once before to make a sound baffle in front of a noisy external a/c unit. It worked well to quieten it down so the neighbours did not complain.

I will make sure the slide is on vibration mounts as I know that can cause drumming in a rigid structure like I am going to build.

Using this approach the generator can breathe easily and not require forced ventilation. You obviously know what you are doing but I would recommend you simplify your own installation in a similar way.

I will start a new thread down the track when this all turns to expensive reality, hopefully not evaporate.

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Follow Up By: Member - Alastair D (NSW) - Saturday, May 12, 2012 at 16:10

Saturday, May 12, 2012 at 16:10
See my latest post in this thread. Dometic have what I want and they also have petrol versions which may suit you.

These did not show up on a Google search and was only by chance I saw them.

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Reply By: Member - Alastair D (NSW) - Saturday, May 12, 2012 at 16:07

Saturday, May 12, 2012 at 16:07
Seek & yee shall find !!

I was searching the Dometic site for info on their heaters and saw a reference to generators and there was this entry. A 2.5Kw diesel generator with remote control etc. A bit heavy but quiet and purpose built. I am having trouble getting a price but I am sure it will be high. Still if it meets my needs then I will have to swallow the bitter pill

Dometic diesel generator

AnswerID: 485639

Reply By: Member - Keith Berg - Monday, May 14, 2012 at 10:14

Monday, May 14, 2012 at 10:14
Hi Alistair,

Thanks for your post. This Dometic thing certainly looks the business doesn't it? It will be interesting to see if it is available in Australia and whether it will have reasonable parts backup. At 0.7 litres per hour and 60 dB is looks pretty good though. That's the same noise level as a 2 Kw Honda.

I don't know whether I'm being a bit precious about this, but I think 60 dB is still too noisy if there are any other campers around. Nobody goes off into the bush and sets up his tent next to a lovely stream in order to listen to someone else's generator. So the whole generator exercise can spawn a lot of selfish and antisocial behaviour among inconsiderate campers. If you're on your own, though, no problem at all.

Before you lash out your hard earned, it might be good to look at some of the packaged sea water cooled marine generators. All you'd have to do is add a radiator, electric fan and head tank and you'd have a whisper quiet unit. Riviera have got rid of LPG on a lot of their boats and even the deck BBQs are electric these days and you can't hear a peep from the generator. With such a system, you could probably ditch LPG altogether for cooking, with a big weight saving.

The marine ones turn on remotely and sometimes automatically in response to demand.

Either way, it doesn't look like a cheap exercise, but your resale value would have to be heaps higher.

AnswerID: 485775

Follow Up By: Member - Keith Berg - Monday, May 14, 2012 at 21:18

Monday, May 14, 2012 at 21:18
I just realised that marine gensets have a wet exhaust. So please disregard most of my last post.
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Reply By: martinkudu - Friday, Jun 01, 2012 at 23:06

Friday, Jun 01, 2012 at 23:06
I too have been searching for a small diesel generator recently, and came across this:

In case you can't open the link, it is a 2kW Harrington Generators International, or HGI, Lightweight Field Generator, now in service with the British Defence Forces. It is based on a high quality Hatz diesel engine, has a silencer capsule, and is built to take a lot of rough treatment. You can read more about it at:

I would buy one in a flash if they were available locally. However I suspect it would be a little too loud if you want to run an airconditioner while you are sleeping.


AnswerID: 487416

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