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Old 07-21-2012, 07:21 PM   #1
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Why do we need external Generators?

I'm new to this forum and to the RV world, so please forgive my ignorance. I am putting together the truck and trailer and equipment. I have a 30' classic and a Ford 250. I am looking at generators, with the accompanying space, fuel, exhaust, etc, and was thinking, 'why do I need a generator with it's own fuel, exhaust, and space that it takes up, when I have a big engine in the truck, with it's own fuel supply, exhaust, etc. I grew up on a farm and we had one tractor. It had a flywheel and a power take off (PTO), and we did everything from plow and cultivate to pump water, and cut wood with it using the flywheel or pto. Why can't we outfit the truck with a pto that would power the inverter/converter and have all the power we need to run everything in the trailer.

Please let me know the error in my thinking.
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Old 07-21-2012, 07:29 PM   #2
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I would think economies of scale would come to mind. Would running your F250 actually be cheaper than buying and running generator? How much would the PTO attachment cost, and is it actually available? I would also think convenience would play a part...what if you were set up and enjoying life, the BBQ grill is loaded, and you suddenly discover the cooler is missing/empty? Beer Run! Do you disconnect everything and run to town, or rought it?
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Old 07-21-2012, 07:30 PM   #3
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Seems to me you would need something to hook up to your PTO to generate power for starters.
I think the truck would burn a little more fuel than a good generator would.
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Old 07-21-2012, 07:38 PM   #4
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Hi, I don't know what size or type engine your F-250 has, but my Yamaha 2400 has 171 cc's. Now if you plan on having a large PTO generator, you could power several trailers.
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Old 07-21-2012, 07:42 PM   #5
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It could certainly be done....but I'd bet a PTO gennie is $$$$$$$. And as others have said, the big TV engine powering a relatively modest generator would be grossly inefficient.
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Old 07-21-2012, 07:46 PM   #6
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It would require a modified transmission to enable you to engage the PTO to drive the generator. A unit under the hood with an electric clutch would be an alternative. But not as efficient as a portable. Though it may be quieter.
Besides; How do you keep your A/C running while you are driving the truck to the store for supplies?
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Old 07-21-2012, 08:03 PM   #7
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Generally an engine running near its capacity is more efficient than one running at a small fraction of its capacity. Gasoline engines idling along with high manifold vacuum, low cylinder pressures, lazy combustion, and multi cylinder mechanical losses are the worst offenders. Even diesel engines are typically more efficient at 75% capacity than 25% capacity or less, but gap is narrower than gas engines.

If you have some extra time, check out fuel burn rates of generators. Often they're listed at 25% 50% 100% load. You'll see you get more electricity for your fuel as the load goes up. So sizing the engine and generator for the load is a good idea. Maybe with a bit of a cushion, but not gross oversize.
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Old 07-21-2012, 08:57 PM   #8
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Besides using a lot more fuel there is the risk of theft leaving your truck running with the keys in it for hours.
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Old 07-21-2012, 09:04 PM   #9
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You'd also be real popular with your neighbors with that engine sitting there running all night. Expect to come out the next morning and find all your tires slashed.
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Old 07-21-2012, 09:05 PM   #10
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There used to be a company that made generators that would hook to the engine. They were belt driven like the alternator and power steering, not off the PTO. I think I saw it featured on the Trucks! show on Spike a couple years back, but I can't find anything now.
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Old 07-21-2012, 09:10 PM   #11
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Besides using a lot more fuel there is the risk of theft leaving your truck running with the keys in it for hours.
The biggest issue will be when the Campground Mob Crowd starts to circle the rattlin' truck owner to shut off the noise...

We had a camping neighbor who seemed to have an obsession with his F250...he started it up, idled, moved it, shut it off AT LEAST 8 times every day.

On the other hand...If I could find a truck engine/belt driven genset that would run my dual airconditioners it would be nice to arrive at the camp with a nice cool trailer...
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Old 07-22-2012, 10:18 AM   #12
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I don't know why I couldn't find this last night, but here is one on the first try this morning: BELT DRIVEN GENERATOR | POWER MITE | UNDER HOOD GENERATOR | FABCO POWER.

Anyway I found that by searching "Generator truck under hood".
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Old 07-22-2012, 11:10 AM   #13
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Greetings from the Florida Panhandle

To Soddbuster, welcome to the Forums. We're glad to have you with us.

To Skater, thank you for the link to the Power-Mite. That is really interesting. It may not fill the the bill completely, but it definitely could have valuable applications in certain circumstances.

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Old 07-22-2012, 12:02 PM   #14
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Please let me know the error in my thinking.
Where you been for the last 30yrs?
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Old 07-22-2012, 12:25 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Skater View Post
I don't know why I couldn't find this last night, but here is one on the first try this morning: BELT DRIVEN GENERATOR | POWER MITE | UNDER HOOD GENERATOR | FABCO POWER.

Anyway I found that by searching "Generator truck under hood".
That generator has the same problem all the PTO related stuff has. It needs more RPM's than you'll get at idle. The diesels will usually have a way to install a High Idle switch, but I've never seen that on gas, but may be possible...

You think the neighbors get mad at an idling truck, wait until you rev it up 1000 RPM's over idle!
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Old 07-22-2012, 12:32 PM   #16
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If what you describe was the "hot setup", that's what we would all be using in place of Hondas, Yamahas, and the like.
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Old 07-22-2012, 01:19 PM   #17
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That generator has the same problem all the PTO related stuff has. It needs more RPM's than you'll get at idle. The diesels will usually have a way to install a High Idle switch, but I've never seen that on gas, but may be possible...

You think the neighbors get mad at an idling truck, wait until you rev it up 1000 RPM's over idle!
I'm not saying it's a good idea. I was looking into one when my (on board) Onan died in the B190, for running the A/C on the road. I decided replacing the Onan was the best option.
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Old 07-22-2012, 01:25 PM   #18
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An extension cord to your neighbors generator is the most economical solution...but probably not prudent?
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Old 07-22-2012, 02:41 PM   #19
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Under the hood, belt-driven generators have been used in ambulances and SWAT vehicles for years as well as other military vehicles. They produce way more power than you need, but they are intended to support lots more equipment too. If you scour junk yards and are handy, you can go that route for a few thousand dollars.

The efficiency and db levels of small modern gensets, particularly by Honda & Yamaha, have been developed for campground use among other criteria. I believe a side by side comparison of pros and cons, and lifecycle expense will reveal the portable as a more desirable solution.
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Old 07-22-2012, 03:47 PM   #20
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The factor that is missing in this discussion IMHO is what the use-case is. If the purpose is to have a gen running all day/night to power air-con or such, then I agree with everything that has been said. What the original question spurred in my mind, though, is the use of the truck to recharge batteries when the solar fails due to weather or similar. If I have a good alternator in my truck, what would it take to recharge the trailer batteries from 50% to 80% or 100%? I currently carry a yamaha gen for this purpose but virtually never use it. It would be awesome to save the ~80 lbs.
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