Welcome to this week’s “Last Entry.”
This week I want to talk a little bit about our generator – this post is specifically about Jolene’s generator, and how generators are useful in mobile living situations – not about how they apply to SHTF situations, which I’ll go over in another post.
We did a lot of research when purchasing the appliances for Jolene. I knew we’d be using a genny, as she came with a massive diesel 15,000 watt beast built in. The generator shared the tank with the bus itself, which made filling it super convenient, since it just sipped the bus fuel, rather than having its own tank that needed filling. When I purchased our appliances, I wasn’t sure how many watts the generator had (though I knew she was coming with one) so I got a super energy efficient fridge with its own separated freezer section, large but well reviewed toaster oven, and a wee 750 watt microwave. I knew microwaves and toaster ovens – indeed anything that makes heat from electricity – was going to pull a lot of energy, so I tried to be cognizant of that in my choices. My one energy inefficient luxury is my Keurig coffee maker, which sucks a ton of power but for a brief burst, so as long as we’re not running a blow dryer and the microwave and brewing coffee all at once, we’ll be fine. (as a side note, we only use compostable KCups, as we know regular single serve pods are bad for the environment, and they’re cheaper than most standard KCups, holla!) All in all our generator should have had MORE than enough wattage for us to run Jolene like a regular home, including the future cooktop and on demand water heater that is going in when we arrive in FL.
HOWEVER, something I did not think about was AMPS. It turns out our diesel generator was so decrepit she had to be gutted and we had to get a new one installed. Now, a normal house plug runs on 15 amps, and when we went to weigh fixing vs replacing our huge generator – we found out she only ran 9 amps. All those watts, but she couldn’t handle having the coffee maker plugged into the same outlet as ANYTHING else. So we decided to replace her.
We did some research and realized that both for the sake of speed (we were desperate to get on the road) AND price – a gasoline powered generator would save us both in spades. We initially balked at the idea of having to fill two tanks with different fuels, but honestly, the little beauty we chose is so good on gas usage, we’ve hardly noticed. We decided on the Troy-Bilt XP7000, which has a continuous use wattage of 7000 and a peak wattage (sometimes called starting wattage) of 10,500. Now, if you’re like me, not only are you wondering what continuous vs peak is – but you’re wondering why we went with a generator with fewer than half the watts of our old beast.
We added up all the things we charge, light, heat, and use in the bus, and honestly, we just don’t use that much power. The old generator was super overkill on watts (and underwhelming on amps as I said before) and our new generator is just what we need, and has 20 amps. The display on the front tells us what % of available wattage we use, and we’ve never even seen it hit 10% – seriously! We charge both laptops, both iPhones, have a typical lamp, fridge plugged in, all at once, and all that consumes 2% of our 7000 watts. That’s 140 watts. So I feel super confident when I turn on the baseboard heaters and go to run our microwave and toaster oven to make dinner that I’m not going to overload our system, and that it can grow with us as we add more to the power load.
The tank holds 8.5 gallons of gas, and runs 11 hours if you load it up 50% (or 3500 watts) and run it continuously – which we’ve never come close to doing. We run it about 1-3 hours a night and again, never hit over 10%. In fact, we’ve had this generator more than a week and have spent approximately $15 in gas altogether. Not bad. Especially since each fill up of Jolene runs us about $90.
The one downside to generators is that, unless you’re willing to pay nearly double for a Honda, all others on the market are about the same as far as noise – which is, frankly, a lot of noise. But our old generator was SO LOUD you had to nearly shout over it. The new one, while still a constant sound, is much less intrusive. We can watch shows on our laptops, talk in a normal voice, and in the future we may even be able to insulate her further. For now, we have two layers of Hardie-Backer (concrete dry-wall like substance) screwed into the “ceiling” of the generator compartment and that’s make a massive difference.
All in all, we’ve had a steep learning curve from having never operated a generator before to owning and maintaining our own – going from plugging in whatever I like, whenever I like, to being more thoughtful about what power I’m actually consuming has made me feel more in tune with both my energy footprint (when I know I’m burning a fossil fuel for energy it seems more “real” than plugging it into a home – I am more conscious in how long I run things and how much I actually *need*). It has made me much more aware of how many appliances I have, and how I can use fewer of them to accomplish the same things – like making hot water with my Keurig for my morning oats, or baking muffins and roasting brussel sprouts with chicken in my toaster oven. I’ve also started using my solar/crank lanterns and such more often.
Next time, we’ll talk about the pros and cons of generators in an end of the world scenario – but for emergency home use (say, in a bad snow storm when you lose power) or for mobile living – generators are the bee’s knees!