Last updated on July 25th, 2022 at 08:10 pm
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If you own a houseboat or are considering buying one you are probably wondering how you get power to your boat.
If on shore many marinas have electricity available at many of the docks that you can use to plug in your boat, but what about when you are offshore?
A houseboat generator is the solution to your electrical needs when on the water.
Which houseboat generator do you need?
When purchasing a houseboat generator you will want to decide which one you need based on:
- Which one has enough power?
- Which brand is reliable?
- Which brand is a good price?
- Do I need an inverter generator?
- Do I want a permanent or portable one?
These questions and others will be answered in this article.
The first thing to figure out is how much power do you need for your boat.
These numbers are just general guidelines and will change based on how many comforts or home you want to have.
If you are looking to “rough it” you can get by with a much smaller generator than if you are wanting your houseboat to be more like a hotel on water.
Don’t buy a tiny generator and expect it to power all the gadgets and gizmos you will ever want. Figuring out your electrical needs first is essential.
What size generator do you need?
The numbers below are common power numbers for different items commonly found on a boat.
- Microwave 500 watts
- Refrigerator 500 watts
- TV 45 Watts
- DVD Player 15 watts
- Computer 50 watts
- Window AC unit 1500 watts
Those are just general numbers and can vary by item manufacture etc. Having said that, what do they mean for your generator purchase?
Assuming you have all of the above items plus a few others you will need around 3,000 watts to power everything simultaneously.
Of course you often won’t need to power everything at once but it is better to have a generator that is a little too big than to have one too small and have to shut off the TV every time that you want to pop some popcorn.
Now that you know approximately how many watts your new generator will need to be, you can go shopping… but wait…
How do you know which brand is reliable, whether you need a permanent or portable generator, whether you need a built in inverter, or which generator is best?
Read on and I will help you with those questions too!
Which portable generator brands are reliable?
If you search for a boat generator online you are sure to get a huge variety of different answers to this question often with conflicting information!
I will do my best to cut through it all and give you a brief rundown of the top 3 portable generator brands.
Honda makes many different small engines and is well known for the quality and longevity of its motors.
They have quite a few portable generators from 1,000 watts all the way up to 7,000 watts! Being that Honda is known for their reliability and quality of their motors to get one you will often have to pay a premium over the other two brands.
Whether the extra cost is worthwhile is up to you to decide. Reading reviews and comparing them between each brand is important to making a wise decision.
I personally buy a more economical generator and make sure to take good care of it. So far that has served me well and saving the money on the purchase price has been nice.
Champion doesn’t have the same reputation as Honda does but they have many good reviews and are often a much more economical alternative to other generator brands.
In finding the right generator for your houseboat you will have to weigh price vs brand and decide which you prefer.
A lot of the purchase decision beyond the power needed comes down to preference. If you have a bunch of friends that own boats, ask around.
People will always be happy to share their good or bad experiences to help fellow boaters with their purchase.
Westinghouse is another great brand and their prices are reasonable as well.
There have been multiple reports of these generators giving up after a few months of use but Westinghouse does offer a 3 year warranty on their products.
If your generator does go out in the warranty period you often have to jump through a bunch of hoops to get any results.
There are many people who swear by a Westinghouse and say it’s the best generator they’ve ever had while others (as mentioned above) say that it has been nothing but problems.
How do you decide?
I personally prefer Champion as not only are the prices good but so are their reviews.
If money was no object (wouldn’t that be nice) I would go with the Honda but being that you can often get a Champion for 1/2 to 2/3 the price of a Honda that’s the route I go.
Do I need a portable generator or an installed one?
If you are trying to get power to your houseboat you have most likely wondered which is better.
For ease of use and long term reliability an installed generator works best.
The main issue is the COST! Getting a permanent generator installed on your boat can cost $8-$10,000!
That is obviously much more than you would pay to purchase a portable generator as those can often be purchased for $1,000 or less.
You have to decide if the ease of use is more important or if the cost is.
I personally prefer just buying a good solid portable inverter generator as you can get one for $800-$1,000 (or even cheaper if you keep a lookout).
If price weren’t an issue I 100% would go with an installed one but being that I’m not made of money the portable generators work great for me!
Do I need an inverter generator?
For most people looking to buy a boat generator the answer is a rounding, yes!
Inverter generators work by making AC current, converts it to DC and then inverts it back to a clean AC current.
This works better than a normal generator in that it provides a more steady stream of current to your device so you don’t have the lights fading in and out as you would with most normal generators.
The inverter generator is also
- Very quiet
Most are as quiet as a refrigerator running or a normal conversation.
- Fuel efficiency
Since the engine speed adjusts according to the power needed an inverter generator is often much more fuel efficient than a traditional generator.
- Power quality
Since the inverter generator produces “clean” power it can used for sensitive electronics, appliances, etc. that couldn’t be used on a traditional generator.
This is a huge bonus as even on your boat you will most likely want to have a TV, computer, phone, etc. and all of those require a “clean” power source so as not to damaged them.
Inverter generators are often lighter and more compact than their traditional counterparts which makes it even better for use on your houseboat.
The drawbacks to inverter generators are e they are more expensive than a traditional generator and they are not available in as high of watts as many traditional generators.
However with inverter generators going as high as 6-7,000 watts, that will most likely be enough power for everything that you need on your boat.
Which boat generator is best?
This is obviously a contentious issue as everyone will have bad experiences or good one with specific brands or models.
Ultimately, nothing is a substitute for doing some digging of your own. Spend time reading reviews, talk with your friends or significant other about their experiences with a specific brand etc.
The generators that I personally like the best are
- Westinghouse iGen4500 (3,700 watts)
- Honda EU3000IS1A (3,000 watts)
- Champion 4000 Watts Inverter Generator
Of those 3 my personal favorite is the Champion as it not only has the most watts of the 3 but is also the best price of the 3 by far.
It does have the open frame look but for the savings and to have 4,000 watts it can’t be beat in my opinion.
No matter which generator you choose for your houseboat always be sure to check prices online as well as in stores.
I have often found end of season deals that are better than anything online so be sure and keep on eye on the sale ads!
If you do choose to go the installed generator route get a few different companies to come out and give you bids.
Be sure and compare them to make sure you are getting a good price and that you are making the right choice for your houseboat!