If you want to power appliances, you need a boat generator (also called a marine generator), a portable generator designed to be installed and used on watercraft. These generators are waterproof, lightweight, and compact, leaving plenty of room on your boat for you and your friends.
However, boat generators are not one-size-fits-all. Some boat generators are only useful for small boats, while others are only useful for large boats. It is thus critical when installing a boat generator to know which works best for you, so you can charge all of your amenities while leaving plenty of space to spare.
Can I Use a Portable Generator on a Boat?
In the past, electrical generators were simply too bulky to use on a boat smaller than 20 ft (6 meters) in length, as the sheer weight of the machine would prevent the boat from ever leaving shore.
Smaller boats typically derive power from an on-board battery, which would be periodically recharged on land. Said battery would distribute its power to the rest of the boat via an inverter, which converts the DC current within batteries to an AC current that most appliances can use.
Inverters are good for supplying power needs within the 1000-3000 Watt range, enough to charge your cell phone, light up your interior, and even power small appliances like a microwave or a coffeemaker. Even if your boat is big enough to require a generator, a battery with an inverter is a good way to keep a reservoir of energy on board should the engine fail.
Having a dedicated electrical generator is necessary if your boat is equipped with heavy appliances, particularly air conditioning, water heaters, and desalination units. Said generators will convert fuel from your ship into electricity, producing up to 10,000 Watts of power. Boat generators come in many different models, however, and the one you choose should be the best for your boat.
What Size Should My Generator Be?
Thus, when considered what generators to pick for your boat, you need to consider how much power that boat needs. This can be calculated relatively easily by compiling a list of all the power requirements for each appliance on your boat and adding them up. Below is a list of common appliances one might find on a boat and the typical range of their power requirements:
|Appliance||Power Requirement (Watts)|
|TV (32’’ LED/LCD)||50|
|Cell Phone Charger||10|
|Air Conditioner (7000 BTU to 10,000 BTU)||1000-1500 (Running)
Ideally, your appliances should be able to use between 40% and 80% of whatever power your boat generator can output. Your appliances should never use less than 25% of the generator’s output, as this can lead to the problems listed above.
Also note that the power demand of a boat will not always be constant. While most boat generators can support a range of different power demands, if the range is too high, then it might be better to get multiple generators. That way, a high-power boat generator can be activated only when the demand for power is high, while a low-power generator can be used for when the demand for power is low. While this adds a lot of extra maintenance, it could save a lot of power in the long run. Some newer boat generators can even adjust their power output automatically, changing their RPM to match the load as needed.
Top 6 Best Boat Generators for Sale
The Pulsar G2319N generator is a small, gas-powered generator suitable for use in house boats. Capable of providing an average of 1800 W, and a maximum of 2300 W. Small, portable, and weighing only 48 pounds, this boat generator can be easily moved around, making its installation and removal quick and easy.
The Pulsar G2319N is on the smaller side but is able to get a lot of time out of a little gas. With a full load of 1.18 gallons of fuel, the Pulsar G2319N can run continuously for up to 6 hours. This type of output is good if you plan to take your boat out all day.
This generator is a smaller model, only suitable for vessels with a relatively low power demand. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in portability. This fairly lightweight generator can be picked up like a suitcase and moved around with relative ease. With controlled power consumption, this boat generator can easily last you all day.
Though some user reviews claim the device is loud at first, this effect diminishes greatly over time. Indeed, you may want to “break in” the engine by powering it at relatively low loads turning up the rpm. Turning it to max power immediately is almost guaranteed to make this engine and any other quite noisy!
The Westinghouse WGen5500 is a much bulkier generator, weighing in at 170 pounds. That extra space isn’t going to waste, however, as the generator can produce 5500 running watts, with a peak wattage of 6850 W. This makes it better-suited for boats with a lot of appliances, particular those that are more power-hungry like air conditioning.
One of the bigger draws of this model, however, is its durability, both for the generator itself and its power output. The Westinghouse WGen5500 generator features a hardened-steel frame with durable rubber outlet covers, able to keep out even the harshest of elements. Within this casing is a 20 CC Westinghouse 4-Stroke OHV Engine, encased in a long-lasting cast iron sleeve, as well as a tank capable of storing up to 6.6 gallons of gasoline. Able to run continuously for up to 20 hours, this model is able to get you through even the most extensive trips without missing a beat.
And, with built-in automatic low-oil shutdown and a digital hour reader, long-term maintenance of this engine is quick and easy. Should these features not be sufficient, then the Westinghouse WGen5500 comes with a 3-year limited warranty, guaranteeing compensation should the generator break down.
The Generac GP3000I super quiet inverter boat generator is a very small, compact generator, weighing a mere 59.5 pounds being roughly the size of a bulky suitcase. Able to produce 3000 watts of starting power, and 2300 watts of running power, this generator is able to adequately power a moderate range of appliances.
The biggest draw of this engine is its efficiency, provided by unique PowerRUSH technology, which delivers over 50% more starting capacity for the same amount of fuel than most competitors. With it, customers have reported being able to run the boat generator for up to three days using under five gallons of fuel. If you wish to get the most out of your gas, this is the engine for you.
Furthermore, the generator features True power, an electronic setup which enables the generator to produce a near constant level of power. This makes it ideal for sensitive electronics and appliances, as it minimizes the risks of overloading the devices due to an electronic surge.
The generator also utilizes an inverter, allowing it to remain much quieter as it runs than its competitors, making it pleasant to run with very little hassle. This, combined with its multiple plugs and USB ports, as well as its compact size and weight, makes the installation and movement of this generator easy and hassle-free.
This is a big, bulky generator, weighing in at 190 pounds and a tank capable of holding up to 8 gallons of gasoline. Able to provide a whopping 10,000 Watts of startup power and 8000 watts of running power, this generator will meet the needs of all but the biggest of recreational boats. Providing up to 12 hours of operating time at half-load, this generator can support long hours of operation, and with a high reserve of fuel, can last for days.
As the generator is large and fairly loud, it is best to have a spacious room reserved for it on your boat, as well as some moderate soundproofing. If your boat features air conditioning, then a generator like this is a must-have. Many appliances like air conditioning may require relatively low amounts of power during their average runtime, but draw larger amounts of it during startup. For example, a 12000 btu air conditioner will, on average, require only 9 amps to provide max cooling, but will draw up to 50 amps during its initial starting period. For such large quantities of power, the Pulsar PG10000 boat generator is perfect.
Should anything happen to your generator, all purchases of the Pulsar PG10000 come with a 1-year limited warranty set to fix any issues you may have.
The Honda Power Equipment EG2800IA generator is fairly small, both in size and in power output. Weighing in at only 66 pounds, and providing 2800 watts of power, this generator is able to provide power to a wide array of electronic appliances. Utilizing an inverter, the generator is able to generate a steady supply of power, allowing it to power most sensitive electronics without a risk of a power surge. Said inverter also makes the boat generator very quiet meaning it won’t disturb you or your passengers as it’s running.
Being fairly lightweight and featuring a compact design, this model is easy to install and move into any boat. The generator features a sturdy frame with a set of wheels and a set of folding, offset handles that make lifting and moving the generator quick and easy. This, combined with its relatively low power generation, makes this generator better suited for smaller boats with a lower energy demand.
The best features of the Honda EG2800IA, though, are its reliability and fuel efficiency. This model is able to work reliably and support long running times. Customers have reported the generator running up to 11 hours from a full tank of gas, and some have even reported running the generator continuously for up to 80 hours. With such outstanding durability, this boat generator is sure to keep you through even the longest trips away from the shore. And, with multiple switches controlling the ignition system, fuel valve, and choke valve, the Honda EG2800IA is guaranteed to start only when you want it to start, ensuring the safety of its user.
The WEN 56200i Super Quiet 2000-Watt Portable Inverter Generator is a compact, portable generator. Featuring an EPA III and CARB Compliant 79. 7 cc 4-stroke OHV engine, this generator is capable of producing 2000 watts of maximum power and 1600 watts of rated power. Capable of storing 1 gallon of gas and running continuously for 6 hours, this generator is best suited for smaller boats that rarely have to leave the shore for longer than half a day.
This generator is compact, portable, and efficient, able to be easily installed onto most vessels and able to run efficiently while minimizing the amount of fuel used. If the power demands for your vessel aren’t very huge, then this is certainly the type of generator you would want. If your power demands are higher, however, then a parallel connection cable allows you to run two of these generators simultaneously to double your power output. Keeping a setup like this is great if your power needs vary a lot, and ensures you have a spare generator in place should your primary generator fail for any reason.
Using an inverter, this generator operates quietly and steadily, generating less noise than an average conversation and creating a power output with under .3% harmonic distortion, keeping your electronics nice and safe against any power surges.
Installing Your Generator Onto Your Boat
Once you’ve decided what generator (or generators) would best suit your boat, you’re going to have to install it. While the generators listed in this article are all portable, using them on a boat isn’t just a matter of plopping it down on the deck and pulling the chord. If you want to get the most out of your generator, you’ll want to follow these guidelines on properly installing a marine generator onto your vessel.
Step 1: Location, Location, Location
The most important step in installing a generator is deciding where to put it. This depends heavily on both the generator you decide to use and the layout of your boat. Typically, you will want a spacious, sturdy room, one which moderately shielded against the elements. It is very important that you get as little water near your generators as possible. One should, however, keep the room very well-ventilated, as boat generators tend to use very volatile substances as fuel, and these substances produce very dangerous vapors. Ideally, one should fuel their generator outside, but if this is not tenable, then keeping a large window or vent in the room is the next best option. Ventilation is also necessary to prevent the engine from overheating, as you want to get rid of any waste heat you generate as soon as possible. You should also refrain from placing the generator against any walls, if possible, as you want to be able to access all sides of the generator for fueling and maintenance. This isn’t as big a concern for smaller generators, but for larger ones, you should have a lot of space immediately available for when you need to inspect your generator.
Step 2: Go All In
The sea in general is a bad place for metal to be, as the corrosive seawater quickly turns most of them to rust. While ideally, your generator will be isolated from the sea, boats are never perfect, and contact with seawater at sea is almost an inevitability. Thus, unless your generator was specifically designed for use at sea, you’ll want to apply some waterproof coatings to the interior components of your generator to minimize potential rust. To start this, you’ll want to first remove the casing from the generator, using a screwdriver or wrench to carefully take out each panel. You will then want to locate the muffler, attached to the fuel tank, of your generator, and apply a coating of thermally resistant waterproof paint. You will also want to apply waterproof paint to all removed screws from your boat generator, though this particular paint does not need to be thermally resistant. You will then want to apply waterproof lubricant to both the rest of the engine and the electronic components (wiring, etc.) of the generator. You will then want to reassemble the generator, testing it before taking it out for use on your boat.
Step 3: Accessorize
Depending on how your generator operates, you may want to construct a casing around your generator. Casing can help secure your generator, minimizing damage from rocky waves and ocean water. If your boat generator is noisy, certain types of soundproof casing are available to dampen the sound. If you do decide to use casing, you’ll want to make sure to leave some access panels, so you can easily access the interior of your generator should any problems pop up.
Electricity is a modern luxury few of us can do without. Yet in today’s day and age, even going out to the middle of the sea doesn’t mean you have to part with this modern luxury. With a good boat generator, even the smallest of vessels can have access to electricity for days before needing to stop and refuel. While acquiring a generator isn’t always a straightforward process, many find this process well worth the access to refrigeration, air conditioning, and television out in the middle of the ocean. We hope that no matter what marine generator you choose to buy, that you manage to have a good time using it while you’re out at sea.