Modern boating brings comfort and entertainment that requires one to have power when they are cruising. One of the convenient ways to meet such power demands is to have a portable generator. But the question is Can I use a portable generator on a boat. The answer is Yes, if you own a small boat that cannot accommodate the installation of a Genset, you need a portable generator to provide power for your onboard electrical appliances. However, you should observe safety protocols; otherwise, a portable generator on a boat can turn out to be a deathtrap.
Safety Tips for Operating a Portable Generator on a Boat
1. Only Operate a Portable Generator Outdoors
Do not run a portable generator in any area below the deck or your boat’s cabin. Other areas to avoid placing your portable generator include the area near your boat’s doors, windows, hatches, and vents.
This is because gas-powered portable generators emit poisonous carbon monoxide fumes, which can kill when inhaled for a long.
The safe position to place a portable running generator is above the deck. Such a place has adequate ample airflow, and it is away from people. Enhance the dispersion of carbon monoxide away from your boat’s surrounding boat by placing the boat in an aft position.
How can you detect the poisonous fumes in your boat? When you start smelling exhaust fumes, it’s a sign that the deadly carbon monoxide is accumulating in the cabin.
2. Beware of Potential Generator Fire Hazard
Whenever you are using a portable generator on a boat, be careful of the potential risk of fire. Portable generators can quickly start a fire because of their fuel source; gasoline is a flammable product, especially when there is an exhaust system.
A small spark can be the leading cause of a fire in a boat; therefore, it is advisable that you only use a portable generator with an ignition protection system. Such a protection system protects the generator from causing sparks that could kindle gasoline.
The generator should also have a spark arrestor feature that stops any flammable debris such as unburnt fuel from bursting into flames while in the exhaust system. Before refueling the generator, ensure it is not running and has cooled down.
For further safety, do not refuel your portable generator when aboard the boat. Instead, take it to the bank and away from potential sources of ignition and any other boats and refuel it from there. Having fire extinguishers onboard can be your first line of defense should a fire start.
3. Protect The Portable Generator from Being Wet or Dump
Water and electricity do not mix. When running a portable generator in your boat, ensure there is no rain, and it doesn’t come into contact with any water. A combination of water and electricity can lead to a severe electric shock. In case it becomes wet, do not operate it, ensure it is dry before running it.
Besides the electric shock, generator parts are metallic, which can rust when subjected to damp environments. If you want your generator to serve you for many days, keep it in a dry place. Find an ideal location in the boat that will protect it from water even when the sea is rough.
You can boost the protection by installing a cowling or sun canopy. This will protect the generator from rain and high waves splashing to the generator. The canopy or cowling should, however, not block airflow.
4. Don’t Operate the Generator When the Boat is On Motion
Even though the generator can still run when the boat is in motion, it comes with a lot of risks. Fuel spillage and leaks are high when running a generator in a moving boat. Similarly, there are higher chances of water spraying or splashing into your generator when it is above the deck, and the boat is moving.
Running a portable generator when the boat is in motion has many potential risks than waiting to anchor your boat and run your electrical appliances. Furthermore, when your boat is in motion, the engine provides power to fitted electrical systems in the boat.
5. Avoid Using Gasoline as Your Fuel Source
You can avoid potential fire hazards by switching to propane or diesel-powered portable generator. These fuel sources have low flammability potential compared to gasoline, and propane is also cleaner than gasoline and diesel. Propane-powered portable generators have an emission that has low carbon content. If you are already using LPG or propane for cooking in your boat, it becomes easier to connect a propane-powered portable generator. Both propane and diesel fuel sources are easy to store than gasoline.
6. Monitor Your Portable Generator
If you’re running a portable generator on your boat, it is your responsibility to monitor it when it’s in operation. You have to ensure that it is operating correctly and it’s in the correct position.
While some forks may find it okay to leave their generator running on the deck while taking a nap, it’s not advisable. Even when the generator is moored, don’t leave it running while you are sleeping. If possible, install a carbon monoxide minder technology to alert you when ambient carbon monoxide levels are becoming dangerous. This lowers the risk of anyone on the boat inhaling hazardous levels of carbon monoxide fumes.
If you stick to the safety rules above, you can safely use a portable generator on a boat.
Factors to Consider When Settling for a Portable Generator for Boats
A reliable portable generator will help you power several appliances on your boat, including lights, entertainment systems, smart devices, and small cooking appliances. You can also charge your boat’s battery should its power die while you are in the water. Here are factors to consider when buying a portable generator to use on a boat.
1. Fuel Options
Before you settle on any portable generator for your boat, you need to know its fuel type. In most cases, you are likely to encounter generators that run on propane or gasoline. However, there are cases where you may find diesel-powered generators, but this will cost you more than propane or gasoline-powered ones.
Diesel-powered units come with large fuel tanks, which may limit you in terms of storage space. For convenience, you can consider going for a dual fuel generator. There are many models in the market running on either propane or gasoline. Dual fuel units allow you to utilize whichever of the two fuel sources, depending on their availability.
2. Power and Fuel Efficiency
The size of your suitable portable generator will depend on your demands on the boat. If you want to power several appliances simultaneously, factor in their total power requirements and choose a generator that can deliver the demands.
Also, check on fuel consumption rate. A good portable generator should serve you for long hours with the least amount of fuel. Check on the generator’s fuel consumption by checking its description.
3. Check on the Generator’s Noise Level
Generators can be noisy, but not all of them. If you are keen on the noise level a generator produces, find a generator with minimal noise production. Noise levels in the generator are measured on decibels; the lower the decibels number, the intense the noise level. Honda EU2200i and Generac iQ2000 are some of the quiet portable generators you can use on your boat.
If you are looking for a portable generator to use on your boat, consider a generator that is easy to lift and carry. Portable and lightweight generators are easy to load and off-load from your boat.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What size of generator is suitable for a boat?
A generator’s size is determined by the amount of power it can produce. Take a wattage summation of all AC appliances you intend to run on the generator. The total should give you the minimal size of generator to buy. However, running a generator at full load is not advisable; therefore, get a generator whose power output is 25 to 50% more than your power demands.
2. What will a portable generator do in a boat?
A portable or marine generator will generate electric power to run your electric appliances after shutting down the engine. This brings back life into the boat by allowing you to power your lights, sound systems, heaters, among other devices.
3. Do boats have electrical outlets?
Yes, a large number of boats come with electrical outlets. However, most of these outlets are for DC power generated from the boat’s battery power. You can power lights and other marine electronics from the outlets. Mostly, the maximum capacity you can get from these outlets is 24 volts coming from the battery of the boat. This battery recharges as the boat’s engine runs.
Can I use a portable generator on a boat? Yes, portable generators are perfect solutions to powering your boat’s devices in situations where your boat doesn’t have a Genset. However, you should follow the safety measures in this article to guarantee you and your colleagues safety while in the boat. But if you can invest in a marine generator, specifically built for marine life.