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Gadget Review – the 950i Motorhome Generator

Gadget Review – the 950i Motorhome Generator

by Alan Gow  |  December 2018  | Reviews

Do Not Buy a 950i Motorhome Generator if the Following Applies:

  • You typically stay at camping grounds with an EHU (Electrical Hook Up),
  • You have a solar panel and don’t go away in the winter,
  • You don’t have an inverter,
  • You have very low power needs,
  • You are really short of payload and/or storage space,
  • You like having the biggest and best of everything (and are happy paying for it).

However, if the following generally applies then this may be worth having on board:

  • You love the freedom of wildcamping,
  • You don’t like having to go camping grounds to charge your batteries,
  • You like to travel in the winter,
  • You don’t have solar or your solar panels sometimes can’t keep you charged,
  • You don’t like having to limit your power usage according to how much sun there is,
  • You don’t want to have to tell your wife she can’t charge her phone or her computer,
  • You can make some room on board for a small bit of extra kit

How We Ended Up With A Generator

Buying a generator wasn’t on our radar at all but we ended up with the 950i Motorhome Generator.

We have two solar panels and two leisure batteries and most of the time, this set up meets our needs for power.  We are however living full time in our moho and that means having to manage the short daylight hours and low powered sun that comes with a Northern Hemisphere winter.

Our first winter was spent in the Peloponnese region of Greece, and later down in Crete and while Facebook was full of tales of bad weather in Spain and Portugal, we bathed in fine weather nearly every day.  It was only occasionally that we had more than a couple of dull days in a row and with a bit of careful power management, we got through the winter without having to go to any campsites to recharge.  We were fortunate on quite a few occasions to find a free power hook up just when we were starting to get a little desperate.  Anyone who has travelled in that region in the winter would know that an open camping ground is about as rare as hen’s teeth.  Anyway, we managed and then as usual, our solar setup was great through the summer and early autumn.

On reaching Norway however in September the succession of dull days and the shortening daylight hours put us into new territory and we suddenly had to start visiting campsites, or somehow find an EHU to keep our batteries charged.  In addition to thinking about where to find fresh water and dump out the old stuff, we now had to think about where we would find power and it started costing us a lot of money.

By the time we arriving in Oslo in mid October, the sun had little power even on a good day.  We believed that replacing the batteries with AGM batteries would help as we suspected our batteries were not working effectively and AGM batteries can be discharged to a lower charge state without damage, compared to normal flooded batteries, which would have given us more days between charges.  We found some excellent Exide AGM’s at a great price however they would not fit into our battery compartment.  We then spied this wee generator, grabbed it and now enjoy the freedom and peace of mind that comes with being fully electrically independent. 

If you are thinking that you would only use this in Scandinavia then I can tell you that we also needed it down through Holland, Germany, and France – the winter sun was just too weak and days too short to keep our batteries charged.  On a dull day your solar panel output can easily be less than 10% of their rated power so a lack of power can affect you anywhere and any time.

About the 950i

The 800W 950i is about the cheapest generator on the market, weighs under 10kg and at 380L x 340H x 200W is small enough to fit into a small slot in your garage.  There is also a 1200W model but in my opinion, you don’t need the extra power in most cases and it costs more, weighs more and takes up more room – so why would you?

The petrol tank holds 2 litres which seems to be enough for at least 5 hours running so the cost of running this is almost nothing.  I just fill up the tank at the petrol station rather than carry around an extra fuel container.

There is a a normal household 230V outlet plus a 12V outlet so you can charge a battery directly using the connector cable supplied.  There are the normal overload protection devices and the specifications state that it is compatible with sensitive electronics – we have had computers plugged in with the genny on with no problems.  There is an economy mode which is what we normally run on and I presume this just reduces the power output and fuel consumption. 

 

First Impressions

The 950i is a tidy, compact bit of equipment which is nicely finished and looks like it will do the job.  Overall, we were impressed with the small size, the weight, the price and the appearance.

We know that these generators are rebranded under several different brands.  Ours is blue, the one available on Amazon UK is red.

 

Using the 950i

After filling up the crankcase with oil (these are shipped without oil), and topping up the fuel tank, there is a short starting sequence to follow.

1. turn on the fuel tap

2. open the air vent in the fuel cap

3. close the choke

4. turn on the engine switch

5. prime the fuel by pressing the bulb on the side

6. pull the starting handle

7. allow the genny to warm up for a couple of minutes before turning off the choke, and plugging your EHU lead into the 230V socket

That’s all you need to do and in practice it only takes a few seconds.  You can then use the 230V inside your moho as if you were plugged into a normal EHU and your batteries will be charging.

The genny nearly always starts on the second pull from cold but once warm it starts on the first pull.  It then runs smoothly with a noise level at 7m of 58dB. What does that mean in practice?  It is noticeable but not too obtrusive.  We think that it is fine but out of consideration, we do limit where and when we run it, and if we have neighbours we check with them and advise how long we will be charging for.

We were asked by one of our readers whether a woman would be able to move and start the genny. Ruth was easily able to lift it from the garage and her up so the answer to that was “Yes”.

We have had two electric bike batteries, two computers, two IPhones and two electric toothbrushes all charging off the genny, and the leisure batteries are still getting charged at the maximum rate our on-board charger can handle.  The 950i seems to have enough power for all of our needs. 

Recommendation

We obviously survived up until this last winter without having a generator and could still have managed by being extremely frugal with power usage and booking into camping grounds on a regular basis.  That didn’t suit us and since having the genny we have experienced a great sense of freedom and independence.  Cloudy wet forecast for the next few days – doesn’t affect us anymore.

Without direct experience of other units I can’t really make comparisons other than to say that most of the ones talked about on Facebook sites for motorhomers are much more expensive, have high outputs (2kW plus), are bigger, and are heavier (20kg plus).  Our genny may not be a ‘big name’ model but for something that is really just there for the odd occasion, why would you spend more and carry more?

So far, we have used the genny at least a dozen times, it has done everything we asked of it and we recommend it.

We have put a link up to Amazon  on this page if you want to buy one.  If you buy it after clicking through on our link, we will earn a small commission however the price to you is the same as if you found the page directly.  So if you found this review helpful and decide to buy one, then it would be great if you used the link on our website.

Gadget Review – the Karcher VV1 Window Vacuum

Gadget Review – the Karcher VV1 Window Vacuum

by Alan Gow  |  September 2018  | Reviews
Do Not Buy One of These if the Following Applies:

  • You only camp in the warm months of the year or,
  • You have external window blinds or,
  • You don’t have an inverter or,
  • You love wiping down your windows with paper towels or cloths or,
  • You prefer driving with windows you can’t see through.

The Story of our Past – Pre Karcher

Unfortunately for us, none of the above applied so I knew in my heart of hearts that a Karcher window vacuum would be ideal.  I saw them in shops in various countries, picked them up, fondled them lovingly, then placed them back on the shelves because in my mind I couldn’t quite justify the real estate they would occupy in our moho or the empty real estate they would leave in my wallet. The ones I saw were quite heavy in weight and price.

Can you relate to waking up in the morning and drying copious amounts of water off the inside of your windows, then maybe having to clean the windows because of the smears left behind?   Then, when it is time to drive off, the windows have fogged up so you either have to wipe them down again or leave the engine running for ages to demist them.

Well, I did this grudgingly through our first winter but after a few weeks of cold dewy Finland mornings, I wasn’t looking forward to another four months of the same.

Time for a Dry Change

When I spied the VV1 in a shop in Finland, I immediately noticed that it was smaller and lighter than other Karcher models I had seen.  It didn’t come with so many fittings or fancy accessories but let’s face it, all we want to do is dry the inside of the windows.  Anything else is just extra volume and weight.  The kit included a window washing bottle with a microfibre cleaning cloth so that was really all I would possibly need.  Even though we were in one of the notoriously expensive Scandinavian countries, the price was reasonable.  So after consultation with my better half, who encouraged me to go for it, the VV1 made it into our motorhome, ‘Betsy’.

Experiencing the Karcher VV1

When we arrived back to Betsy we found a nice spot where the vac tucked into without getting in the way but unfortunately the windows were dry so I couldn’t try it out.   I woke up very excited the next morning and eager to test my new toy (I know, how sad is that).  You can imagine my joy when I peeled off the window blinds and saw the glass literally dripping and running with water.

I immediately whipped out the new device and watched in amazement as it hoovered off the water, leaving the glass spotlessly clean. A few swipes across the windscreen and side windows and the water was gone.  The vac has a small water container which was now full and this is easily detached and emptied out. 

The VV1 charges up quickly from a 220/240 socket and the battery lasts at least a week of water slurping before needing a recharge so there is very little drain your batteries. The weight is just over 500 grams (not much more than a can of baked beans) so it doesn’t put a dent in your payload.

I really didn’t appreciate just how much I would use the window vac.  Often, after parking up for a little while and making some lunch or a cuppa, the windscreen has fogged up again.  Rather than having to wait for the demister to do its stuff, a quick whip across the glass with the vac and the windows are crystal clear again.  It also makes short work of condensation on the habitation windows.

Recommendation

Although we could obviously live without the Karcher, it has added to our enjoyment of life, decreased our workload, and made driving safer (with crystal clear windows).  It was relatively inexpensive, not too heavy and not too big so for us it ticks all of the boxes needed to justify a place in Betsy.  It gets a 4 out of 5 stars recommendation from me.

These cool devices are available from many home appliance shops or you can buy one off our Amazon page for the same price (how good is that?).

Gadget Review – the Omnia Stovetop Oven

Gadget Review – the Omnia Stovetop Oven

by Alan Gow  |  September 2018  | Reviews

When we ordered our motorhome Betsy, she was supposed to come fitted with a full gas oven.  However, when we picked her up we were told that there was a problem and it wasn’t possible to install one without significant alterations and cost.  As we love to cook, this was a serious blow, so we immediately started looking for alternatives. We first tried an appliance called a Remoska, which many motorhomers swear by and consists of a roasting pan plus the lid that contains an electric heating element.  While this was excellent for roast dinners and other baking, it had three main drawbacks for us.  Firstly it was big and heavy and took up a lot of room.  Secondly, it was quite power hungry and as we live off grid we have to be careful not to drain our batteries, which limited how much we could use the Remoska. Thirdly, it just stopped working after three months.  Although we got a refund, it wasn’t replaced. After further extensive research, we came across the Omnia – an ingenious device from Sweden which we would now hate to be without.  It is not until you actually have something like this that you realise all of the great food that you are missing out on just because you don’t have the means to cook it. We have been using our Omnia now since October 2017 and have put a lot of other motorhomers onto them.  We mention them on social media a lot and keep getting asked questions, so we decided to put up a review here on our website so everyone can understand what an Omnia is, how it works, and how it would benefit them.

What is an Omnia?

An Omnia is an appliance that you use on your gas or electric cooktop.  This allows you to cook most things that you would normally make in an oven, without actually having one.  The Omnia greatly expands the range of dishes you can cook in your motorhome or boat. There are three pieces to the standard Omnia, (plus two optional extra parts which I will talk about later). These are:

  • the round steel base,  which sits directly onto the gas ring or electric element
  • the aluminium ring-shaped baking pan, which sits on the base and you fill with the goodies to be cooked
  • the bright red lid

The whole device measures just 250mm in diameter, stands 140mm high and weighs in at a paltry 500 grams.  It comes packed in its own neat little bag to keep everything together and tidy. The optional parts are a silicon mould insert which means you don’t have to butter and flour the baking pan each time you use it, and it makes washing up soooo much easier, and a rack which sits inside the Omnia for certain types of baking.

How does the Omnia work?

The steel base sits directly on a gas ring, camp cooker or electric element (not induction though), with the baking pan, then the lid on top. The burner heats the air under the pan and in the top compartment, through the hole in the middle of the baking pan. There are small holes in the lid which let out excess steam. You simply butter and flour the baking pan (if you have the silicon mould then ignore this step and insert the mould straight into the pan).  You then fill the pan with your cake mix, lasagne ingredients, roast dinner ingredients, bread dough etc, pop it on the base, drop the lid into place and centre the whole assembly on your fired up gas ring or cooktop.  The gas is normally turned down close to the lowest setting and then the Omnia is left to do its magic.  Most dishes take the same time as they would in an oven. We had our Omnia for several months before finding somewhere we could buy the silicon mould (from the Jula store in Sweden), and after having used it with or without the mould, we thoroughly recommend the mould is purchased.  The only real pains with using the Omnia were buttering/flouring the baking pan then washing it afterwards, and the silicon mould does away with all that.

Homemade Breads, Cakes and Sweets

Freshly Made Bread

Hot Cross Buns

Omnia Apple Strudel Cake

Moist Orange or Lemon Cake

Chocolate Cake

Sticky Date Pudding

Savoury Dishes to Delight the Tastebuds

Tasty Authentic Lasagne

Sicilian Eggplant Involtini

Individual Quiches

Turkish Borecik

Tandoori Vegetable Filo

Italian Style Meatballs

Would an Omnia Benefit Me?

Well that’s a great question and thank you for asking it.

An Omnia is certainly a benefit for us and if I explain why, then you can decide whether your circumstances are close enough to ours that you would benefit as well.

1. We have no oven so without an Omnia we couldn’t cook cakes, roast dinners, bread, lasagne, scones, quiches, or any of the other beautiful dishes that have come out of our little Omnia.  If you have an oven then you probably don’t need an Omnia.

2. We are very rarely on an electrical hook up so we can’t easily use electrical appliances that consume a lot of electricity.

3. We actually like to cook ourselves and only eat out very occasionally.  If your preferences and budget suit eating out most nights, then you probably won’t use an Omnia often.

4. We wild camp a lot and generally setting up barbeques and Cadac style cookers outside is not permitted.  If you typically stay at campsites and possess these items you may have less use for an Omnia.

5. We really like eating good food and the Omnia makes spectacularly tasty tucker.  We are happy to make the effort to cook food that makes us happy.  If your camping tastes are satisfied by baked beans on toast and you can’t be bothered taking the time to put more than two ingredients together then again the Omnia may not be for you.

6. We are also sailors and recognise that an Omnia would be a great device to have on an oven-less yacht.

If you relate to our situation then you are probably getting just a little excited now and just want to know how you can get your hands on one of these life-changing tools.

But unfortunately (for us), we are not making money from this website or selling anything so we have no magic link we can share to let you buy one easily.  There doesn’t seem to be a current UK distributor however many of the camping shops in Europe have them in stock and there are a lot of authorised European online retailers who I am sure would ship to Great Britain and other European locations.  For an online retailer, we suggest you go onto the Omnia website resellers page.

We have seen Omnia and accessories for sale at many locations around Europe and the prices do vary.  The three-piece base unit ranges anywhere from €37.50 through to €60.  Then the silicon mould is priced at about €16 to €19.  The rack insert is another extra item, however, this isn’t something we use a lot and I wouldn’t really recommend this as being critical to your gastronomic success.  You can also buy a thermometer with a spike which passes through one of the holes in the lid to read the actual temperature.   We don’t have this so can’t comment on how well it works, however, we seem to do fine without it.

We have shared quite a few Omnia recipies on our Recipes page.  There is a great Facebook Omnia Users group which shares ideas, experiences and more recipes.

If you buy an Omnia, please let us know how you find it and share any great recipes you find or come up with.  We are always looking for new tasty stuff to try out.