A good inverter generator can be a real asset to any RV owner or camper.  While most RVs have batteries that allow you to run basic electrical services, those batteries have a finite life span before they will need to be charged.  A generator will allow the RV’er to recharge those batteries, or even operate the entire RV for extended periods of time without the need to plug into shore power at an RV park.

This guide is designed to examine the different needs of RV’ers and campers and what generators would be best suited to meet those needs.

First, let’s take a look generators in general and which specific types are best suited for RV use.  For this article I’m going to stick to portable units which have the widest range of applications in camping.

Generator Types:

Portable generators can be categorized into two main groups.  The first is your standard contractor type generator.  These tend to be large, heavy and noisy.  Their low cost per watt of output may be appealing when shopping for a generator, but the excessive noise they produce makes them much better suited to a construction site then the peaceful back country.  For RV or camping use, these are better left at home.

The next type is the inverter generator.  Inverter generators have several advantages over typical contractor generators for camping applications.  First, they are a much more modern design which relies on a smaller motor to drive an inverter which outputs AC power.  These are also electronically controlled which allows the speed of the motor to altered on the fly based on the power needs of the attached load.  The smaller engine and throttle management features make inverter generators much quieter then their contractor grade cousins.  In fact, most inverter generators have a switch on them that allow you to put it in “quiet mode” – where the rpm is dropped to a low idle level which is super quiet.   Inverter generators also tend to put out much cleaner power, which is good when running an RV with more sensitive electronics.  Inverter generators are also available in smaller sizes which allow you to better match the generator size with your needs.

Of course, all these great things come with a cost.  Inverter generators are quite a bit more expensive per watt then contractor generators.  However, both you and your neighbors in the back country will appreciate the features and quiet operation these generators offer.

Inverter Generator Sizing:

Sizing a generator depends on how you intend to use it.  In general, inverter generators come in three size classes as follows:

Small generators – up to 2,500 watts.  These tend to be small and light enough to carry with a single hand.   Their small engines are easily started with a recoil pull starter and they use very little fuel.  Since they are recoil started, remote start is not an option.  In general, they are too small to run an RV AC which makes them best suited to non-AC applications or battery charging duty.  Most units can be connected in parallel using an optional parallel kit.  Doing so will combine the wattage available from both units.  This is can get you enough power to run an RV AC.  These are also the quietest class of generator.

Mid Size Generators – 2500 – 3500 watts.  These are the most common RV generators used when AC is required.  About 3000 starting watts are necessary to run a 13.5K AC and 3500 starting watts for a 15K AC. Actual requirements will depend on your specific AC.  These mid size units generate much more power at the expense of weight and portability, making them more suitable for running entire RVs.  Many models also offer electric and remote start and some are available which can run on gas or propane.  Parallel kits are offered for many which will allow them to be paired with another generator (it does not have to be the same size or model) to get more power when needed.  These are typically very quite also, usually within a couple decibels of the small generators.

Large Size Generators – 4000 watts and up.  These can provide a complete power solution for larger RVs.  Nearly all are electric start and/or remote start.  Unfortunately, they are also large, heavy, fuel inefficient and relatively loud.  They are best used in applications where you do not travel much or need the generator to double as a home backup when you are not on the road.

Inverter Generator Fuel Types:

Inverter generators are available that can run on several different fuels, the most common of which are gas or propane.  While propane sounds appealing, particularly in a camping environment, it tends to be extremely inefficient when compared to gas.  A typical 3000 watt generator will run 5 – 8 hours on 1.5 gallons of gas.  That same generator will burn through a 20 lb grill propane tank in less time.

Which One Should I Buy?

The specific model would depend entirely on your needs.  There is a huge debate though that rages on the internet regarding quality.  There’s the school that says only buy a Honda or a Yamaha because they are by far the highest quality.  This may be true, however at up to 3 times the cost of some of the other models for the same out output the big question is are they worth it?  The hard core red and blue fanboys will always chime in “absolutely” with intense conviction.  But in reality it may not be.

I think it is fair to consider how you plan to use it.  If you have essential things you need to run, like medical or business equipment, that will cost you your life or livelihood then spending the extra money on a high end generator may be worth it.   Most of us however are not in that situation.  Lets face it, even if you boondock a lot a generator failure is not the end of the world.  You can pick up and move to a site with some shore power until you get it fixed.  Additionally, buying the “better” generator is still no guarantee that you won’t be faced with the same inconvenience.

When we bought ours, we thought we would be doing quite a bit of boondocking so we would need a good generator.  We also planned on adding some solar (which we did) so the generator would not be our only source of power.   We ended up going with a Champion 3400 watt manual start unit.  They are very well rated, considered very reliable, well designed, fairly compact and light weight and relatively inexpensive.  To get the cost down even more, we purchased a refurbished unit for $649.  When it arrived, it looked and operated like brand new.  In fact, there waasn’t even any oil in the engine so from what we could tell it was basically a new unit.   As it turns out over the past year and a half we have used it much less then we thought we would.  We do get it out and run it a little bit every month or two, but we probably have less then 30 hours on it actually power the trailer.  It does a great job at that task and we coudn’t be happier with it.  In hind sight, I’m very glad we did not spend 4 – 5 times as much on a comparably sized Honda or Yamaha.

In our experience, even the Harbor Freight generators are very good.  Also, if you look at a lot the generators in the list you will begin to notice some striking similarities in physical appearance, features, specs and warranties between models from different manufacturers.  I think, but can not confirm, that many of these units are indeed the same so the only real difference between some may be the level of support or availability of parts that the manufacturer can provide.

Inverter Generator Features and Options to look for:

Inverter generators have several options which are worth considering when making a purchasing decision.  Of course, these options all add to the cost and in some cases, weight and size of the generator so it’s important to really look at your needs for operation, storage and handling.  Electric start won’t do you much good if it makes the generator too heavy to get into or out of your storage spot.

Fuel Gauge – A lot of the lesser expensive units lack this.  It’s not essential, but nice to have.

Digital meters – These show things like output amps, and runtime hours.  I think with the low cost of electronics these days, all generators should have these – but they don’t.  They are nice to have, but not essential.

Electric Start – Great on larger units or if you physically have difficulty using a pull starter.  The downside is it adds a battery and additional components.  These add weight, physical size and additional maintenance/failure points to the unit.  If you want to set up a remote start system you”ll need an electric start unit.

Remote Start – This option allows the generate to be started remotely – either by a hand held remote control or by wire connected to your shore power system.  This saves you from having to go outside to start the generator, or as an automatic failover if you loose shore power.  You’ll need an electric start equipped unit for this option.

Low oil cutoff – If the generator runs low on oil the engine will automatically shut down.  This is an import feature to prevent accidental damage to the motor.  Most units I’ve looked at have this.

RV Receptacles – many of the smaller generators will not have a standard 30amp or 50amp RV receptacle to plug into.  If the generator does not, you will need to supply an adapter to make that connection.


I plugged my RV surge protector into my generator and its reporting an error.  If you use a surge protector and plug it into an inverter generator you may get an open neutral warning.  This is an electrical issue which has to do with how the neutral pole and ground poles are treated in the generator.  In residential wiring, a main electrical panel will have the ground wires and neutral wires bonded (connected to) the same bus bar.  Any sub panels will have them separated so the ground wires and neutral wires are connected to separate bus bars.  Your RV breaker box is a subpanel to the RV parks electrical system so the neutral and grounds are not bonded.  The bonding is provided by the main panels at the RV park.   Most generator manufactures treat the generator as a subpanel as well by leaving the neutrals and grounds unbonded.  An unbonded neutral will register in the surge protector as an “open neutral” and result in a fault.  Some surge protectors will just show a warning LED while letting the power through.  Others will automatically cut power to the RV.  If you run into this problem there are a couple solutions.   The easiest is to skip the surge protector and plug the RV directly into the generator.  This may not be the safest option. Alternatively, you can use a special bonding plug.  This is a special plug that usually fits into one of the 15 amp sockets and has the neutral and ground lugs connected by an internal wire.  You can make one yourself, or there’s a guy on line that sells them.  Pluging it into a single outlet bonds the entire unit so all the receptacle (including any RV ports) will be bonded as long as the plug is in place.  Do not ever use one of these plugs on a generator that is neutral bonded from the factory, doing so can cause other issues. Regardless of the route you choose make sure that your generator is also properly grounded per the manufacturer’s instructions.

http://noshockzone.org/generator-ground-neutral-bonding/
https://www.microair.net/products/generator-bonding-plug?variant=12272654155860

PictureGeneratorModel #    Fuel     Running Watts    Starting Watts    Electric Start    Remote Start    Fuel Gauge    Digital Display    Low Oil Cutoff    Parallel Capable    RV Receptacles    Sound Level    Fuel Capacity    Run Time    Dimensions (LxWxH)    Weight    MSRP    Street Price    Residential Warranty    
Briggs &  Stratton P2200030651Gas17002200NoNoNoNoNo59 dBA1.0 Gal8 Hrs @ 25% Load21"x12.5"x17.35"54 lbs.$729Check Amazon2 Year Limited
Briggs &  Stratton P3000030545Gas26003000NoNo 30A58 dBA1.5 Gal10 Hrs @ 25% Load26"x14"x21"84 lbs.$1499Check Amazon2 Year Limited
Briggs &  Stratton Q6500030675Gas50006500NoNoNoNo66 dBA5 Gal14 Hrs @ 25% Load25.53"x21.12"x21.43"128 lbs.$1499Check Amazon2 Year Limited
Cat INV2000522-2700Gas18002250NoNoNo
INV2000 Parallel Kit
No53 dBA 1.0 Gal6 Hrs @ 50% Load19.6"x12.5"x18.1"
48.8 lbs$749.99Check Amazon2 Year Limited
3 Year Limited if registered in 30 days
Champion 2000W100306Gas16002000NoNoNo53 dBA @ 9ft and 50% power1.1 Gal11 Hrs @ 25% Load20.5"x13"x16.9"
46.3 lbs$4993 Year Limited
Champion 2000W100478Gas17002000NoNoNoNoNo53 dBA @ 9ft and 50% power1.1 Gal11.5 Hrs @ 25% Load17.3"x11.2'x17.5"38.6 lbs.$3993 Year Limited
Champion 2000W73536iGas17002000NoNoNoNoNo53 dBA @ 9ft and 50% power1 Gal9.5 Hrs @ 25% Load19.3"x13.2"x16.3"48.5 lbs$5493 Year Limited
Champion 2000W73540iGas17002000NoNoNoNoNo53 dBA @ 9ft and 50% power1 Gal9.5 Hrs @ 25% Load19.3"x13.2"x16.3"48.5 lbs$4993 Year Limited
Champion 2000W100489Gas17002000NoNoNoNoNo53 dBA @ 9ft and 50% power1 Gal9.5 Hrs @ 25% Load19.3"x13.2"x16.3"48.5 lbs$4993 Year Limited
Champion 2000W100148Gas17002000NoNoNoNoNo53 dBA @ 9ft and 50% power1 Gal9.5 Hrs @ 25% Load19.3"x13.2"x16.3"48.5 lbs$4993 Year Limited
Champion 3100W DF100204Gas, Propane2800 (gas)
2520 (propane)
3100 (gas)
2800 (propane)
NoNoNo 30A58 dBA @ 9ft and 50% power1.6 Gal8 Hrs @ 25% Load (Gas)
19 Hrs @ 25% Load (20 lb propane)
25.1"x17.3"x18.3"96.8 lbs.$11993 Year Limited
Champion 3100W100158Gas28003100NoNoNoNo 30A58 dBA @ 9ft and 50% power1.6 Gal8 Hrs @ 25% Load22.4"x17.3"x18.3"84 lbs.$6993 Year Limited
Champion 3100W75531iGas28003100NoNoNoNo 30A58 dBA @ 9ft and 50% power1.6 Gal8 Hrs @ 25% Load22.4"x17.3"x18.3"84 lbs.$8993 Year Limited
Champion 3100W WS75537iGas28003100NoNo_class=""] 30A58 dBA @ 9ft and 50% power1.6 Gal8 Hrs @ 25% Load25.1"x17.3"x18.3"96.6 lbs.3 Year Limited
Champion 3150W100476Gas28503150NoNoNoNo 30A58 dBA @ 9ft and 50% power1.6 Gal8 Hrs @ 25% Load22.4"x17.3"x18.3"80.9 lbs.3 Year Limited
Champion 3150W WS100477Gas28503150NoNo 30A58 dBA @ 9ft and 50% power1.6 Gal8 Hrs @ 25% Load25.1"x17.3"x18.3"95.0 lbs.3 Year Limited
Champion 3400W DF100263Gas, Propane3100 (gas)
2790 (propane)
3400 (gas)
3060 (propane)
NoNoNo 30A59 dBA @ 9ft and 50% power1.6 Gal7,5 Hrs @ 25% Load (gas)
14.5 Hrs @ 25% Load (propane)
25.1"x17.3"x18.3"95.7 lbs.3 Year Limited
Champion 3400W100233Gas31003400NoNoNoNo 30A59 dBA @ 9ft and 50% power1.6 Gal7,5 Hrs @ 25% Load22.4"x17.3"x18.3"80.9 lbs.$10993 Year Limited
Champion 3400W WS100261Gas31003400NoNo 30A59 dBA @ 9ft and 50% power1.6 Gal7,5 Hrs @ 25% Load25.1"x17.3"x18.3"95 lbs.3 Year Limited
Champion 3500W WS100262Gas32003500NoNo 30A59 dBA @ 9ft and 50% power1.6 Gal7,5 Hrs @ 25% Load25.1"x17.3"x18.3"95.0 lbs.$12993 Year Limited
Champion 3500W DF100264Gas, Propane3200 (gas)
3150 (propane)
3500 (gas)
3150 (propane)
NoNoNo 30A59 dBA @ 9ft and 50% power1.6 Gal7,5 Hrs @ 25% Load (gas)
14.5 Hrs @ 25% Load (propane)
25.1"x17.3"x18.3"95.7 lbs.$12993 Year Limited
Champion 4000W100302Gas35004000No64 dBA @ 9ft and 50% power2.9 Gal17 Hrs @ 25% Load20.5"x17.9"x17.7"81.6 lbs.3 Year Limited
Duromax XP2000iSXP2000iSGas16002000NoNoNoNoNo53 dba1.2 Gal8 Hrs@50% Load 19.7"x11.2"x17.9"48.5 Lbs$6243 Year Limited
Duromax XP2000EHXP2000EHGas
Propane
16002000NoNoNoNoNo53 dba1.2 Gal8 Hrs@50% Load (gas)
20 Hrs@50% Load (20 lb propane)
19.7"x11.2"x17.9"48.5 lbs$7493 Year Limited
Energizer eZV2000SINVEZI20IAADGas16002000NoNoNoNoNoNo50 dBA0.9 Gal11.5 Hrs @ 25% Load22"x13"x20"44 lbs.$5493 Year Limited
Energizer eZV2000P INVEZI20PAADGas16002000NoNoNoNoNo50 dBA0.9 Gal11.5 Hrs @ 25% Load22"x13"x20"44 lbs.$5993 Year Limited
Energizer eZV3200P INVEZI32PERDGas28003200No - 23.3 Amp twistlock socket adaptable to 30A RV socket52 dBA2 Gal15.5Hrs @ 25% Load22.8"x16.7"x17.5"96 lbs.$9493 Year Limited
Energizer eZV3200RVINVEZI32RRVDGas28003200No52 dBA2 Gal15.5 Hrs @ 25% Load22.8"x16.7"x17.5"96 lbs.$10993 Year Limited
Generac IQ20006866Gas16002000NoNo
IQ2000 Parallel Kit #6877-0
No
optional with IQ2000 Parallel Kit
53 dBA @ 9ft and 50% power1.06 Gal7.7 Hrs @ 25% Load20"x12.6"x16.9"46.5 lbs.$7993 Year Limited
Generac GP2200i7177Gas17002200NoNoNoNo
GP2200i Parallel Kit #7118-0
No
optional with GP2200i Parallel Kit
1.2 Gal10.75 Hrs @ 25% Load
19.7"x11.4"x17.9"46.6 lbs.$5992 Year Limited
Generac GP3000I7129-0Gas23003000NoNoNoNo
Parallel Kit #7668-0 - 30A and 50A Receptacles
30A1.06 Gal5.8 Hrs @ 25% Load22.2"x13.3"x18.4"59.5 lbs.$8993 Year Limited
Generac IQ3500G0071270Gas30003500No
Parallel Kit #7668 - 30A and 50A Receptacles
30A2.6 Gal14.1 Hrs @ 25% Load23.7'x18'x21.7"109.1 lbs.$1,2993 Year Limited
Generac GP3500IO7128Gas30003500NoNoNo
Parallel Kit #7668-0 - 30A and 50A Receptacles
30A2.37 Gal11 Hrs @25% Load19.3"x16.9"x16.4"74.3 lbs.$6993 Year Limited
Honda EU1000iEU1000T1A Gas9001000NoNoNoNo42 dba0.6 Gal7.1 Hrs@25% Load17.7"x9.4"x15.0" 28.7 lbs.$949.952 Year Limited
Honda EU2200iEU2200ITAGas18002200NoNoNoNo48 dba.95 Gal8.1 Hrs@25% Load20.0"x11.4"x16.7" 46.5 lbs.$1149.953 Year Limited
Honda EU2200i CamoEU2200ITA2Gas18002200NoNoNoNo48 dba.95 Gal8.1 Hrs@25% Load20.0"x11.4"x16.7" 46.5 lbs.$1299.953 Year Limited
Honda EU2200i CompanionEU2200ITA1Gas18002200NoNoNo48 dba.95 Gal8.1 Hrs@25% Load20.0"x11.4"x16.7" 46.5 lbs.$1279.953 Year Limited
Honda EU3000i HandiEU3000iH1A Gas26003000NoNoNo52 dba1.6 Gal7.7 Hrs@25% Load24.5”x14.9”x19.3” 78 lbs.$2599.953 Year Limited
Honda EU3000iSEU3000IS1A Gas28003000YesNoNo50 dba3.4 Gal20 Hrs@25% Load25.9"x17.6"x22.0" 131 lbs.$2329.953 Year Limited
Honda EU7000iSEU7000iSAT1Gas55007000YesNoNo52 dba5.1 Gal18 Hrs@25% Load33.4"x27.6"x28.4"261 lbs.$4499.953 Year Limited
Wen 56125i56125iGas10001250NoNoNoNoNo51 dba0.7 Gal5 Hrs@50% Load17"x9"x12.5"31.6 lbs.$294.282 Year Limited
Wen 56200i56200iGas16002000NoNoNoNoNo51 dba1 Gal6 Hrs@50% Load18"x11"x18"48 lbs.$431.722 Year Limited
Wen 56225i56225iGas18002250NoNoNoNoNo53 dba1 Gal6 Hrs@50% Load19"x11.5"x18.2"48.5 lbs.$548.612 Year Limited
Wen 56310i-RV56310i-RVGas28003100NoNoNoNo57 dba1.85 Gal7.5 Hrs@50% Load23"x16.5"x19.5"95 lbs.$650.932 Year Limited
Westinghouse iGen1200iGen1200Gas10001200NoNoNoNoNo52 dba0.8 Gal9 Hrs@25% Load18"x10"x15.5"33 lbs.$4993 Years or 1000 Hrs Limited
Westinghouse iGen2200iGen2200Gas18002200NoNoNoNoNo52 dba1.2 Gal12 Hrs@25% Load19.8"x11.4"x17.9"46 lbs.$5993 Years or 1000 Hrs Limited
Westinghouse iGen2200CamoiGen2200CAMOGas18002200NoNoNoNoNo52 dba1.2 Gal12 Hrs@25% Load19.8"x11.4"x17.9"46 lbs.$6493 Years or 1000 Hrs Limited
Westinghouse iGen2500iGen2500Gas22002500NoNoNo52 dba1.0 Gal10 Hrs@25% Load19.8"x11.4"x17.9"48 lbs.$6793 Years or 1000 Hrs Limited
Westinghouse iGen2500CamoiGen2500CAMOGas22002500NoNoNo52 dba1.0 Gal10 Hrs@25% Load19.8"x11.4"x17.9"48 lbs.$7493 Years or 1000 Hrs Limited
Westinghouse iPro2500iPro2500Gas22002500NoNoNo52 dba1.0 Gal10 Hrs@25% Load19.8"x11.4"x17.9"48 lbs.$6993 Years or 1000 Hrs Limited
Westinghouse iGen4500iGen4500Gas37004500No52 dba3.4 Gal18 Hrs@25% Load25.4"x17.5"x20.5"98 lbs.$10493 Years or 1000 Hrs Limited
Westinghouse iGen4500DFiGen4500DFGas
Propane
3700 (gas)
3330 (propane)
4500 (gas)
4050 (propane)
No52 dba3.4 Gal18 Hrs@25% Load (gas)
14 Hrs@25% Load (20 lb propane)
25.4"x17.5"x20.5"98 lbs.$11493 Years or 1000 Hrs Limited
Yamaha ef1000iSEF1000ISGas9001000NoNoNoNoNo47 dba.66 Gal11.9 Hrs@25% Load17.7"x9.4"x14.9"27.9 lbs.$8793 Year Limited
Yamaha ef2000iSv2EF2000iSv2Gas16002000NoNoNoParallel Cables give 30A male plug.
Twin Tech Cables include 30A Locking Outlet - RV Adapter Required
No51.5 dba1.1 Gal10.5 Hrs@25% Load19.3"x11.0"x17.9"44.1 lbs.$8993 Year Limited
Yamaha ef2000iSHv2EF2000iSHv2Gas16002000NoNoNoParallel Cables give 30A male plug.
Twin Tech Cables include 30A Locking Outlet - RV Adapter Required
No51.5 dba1.1 Gal10.5 Hrs@25% Load19.3"x11.0"x17.9"44.1 lbs.$10503 Year Limited
Yamaha ef2400iSHCEF2400iSHCGas20002400NoNoNoNoNo
53 dbs1.6 Gal11 Hrs@25% Load20.8"x16.5"x18.2"75 lbs.$14793 Year Limited
Yamaha ef2800iEF2800iGas25002800NoNoNoNoNo
30 Amp Locking connector requires 30A RV adapter
65 dba2.6 Gal14.7 Hrs@25% Load19.2"x15.6"x16.7"68 lbs.$16993 Year Limited
Yamaha ef3000iSEF3000iSGas28003000NoNo
NoNoNo
30 Amp Locking connector requires 30A RV adapter
53 dba3.4 Gal18.6 Hrs@25% Load26.8"x17.5"x21.9"136 lbs.$18993 Year Limited
Yamaha ef3000iSEBEF3000iSEBGas28003500NoNoNo
30 Amp Locking connector requires 30A RV adapter
53 dba3.4 Gal18.6 Hrs@25% Load26.8"x17.5"x21.9"154.3 lbs.$24693 Year Limited
Yamaha ef4500iSEEF4500iSEGas40004500NoNo
30 Amp Locking connector requires 30A RV adapter
58 dba4.5 Gal15.2 Hrs@25% Load30.7"x24.3"x 27.2"194 lbs.$33993 Year Limited
Yamaha ef6300iSDEEF6300iSDEGas55006300NoNo
30 Amp Locking connector requires 30A RV adapter
58 dba4.5 Gal13.3 Hrs@25% Load30.7"x24.3"x 27.2"200 lbs.$40993 Year Limited
Yamaha ef2400iSHCEF2400iSHCGas20002400NoNoNoNoNo
53 dbs1.6 Gal11 Hrs@25% Load20.8"x16.5"x18.2"75 lbs.$14793 Year Limited
Yamaha ef2800iEF2800iGas25002800NoNoNoNoNo
30 Amp Locking connector requires 30A RV adapter
65 dba2.6 Gal14.7 Hrs@25% Load19.2"x15.6"x16.7"68 lbs.$16993 Year Limited
Yamaha ef3000iSEF3000iSGas28003000NoNo
NoNoNo
30 Amp Locking connector requires 30A RV adapter
53 dba3.4 Gal18.6 Hrs@25% Load26.8"x17.5"x21.9"136 lbs.$18993 Year Limited
Yamaha ef3000iSEBEF3000iSEBGas28003500NoNoNo
30 Amp Locking connector requires 30A RV adapter
53 dba3.4 Gal18.6 Hrs@25% Load26.8"x17.5"x21.9"154.3 lbs.$24693 Year Limited
Yamaha ef4500iSEEF4500iSEGas40004500NoNo
30 Amp Locking connector requires 30A RV adapter
58 dba4.5 Gal15.2 Hrs@25% Load30.7"x24.3"x 27.2"194 lbs.$33993 Year Limited
Yamaha ef6300iSDEEF6300iSDEGas55006300NoNo
30 Amp Locking connector requires 30A RV adapter
58 dba4.5 Gal13.3 Hrs@25% Load30.7"x24.3"x 27.2"200 lbs.$40993 Year Limited

 

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