Anyone with even a little bit of experience with RVing will always give you this one basic advice: “Get a portable generator”.
Having a reliable source of power is essential for a comfortable and convenient trip. While RVs come equipped with batteries and onboard generators, there may be times when you need more power to run multiple appliances or charge your devices.
Choosing the right size generator for your RV can be a daunting task. You need to consider the wattage requirements of all the appliances and devices you plan to use, as well as the size of your RV and the type of camping you’ll be doing.
A generator that’s too small will not provide enough juice, while a generator that’s too large can be a waste of resources and a pain to carry around. With the information in this article, you’ll be able to choose the perfect generator for your RV and enjoy a worry-free camping experience.
- Understand an RV Generator First!
- Generator Size is Measured by the Watts It produces!
- Determining the Generator Size
- How Many Watts Are Needed for an RV Generator?
- Is It Possible to Run an RV Air Conditioner with a 2000-Watt Generator?
- Factors That Are Important to Consider When Choosing an RV Generator
- Does My Travel Trailer Need a Lot of Power?
- An Estimate of the Power that RV Appliances Consume
- When it Comes to Your Appliances and Devices for RV, How Much Power Do They Need?
- Which Appliances and Devices Do You Use Most Frequently?
- Our Recommendations for the Best RV Generators’ Brands
- What Size Generator to Choose for RV – FAQs
Understand an RV Generator First!
Before deciding on the size of the generator to get for your RV, it is important to understand how RV generators work. RV generators come in various sizes and types, and choosing the right one for your needs is important. RV generators can either be portable or built-in, and they can run on gasoline, propane, or diesel.
Portable generators can be moved around and can power smaller RVs, while built-in generators can power larger RVs and run for longer periods. By understanding the type and size of generator you need, you can ensure that you will make the right decision and get a generator that is best suited to your needs.
Generator Size is Measured by the Watts It produces!
A generator’s size is determined by the amount of power it can produce, measured in watts. It’s essential to consider the types of appliances and electronics that you want to power in your RV to determine the wattage required.
Portable RV Generators
Portable RV generators are a popular choice for many RVers because they are versatile, affordable, and easy to use. These generators can be moved around easily and stored in a small space when not in use.
One of the biggest advantages of portable RV generators is their affordability. They are much cheaper than built-in generators. They are also easy to use and maintain and can provide reliable power for your RV.
Its disadvantages on the other hand are that they are usually louder than built-in generators, and they are not as powerful as built-in generators.
Built-in generators are factory-installed and are often found in higher-end RVs. These generators are also known as onboard generators, and they offer several benefits. They are more convenient to use because they are permanently installed and require less setup and storage space. They are also comparatively quieter
However, built-in generators can be expensive to install and maintain. They require more maintenance than a portable generators because they are permanent. If the generator fails, it may be more challenging to access and repair than a portable generator.
These generators use advanced technology to produce a high-quality AC output, making them an excellent choice for powering sensitive electronics such as laptops, TVs, and smartphones.
One of the biggest advantages of inverter generators is their ability to adjust their engine speed to match the load, consuming less fuel and generating less noise than traditional generators while also being compact.
However, one major downside of inverter generators is their cost and low wattage. They tend to be more expensive than traditional generators while also providing a lower capacity.
Determining the Generator Size
When it comes to selecting appropriate generators for your RV, we have to be careful and consider various factors to ensure we make a good decision. The size of the generator will depend on the requirements of every individual’s RV and the appliances that they plan on powering using the generator.
The first step would be to determine the total wattage of your RV’s electrical systems, which would be easily accessible on the user’s manual or the manufacturer’s website. This information along with the sum of the individual wattage of each major appliance should give you an approximate number that will be useful in deciding.
The next step is optional but critical as it can mean the difference between a longer-running generator and an overall cheaper alternative. Another major factor is the fuel source of the generator which can be gasoline, propane, or diesel. This will vary from the generator to generator and each type will have its own benefits and drawbacks.
30-AMP RV or 50-AMP RV?
Another important thing to keep in mind while looking for a generator for your RV is whether it has 30-amp or 50-amp electrical service. This is necessary as it decides how much power your RV will draw based on the voltage and the amps.
A 30-amp RV will have a single 30-amp service leg powering all appliances and outlets in the vehicle at 120 volts. The maximum wattage that these types of RVs can handle is around 3600 watts which means that a generator having at least a capacity of 3600 watts should be sufficient to power your RV.
At the same time, a 50-amp RV is usually a very large vehicle and is common in big households. These RVs have two legs of service, and this is why it is able to handle a whopping 12000 watts of power. Although, it does not make sense to get or use a generator of that size, and having a 6000 or 8000 watts generator should be more than sufficient.
Although determining the type of RV will help in your decision a lot but you still need to decide very carefully. This is because you don’t want to get a big generator that is expensive and has high maintenance as you are not going to be running all your appliances at once. Also, you don’t want to underestimate your usage and get a small generator.
Most probably, for RV camping, you’ll need:
Below are some common appliances and their electrical requirements, and the size of the generator which would be best for handling such loads.
AC – Air conditioners come in the higher spectrum of appliances that require heavy amounts of electricity to operate at optimum levels. Most air conditioners use between 1400 and 2400 watts which is a decent amount by itself.
Also, the type or season in which you usually plan on using your RV will also be critical in making your choice. Most people go out on trips in summer or spring which would mean a high usage of their air conditioner. But, at the same time, some people prefer to go out in colder seasons which means that the air conditioner is barely or not used at all. Both these scenarios are very different, and the requirements of an individual can vary a lot depending on this.
A Refrigerator – Another appliance that is similar in power consumption to the air conditioner is the refrigerator. Typical absorption cycle RV fridges have a power drain of 400 to 1000 watts of electricity and simple residential fridges can use anywhere from 400 up to 2400 watts of electricity depending on their size.
Although the air conditioner usage varied with the type of season that RV users preferred, a refrigerator is an appliance that will be used no matter what. Also, air conditioners can be used in short intervals whereas refrigerators are turned on constantly to ensure items remain fresh. This continuous power draw is also important to keep in mind.
Other Appliances – These include common appliances that are relatively smaller and less power-consuming as compared to air conditioners and refrigerators. These can be microwaves, coffee machines, toasters, TVs, VCRs, etc. Such appliances have varying wattage requirements but are relatively insignificant as they aren’t being used consistently, nevertheless, they are still necessary to keep in mind.
It is usually a better idea to have more power than you need than to have less power and need more of it. Hence it is necessary to calculate the requirements of all your appliances with great care and consider the starting wattage requirement of compressors as well.
How Many Watts Are Needed for an RV Generator?
Now the question arises, exactly how many watts does your RV generator require?
On average, an RV generator typically needs around 2500 to 4500 watts of power in order to run effectively. The number of appliances running at one time will also influence how many watts are needed for a generator.
When shopping for an RV generator, you’ll want to consider the amount of power consumption done by RV appliances in order to choose a model best suited for your electrical needs. Your manual should provide information about recommended wattage levels, along with details about all setup requirements specific to your vehicle so that you can get connected quickly without any problems.
Generator You’ll Need If You Have a 30-AMP RV
A 30-amp RV must have a generator as it is an essential piece of equipment for any RV, especially if you’re going to be on the road. Generators are designed to convert power from your vehicle battery into AC current that can then be used to run lights, recharge electrical appliances and devices, and provide a steady supply of electricity when you don’t have access to shoreline power or city utilities.
To calculate how much exactly your RV can extract power on basis of voltage and amperage, simply multiply the amp number which is 30 in this case with the volts number which is 120. It will give a 3600 total, so up to 3600 watts of output capacity available will power everything and will give radiate the feeling as if you are present on shore power. Nevertheless, the 3600 watts generator will give you plenty of juice without overwhelming the batteries in your system.
Generator You’ll Need If You Have a 50-AMP RV
If spring is coming up in your region, a lot of you may be looking to go on RVing. In order to bring, let us say like your 50 amp RV, you have to power different appliances inside. A lot of campgrounds will have power pedestals available, but imagine what if those are broken. So you will need a generator to get the power to those appliances. So what kind of generator do you look for in a 50-amp RV?
Well, the answer is if you have a 50-amp RV, then you will need to consider the total wattage of your appliances and devices when determining how big of a generator is needed. A regular electrical outlet in an average home produces 2,000 watts at 120 volts, so if each appliance or device pulls around 15 amps that would require 1,800 watts (15amps x120volts= 1800 watts). However, if some higher-powered appliances are brought along on trips more powerful generators may be required such as 8500 – 10500 watts depending on the amount of power necessary to run everything together.
Generator You’ll Need If You Want to Run an AC
If you want to run an AC, the amount of wattage required for your generator will depend on a few factors. The first is the capacity of the air conditioner unit itself and its power requirements; more powerful units require more wattage from the generator, whereas lesser-powered units may be able to bypass with less.
Secondly, it is important to take into account any other appliances or electronic items that might also need power in addition to running an AC – such as lights and computers. Generally speaking, if you are powering no additional devices (aside from the AC) then you would likely need a minimum of 1600 watts as the 15,000 BTU RV AC draws it but when starting it may surge up to 3000 watts.
Is It Possible to Run an RV Air Conditioner with a 2000-Watt Generator?
If you want to run a 1500 air conditioner on a 2000-watt generator that might bring some problems for you, but 1350 AC will be sufficient for running it efficiently.
But do remember this won’t be enough for you, and you might as well need to replace the 2000-watt generator with 3000 watts one as it is a more primer choice if you are intending to run an AC on it.
If the power to run AC is not enough the compressor will automatically shut down the air conditioner. To resolve this issue by running two small generators in parallel you can overcome this problem, or you can go for the option where you install soft starts on your AC to limit the startup draw so the generator can kick off and run nicely.
Factors That Are Important to Consider When Choosing an RV Generator
Here are some of the factors we believe are crucial to consider when you’re choosing an RV generator for your upcoming camping trip.
Although the weight of the generator depends a lot on the power it holds remember, the heavier the generator, the more difficult the installation and maintenance would be. Whereas if the generator is too light, it might not be enough to run all the appliances you need. So, a better choice would be neither a too-light generator nor too heavy one.
While choosing one, keep in mind your needs, your budget, and the appliances you’d be connecting. And then get a generator that weighs suitably.
- Power Required
The power you’ll need is basically the electricity your appliances will need. If you intend to connect only a few essential appliances and you can enjoy your stay without many luxuries, then a small generator (probably a 2k watt) would surely provide sufficient power. On the other hand, if you intend to run ACs and heaters as well, then you’ll need to look for a bigger generator, probably one with 3500 watts or more.
- Fuel Type
Whatever generator you choose, it will either run on propane, gas, or fuel. Now, to buy a generator for your RV, you’ll need to see what fuel your RV uses to run and then you’ll be choosing a generator that uses the same fuel type. So, whichever fuel-powered generator you go for, just ensure that all the appliances and equipment in your RV will run smoothly on that.
When it comes to generators, the higher the price, the more durable the generators are. Also, the higher the power, the bigger will be the generator in terms of power, and the higher will be the cost. So, if you need more power, you’ll definitely need a bigger generator, and it will definitely cost you more.
This means, to get your hands on a reliable generator for RV camping, you’ll need to spend a good amount of money. A generator that cannot generate much power will be a waste of your money. And in our opinion, it’s better to spend more money once than spend a little less too often. So, while keeping your budget in view, choose the best you can.
Generators that make too much noise when turned on are generally annoying. Not only is it noisy for the neighbors, but it is also a disturbance for you. So, it’s best to use a noiseless generator; that way, you’ll be able to enjoy a quieter campground on your trip.
A generator with a sound intensity of 50 to 60 decibels would be a good choice but if it’s above that, it would simply contribute to noise pollution, and you wouldn’t want that of course.
- Should Be an EPA-approved Gas RV Generator
Do not go for an unapproved or un-certified generator. RVs are required to have certain EVAP components as part of their built-in systems or they are at risk of being fined heftily. And so, to protect yourself and your vehicle, make sure your built-in system meets these requirements.
Owners of recreational vehicles who use a gas generator that does not take fuel from their chassis fuel tank must install the following equipment:
- An EVAP generator
- Special fittings
- A carbon canister
- A certified hose
- And for sure a metal tank.
- Fuel Efficient
It is one of the most cost-effective decisions you can make for your RV to install a fuel-efficient generator. If you travel frequently, a dual-fuel generator is a good choice since it runs on propane and gas. Whereas the best choice for those who go on adventures occasionally or once in a long time is propane generators because they don’t require winterization.
Does My Travel Trailer Need a Lot of Power?
It may or may not need a lot of power. To determine, you must calculate the power consumption of all your appliances. Here’s how you can do it.
Make a List of all Your Appliances
This includes items such as air conditioners, microwaves, refrigerators, televisions, and any other appliances that require electricity. Once you have a list of your electrical needs, you can determine the wattage required for each device. This will give you an idea of the total power you’ll need from a generator. Remember that some devices may require more power to start up, so make sure to account for that as well.
Determine the Total Wattage of the System
You can easily find the wattage of each appliance by checking the label or manual that came with it. Once you have the wattage of each appliance, add them all up to get the total wattage. It’s essential to ensure that the generator you choose can handle the total wattage of your system to avoid overloading or damaging your appliances.
Invest in a Bigger Generator; Follow the 20% Rule
If you find that the total wattage required by your RV appliances is higher than the maximum output of the generator you are considering, it is best to invest in a bigger generator.
The 20% rule suggests that the generator’s rated wattage should be at least 20% higher than the total wattage required by your RV appliances. This ensures that the generator can handle the occasional surge in power requirements that may occur with certain appliances.
An Estimate of the Power that RV Appliances Consume
Common appliances needed in RV along with the total consumption of power done by them are listed below:
- An average stove consumes power from 900 to 2500 watts.
- A microwave oven consumes power from 1000 to 1500 watts.
- Coffee Maker consumes power from 650 to 1750 watts.
- Camper TV consumes power from 150 to 400 watts.
- And lastly Dryer/Washer combo unit consumes power from 1000 to 1500 watts.
When you’re looking to go off-grid for a while, one of the first choices is usually by RV. Most times, you can power RVs with simple campground power pedestals. But sometimes they might not work, or you just go completely off-grid and need an alternative power source. That’s where the portable generators come in.
What is the Power Consumption of an RV Heater?
According to the size and model of the RV heater, it usually consumes 500 to 1500 watts of energy and that’s of course a lot of power! Depending on what type of RV heater you have, check the label or manual to find out how much power it requires.
When it Comes to Your Appliances and Devices for RV, How Much Power Do They Need?
You can determine the power requirements of your appliances and devices by checking their amps (A) and watts (W) and then you can decide how much power they require collectively.
In order to determine what size generator to buy, you must determine your wattage requirements. An electric generator with a higher capacity would be ideal if you have a lot of high-power devices such as microwaves or ACs to run.
While on the other hand, a smaller setup, like those made by River Solar Generators, would be better suited to someone whose goal is to run only low-powered devices like smartphones and electronic blankets which are the basic essentials for a camping trip.
Which Appliances and Devices Do You Use Most Frequently?
Well, this really depends on the kind of camping you’re out for, the current weather, the number of days you’ll be camping, and other such factors.
If you’re doing dispersed camping out in the middle of nowhere without utilities, you’ll likely use more energy than if you’re staying in an RV park with a hook-up. Similarly, AC or a space heater cannot be run with your generator if there isn’t enough power and so, their use will depend upon the generator’s power.
Moreover, the need for electrical cooling or heating becomes necessary at night when it’s too hot or cold respectively, to open the windows. So, the amount of energy you need at any given time will depend on your usage patterns.
Our Recommendations for the Best RV Generators’ Brands
The following are the top RV generator brands you might want to look into. Yes, we highly recommend them.
What Size Generator to Choose for RV – FAQs
In conclusion, choosing the right size generator for your RV is essential to ensuring you have a reliable and sufficient source of power while on the road. It’s important to make a list of all the appliances and electronics you’ll be using in your RV and calculate the total wattage needed to power them all.
Ultimately, choosing the right size and type of generator for your RV will depend on your specific needs and budget. Take the time to research and consider all your options to make an informed decision that will provide you with reliable power for all your travels.