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The car is packed, the RV is hitched up, and the sun is shining. You’re ready for your family vacation in the summer heat!
But you realize after you arrive at the campground that you reserved a campsite without hookups.
And the whole place is booked up so you can’t change sites.
Plus it’s at least 90 degrees outside already…
Sounds like you should’ve packed a generator for your air conditioner!
A family vacation can be derailed as easily as that, even though simple mistakes are all too common when it comes to camping. There’s nothing like the security a generator can provide in conjunction with RV living, and access to air conditioning can make or break an enjoyable camping experience!
Planning a trip in the hot desert sun? Or are you simply looking for peace of mind through backup power? Either way, a generator is necessary for most RVers, and I’ve compiled a list of the toughest units, strong enough to power both your traditional RV appliances and your RV’s air conditioning unit! Here’s a quick overview of the list but keep reading to see a detailed review of each unit!
- Quietest Choice: Generac 7127 iQ3500-3500 Watt Portable Inverter Generator
- Best Dual Fuel Choice: DuroMax XP4400EH Dual Fuel Electric Start Portable Generator
- Best Budget Option: WEN 56475 4750-Watt Portable Generator
- Best for Fuel Economy: Champion 4000-Watt RV Ready DH Series
- Best for BIG Watt Capacity: Westinghouse WGen6000 Portable Generator
What to Look for in an RV Generator
Choosing an RV generator can be a daunting process. Many people question how much power they realistically need, along with size, portability, and fuel efficiency. There’s a lot to consider, and the last thing you want is to choose a generator that can’t meet your needs!
The top things to be looking for when considering a generator to power your AC unit are:
- Fuel efficiency
- Quietness while operating
- Fuel type
Overwhelmed already? Don’t worry! RVs are designed with you in mind and are quite easy to figure out once you understand how many amps your rig uses throughout an average day. After you calculate how much power you realistically need, there should be a generator that suits your every need!
So you want to power your RV’s AC unit with a generator. No problem! RVs are made to boondock, or be separated from shore power for up to weeks at a time. Purchasing a generator is a natural next step after driving your new RV off the lot! You’ll learn in no time how your RV’s power works and the amount of electricity you need to make the most of your appliances.
All it takes is a bit of math: all generators will say how many watts they can produce, and likewise, all appliances say how many watts they need to operate. It’s up to you to do a few calculations of how many watts your appliances use in total at one time. Budget a few more watts in case of power fluctuations and other electronics you may have forgotten about. Once you do this, you should have a general idea of how powerful a generator you need!
If using your air conditioner is a high priority while on the road, you must have a generator powerful enough for it. This is often a determining factor for most RV owners looking to purchase a generator. Your air conditioner needs the most wattage out of all other appliances, including electric heaters or microwaves.
When choosing a generator, make sure you know how many watts your AC unit uses upon start-up. An air conditioner’s running wattage is always lower than its start-up wattage. Your generator will need to be able to compensate for the start-up wattage, so that’s a good place to begin! Most AC units require an average of 3000 watts to start up, depending on their size. Keep the start-up number in mind when generator shopping!
Portability and Size
Nothing is better than the convenience of a portable generator. When searching for the generator that’s right for you and your rig, size matters! Many portable generators are outfitted with wheels and handles, making moving easy, but this is not always a standard feature. You may want to consider the weight of your generator as well as its dimensions. Will it fit in your RV or car conveniently? Or is it going to be a pain to load and unload every camping trip?
All generators can only hold so much fuel. If you’re on the lookout for a generator that doesn’t need much refueling or babysitting, you should keep an eye on fuel efficiency. Gas, diesel, and propane prices are constantly fluctuating. The last thing you need is a generator that guzzles fuel! Some generators are more fuel-efficient than others, and if you find yourself worried about how much fuel you need to bring with you into the woods, keep fuel efficiency in mind!
Have you ever been camping and felt annoyed or disturbed by a neighboring camper running their generator all night? I know I have! The last thing you want is to sacrifice your own comfort, but sometimes a generator can ruin another camper’s experience. Having a quiet and low-profile generator can make all the difference on camping trips. You’re there to relax and enjoy the natural world that surrounds you; no one wants to hear your generator chugging all night!
As fuels fluctuate in their availability and prices, choosing a generator with various fueling options may be appealing to you. Many generators feature a dual fuel option, or perhaps you prefer one choice over the other. Either way, not all generators are created equal, so make sure you’re on the hunt for one that suits your fuel needs.
As with everything, budget can be the number one deciding factor when shopping for a generator. If you’re looking for a generator that can handle your AC unit and beyond, expect to pay a bit more than the average camper. However, narrowing down your wattage can be a huge help when it comes to lowering the cost of your generator. It’s always nice to be prepared, but if you don’t think you’ll ever come close to the maximum amount of watts listed on a generator, perhaps a smaller, less expensive model will suit you best!
The Best Generators for Your RV Air Conditioner
Hopefully you’re feeling confident about your generator needs and wants! There are so many options out there, but with the right priorities in mind, you’ll be able to find your perfect match, no problem. Did you write down how many watts you might need to power your AC and other necessary appliances? Good, you’re ready to go! Here are some of the best choices out there for powering your RV AC unit and beyond!
Quietest Choice: Generac 7127 iQ3500-3500 Watt Portable Inverter Generator
- Many outlets
- Compact design
- Very quiet
- Digital display
- No wheels to help with weight
- Won’t power large AC units
Let’s start small, and, as an added bonus, quiet! The Generac 7127 is a mighty generator, capable of powering appliances and RV needs up to 3500 watts. It can power your smaller AC unit as well as a few other appliances at the same time, though perhaps not something as powerful as your microwave. People also suggest an average running time of about 8 hours on one tank of gas. That sounds efficient to me, though your AC unit may affect this number.
This gas-powered generator has a convenient carrying handle as well as multiple outlets so that you can plug in and enjoy your time! There is a digital LCD screen which displays your wattage, average run time remaining, and much more. It also boasts an electric start rather than a pull start option, which is something that may appeal to those of you looking for an easy set up!
The Generac 7127 is one of the quietest models out there, even running at high capacity, which should bring every camper peace of mind (and peace and quiet). This is the only unit encased in plastic on this list, which may mean it’s the quietest by a long shot. Consumers also mention the compact size, though you may wish to purchase wheels for further ease of maneuvering as it weighs around 100 pounds!
Best Dual Fuel Choice: DuroMax XP4400EH Dual Fuel Electric Start Portable Generator
- Dual fueling options
- Larger wattage capacity
- Mid-range price
- Wheels and handle for easy movement
- Louder than other generators
- Not as many plug options
- May not power larger AC units and other appliances
Looking for a generator that can run on both propane and gasoline? Take a look at the DuroMax XP4400EH. With an appealing price tag, electric start, and wheels for ease of transport, this little generator may be exactly what you need for your RV air conditioner.
Claiming to run 9 hours on a full tank of gas (and even longer on propane), this DuroMax generator should be able to handle all of your RV needs. With 4400 starting watts and 3500 running watts, you should have no trouble running your AC system as well as other appliances! The option to attach up to 20 gallons of propane may be a winner for you; propane remains a cheap and convenient source of fuel. I already use propane for many appliances in my RV. Using propane for my generator feels like a natural next step!
The noise level of this little generator has been reported to sound like a lawnmower, which may mean a grumpy neighbor or two. But the larger capacity and dual fuel options of the generator may spell perfection for you and your needs! Click here to see the today’s price on Amazon.
Best Budget Option: WEN 56475 4750-Watt Portable Generator
- Budget-friendly price
- Larger wattage capacity
- Wheels included
- Longer run time
- Larger unit
- Not as many plug options
If you’re looking for a generator to power all of your RV needs but you don’t want to break the bank, then this WEN 56475 may be the perfect choice for you. This little guy comes in as the most budget-friendly option on our list of generators, which doesn’t mean you get less power either! It boasts a large 4750 watt start-up and 3750 watt running rate. That should be enough power for most RV needs and you may have money left over to boot!
This WEN model comes with an electric start as well as wheels and a collapsible handle for further portability. Consumers also mention this generator running for up to ten hours on one tank of gas. It may not have all the plug in options for you tech-savvy readers, but it includes a spark arrestor and voltage regulator, which protects your surroundings as well as your electronics.
If you’ve got a budget to stick to but want to ensure your AC unit will run while you camp, then consider this WEN generator. Many consumers also mention the quietness of this generator; it may be your perfect match, and it’ll have no problem running your AC!
You can find the latest price on Amazon by clicking here.
Best for Fuel Economy: Champion 4000-Watt RV Ready DH Series
- Larger wattage capacity
- Fuel efficient
- Quieter unit
- Many plug options
- More expensive
- Wheels sold separately
- Manual start-up
Perhaps the best overall choice on this list, the Champion 4000-Watt generator is here to maximize your fuel usage among much, much more. This little guy can handle a 4000 watt start-up and then keep everything running on 3500 watts, which should mean your AC unit is covered! It also claims to run up to 17 hours on a single tank of fuel so that you can keep on enjoying your camping trip no matter what your plans are.
Besides fuel efficiency and a larger capacity, this generator includes all the bells and whistles at an average price. It boasts clean power for your more sensitive electronics as well as a USB adapter, quieter operation level, and an eco mode to further extend your fuel. It’s probably the most technologically advanced generator on this list!
This generator may meet your every need at an average price, but be aware that it is a manual pull-start instead of a push button, and wheels are sold separately which may stretch your budget more than you were expecting. Overall however, this Champion generator can’t be beat for fuel economy and so much more!
Click here to see today’s price on Amazon.
Best for BIG Watt Capacity: Westinghouse WGen6000 Portable Generator
- Largest wattage capacity
- Average size
- Average fuel consumption
- Wheels and handle included
- More expensive
- Louder than others
- Not as many plug options
- Heaviest unit
Unsure your AC unit can run on any of these generators? Looking to use a generator in your home in case of an emergency? The Westinghouse WGen6000 might be your perfect match. It boasts the highest wattage capacity on this list, which means your AC unit will have no trouble running alongside all your other RV appliances. It peaks at 7500 watts and runs steadily at 6000!
If you’re looking for a long-running gasoline generator, the Westinghouse will keep you going up to 13 hours on a tank of fuel. It also includes wheels and an easy electric startup option. It may be on the louder end of the spectrum, but you can’t beat the amount of watts this average priced generator can produce.
This generator remains compact and portable so that you won’t have to worry about it taking up too much space, though it is the heaviest unit at 174 pounds. It may not have all the plugs you’re looking for or a fancy display panel, but it won’t fail to power your RV and all your appliances at the same time! Plus it may even be enough to use at home in case of an emergency. Win, win!
You can find the latest price from Amazon by clicking here.
Frequently Asked RV Generator Questions
Before we dive into some possible generators to power your RV and RV AC unit, I’ve answered some helpful questions for you! The possibilities are endless when it comes to powering your rig, and the choices can be overwhelming. If you consider your needs, as well as the answers to the questions listed below, you may find the peace of mind you need before investing in a generator.
How Long Will My Generator Last?
As with all hardware and electronics, your generator’s lifespan depends on how often you use it and what capacity you use it at. Some generators come equipped with a running time or tally that keeps track of how many hours the generator has been used. This is a very useful tool, but it is also possible for you to keep track of on your own should your generator not come equipped with one. This is only an estimate, of course, and with consistent maintenance, your generator should last for years to come!
Can I Drive with My Generator On?
The short answer to this question is yes, you can indeed drive with your generator running in your motorhome or RV. However, unless you have a built-in generator on your motorhome, you must make sure your portable generator is set up safely. This includes setting it up outside of your rig, ensuring it is secure, and keeping it fueled up so that your power doesn’t cut out. Watch out for theft as well; generators are expensive, and portable ones are easily removable!
What Outlets Do I Need?
Every generator is unique, and so are you! Most generators come standard equipped with multiple outlets, including some as specific as USB plug in options. You may be excited about having so many choices, but not every generator is the same. Keep an eye out for what you need, which may include a 50 amp plug, a 30 amp plug, standard 120v plugs, or USB options!
How Long Will My Generator Run Before Needing Fuel?
This can be a tricky one. Generators have many different tank sizes and fuel efficiencies, and your uses may vary throughout the day. However, all generator manufacturers should be able to tell you an average amount of time it takes before a generator runs out of fuel. If you’re hoping to take a long hike and come back to a nice and cool RV, make sure your generator can handle running for that amount of time!
What Startup Option Works Best?
Generator models start up using one of two different methods: electric or manual. A manual generator is probably most familiar to you: there’s a pull cord, much like the ones found on lawnmowers and other tools. An electric generator powers on with an easy flip of a switch or press of a button, eliminating any sort of discomfort caused by manual pulling.
Everyone has their own preferences. Manual generators start up with little to no trouble when you first buy them, though cord wear and tear as well as the strain caused from pulling may be too much for some consumers. Electric startup generators are convenient and easy at first, though many consumers report interior battery malfunctions. This could leave you without power should your electronic startup break. Give it some thought, and make sure proper maintenance is performed, and your generator should work just fine!
What’s an Open Frame Generator?
Most RV generators vary between open frame models and more enclosed plastic models. The main difference in these generators, beside aesthetic choice, is the loudness of the unit. Plastic models have the benefit of being more enclosed and quiet, which means you are less likely to disturb fellow campers around you. However, these plastic shrouded units are often a smaller capacity than open frame units. If you’re hoping to power your RV air conditioner, the chances of it being an open frame unit are high. Open frame units are still often quiet enough to take with you to the campground, but keep in mind the noise levels some of these units may have.
You don’t have to sacrifice comfort while camping in your RV, especially if you’re camping somewhere hot! These generator options will power your air conditioner as well as any other RV appliances you need, which ensures your peace of mind. Make sure to bring the fuel you need and plan space for it in your packing lists. If you need backup power, a generator is always a good idea. Just make sure it can handle your needs before you set off on another adventure!