Last updated on May 2nd, 2023 at 01:33 pm
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Having a solid generator for your RV is an absolute game-changer! If you go camping or boondocking, a generator can keep you safe from nature’s worst elements, like extreme heat or cold, whilst powering all the appliances you need.
Generators come in all different shapes, sizes, and capabilities, so it’s worth taking the time to figure out the generator that will suit you and your needs the best.
So, you’re now probably wondering, what size generator do I need for my RV?
The size of generator you need for your RV depends on how much power you are expecting to use in your rig. Running appliances such as a television or AC unit will require a considerable amount of power, so typically, a generator with a minimum of 2,500 watts should be sufficient for 30-amp RVs.
With so many different RVs and generators on the market, full of often confusing numbers and specs, it can be hard to know where to start! Generators can be an absolute lifesaver, especially if you enjoy boondocking and parking up off-grid for a while, so I promise the stress is worth it!
What Size Generator Do I Need For My RV?
The size of the generator you’ll need will depend on several factors such as your budget, the power your RV requires, and the type of generator you want to buy.
If you use lots of appliances such as a microwave oven, blender, AC unit, TV, and often charge multiple phones and laptops, you’ll likely need to purchase a powerful generator. RVers with a lower power usage may get away with a more budget-friendly option that’s less powerful but will still get the job done.
There’s a lot to consider when purchasing a generator as they are big pieces of equipment that don’t come cheap! Being an investment, it’s worthwhile sitting down and working out exactly everything you want from a generator, and from there, it will be far easier to estimate the size of the generator you’ll need for your RV.
Estimate RV Power Usage
First, write down a list of all the household items you intend to power with your generator. For example, your list might include charging your cell phone, running the television, using the air conditioner, water pump, wall lights, and refrigerator.
All these devices have a start-up wattage and a running wattage. Likewise, your generator will have a specific start-up and running Watts it can handle.
Here is a sample list of items and their wattages:
- Fridge 500 running Watts, 1500 start-up watts
- Air Condition 1200 running Watts, 3600 start-up watts
- Television 300 running Watts, 0 start-up watts
- Laptop 50 running Watts, 0 start-up watts
- Floor fan 100 running Watts, 0 start-up watts
Adding up these wattages gives us a total of 2,150 running Watts and 5,500 start-up Watts. To run all of these items at the same time, we would need a generator that can handle 2150 running Watts and 5550 startup Watts.
However, expect there to be items that you forgot to take into account. For example, you need power to run the water pump, ignite the propane to heat up water, wall lights, and the vent fan over the stove.
Permanent or Portable Generator
Permanent inverter generators are popular with RV owners because they are relatively light and quiet. If you need to replace a permanent generator on an RV, carefully measure the compartment where it will be housed. You want it to have a snug fit so it doesn’t move around while you are traveling.
Portable generators are best if you want to also use the generator to power things other than your RV. For example, if you want to use your new generator to run power tools, a portable generator could be best because you can easily take the generator to the work site.
Portable, conventional generators tend to be heavy and loud but have a lower price tag than permanent, silent generators.
Using a portable generator may seem a bit daunting at first, but after a few goes, you’ll feel like a generator pro in no time! The below video is useful for those who are new to the world of portable generators and would feel more confident having a visual run-through.
There’s no shame in being a bit slow at first to get your generator going, just focus on being safe and operating the generator correctly.
It’s also best to use loud generators at a friendly time of day so you don’t upset fellow RVers near you!
Generators run on either gasoline, liquid propane, or diesel fuel. Gasoline is cheap but burns dirty. Diesel is more expensive but it burns clean.
Liquid propane has a longer shelf life than gasoline and Diesel, but propane is less efficient. Some generators run on a combination of these fuels.
Conventional generators are very loud and can annoy your camping neighbors from a mile away. The noise is too loud to have at a campground, so get a permanent inverter generator if you plan to camp around other people.
A generator can be a big factor in considering the overall weight of your camper. A conventional generator will weigh considerably more than a permanent inverter generator.
This is important when traveling. If you travel with a heavy, conventional generator, you will ultimately spend more gas money for your travels. For frequent RV traveling, a lighter, permanent generator is best.
Permanent inverter generators tend to cost more, but they are lighter and often silent. Portable generators are heavy and loud but usually have a lower price tag.
A key tip for buying a generator is to buy a new generator and get a warranty. Another excellent tip is to err on the side of too much power, rather than too little power.
What Size Generator Do I Need For My Travel Trailer?
If you have a small trailer and very limited power needs, a 2000 Watt generator will probably be enough. To be on the safe side, add up the wattage used by all the items you intend to power with your generator.
What Size Generator Do I Need For A 30 Amp RV?
It could seem that calculating the generator needs of a 30 amp RV could be determined simply by converting 30 amps into watts. The reason this does not work is that while the RV is capable of powering 30 amps, you are not necessarily running 30 amps inside the RV.
The best course of action then is to add up all of the Watts needed for the individual items you intend to run inside your RV. This will tell you how many watts your RV generator needs to be able to handle.
What Size Generator Do I Need For A 50 Amp RV?
If you were to buy a generator that could power a 50-amp RV, you would probably be buying more of a generator and spending more money than necessary. This is because you will not necessarily run 50 amps of power inside your RV. Being labeled as a 50-amp RV only means the RV is capable of powering 50 amps.
Instead, we need to add up the Watts of the individual items you intend to power with the generator inside your RV. But if you do need the power of 50-amps, check out our guide that covers everything you need to know about finding the right size generator for your 50-amp RV.
What Size Generator Do I Need For My Camper?
The type and size of generator you’ll need for your camper will vary depending on your expected power draw.
A generator on the smaller side with around 2500 watts may be enough to power some appliances, but if you travel in a camper with multiple individuals, the likelihood is you’ll need a generator that can handle a bigger power demand.
A 4000-watt generator will be able to charge more devices and run appliances requiring a lot of energy such as an AC unit.
Will A 3500 Watt Generator Run My RV?
Once you have made a list of the devices that you intend to power inside your RV, add up the number of Watts the items use.
This will give you the best idea of how many watts your generator needs to power. A 3500-watt generator will run most RVs, but you should adjust that number based on your calculation.
What Size Generator Do You Need To Run An RV Air Conditioner?
Air conditioners run anywhere from 1200 Watts – 2400 Watts. Be sure your generator can handle the amount of Watts your AC unit uses plus the wattage of every other device you intend to run with your generator. You will probably need a generator that runs in excess of 3000 Watts.
If you want a more detailed answer, check out my latest post covering the 5 best generators for running an air conditioner with your RV.
Not only will it help to have a great generator, but you’ll also want to make sure you’ve got an efficient air conditioner as well to ease the load on your generator.
Selecting a new generator for your RV boils down to how much power you need, how loud you want it to be, and what you can afford. Calculating the amount of Watts necessary to run your RV will get you started on the right path.
There are a lot of things you need to consider before getting a generator and size is definitely one of them. This of course will depend on a few factors such as your budget, the power your RV requires, and the type of generator you want to buy.
Hopefully, our article has answered all your questions and helped you figure out what size generator you need to have a fulfilling RV experience!