Are you looking for a generator for your RV but not sure what size? RV generators are a good way to get power when you’re not hooked up to shore power. First thing we recommend doing before purchasing a new generator for your RV is to determine what size and type you will need. To begin, confirm how many watts it will take to power your appliances. There are a few other variables to consider we have outlined in detail below.
What is an RV generator?
RVs have a few different ways to generate electricity. Onboard batteries store your RV energy but they need an outside source to power them. Most RVs get power from engine or tow vehicle alternators. Solar panels can also replenish power to your RV. Generators use gas, diesel or propane to provide power to your RV. Generators can power 120 volts of electricity but not usually the only power source. They are often used as a backup for when you're not connected to shore power and your battery is low. Generators can also recharge your battery if needed. Some RVs have built-in generators. If it's not already installed, generators are easy to add one or two for power.
What size generator is needed?
Manufacturers measure generators by how many watts they produce. Most RV generators are between 1500 to 4000 watts.
Portable RV Generators
Portable RV generators are 2000 to 4000 watts but can be up to 12,000. The larger generators create more power but are often heavier, less fuel efficient, prone to power surges, and make more noise. Inverter generators are often more quiet and more efficient. They also regulate the voltage to sensitive devices. Inverter generators are often more expensive than a conventional generator.
Built in Generators
Most larger RVs have built in generators. These draw fuel from the RVs fuel tanks which allows you to safely use them while in transport. You can program built-in RV generators to turn on and off at certain times of the day. They vary in size but are usually minimum 3000 watts up to 12,000 watts.
Once you’ve researched your RV appliances to learn how much electricity they use, you can determine what size generator you need. Stove/ranges and water heaters typically use around 2500 watts, where a refrigerator only uses 600 to 800 watts. You will need this information to select the generator size you need.
30 AMP versus 50 AMP RVs
RVs have either 30 AMP or 50 AMP electrical service. This determines how much power the RV can pull based on the voltage and amps:
30 AMP RV
For a 30 AMP RV, take the number of volts (120) and multiply it by the number of amps (30). The total is 3600 so the maximum watt generator you can use is 3600. Anything over that, would not be harmful but would be unnecessary.
50 AMP RV
Using the same method, the maximum watts for a 50 AMP RV generator is 12,000, but you can easily use a smaller generator. If you ran all of your appliances at the same time, you would not consume all of that energy. A recommendation for a 50 AMP RV generator would be 4000 to 8000 watts. You could even go as small as a 2000 watt generator, just be aware your power is more limited.
If your generator is running your AC, that is another factor to determine what size generator you should purchase. A lot of RV owners have a backup generator just to run the AC when needed. AC units use a ton of power, around 1300-4000 watts. The standard 15,000 BTU AC pulls about 2000 to 3000 watts. A small 2000 watt generator could run an AC unit as long as you are not powering anything else with that generator at that time.
Other factors to consider:Cost
- cost is a major thing to consider when selecting a size for your AC unit. Going for a cheap generator could mean spending more money down the road. We suggest doing your research and evaluating your needs to stay within your budget. The High Watt Onan generators typically cost $3000 to $10,000Noise
- Inverter generators are more quiet because they have an insulated casing. It’s important to look for a generator that has a good noise rating.Weight
- The larger the generator, the more it will weigh. If you need a portable generator that you need to move around, a 2000-2200 watt generator will be your best purchase.Fuel Type
- If your RV runs on diesel, it’s smart to purchase a diesel generator so you don’t have to bring extra fuel. Same rules apply for gasoline. Propane is another option for fuel and many generator manufacturers offer dual fuel options to burn either gas or propane which is helpful if you run out of one type of fuel, you have a backup plan. When shopping for a generator, you will want to determine what type of fuel works best for your needs.
Best Generators for RVs
What are the best generators to purchase for your RV? There are a number of options available. Based on your budget, electrical needs and fuel preference, you can narrow down your choice. A few we would recommend are:Champion 3400-Watt Dual Fuel RV Ready Portable Inverter Generator
- 3400 watt dual fuel, 96 lbs but has tires for easy rolling. Very quiet and around $2710.Westinghouse iGen 2200 Super Quiet
- 2200 watts, very quiet, 46 lbs and only $481DuroMax XP4400E
- 4400 watt, gas generator $449. This unit is larger and creates more noise than others.Cummins Onan QG 2800
- 2800 watt generator is built in and easy to install. Price is $3799Honda EU3000i
- 2000 watt, gas, portable generator, 56lbs and listed at $989
Where can you buy an RV generator?
The staff at Lakeshore RV in Muskegon, Michigan can help you purchase the correct generator to fit your needs and help you with the installation. Call 231-788-2040 for more information, pricing and any additional questions you may have!