Unless you’re a fan of being out in the wilderness with nothing to power up your RV, you’re going to want to equip yourself with a generator.
A trusty generator provides you with the wattage to keep your most important appliances and electronics running, but finding the right one for the job can be daunting.
What size generator does my RV need? The calculate your RV’s power needs, you’ll need to know what appliances you’ll be running, their power draw, and how long this power is required.
Some people might want to use minimal energy and a generator could last a few days, and others will need theirs topped up regularly.
With our help, you’ll know what size generator for RV power is required, and how to calculate your unique needs.
The last thing you want is to be stuck in the middle of nowhere without access to electricity, and this guide will ensure that never happens.
What Is an RV Generator?
A modern RV is designed to be your home away from home, but unless you’re at a powered campsite, this home doesn’t have access to electricity.
Therefore, most RVs have a dedicated generator on board that they can rely on when they need it to keep their most important electronics and devices running.
An RV generator must fit a few requirements to make it suitable for this environment: portability, power output, and fuel source.
You’ll need a generator that’s the right size to take in your RV, one with enough power to suit whatever it is you need running, and a fuel source of either propane, gas, or battery.
The purpose of an RV generator is to provide electricity where there is none, so when you’re not hooked up to shore power, they’re your go-to.
With every RV owner having different needs for achieving comfortable camping conditions, the search for the right size generator can be a long one.
The Benefits of Having a Generator in Your RV
Living the RV lifestyle is all about having a home away from home and being able to explore the world while still living comfortably. An RV generator makes this possible and comes with lots of benefits for its owners:
Comfortable living: Living in an RV with access to your fridge, microwave, and air conditioner is all possible when you have a generator. Even when you’re camping off the grid, all of these electronics can still be accessible so you can live comfortably, provided you choose the right size.
Power for the battery: Most generators can also charge up the RV’s DC battery and store this power for later. Having this additional backup is another great benefit of using a generator that you might not realize it’s capable of.
Freedom to move: Without a generator, you’re stuck visiting only powered campsites and those with dedicated electrical hookups. Using a generator means you can charge it up and then travel anywhere you want to, even in the most remote locations.
Portability: A good generator doesn’t have to be confined to your RV, and if you choose correctly, you’ll be able to take it on all kinds of adventures. With the portability of these systems, your generator can come along on fishing trips, tent camping, and even be used in an emergency where the power is lost.
Common RV Generator Sizes
In the market of RV generators, there are some sizes that seem better equipped to suit this lifestyle than others.
Depending on the size of camper you own, here are some of the most popular sizes and what they’re capable of doing:
2,000 – 3,600-watt generator: This is the smallest size of generator you’d want to use with an RV, and would be best suited to a class B van or something similar that has just one air-conditioning unit.
2,800 – 4,000 watt generator: Systems in this size suit the smaller types of RVs but those who want a little more power. You’ll still be able to run an AC comfortably but can also utilize some other appliances.
5,500 – 8,000 watt generator: A standard class A RV that uses a few basic appliances and wants to be able to run two AC units at a time will find something in this size suitable.
10,000 – 12,500 watt generator: These RVers will need the highest amount of power possible from a generator and should start around the 10,000-watt mark. With one of these, you can run three AC units in the RV plus a host of other electronics and appliances.
Which One Is Best For You?
The best way to tell what generator size you need is by calculating your power requirements, how many people will rely on the power supply, and for how many days.
This part of the process requires some work as you’ll need to get a general idea of the most common appliances and electronics and how much electricity they use, both with starting and running power.
Air conditioner: The most power-hungry of all, you can expect a basic RV AC unit to use between 1,200 and 2,400 watts to run.
Dishwasher: Another power chewing device, a compact dishwasher will also use 1,200 to 2,400 watts.
Coffee machine: For your morning coffee, expect to use between 900 to 1,200 watts with one of these.
Microwave: Blasting something in the microwave can draw between 750 and 1,5000 watts, making them one of the higher consumption appliances.
TV: Watching your TV might draw as little as 40 watts or as much as 600 watts, depending on the model.
Laptop: This only uses a small amount of power with between 20 and 50 watts when it’s plugged in.
When considering these appliances, you’ll need to think about which ones will be used at the same time and if the generator can handle that much of a power draw.
Some appliances also have a higher starting wattage compared to their running wattage, so this also has to be considered.
Of course, there’s no need to run all of the appliances at once or for the entire day. Some might only need to be used for a few minutes a day and others will run for longer, so these all have to be factored into your calculations as well.
30 Amp vs 50 Amp: What’s the Difference
All RVs are made to use either 30-Amp or 50-Amp electrical service capacities and your generator will have to match this amount.
50-Amp RVs can handle more electrical power than 30-Amp, and you’ll need to use this amount to multiply by the voltage and calculate how much power is required from a generator.
Whether you have a 50 or 30-Amp generator doesn’t affect the type of electronics you can use, as all of the equipment onboard an RV will operate at 120 volts.
However, it’s helpful to know what your RV is serviced by to allow you to get a more accurate calculation of how much power you need.
Portable Power in the Right Size
Shopping for a new generator for your RV can be a daunting task, as the fear of not knowing whether it’ll be powerful enough to suit your rig is a big one.
With some clever calculations and planning, you’ll ensure that the generator you choose will never let you or your RV down.
A generator gives you supply to electricity when there’s nowhere else to get it, and for those who like to camp away from the rest of the world, they can be a godsend.
If you still have questions about generators and how they can be used in recreational vehicles, we’ve answered a few commonly asked ones to give you the basics.
Are Battery-Powered Generators Worth It?
There are lots of benefits to using a battery-powered generator in your RV, with the biggest pro being that they don’t burn any fossil fuels and are considered low maintenance.
However, they do require access to electricity to renew their charge, which might not always be on hand.
Do RVs Come With a Generator?
Although there are some models of RV and camper that feature a generator built into the vehicle, it’s not the norm.
In most cases, you’ll need to purchase an aftermarket generator that suits your power requirements and store it somewhere within the RV so it can be accessed as needed.
Do You Need a Generator In an RV?
Having a generator in an RV is not a requirement to run it, but it can be useful in an emergency.
If you’re ever camped somewhere without an electrical hookup, having this backup power supply can help you to run the most important electronics onboard and recharge the vehicle’s DC battery.
George Cummings enjoys connecting with nature, meeting new people, and making friends from all over the world. RVing and camping create the perfect opportunity for [him/her] to take part in these activities. After spending several years on the road and exploring the great outdoors, George Cummings shares some of his best pieces of advice on how to make the most of your time while camping. TourTheOutdoors is his way of helping outdoorsy individuals like [him/her] start on a right footing with amazing recommendations and buying guides.