Are you about to hit the road for a long off-the-grid adventure? Are you thinking about taking the plunge and becoming a full-time RV-er? Either way, your generator will make or break your quality of life — and getting the right size generator is absolutely vital.
How do you determine what size generator you need for your RV? Well, it doesn’t take a lot of RV living to discover that RV-ers are a friendly bunch, who are always willing to share what worked for them and what didn’t. Shamelessly rely on those who have walked this road before you! Let’s take a closer look at your generator options!
What Is a Generator Used for in an RV?
Your RV’s generator powers almost everything that keeps you comfortable. RV generators are used to:
- Power your air conditioning unit – which you’ll use to heat and cool your camper.
- Run your dishwasher.
- Power your stove.
- Power your refrigerator.
- Run your RV washer and dryer.
- Enable you to listen to the radio, enjoy watching TV, use your laptop, charge your phone, or even play on a gaming console.
- Give energy to just about any other appliance you might want to use while on the road — a hair dryer, microwave, coffee maker, blender, iron, slow cooker… and the list, depending on your personal preferences, goes on (and on).
Many RV batteries also charge with the help of RV generators — making your generator absolutely indispensable
Common Generator Sizes Across Different RVs
RV generators generally range from 2,000 to 7,000 watts, though even 12,000 watt generators are on the market. The appropriate generator size depends on the type of RV you’re adventuring in as well as your personal power needs. Rather than relying on one larger generator, many RV-ers also choose to hook to generators up in parallel.
If you’re looking to find out exactly what kind of wattage you’ll need, so you don’t have to scrimp later on, this handy RV generator size calculator will help you out. You can also survey the appliances you’ll be using, and take a look at the wattage they require in this giant list that shows how much watt electric appliances use. Then, simply do some math, and you’ll have your answer.
In the meantime, here’s a quick rough guide:
- If your RV is a class B van, you’ll typically be able to get away with a 2,000 to 3,600 watt generator, assuming that you’ll be running one AC unit.
- A class C RV calls for a 3,000 to 4,000 watt generator.
- For a class A RV, you’ll usually want a 5,500 to 8,000 watt generator when running 2 AC units. If you’re planning on running three AC units concurrently, meanwhile, a 10,000 to 12,5000 watt generator can handle the demand.
- If you’re traveling in a fifth wheel, you’ll need a 5,500 to 7,000 watt generator.
The amperage of your RV must also be factored in as you shop for a new generator. If you’ve got a 30-amp RV, you can’t use a generator bigger than 3,600 watts, while 50-amp RVs can safely and efficiently use a maximum of 12,000 watts at any given time.
Types of Generators For Your RV
RV generators can be sorted into different types on two different grounds, and it’s important to know about both of them.
RV generators can use different types of fuel, and an RV generator may run on:
- Propane (LP)
- Some generators are dual fuel – meaning they can be powered by either LP or gasoline.
In addition, you’ll have to choose between a conventional generator — sometimes called an alternator generator — an an inverter generator. We assume you didn’t come here for an in-depth technical explanation about the differences between the two, so we’ll just say that conventional generators are cheaper, but also noisier and vulnerable to annoying power surges.
Inverter generators represent a significant investment, but they’ll provide “cleaner” energy that you can always rely on. They’re also quiet, which everyone will thank you for when you’re on the road in your RV.
For a more detailed look, head over to our post where we explain the difference between a generator and an inverter generator.
What Size Generator for a 50 Amp RV?
RVs are generally either 30-amp or 50-amp. A 50-amp RV will allow you to use much more energy simultaneously — which, in short, means that you will comfortably be able to run more appliances at any given time.
The right generator size for you still depends on your individual needs.
If you’re planning to run a lot of appliances at once, you’ll need a larger generator. The fact that you will be adventuring or living in a 50-amp RV only means that you are not limited.
If you have a 50-amp RV shore power connection and with 120 V equipment, you may choose to buy a 12,000 watt generator. If your needs are more modest, you may also comfortably get away with a 4,000 watt RV generator,
What Size Generator For A 30 Amp RV?
An RV with a 30-amp shore power connection, you won’t be able to use more than 3,600 watts at any given time. Assuming that you are planning on using an AC unit, you’ll need a minimum of 2,000 watts, but you shouldn’t get a generator larger than 4,000 watts.
What Size Generator for a Travel Trailer?
If you’re using a travel trailer, a similar story applies — you will need enough power to run all your appliances, which will generally be air conditioning plus less power-hungry appliances like a laptop, fridge, and stove.
In most cases, you’ll be shooting for a 4,000 watt generator.
What Size Generator for Camping?
If you’re going camping, you’ll a 2,000 to 4,000 watt generator will usually be sufficient. Keep in mind that most camp sites place restrictions on the noise levels you’re allowed to produce (generally speaking, up to 60 decibels is acceptable). An inverter generator is, therefore, perfect for camp sites.
What Size Generator Do I Need to Run an RV Air Conditioner?
That depends on how powerful your air conditioner is. The cooling power of AC units is measured in BTU, which stands for British Thermal Units. Most RV generators are either 13,500 or 15,000 BTU.
A 13,500 RV AC unit takes 1,200 to 1,300 watts to run, while a 15,000 BTU air condition needs 2,400 watts. You may choose to run multiple AC units, too, in which case you’ll need a larger generator.
Your question should never be “what size generator do I need to run an RV air conditioner?”, however, but rather simply “what size RV generator do I need if I am going to run AC in my RV?”! That’s because you’ll want to use other appliances as well, and whether it’s hot or cold, you won’t want to turn your AC off to be able to do that.
So, what size generator do you need if you’re planning on living with the modern comfort that only air conditioning offers? The short answer is that that depends on the BTU of your AC, as well as the other appliances you are planning to use.
Keep in mind, however, that you need to consider the wattage it takes to start your RV AC up as well as its running wattage.
Will a 2500 Watt Generator Run an RV Air Conditioner?
Yes, it will. If you have a 10,000 or 13,500 BTU air conditioner in your RV, you will even be able to run some other appliances at the same time. You could have your air conditioner going in addition to, for instance, a small fridge and a laptop, or a hair dryer and a coffee maker. With a small generator, you’ll have to be comfortable with doing basic math in your head all the time as you determine whether an appliance can or can’t run.
What Size Generator Do I Need to Run an RV Refrigerator?
RV fridges use surprisingly little power. They may need as little as 400 watts for a smaller unit, or as much as 1,200 watts. It’s important to consider your RV fridge when deciding what size generator to buy. Like your AC, it’s an appliance you’ll want to have running regularly, after all.
If you plan to run a fridge and an AC, a 4,000 watt generator is a good minimum — leaving you just about enough “extra” for a laptop and some light bulbs.