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What Size Generator Do I Need For My RV?

what size generator do i need for my rv
Written by Jamie Masterson

This depends on your RV requirements (30A or 50A) and what and how many appliances you are planning to power up with your generator.

Usually, most RV generators are between 2000 to 4000 watt range and the best options are the dual fuel and inverter types.

Let’s dig deeper to find the right size for your RV.

What Size Generator for My RV?

3 steps:

1. Calculate your power needs

First of all, you need to calculate the wattage that your appliances and electronics will use on your camper. Below in a table, some of the estimates to figure out power consumption is given, but it’s highly recommended you look at the wattage used by your own appliances specifically.

If your product lists only amps, then by using this formula, you can easily calculate the wattage: Watts = Volts x Amps. As an example, a 10-amp microwave that uses 120 volts would operate at 1200 watts.

  •  Appliance wattage table and calculator
Appliance Estimated Watts
Air conditioner 2000 at start-up
TV 150
Microwave 1,000
Refrigerator 400-600 at start-up
Coffee Maker 1,000
Toaster 1,100
Hair Dryer 710
Phone Charger 4
Laptop 60
DVD player 17
Electric blanket 400
Space heater 1250
Water heater 1500
Other 0
  • Tips

If you can’t or don’t prefer to run all of your appliances at once because you don’t have a generator powerful enough, it’s good to build a habit of using particular instruments at different times. So when you’re using the coffee maker to brew some coffee early morning, use the toaster only after you have turned the coffee maker off and vice versa.

2. Figure out the size of the generator you’ll need

Once you have found out the total wattage of your RV, it’s now time to select the generator we need.

The ideal way to ensure that you have the correct power is to choose a generator that can completely cover all of your appliances running together at once. What’s wiser is to add 10% to the total wattage, just in case you missed a few appliances that you’ll be needing.

Say, if your RV requires at least 3,500 watts to run at the optimum capacity, then a generator rated at 3,850 watts or more is what you should look for.

3,500 watts + 10% = 3,850 watts

It’s crucial that you don’t make this big decision with a ‘’less is more’’ attitude. Otherwise, you will most likely be left with a lower power than what is actually needed.

Undoubtedly, while buying a generator, money plays a huge role. So, the least you should do is buy a generator that confidently powers the must-have appliances foremost and then a few of the electronics or appliances that you may use for the rest of the day.

3. Find the perfect generator

Now that the size of the generator is found, it’s time to find a model that is reliable and perfectly fits your needs. But with the hundreds of existing brands in the market, it can be tricky to find the best RV generator size for you. If you narrow down a few models based on wattage and price points, it will be fairly easy to pick the right generator that fits your budget and power needs.

By evaluating wattage of appliances:

  • Refrigerator
    • Standard absorption cycle RV fridges use about 400 to 1000 watts of electricity whereas a home style refrigerator in an RV will use about 110 volts to create the cold. On the other hand, a small home type fridge can use anywhere between 400 to 1000 watts. A larger freezer/ fridge combination can use 1000 to 2400 watts.
  • Air conditioner
    • Standard absorption cycle RV fridges use about 400 to 1000 watts of electricity whereas a home style refrigerator in an RV will use about 110 volts to create the cold. On the other hand, a small home type fridge can use anywhere between 400 to 1000 watts. A larger freezer/ fridge combination can use 1000 to 2400 watts.
    • Overall, considering many other many other electronics and gadgets, a generator of a bare minimum 3,500 W or greater is recommended.

Selecting the Right Size and Style- RV generators

The key to determining the correct size of an RV generator is to find out the power requirement. Anything with a compressor requirement at the beginning or end of the cycle can double or triple the wattage. When you add up all the power needed to run the appliances, it will present a total wattage usage. This wattage also determines how much power is expected and the size of the generator required.

Types

Generators run on any of the three types of fuel:

  1. Diesel
  2. Gasoline
  3. Propane

A couple of generators can use two different types of fuels. This is particularly useful for the times when you might run out of one fuel and can then rely on the other as a backup plan. So, while shopping for a generator for your RV, you must first decide which of the fuel types is most convenient for you and narrow down your options from there.

The standard size of the generator for your RV

Generally, most RV generators produce about 2000 to 4000 watts of electricity. So, before you go in, you must understand what you’re looking for.

Some questions  that you should consider before getting a generator are :

  • Whether you have a small trailer with limited needs of power and so a 2000 watt unit will be enough for you.
  • Whether you have to run an air conditioner or a microwave oven, either of which will require about 3000 watts or more.
  • 3600 Watts RV Generators

To power your camper’s A/C system, refrigerator, electronics or washing machine, a mid sized 3500-5000 generator can do the job. For food truck vendors or for those who need to power large fridges, fans, stoves or other such appliances, these generators are the perfect addition. In this range, they come for a slightly heavier and larger size compared to the 2000-3000 watt generators. The impressive handles and wheels are a prominent feature of these generators, making it effortless to take in and out of the house or any preferred location.

  • Generators come in a lot of size. It goes without saying that a bigger generator demands a higher price.

There are quite a few choices to make from the right kind of generator. On the lower end, there are the 400 to 800 watt capacities. On the higher end, there are the 3400 – 4000 watt generators. These generators are usually portable, but they pack a good punch. Since AC’s are the main energy guzzlers in the RV world, it’s smart to get something hefty.

On the other hand, a safe generator of about 2200 watts is the safest kind for the people who do not use ACs. The price range for these ranges are usually between $ 420 to $750. There are some outliers that go beyond $ 900

For a generator that can run a few more appliances or electronics other    than a small AC, a 3200-watt generator would work well. But the 4000- watt gen sets cover even the largest RV’s and most of the appliances.

Starting watts and approximate running watts

How To Calculate Watt Usage

  • Starting Watts and Running Watts

A typical RV fridge will need 600 watts to start and a total of 180 watts to run. Slow cookers will need 170 to 270 watts to both start and run, while a 650 watt microwave needs 1000 watts from the beginning to the end. A small flat TV needs from about 120 to 200 watts. Satellite receivers need about 250 watts continuously as laptop computers when they are powered by the generator. A radiant heater uses about 1300 watts at both startups while continuously running.

Typically, the air cons are the energy hogs of the average RV. A 7000 BTU rooftop RV AC needs about 1700 watts to start and 600 watts to keep running. A larger 10,000 BTU RV AC requires about 2000 watts to start up and 700 watts to continue running. After adding up the starting and running wattage of the base load, you will get an idea of the amount of power that your generator needs to provide. So, using the above examples of a small AC, microwave, TV or fridge, the starting load while turning all of  them on would be 3420 watts, whereas the running load would be 2000 watts. Hence, if you plan to run a few appliances with a small air con, TV, fridge and microwave, you have to plan to have a 3000 starting watt generator and 2000 watt running output.

About the author

Jamie Masterson

With decade-long experience as a generator technician, Jamie has worked with USA’s top generator manufacturers and suppliers as an independent contractor.

The long years of service to the industry has taught Jamie the ins and outs of troubleshooting, repairing, and maintaining all kinds of generators in home, industrial and outdoor settings.

Jamie thinks this platform is a great opportunity to share his tips and tricks with you so you can make the most of such power equipment for better living.

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