Recreational Vehicle: What Size Generator For RV – How To Decide?
A recreational vehicle (RV) is a motor vehicle or should I say a mobile home equipped with all amenities one would need for a home-like comfort. The RV is armed with several amenities and the generator is the most reliable source of power for RVs.
The size of the generator matters, as it would accordingly serve as the power source for RV’s accessories like AC and other appliances like entertainment and kitchen.
Now, how would you decide the size of the generator? How big of a generator would you need and what kind of power it needs to fulfill? Specifically, what generator size do you need for RVs?
What Size Generator For RV
Appliances Your Generator Would Power
So, let us put first things first. When travelling on a wheel on home, your RV, you would use several appliances. An RV is furnished with a kitchen and entertainment needs.
All these appliances along with the most important equipment – the air conditioner – need power to run. We need to know the appliances that would run on the generator.
The Air Conditioner
The air conditioner is one of the most used and high-power consuming appliances of all. Different sized air conditioners use different wattage. Starting the air conditioner takes more power than running it.
So, we need to check the size of the air conditioner. Always, start the AC first, before turning on other appliances, for obvious reason that the AC would take more power to start.
Depending on the size of your AC, you would decide the size of your RVs generator. If your AC is bigger, it would need more power.
Size of AC
Approximate Starting Watts
Approximate Running Watts
Your RVs kitchen appliances will need power to run. These are all important for a long-distance travel.
- Fridge would take approximately 180W of power, if its starting power is 600W
- Coffee maker (4cups) would take 600W
- Slow cooker- 170-270W4. Microwave (650W) would use 1000W of power
- Electric grill would consume 17000W
- Toaster may use 800 to 1500W
Short or long distance travel needs entertainment like television, DVD player, radio, laptop, satellite receiver. The power these would consume.
- Small flat TV would use 120-200W of power
- DVD player would consume 350W
- Radio would use 50-200W
- Laptop computer may consume 250W of power
When travelling, we need and use various other items which run on the generator.
- Hair dryer would use around 1800W (it takes time to dry the hair; longer the hair, more time it would take)
- Portable fans may use 40W power
- Light bulbs will need power depending on their individual wattage.
We need to understand that the generators too have a maximum starting wattage and a maximum running wattage rating like your AC. Thus, we need to consider the generator’s capacity to run various other appliances after the AC unit starts.
Accordingly, you will be able to use other appliances like TV, radio, microwave etc. The lesser usage you have of other appliances, the lesser power you would use.
Since, the air conditioner uses the maximum power, you need to buy the generator considering the AC size and other appliances you would use besides the AC.
For example, the generator has a 3000W power and it is rated for only 2600W of use. If the AC uses 2400W, then you only have 200W left to use for other appliances.
Some people do not like to cook, so they may not use the kitchen appliances as much as others. They may need a generator which suffices their usage of air conditioner and entertainment appliances.
People who are travelling with children may need to consider entertainment and cooking. Their power consumption may be much higher than someone travelling alone or a couple travelling without children.
The weather may also play a role while considering the size of your generator. When the weather is cool and pleasant, you may not use the AC as much as during scorching summers.
The generator’s power consumption would automatically reduce with lower usage of the AC. So, consider the time and the area you are travelling in.
You need to make sure that the generator suffices all needs, that is, it can power all needed appliances. You do not want too much or too little power. I would not want to be stuck in the dark without any light because the generator cannot power the lights.
Imagine getting stuck without being able to make coffee or toast some bagels! On the other hand, we do not want to get stuck with a generator which is over powered for our basic needs. You may have just wasted money in an over powered and big generator.
Once we have a basic idea about the appliances we would need in the RV, we can decide on the generator size. Let’s consider some simple science while choosing the generator size.
The power requirement of all appliances that we will run at the same time:
Watts = Volts x Amps
While buying the generator also consider if it is going to be permanently installed or will be a portable generator. If we are connected to the power grid, a permanent generator can be turned on and off with a transfer switch.
All appliances can be connected to power outlets.
Portable generators are convenient but the size of your AC determines the size of your portable generator too, since it uses the highest wattage. The portable generator will need additional accessories to connect it.
Size/ Weight/ Noise Matter
RV Generator Sound Off! via The Fit RV
When considering your RV generator, you need to also check the weight. Do you want something bulky or light? The bigger and heavier your generator, the more power it will generate.
The noise level is also something you may need to consider. Generators are noisy. While camping, do you want to hear all that noise?
They are fueled by diesel, gasoline, or propane. The fuel affects the efficiency of your generator. You also need to consider the price of fuel being used.
Again, it would boil down to the use of your RV, is it a short trip or a long-distance travel, and the appliances your will use.
Gasoline-powered And Propane
Gasoline is easily available but highly combustible fuel. Both these fuels have their own pros and cons.
Gasoline has a shorter life than propane, as the latter can be stored in a canister and does not get damaged.
A propane generator needs a propane tank to fuel and produces 91,500 btu per gallon. The gasoline produces 125, 00 btu per gallon. So, depending on the usage and distance to be travelled, you would purchase the generator.
Diesel produces more power than propane and gasoline and is cleaner than gasoline. Diesel generators are more expensive but have a longer life. They are more efficient than gasoline generators.
So, if you have a diesel RV, it is better to buy a diesel generator.
Inverter Vs. Generator For Your RV
Sound same, don’t they? But there is some difference between the two. Generators use fossil fuel like diesel, gasoline while an inverter uses a fixed DC source and electric circuit to invert DC power to AC power.
Inverters do not make noise unlike the conventional generators. But inverters may not suffice your RV’s needs. Inverter generators are a recent development which uses the functionality of both the inverter and generator.
Inverter generators can easily fit in your RV and are easily portable. They are surprisingly small and light weight. The conventional generators may be bulkier and noisy but when needed for a longer run, they will last you.
They will come in any size and from 500W to 50,000 W while the inverter generators will not have that vast a power range.
So, What Will You Choose?
How to Choose a GENERATOR for RV Camping via Long Long Honeymoon
Now we know that the size of our generator and whether we want a conventional generator or an inverter generator depends on our need. Consider these questions before deciding on your RV’s generator.
- Are you using your RV for a long trip or a short one?
- What appliances are you going to use in the RV?
- What is the size of your AC (don’t forget that your AC uses the maximum power, your generator’s size depends on your AC’s size)?
- How long will you use other appliances like TV, radio, and fridge?
- Are you ok with the noise of your generator?
- What kind of money are you ready to invest?
- Consider the fuel being used in your generator?
Choose the Right Honda Generator for RV camping and Tailgating via Gardenland
Honda and Yamaha offer quality generators. If you are buying portable generators, remember to buy RV plug adaptor. If you have a tight budget, Honeywell generators might fulfill your need.
Make sure, that your generator suits your needs and budget, in good quality, and will give you more efficiency and some life. Check for oil, any fuel leaks, check for filters and monitors, replace them if needed, and most of all, keep the generator clean.