What Size Generator Do I Need For My RV?

What size generator do I need

RVing is an exciting experience. Many adventures await and sometimes, these incursions are in parks without full hookups. In these cases, you will need a generator. You may already have one built into your motor home. If that’s the case, this article is not for you.

On the other hand, if you don’t have an RV generator yet; if you’re looking to replace a pre-existing one; or you’re just new to RVing, then there are things you need to know. At this point, you may be asking yourself, “What size generator do I need?” To help you make a decision, continue reading. The factors you need to consider are discussed below.

Factors to Determine Your Generator Size Requirement

  • Energy Consumption
  • Power Output
  • Weight and Portability

Energy Consumption

First, you need to think about your energy consumption. This is perhaps the most important consideration for selecting the size of your generator. You need to think about the appliances you will use, how long they will be running, and which will be used at the same time.

You need to ask yourself how much power you will be consuming at a given time to ensure you select a generator with enough wattage to support it. Appliances such as your RV air conditioner, refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher, television, radio, and lights fixtures could all be on at the same time. How much watts would that need?

Of all the factors you need to weigh before purchasing a generator, energy consumption is the heaviest. With a generator as power source, you need to be constantly mindful of your consumption during camping trips.

Take note of your energy consumption

To aid in your decision, list down all of your appliances and take note of their running and starting wattage. Examine which of them you would be running at the same time and check how many watts that would need.

Go with the necessities first. For many people, they start with their air conditioners since it’s usually the machine with the highest wattage.  Make sure to add up the starting and running wattage. You also need to learn about your appliances’ BTU. It’s a tedious but necessary process to ensure you have an enjoyable but safe trip.

Power Output

Once you know your energy consumption, it’s time you can select an appropriate generator. It should be one with wattage slightly higher than your total energy consumption. As mentioned earlier, the generator you choose should be able to handle the starting and running wattage of your appliances. Choosing otherwise could lead to damage in your RV, appliances, and generator itself.

For example, if your air conditioner has 15000 BTUs of power, it will likely have a 3500 wattage requirement for startup, and a 1500 running wattage. Clearly, just from the starting wattage requirement, a 3000-watt generator will be insufficient. However, if you just have an air conditioner with 7000 BTU of power, starting wattage would be 1700 and running wattage would be 600.

A 3000-watt generator would be more than enough. You’d also be able to run other appliances in parallel to your air conditioner. You can check out Ramsond’s wattage chart for various appliances and equipment. However, the best practice is to check each of your appliances manually.

National RV Detroit provides a general guide. Generators with 1000 watts can power small appliances (lights, fans, small consoles). If you need to power larger appliances such as microwaves, heaters, and electric grills, you will need to choose generators with a 2000 watt capacity. You’ll need a bigger generator, 3000 watts and up, for air conditioners, refrigerators, and other bigger appliances. Generators 3000 watts and up will also let you use appliances in conjunction with each other.

How long can generators run?

Aside from the total power output, you should also consider how long generators can run. Not all generators are meant to run on full capacity for several hours. Using your appliances requires a bit of planning as you can’t exceed your generator’s power. For this reason, the decision about a generator should be made carefully and not taken lightly.

Weight and Portability

Taking weight and portability into account is also important. Large and bulky generators are heavy. If they aren’t built into your RV, you may have a hard time handling them. Your strength and physical fitness plays a role in this factor. Although many modern RV generators come with a wheel kit, you might still find it hard to manage the weight of high-powered generators.

Consider the GVWR of your RV

Another factor that plays into this is the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of your RV. Recommended by the manufacturer, the GVWR is the maximum allowable weight of a fully loaded motor home.

Heavy generators might make you exceed this rating and subsequently affect the quality and safety of your travel as it could lead to tire, suspension, and mechanical problems, among others. You could also get into legal and financial trouble. You don’t want that to ruin your trip, right?

One solution for this is to have multiple lighter generators. Let’s say you have two 2000 watt generators. You can instead connect them to each other. This will give you manageable light generators and a higher power output at the same time.

This would also take up less space in your RV, allowing you to bring other essentials. On another note, it can also prevent you from having a cluttered space. Though comfortable, you’ll already be living in a tight and enclosed space. There’s no need to make it smaller than it is.

Watt should you choose?

So, to the question “What size generator do I need?” The answer is it depends. Having a reliable source of energy when on the road is essential to RVing but before you make a purchase, make sure you examine the factors enumerated above.

You must take careful consideration of your RV size, appliances, wattage requirements, and GVWR in order to make the right decision. Afterwards, make a plan on how you will maximize use of your generator. Determine which appliances you can use at the same time, and how long.

If you’re going to spend money on a generator, it’s best to do your research to ensure you get one that’s compatible with your RV and provides the right amount of wattage to fit your needs. Hopefully the question on ‘What size generator do I need?” has been answered.

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