What Size Generator Do I Need For My RV – The Best Guide
So you have a new RV, but you need to replace or install an RV generator.
You heard that your new generator has to have a certain sizing in order to be effective, and you don’t know where to start. It’s important to know that when people talk about a generator’s size, they are usually talking about its maximum wattage.
Appliances use watts to run, so your next question might be, “What size of a generator do I need for my RV?” Let me help you figure it out.
I have been RVing for decades now, and I fully understand the ins and outs of RV generators.
They are relatively simple machines; you simply keep them fueled and well-maintained, and they provide juice to your appliances to run with.
Do you have a lot of appliances? Then, you’ll need something with the juice to run them all.
Starting Watts vs. Approximate Running Watts
For any appliance to start up, it’ll need a burst of wattage in order to start the motor or compressor-driven products like air conditioners or refrigerators.
Typically, something like this requires two or three seconds of continuous power in order to get started.
When selecting an RV generator, you will need to have enough wattage to start your items; this starting wattage is usually higher than the running or rated wattage but the difference between the two required wattages can vary.
Running or rated watts are what your appliance needs in order to continuously run.
Items like refrigerators and air conditioning units are typically the biggest draws when it comes to both starting and running watts, but there are other big spenders as well.
The Sizing for RV Generators
In most situations, I suggest shooting for an RV generator that is rated above 4,000 watts.
Why is this?
Many appliances such as refrigerators and air conditioners have a very high power requirement, so if you select an RV generator that only has about 2,400 watts of power, you won’t be able to generate the starting wattage needed for a good 13,500 BTU air conditioner, since most require 2,800 to 3,000 watts.
On the other hand, you can use two smaller capacity generators in order to meet startup requirements.
This is called paralleling and it actually opens up some possibilities, though usually paralleled generators are heavy portable models.
At the same time, with paralleled 2,000-watt generators, you can opt to leave one at home, if you’re not going to be powering on your AC unit.
This actually provides some versatility for your RV trip.
For paralleling, there is one caveat: you shouldn’t expect to get a full 4,000 watts out of two 2,000-watt generators. In fact, you’ll only get about 3600 watts or so.
Size Of Air Conditioner
Approximate Starting Watts
Approximate Running Watts
2800 - 3000W
1300 - 1800W
3300 - 3500W
1500 - 2000W
So What Size Is Best for You?
It really does depend on what you have.
I’ve already mentioned that 4,000 watts is a good starting point, but if you are running a 15,000 BTU AC and a refrigerator, you’ll be drawing a lot of power.
If you need it, don’t be afraid of grabbing one of the larger watt generators so that you aren’t caught without power or experiencing fluctuations.
In actuality, there is one aspect of an RV generator’s size that does directly compare to its physical dimensions; its weight.
As a rule, larger RV generators that have higher wattages will also be heavier. This means that you might need help carrying your generator during your trip.
Fortunately, most larger RV generators also include a wheel kit so that you can wheel them to your RV with relative ease.
Also, it might be easier to select a set of 2000 watt generators to run in parallel if the weight is a major issue. This also makes it so that you can only bring one generator when you don’t need the 3600 watts of two paralleled units.
Wrapping It Up
From experience, I can tell you that the right generator size will have a large impact on your trip.
As a fan of the modern conveniences, I always suggest that RVers err on the side of a larger sized generator so that they don’t hit any snags during their trips.
Whether this is two smaller generators running parallel or whether you want to select a 6500-watt generator for maximum coverage, the choice is yours.
Summing it up, I suggest:
- Always making sure your appliances are covered with a healthy wattage.
- If planning on purchasing a larger generator, make sure that it has wheels for easy transport.
Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I’ll be happy to answer as best as I can.