Do you need a new portable generator for your RV but don’t know where to start? Well, RV power can be very confusing and generators are not always cheap so we are here to help. There are many different portable generators available. Which one is right for your needs? To answer that you need to understand your needs and the generator characteristics which will influence your use. The most important factor to consider is how much power you need. However you also want to take into account other factors such as the phisical size of the generator, its noise levels, the fuel types and its fuel consumption rate.
Our Top five picks for Best portable generator for RV
RV power basics
Before you can choose a generator, you need to understand the basics about your RV generator needs. The appliances in your RV will either be using AC or DC power. AC or alternating current is the type of current used in your household power supply. It is produced by a power source (Generator) and the current goes back and forth (or alternates) between the power source and the appliance at a rapid rate. Alternating current generally comes at 120 volts. Direct current is the power stored in a battery. When you connect a battery to an appliance, the direct current runs directly (it does not move back and forth) from the battery to the appliance at 12 volts.
- Alternating current
- Power supply to appliance
- Usually 120 volts
- Direct current
- Battery to appliance
- 12 volts
When you have a generator connected to your RV, two things will be happening (assuming your RV has a power converter and battery). One is that the AC power your generator is producing will run straight to your AC appliances. The second is that the AC power will be converted to DC power and charges your RVs battery. The battery in turn then powers your DC appliances. This is nice because it means you don’t always have to have your generator running to have power.
Another thing you need to know is that RV power is generally referred to in amps instead of watts. If you don’t know how many amps your appliance need, you can easily calculate this using the equation: amps = watts/volts.
A final key factor to consider is whether your RV is rated for 30 or 50 amps. If you are unsure which you have, 30 amp power cord plugs have three prongs, and 50 amp plugs have 4 prongs. Not only will this have a huge impact on the appliances you can power, but also on the generator you connect to. 30 amp power cords have one ground wire, one neutral wire, and one 120 volt wire. This enables them to handle 3600 watts of power (3600 watts = 30 amps x 120 volts). However a 50 amp cord has an additional 120 volt wire, giving it 12000 watt capability (12000 watts = 2 x 120 volts x 50 amps)! Most generators will have a 30 amp AC outlet, however heavy duty models may also have a 50 amp AC outlet. You can also purchase 50 amp to 30 amp adapters, giving you more flexibility.
How much power do you need for your RV?
To determine your power needs you will need to do an audit of your appliances. Each appliance should have a label on it with its power requirements. Once you have a list you can total each appliances power needs which will give you a total power requirement. Keep in mind that some appliances use a surge of power when switching on, so you should build a safety margin into your total. A good rule of thumb is the multiply your total by 1.5. As a general guideline, the table below includes some typical appliances and an estimate of their power needs. Just remember if does’t have to be perfect, you will soon work out what you can and can’t run at the same time on your RV generator.
Estimated RV Generator AC amp ratings (120 volt)
DC amp ratings (12 volt)
Refrigerator (using LP)
The other factors to consider to select your Best RV Portable Generator
Other than power needs, there are a few basic factors to consider. These are generator physical size, fuel type, noise levels and fuel consumption.
While all portable generators are by definition portable, some are significantly easier to move than others. Other then considering the dimensions and weight of the generator, you should also check whether or not the generator comes with a mobility kit included.
There are different types of portable generators according to the type of fuel they use. They will either use gasoline or propane, or some hybrid models will allow you to use both. Each type of fuel has its own distinct advantages and disadvantages. For more information on this its recommended that you have a look at our propane generators page.
One critical factor will be the noise level of the generator. There is nothing worse than having to shout to your family or friends to be heard. Imagine trying to sleep in the morning over the sound of a loud generator. That’s far from ideal, especially on a holiday! All generators will have a noise rating in decibels (dB). As a quick indication, a thunderclap produces 120 dB, a normal conversation 60 dB and silence 0 dB. However the dB scale is a little more complicated, so if you want to learn more about noise levels we recommend you visit our quietest generators page.
Finally, one more factor you may wish to consider is the fuel consumption of each generator. Each generator will have a different tank size and running time depending on the load you put on it. This can be important because if you intend to use your generator a lot, not only will the fuel cost vary according to its consumption, but your need for fuel storage will vary.
Did you find the best portable generator for RV? Let us know in the comments.