RV Generator FAQ - Most Frequently Asked Questions about Recreational Vehicle Generators
Q: How do I know what size generator I need?
A: To determine the proper size generator for your RV you need to know how much electrical power you will use.
1. Determine what electrical devices you will want to run from the generator. Survey your RV for appliances that run on 120 volts. TV, microwave and other kitchen appliances generally require the most power but smaller appliances can add up. Most RV lights are 12 volt but some may be 120 volt. Your RV A/C is the biggest power user.
2. Add up the power requirements, in watts, for all the devices that you are likely to operate at the same time. Wattage ratings are printed on light bulbs; other devices like hair dryers and electric heaters are also described by their wattage requirements. If the device doesn't provide a wattage requirement, you can determine watts by multiplying volts times amps. If you just can't find the power requirement of a device, look at our RV Appliance Wattage Chart (Remember, the chart is just a guide; actual wattage requirements vary significantly among brands and types.) Be aware that some electrical devices have starting wattage requirements that are larger than the running watts. If so, use the starting wattage requirement for the largest of the devices you want to run and the running watts for all other devices.
3. Add together the wattage requirements for all the electrical devices that you want to use at the same time. This is the minimum wattage you will need from a generator. You should also consider a generator with a power rating somewhat higher than your minimum requirement. It's is possible to get along with a smaller generator if you don't really need to run everything at the same time. But you're not likely to want to turn off the TV when you use the microwave. And it is likely you'll want to use a toaster or coffee maker while running the microwave.
Q: Will an RV generator charge my RV house battery?
A: Not directly. But your RV generator provides power to operate the onboard converter/charger, which charges the RV batteries.
Q: Can I run my RV generator for extra power while I'm hooked up to shore power at a campground?
A: RV electrical systems are designed to keep generator power and campground power sources separate. Connecting both power sources together is unsafe and should never be done.
Some RV manufacturers may wire the RV to allow you to power your second air conditioner with your RV generator so check your vehicle operator manual. If your RV is not wired this way but has a separate circuit for a second air conditioner, it can be rewired to do so but only a professional electrician or RV tech should do this.
Q: Can I power the motorhome RV air conditioner with my RV's generator while traveling on the road?
A:Yes, you can along with any other 120 volt appliances. As long as you don't exceed the power rating of the generator.
Q: Is it okay to run an RV Generator just a few minutes... say, to heat something in the microwave?
A: Ideally, generators should run for at least of 30 minutes to give them a chance to warm up. Once warmed up, running your generator for five minute intervals should be okay.
Q: What does it mean to 'exercise' an RV Generator.
A: Manufactures recommend running an RV generator at least 30 minutes each month. If it's being run even though it's not need for power it is often referred as exercising the generator. But remember to turn on some appliances so the generators work a little while it's running.
Q: What are some of the better brands of RV Generators?
A: More than 1.2 million RVers own Onan generators and they've been around a long time so you'd have to believe they're one of the best. Gnerac is another well know maker of RV generators. Generac' says it offers the best value and highest quality RV generators in the market. Honda RV generators haven't been around quite as long but Honda has a reputation for making good products. Honda generators are designed to fit standard RV configurations.
You may also want to read: RVing with a Portable Generator