While some motorhomes come equipped with an onboard generator, most travel trailers and, of course, pop-up campers don’t come with a generator. Investing in a portable RV generator is a great option if you are into boondocking or just want to be prepared in the event of RV camping without shore power. Check out our list of the best RV generators on the market.
If you are in a hurry, you can skip the buying guide and just here to read our generator reviews.
Don’t Forget To Pin It For Later
Electrical hook ups, although common in most campgrounds, are still lacking in some places and while that can be frustrating, if you find yourself stuck in such a situation, a camper generator can be an absolute life saver.
What Is An RV Generator?
RV generators provide power to your camper as you travel. They also become an added source of power for operating all your appliances, as well as additional gadgets such as hair dryers, laptops, and other electrical essentials.
Because built-in RV generators get its power from the fuel tanks of an RV, having a portable generator is a great way to keep your fuel use to a minimum.
The two main purpose of an RV generator are:
- store energy within your camper’s house battery.
- provides electrical current for appliances and outlets so you can plug in anytime you need it
What Size of Generator Do I Need For My RV?
The first thing you need to know is what your power requirements will be. You calculate this by knowing the power requirements of the appliances you commonly use. Here are a few ideas to help you out.
- Air conditioner- 1,400 to 2,400 watts
- TV- 200-600 watts
- RV Refrigerator- 400-600 watts at startup
- Laptop- 250 watts
- Microwave- 1,000 watts
- Hair Dryer- 1,000 watts
- Coffee maker- 1000 watts
- Toaster- 1,150 watts
Always remember that appliances with a compressor can 2-3 times increase the wattage consumption during on and off cycles. Take this into consideration when you compute the total wattage.
The total of the power necessary to run all your appliances and electronics will be the basis on what size of RV generatoor you need.
Here’s a handy free calculator to help you calculate your power needs.
Built-in Generator Vs. Portable Generator
Many RVs like truck campers, toy haulers, and fifth wheels, and motorhomes come with a built generator ready for use.
However, campers like travel trailers, hybrid trailers, and pop-ups don’t have a built-in generator. You need to get a portable RV generator to satisfy your camping needs.
Built-in RV generators
- Built-in generators have higher wattage output
- It is easier and convenient to use while traveling in your RVs
- You have better control over the amount of fuel being used
- No need for a complicated setup
- Built-in generators can still function even on rainy days
- Less chance for theft since it is securely attached to your RV
- More expensive
- More heavy
- Not easily accessible when you need to do repairs or troubleshooting
- You can only use it for your RV since its built-in and cannot be used for other purposes
Portable RV generators
- They are more lightweight and compact making them easier to carry or move around.
- Portable generators can be serviced easily in case of malfunction or breakdowns
- They produced clean energy compared to the built-in ones.
- They are cheaper compared to built-in generators
- Produce less noise
- There is a tendency for power loss due to long extensions or connection
- Setting it up for use may take an extra effort from you
- It needs extra care when storing
What Are The Things To Consider When Buying An Rv Generator?
Here are the things you need to think about before purchasing your portable RV generator.
- Power Output– Be sure to properly calculate your power needs and purchase the appropriately sized portable RV generator to meet your needs.
- Noise level- Not only will a noisy generator frustrate you, but it will also create an unpleasant reaction from your neighboring campers. Be sure to pick a generator that is considered quiet for everyone’s sake.
- Fuel Capacity- If you plan to travel for long distances with your RV camper, choose a generator that has a larger fuel capacity.
- Portability- Some RV generators are more easily portable than others so consider this when choosing the one that is right for you.
- Durability– Check the quality of materials and their construction. Invest in something that will last a long time.
- Price– Expensive doesn’t always mean better so make sure that you check the products’ features and reviews to ensure you are getting a good value. [We’ve done a lot of that work for you below so keep reading. 😊]
What Are The Different Fuel Types For RV Generators?
Not all RV generators run using the same fuel, it’s important that you know the different types of generator fuels and consider them before purchasing one.
- Diesel – More costly than gasoline but produces more power per gallon than gasoline. It has cleaner emissions compared with gasoline.
- Gasoline – It has been around for years making it super easy to find and way cheaper than the other fuel types. Most portable RV generators are powered by this type of fuel. On the other hand, one disadvantage of gasoline is that it is known to be a “dirty burning” fuel, and its emissions are greater compared to diesel and propane.
- Propane– More environmentally friendly because it is a “clean burning” fuel. Some also say that propane generators tend to be more quiet compared to diesel generators. And the best thing about it is it’s cheaper and has longer shelf life than diesel and gasoline.
What Is The Difference Between A Conventional And An Inverter RV Generator?
There are two main types of RV generators to choose from: Conventional and Inverter. Here’s a breakdown of the differences between them.
Difference In Electric Current Source
- Conventional Generator- A conventional generator produces alternating current (AC) electricity from an engine which runs on gasoline, diesel, or propane.
- Inverter Generator- An inverter generator uses a car battery or solar pane in addition to the traditional fossil fuels. to produce alternating current, but it does so by inverting the direct current it receives from the car battery or solar panel source. This may seem confusing and irrelevant, but the bottom line is that by inverting a direct current into an alternating current via these electronic means, the inverting generator is able to give the same power as the fixed alternating current generator, but with less risk to sensitive electronic devices such as computers or cell phones. undergoes 3 phases before producing electricity (high-frequency AC to DC back to a stable AC). It has a stable sine wave, making it safer for sensitive electronics like mobile phones or laptops.
Difference in Power and Fuel Efficiency
- Conventional- A conventional generator generally has more power output, but as already mentioned it is less efficient and it is fixed. There is no ability to adjust the power flow to your various devices regardless of need.
- Inverter- With an inverter generator, the power is adjustable to the need. For example, when the lights are out, your inverter generator will slow down its engine and thus pull less power and use less battery. When your power need is greater, the engine will speed up and give you just the power you need. This makes the inverter much more efficient.
Difference in Noise Level
- Conventional- Commonly produces 64 decibels and up, making it noisier than the inverter type.
- Inverter- Inverter generator runs quieter ranging from 54 – 58 decibels of noise.
- Conventional- Don’t offer the parallel connection
- Inverter- Manufacturers add parallel connection as a feature for inverters to make up for its lower power output.
- Conventional- Produces more greenhouse emission
- Inverter- Produces less greenhouse emission compared to the conventional one.
Difference in Price Point
Here’s where the rubber meets the road. Up until now, you can see that an inverter portable generator appears to be superior in every way over the conventional generator, but how much is that efficiency going to cost you?
This all depends, again, on your power needs. If you have large consistent power needs with very few sensitive electronics devices, you may find the conventional genearator to be the better option.
However, because of its ability to adjust the electrical current to the power need, the cleaner more efficient power current, and it’s quietness, an inverter generator is generally worth the money.
On average you can expect to pay at least $500 for a good quality generator, but the upper limit between the conventional vs. the inverter can be where the upfront cost difference occurs. Keep in mind, however, the conventional may cost you more over the long haul.
- Conventional- $500-$2000
- Inverter- $500-$4000
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What Is The Best RV Generator?
Now that you have a good idea about camper generators and how to choose the perfect portable RV generator, check out our round-up of the best portable RV generators on the market.
How To Maintain an RV Generator?
When you have an RV generator, you must know how to take care and maintain it if you want it to be a long-lasting companion. Follow these care tips to keep your camper generators in their best shape.
- Run your generator frequently– Take it as exercising your generators regularly, run your generators for at least one hour every 3-4 weeks to prevent the fuel from clumping and clogging the generator.
- Keep track of the hour meter– Not all RV generators come with an hour meter, but if you have one make sure you check it because it will tell you when and how often to change your oil.
- Regular oil changes along with your filters and fluid – Follow the manufacturers’ instructions on how often you should change the oil. Make sure to check the air filters and fluid as well because it can also affect the overall performance of your generator. You should also do this before storing your generator to ensure the oil doesn’t have particulates that can settle on the engine components.
Lessen your worries while camping by choosing the best RV generator that is perfect for your motorhome or RV camper.
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