Beginners Guide For Using Generator In an RV

Beginners Guide For Using Generator In an RV

RVing in a travel trailer or motorhome is amazing. It gives you home like comfort.

RV Boondocking is another way to go closer to nature. While the RV can provide you comfort, it also has power needs.

A DC battery can provide power upto some limits. At campground when hooked to shore power you wont have any issue but how to deal when the shore power isn’t available?

Answer to this is : generator. Solar, DC batteries also work but generator is the best way to go.

Using a generator to supply the much needed Power while RV camping is one aspect you should consider when planning to camp using an RV. To help you have a stress free RV camping experience, below is a guide on using a generator on RV.

Why Do RVs Have Generator

rv parked at a campground
rv parked at a campground

In case you have never gone on an RV camping, you should know that generators power most RVs. Generators carry out their crucial duty in two significant ways.

First, they store energy within the battery of the RV. Secondly, they are used as direct power plug-ins for the 120v AC electricity outlets.

The generator powers the electric devices such as the air conditioning and the refrigerator.

With these options, you can choose to make use of the abundant energy or store the excess energy and later use it when the generator is off.

However, the plug-in option seems practical because the RV generator works best when used as a power plug-in as compared to charging the RV battery. For the RV generator to charge the battery, it requires a lot of energy.

Having a right size generator is as important as having on itself. Check out whats the right generator size for your camper. Generator watts are mostly dependent on the air conditioner BTU in RV.

How to Start an RV Generator

To avoid damaging your electric devices or the generator, you need to know how to power the RV generator correctly. Below are steps on how to start an RV generator.

Step 1: Carefully go through the generator’s manual and ensure you get all the necessary information about the controls of the generator. Place the generator in winter position if its temperature is less than 40 degrees.

Step 2: Press “on” and then stand by for about a minute. By the time the minute elapses, the generator will have connected to the power panel. You can then power the devices you need to power.

To turn off the generator, simply press the off’ button.

Where to Place a Generator in RV

installing portable generator on RV

Many RVs come with the generator already installed. However, if your RV does not have the inbuilt generator, you can get a portable generator and fix it yourself.

To determine where to place the generator, you will first have to inspect your RV. The place you mount the generator will depend on the type of RV; hence you should thoroughly inspect the RV before placing the generator at any place.

Placing generator on travel trailer or pop up camper for example may need you too think out of the box due to space limitations. Nevertheless, here are some great ways to mount generator on travel trailers.

Front Side : If you are using a travel trailer, you can set the generator at the front of the trailer on the A-frame. This is close to the hitch behind the propane tanks.

If you are camping with a fifth-wheel trailer, you can place the generator at the front compartment in the front area.

Rear End : In case the front area does not have adequate space for the generator, you can put it at the rear of the trailer.

Weight : However, make sure the bumper can withstand the weight of the generator. If necessary, install a support structure at the bumper before placing the generator there.

Built-In vs. Portable Generator for RV

Both inbuilt and portable RV generators have their advantages and disadvantages. For instance, a portable generator is easy to clean and service in case of any issues, while an inbuilt generator may prove cumbersome.

In Built : On the other hand, an inbuilt generator is ideal when looking for more power since it is a greater source of power compared to a portable generator. The energy produced by a portable generator is hardly sufficient enough for powering the RV or motorhome.

Noise : When it comes to the noise generated by both types of generators, the portable generator makes less noise compared to the inbuilt ones. However, an inbuilt generator is convenient to use, and no set up is necessary.

Therefore, you are the one to decide whether you will use a portable generator or an inbuilt one seeing that both of them have their advantages and disadvantages.

What Can You Run In RV Using Generator

You can run a diverse range of electronics in your RV using the generator. This includes television, refrigerator, microwave, and even air conditioning.

Also, you can use the generator to power the battery of your RV, so you never run out of power.

Generally, a generator can power electronic devices that require about 110 volts to run. A generator also powers the lighting in the RV.

How Big Generator You Need For Your RV

a honda rv generator
a honda rv generator

How big of a generator you need will depends on most big appliances. Air conditioner is by far the appliance that will dominate the watts consumption. BTU, the unit that measures the AC’s ability to cool will be proportional to the watts needed.

Normally a RV would need 13,500 or more BTU. With this much BTU expect to have a generator that is 3000 watts or more.

RV AC Watts : An air conditioner normally needs around 1500 to 1900 watts for starting up. However its running watts requirement is lower to around 1000- 12000 watts. Obviously this will depend on the BTU.

A lower BTU of AC will mean lower starting and running watts needed. How big AC you need depends on a lot of factor in RV.

Other Appliances : So, this is about AC. Similarly other appliances too will have watts requirements. But, most of them will be much lower. To decide how many watts you need to on generator simply add the watts that would need for all of your appliances. Basically, Appliances that would run in parallel.

Its always safe to go for something that would be more than your cut-to-cut watts requirements.

selecting the right generator size for rv

How Much They Cost

Several factors determine the price of RV generators. For instance, the watts and the quality of the generator determine the cost of the particular generator. Therefore, prices of various generator brands vary depending on these and other factors.

Nevertheless, an average RV generator costs between $450 and $700.

Also Depends on : Other features that determine the price of generators include whether the generator is carb approved or not. Also, being dual fuel or not and the warranty will matter.

If you are looking for an affordable RV generator, you may have to stay away from big brands as they tend to be more expensive than the other brands. Some common big brands include Honda, Generac, Cummins Onan, Yamaha, Wen and many more.

What Fuel Do RV Generators Use

An RV generator can use gas, liquid propane, or diesel as fuel. Al these types of fuel have their advantages and disadvantages. For instance, gas can be convenient because you can fill up your generator when filing up the motorhome or camper trailer.

Gas : However, gas burns faster and hotter than the other fuel options. Thus, you will have to refuel your generator more often if you use gas.

Diesel : If you use diesel, then you can enjoy the same benefits as gas since you can get it in almost any way. Diesel is also safer than gasoline because it is less volatile.

Propane : Out of the three fuel options, liquid propane is the most environmentally friendly and safe. However, propane is not easily found, so if you decide to use it, then you have to have some handy in case you find yourself where you cannot get the fuel.

Check out how much fuel do generators in rv normally use.

propane generator for rv

Can You Run Generator in RV While Driving

It is safe to drive RV while running the generator. However, if you are using propane as tour generator fuel, you have to check the local laws and ensure that they allow the use of propane while the RV is on the move.

Some states do not allow this; thus, you have to confirm, so you don’t find yourself on the wrong side of the law.

If the generator is fueled by gas, make sure your fuel tank is full before starting the RV since the generator uses gas from the same gas tank as the RV.

Read : RV Generator wont Start

How Do You Hookup Generator in RV

As stated earlier, some RVs do not have an inbuilt generator, which means you have to get a portable generator and then connect it to the RV. To this, you need copper wire, pole driver, and a grounding rod.

Step 1: Use the grounding rod to ground the place you want to place the generator. Take the copper wire and connect it to the portable generator.

Step 2: Position the exhaust of the generator away from the RV.

Step 3: Finally, connect the generator to the RV by plugging in the connector cable of the RV’s generator into the already set up portable generator. You can then turn on the portable generator to start enjoying the power.

How Long Can You Run Generator in RV

Generally, a portable RV generator can run for up to 20 hours. However, this depends on the model. On their part, built-in generators can run for as long as days on end. Yet, for this to happen, you have to carry out regular maintenance for the inbuilt generators.

Portable generator will have their run time mentioned by manufacturer. Its all calculated precisely and depends on the fuel tanks capacity. Most popular brands have fuel tank capacities in 1-2 gallons range. The time they can run will depend on the load.

Higher end generators do have bigger tanks and thus higher running time. Some examples below:

Champion 2800 watts generator : Runs around 8 hours at 1/4th load. Has 1.6 gallons fuel tanks.
Yamaha 1600 watts generator : Runs around 10 hours at 1/4th load. Gives 1.1 gallons fuel tank.
Honda 3000 watts generator : Runs around 20 hours at 1/4th load. Has 3.4 gallons of fuel tank.

Can You Run Generator Whole Night in RV

Absolutely yes, as mentioned above, if you are using an inbuilt generator for your RV, that=n you can run it for days on end. However, it is a portable generator; you may be limited in terms of the length of use.

How Long : The length of use depends on the brand of the portable generator in use. Some brands last longer than others. Generally, a portable generator can run between 8 to 20 hours.

In Built Generator: The longevity of the generator in terms of it running entirely depends on the brand of the generator. However, if you are using an inbuilt generator, you can run the whole night and even during the day too.

Can I Charge Battery in RV Using Generator

You can charge the RV’s battery using the generator. Experts recommend that you charge your RV battery so you can use it interchangeably with the generator. This helps preserve the RV’s battery and enables you to avoid the unnecessary noise no matter how minimal the sound is.

Avoid This : Moreover, you should not leave the generator running for long periods frequently, as that will ultimately ruin the RV’s battery. The electrolyte of the RV’s battery will be drained, thus affecting its maximum capacity.

How Long It Will Take To Charge the Battery

There are two ways of charging an RV battery. First, The RV’s battery can be charged by the converter. The converter converts the AC power to DC power, making it possible for the RV battery to be charged.

The second way of charging the battery involves charging the battery directly via the RV’s wind power, solar power, or alternator.

Read : Solar Vs Generator for RV

Generally, the amount of time the battery takes to charge depends on the generator brand. Some brands will charge faster, while others may take time to do the same.

Do Not Overcharge : Nevertheless, remember to avoid overcharging the battery. Overcharging the battery will spoil the battery by reducing its lifespan.

Additionally, beware of voltage fluctuations to avoid damaging your electronic appliances.

What’s The Maintenance with RV Generator

You should not leave the generator off hours if you want it to last long. When the generator is left off for an extended period, it becomes slow. This occurs once the fuel in the tank sits for too long, and it can happen even after a month of use.

When the fuel is left sitting for an extended period, it separates and then begins to affect the other areas of the generator, thus affecting its effectiveness.

Run Regularly : You can prevent this from happening by regularly running the generator even when the RV is not in use. For instance, you can set time every month and run the RV generator for about a few hours.

If you see any other issues with your RV generator, consult your local RV dealership or mechanic. Other common RV generator issues include generator noises or generators that won’t start.

Here is you complete camper generator maintenance guide.

Some other things you should do :

  1. Run the generator under load condition once in a while
  2. Do a visual inspection once a year.
  3. Change coolants as directed by manufacturer
  4. Check for fuel leaks.
  5. Change oil and air filter every 150 hours of so
  6. Winterize the generator as per manufacturer recommendations

Can I Use Generator in Travel Trailer

mounting generator on travel trailer

Yes, you can use a generator in a travel trailer. Just like other RVs, travel trailers can have generators. Also, just like RVs, some trailers have inbuilt generators while others don’t. For the trailers with no inbuilt generators, you can get portable generators.

In Conclusion:

Using an RV to go camping is one of the best ways of camping. Other options like solar panel kits are also great but come with obvious limitations. Getting a sufficient size generator is a must if you want to go RVing without any limitations. Get your RV and the generator and enjoy the outdoors.

G. Yoganand

A RV enthusiast who spends countless hours researching and learning various things related to RV camping. He believes in spending time doing Outdoor activities.
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