Let’s face it - if you wanted to camp without power, you would have stuck to tent camping! Your average RV contains all the comforts of home, from the vacuum and the hairdryer to the kitchen appliances and the air conditioner. All of these comforts require a reliable source of power and some parks just don’t have adequate hookups - not to mention going off the grid and boondocking. If you’re looking to add or replace a generator in your RV, read on and find out more about how to choose the best RV specific generator for your needs.
Portable Generator or RV Specific Generator
If you’re travelling with a smaller rig - like a pop-up trailer, teardrop trailer or fibreglass trailer - you may be able to fulfill your power needs with a non-RV specific portable generator. Smaller rigs generally have fewer appliances and power needs, therefore a smaller portable generator will suffice to meet these needs. In order to be sure, you will need to calculate your usage of RV appliances and accessories to ensure that a portable generator can handle the load. For a guide to RV appliances and the amps they require, check out this helpful chart.
If you’re hauling a larger travel trailer or travelling in a motorhome, you’re going to require an RV specific generator to meet your power needs. Again, you will need to calculate your energy usage and needs to determine the type and size of generator you will need. Your RV”s air conditioner is usually the largest consumer of power and will experience a power surge when first turned on. A good rule of thumb is to choose a generator with a wattage that is at the high end of the starting watt range for your A/C unit.
Let’s take a look at the different types of RV specific generators available to determine which will work best for you and your rig.
Propane Powered RV Generator
Also known as LP (Liquid Propane) Generators, propane units are popular due to the fact that they are generally less expensive and more efficient than other fuel sources. Clean burning and durable with fewer exhaust fumes, LP RV generators are a great choice for those with power needs on the lower end of the spectrum. Be sure to watch your power consumption, as you can burn through a tank of propane quite quickly with regular use.
Gasoline Powered RV Generator
With gasoline readily available just about everywhere, a gas-powered RV generator is definitely one of the most accessible options to keep running. Gasoline generators provide more power than propane options, allowing you to run more appliances and accessories at the same time. Gasoline is a “dirtier” fuel source than propane which can lead to clogs and maintenance issues. While still very safe, gasoline is the most volatile of the RV generator power options.
Diesel Powered RV Generator
With diesel being the fuel of choice for many coaches and tow vehicles, it just makes sense to have a diesel-powered RV generator along for the ride. If your RV runs on diesel, you likely have a lot of appliances, and only a diesel-powered generator can take care of. The most powerful of the generator choices, diesel burns cleaner and safer than gasoline. Cost is a factor to consider, as diesel fuel and generators tend to be more expensive. Again, while they provide the most power, diesel generators are also the heaviest units and make the most noise while in use.
Generators give off carbon monoxide, so always make sure that the exhaust system is in good working order. If you're using a portable generator, make sure that the exhaust system is facing away from your RV so that none of the poisonous gas makes it into the confined spaces of your rig. ALWAYS be sure that your carbon monoxide detectors/alarms and propane detectors are up to date and in good working order.
IIf your generator sits for too long without being used in the off-season, the engine could experience starting and surging problems. It only takes a month of inactivity for the fuel in a generator to start breaking down and gumming up the components. Be sure to start your RV generator up every month and run it for about 1-2 hours. Make sure you turn on some appliances so that it has to really work, such as your A/C unit or a small portable heater.
Once you’ve made your decision, RV Part Shop is ready to help with a great selection of portable and RV specific generators for all types of rigs and all types of needs. Take advantage of our fast, free shipping* option to your home or directly to your RV site. Need help navigating our massive selection of items? Give us a call toll-free between 9 AM and 5 PM EST at 877-607-4446 or drop us a line at [email protected]