Going out on the open road and seeing new places are two of the best things about camping in an RV. Whether you own your RV or rent it every season, keeping the RV in good shape is a big responsibility.
For a 50-amp RV, the the smallest-sized generator possible would be at least 3500-watt output capacity. However, if you want to use multiple AC units or other peripherals and lights, you may need to use a bigger generator.
Since there are many factors to consider before buying a generator, we decided to tackle this topic head-on. Let’s get started!
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What Size Generator Do I Need for a 50Amp RV
As we mentioned earlier, the bare minimum for a generator to keep up with a 50amp RV is a 3500-watt unit. That would be enough to run the essential appliances in your RV, including your AC, perhaps your fridge, maybe your TV, and some lights.
For example: Let’s do some math:
- Starting up an efficient RV 15K BTU AC unit: 16amps
- Starting up a RV fridge: ~8-10amps
- 5 LED 40W lights: 1.65amps
- 55 Inch TV: 1.55amps
TOTAL: 29.2amps. or 3500W
As you can see, all those things starting up at the same time will overdraw on your 3500W generator. You can start up your fridge separately from your AC unit because an active fridge takes much less power (as does the AC when it’s active). Just know that having everything plugged in and on when you turn on your generator will be too much.
Furthermore, remember that these devices rarely match up to their specs and that it’s likely you’ll get a bit less power than advertised. So 3500W may not get you all of that 3500W goodness.
What If I Want To Use More Power?
If you have multiple appliances running simultaneously, like a roof AC, a toaster, or maybe the microwave? Then, you’ll need something higher than 4000 watts. A unit of about 6000 watts sounds about right, or you can use two 3500W/4000W generators in parallel.
Know that a single 3500-4000W generator is only able to supply 30 amps of load. You will need to run two generators in parallel of this side to be able to supply 50 amps or buy a massive generator.
Then there are those huge RVs that house a large fridge, a multimedia system, and a couple of ACs. These need maximum power output, and that can come from a 12,000-watt generator.
How Do I Use My 30amp (3500W-4500W generator) With My 50Amp RV?
If you are going to connect a 30amp generator (common for 3500W-4000W generators), you will need a dogbone converter. See one here, on Amazon:
Do I Need 50 Amp Generator (7200W+) or a 30amp (3600W+) Generator?
You don’t necessarily need 50 amps… it depends on what you need.
There are two essential things to keep in mind before buying an RV generator. The first is the RV’s electrical system. This can be either 30 or 50 amps. If your RV is a 30amp system, you should only get a generator that can supply 30amps.
The second is the amount of power needed for all your appliances to run efficiently. This part requires a pen and paper and some math skills.
If you read on, I’ll explain how you can calculate your electricity needs and that should guide you in how much generator you want.
Let’s talk about each of these features in detail.
Two Types of RV Electrical Systems
The main noticeable difference between a 30 amp and a 50 amp system is the type of plug. It’s what dictates the amount of power output produced.
30 amp systems have 3 prongs or wires. There’s a 120-volt hot wire, a ground wire, and a neutral wire.
The 50 amp RV system has 4 prongs on its plug. There are two 120-volt hot wires, one ground, and one neutral wire. This accounts for the increased power offered by these RVs.
To calculate the maximum wattage of each of these two systems, multiply the volts by the amperage. So following the formula for a 30 amp system, you’d get 120 volts x 30 amps = 3600. This means that a 30 amp RV can handle a maximum wattage of 3600 watts.
Here’s the formula for a 50 amp system: 2 x 120 volts x 50 amps = 12,000 watts. This system is better suited for RVs with higher wattage requirements because it can carry a lot more electrical power.
How to Determine the Power Needs of RV Appliances
It’s important to keep track of how much power each appliance requires. Here are some examples to help you get started.
Your first concern should be the AC. It’s the biggest consumer of power in the RV. A standard AC unit in an RV needs up to 3000 watts to power up. After that, it can run on 1500 to 2000 watts.
A microwave requires around 1000 watts to power up, similar to toasters. A basic fridge needs anywhere between 400 and 1000 watts. Coffee machines need 600 watts, as do standard-sized TVs. Laptops run on about 300 watts.
With these appliances, your RV would work great on a 3000-watt generator. If you plan on using more than these appliances, it might be better to get a generator with a larger capacity.
The Importance of RV Generators
Many RV enthusiasts take the opportunity of having an RV to venture out to get away from it all. When you disconnect yourself from the grid, it’s called dry camping or boondocking.
Generators are essential to power up your appliances. Some RVs come equipped with built-in generators. Today, we’re going to focus on RVs that don’t have onboard generators.
What to Look for in an RV Generator
Let’s talk about a few essential features to consider before buying a new generator for your RV.
Types of Fuels
Three types of fuel can power generators. You pick the fuel type that’s more convenient for you.
It’s worth mentioning that some generators use two types of fuel. One is the primary source of power, while the second is a backup.
Almost all generators have a power output anywhere between 2000 to 4000 watts. To determine which output is better for your RV, calculate each of your appliances’ electrical needs.
For example, if you have a microwave, air conditioner, and a fridge, a 3000-watt unit should do just fine. On the other hand, with small RVs, a generator that puts out 2000 watts is enough.
Pro-tip: Generators with a high power output won’t damage the electrical system of smaller RVs. So, when you’re not sure which output to choose, go bigger.
This is a no brainer, but it’s something many RVers tend to forget it. With a more fuel-efficient generator unit, you get more power for more extended periods.
Ease of Transport
Nowadays, RV generators are quieter and easier to transport. This portability feature makes it easy to carry and store.
Some generators feature handles and built-in wheels for ease-of-use. These handy features also prevent back injuries.
Manufacturers are getting better at making generators less noisy. They still provide the same power output as other generators, but with added noise dampeners. These absorb engine noise without compromising the efficiency of the unit.
Even with high power output, some of these units can operate at a noise level between 52 and 68 decibels (dB), which is in the same range as a normal conversation. That’s pretty impressive!
How to Connect a Generator to Your RV
Now that you know all about generators and RV electrical systems, it’s time to get to work. Connecting a generator is a fairly simple procedure. Follow these basic steps, and you’ll have your generator set up in no time.
You’ll need the following items:
- Copper wire
- Pole driver/Grounding rod driver
- Grounding rod
- Decide on the most suitable area to place the generator.
- Use the pole driver to push the grounding rod into the ground.
- Use the copper wire to connect the generator and the grounding rod.
- Place the generator’s exhaust so that it’s facing away from the RV.
- Plug the RV’s cable into the generator, then turn it on.
The Top 3 Generators for a 50 amp RV
When you’re looking to buy a generator, you want a brand you can trust. Although there are many top-notch generators on the market, we’ve picked the best three for you to take a look at.
Taking budget, noise level, and efficiency into account, here are our top 3 choices.
1. Champion 4000-watt Dual Fuel RV Generator: Best Overall
We usually associate RVing with the warm summer months. However, winter can also be a fun time to go on vacation if you have the right equipment.
The Champion 4000 watt generator can definitely be considered as ‘the right equipment.’ It’s lighter than many other models and is more fuel-efficient.
This gasoline-powered generator has a run time of up to 17 hours on a quarter capacity.
One feature that stood out is its cold start technology. This feature ensures a quick start-up even in cold temperatures.
Another feature we appreciated is its built-in surge protector. It works to protect your appliances from electrical overloads or unexpected power surges.
- Cold start technology
- Built-in surge protector
- Doesn’t come with wheels
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2. Westinghouse WGen9500: Most Powerful
The Westinghouse WGen9500 heavy-duty RV generator is considered a giant in the land of generators. The engine on this generator produces 12,500 starting watts and 9500 running watts.
Gasoline-powered, the generator features an electric start-up via the WGen9500 remote start key fob. It allows you to start up the generator from up to 260 feet away. Another impressive feature is the low oil warning system, which turns off the engine to protect it from running dry.
This generator is one of the best when it comes to fuel efficiency. It complies with the California Air Resources Board Tier III exhaust emission standard and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Westinghouse has integrated an innovative way to keep tabs on the amount of power being used via the power meter. It also tells you how much power is available in the generator.
- Powerful engine
- Comes with a 12-volt battery charger, oil, a tool kit, and an instruction manual
- Remote start key for no-hassle start-ups
- Weighing 194, it’s relatively heavier than other models
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3. Mech Marvels 4000-watt RV Generator: Best Budget
The prices of generators can be a bit steep. For an affordable and reliable option, we recommend the Mech Marvels 4000-watt generator.
This generator is capable of running for 10 hours on a half capacity on a full tank. Its dual-fuel feature means it can operate on gasoline or liquid propane. This is a handy feature to have, especially when you’re out on the road.
One feature we liked is that it comes with DC wire connectors. They allow for charging a 12-volt lawn mower or vehicle batteries. It also comes with wheels and a handle for easy portability.
- Dual-fuel feature
- Comes with DC wire connectors
- Affordable price
- Some users complained of gas leaking from underneath the generator
Here are answers to a few questions that may cross your mind.
Q: What‘s the best type of fuel for RV generators?
A: Of the three types of fuel, gasoline is the most popular choice. It’s easily accessible in gas stations. A 4000-watt generator uses an average of 5 gallons per hour if the generator is running at half capacity.
Propane is a good choice for a more eco-friendly option. A propane-based 4000-watt generator needs around 2 gallons per hour. The downside is that propane isn’t as readily available.
Diesel is also eco-friendly. It’s more fuel-efficient and cost-effective. Diesel fuel is denser than gasoline, so you get more use on the same amount of fuel as gas or propane. On a 4000-watt generator, one gallon of diesel fuel is consumed every three hours at half capacity.
Q: Can I plug a 50 amp RV into a 30 amp service?
A: Yes, but it’s not recommended. By plugging a 50amp RV into a 30 amp service, you’re limiting your RV electrical system to a 30 amp capacity. Some appliances may not work efficiently, or they may not operate at all.
Be careful to not overdraw your power. Turn on only what you need. You should probably math out the power usage of your appliances in this case so you can get by without issues.
Q: How long do I need to run a generator to charge RV batteries?
A: If the batteries have at least a 20% charge, it could take the generator around two hours to fully recharge. Yet if the battery is completely depleted, it could last longer.
Q: How do I get my RV generator ready for my next trip?
A: Here are a few tips to keep your generator well-maintained:
- Lubricate the generator and change its oil as recommended by the manufacturer.
- Make sure you drain the fuel first before you store it.
- Have it regularly serviced by professionals.
- Follow the proper storage recommendations during the cold months.
Knowing what size generator for a 50 amp RV is a matter of getting to know your RV’s power needs. First, establish the power requirements of all your appliances. The next step is to start looking for a generator that can meet those needs.
There are other factors to consider. One is the weight of the generator, as well as how much noise it makes. There’s also the type of fuel it uses, and whether it’s fuel-efficient or not.
Another important feature is how easy it is to use. Some generators are compact and lightweight, and some are portable with built-in wheels.
Taking all these factors into consideration, you’ll be able to find the best generator for your RV. Now all that’s left to do is go out and enjoy your RV adventures!