The RV industry is exploding, and people are dreaming of enjoying the outdoors. To truly enjoy a wilderness vacation, believe it or not, there are people who need as many modern amenities as possible. While it may be the preference of some to “rough it” in the wild, we understand its not for everyone. This is why our RV generator review only includes inverters capable of fully powering a 30 amp rig.
One of the most important items is knowing what size generator you need. This is going to be based on what you are trying to run in your camper. First, to really dive into the specifics, you will need a good understanding of how watts, volts and amps are related.
What Size Generator Do I need?
The size of generator you need is dependent on what you want it to run. This is probably not the way an electrician would explain things, and I am certainly not an expert in electronics, but the following explanation helps me understand how generators work. Hopefully it will help you too.
Your generator will have a certain wattage. Items that run draw amps and your RV electrical runs on 120 volts. (At least your typical plug ins and appliances do.) When you plug in to 50 amp service or 30 amp service that is like plugging into a 6,000 watt generator (50 amps times 120 volts) or a 3600 watt generator (30 amps times 120 volts).
Most rigs that have 15,000 BTU dual AC units are often 50 amps. That additional 20 amps is dedicated to the second AC unit because they will draw 12-16 amps alone. Add in your water heater/pump, refrigerator, all the plug-ins and it is very easy to eat up all 30 amps available in most RVs. If you don’t have dual AC units, you will likely never fully utilize the 50 amps your RV plugs into.
Common RV Items Amp Draw
Here is a quick list of amp draw from common items in an RV:
- Air Conditioner – 14 amps
- Coffee Maker – 6 amps
- Laptop – 2 amps
- Crock Pot – 2 amps
- Electric Skillet – 8 amps
- Electric Water Heater – 9 amps
- Microwave Oven – 10 amps
- Microwave Convection Oven – 13 amps
- RV Refridgerator – 6 amps
- Television – 2 amps
As you can see, when you only have 30 amps to give its going to be hard to run everything. However, none of these items have to run at the same time. If you know you won’t have AC, a microwave and a TV, you may not need a generator that puts out 5,000+ watts.
Stationary vs Portable and Generator vs Inverter
Once you know how many watts you need and what you need to power, you next need to know what type of generator to get. The considerations here are the type of fuel source, usage of the generator when not in the RV, and storage. Many generators run on the same gas you pump into your car. Some run on propane.
It is important to know how you will power your generator. If you are simply plugging into a 30 amp plugin on the generator, you can use whatever fuel type you know you have access to. If it is going to be installed into a part of your RV you may not have that same option.
The Cummins Onan 5,500 Watt RV Generator owns the non-portable space. Our toy hauler has this generator installed and I wish desperately we could add it to our travel trailer. It is extremely quiet, and we have run both AC units and a convection oven at the same time without issue. It is seriously a beast. They have options that run on traditional gas as well as propane. Unfortunately, the Cummins name doesn’t fare as well in the portable inverter space.
Most of the time an inverter generator is is smaller and quieter, making them a better fit in the RV community. You will need a portable model, although the term portable us used loosely. Many of these 3,000 to 3,800 watt generator inverters weigh in around 100 lbs. For the purposes of this RV generator review we are looking at models to power 30 amps.
Top RV Generators of 2020
- Champion Duel Fuel 3400 Watt – (Check Price on Amazon) – Taking first place by a landslide is the Champion Duel Fuel 3400 Watt Generator Inverter. This generator runs on both gasoline or propane. A built in low oil shut-off sensor protects your investment. It also comes with electric start, and a 59 dBA rating so you know it will run quietly. Finally, the champion comes RV ready with a 120V 30 amp RV plug, plus two 120V 20 amp household outlets. (See information above on drawing amps and avoid drawing more than the generator can handle.) The Champion is the perfect combination of reliable power, and quiet noise output.
- Westinghouse iGen 4500 Watts – (Check Price on Amazon) – The Westinghouse is only peak rated for 4,500 watts, but the actual running watts are a solid 3,700. Powering a full 30 amps is no problem for this beast, but you will have to do it on gasoline because its a single fuel inverter like the rest of the models in our RV generator review. From a power position the Westinghouse is the lead dog in this pack. A 30 amp unit should have no problems running off this inverter, even if the AC kicks on while using other items. While the Westinghouse may be top dog on power output, they are also top dog on noisiest inverter generator.
- Generac 7127 iQ3500 – (Check Price on Amazon) – One of the must trusted names in the generator industry is Generac, and their 7127 iQ3500 is a proud representation of the brand. Unfortunately, from a quality perspective it isn’t worth the extra $200 for brand name alone. This is why the Generac takes third in this years 2020 Generator Review. This is another RV friendly inverter with a 120V 30 amp plug in. Where the Generac stands above the rest is noise output. Measuring in at just 55 dBA from 25 feet this will be the quietest generator wherever you are.
RV Generator SAFETY
Understanding watts, amps and volts is not an easy task. This is exactly why we only reviewed generators that can power your typical 30 amp RV. While every effort is made to make sure all of this information is accurate, when it comes to amp draw you need to look at the product specs. One AC unit may only draw 10 amps while another draws 16. When you only have 30 amps to give before you start tripping breakers and blowing fuses, you need to know these details.
Maybe you don’t want to put in the work to know how many amps each item in your RV is drawing. That’s fine too. As long as you aren’t running several appliances at once you will be completely safe. Make sure you still run your surge protector between the generator plugin and the RV plug. This will make sure any issues with the power from the inverter do not carry into your RV.
If you are looking for a good RV surge protector to go with your generator then we recommend this Progressive Industries RV Surge Protector Review article. If you don’t have time to read the full review, in summary: Its powerful enough to protect your 50 amp RV, but also smart enough to keep things properly protected at 30 amps too. (Check Current Price on Amazon)
If you enjoyed our RV generator review for 2020, check out last years value model review of the Predator RV Generator from Harbor Freight.