(501) 315-7213

Selecting the Right Generator for Your Camper

February 18, 2019

All of this cold, dreary weather has us ready to pack up the fifth wheel and hit the road. Sometimes you just need to fill your lungs with fresh air and leave all of the headaches of the modern world behind.

Campers are a great way to take an extended vacation from the stressors of reality, and modern towable RVs and campers can be just as cozy as home. But just like in your stationary home, having to go without power is an unpleasant experience. A good generator makes all the difference when it comes to powering these appliances.


Choosing either a portable generator or an RV generator is no easy feat. There’s a lot to think about including the size of your appliances, noise levels, and the maximum starting wattage and the maximum running wattage of the generator.


Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing the best generator for your camper:


Portable Generators

Depending on the size of your rig, you might be better off with a portable generator. If you’re camping in a smaller camper like a travel trailer, a portable generator will be perfect for what you need.


The number one benefit to using a portable generator instead of a stationary RV generator is that they’re cheaper. They also run on gasoline, which is a hotter fuel. So, you can burn a lot less fuel for the same amount of power. A five-gallon can of gasoline will allow you 12-13 hours of run time. Another good thing about portable generators is you don’t have to use them for your camper only; if you want to take your portable generator tailgating, it’s easy enough to transport with you.


There are some downfalls to the portable generators though. Gasoline is a dirtier fuel, so your engine won’t last as long as a generator running on LP. And since it’s not built into the underneath part of your camper, it will have to sit outside, which is unsafe during a rainstorm or other bad weather.


Great Portable Options

A great portable option for your camper is Yamaha’s portable generator. They have a really nice machine for the RV industry because it’s a 3600-watt surge at 3000 watts continuous. A 15000 BTU air conditioner really needs 3500 watts to start. Although it can start with less power, it will most likely shorten the compressors life. These units are also easy for a single person to carry by themselves.


One other really good option is the Honda Twin 2000s, which will parallel together to make a total of 4000 watts. These units are quiet, fuel efficient, and lightweight.


A big advantage of using these is when you need heavy wattage like in the summer, you can parallel them together to run your air conditioner with ease. And in the winter time when you don’t need the air conditioner, you can use just use one to run the basics in your coach. Some drawbacks are that they’re pull start, not electric, and you have to take the time to parallel them together.


RV Generators

Onboard generators are handy because they’re push to start and usually have more features since they’re built-in. The type of RV you have will be the largest determining factor in choosing a generator for your camping regimen. Most RV generators run off LP, which has a lot of benefits. It’s a cleaner fuel and it’s already onboard your camper, so you don’t have to deal with another fuel source.


The negative side to using LP is that you only have a limited fuel supply and it’s harder than gas to find while on the road.


Determining Wattage

How much energy you consume on a daily basis will factor into your decision. Keep in mind that if your fridge runs on propane, you won’t necessarily need a generator that will power it. If you’re working while on the road, you’ll need a generator that can power your multiple computers and electronic devices.


The two main appliances to worry about when calculating your wattage are the air conditioner and microwave. If your coach has one air conditioner, you can most likely get away with a 3000-watt unit, but you’ll have to purchase a unit in the 5500-watt range to power two air conditioners and one in the 7000+ watt range to power three air conditioners. You also have to think about the output/volts, not just wattage. If you have a larger rig with a 50-amp service, you’ll need a unit with 240-voltage output. If you have a smaller camper with a 30-amp service, you’ll need a generator with 120-voltage output.


Noise levels are something to think about as well. National Forests require that generators are 60 decibels at 30 feet. Avoid old school construction generators because they’re too noisy, and you don’t want to upset your neighbors.


Generators are a great addition to the RV life. The most important things to keep in mind when looking for the best generator for your setup is how much power you plan on using, the type of fuel you want to use, and the noise levels of the unit.


You can always call Northside Power to install a new Onan RV generator or to help point you in the right direction!