Are you looking for a portable generator to provide off-grid power for your RV? We combed through generator reviews, ratings and specifications to find the best models offered by the top generator brands in the market. These are the 7 best RV generator models we found, fitting every need from affordable electricity for small travel trailers to units that can double as home backup systems. Not sure what type of generator you need? We have tips for finding the right model and keeping it running.
- 1Champion Power Equipment RV Generator 200988 - 4500 Watts
- 2Westinghouse WGen5300s Storm Portable RV Generator - 6500 Watts
- 3Champion RV Ready Generator - 4000-Watts
- 4WEN GN4500 212cc RV Generator - 4500-Watts
- 5DuroMax XP5250EH Dual Fuel Portable RV Generator Generator - 5200 Watts
- 6WEN GN400i Open Frame RV Inverter Generator - 4000 Watts
- 7Generac GP3500iO Open Frame RV Inverter Generator -3500 Watts
- 8Champion 3400 RV Ready Portable Inverter Generator - 3400 Watts
- 9DuroMax XP13000E Gas Powered Portable RV Generator - 13,000 Watts
- 10DuroStar DS10000EH Dual Fuel Portable RV Generator - 10,000 Watts
Top Generators for RV Reviewed
1. Champion Power Equipment 200988 4500-Watt Dual Fuel RV Ready Portable Inverter Generator
The 200988 has a TT-30R socket for RV shore power connections, as well as a pair of household outlets and a 12 volt DC outlet. This generator has an inverter, so it’s safe to use as a power source for TVs, computers and other electronics. Champion packages this generator with a USB Type A adapter for the 12 volt DC port. This adapter has two 2.1 amp sockets for quick charging.
The 200988 also supports parallel connections with other Champion RV generators rated between 2,000 and 4,650 starting watts. Champion’s parallel kit has built-in 14-50R and L5-30R outlets, giving you more options for shore power connections.
The onboard fuel tank can keep this generator running for up to 14 hours at 25% load. Connect a 20 lb. LPG tank, and you can expect a run time of around 21 hours at 25% load. At 50% load, expect these times to go down by about one third. A digital gauge on the front panel lets you keep track of total run time, run time for the current session, and the volts and frequency of the electricity being sent to the outlets. There’s also a bar gauge showing the current load on the generator.
The 200988 RV Generator measures 23.2 x 17.7 x 20.1 inches, and weighs 103 lbs. It has built-in wheels and a handle that you won’t need to attach when you pull the generator out of its shipping box.
Champion offers a 3 year warranty on this generator for residential users, and a 270 day warranty for commercial users. This generator also comes with lifetime technical support.
2. Westinghouse WGen5300s Storm Portable Generator
A built-in digital display lets you check the current output voltage and frequency, as well as total run time. It also has a function that shows the total run time for the current session, and a maintenance reminder. You can turn the engine on and off as needed, thanks to the remote start key fob. However, this generator has a fuel shutoff valve and a manual choke, so you’ll still need to make some adjustments before and after starting the engine.
The WGen5300s has an L14-30R outlet that provides either 120 or 240 volt power, and a TT-30R outlet that only offers 120 volt power. It also has a pair of household 120 volt 5-20R outlets. All outlets have rubber covers, protecting them from debris and moisture when not in use. This RV generator doesn’t have an inverter, so you shouldn’t use it to power electronic devices.
This RV generator is compatible with Westinghouse’s ST transfer switch, which is a standalone system detects current fluctuations, sending power to the outlets on the box during power outages. This is handy for home backup, or keeping your appliances going if shore power at your campsite is flaky.
The 4.7 gallon gas tank can keep the WGen5300S running for 13.5 hours at 50% load. A fuel gauge built into the top of the tank lets you keep track of consumption. Thanks to a partially shielded engine, noise is rated at just 68 dB at 50% load.
This generator measures 27 x 21.7 x 19.7 inches and weighs 143 lbs. Wheels and a folding handle are included. Westinghouse guarantees this generator for three years of residential use, and one year of commercial use.
3. Champion 4000-Watt RV Generator
4. WEN GN4500 4500-Watt 212cc Transfer Switch and RV-Ready Portable Generator
While the WEN GN4500 is inexpensive, it has a good balance of weight, features and output for most portable power needs. This is a great alternative to using a pair of 2,000 watt generators, offering similar power and noise levels without the complexity of a parallel connection.
The GN4500 has both TT-30R and L5-30R outlets, letting you connect directly to most 120 volt RV shore power systems. It also has four household 120 volt outlets, which is handy, if you want to power devices in front of your RV or travel trailer. This generator doesn’t have an inverter, so you should avoid using it with electronic devices. The Data Meter digital display shows the current output voltage and frequency, as well as total run time. The GN4500 RV generator does not support a parallel connection with a second generator.
The four gallon fuel tank can keep the engine running for 13 hours at 50% load. You can keep track of fuel usage using the gauge built into the top of the tank. Despite being a hybrid open frame generator, it makes just 65 dB of noise under 50% load. That isn’t much louder than enclosed generators in this size class. This RV generator model has an electric starter with a recoil start backup.
The GN4500 measures 23 ¼ x 18 x 18 ¾ inches, and weighs 98 lbs. The GNA410 wheel kit adds wheels and a folding handle. If you don’t want to carry around this generator by its frame, expect to spend an extra $30 to $40 on this kit.
WEN guarantees this generator for two years or 500 operating hours of residential use, and 90 days of commercial use.
5. DuroMax XP5250EH Dual Fuel Portable Generator-5250 Watt Electric Start-Camping & RV Ready
The DuroMax XP5250EH is pretty basic when it comes to features, but it does offer the flexibility of a fuel system that can use both gasoline and propane. With 4,000 watts on tap, it’s up to the task of powering most RVs.
The XP5250EH doesn’t have much in the way of outlets. The TT-30R outlet can run in both 120 and 240 volt modes, letting you use this generator to power a high BTU RV air conditioner. There area also a pair of household 120 volt outlets for powering outdoor appliances. This generator doesn’t have an inverter, so it’s not suitable for powering electronics. The front panel has a digital gauge that lets you monitor the current frequency and voltage, and it also displays the generator’s total operating hours.
Since this is a dual fuel unit, you have a choice of using gasoline or propane. The XP5250EH’s gas tank holds four gallons, and can keep the engine running four 8 hours at 50% load. This tank has a top-mounted gauge, so you can keep track of fuel usage. If you connect a 20 lb. propane tank, you can expect a run time of 7 hours under a 50% load. Under half load, this generator makes 69 dB of noise, measured from 23 feet away. That’s on the loud side for a hybrid generator, but far quieter than open frame RV generator models. Electric start comes standard, and there’s a backup recoil starter, in case you have a flat battery.
The XP5250EH RV generator measures 25 x 22 x 22 inches, and it weighs 129 lbs. Wheels and a folding handle are included.
Residential use of this RV generator is covered by 3 year warranty. Commercial use is covered by a one year warranty.
6. WEN GN400i 4000-Watt Open Frame RV Inverter Generator
The Generac GP3500iO has a design that doesn’t fit neatly into a segment of the generator market, but it may be exactly what you need. It has an output that fits between the popular 2,000 and 4,500 watt generator classes, and it comes with an inverter, so you can use it to power everything in your RV.
The GP3500iO has an L5-30R outlet for RV shore power. Connect two of these generators together with Generac’s parallel cable, and you’ll also have L14-30 and 14-50R outlets. It also has two USB Type A sockets. One socket provides 2.1 amps for fast charging, while the other is limited to one amp. This RV generator has an inverter, so it’s safe to use with all of your electronic devices.
Generac doesn’t publish noise measurements, but they do say this model is 50% quieter than its predecessor, the GP3300. It uses a hybrid design with panels surrounding the engine, so expect noise levels to be 65-69 dB under 50% load. The 2.4 gallon fuel tank will keep the engine running for 8 hours at 50% load.
This RV inverter generator model is sold in 49 state and 50 state versions. The GP3500iO CARB complies with California pollution regulations, so you can use it anywhere. This model does not have an electric starter. A digital gauge keeps track of operating hours, but it doesn’t offer any monitoring functions. However, there are lights for low oil and overload warnings, as well as a ready light that lets you know when the engine has warmed up.
The GP3500iO RV generator measures 19.7 x 16.5 x 16.4 inches, and weighs 74.3 lbs. A wheel and handle kit are available, but they’re not included.
This RV inverter generator is covered by a one year residential warranty on parts and labor, and an additional year for parts. Both parts and labor are covered for one year or 1,000 operating hours of commercial use.
7. Generac GP3500iO Open Frame RV Inverter Generator
The GN400i has a TT-30R outlet for RV shore connections. Link two of these RV generators together with WEN’s 50 amp parallel kit, and you’ll also have access to 120 volt 14-50R and L5-30R outlets. This kit is compatible with most WEN generators with outputs ranging from 2,000 to 4,500 watts, so you can combine different models. This portable inverter generator also has a pair of 120 volt household outlets, and two USB Type A sockets for charging smartphones and other small devices. The GN400i has an inverter, so it’s safe to use with your electronics.
The 1.85 gallon fuel tank can keep this generator running for up to 7 hours at 50% load. This tank has a built-in gauge, so you can keep track of fuel usage. While marketed as an open frame RV generator, it’s closer to a hybrid design, thanks to insulating panels around the head of the engine. It makes 67 dB of noise under half load, which is about what you’d expect from this design.
The GN400i measures 19.8 x 13.8 x 18.9 inches and weighs 66.1 lbs. There’s no way to add wheels and a handle to this portable inverter generator, but it’s light enough to carry around, especially if you split the weight between two people.
WEN warranties this RV generator for two years or 500 operating hours of residential use, and 90 days of commercial use.
8. Champion 3400 RV Portable Inverter Generator
The Champion 100263 is a dual fuel RV generator, which means it can run on either gasoline or propane.
When the engine is running on gas, it produces 3,100 watts of electricity, and can reach 3,400 watts for reactive loads. Switch to LPG, and output drops to 2,790 watts of electricity with short bursts up to 3,060 watts. Champion includes a 3/8 inch propane hose with a built-in regulator that will fit standard 20 lb. LPG bottles. Owners can expect the 100263 to run up to 7.5 hours on 1.6 gallon tank of gas or 14.5 hours on one 20 lb. propane tank at a 25% load.
Champion includes an electric start with a backup recoil starter. It’s also parallel capable, so you can link two of these RV generators together to double your power. Champion quotes a noise rating of 59 dB at 23 feet. However, this is at the same 25% load they rate the generator’s run time. Expect this portable inverter generator to be louder in real world use.
A pure sine wave inverter provides power that is safe to use with electronics. The front of the unit has four sockets. A TT30R outlet makes it easy to power your RV directly. For outside power, there are a pair of 5-20R 120 volt household outlets and a 12 volt DC cigarette lighter outlet. Champion includes a two socket USB adapter for the 12 volt outlet with this portable inverter generator.
This dual fuel generator measures 25.1 x 17.3 x 18.3 inches and weighs 95.7 lbs.
Champion guarantees this RV generator for three years of residential use or 270 days (9 months) of commercial use.
Read our full review of the Champion 3400
9. DuroMax XP13000E Gas Powered Portable Generator
Can’t get enough power? The DuroMax XP13000E makes 13,000 watts of peak power, so it can handle the most demanding uses, from large RVs to remote workshops. Unlike most RV generators in this class, it uses a hybrid design, combining and open frame with insulating panels to cut down on noise.
Thanks to its 14-50R, L14-30R and TT-30R sockets, and the option of 120 or 240 volt power, this generator will work with any RV shore power system. The two household sockets are GFCI-protected, making it safer to power appliances outdoors. However, since it doesn’t have an inverter, this generator should not be used to charge or power electronics. The 12 volt DC outlet is best used for battery charging. Thanks to its outlets and high output, this RV generator is also good for home backup and work power, letting you use it when you’re not on the road.
The front panel has a digital display that shows the voltage and frequency of the electricity coming from the outlets. It also displays the generator’s run time, so you can keep on top of scheduled maintenance. Next to this display, you’ll find warning lights for low oil and battery charging. This RV generator has an electric start with a pull start backup. The XP13000E comes with everything you need for maintenance, including a spark plug wrench, oil funnel and tool set.
The XP13000E’s 8.3 gallon fuel tank can keep this generator running for up to 8 ½ hours at 50% load. It makes 74 dB of noise under 50% load, which is quiet for a generator this size.
The XP13000E measures 30 x 29 x 26 inches, and tips the scales at 227 lbs. It comes with wheels and a folding handle, so you don’t have to break your back moving it.
Residential use of this RV generator is covered by 3 year warranty. Commercial use is covered by a one year warranty.
10. DuroStar DS10000EH Dual Fuel Portable Generator
The DuroStar isn’t loaded with features, but it delivers flexibility and high output at a low price.
The DS100000EH has every common RV outlet, and it has the power to double as a home backup generator. Both the 14-50R and 14-30 sockets can operate in 120 or 240 volt modes, so you can use this generator to power the largest RV air conditioners. The company claims their MX2 technology doubles 120 volt power for high draw devices. In reality, it just changes the voltage on the 14-50R and L14-30 sockets’ hot wires in 120 volt mode, just like any other generator.
The 5-20R household outlets have GFCI short protection, making them safer for using appliances outdoors in wet environments. This model comes packaged with battery cables that connect to the 12 volt DC outlet, letting you charge deep cycle and starting batteries. This RV generator doesn’t have an inverter, so you should avoid using it to power electronics.
The DS10000EH has an electric starter with pull start backup. The 8.2 gallon gas tank will keep the engine running for over 10.5 hours at 50% load. If you connect this generator to a 40 lb. LPG tank, it will run for around 8.5 hours under a 50% load. This is a hybrid design, combining an open frame with sound isolation panels. The result is an average of 72 dB of noise at half load. Instrumentation is limited to an analog volt meter.
This RV generator measures 40 x 29 x 27.5 inches, and weighs a hefty 232 lbs. Wheels and a folding handle are included.
Residential use of this RV generator is covered by 3 year warranty. Commercial use is covered by a one year warranty.
Buying Guide: Getting the Right Portable Generator for Your RV
If you’re shopping for a portable generator for your travel trailer or recreational vehicle, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the choices available on the market. How much power do you need? Which sockets will work with your RV? How do factors like noise and harmonic distortion affect performance? Here’s what you need to know, so you can find the perfect power unit for your needs.
What is the Difference Between a Portable Generator and an RV Class Generator?
RV Class generators are built to be part of your vehicle’s electrical system. They behave like a fixed generator system that would be part of a home or commercial backup system, cycling on and off when power is needed. They’re also extremely reliable. However, these features come with a hefty price tag, and there has to be a space to fit the generator into your rig. These units are often impractical for small RVs and trailers, and its hard to justify the price if you aren’t a full-timer.
Portable generators last about a third as long as RV Class models, but they’re also a lot easier to use. They use off-the-shelf parts for their engines available at any small engine or outdoor equipment shop. Since they’re movable, these units can be used to supply power outdoors for tailgating and barbecues, or double as a home backup power system. There’s also the option to use a dual fuel engine, letting you choose between gasoline or propane depending on current prices and availability. Manufacturers have responded to the demand of RVers by offering models designed specifically for their needs.
How Much Electricity Do I Use?
Power requirements can vary widely depending on your setup. To get a good estimate, you need to make a list of wattage requirements for everything in your RV.
Most appliances will have a watt rating printed somewhere on the device, or in the owner’s manual. If the appliance is rated in amps, it can be converted to watts with this formula: Watts = Volts x Amperage. Almost everything you’ll power with your generator will use 120 volts, so you can multiply the amperage by 120. Some heating devices like coffee makers and hotplates have a rating for heat output, not electric input. In this case, you can add 20% to this rating to get the electrical wattage.
If you can’t find this information, or you don’t want to spend your time looking for small labels, you can measure power draw with an electricity usage monitor. These devices plug in between an appliance and an outlet, displaying exactly how much current is flowing through the wiring.
A rooftop air conditioner is the highest draw device in your rig. Expect a 7,000 BTU unit to need at least 1,700 watts at startup and 600 amps once running. 15,000 BTU units will use somewhere around 3,500 watts at startup and 1,500 watts when running.
How Much Power Do I Need from a Portable Generator?
Generators have two power ratings: running watts and starting watts. The “running watt” or “continuous power” rating is the amount of power the generator can sustain while running, while the starting watt rating is the peak power output it can sustain in short bursts. Starting watts come into play when using appliances with electric motors. Small motors, like those found in power tools, need almost twice as much power to start as they do to run. The compressors in refrigerators, freezers and air conditioning units may need up to three times as much electricity to start as they do to run.
Look for a RV generator that has enough running watts to run all of your appliances at the same time. As for starting watts, add the highest reactive load of your appliances, usually your air conditioner, to the maximum running watts. You probably won’t have two or more reactive loads drawing from the generator at the same time, nor will you have all appliances running at the same time. This leaves enough of a buffer to avoid overloads.
Since air becomes less dense as altitude increases, so too will output. Expect to have 3% less power for every 1,000 foot increase in elevation. The highest RV campgrounds in America have an elevation of over 10,000 feet, which means you could be looking at a 30% power loss when you’re in the mountains. Low air density also throws off the air/fuel mixture in the carburetor. To keep the engine from running too rich, you may need to install a high altitude jet kit. These are usually recommended for altitudes over 7,000 feet.
Should I Get a Dual Fuel Portable Generator?
A dual fuel generator has an engine designed to run on either gasoline or propane. This gives you more options for fueling, but it also has some drawbacks.
Propane is less energy dense than gasoline, so the engine will make less power. As a result, generator output goes down by around 10%. When shopping for a generator, make sure the output ratings for propane still meet your energy needs.
Propane tanks are almost guaranteed to hold more fuel than the generator’s on-board gas tank. That means run times are longer between refills. If you have the right hose and connector, you can connect any size propane tank to your RV generator. However, realistically you’re limited to a 20 or 40 lb. tank. These tanks are externally mounted, so you’ll need storage for the tank plus your generator. This also makes them less portable, since you need to move the tank into place and connect it once you have set up the generator.
What Kinds of Outlets Do I Need?
AC outlets on portable generators are based on standards established by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA). These sockets have a name divided into two parts by a hyphen. The first part of the name is the socket design, and the second part is the maximum amperage it supports.
The two most common outlets used for shore power are 14-50R and TT-30R. A 14-50R outlet has four sockets, two of which are hot. It’s designed so that the two hot connections can be used separately for 120 volt power, or together for 240 volt power. Maximum output is 50 amps at 240V or 100 amps at 120V. When it comes to RV power, 240 Volts is almost exclusively used by clothing dryers. Most of the time, 14-50R is used to provide a high wattage connection for large generators. A TT-30R outlet has three sockets. Two of these are flat, while the third is shaped like the letter “D”. Manufacturers may fit this outlet with the D-shaped socket facing up or down. It only provides 120 volt current, maxing out at 3,600 watts.
The L5-30R outlet is mostly used to connect generators to household wiring, but adapters are available to use them with RV outlets. This outlet has one L-shaped socket and two curved sockets. It can handle up to 3,600 watts of current.
5-15 and 5-20 outlets are the same outlets used for household power. Portable RV generators almost always use higher amperage 5-20 outlets. These are usually wired in duplex, which means two sockets share the same 15 or 20 amp circuit breaker. Some portable generators include GFCI protection for these outlets. This shuts off the power if there’s a ground fault. This can happen if the wiring comes in contact with water, so it’s a good feature to have if you plan on using your generator for outdoor activities like cookouts. 5-15 outlets can deliver up to 1,800 watts, while 5-20 outlets deliver up to 2,400 watts.
There are also two types of DC outlets that are commonly found on portable RV generators. The 12 volt cigarette lighter/accessory port is the same one you’ll find in your car or truck. It can be used with the same adapters made for in-car power, as well as compatible battery charging cables. USB Type A sockets provide 5 volts of power for small devices, like cell phone chargers. These don’t support high voltage fast charging.
Your RV’s electrical management system (EMS) automatically shuts off power circuits to manage electricity demand. Some of these systems have issues with 14-50R connections in 120 volt mode. If the system only measures power from one of the two hot wires, it will act as if it’s only receiving half of the total available power. This is usually only an issue when using an adapter to connect a 14-50R socket to a different type of connection.
What is Harmonic Distortion, and Why is a Pure Sine Wave Inverter Important?
Alternating current from your home electrical outlets smoothly transitions between positive and negative electricity 60 times per second. However, the power from a generator will fluctuate due to slight variations in engine speed. This is harmonic distortion.
Cheaper portable RV generators use an inverter that converts DC power from the generator directly into AC current, outputting “dirty power.” Variances in power frequency and strength can cause problems with converters that turn AC power into low voltage DC power. These converters are used in all electronics. Small fluctuation can cause electronics to behave oddly, while large fluctuations will burn out circuitry. Sine wave inverters filter the power output, creating a smooth wave of alternating current that is safe for all appliances.
Generator manufacturers will often rate output in terms of the percentage of harmonic distortion. Generally speaking, electricity with a maximum of 5% distortion should be safe for electronics.
How Noisy is a Portable RV Generator?
Portable RV generators typically range between 55 and 75 dB, which is a bigger difference than you might think. The decibel scale is logarithmic, doubling every 10 decibels. That means a 65 dB portable generator is twice as loud as a 55 dB generator, and a 75 dB generator is four times as loud. That’s still far quieter than general purpose portable generators. For comparison, the loudest general purpose generators can reach 95 dB, which is 4-16 times as loud as a typical RV generator.
Manufacturers quote noise measurements at a distance of around 23 feet. This gives you a reasonable expectation for noise, since you won’t be sitting next to your generator while it’s running.
How loud are these ratings?
Getting a portable generator to be quiet is mostly a matter of adding sound insulation. All RV portable generators have an inverter, but an inverter generator is a specific type of generator that has a case. By shielding every component, noise is kept to a minimum. However, this also makes the unit heavy. Open frame generators bolt the engine, generator, inverter and other components to a steel cube frame. To keep the noise down, hybrid generators use shielding around the loudest parts of the unit. These aren’t as quiet as an inverter generator, but they weigh 25% less, making them more portable.
Is CARB Certification Important for an RV Generator?
California’s CARB emissions regulations apply state-wide, and several states adopt CARB regulations shortly after they’re released. This includes most states in the Northeast and on the West Coast, as well as Florida, New Mexico, Maryland and Quebec. While it’s unlikely that a small generator providing power for personal use will be checked for emissions, you are still breaking the law if you use a non-compliant generator in these jurisdictions. Non-compliant generators also can’t be shipped to or sold in California. Of course, federal land, including national parks, is outside of state legislation, so these regulations don’t apply, even in CARB-compliant states.
Manufacturers know portable generator buyers travel all around North America, so nearly every offering in this category meets CARB emissions regulations.
How Long Can I Run an RV Generator on One Tank of Fuel?
Manufacturers quote expected run times based on either a 25% or 50% load. Most models will have a run time somewhere in the 8-10 hour range using gasoline. On propane, this can increase to 12 or more hours from a single LPG tank.
How do you keep the generator running at that speed? You can expect any portable generator sold for RV use to have an automatic throttle that can be switched on or off. This feature will be labeled as an “eco throttle,” “smart idle” or something similar. When it’s on, the throttle adjusts to keep the engine running just fast enough to keep up with the current electrical load, maximizing fuel economy.
How Portable is a Portable RV Generator?
Unless you have very low power demands and don’t use an air conditioner, you can expect to need a unit that makes at least 3,000 watts. Even the lightest power unit that can provide that much electricity will weigh over 80 lbs. This makes it impractical to carry long distances. Instead, most manufacturers fit these units with a pair of wheels and a folding handle. When you need to move your RV generator, you simply flip up the handle and wheel it around like a cart. If wheels don’t come standard, there’s usually a wheel kit available that includes both wheels and a handle.
While there’s no problem moving the RV generator around on the ground, it can be an issue for storage. Lifting the unit onto a cargo carrier rack isn’t too difficult, but you’ll need an extra set of hands to lift large generators into a truck bed or storage box. Be sure to check the dimensions of generators you’re considering, making sure they’ll fit in your planned storage space.
How Do Parallel Connected Generators Work, and Why Would I Want to Use Them?
A parallel connection links two RV generators together so they act as one single unit. Once connected, their inverters sync, delivering electricity at the same voltage and frequency.
Why would you want this? Two generators that are more portable than one large generator. You also have redundancy, so if one fails, you still have a way to make electricity. Smaller generators also tend to be quieter and more fuel efficient. Think you may upgrade to a larger RV? You can buy a second generator later on to double available electricity. However, it also means you have twice the components to maintain. Both RV generators also need to be identical. Different models will usually have problems syncing.
What Do I Need to Use a Portable Generator With My RV?
The generator must operate away from your RV to prevent the buildup of carbon monoxide gas. Even placing the generator under an awning can be enough to collect this deadly gas in concentrations that can be lethal. Plan on getting extension cords for every socket to reach your RV and your outdoor living area.
If you decide to get a dual fuel RV generator, you’ll need a way to store an LPG bottle and connect it to the generator’s fuel inlet. The included hose will usually work with a standard 20 lb. tank, but you should always double-check.
Portable RV Generator Maintenance
A portable generator is a major investment, so it pays to take care of it. While you may be familiar with working on other small engine equipment like lawnmowers, there are a few important differences you should be aware of. These tips will help you avoid common problems with these units.
Maintenance Intervals: Two Measurements of Time
While the wear and tear on your vehicle is measured in miles, the wear and tear on your portable generator is measured in hours of operation. Most models have a built-in hour meter that lets you keep track of how long the engine has been on. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to log the hours to keep on top of maintenance.
If you only take your RV out for short vacations, your generator can sit unused for weeks or months at a time. To keep age from affecting the engine, manufacturers will recommend periodic maintenance regardless of usage. For example, you may need to change the oil every 50 hours of operation or every three months, whichever comes first.
The leading cause of generator problems is stale fuel. If you aren’t in your RV full time, the fuel in your generator can sit for weeks or months. Engine manufacturers recommend using fuel within one month of purchase, or within three months if the fuel was treated with a stabilizer.
What happens if you leave gas in the engine for too long? If it contains ethanol, it will absorb water and eventually cause corrosion. If it doesn’t contain ethanol, the fuel will break down, thickening up and leaving varnish and waxes on components. Either way, if fuel is left too long in your generator’s engine, you’ll have a major mess to clean up before you can get it working again.
When you buy gas for your RV generator, add a fuel stabilizer to slow fuel degradation. While you’re on the road, run your generator at least once every couple of weeks for a couple of hours under load. This flushes old fuel out of the carburetor. When you’re ready to store your generator, empty the entire fuel system.
What about propane? It’s in a sealed container, and doesn’t age. However, you still need to make sure the gas side of your dual fuel portable generator’s fuel system is empty before storing.
If your portable generator has an electric starter, it also has a small battery. Like fuel, this battery will degrade over time if it’s not in use. During storage, the cells will self-discharge, and electrodes will crystallize. This both lowers the amount of charge in the battery, and limits the amount of charge it can hold. To prevent this, the battery should be charged periodically. Trickle chargers apply a small amount of current to halt breakdown and discharge. These can be left on the battery. A standard battery charger can rapidly charge the battery. These should be used sparingly. Check your owner’s manual for current limits and charging recommendations.
Oil burn off is a normal part of small engine usage. However, with the engine running for hours at a time, it’s easy for enough oil to burn off that it keeps the engine from being lubricated. This can rapidly cause major engine damage. Always check the oil level before using your RV generator, and keep some extra oil on hand to top off the crankcase.
Your Generator Buying Checklist
This may be a lot to keep track of, but if you keep these factors in mind, it’s easy to find the right generator for your RV:
- Aim for a wattage that is equal to your maximum sustained load plus the single highest reaction load of your appliances.
- Factor in how easy the RV generator will be to move about, whether rolling on the ground or lifting into storage. Make sure it will fit in your available storage space.
- Portable RV generators don’t make that much noise, but there’s a pretty big range between models. Quieter models tend to be heavier.
- Dual fuel RV generators are great if you have the storage space for an extra LPG bottle. However, the generator will produce less electricity on propane.
- If you don’t mind the extra wiring, consider a parallel setup with two generators. This lets you get the electricity you need, adds redundancy, and usually reduces noise and fuel consumption.
- If you travel, you’re going to end up in a place that requires CARB compliance. You should have no problem finding a generator that meets these emissions requirements.
- When it comes to outlets, go for the plug that matches your RV’s shore power connection. From there, you can pick the DC and 120 volt outlets that best fit your needs outside your rig.
- To keep your RV generator running, you need to keep track of operating time as well as time between maintenance intervals. This is especially true for gas, oil and batteries, which degrade over time.