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What Size Generator for 30 Amp RV? Things to Know!

Written by Philip Lopez / Fact checked by Paul Lemaire

what size generator for 30 amp rv

Generators are helpful for RVs because they offer power during blackouts or in areas where electricity isn’t accessible. Some vehicles have built-in generators, while others need to add one or two for power. So, what size generator for 30 amp RV suits you best?

The best generator for a 30 amp camper is around 3,600 watts maximum. To be precise, know the devices you plan to use in the RV and compute their starting and running wattages.

Wattage estimation can be a little tricky, so let’s break down each factor for it below.

Generator Wattage

The generator’s physical size isn’t reliable for determining whether it suits a 30 amp RV. What matters most is the output power. Most RV generators run between 1500-4000 watts, while built-in generators for campers produce as much as 12,000 watts.

To ensure the safety load of your RV, determine the maximum generator wattage. The formula is to multiply amps and volts. In simpler terms, watts = amps x volts.

An RV typically uses 120 volts of power. If we multiply that with the 30 amp electrical service, we’ll get the ideal size generator for 30 amp travel trailer of 3,600 watts. You can oversize a little to ensure that you cover all power surges.

So, will a 3500-watt generator run a 30-amp camper? Given the maximum wattage of 3,600, a 3,500-watt generator can definitely run a 30-amp RV, as long as you don’t use more than 3500W.

Power Requirement: Starting And Running Wattage

rv-generator-30-amp

Sometimes, your RV might use less or more than the prescribed 3,600 watts. To get the exact amount of power usage, consider the starting and running wattage of all devices in your RV.

Starting watts refer to the additional watts required to switch on a device for a few seconds, while running watts pertain to the number of watts needed to keep the device operating continuously.

Normally, you can find both of these measurements in the product’s manual or label. If you can’t see this information, you can refer to this helpful chart to determine each device’s starting and running wattages.

Once you’ve summed up all the starting and running wattages, find a generator that produces the same or more.

Let’s say you have the following devices in your RV.

Device Starting Watts Running Watts
60-watt light bulb 0 60
Refrigerator 220 700
625-watt microwave oven 0 625
½ HP Furnace 2350 800
Total 2570 2185

In the example above, you’ll need a generator with at least 2,570 total watts.

Parallel Operation Of Generators

One concern of RVing is to not go over carrying capacity. If you want to cut half the weight of a large generator but get the same high wattage capacity, use a parallel connection of two smaller generators.

For example, two generators rated at 1500 watts will generate 3000 watts in parallel.

Besides increasing the wattage, paralleling multiple generators improves reliability, as electricity keeps flowing even when one generator runs out of power. The general rule is to use the same type, size, and model.

But if you’re short of resources, you can still parallel two generators of different sizes and brands, as long as you use the proper parallel kit and compatible generators.

Watch how to parallel generators in this video.

Noise Level

It’s important that you use a quiet generator to prevent bothering other campers near you and sleep better with the device on. The style of the generator determines how noisy it runs in your RV.

1. Conventional

A conventional generator uses a fuel-powered motor to generate electricity. It runs at about 3,600 rpm, and through its internal fuel combustion, it tends to be very noisy.

The conventional style is cheaper and can produce more power than its inverter counterparts, but it’s bulkier.

2. Inverter

The inverter style is more compact and lightweight, making it ideal for camping and boondocking. These generators are quieter models because they use microprocessors to adjust the power output. However, they’re more expensive.

A 30 amp inverter generator may produce more power than you expect from its size.

For me, the best inverter generator with 30 amp plug is the WEN 56380i because it cranks out 3,800 watts of power in a small profile with a super quiet 4-stroke OHV engine.

Fuel Type

generator-with-30-amp-plug

Generators use three types of fuel – diesel, gasoline, and propane – to power your RV. Choose a fuel type that works the most convenient for you.

  • Diesel: Diesel is fuel-efficient and needs less maintenance than other types. Every gallon provides more power than gas and is safer to store as it’s harder to ignite at high temperatures. The only drawback is that it’s more expensive than its gas counterparts.
  • Gasoline: Gas is an inexpensive fuel option. This fuel is a great backup because it’s readily available anywhere. However, it needs careful handling because it could quickly spark with high heat.
  • Propane: This type of fuel is suitable for those who seldom use their generators. Unlike other fuel types, propane won’t degrade while in storage. It also produces cleaner energy.

For more flexibility, opt for generators that allow the use of two or more fuel types.

Portability

The ideal size generator for RV is small and lightweight because you don’t want to exceed your cargo-carrying capacity. This is where portable generators come into play.

These compact generators may come in various sizes, but they’re pretty lightweight for remote power use.

The size of a portable RV generator 30 amp is around 2,000-4,000 watts. A generator at this range is ideal for emergency power use.

If you like to use multiple appliances and lights and your camper can hold more weight, look for at least 6,900 watts of power.

Compared to standby generator units, portable generators don’t need to be installed and stay in one place, making them more mobile. They come with power outlets to allow devices with extension cords.

To make more generators more powerful, manufacturers build more power outlets.

Conclusion

So, what size generator for 30 amp RV is necessary? According to amp to watts inversion, it’s 3,600 watts, but you can go lower, depending on your power requirements.

The best generator you can use for camping is an inverter type with hybrid power.

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