One of the most frequently asked questions we get from readers is…
What size generator do I need for my camper or RV?
And we get it. You want to make sure you have enough power to keep your air conditioner and fridge running, charge your cell phone, brew your coffee in the morning, and so on.
So, we created a quick 3 step process to help you figure out the size of the generator you’ll need for your camper. This way you’ll never have to worry about your power needs again!
Step 1: Calculate Your Power Needs
We first need to calculate the wattage usage of the appliances and electronics you plan on using in your camper.
Below is a table of some of the more common camping appliances used and their estimated wattage. You can use the estimates when figuring your power consumption, but we highly recommend you look at your specific appliances and see exactly what they use for wattage.
Did you know…
Appliances with compressors use 2-3 times the wattage when the compressor cycles on and off. So, a refrigerator that operates at 200 running watts can take 600 watts to turn on and off. Keep that in mind when calculating the wattage of your appliances.
Tip: If your product only lists amps, then you can simply calculate the wattage using this formula: Watts = Volts x Amps. So, if you have a 10amp microwave using 120 volts, it would run at 1200 watts.
Appliance Wattage Table & Calculator
Instructions: In the “Actual Watts” column, enter in that particular appliances watts. If you don’t know how many watts your appliance uses then you can just type in the estimated watts that we provide. If you don’t use that particular appliance just skip it. And if you have an appliance not listed, use the “Other” row at the bottom. This will give you your total wattage used.
|Appliance||Estimated Watts||Actual Watts|
|Air conditioner||2000 at startup|
|Refrigerator||400-600 at startup|
If you’re struggling to find the wattage of your appliances, check the manufacturer or get a rough estimate using the Energy.gov wattage calculator.
Once you’ve filled in the wattage of all the appliances you plan on using, you’ll have a pretty good idea of your power needs. Of course, you most likely won’t be running all of your appliances and electronics all at the same time, but the wattage hogs are usually the appliances that run often or kick-on automatically, so it’s best to at least have all of those covered.
Tip: If you don’t have (and don’t want to get) a generator powerful enough to run all your appliances at the same time, you may have to get in the habit of using certain appliances at different times. For example, after you brew your coffee in the coffee maker, turn that off and then you can use your toaster.
Step 2: Figure Out The Size Of Generator You’ll Need
Alright, we have the total wattage that our camper could use at any given time. Now, its time to select the size of the generator we will need.
The best way to ensure you have enough power is to choose a generator that can completely cover all of your appliances running at once. In fact, we like to add 10% to our total wattage just in case (there are always appliances we forgot we needed).
For example, if your camper requires at least 3,500 watts to run at full capacity, then we are going to look for a generator rated at 3,850 watts or more.
3,500 watts + 10% = 3,850 watts
Remember, don’t make this buying decision with a less is more attitude, or you will most likely be left without the power you need.
We also understand money can be a factor, and the more powerful the generator is, typically the more money it’s going to cost. So, at the very least, make sure your generator can power those must-have appliances that turn on and off automatically, and a few of the appliances or electronics that you may use throughout the day (especially those appliances you plan on using simultaneously).
Step 3: Find The Perfect Generator
Now that you know the size of the generator you need for your camper, it’s time to find a reliable model that will fit your needs.
However, with the hundreds of different brands and models of generators out there, finding the best RV generator can be tricky. So, we narrowed it down to some of the most highly rated and reviewed models, at different wattage and price points. Simply choose the one that best fits your power needs and financial budget!
*Buying through links in this chart may earn us a commission at no additional cost to you.
Keep in mind, there’s more than just wattage to consider when choosing the right generator for your needs. You should also consider fuel type (gas, diesel, propane), whether you need a stationary or portable generator, noise level (you’ll want a quiet generator), and whether you’ll be charging sensitive electronics with it. Check out our RV generator buyer’s guide for everything you need to look for in a generator.