3 Easy Steps On How to Connect a Portable Generator to an RV

RVing is one of the best ways to spend time away from home and enjoy the same electrical appliances as you’d at home. This is because most RV trailers come with a fitted generator to power a wide range of electric devices. However, not all RVs come with an equipped generator. But this shouldn’t worry you; portable generators can be connected to an RV to meet your power demands in the RV. So, it is good to know how to connect a portable generator to an RV

This article offers you easy tips for safely connecting a portable generator to an RV. Read on to learn more.

Easy Tips On How To Connect A Portable Generator To An Rv

1. Identify Where to Set up the Portable Generator

How to Connect a Portable Generator to an RVWhether you’re using a portable generator to power your RV or your home, your safety and that of everyone around you comes first. Around 900 deaths related to carbon monoxide fumes from portable generators were reported between 2005 and 2017. While not all these cases were RV-related, running a portable generator close to an RV can be disastrous.

Identify an open area that your extension cord can allow, but let it not be less than 10 feet. Face the exhaust pipe towards the wind direction to ensure the exhaust is not blown towards your RV. Placing the portable generator away from your RV will also reduce noise disturbance coming from the operating generator.

Besides carbon monoxide poisoning, check whether your portable generator needs grounding. Some portable generators require grounding before you connect them to your RV or house. If your generator requires grounding, ensure it is grounded before connecting it to your RV. This is a safety measure to avoid cases of electrocution.

2. Prepare Your Extension Cord and Power on the Generator

How to Connect a Portable Generator to an RVAt this point, you should be ready to power on your generator. However, you should not plug in your extension cable before powering on the generator. When the generator is turning on, there’s a sudden surge of power which can damage your sensitive appliances if they’re already plugged in. Equally, always disconnect the cord first before powering off the generator. Otherwise, powering off the generator while it is still hooked up to your RV can damage the electrical systems in your RV.

3. Plug-in the Power Cord to the Generator

Once your generator is up and running, you can plug in the cord to supply power to your camper. Most portable generators for RVing come with either 120V 20A or 120/240V 30A or 50A outlets, while most RVs use a 30A connection. If there is no 30A power outlet on your generator, you will need a separate adapter to guarantee compatibility with your generator. Ensure that the generator’s power output is stable before plugging in. modern portable generators come with light signals which indicate when the generator is ready for loading.

You can now connect the generator to the RV, and you can run different electronics depending on the size of your generator.

What Will a Portable Generator Run in an RV?

How to Connect a Portable Generator to an RVThere are many electronics that you can power in an RV using a portable generator. However, the size and extent of appliances you can power will depend on the power output of your generator. Common devices that you can include television, lightings, microwave, refrigerator, and an RV AC unit. You can connect all these appliances to the electrical system of your RV as the generator is running.

How about your RV battery? You can still use the generator to recharge your RV’s battery if you realize its charge is going down. There are two ways you can use to charge your RV battery from your portable running generator.

  1. Just like plugging your RV battery into a power pedestal at the camping site, you can also charge the battery by powering the RV with a generator. However, this will not yield quick results; it will take several hours before fully charging the battery.
  2. Connecting your battery charger to the generator and linking it to your RV batteries through jumper cables. For the safety of your battery, ensure you are using a smart charger. This is because smart charges have an in-built system that recognizes when the battery is full and discontinues the power flow. The excess flow of power to the RV battery even when fully charged can damage the battery, which can be expensive to replace. Therefore, you should avoid chargers that don’t have the smart feature.

Keeping your RV batteries charged is beneficial because it can provide you with a power source when your generator is out of fuel. However, the battery power is pretty low and ideal for small appliances such as lighting, TV, and water pump. You cannot power an AC unit or a heating system with battery power.

What Size of a Portable Generator Is Right for Powering an RV?

How to Connect a Portable Generator to an RVThe right size of a portable generator for your RV will depend on the appliances you will be running in the RV and your budget. The big devices in an RV include an air conditioner unit, microwave, and heater.

A 3,500-watt portable generator is an ideal choice for powering most RV trailers. This size generator can comfortably run a 13,500 BTU RV AC unit and allow you to run other small electrical appliances. If your RV unit has a more extensive air conditioning system, it’s advisable to go for a powerful generator.

Check on their watts requirement for other electric devices and add all their wattages to get the total power you need to run them. If your appliances are drawing more power than the generator can deliver, the generator is likely to shut down because of overloading. The summation of all wattage requirements, including the AC unit, will determine the appropriate size of a portable generator for your RV.

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You should choose a generator with at least 15% more power output than your total wattage requirements.

Factors to Consider When Buying a Portable Generator for Your RV

Investing in the right portable generator for your RV will give you peace of mind regarding power electronics in an RV. Here are few tips for picking the right one.

Power output

How much power does the generator deliver when compared to your power demands? You don’t want a generator that will not run your AC unit during a desert road trip. Check out the generator’s power output and compare it with your power demands. Pick a generator that delivers more than your power demands.

If your power usage is intermittent, you can go for two small generators that allow parallel connections. It’s a cheaper option than buying a big generator that will be running throughout whenever you need to power a few appliances.

Noise level

One of the worst nightmares one can experience is to have their epic boondocking trip interfered with by a neighbor’s loud generator. Whenever you’re shopping for a portable generator for your RV, check on the unit’s operating noise level.

Furthermore, most campgrounds have a restriction on the acceptable generator’s noise level. A portable generator whose noise level is below 65 decibels is suitable. However, you need to get a balance between your desired noise level and the generator’s power output. A powerful generator is likely to be noisier than a less powerful one.

Fuel type and efficiency

Most portable generators for RVing run on gasoline, diesel, or propane, with some brands coming up with dual-fuel technology. A dual fuel generator allows you to run it on two different fuel sources.

  • Gasoline-powered portable generators are common because they are affordable and it is easy to access gasoline. However, these generators require regular maintenance than other generators.
  • Diesel-powered portable generators are popular because of their efficiency in fuel consumption and require less maintenance. However, they are expensive to buy, and they are also noisy.
  • Propane-powered portable generators are famous for their clean emission. Propane gas also has a more extended storage period compared to gasoline and diesel. However, propane will give you a shorter runtime hence less efficient than the other fuel sources.

A portable generator that offers high fuel-efficient will provide you with more power and consume less fuel. Check the runtime that the generator provides on a single full tank against different loads.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I power my RV off a 15A household-style outlet?

It’s not recommendable because such an outlet can only handle a maximum of 1800W, and your RV may require more than that. Instead, get a 30A adapter that will make it possible for you to power your RV via such an outlet.

What generator size do I need to run my 30 amp RV unit?

A generator that can supply at least 3,000 watts is suitable for a 30 amp RV unit. Such a generator will allow you to power a 13,500 BTU AC unit and other small appliances in your RV.

Final word

Some RV trailers come with an equipped generator for meeting your power demands when RVing. However, some RV models require connecting a portable generator to run their electronic appliances when boondocking. With the easy guide above, connecting a portable generator to your RV should not be complicated.

About Steve Stuart

Steve Stuart is an electrical engineer who developed interest on generators during his school years. After school, he became a generator enthusiast. This is after encountering power supply problems at the area of residence where he lived. Power would be on and off and so food would go bad and the room heater would go off especially during winter. After trying the different generator brands for several years, Steve now provides information on the available brands and products in the market today. Based on his experience, he gives the do’s and the don’ts when it comes to generator use.

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