What Size Generator Do I Need for My Camper?

By Tool Scout | Generator Advice

What Size Generator Do I Need for My Camper

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The smallest vans and tent campers may not need a generator at all, relying on the tow vehicle’s battery to provide electricity for devices, and run the water pump.

But for campers with small appliances like microwaves and coffeemakers, or with A/C and other temperature controls, a generator is a must-have. But how do you know what size generator you need for your camper? Let’s take a closer look and find out.

How Much Electricity Does a Camper Use? 

Individual campers have different needs, depending on their size, insulation, season, and electricity demand. The average RV uses around 20kWh per day, and 608 kWh per month.

Here is a list of the electricity needs for average RV and camper equipment:

Temperature Control

Starting Watts

Running Watts

Air conditioner (13,500 BTUs)

2800 - 3000W

1500 - 2000W

Air conditioner (15,000 BTUs)

3300 - 3500W

1300 - 1800W

Radiant heater

1300W

1300W

20-inch box fan

0W

200W

Kitchen Appliances

RV fridge (compact)

500W

350W

Microwave (750W)

800W

750W

Slow cooker

0W

250W

Food processor

500W

350W

Hot plate

0W

750W

Coffee maker

0W

800W

Toaster

0W

850W

Electric stovetop (RV)

0W

2100W

Hygiene

Electric water heater

0W

4000W

Sump pump

1400W

800W

Washing machine

0W

750W

Electronics and Entertainment

Mobile phone charger

0W

10W

Laptop computer

0W

75W

Desktop computer

0W

300W

TV (13 inch)

0W

100W

TV (27 inch)

0W

500W

Radio + CD player

0W

100W

Video game console

0W

200W

This list will help you assess the approximate electricity demands of your own camper. Remember that lights and lighting also require electricity, but those demands are typically low, depending on the number and type of bulbs you use.

For items not listed here, consult the owner’s manual or manufacturer website to find out the energy demands of your camper’s equipment.

What Size Generator Do You Need for a Camper? 

The biggest determination for the size generator you need for your camper is the energy demands of your air conditioner, if you have one. Air conditioners have enormous starting wattage requirements, which may consume all the available energy from your generator for a short time.

Many popular RV generators are listed for 3000 or 3000+ Watts. These generators will start an air conditioner, and, after it has started, allow you to run a few lower-energy items.

Large camper generators are often rated for 4500-6000 Watts. These generators will allow you to start an air conditioner while using other items, and provide plenty of energy for cooking and hygiene. 

You may also consider choosing two smaller generators, rated at 2000-2200 Watts each. When linked in parallel, they allow you to start a large air conditioner, with power left over for other appliances. The convenient thing about this option is that it allows you to remove one generator and travel lighter during seasons when the air conditioner isn’t needed.

What Size Generator Do I Need for My Camper

How to Reduce Electricity Demand in a Camper

Large generators can be heavy and cumbersome, require a lot of fuel, and be noisy. One solution is to reduce the amount of energy your camper needs. Here are some ways to make your camper more energy efficient.

Improve Insulation

Like a home, a camper loses energy when it is poorly insulated. Choose double-pane insulated windows; if your manufacturer doesn’t have them, you may be able to find used ones. If you can’t upgrade your windows, make sure that your windows are seated correctly with minimal leaks.

If possible, add sealing that reduces air flow. You may also upgrade the insulation in the body of your camper: modern RV insulation is more effective and more compact than it has been in the past.

Upgrading your insulation makes your camper more comfortable and energy efficient all year long. Don’t forget to insulate your water lines, even the plastic ones. Use pipe wrap or other insulating materials to insulate your pipes, which allows you to reduce energy costs on hot water.

Reduce Airflow

Covering vents allows you to retain your heated or cooled air and reduces energy costs. Using an RV skirt is a great way to reduce energy needs and keep a camper comfortable.

Park Smart

Parking your camper in the sun in winter and the shade in summer allows you to reduce energy costs by taking advantage of the passive temperature in your site.

Rethink Your Lights

If you haven’t yet, switch to low-energy LED lights. There are also many options for camping-friendly solar-powered string lights that make a camper warm and appealing without using any generator electricity at all.

Switch Off Devices

If you are using a generator inverter, it is drawing a small amount of power even when it isn’t in use. Turning off or even unplugging kitchen appliances, electronic devices, and other items when they aren’t in use may only save small amounts of energy per day, but every little bit saves you money in fuel.   

Conclusion

Now you know how to calculate the best generator for your camper and your lifestyle, along with some tips for reducing your energy needs and making your generator and fuel last longer.