What Size Generator for 30 Amp RV? A Simple Explanation and Some Great Choices!

What Size Generator for 30 Amp RV?

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What Size Generator for 30 Amp RV?

If you’re in the market for a new generator for your RV, maybe the most important factor in selecting the right generator is size.

You want to get a generator that has plenty of power for all of your appliances and normal usage, but you don’t want to waste money on a generator that is just too big and won’t be fully utilized.

So how can you tell what is the right size generator for your 30 amp recreational vehicle? That’s just what I’ll cover here, in as direct and simple of language as possible.

In fact, to make it even more direct and simple, here’s the Executive Summary:

What Size Generator Do You Need for a 30 Amp RV?

For a 30 amp RV with air conditioner, you should look at a generator with around 3,000 watts of power, but not over 4,000 – since a 30 amp recreational vehicle can only use a maximum of 3.600 watts of power anyway, anything over that is a waste.

For a 30 amp RV with no air conditioner, or if you really never use your aircon, you can get by with a generator with around 2,000 watts of power, but if you do end up using your AC, or adding one, you might spend a lot more money in the long run replacing your still-new generator with a newer, bigger one.

In the 3,000 watt range, my favorite generators are the affordable-premium Westinghouse 3700 and the less expensive but still excellent WEN 56380i

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And for the 2,000 watt range it’s actually pretty tough to find a portable generator that is RV ready – that is, one that has a 30 amp plug – but I can definitely recommend the tough but inexpensive GENKINS 2300 Watt Portable Inverter Generator or especially the ultra-quiet A-iPower Portable Inverter Generator.

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My personal recommendation, and I hope your main takeaway – go for bigger, and you won’t be sorry – there’s a reason why most smaller generators are not RV ready, and 3,000 watt units aren’t significantly more expensive.

How Big of a Generator for a 30 Amp RV?

Generator for a 30 Amp RV

I have to say right up front that this is not as difficult or complex of an issue as many make it out to be.

I mean, I have read articles that go on and on, page after page, about how electricity works, amperage versus wattage, usage schedules, wiring systems, outlets and numbers of hot leads and so much more.

I understand all this stuff, but after some of these explanations even I was scratching my head! Anyway, none of it is stuff you need to know or understand in order to determine the optimal size and select and buy the best generator for your RV.

So let’s make this as simple as possible, with the most important points:

  • A 30 Amp RV cannot use more than 3,600 watts of power
  • You can get a bigger generator than that, and it’s not a bad idea if you are going to use it for other purposes, but if it is just for an RV with 30 amp service there’s no need
  • The best size of generator for 30 amp RVs depends on the kind and number of appliances you are powering and using
  • The highest draw appliances are, first and foremost, air conditioners, but also electric stoves, electric heaters, hair dryers, microwaves and dishwashers (wow, we’re really roughing it, aren’t we!). You may be running two or more of these high-drain appliances at the same time, which will increase power usage

Now let’s break this down a bit:

An air conditioner can use anywhere from around 1,000 watts of power (for a 10,000 BTU aircon) to around 2,000watts of power (15,000 BTU), and when they first start up they will draw at least 50 percent more electricity – so 1,500 to 3,000 plus watts.

An electric stove and/or a microwave can easily use 1,000 to 1,500 watts of power, a hair dryer close to 2,000, a refrigerator about 500, and so on.

You can see that if you are going to dry your hair, or cook dinner, and you don’t rush over to turn off the refrigerator first, or shut down the AC, your electrical usage will really add up, simply because two or more appliances or gadgets are drawing power at the same time. And so many people end up with a 3,000-4,000 watt portable generator to make sure there are no issues.

But we can really boil it down to two questions:

What Size Portable Generator for RV with Air Conditioner?

If you have an air conditioner in your RV – even a small air conditioner – and want to keep it running when you are doing other things, you should definitely get a generator with around 3,000 watts of power, which will also have sufficient “peak power” for when you first turn your AC on.

At this level I really like the Westinghouse 3700 Watt Super Quiet Portable Generator, which is quite affordable and has plenty of power for your regular RV routine. If you are on a really tight budget, you can still get an adequately powerful and very high quality generator with something like the excellent WEN 56380i Super Quiet 3800-Watt RV-Ready Generator.

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What Size Portable Generator for RV without Air Conditioner?

Portable Generator

If you don’t have an air conditioner in your RV, or really never use it, you can get away with a smaller generator, around 2,000+ watts. Just keep in mind that if you do start using your AC, or if you add one, or for that matter if you want to use the generator for other things besides RV camping – especially things that require more power – you might want to spend a bit more and go up to the 3,000 watt range, which will save you money in the long run.

For the 2,000 watt plus range of portable generators, I can still enthusiastically recommend Westinghouse – the super-popular Westinghouse 2200 Watt Portable Generator is a great choice, and surprisingly affordable – and I also recommend the fantastic Genmax 2200 Watt Eco-Mode Portable Generator, which is a bit more expensive but will probably outlast all of us and our RVs!

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Conclusion: What Size Generator is Best for Your RV?

Even with my desire to make this article as short and clear as possible, I too can run on a bit, talking about different appliances and their power requirements, your usage and needs and so forth and so on.

And yes, these are factors, and there are choices – really just the two, though: ~2000 watts for non-AC RVs and low usage, and 3000-4000 watts for an RV with air conditioning, or for normal usage.

All that said, I’m going to reiterate what I feel is an important point, and close as simply as possible – just go for the higher range, and get a generator with at least 3-4 thousand watts. They aren’t that much more expensive, and it’s definitely money well spent.