What Size Generator do I need for my camper?

Generators come in all different sizes, with each one providing a different amount of power. There are some models which are best suited to larger areas, such as providing extra power on construction sites, farms and even at large events such as weddings or football games. Then there are those generators which are specially designed for leisure and recreational use, like camping and other outdoor activities.

When it comes to purchasing a generator, one of the most asked questions is what size generator do I need for my RV? Well, it really depends on what you are going to be running in your camper. Every camper has a different size and different generators can be used for different campers. It is crucial that you find one which is of the correct size, compact enough to fit in your camper, and with enough energy to provide the exact power you and your travel buddies require.

The size you need to get depends on a variety of different things. One of the best ways to decide which size is right for you is by looking at the wattage usage of the appliances you plan to use. This is a good way to determine which generator might be best for you.

In this article, we cover the different varieties of generators, along with their best uses. Hopefully, this will allow you to find the best generator suited to your exact requirements!

Watts Law

If you are a new RV owner, or you haven’t purchased a generator before, then you will need to familiarize yourself with the Watts Law. This is an easy way to determine the wattage and allows you to understand exactly the amount of power you will require.

Amp is the amount of electricity used; Volts measures the pressure of electricity. The number of Watts is equal to amps multiplied by volts. Once you know the exact wattage, you can better and more easily select products which fit! Below we take a look at different types of generators, and what they are best uses are.

2000 Watt RV Generator

A 2000 Watt generator will supply just under 20 amps, making it perfect for plugging your camper in, be able to use some household outlets for smaller devices like charging cell phones to TVs, and more general smaller things.

It is not something you would want to run the air conditioning on or the microwave, or even things like electric water or a refrigerator as these would require a little more power. A 2000 Watt generator is therefore good for the bare minimum usage possible, so if that’s what you require for your camping trip, then make sure to search for this type of generator!

3600 Watt RV Generator

If you want to use your generator to provide air conditioning, this will usually require a larger amount of wattage, and so naturally will take a lot more energy than simply using it to plug in a cell phone or charge the battery. A 3600-watt generator will run the air conditioner, fridge, plus the converter and the trailer and a few more devices, so if its air con you want then this is the device to go for!

If you want to power your refrigerator, this will take around 540 watts while the hot water heater around 1340 watts. Therefore, a good idea if you are running a smaller generator is to turn the fridge so it’s running on gas so that you are not using the heating element and pulling a lot of watts from the generator.

The same goes for the hot water heater if you have one that runs on gas and electric, the electric element on it will pull a lot more watts, which is a pretty big draw on a small sized generator. Therefore, when using a smaller generator, you want to try to use gas appliances as much as possible!

4500 – 6500 RV Watt Generators

If you are looking for a generator that is reliable, and one which can last a long time, then perhaps you will benefit from something a little more powerful. In comparison to previous generators, a 4500 – 6500 generator offers a whole lot more power. Of course, this sized generator will be a little costlier, but it will definitely be able to power a lot more appliances.

This can include air conditioning, refrigerator, hot water, TV, cooking hob, battery chargers and various other appliances. This will allow you to be prepared for anything and not have to worry about running out of power while on your camping trip.


The smaller the generator, the fewer appliances it can power. The larger the generator, the more power it is likely to have. Recreational generators are strong and perfect for camping trips as they can power the basics such as cell phone charging and some lights. The larger, portable generators are preferred for powering RVs and longer trips with more people, as they have a lot more power to give and are likely to last a lot longer.


generator application

Home Application

There are three different factors to consider where you can vary your generator needs at home:

  • Whether or not you are using well or city water.
    • City water only requires a lower wattage generator as it does not pump that heavily and hardly compared to well water which would require you about 3800 watts or higher and about 240 volts.
  • Heating system
    • It can either be a heat pump, electric or gas where gas requires the least watts of about 2500 wattage generator. The most that requires much power is the electric heaters and heat pumps that require about 15,000 watts generator to run and function efficiently.
  • Water heater
    • The same with the heating system, it can either be electric or gas. However, electric water heater requires a far lesser generator with only about 4500 watts compared to an electric home heater. Gas water heater, on the other hand, requires just the same with your home’s heating system.

Recreational Application

This typically means that the generator would be used outdoors and for recreational purposes such as when you’re traveling. It includes:

  • RV uses
    • This is a common vehicular application as an RV requires a generator to fully utilize the purpose of the vehicle. A car battery won’t just do it as it is a home on the go.
  • For campers
    • Camping requires not that much when it comes to generator power or wattage. The heaviest appliances you could possibly use is a coffee maker or an induction for cooking.
  • Boaters
    • Generator application for boaters can be used for the purpose of being an emergency power for the engine where the generator power requires can vary depending on the size of the boat and the power of the engine. The other purpose would be for powering equipment and appliances in your boats such as for cooking, heat, and water.
  • Tailgaters
    • This not a common application but you’d see people using generators for this purpose. The range of the generator required varies to what kind of equipment or appliances you’re using when tailgating. If you’re using a mini fridge, a small sound system, lights, heaters, the wattage of the generator you need continues to grow.
  • Etc.

Industrial Application

In this type of application, the power range needed for a generator is widely comprehensible. It uses power wattage far greater than home and recreational use.

Determining the power you need would require you some guide about wattage estimation as it can be crucial and a bit of a waste if your generator does not meet the necessary power required by an industrial appliance.

Keep in mind that most industrial tools have motors which means the wattage it requires is far higher to keep the device in functioning condition. You can search for guides about how to determine an industrial tool or equipment’s power and look for some power management guide to avoid getting the wrong type of generator.

Determining an Appliance’s Power

Most or all of the appliances have indicators of how much power it uses so that you can at least vary your needs with the power it has. Electric motors, especially in industrial use, list their requirements in amps.

These indicators can often be found:

  • On a stamp in the side or the back of the device or appliance.
  • A tag that is attached on the handle or a hole in parts of the device or appliance.
  • An engraving on the sides or at the back.
  • On a name tag attached a spacious area of the device.

Note: An appliance can or may require greater power than what is indicated as it becomes inefficient and more power consumption over time.

Converting Amps to Watts

Electronic motors and generators come with the list of wattage on a stamp, nameplate, or tag that is attached to the device but most industrial tools, equipment, and appliances usually use Amps. A complication might arise in understanding the requirement as most generators use watts.

Below is a short formula of how to convert Amps to watts and vice versa:

  • Amps = watts / volts
  • Watts = volts x Amps

Most of the countries use 120 volts or within that range. Some countries in Asia use 220 volts. You should also take that into consideration when using an electronic device.

It would be easier to convert if the devices have indications of either watts and amps plus the volts in the tags it comes along with.

Translating Device Indicators or Data Tags

As mentioned previously, the generator comes with indicators or tags that include the data needed to understand the power and usage of the device. This data includes:

  • Voltage settings of the device. Either 120 (110-120), or 120/240.
  • Horsepower or HP. This is something common with most electronic machines, motors, and devices. It is an indicator that rates how much power a device could perform.
  • Phase or PH. Most brands, especially Honda generators, can only run using a single phase motor.
  • Amps. This indicates the ampere required for the electric motor to start, run and start load power.
  • Code. It’s not usually present on all electronic motors but codes represent the power required by a motor to start.
  • Hertz(Hz) or Cycles. This is common in the U.S. and other countries also has this data on the tags. It shows how many cycles per second a motor can do. U.S. electrical appliances have an average of 60 cycles.

Rated Power and Maximum Power

generator power

This data can also be present in the data tag. It provides you data about the generator of how much power it can produce in a short and a long period of time.

Rated Power – This indicates the average power that a generator can produce in long term use. It is usually around 80 to 90% of the maximum power.

Maximum Power – This indicates the maximum or optimum power output produced by the generator but can only last about 30 minutes or less.

The purpose of this data is to determine whether or not your generator can continuously provide a sufficient amount of power for all your applications needed.


So now you should understand how easy it is to find the right size generator for your camper. The main thing is to find out how much power you need by determining all the appliances you will use during the camping trip. This is easily worked out by looking at the wattage amount, which helps decide which generator to go for.

You should also consider if you can power things through gas rather than electric, which helps you to save on some watts when you don’t have many, or if you only have a smaller generator to use. This is especially handy when camping with a lot of people as many will want power, so it’s good to know in advance!

Finally, hopefully, this information has helped in your generator purchasing decisions, and that you will be able to get the right sized generator for your next trip, and future trips to come.

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