One of the most important items for traveling RVers, especially for us in the Southern U.S., is a portable RV generator. If you camp during the summer, you want to use your air conditioner. At other times, you’ll want a smaller generator that runs most of the other features with your RV ( TV, microwave, etc). These generators won’t run the a/c, but will provide you with electrical power in a pinch.
When we bought our RV, we didn’t know about the need for a generator. Fortunately, we already had a Champion generator, designed in part for RV use. The generator’s purpose for us was to power a portable air conditioner. If you live in Texas, you may have a generator for other uses, such as power when your home electricity fails. Sometimes, you can use these for RVing. Many of them are too heavy for portable use. We also have a 7000 watt generator, but it is over 200 lbs so it isn’t practical for the RV experience.
Our Champion is a 3000 watt unit. We’ve run it for as long as 50 hours nonstop while using it to run the air conditioner. The unit is 8 years old; we have had issues …. self-induced issues with the generator due to today’s regular unleaded gasoline. Here’s the key to keeping these devices alive: Do NOT use regular unleaded fuel containing ethanol in ANY generator! Ethanol free gasoline is a must for any small internal combustion engine. Ethanol causes issues with parts sending fuel to the generator’s carburetor. You will also want to fill your generator’s tank with ethanol free fuel when you are not using it. It keeps water from condensing in the tank, which can cause contamination problems as well.
Two types of generators I’ll discuss: regular generators and inverters. We have both. Regular generators are the kind you’ll see on construction sites. They are heavy and LOUD, but typically provide power to drive your air conditioners. They are the least costly of the generators, but are pretty annoying when boondocking. Inverters supply cleaner power for your electronic devices, but don’t provide the power of regular generators. These are much more quiet than the regular generator. Typically they cannot run your air conditioners unless they are tied together in tandem. You can spend a lot of money on inverters. When it’s cool here in South Texas (Nov – Feb), we can get away with powering the travel trailer with this device. Later in the year, we have turned to using the regular generator during the day, and the inverter in the evening. We have medical equipment requiring A/C power so we have to run a generator all night.
We have a Powerhorse inverter generator, specifically purchased for our long trips. While it won’t drive our air conditioner, it does provide power in the event of a road emergency. One of my colleagues had RVed our to Colorado, and on his way back to San Antonio he had some truck trouble. Because he didn’t take a portable generator (I suggested he borrow mine), his wife and son sat in their truck for 3 hours, hoping my colleague could figure out the problem with their truck. For us, we’ll use the portable inverter to run the air compressor, the TV or even the ice maker. It’s better than nothing, and possibly quite useful in a pinch.
Our house generator is the Powerhorse 7000. This monster can power our RV and other equipment without skipping a beat. The problem, as I’ve already mentioned, is it’s weight. The Powerhorse 7000 is over 200 lbs. While no one is going to steal it from the bed of the truck, it’s going to stay there for a while once it gets there. Because it’s so heavy, I only take it out once every six months to test fire it. If you use this beast, you’ll have to get an adapter plug as we discovered when we purchased it. These are EASILY available at Lowe’s or Home Depot. I emphasize EASILY because we weren’t able to find them in the power tools section in our local Home Depot. We asked and the employees had no idea where they were. The next time I went in the store, I spotted the adapters at the exact location we asked about them. They were between the shelves.
Hopefully you’ve read to the end of this post. Here are your considerations and what you’ll need:
-A portable generator within your price range. In the BSP view, this should be:
– An inverter generator that supplies enough power (>= 3000 running watts) to run your air conditioner, yet is light enough to be portable. You are looking to spend from $800 to $1200 on this device. There are at least six brands of generator in this range
– An adapter for your RV power cord plug to fit the portable generator, a 3 or 4 prong locking device. You will have to know which generator you are using before selecting the adapter.
– A chain and lock to lock your RV generator to your truck or something permanent, to keep the device from going bye-bye. I use the Master Lock cable 8418D for this purpose, since you can sinch it tight.
I lock our generator to a fixture even when we leave our own property. Our property is several acres from our neighbors and the generator can barely be heard when onsite, but we’ve also known our neighbors to be curious and go on our property uninvited.