RV vacations are fantastic, but not when the power goes out, or you want to camp off-grid, and you don’t have a generator for your 50 amp travel trailer, motorhome, or fifth wheel.
Buying the right generator that will support the electrical needs of a 50 amp RV can be confusing, as each family uses different appliances and devices than others. Most experts recommend a 4,000-watt generator as a starting point, but some RVers will need much more power.
To guide you through buying the right size generator for a 50 amp RV, I explain below the basics of 50-amp electrical service in recreational vehicles. I also detail the wattage your RV appliances use, how to calculate your usage and needs, what features are important in an RV generator, and list some top-rated models.
With a robust and durable RV 50-amp generator, you’ll always have the electricity you require to operate your camper, so let’s jump in!
How Many Watts of Electricity Does an RV 50-Amp Service Provide?
Many recreational vehicles feature 50-amp electrical service. Fifth wheels, Class A motor coaches, and large travel trailers have greater power needs than smaller 30-amp motorhomes or camping trailers, especially if they have two air conditioners.
An RV with a 50-amp service will provide 12,000 watts of electricity, which is a significant wattage increase from the 3,600 watts a 30-amp RV service offers.
You cannot use RV power cord adapters and alter this power flow.
For example, suppose you have a 30-amp travel trailer but need to use a 50-amp plug adapter because the 30-amp plug in the pedestal is missing or broken. In that case, you won’t magically have 12,000 watts of electricity, as your camper only can accept 3,600 watts of power.
If you own a 50-amp RV and need to use a 30-amp adapter for your plug-in, you will now only have 3,600 watts of power running to your camper.
Thankfully, the need to use adapters is rare. In all my years of full-time RV travel, I’ve only had to use them twice.
So, will you need to buy a 12,000-watt generator for your 50 amp RV?
The easy answer would be yes, but most recreational vehicles owners don’t have the budget or spare weight capacity for such a purchase. In addition, it’s highly unusual to run all your camper’s appliances at the same time, so a 12,000-watt RV generator is rarely necessary.
To clarify what size generator is best for a 50-amp RV, you first need to look at what appliances are in your RV, which ones you rely on for camping comfort, and how often you use them.
How to Figure What Size RV Generator to Get for a 50 Amp RV
Before you start shopping for a generator to run your 50-amp camper, you have to record your normal appliance or power usage during your RV camping trips.
Once you determine which appliances you run, how often you use them, and which ones you run at the same time, you can then figure out how many watts of power is necessary to keep your 50-amp RV running when boondocking or if campground power goes out.
You also need to ask yourself what your goal is if you need to run the generator.
Are you only looking for enough power to run the refrigerator, coffee pot and charge your phone or computer if the power goes out? Do you want to run your air conditioner(s) and have full use of all your other RV amenities?
Your camping style plays a crucial role in what size RV generator you need. For example, people who love boondocking will require a larger unit than someone who sticks to RV park shore power and only needs a backup power source for emergency use.
You want to buy a generator that will meet or exceed the maximum wattage you typically use when running your RV appliances, keeping in mind those you run simultaneously.
It would help to consider the starting wattage of an appliance, which can be quite a bit higher than the running wattage. If your generator’s output cannot exceed the power a device requires to start, like the AC compressor, it will be useless.
How to Calculate RV Appliance Total Wattage Needs
The list below provides a typical RV appliance wattage. Still, you’ll want to check your specific camper appliance models to get an exact figure if you want to ensure you’ll buy the correct size generator.
Remember to write down the starting wattage versus the running wattage of RV appliances, as this figure is more important.
Another significant factor in picking the correct 50-amp RV generator is the number of air conditioners you have. A single AC in a camper should run off a minimum of a 4,000-watt generator, but having two or even three ACs will require a more powerful and expensive unit.
RV Air Conditioner Sizes and Wattages
Here is a breakdown of different RV air conditioner sizes to help you begin your list of power needs for your 50-amp generator purchase.
- Starting wattage: 1700 Watts
- Running wattage: 600 Watts
- Starting wattage: 2000 Watts
- Running wattage: 700 Watts
- Starting wattage: 2750 Watts
- Running wattage: 1250 Watts
- Starting wattage: 3500 Watts
- Running wattage: 1500 Watts
As you can see, if your 50-amp RV has two 13,500 BTU air conditioners you want to run off a generator, you’ll require at minimum a 5,400-watt unit.
Average RV Appliance Wattages
The air conditioner, refrigerator, and microwave are the three major RV appliances that draw the most power. Here is a list of all standard power draws with starting and running wattages.
Again, this list is for average RV appliance wattage requirements to use as a starting point to determine what size generator to get for a 50 amp RV. Always double-check these figures against your specific appliance model’s wattage ratings.
- Starting wattage: 1500 Watts
- Running wattage: 1500 Watts
- Starting wattage: 600 Watts
- Running wattage: 180 Watts
- Starting wattage: 1900 Watts
- Running wattage: 1800 Watts
- Starting wattage: 800 Watts
- Running wattage: 300 Watts
- Starting wattage: 190 Watts
- Running wattage: 190 Watts
Single light (60 W incandescent/10 W LED)
- Starting wattage: 60/10 Watts
- Running wattage: 60/10 Watts
- Starting wattage: 1600 Watts
- Running wattage: 1600 Watts
- Starting wattage: 250 Watts
- Running wattage: 250 Watts
- Starting wattage: 750 Watts
- Running wattage: 750 Watts
- Starting wattage: 250 Watts
- Running wattage: 250 Watts
For more information on other RV appliances or devices you may use, check out this comprehensive list of appliance wattage draws from Battery Equivalents.
Finding Your Total RV Generator Power Wattage Total
To calculate the total power or generator size necessary for a 50-amp RV to run the appliances, you need to consult your complete list of all the electrical components in your camper, along with how you normally use them.
For example, you may always be running your 10,000 BTU AC, fridge, a few LED lights, and television inside your RV but then decide to dry your hair.
You’ll need to account for the total start-up wattage required for all those appliances combined and will need the bare minimum of 4,720 watts (using the averages above) of power and need to buy a 5,0000-watt RV generator.
If you don’t mind the hassle of remembering to turn off the AC and television before turning on the blow dryer, you can get by with a 4,000-watt RV generator as the power draw is only 3,750 watts.
A good rule of thumb, if your budget allows, is to add 1,000 watts to your final wattage-need total to accommodate extra appliances or devices you may add to your RV over the years.
Features to Consider before Buying a 50 Amp RV Generator
Generator Wattage Output
All RV generators should state their maximum wattage output for both starting and running power.
Using the calculations for your unique RV power needs, ensure you select a model that will meet or exceed your requirements.
50 amp RV generators will be larger and heavier than models with less wattage output.
Depending on your RV type and gross vehicle or trailer weight ratings, you may need to restrict how heavy your generator is so it doesn’t push you over the safe limits for travel.
Heavy portable generators are also harder to lift into a pickup truck bed or move about once you reach your campsite, so look for a unit with wheels to make transport around the campsite easier.
Does It Offer Parallel Connection
Some generators offer parallel connections, which means you can hook up an additional generator to increase power output.
This type of generator is an excellent idea if you will have occasions when you need more power at your campsite or place of residence.
Generator Fuel Source
Generators can run on gas, propane, or diesel fuel. For an RV, it may be best to look at models that are “dual fuel,” meaning they can run on propane along with either gas or diesel.
You never know when you’ll have difficulty finding or transporting enough of a single fuel source when camping, so having an extra option to run your generator is very practical.
If your motorhome or tow vehicle runs on gas, get a gas or gas/propane dual-fuel generator, and likewise, if you use diesel.
A propane-only RV generator has the advantage of longer shelf life of the fuel, and it’s free of odors and is often less expensive to purchase versus gas or diesel.
The downfall of a propane generator for RVs is that you must have a propane refill service within easy reach for long-term use if you’re boondocking or the power grid is out. Also, not all campgrounds offer propane onsite, so take this into consideration.
The last thing you want happening at a campground is to annoy your neighbors or wildlife by running a noisy generator. As a result, some RV parks don’t allow generators or restrict their use to certain hours.
The best 50 amp RV generators should have a running decibel level under 70, to prevent issues. Unfortunately, the more powerful the generator the more noise it makes, especially since portable units are not contained within a sound-buffering housing.
You can find some generators that claim to lower decibels under 60, which is a great feature, but often this is only when the unit is in “eco” mode, which is less than the unit having a 50% or less load.
Be aware that the advertised running decibel level is not the actual noise the generator will make when running at full capacity.
Top 3 Generator Models For 50 Amp RV
Here are the best 50-amp RV generator models currently on the market. Most generator brands offer a range of sizes and wattage outputs so you can tailor it to meet your exact needs.
The key to a good generator for larger RVs is that it comes with an integrated 50-amp plug, like the ones below.
1. Pulsar G12KBN Heavy Duty Portable Dual Fuel Generator
If you want a portable generator with max power and a 50-amp plug (30-amp as well), consider investing in this Pulsar Heavy-duty G12KBN model that features 9,500 Running Watts and 12,000 Peak Watts.
This dual-fuel generator can run for up to eight hours on propane or gasoline, making it the most convenient for RV travel.
The array of outlets, large fuel tank, wheels, handle, and reasonable price for such a powerful unit make this the top choice if you want to power your 50-amp RV fully.
The biggest downside of this model is the weight that hits 209 pounds, so make sure you have the ability to move it before choosing this generator.
2. Firman P08003 RV Generator
The gas-powered Firman PO8003 Generator is a workhorse, that is RV ready with a 50-amp and 30-amp plugs.
The unit offers 8,000 running watts and 10,000 starting watts for plenty of power and a simple to operate electric or remote start feature.
This generator has plenty of outlets, a digital display, wheels, a rugged cage, quiet operation, and up to 16 hours of run-time per tank that increase the value.
The downside of the Firman is the weight (217 pounds) and the price point that may be outside of many budgets.
3. WEN DF1100T 11,000-Watt Dual Fuel Portable Generator
The Wen DF1100T Portable Generator is a bit less expensive than the two above but delivers an impressive amount of power so you can RV in comfort off-grid.
The highlights of this unit include the dual-fuel capability and 11,000 starting watts and 8,300 running watts on gas, and 9,500 peak watts with 7,500 running watts when using propane as fuel. In addition, voltage moves between 120v and 240v for even more flexibility.
The WEN offers an electric start, low oil shut-off, and the large tank allows the generator to run up to 8.5 hours on a half load, and a full array of outlet choices lets you connect and power all types of devices.
The downside of the WEN is the weight, again making it challenging for one person to lift the unit.
The best generator size for a 50-amp RV is around 8,000 watts for general usage and 10,000-12,000 watts for big motorhomes, travel trailers, and fifth wheels.
I hope you find the information above valuable when shopping for a generator to power your 50-amp recreational vehicle.
The best 50-amp RV generator is easy to operate, reliable, and will make all your camping adventures more fun, safe, and comfortable no matter where you roam!
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