So, you're looking into inverter generators for your RV, but you aren't sure whether you need one? Let's go over their benefits, and help you decide.

While conventional generators have served campers for decades, they're not quite fuel-efficient, and with fuel prices skyrocketing, it's perhaps time to invest in a more fuel-efficient source of electrical power. Solar power seems like a good solution, but the average solar panel can't possibly meet the demands of an RV, which asks the question of whether you need an inverter generator for your RV.

And the answer is: yes, you absolutely need one if you want to have a smoother and less noisy camping experience. These types of generators are becoming prevalent over the conventional RV power sources anyway, as they're typically much safer and fuel-efficient.

But do the quieter operation and better fuel efficiency justify the higher asking price, or are inverter generators just another marketing trick by generator and RV manufacturers to part consumers from their hard-earned cash? Well, we've looked into the matter, and we're presenting you with the results of our findings.

We present you with a set of conclusions based on several engineering analyses, paired with a cumulative experience of countless capers who bought an inverter generator for their RV. We cross-referenced our findings and knowledge with other bits of information found on the various web locations, allowing us to formulate an objective opinion.



What is an Inverter Generator?

Generators have been stable RV power sources for decades, offering independence from campsite power pedestals or shore power, and now, this new thing called inverter generators are slowly taking over. But what exactly are inverter generators? Well, to explain that we first have to explain the difference between an AC and DC current.

An AC current or alternating current is a type of current that comes out of your wall outlets, and it's used to power all the devices in your home, including stoves, electrical water heaters, lights, etc. RV generators produce an alternating current that's used to supply your RV with electrical power.

DC current is mostly used to power electronics, such as TVs, computers, phones, and phone chargers. Admittedly, you power these devices via an AC power source, but nearly all of them have internally built-in rectifiers that convert AC to DC power.

Both the conventional and inverter generators mimic the power you would get from a wall outlet, which is 120VAC (volts alternating current). Since we've already established what generators are used for, let's discuss the difference between a conventional generator and an inverter generator.

Conventional generators consist of a combustion engine that's driven by whichever kind of fuel source, coupled with an actual electrical generator. The combustion engine provides mechanical energy to the electrical generator, which transforms said energy into electrical power. These are separate components within a single case, which makes the conventional genset unit heavier and bulkier when compared to the inverter generator.

The inverter generator, on the other hand, does pretty much the same thing. However, it converts the produced AC into DC and then back into AC before supplying it to your RV. This extra step may seem redundant, but it actually offers several benefits, which is why inverter generators, though pricier, prevail over the conventional types.

Conventional vs. Inverter Generators

Conventional generators are great at making electricity. Their internal combustion engine transforms chemical energy into kinetic and thermal energy into kinetic energy. That energy is then used to power the electrical generator, which transforms the mechanical movement into electrical power.

And they're great at what they do; by controlling the engine speed and thus the frequency of AC, we can control the generator's power output. However, whenever we change the load on the generator by powering an additional device, we increase the load on the generator, which affects the power characteristics of the output — something that can damage other devices powered by the same generator.

In addition, conventional generators usually run at a constant speed all the time, which makes them quite noisy and less fuel-efficient because they have to run constantly at 3600 PRM to produce 120VAC. That makes them most efficient when running at full load, and their fuel efficiency per unit of electrical power drops as the load decreases.

The inverter generator also consists of an internal combustion engine and an electrical generator, but the two are actually combined into a single component. This is mostly achieved by using the engine flywheel as the generator rotor while the stationary is mounted on the engine itself. This significantly reduces the component's size and weight, making it much more compact compared to a conventional generator.

The working principle of the inverter generator, thus far, is the same as with the conventional type: the genset turns chemical energy into mechanical and mechanical into electrical AC power. Simple. However, an extra step of converting that AC to DC and then back to AC provides inverter generators with more stable output and better fuel efficiency.

When the genset produces AC, it gets rectified into DC by additional electronic components within the inverter generator. Then, a built-in inverter takes that DC and converts it back into a stable AC sine form. But that's not all. Thanks to their design, and a microprocessor controller, an inverter generator doesn't have to run at a constant speed to maintain 120VAC, which also means less noise unless running at full speed.

Instead, the RPMs increase and decrease with the load, which maintains the generator's fuel efficiency — low-RPM fuel efficiency is somewhat similar but still slightly lower than fuel efficiency at high RPM. The sudden changes in load do affect the output characteristic, but never beyond 3% (before being compensated), which makes inverter generators perfectly safe for powering sensitive electronics.

Do You Need an Inverter Generator for Your RV?

Yes, you do need an inverter generator for your camper if you want the best camping experience. These generators have the capacity to power the entire RV, from lights and fridges to sensitive electronics, with fuel as their only power source. They're truly a must-have with all modern-day RVs.

Naturally, travel trailers may not need one, as they can power from the RV just fine, but it's always good to have a backup option, just in case your electrical power requirements increase. Luckily, most RVs nowadays have a built-in generator, and for those that don't have one, a portable generator is always an option.

Types of Inverter Generator

There are two types of inverter generators for recreational vehicles, and the most common type in modern RVs is the built-in one. However, that doesn't mean you won't benefit from having an extra generator in case you need some extra power. Here are the two main types:

Built-in inverter Generator

As stated above, most modern RVs ship out from the manufacturers with a built-in inverter generator, which is connected to the electrical system and can be started by the RV's battery. These are typically rated up to 3,000 watts, and they're fueled directly from the RV's fuel tank.

Their biggest advantage is that they're calibrated for the entire RV electrical system, including the connected appliances, which ensures that each build-in inverter generator is capable of withstanding the vehicle's power demand.

Portable RV Inverter Generators

Portable inverter generators have their own advantages and disadvantages. For example, they're considerably smaller when compared to conventional generators, and they're portable and can be set up away from the RV. Unfortunately, this also implies that setting up, adjustments, and fueling falls onto your shoulders.

It also requires a manual start-up but offers up to 8,000 watts of power thanks to separate fuel tanks. Portable generators also provide easier access than built-in ones, and they're less expensive and pose a lower risk of exhaust leaks.

Advantages of Inverter Generators

The biggest obvious advantage of an inverter generator is having access to backup power any time you don't have access to shore power. They're smaller in size, thanks to smaller components and a small fuel tank. The latter may seem like a drawback, but inverter generators are really fuel-efficient, so a small fuel tank isn't necessarily a problem.

So, it's clearly evident that an inverter generator for an RV is a necessity, as they provide cleaner energy more efficiently and provide a smoother and, above everything else, quieter camping experience.


Anthony Day

Anthony Day

Hi, my name is Anthony, and RVs are what I'm passionate about. I bought my first RV when I was 21, and I've been hooked ever since. I'll guide you on how they work, how they can be used in different environments, and how they fit into our everyday lives.

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