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Key Takeaways

  • To run an RV AC that is 13,500 to 15,000 BTUs, you will need 1,200 to 2,400 watts.
  • For larger RVs that have more than one AC such as Class As and Fifth Wheels, you should multiply the watts that you need based on the number of units your vehicle has.
  • When deciding how large of a generator your RV requires, make sure to include calculations for other energy-consuming appliances and devices that you have on board.

If you want your RV’s AC to run without the breaker tripping, you need a generator with enough power to support your appliances, but how many watts do you need?

You need 1,300 to 2,400 watts to run an RV AC that is 13,500 to 15,000 BTUs. However, you should multiply this figure based on the number of air conditioners that your RV has, as larger vehicles such as Class A and Fifth Wheels often have two or more units.

After extensively researching RV troubleshooting forums, I have been able to gather enough information to determine how many watts you need to run an AC. My research has indicated that you need to evaluate the total amount of watts that your AC unit, as well as all other essential appliances, require when deciding how much power your generator should have to support your RV.



How Many Watts Does an RV AC Need?

A common dilemma that a lot of RVers are faced with when they first buy their vehicles is supplying enough power to their AC units. While air conditioning is not the most essential component of your RV, leaving on a road trip without the unit working properly is simply not going to be realistic for most travelers.

A generator is a key device that a lot of people keep on board their RVs while they travel, but you need to make sure that it can support your air conditioning unit, as power requirements can vary depending on the AC that you have.

With that said, air conditioners are among the most power-consuming appliances in your RV and you can expect most units between 13,500 and 15,000 BTU to need 1,300 to 2,400 watts to run. Now, keep in mind, that this is for a single, standard air conditioning unit for an RV.

If you have a large RV with more than one AC, you need to factor this into your power requirements. Although smaller RVs such as Class Bs can get away with a single AC unit, larger campers such as Class As and Fifth Wheels, generally have at least two, and sometimes even 3, air conditioners on board. When calculating your power needs, make sure that you are multiplying the number of watts based on the number of air conditioning units in your RV.

What Generator Size Do I Need for my RV?

Generators open up a lot of doors when you travel in an RV and they are essential if you want to feel right at home while you are miles away. However, a generator is only good to you if it can sustain your power needs, which is why you want to calculate how many watts your RV requires.

Recreational vehicles come in a variety of different classifications, which will ultimately be the biggest factor in determining the generator size that you need for your RV. In addition, you also need to consider how many air conditioning units you have on board. As I mentioned, larger RVs commonly have more than one unit and will need a bigger generator.

I would also recommend that you check your RV’s manual before you go out and buy a generator. Despite a lot of RVs having standard-size ACs, some models may have specific units that vary in size and power requirements, which is why it is best to have all of your energy needs determined before you make any commitments to a generator.

These are the recommended generator sizes based on RV class and number of AC units:

  • Class B RV - 2,000 to 3,600 watts (1 AC unit)
  • Class C RV - 2,800 to 4,000 watts (1 AC unit)
  • Fifth Wheel RV - 5,500 to 7,000 watts (2 AC units)
  • Class A RV - 5,500 to 8,000 watts (2 AC units)
  • Class B RV - 10,000 to 12,500 watts (3 AC units)

These estimates were calculated based on standard RV air conditioners that are 13,500 to 15,000 BTUs. If your AC is larger and uses more power, you will need to consider this when deciding which generator size is appropriate for your vehicle.

How Many Watts Do Other RV Appliances Need?

Although your air conditioner will use up more watts than most of your other appliances, you need to keep in mind that your RV has a lot of features that all require power - with some needing as much as the AC.

Just about every RV that you find these days is equipped with a bulk load of power-consuming appliances that will require a considerable amount of energy. This can become particularly problematic when you use multiple appliances at the same time, which is very common when living in an RV.

You need to consider exactly which appliances you have in your camper so that you can determine your final energy needs. Creating an estimate based solely on your AC unit will result in your breaker tripping constantly. These are the power estimates in watts that your other RV appliances will need to function:

  • Stove - 900 to 2,500 watts
  • Dishwasher - 1,200 to 2,400 watts
  • Washer - 1,000 to 1,500 watts
  • Microwave - 1,000 to 1,500 watts
  • Hair dryer 1,500 to 2,000 watts
  • Fridge 400 to 1,200 watts
  • Coffee maker 550 to 900 watts
  • Toaster 850 to 1,200 watts
  • TV 150 to 400 watts

The watts that your RV uses can quickly add up when you start factoring in all of the other appliances and features that your camper has. Most people that are traveling in an RV like to have the comforts of home readily available, which implies that a lot of these appliances and devices may be running simultaneously.

I recommend that you evaluate all energy-consuming devices that you have in your RV so that you can determine exactly how many watts your generator needs to be. While the above-mentioned figures are pretty standard for most appliances, you should ultimately confirm how many watts your RV’s devices specifically require, as power consumption can sometimes vary.

How Much Does an RV Generator Cost?

Buying a generator for your RV allows you to have a lot of freedom and independence when you are on the road. Instead of constantly being reliant on hookups and campgrounds, you can go off the grid and experience proper boondocking.

Once you have established how many watts your RV and all of its appliances require, you can buy a generator that meets your needs. With that said, the prices for generators can vary depending on the brand that you buy, as well as the number of watts that they supply. These are some cost estimates that you can expect to see when weighing out your options:

  • 1,000 - 2,000 watt generator - $250 to $450
  • 3,600 - 5,000 watt generator - $350 to $700
  • 7,500 - 13,000 watt generator - $850 to $1,800+

You can expect generator prices to fluctuate based on power capacity, as well as the manufacturer that made it.