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If you are planning to camp frequently, it is a good idea to know how many watts you need to run your camper.

There will be times where you are camping with power hookups, but if you are not then knowing the wattage required to run your camper will allow you to know how much added generator power you might require to run all appliances.

Most average-sized campers use 3,500-4,000 watts to run all major appliances including the air conditioner, television, microwave, lights, and water heater. However, you must calculate exactly how many watts you need to run your camper properly.

The amount of watts used by a camper is dependent upon the size of the camper and the appliances as well as the usage of the appliances. Some people will use more energy than others.

Knowing the amount of energy that you use in your camper will ensure that you purchase the correct sized generator if you are wanting to camp without power hookups. The information in this guide has been reviewed by experts in the camping industry and allows you to find out how many watts you need to run your camper.



What Is A Watt?

A watt is the term used to describe a unit of power. It was named after James Watt who was an 18th century Scottish investor.

The watt is a derived unit of 1 joule per second. It quantifies the rate of energy transfer. The watt is calculated by taking an object’s velocity when it is against one newton and held constant at one meter per second. The rate at which it completes what is needed is one watt.

Anything that runs off of electricity will use a certain amount of watts to run.

How Many Watts Does A Camper Use?

The number of watts that a camper will use will vary depending on the size of the camper and how many watts each specific appliance uses. You can calculate the number of watts that a camper needs by adding up the number of watts used by each appliance in the camper. The exact wattage used to start each appliance and while it is running can typically be found in the owner’s manual.

A majority of the watts that a camper will use is by the appliances such as the air conditioning unit, refrigerator, microwave, and television. If it is during winter months, you will use quite a bit of wattage to run a furnace or heater. Certain appliances will use more energy when they first start up and then use a very small amount of energy while they are continuing to run.

It is also important to know that most campers and RVs run off of 30 amps or 50 amps. You should know which level of amps your camper runs off of so you do not overload the system and trip the breaker.

Most RVs will run off of 4,000 to 5,000 watts. Many people will purchase a generator based on the approximate amount of watts needed in order to be able to run their camper if they are dry camping without power hookups. It can be difficult to run your entire camper off of battery alone so purchasing a generator can be a good investment.

Appliance Usage


The refrigerator in your camper is one of the appliances that will typically use quite a bit of energy when it is first turned on, but will then use less energy as it continues to run.

A normal sized refrigerator in a camper will use approximately 500-600 watts when it first turns on and then only 150-200 watts when it is running. This will vary depending upon the size of the refrigerator as well as the age of it. Older appliances will always use more energy to run than a newer appliance.

Air Conditioner

The air conditioning unit is almost always the appliance that uses the most energy in your camper or RV. An air conditioner will use a lot of energy while starting as well as running so most people need a good number of watts available in order to run the air conditioner.

In general, a camper air conditioning unit will use 1,900-3,500 watts to start up and then 600 to 1,200 watts to continue to run. The exact number of watts will also depend on how many BTU the air conditioning unit has. BTU stands for British Thermal Unit, which means how much energy was used to remove heat from the camper or RV within the hour.

The higher the BTU is on the air conditioner, the more watts that will be required to not only start the unit, but also to keep it running.


A microwave is not an appliance that will be running continuously. Typically, you are only using the microwave for short amounts of time periodically. A microwave within a camper or RV will use 1,100-1,500 watts.


The exact amount of watts used by a television depends on the size and model of the television. If you have a large flat screen television in your camper then it is going to use a lot more energy than a small television would.

If the television in your camper is larger than 30 inches, it will most likely use 200 to 300 watts while being used.

Water Heater

The amount of watts needed for a water heater will also vary depending upon the size of the water heater, but a water heater around 6 gallons in size will use 1,440 watts or so to heat the water in the tank.

Weather Impact

The weather will also impact how many watts you will utilize within your camper or RV. If it is warmer outside, you will have to use more watts to keep your camper or RV cool. However, the same is true in the winter as you will be using more energy to warm your camper or RV.

If you are wanting to use the least amount of energy as possible, it is always a good idea to camp during mild weather because you may not need to run your air conditioner or heater and can instead just open windows as needed.

Using A Generator In Your RV

It can be very difficult to run your camper or RV off of battery power if you are not at a campground with power hookups.

It is important to determine how many watts you need to run your camper as well as the amps in your camper. If your camper is 30 amps and the outlet is 120 watts then you will need at least 3,600 watts for your generator.

If possible, the best way to find the proper generator is to pay attention to how many watts you are using in your camper, especially for your air conditioning unit as this will be the main appliance that uses the most energy.