Will A 3500-Watt Generator Run A Camper?Anthony Day
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Yes, 3500W is enough to run RV appliances that use a lot of energy. Running more than one thing at once is usually possible with 3500W of power.
The more appliances you run at once, the more power you need. Using two things that take a lot of power is not doable with a 2000W generator, but it may be possible at 3500W. Some people prefer 5000W or bigger generators; others are ok with the limitations of a 2000W machine.
3500W is enough for nearly any appliance. One of the most energy-hungry appliances is an electric oven, which uses 3000W of power. Air conditioners use about 1500W (more than that when starting up), and microwaves, furnaces, and toasters 1500W or less.
3500W is usually good enough, especially since laptops and TVs don't use much power. You can have a TV on, a laptop plugged in, and a phone charging at the same time while running the furnace without going over 3500 watts.
In my experience, 3500W is around the right amount of power to run your RV without much inconvenience. If you need to run both the air conditioner and the microwave at the same time, 3500W is good enough. You can't run both the air conditioner and the oven at the same time, but that is a small inconvenience.
Is 3500W a Lot?
3500 watts is a lot - many people are ok with smaller generators. Neither heating nor air conditioning should be a problem with a powerful 3500W generator. 3500W is the size I recommend.
The only way to use too much power would be to run many different appliances at once. If you run many different things, you might end up using too much power and running into problems.
Most of the time, you can run more than one thing at once with a 3500W generator. Running a microwave and a toaster at the same time will usually work even though these are both power-hungry appliances. You can keep your power costs low by buying appliances that use relatively little power, for example, an 800W rather than a 1500W toaster.
Some air conditioning units need a 3500-watt generator just to start. After a powerful air conditioner is running, it will only need 1500 watts to keep going, but 3500 watts may be the minimum to get your air conditioner started.
Not all air conditioners are incompatible with 2000-watt generators. You can buy an accessory called a "soft start" for an air conditioner which makes it start easily on a 2200-watt generator. Anything less than 2000 or 1800 watts is too weak to get an air conditioner to start.
Running two air conditioners at the same time is obviously power-intensive. While a 3500W generator can keep two of them running if they both use 1500W each, you probably can't start a second conditioner with the first one running.
Microwaves use 1100 to 1500 watts of power. A 1000W microwave might use 1500W of power. This is because it is not perfectly efficient, so it uses 1500W to generate 1000W of cooking power.
Toasters use 800-1500W of power. Like hair dryers, you do not have to run them for very long, but you won't be able to run them while running an electric stove, even with a 3500W generator.
Many RVs use electric rather than gas heating. Electric furnaces sometimes use about 1500 watts (often less than 1000 watts), so a 3500-watt generator works fine with an electric furnace.
Stoves and Coffee Makers
Anything to do with heating or cooking uses more power than a laptop or television. You cannot always run the air conditioner and simultaneously cook your food, dry your hair, or make coffee.
With a smaller generator, cooking and making coffee at the same time may be too much. However, 3500W should be enough to do both at once.
Smaller instant pots use up around 700 watts, larger ones 1200. Coffee makers range from 700 for a small regular coffee maker to 1500 for a large espresso machine.
Electric ovens are one of the most energy-expensive appliances, often needing 3000 watts. One of the better reasons to invest in a 3500W generator is to use an electric oven. Some appliances will not work at all at 2500 watts.
Fridges consume relatively little power. An RV fridge uses only 150-200 watts when running but more like 500 or 600 watts to start.
Computers and other electronics use relatively little power. A laptop uses 100-150 watts, a smartphone only 20-30, and a small television uses 28 or 56 watts. Things like cooking and air conditioning use up much more power than entertainment devices.
Hairdryers are surprisingly power-hungry. They use 1800 or even 2500 watts of power, so you may have to turn the air conditioning off first, even with a powerful generator. Curling irons use just as much power, sometimes more than what a smaller generator produces in total.
Other power costs include:
- 15 or 20 watts for an electric razor
- 30 to 60 watts for a CPAP machine (for helping people sleep better by keeping their airways open)
- A few hundred watts for blenders and similar machines
- 20 watts or less for lights
Your RV Also Has a 12 Volt System
Even if you don't have a generator, you still have a 12-volt battery system that you can use to power basic appliances. It doesn't produce nearly as much power as a generator does, but it works for things like your water pump.
Your thermostat, ceiling fans, and lights run on your RV's 12-volt batteries. Even your power jacks run on the 12-volt system. For many other systems and appliances, the 12-volt system is not good enough, and you need 120-volt power supplied by a generator.
Some Appliances Use Both 12-Volt and 120-Volt Power
Some appliances won't work properly or at all if you don't supply them with both 12-volt and 120-volt power. Sometimes, one part of an appliance runs on 12-volt power and another part of it on 120-volt.
This is not as odd as it sounds. For example, your fridge needs 120-volt power to keep your food cold, but 12-volt power to keep the control panel working.
Your furnace also depends on both systems because the igniter requires 12-volt power. A water heater often uses propane to heat the water and 12-volt power to make the controls work. The furnace needs 12-volt power to turn on the igniter.
Do You Need a Generator to Charge Your Batteries?
No, but it is easier to do this if you have a generator. If you are at the RV park, you can plug your RV in and charge your batteries.
However, you cannot plug your RV in anywhere. If you are somewhere without power, you are much better off with a generator.
Even if you are somewhere without any other source of electricity, 3500 watts is plenty. Many people are fine with less than 3500 watts - only about 2000 or so is enough for many people. Bigger generators are significantly better, but they do take up more space.
How Heavy are 3500 Watt Generators?
A 3500-watt generator can weigh 140 or 160 pounds or 100 or 120 pounds with no fuel in it. A less powerful generator with a small fuel tank might weigh less than 50 or 60 pounds even with fuel in it.
If you are not very strong, lifting a 100+ pound generator may not be possible, easy, or safe. Some people may need to get a smaller, lighter generator, even if it is less powerful. A light generator can easily still produce 2000 watts of power.
If you have a trailer with a ramp, you can easily use a large generator without having to lift it. You cannot easily pull a large generator up an RV's steps.
Are 5000+ Watt Generators Worth the Money?
If you want to do a few different energy-intensive things at once, you need a 5000W or even more powerful generator. However, 3500 watts is usually about right. You won't run into any serious inconveniences to run your RV with a 3500W generator.