What Size Generator for 30 AMP RV

If you find yourself looking for a quality RV generator for your small to medium sized RV, there are a few things to consider for your search. So, what size generator for 30 amp RV?

It all depends on your electricity needs and what appliances and devices you plan on using regularly. The more you plan on using, the more power you will need. Easy as that!

Generally, a 30 amp RV is on the smaller end (compared to a 50 amp RV) and smaller RVs consume less power.

With a smaller power profile, the main advice I would give is to consider a quiet inverter generator first. They do come with a slightly higher price tag compared to their peers, but the noise reduction is priceless (including to those around you)!

For a 30 amp RV – I would advise a generator between 3000 to 4000 watts (assuming a small AC unit). Check out the details below to figure out what works best for you.

What Size Generator Do I Need for My RV?

As mentioned earlier, a 30 amp service and provide up to 3600 watts. Does that mean you should buy a 3600 watt generator?

If you have the budget, I probably would – and I may even oversize just a hair to make sure you can cover everything.

If you have a 30 amp service and plan on using many appliances at once, I would advise around 3000 to 4000 watts to have ample service and never think about your power usage (assuming 1 small AC unit). 

See my calculations below and please look at your own situation!

How to Estimate Your Generator Size for your RV

To best estimate the power needs for your small to mid-sized RV, let’s first run through starting watts and running watts.

When a larger appliance turns on (AC or refrigerator), there is an initial kick to get things going – referred to as starting watts. After the unit has started and its running at steady state, the power needs can be considerably less.

When you are sizing up your generator needs for your small to mid-sized RV, it’s important to consider both starting watts and running watts of the appliances you plan on using. Check out this wattage guide from Honda.

Major Power Users in Your RV

For your small to mid-sized RV, the largest users of power include the following:

  • Small RV air conditioner [up to 1600 watts starting, 1000 watts running]
  • Microwave [up to 1000 watts starting, 1000 watts running]

When you are estimating your power needs, consider if you have these appliances, and plan on them running at the same time [2600 watts starting, 2000 watts running]. Of course, check your specific appliances to see if these numbers align to your situation.

It’s easy to envision a situation where you have some friends over on a hot summer evening and you are cooking dinner for everyone.

Other Power Users in Your RV

After estimating the major users, consider these other common users of power:

  • RV refrigerator [up to 600 watts starting, 180 watts running]
  • TV [up to 190 watts starting, 190 watts running]
  • Satellite receiver [250 watts starting, 250 watts running]
  • Computer [200 watts starting, 200 watts running]
  • Coffee maker [600 watts starting, 600 watts running]
  • Blender [850 watts starting, 400 watts running]
  • Hair blow dryer [1900 watts starting, 1800 watts running]

As you can see, beyond the major RV appliances, the power needs for this group is much smaller (except the hair dryer of course).

I would advise adding around 1000 watts in addition to your main appliance needs to estimate what size generator you should purchase.

I would not try to accommodate all the minor users of power at once. It’s hard to imagine a situation where you are blow drying your hair and using a blender at the same time!

When using these appliances, just make note of your power demands and unplug a few things before you use your blow dryer!

What is the Difference Between 30 Amp Service and 50 Amp Service?

A 30 amp service vs a 50 amp service – the difference is really large!

Smaller RVs have lower electrical requirements and come standard with a 30 amp service. This service is enough to cover a small AC unit, smaller refrigerator, microwave, TV, coffee maker, and a few others (see the calculation above). 

In order to understand a 30 amp service in terms of wattage, we must go back to high school physics. 

Watts = Amp x Volt

So, in this instance, a 30 amp service using 120 volts equals 3600 watts.

In the RV world, a 50 am service is much more powerful.  Not only is 50 greater than 30, but most 50 amp services come with TWO 120 volt hit wires.

So, 50 amp times 120 volts times TWO equals 12000 watts!

Can I Plug My 50 Amp RV Into a 30 Amp?

Campgrounds often come equipped with power sources for RVs, most are rated at 30 amps so great for you with a smaller RV!

If you have a 50 amp RV, what are your choices?

If you are in a real pinch, you could use a dogbone electrical adapter. But this is really not a good choice since your 50 amp RV will be trying to pull a higher load than the 30 amp source is able to provide.

The wattage of the 30 amp service is 3600 (calculation above). Compare this to a fully loaded 50 amp RV that may have total peak wattage of 12000 for all appliances. Can you see where this is going?

Most circuit breakers on the 30 amp service work with a tolerance of around 20%. This means that if you start to pull anything over 4320 watts (3600 x 120%) you will trip the breaker.

There may be others also connected to the same service, so in reality you have less than 4320 watts to play with.

If you find yourself using a dogbone adapter, you could always be very careful what appliances you run at the same time, but I would only consider that as a last resort.

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