Choosing the Best Generator for Your Motorhome

September 4, 2020 in Tips for Owners and Maintenance & appliances

Hiring a motorhome has never been more appealing for people who want to get off the beaten track. Taking off to a wild camping spot is the perfect way to enjoy everything motorhomes are made for; slowing down, connecting to nature, and getting back to basics. Whilst a microwave meal might not be on the menu when you can cook over an open flame in a campsite fire pit, realistically, there will be times when you may need electrical power. To set your own agenda during a campervan tour, and get away from the crowds, you need to be independent when it comes to powering all your essential equipment, devices and accessories. Even if you want to stay somewhere without an electric hook-up, you’ll need a campervan generator.

Many campsites that offer electric hookups for charging vehicle and leisure batteries often try to save energy by restricting power supply to motorhomes. This means that some appliances can’t be used, such as heaters or air-conditioning units. So, although they may seem like a big investment, generators are well worth the initial cost. It’s important to make your selection carefully in order to avoid wasting time and money on a generator that doesn’t suit your needs. Luckily for you, we have answered a few questions to help you select the best generator for your motorhome!  

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How big does my campervan generator need to be? 

To answer this, you’ll need to know exactly the wattage drawn by your various appliances. There are handy charts on the internet like this one by the Generatorist for finding out the approximate power usage, and you can double-check tags or stickers on your electronic devices.

It’s also worth knowing that most generators have a max wattage rating and a running wattage rating. This is because a lot of equipment takes more energy to start up than it does to run. So a 3000W generator might give you up to 3000W to start an air conditioner, but for long term use might only be rated 2600W. It’s important to think about this when deciding on the best portable generator for your motorhome, as it depends on the devices you’ll want to use at the same time, such as an air-conditioner, fridge and lights. The options may seem endless, but luckily we’ve done all the research for you and have found the top motorhome generators out there. 

Are motorhome generators noisy?

It’s worth finding the quietest generator for your motorhome. Noise level is an important factor to consider because you don’t want to be kept awake at night, or disturb anyone who is pitched near you. Some campsites don’t allow generators for this reason, so if you’re staying atone, be sure to double-check this first. 

Generators with inverter technology have reduced size, weight, noise and fuel consumption. They’re good for powering sensitive electronic equipment, like smartphones, tablets, computers and medical devices, as well as larger devices like air-conditioning. 

The Westinghouse iGen2500 Super Quiet Portable Inverter Generator is our favourite quiet generator, producing just 52dBA of noise output and not compromising on run time, going for up to 10 hours on its built-in fuel tank. It’s rated to provide 2500 starting watts and 2200 running watts, is super light-weight, and with a handle on top is easy to move around. It has parallel capability so that you can hook it up to a second generator for additional power output. We also like its automatic low oil shut down feature, which protects the engine. 

We also like Champion’s 3400W dual-fuel inverter could be the quietest generator for your motorhome. It operates at a noise level of 59dBA from 23 feet, which is no louder than a normal conversation and can run for up to 7.5 hours on petrol or 14.5 hours on propane. 

These two, in particular, have made it to our list because the manufacturers have considered the environmental impact of their products. Both have a smart Economy or Efficiency Mode to reduce fuel consumption, electrical load and noise even further whilst extending engine life. 

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How much do motorhome generators weigh?

How you get the generator in and out of your motorhome is important to think about. If the generator won’t be installed permanently under your vehicle, make sure it has a convenient handle and wheels for transport, as it can get pretty heavy! In general, the greater the wattage, the more it weighs. However, weight-per-wattage really depends on the model. Luckily, most 3000W - 6500W generators come with a wheel kit to help move them. A lighter option could be buying two 2000W generators and linking them to offer 3600W together if you need to run something power-intensive, like air-conditioning. When this isn’t the case, you can use just one. If this sounds like it might suit your needs better, check out the HONDA EU22200i plus companion generator, which weigh less than 23kg each. Just make sure to also purchase a parallel cable to link them.

Does fuel type matter?

When choosing the best generator for your motorhome, it’s usually best to go for one with a matching fuel-type. If you have a diesel RV get either a diesel or propane generator, and if your motorhome takes petrol, choose either petrol or propane. Propane can be stored indefinitely whereas gasoline has a shelf life of about 6 months and diesel 14 months. If you go on long and isolated trips, you’ll probably want to go for something propane-powered, like the Champion and Westinghouse models above. Diesel generators tend to be more powerful, so they could be the right investment if you need higher outputs to run your equipment. A top pick is this Pramac model, which doesn’t compromise on noise levels. However, its power is reflected in the price tag and this is usually the same case for other diesel generators. 

Are there any cheap generators out there?

Cheap generators may seem hard to come by, but it really depends on your wattage needs. For a budget option, we’d recommend the Ryobi 150W inverter generator. It provides convenient, on-the-go continuous power and is perfect for powering laptops, tablets, cell phones, and other small electronics. It does require recharging with a pack that must be bought separately, however. With a bit more power, the affordable TrueshopPetrol Digital Inverter generator makes a great mid-range option for camping trips. It’s quiet, tough and durable yet easily transportable, and has an automatic cut-off to protect sensitive electronics from power surges. But you could always make money off your motorhome to help cover the costs.

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How do I connect my generator?

This is the next step, but it’s pretty straightforward. The most important thing is buying the right adapter for the outlet of your motorhome and the plug of your generator. Luckily this is easy to find out by looking at both, and the internet is full of helpful how-to’s. Step-by-step guides may be especially helpful if you have a trailer rather than a motorhome, in which case you may need to be creative with space. Finally, it’s important to run your generator regularly to ensure it stays fuel-efficient. 

Once it’s up and running, you’ll be very grateful for having the generator. We think it’s a great purchase to help you be completely independent when you hit the road. Get adventurous and find an exciting, secluded location without compromising on comfort!