So, if you are like me, the idea of buying a generator is exciting and brings thoughts of freedom from ‘the plug.’  It is the final link from truly going unplugged. After all, we have holding tanks, we have fresh water tanks, why not have the trifecta and have portable power too, right?!? However, when you start trying to figure out which generator to purchase, reality sets in. Generator Wattage? Dual Connection Kits? Now you have to figure out what size generator from the max wattage to running wattage, what fuel source is best, and maybe the most important – how loud?

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After doing a lot of research, I hope the following makes it easy to at least narrow the field down for you.

First things first, you need to figure out what are the “must have items” in your rig you want to to run, and which you can live without.  In most cases the air conditioning is the best place to start as it will require the most wattage to run.  Next, add up the other items you want to have power and you will start narrowing it down.  The following is a guide to get your started with the most common starting and running wattage:

Item Approximate Starting Watts Approximate Running Watts
A/C 13,500 btu 2800-3000W 1300-1800W
A/C 15,000 btu 3300-3500W 1500-2000W
Microwave 1000W 1000W
RV Refrigerator 600W 180W
Coffee Maker 600W 600W
Slow Cooker 170-270W 170-270W
Hair Dryer 1900W 1800W
Electric Grill (Counter-top) 1700W 1700W
Radiant Heater 1300W 1300W
Small Flat TV 120-200W 120-200W
Small Tube TV 300W 300W
DVD Player 350W 350W
Satellite Receiver 250W 250W
Radio 50-200W 50-200W
Laptop Computer 250W 250W
Portable Fan 120W 40W
Lights See Light Bulb See Light Bulb

Want to keep this in your camper or RV? Use the form below to download our FREE Printable Wattage Chart. We suggest printing a few and taping them to the inside of your bathroom cabinet, the bunkhouse and the kitchen so you don’t tax your generator wattage!

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Ok, take a breath, it is not as hard as you may be thinking to figure out.  Let’s say you have a 15,000 btu A/C and want to be able to run your fridge, and your TV.  Just start with the highest wattage usage first – the air conditioner.

To start the A/C, you would need upwards of 3,500 watts.

Once the air conditioner was started, you could run the refrigerator and television with a running wattage of approximately 2,800 watts.

2,000W A/C + 600W Fridge + 200W TV = 2,800W

In this example, you would have enough power left over to run 700 watts of additional electronics.

3,500W minus 2,800W =  700W

This should be plenty left over to run your lights, radio, or plug in your cellphone/laptop.  It may also be a good idea to purchase a unit that can run in parallel (hook two units together to double the power) in case you need to increase the power down the road.

Simple Guide to Determining What Size Generator You Need for Your RV, Travel Trailer or 5th Wheel