What size generator do I need to power an RV?

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Stainless steel refrigerators, microwave ovens, and air conditioners (ACs); modern recreational vehicles (RVs) are truly home away from home. In fact, some of the large and luxurious RVs feature RV generators that are more powerful than the back-up power generator you might be using at your home. 

You might feel overwhelmed as you try to find the right size generator to power your RV. There are lots of options in the market and terminology around watts, amperages and volts. Meanwhile, there are simple methods you can use to narrow your options. In this article, you will find the answers to common generator sizing questions. If you are new to RV generators, check out RV generator basics for an intro.

What size generator do I need for my RV?

While the size of the generator you need depends on specific equipment you have within the RV, below is some high-level guidance. 

Generator sizes for different RVs
  • Class B Van with one AC unit: 2,000 to 3,600 watts
  • Class C RV with one AC unit: 2,800 to 4,000 watts
  • Class A RV with two AC units (15,000 BTU each): 5,500 to 8,000 watts
  • Class A RV with three AC units (15,000 BTU each): 10,000 to 12,500 watts
  • Fifth wheel with two AC units: 5,500 to 7,000 watts 

Please keep in mind, these ranges could change based on your specific equipment. 

Let’s take a more detailed look at the equipment within your RV, which will help identify the generator size you need. 

The first consideration is the electrical power needed by each appliance and device. Here is a list of common appliances and the amount of electricity they each need. 

Electricity consumed by RV appliances
  • AC units are often the appliance that requires the most power in an RV. AC units 13,500 to 15,000 BTU need between 1,200 and 2,400 watts of electricity to run. If you have multiple AC units, you can multiply the wattage needed accordingly.
  • Dishwasher: 1,200 to 2,400 watts 
  • Stove: 900 to 2,500 watts
  • Hair dryer: 1,200 to 1,875 watts
  • Clothes iron: 1,000 to 1,800 watts
  • Washer: 1,000 to 1,500 watts
  • Coffee maker: 900 to 1,200 watts 
  • Microwave: 750 to 1,500 watts 
  • Toaster: 800 to 1,400 watts 
  • Refrigerator: 400 to 1,000 watts
  • Blender: 450 to 700 watts 
  • TV: 43 to 600 watts 
  • Radio: 50 to 200 watts
  • Gaming console: 70 to 180 watts 
  • Laptop: 20 to 50 watts 

Please note that some appliances have large compressors and motors. These could require higher wattage when they start.

The second consideration is looking at the usage pattern for the appliances and devices. For example, you would likely not operate all these appliances at the same time. In addition, some appliances like refrigerators will run more frequently than others, like toasters. 

The final consideration is the difference between starting and running power. Some appliances need more power for a short time at the beginning of their operation. For example, AC units would draw much more power when they first start. 

What is the difference between 30-amp and 50-amp RV?

Let’s start with the basics. Electricity is simply the flow of electrons. You can read more about it in our article explaining the difference between electricity and energy. Amperage is the volume of electrons that flow, and a higher amperage means more electrons flowing and consequently more electricity. 

Thirty amp and 50-amp are the two most common electrical service capacities used within RVs. A 50-amp service can handle more electric power than a 30-amp service; this is because a 50-amp service can handle a higher volume of electrons. When you multiply amperage with voltage, you find the electrical power. Most electrical equipment in RVs operate at 120 volts, independent of 30-amp or 50-amp service. 

To find how many watts of power you have available, you need to multiply volts times amps. For example, a 30-amp RV with a 120 V electrical source would be capable of handling about 120 x 30 or 3,600 watts of electric power. 

What size generator do I need for a 30-amp RV?

An RV with a 30-amp shore power connection and with 120 V equipment would be capable of handling a maximum of about 3,600 watts of electric power. This means a 3,600-watt generator would give you the same amount of power as shore power. Meanwhile, you can also get a 4,000-watt generator for these coaches to give additional electrical motor-starting power. 

A 2,500-2,800-watt generator is often a good minimum threshold for 30-amp RVs that have AC units. 

What size generator do I need for a 50-amp RV?

An RV with a 50-amp shore power connection typically has two separate 50-amp feeds. This is different than a 30-amp RV with only one 30-amp feed. A 50-amp RV with a 120 V electrical feed is capable of handling 12,000 watts of electric power. This means a 12,000 or 12,500-watt generator could be your top end choice.

You can also get a better sense of the generator you need using the bullet points in the first section of this article, under “What size generator do I need for my RV” header.

Now that you have a better idea on the generator size you need, don’t forget to check how to find a quiet generator for your RV.

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Aytek Yuksel - Cummins Inc

Aytek Yuksel

Aytek Yuksel is the Content Marketing Leader for Cummins Inc., with a focus on Power Systems markets. Aytek joined the Company in 2008. Since then, he has worked in several marketing roles and now brings you the learnings from our key markets ranging from industrial to residential markets. Aytek lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife and two kids.

Home Standby Generators are smart tech and a smart choice

illustration of home with generator

This article was authored by Chuck McClaugherty, Bear Electric, a Cummins Authorized Dealer.

Smart phones, smart TVs, virtual assistants, smart thermostats, smart locks and doorbells. Our homes are now filled with smart devices. Unfortunately, most of them become useless without power to run or recharge. This is why homeowners should consider installing one smart device above all other: a home standby generator. 

As a Cummins Authorized Dealer, I install a lot of Cummins QuietConnect™ home standby generators throughout Oregon. With increasingly severe weather, rolling blackouts, and aging power grids, I can tell you without a doubt a backup generator is a worthwhile investment. 

The best part of owning one of these smart devices? You don’t have to tell it when to turn on and off. It does it automatically. 

In a nutshell, here’s the process:

When we install a Cummins home standby generator, we also install a Cummins automatic transfer switch. This transfer switch constantly monitors the electric utility power coming into the home. If it detects a break in service, it will automatically disconnect the home from the electric utility line in a split second and turn on the Cummins generator to power the home instead. The generator is fed either by a natural gas line or by a propane tank.

While the Cummins generator is powering the home, the transfer switch will continue to monitor the electric utility line. Once it detects that power has been restored, it’ll automatically disconnect the generator from the home’s electrical system and reconnect the electric utility.

You don’t have to do anything. Nada. Zilch. The generator and the transfer switch do all the work. In some cases, you may not even realize there’s a power outage until you look out the window and see all your neighbor’s houses are dark.

Just as critical as having a Cummins Authorized Dealer professionally install your backup generator and transfer switch is making sure you choose the right size generator for your home. If it’s too small, the load won’t be able to power everything in the house. If it’s too big, you’ll consume extra natural gas or propane when you use it.

The easiest way to make sure you select the right size generator is to have your dealer do it for you. But if you want to get a feel for how much generator you’re going to need, Cummins has an excellent blog post on calculating the generator wattage you need or you can use the generator size calculator at Cummins.com.

We live in a world full of smart devices. Make sure you can keep yours up and running during power outages with a Cummins QuietConnect home standby generator. To find a dealer near you, use the Cummins dealer locator. Or, if you live in Oregon, just contact me at (503) 678-3417 or [email protected] 

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins, a global power technology leader, is a corporation of complementary business segments that design, manufacture, distribute and service a broad portfolio of power solutions. The company’s products range from internal combustion, electric and hybrid integrated power solutions and components including filtration, aftertreatment, turbochargers, fuel systems, controls systems, air handling systems, automated transmissions, electric power generation systems, microgrid controls, batteries, electrolyzers and fuel cell products.

1-800 Cummins software update

Sales and Service truck parked by bridge

Cummins Inc. (NYSE: CMI) is pleased to announce that 1-800-CUMMINS will be offering software sales as an added feature. The suite of software supported by this new feature includes INSITE, QSOL, PowerSpec, INCAL, and Guidanz IA. Making this available through 1-800-CUMMINS will streamline customer handoffs, reduce downtime, and ensure our customers receive responsive and proactive software sales support, every time. 

What’s changing?

•    New Software Sales option on 1-800-CUMMINS™  
•    All calls to legacy numbers will be redirected to 1-800-CUMMINS™

What’s staying the same?

•    Customers can still call 1-800-CUMMINS™ for parts support, general product and service inquiries, and service provider technical assistance for engines, generators, and Cummins digital products. 

When did the change take place?

•    Monday, October 10, 2022

 “I am thrilled about this new offering we are providing our customers. Not only will this help them get the support they need faster, but it also helps reduce customer complexity,” added Greg Ehlinger, Executive Director, Centralized Solutions. “Our customers depend on us to power their business and having trusted solutions delivered easily and accessibly by experts who care is one way we are doing that.” 

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins, a global power technology leader, is a corporation of complementary business segments that design, manufacture, distribute and service a broad portfolio of power solutions. The company’s products range from internal combustion, electric and hybrid integrated power solutions and components including filtration, aftertreatment, turbochargers, fuel systems, controls systems, air handling systems, automated transmissions, electric power generation systems, microgrid controls, batteries, electrolyzers and fuel cell products.

Cummins Inc. and EDF Renewables enters into a distributed photovoltaic Power Purchase Agreement

contract signing ceremony

Covering seven manufacturing entities with a total installed capacity of 16.5 MWp, reducing carbon emissions in facilities and operations significantly.

Cummins China and EDF Renewables signed a distributed photovoltaic PowerPurchase Agreement in Beijing, aiming to cut down electricity consumption from traditional grids and reduce carbon emissions in Cummins facilities & operations. Cummins will provide the roof & ground space and will consume the generated solar power, EDF Renewables will be responsible for the investment, installation and operation of solar PV generation equipment. WANG Ning, Vice President of Cummins, and Erwann Debos, CEO of EDF Renewables China, completed the signing of the contract on behalf of both parties. 

EDF is a global leader in renewable energy, including wind and solar. EDF Renewables has profound technical capabilities and service experience in the field of photovoltaic power generation. The partnership will install distributed photovoltaic power generation system at 7 manufacturing entities in Beijing, Wuxi, Wuhan, Chongqing and Liuzhou . With a total installed capacity of 16.5 MW, the project can provide about 280 million kWh of power generation in 20 years, saving about 158,000 tons of carbon emissions. 

"We are pleased that Cummins and EDF are working together in the field of distributed photovoltaics to provide new opportunities for Cummins to expand green energy consumption and reduce emissions from plant operations. It will help Cummins achieve renewable electricity use accounting for more than 10% of total electricity consumption by 2023 in China region. This project will further enable our capability in green production and operation, and position us well for sustainable development,” said WANG Ning. 

At present, the use of building roof to install photovoltaic system is a very effective way for corporate customers to reduce their carbon emissions. Cummins and EDF signed a 20-year power purchase contract, which can achieve carbon emission reduction targets and electricity cost savings at the same time. 

Erwann Debos said at the signing ceremony, "We are honored to provide Cummins with distributed photovoltaic Renewables solutions to help Cummins achieve its PLANET 2050 strategic goals. EDF Renewables aims to work hand in hand with customers to provide the most advanced integrated energy management solutions around the low-carbon transformation of enterprises, and to empower the global energy transition."

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins, a global power technology leader, is a corporation of complementary business segments that design, manufacture, distribute and service a broad portfolio of power solutions. The company’s products range from internal combustion, electric and hybrid integrated power solutions and components including filtration, aftertreatment, turbochargers, fuel systems, controls systems, air handling systems, automated transmissions, electric power generation systems, microgrid controls, batteries, electrolyzers and fuel cell products.

5 businesses that can benefit from selling Cummins generators

Cummins dealer discussing home generator

Ninety percent of American business are small- and medium-size. They are the true engines of our economy, employing millions of workers. With many of them looking for new ways to expand their services, generate income and grow their businesses, Cummins home standby and portable generators could be a new source of revenue. 

A Silver Lining in Dark Clouds

According to the Associated Press, power outages from severe weather have doubled over the past two decades, straining our country’s aging power grid. This has increased the frequency and duration of power outages. These frequent outages create a need for reliable backup power for households and other businesses. And for enterprising small- and medium-size businesses, satisfying this need with Cummins generators is a huge opportunity.   

Which businesses could benefit the most from becoming Cummins authorized dealers? Here are our top five:

1. General Contractors — When natural disasters such as ice storms, hurricanes, high winds, forest fires or earthquakes hit, lost power isn’t the only challenge customers face. There is often physical damage to property that must be repaired. When they are helping customers to rebuild, general contractors have an opportunity to estimate home or business’s energy needs and suggest adding a Cummins QuietConnect™ Home Standby Generator. If the customer agrees, the general contractor not only profits from the sale of the generator, but also the labor to install it.

2. Electricians — A good electrician is a trusted source of information. Not only are they experts with the flow of electrons, they often know their customer’s specific electrical setups. After a prolonged power outage, many are often asked “Is there anything you can do to keep my electricity on the next time the power goes out?” Electricians who sell and install Cummins QuietConnect Home Standby Generators can say, “Yes, yes there is.” Installing home standby generators can be another valuable service that electricians provide.

3. Heating & Cooling Contractors — During a power outage, one of the most critical systems knocked offline for home and business owners is their central heating and cooling system. Going without heat or cool air for a long period of time is not only uncomfortable, it can be dangerous if the temperatures are extreme outside. So, naturally, once power is restored, finding a way to keep the HVAC system on during the next power outage becomes top-of-mind. Since heating and cooling contractors are experts at installing large systems in homes and businesses, adding Cummins QuietConnect standby generators to homes and businesses is a natural way to add another profit center to their businesses.

4. Online Retailers — Up until now, we’ve been discussing standby generators. For businesses that don’t specialize in installing generators permanently into place, Cummins portable generators can be a moneymaker.  While portable generators can be used during power outages, they are better suited to smaller tasks due to their portability. This makes them ideal for camping, tailgating, construction worksites and more. With Cummins’ rugged and reliable reputation, our portable generators are ideal for retailers focused on these market segments.

5. Solar Panel Installers — Most home solar panels are connected directly to the power grid. So, when the power goes out, the solar panels stop providing power. For a backup source of electricity, solar panel installers can either install a solar battery backup, which gets charged by the solar panels, or a home standby generator. Typically, solar battery backups can only power a home for a few hours, so if an area is prone to weather-related outages, a home standby generator such as the Cummins QuietConnect is the better choice.

The Time is Now

With more people than ever looking for backup power generation, now’s a great time to expand your company’s offerings by becoming a Cummins authorized dealer. To learn more visit, cummins.com/partners/dealers.

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins, a global power technology leader, is a corporation of complementary business segments that design, manufacture, distribute and service a broad portfolio of power solutions. The company’s products range from internal combustion, electric and hybrid integrated power solutions and components including filtration, aftertreatment, turbochargers, fuel systems, controls systems, air handling systems, automated transmissions, electric power generation systems, microgrid controls, batteries, electrolyzers and fuel cell products.

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