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With A Portable RV Generator You Can Have All the Conveniences of Home

15 February 2012 1,167 views No Comment

A portable RV generator lets you power almost all of your essential appliances in your recreational vehicle. Find out what to look for when shopping for one.


The Champion 46534 Portable Generator is ideal for RV's.

Ahhh, the call of the open road. It’s a sound that many of us will hear in our lifetimes. There’s nothing like driving across the United States, traveling the countryside. You can stop where you want to and see the gorgeous landmarks and sites that the land of free and the home of brave has to offer. Your RV can take you wherever you want to go with many of the conveniences of home. If you’re planning such a trip, one thing that you shouldn’t go without is a high quality portable RV generator.

A portable RV generator is a great addition to any recreational vehicle, opening possibilities for families that are otherwise impossible. Having electricity makes you more comfortable by powering a/c units, fans, televisions, laptops, and any appliances installed in the vehicle. There are several aspects about using a generator and how they work that you should be aware of before operating one. Additionally, it is important to find the right unit for your vehicle so that you have enough power to run all of your essential appliances.

How Much Power Do You Need?

When you first start looking at generators you need to be aware of what you plan on using the machine for. You need to figure out the running watts of these appliances plus the starting watts of the largest item. Many appliances like freezers have engines that require a starting wattage that is double the regular wattage needed to run the appliance in a steady state. It’s unlikely that two such appliances would have their engines click on at the same time so calculating the one biggest unit is a good measure.

Although your needs may vary, typically a 4,000 max watt unit will handle most of the power needs for an RV. This amount of power will let you run 10,000 btu window air conditioner or a portable heater, depending on the season, along with a coffee maker, refrigerator, lights, even a television. Sub out the coffee maker and add a microwave and radio. As you can tell, you won’t be without the conveniences of home with a 4,000 watt unit. You can read more about power requirements in my article Choosing A Portable Generator.

Another consideration in addition to the total amount of power is the type of power you want. Many standard generators don’t produce clean power that can be used safely with sensitive electronics like computers. Sometimes these machines will produce an irregular sine wave pattern or a surge that can damage sensitive electronic components. You should always use a surge protector with these portable generators, but to be even safer you can purchase an inverter style generator.

Inverter style generators are able to use a specially designed alternator that produces electricity that is clean and pure and almost identical to what your power company produces at your home. In addition to cleaner power, these machines are quieter, produce lower emissions, and are more fuel efficient than standard portable generators. The disadvantage is that they are more expensive. You can read all about the advantages and disadvantages of these machines in my article about portable inverter generators on this site.

Where to Mount Your Portable RV Generator

  1. Mount the unit on the top of your vehicle. You’ll need an aerodynamic cover if you plan on doing this otherwise you’ll get a lot drag from the unit when you’re driving. When you get to your destination, having a top mounted unit makes things very easy. You won’t need to move it and deal with setting it up. All you’ll need to do is access the top of your vehicle where the portable RV generator is mounted and plug in any appliances that you want to run.
  2. You can have your unit mounted to a rack that is custom-fitted to the rear bulkhead. This is more aerodynamic than mounting the unit to the top of your vehicle, but it does require a specially designed carriage and some skilled installation. The advantages are the same as a top mounted unit – no need to move and setup the generator, just plug and play. You will have to go outside though, which could be a hassle in inclement weather.
  3. Use a rear tow. Most of the portable RV generators that I looked at for this article are small enough that you can put them into a tow with other items you are transporting. The disadvantage of doing this is that you have to set it up when you get to your destination plus you have to buy a trailer if you don’t already have one. Most portable RV generators are fairly lightweight and easily moved around though. It’s not recommended that you transport the generator in your main cabin because of the possible gas fumes that can escape from the unit even when it’s just sitting and not in use. The only time you should have the generator in your main cabin is if it is in a specially built enclosure.
  4. Use a custom-fabricated generator space within the vehicle. For the right price fabricators can install the generator in a convenient place in the vehicle that is accessible from inside. The main caution when placing the engine inside the vehicle are the fumes that are produced when it runs. Installers will create an escape for the carbon monoxide via an exhaust outlet that runs outside. As stated, this application can be very expensive and the maintenance is difficult. Changing the oil, spark plugs, so on, are more than likely going to be more difficult because of unavoidable space restrictions. The bulk of the work will lay in the encasement of the generator, the exhaust vent, and hooking the RV’s fuel supply to the generator to provide constant fuel. In addition to the other downsides is the fact that the generator will no longer be portable. Because of the interior locale of this application, assess is possible from within. The benefits of such an arrangement are summed up in the seamless operation of all factory appliances, TV’s, stoves, radios, and any other electric device.

Other Considerations

  1. CARB Compliance – California is a beautiful state with a large number of parks and historic landmarks. If you are traveling in your RV in the US you don’t want to miss it. If you want to use your portable RV generator in the state it needs to be CARB compliant. CARB stands for California Air Resources Board and they have strict air quality control and emission requirements on motors used in the state. If a product does not meet the criteria then it cannot be sold or used in the state. If they catch you, you can be fined and have your generator taken away. You don’t want that, so you better make sure that your portable RV generator is CARB compliant otherwise you won’t be using it in California.
  2. Sound levels – Many RV and state parks in the US have noise level limits. You need to make sure your portable RV generator does not exceed those levels. For the National Park Service (NPS) the sound level of a portable generator cannot exceed 60 decibels at 50 feet away from the source. Most portable generators will list their noise levels but it’s a bit harder to find at what distance that noise level was measured. A rough estimate is that every time you double the distance from the source the noise level will drop by about 6 decibels. So for the National Park Service Noise Limit you are looking at roughly 74 decibels from 10 feet away. If you want to be really exact on your sound levels you can get an inexpensive sound meter from almost any hardware store. If you’ve already purchased a loud generator that exceeds the NPS noise limit then you need to look at getting a soundproof compartment or cover that will help reduce sound levels.

Top Rated Portable RV Generators

Among the many choices for powering a recreation vehicle, the portable RV generator is still the most heavily relied on. The rugged durability that a diesel or gasoline engine is known for still rings soundly for consumers. Below is a list and breakdown of the top selling generators that are designed for use by an RV.

Champion 46534 Portable RV Generator

The gas powered 4,000 watt Champion 46534 portable generator is perfect for RV use and is already wired with an RV hookup. The Champion is CARB compliant, highly efficient and easily portable. It has a 120 volt 30 amp RV receptacle already prewired, along with a 30 amp twist lock, and a 120 volt 20 amp receptacle. You can get 12 hours of runtime on a full tank of gas running the Champion generator at 50% load. This means you can basically fill it up at night and then again in the morning and run it all day. Here’s a quick summary of some of the features of the 46534.

  • 68 dBa at 21 feet noise level rating
  • Push to reset circuit breaker
  • Less than 120 pounds
  • Wheel kit included for easy transporting
  • 6.5 horse power engine
  • 4,000 watt peak output and 3,500 rated watts
  • 4 gallon gasoline tank capacity

I also have a full Champion 46534 portable generator review that you can take a look at to learn even more about this machine. To find out the latest pricing information for the Champion Portable RV Generatorclick here. Below is a video of the Champion in use on the back of an RV.

DuraMax XP4400E-CA Portable RV Generator


With the gas powered CARB compliant DuraMax you get 4,400 surge watts and 3,500 rated watts, which is more than enough power for your RV appliances. You can easily get this generator going with an electric key start as well as a recoil start and it will run for 8 hours at 50% load on a full 4 gallon tank of gas. It has a very quiet muffler and exhaust function that results in a low 69 decibel operating level. So it’s ideal for use in state parks. Here are some additional features of the Duramax XP4400E-CA.

  • Power panel with circuit breakers, volt meter, and engine cut off switch
  • Approved by the EPA and C.A.R.B.
  • US State Park approved
  • 7 horse power overhead valve engine
  • Air cooled engine with automatic low oil shut off protection
  • Rugged construction

You can find out the price and get more information about the DuroMax XP4400E-CA Portable Generatorby clicking here. Amazon is currently offering this model for an 8% discount along with free shipping, which is an excellent deal.


A portable RV generator is an excellent addition to the family vehicle. It provides endless hours of enjoyment by powering up your appliances, hot water, televisions, radio, phone chargers in addition to the vehicle’s computer and electronic devices. Understanding the way they work and what options to consider before buying is the key to finding the perfect generator for your recreational vehicle. The great thing too is when you’re not on the road you can use the generator as a backup power supply for your home during emergencies that cause power outages. Peace of mind and the conveniences of home while on the road – a portable RV generator is the way to go.

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