Can I run my RV generator all night?

In this article, we will answer the following question: Can I run my RV generator all night? We will discuss RB generator maintenance, type of fuel and other important aspects on how to make the best of your RV generator. 

Can I run my RV generator all night?

Yes, it is possible to run your RV generator all night, but the type of generator you have will determine how long the fuel will last. On average, an RV generator can last from 8 to 20 hours. See below the most popular RV generator types and their running time:

RV generatorRunning time
Yamaha 900 Running Watts/1000 Starting Watts, Gas Powered Portable Inverter
12 hours at 1/4 load
Firman H03652 4,000-Watt Dual Fuel Generator
14 hours 
Generac 6864, 5000 Running Watts/5500 Starting Watts
32.4 hours
DuroStar DS4000S 3300-Watt Gas Generator8 hours at 1/2 load
Champion 7500-Watt Gas Generator8 hours 
Champion 2800-Watt Inverter Generator
14.5 hours at 1/4 load
WEN 56200i 2000-Watt Gas Powered Portable Inverter Generator6 hours at 1/2 load
Firman H08051 8000-Watt Dual Fuel Generator12 Hours 
Honda 120-Volt Super Quiet Portable Inverter Generator4.0 – 9.5 hours
DuroMax XP12000E 9500-Watt Gas- And Propane-Powered Generator10 hours at 1/2 load
Generac GP3500iO Open Frame RV Ready Inverter Generator12 hours at 1/2 load

How does the RV generator work?

The generator in an RV basically consists of an electric winding driven by an internal combustion engine, diesel, gasoline or gas, capable of producing alternating current. The type of fuel will be determined primarily by the fuel used in your vehicle’s main engine. In the case of caravans, a very popular option is those fueled by propane gas.

If you have a 30 amp electrical system in your motorhome you can basically use 3,600 watts before exceeding the capacity of the electrical system. 30 amps x 120 volts = 3,600 watts. This is why manufacturers of motorhomes with 30-amp electrical systems equip them with 4,000-watt generators. RVs with 50 amp electrical systems are equipped with larger generators.

Motorhomes with 2 air conditioners up to 15000 BTU can be equipped with an 8000-watt generator to supply all the consumption on board, although it is true that the dryer or the washing machine cannot be used with both breaths of air on. RVs with three air conditioners typically have a 10,000-watt generator.

Do I need fuel for an RV generator?

Yes, you will need fuel for an RV generator. The usual thing in American motorhomes is that the generator is implemented through a diesel engine, however, there are versions that work with gasoline engines, and there are even generators that work with liquefied gas (propane or butane).

If the generator is to be permanently mounted on the vehicle, you must choose the type of fuel based on the fuel used by the main engine of your vehicle. If this is diesel, the generator should be diesel, if the base vehicle has a gasoline engine, the generator should run on that fuel. In this way, your generator can be connected to the fuel tank of the main vehicle.

This permanent connection allows us to forget about filling a specific fuel tank for the generator. The fuel intakes for the generator must be located above the fuel intake of the main engine, this way the generator will not be able to drain the main vehicle.

LPG generators are usually pretty quiet, and that’s probably their best asset. However, the gas lines that feed the generator must be checked annually and completely replaced every 7, which adds an extra maintenance process to the vehicle.

Basic maintenance of an RV generator

The generator is a piece of equipment that allows us complete independence from the electrical network. They are very easy to use equipment: you press a button and that’s it! almost like at home … and this is where the Achilles heel of these devices appears: almost no one takes care of preventive maintenance.

All machines, but especially those that operate thanks to an internal combustion engine, break down more easily when they are not used regularly. The problem is twofold: on the one hand, moisture forms inside the engines, their fuel supply and exhaust systems; and on the other, the degradation of the fuel itself that forms a film on the walls of all the engine systems in contact with it.

In a generator, these problems are increased, by the mere fact that the engine is small. The degraded fuel film causes the generator not to start easily, but above all, it prevents it from reaching a stable operating regime, and a generator bases its operation on that stable regime, which allows it to generate electricity with a frequency and constant tension. 

Such a problem can quickly damage your most expensive household appliances: television sets, computers, laser printers, oxygen generators, etc.

To prevent all these types of problems, the generator must be operated with a load of at least 50% of its nominal capacity every month for at least 2 hours in a row. This simple procedure will allow the removal of any moisture and will control the formation of degraded fuel films inside the engine. In addition, this will keep all moving engine parts and gaskets properly lubricated.

Note that it is preferable to operate the generator for two hours continuously, be careful not to turn it off during these maintenance sessions. Like many generator owners, you can run it on your travels with one of the air conditioners running (cold in the summer and as a heat pump in the winter).

Like all internal combustion engines, a generator has an air filter, fuel filter, oil filter, and oil for greasing its moving parts. All these consumables must be changed regularly, consult your equipment manual to verify the appropriate periodicity for each item.

There are some parts of your engine that do not appear in the maintenance chart, but that in my opinion should be included in the preventive maintenance: main timing belt, oil pump and fuel pump. If your generator does not have brushes you will not have to worry about the electrical part of it, otherwise, the wear of the brushes will imply their replacement, but also that of the collector sooner or later.

It is very rare for the electronic control section of the generator to have problems that can be avoided with preventive maintenance. The only thing I can contribute at this point is that the electrical connections with the starter battery should be checked (usually located at the back of the equipment). Make sure no rust is formed by coating them with electrical connector grease.

Use your RV generator with modesty

The reality is that the use of the generator must be reduced to a minimum if you want to spend more than 24 hours in a campsite without your neighbours presenting complaints.

To reduce the use of a generator, the first measure is to have the electrical system designed as tightly as possible. Your motorhome must be able to work, at least with all its basic services started, from the batteries. 

These must-have enough capacity to support the estimated consumption for the RV for more than a full day without the need for any kind of element to recharge them. 1.3 days if you generally have a plug, or up to 2 full days if you mainly use your caravan outside a campsite.

Second, it is necessary to have a system that can supply the amount of energy that we consume during the day so that we can guarantee that at the beginning of a new day, our battery pack is fully charged. For this, a suitable charger and a set of solar panels are basic elements.

In the event that the weather does not allow the batteries to be fully recharged, they must withstand that uncharged part for several days, without having to turn on the generator. My recommendation is to think that the batteries can be 90% charged so that we lose 10% daily if the sun is not good.

If you have done the calculations correctly, you should find that you will need to start your generator a couple of hours every two to three days to ensure that your battery bank never discharges below 50%. The idea is that our electrical system must be designed with the generator in mind as just a residual method of generating energy.

The best way to guarantee a good coexistence on a campsite or in a free camping area is to keep the use of the generator to a minimum (no matter how much insulation we manage to add). Use the generator only during the central hours of the day, Europeans accept a higher noise level between 11:00 and 14:00, try to start the generator in that time slot.

Lastly, the use of AGM batteries can reduce generator usage. These batteries, with their low internal resistance, allow a higher rate of charge than those of any other type. A powerful solar controller can feed a lot of energy very quickly into these types of batteries.

Do you have any questions or tips on how to improve this content? Please feel free to leave a comment. 


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