Boondocking Basics

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Will a 3500 Watt Generator Run My RV?

Will a 3500 Watt Generator Run My RV?


Yes, a 3500 watt will run your RV! In fact, it will run just about any size RV. However, it depends on many appliances you want to run at the same time. It’s possible you may run into problems trying to run everything at once. But otherwise, a 3,500 watt generator is plenty of power to run just about anything in your RV.

3500 watt generator boondocking
Generator plugged into an RV

Will a 3500 Watt Generator Run My RV?

The most power hungry appliance in your RV is your air conditioning system. It requires about 3,500 watts of power to start up a typical 15,000 BTU air conditioning unit, and about 1,500 watts to keep it running. Most RVs use a 15,000 BTU air conditioning unit. Small RVs and trailers will use a 13,500 BTU unit, which require a little bit less electricity.

If you have a 3,500 watt generator, you should be able to kick start a 15,000 BTU air conditioning unit. Once you get it up and running, you will still have another 2,000 watts of generator power for other appliances. You can still power a 1,000 watt microwave oven. You can still power a 1,500 watt toaster or hair dryer. Most of these other appliances only runs for 2 to 10 minutes at most.

Read more about RV air conditioning on, “Can I Run my RV Air Conditioner on Battery Power?”

You Still Have Batteries for Your 12 Volt System

All RVs have a battery bank to power its 12 volt system. A generator is not needed for this system, though it is helpful to keep batteries charged. Your RV’s 12 volt system is what powers your lights, overhead fans, water pump, power awning, power jacks, and thermostat. These all run from your battery bank.

There are other appliances that run off of propane or 120 volt power, that also draw power from your RV’s 12 volt system. Examples are your refrigerator, which still needs 12 volt power to run its control panel. Your water heater, which generally runs off of propane, still needs 12 volt power to run its control unit. Your furnace also needs 12 volt power to run its internal fan and igniter.

camping generators

You May Need A Generator to Recharge Your Batteries

Almost all RVs have some kind of battery recharging system built-in. This usually requires you to plug your RV into a electrical pedestal at an RV park. However, you can also replace that pedestal with a generator. You use the same cable that you would use with an RV park pedestal with a generator.

A 3,500 watt generator is more than enough power to recharge your batteries. Typically, most boondockers settle for a smaller generator, usually between 2,000 to 2,200 watts. They prefer these smaller generators because they’re much lighter to carry, and require less storage space.

Read our other article, “How Big of a Generator Do I Need for Boondocking?”

3,500 Watt Generators Are Heavy

A typical 3,500 watt generator will weigh between 100 to 120 pounds. When you add fuel to it, that weight can increase by about another 40 pounds. A typical 2,000 watt generator weighs between 40 to 50 pounds. These smaller generators carry only 1 gallon of fuel, hence weight only increases by about 8 pounds.

Most boondockers who tow a trailer will store a 3,500 watt generator in the back of their pickup truck. However, they will store the smaller 2,000 watt generator in their trailer.

If you plan to buy the heavier 3,500 watt generator, be prepared to lift it into the back of your pickup truck, and be able to change its oil and filters in the back of the truck too.

For Further Reading

Read more about generators and solar panels from another boondocking expert, “The Boondoctor”… “Does Your RV Need Solar?”

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