What Size Generator to Run RV AC ?

RV trips, camping, or boondocking sounds all fun until you hit the road in the hot summer. That is where you realize the importance of an air conditioner, and thus a viable and working RV generator comes in handy in this regard.

While some RVers wonder whether an RV generator is capable of running a full-sized air conditioner, others might ask about the appropriate size for an RV AC generator. We have got you all answered in this informative guide!

What Size Generator to Run RV AC

Below is everything you need to know regarding what size generator to run RV AC and what are its different dimensions. So make sure to check this out till the end in order to not miss out on any points.

Having said that, let’s begin:

How do RV Air Conditioners Work on Generators?

RV generators provide power to all the necessary electrical appliances that are needed for basic sustenance while you are traveling. Some of them might have low power requirements, but there are others that run on quite a high amount of energy. One such appliance is an RV air conditioner.

The working mechanism of RV ACs is mainly dependent on two things: the starting wattage capacity, which is basically the amount of power required for the machine to start up; and the other is running wattage, which is the power that ACs need to keep running. For a fact, starting wattage is many times higher than running wattage generally.

So if your RV has an air conditioner that takes up 3300 watts as starting wattage capacity, then the generator size must be, at the very least, 3300 or 3500 watts. This is to make sure that the generator gives enough power to get it started.

What Do You Mean by BTU?

While talking about the different aspects of RV AC, you’ll come across the term BTU, on numerous occasions. It is the abbreviation of ‘British Thermal Unit’, which simply represents your air conditioner’s units.

With that being said, the expression is particularly related to the amount of energy that is taken up by a pound of water to change its temperature up to 1° Fahrenheit. In this context, it refers to the unit of the cooling capacity of an RV’s air conditioning system. That being the case, ACs with higher cooling capacity will have higher BTU values.

What Generator Size Do I Need to Run RV Air Conditioner

So here comes the main point of discussion, i.e. what size generator is perfect to have for an RV air conditioner. To get straight to it, the BTU value of an AC will determine the wattage capacity of the generator that is required to run the AC.

Among all the other appliances that you want to connect with your generator, AC is the one that needs to be kept at the top of the list when it comes to calculating the power demands. That’s precisely because of its large size.

In addition to what has been said, you can relate the BTU unit of your AC with the corresponding starting wattage value – in order to determine the generator size easily. Besides, you can find the starting wattage capacity of your RV AC either in the set of instructions provided by the AC manufacturers or in the RV’s manual.

Having said that, the following is the basic set of measurements that can help you have an overview regarding the different sizes of RV generators you can buy for RV AC.

Firstly, if the BTU value of the air conditioner in your RV is around 10,000 then the minimum wattage required for a startup can be measured at around 1800 W – whereas 1200W can be the running wattage rate.

Similarly, in the case of 13,500 BTU, the number of starting watts is to be measured at around 2750 watts; while it would hardly take up 1250 watts of power for running constantly. Another most common size of AC is available at a 15,000 BTU rating. In that case, you’d need to have a generator that gives at least 3500 watts of starting wattage, and somewhere around 1600W running wattage.

Comparison Table – What Size Generator to Run RV AC

Comparison Table - What Size Generator to Run RV AC

Tips and Tricks to Maintain RV AC

Now before we move on to conclude our discussion, let’s have a sneak peek at how exactly you need to keep up with the maintenance of the RV AC that you’re using. So without further ado, let’s get started with this:

  • Make sure to keep the cleaning element of the AC’s filters in check quite often.
  • In order to have a long-lasting air conditioner working in your recreational vehicle, better not run all the electrical appliances all at once, while the AC is running at generator power.
  • You need to balance out the energy being used by the AC. So in that regard, make sure to connect light devices with the generator.

Learn More: What Size Generator To Run RV Furnace?
Learn More: How To Run RV AC Without Generator?


This brings us to the end of our discussion on what size generator to run RV AC is the most appropriate. You have a multitude of options to choose from depending on the other number of appliances you’re running on an RV generator alongside an air conditioner. So make sure to keep in mind all the aforementioned details in order to make the right decision.

Frequently-Asked Related Questions (FAQs):

1. What size generator do I need for a 13500 BTU RV air conditioner?

To get this straight, the most appropriate generator size needed for a 13500 BTU RV air conditioner is the one with almost 3000 watts of starting wattage capacity. As the size of the AC of your recreational vehicle increases, the size of the generator would also increase depending on the number of starting and running watts required by the air conditioner.

2. How many amps does an RV AC use?

While it depends upon the size, model, and age of your RV air conditioner and how much amperage power it would take, the average of it had been around 11 to 16 amps. Nevertheless, the newer RV ACs are much closer to using 11 amps or so – whereas the older models are more inclined towards 16 amperes of power.

3. What size generator do I need for a 30 amp RV air conditioner?

In order to determine the best generator size for a 30 amp RV, multiply the number of volts, i.e. 120V, by the amperage value. So turns out the following facts: 30 x 120 = 3600. Conclusively, the maximum size for a 30 amp RV generator needs to be 3600W, because it won’t be capable of handling higher watts than that.

In a similar context, for a 30-amp RV air conditioner, the perfect size could be measured by keeping in view the starting watts of the machine. Besides, you can convert the BTU value into watts as 3.41 BTU/h equals 15 watts.

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