With all the modern conveniences in our RVs, having a reliable source of electricity is a must, whether you’re hooked up at a Good Sam Park or boondocking in the backwoods. Without 120-volt AC power, you won’t be cranking up the air conditioner, turning on the TV or even brewing a morning cup of coffee.
That’s why savvy RVers turn to generators to provide the comforts of home when they’re off the grid at rustic campsites and out in the wilderness. These roving RV power plants range from portable gas generators to permanently installed gas and diesel units. The virtue of owning a portable generator is that it not only keeps things humming in your RV, it comes in handy when the lights go out at home or you need to run power tools where no extension cord can reach.
You’ve probably noticed portable generators at RV accessory stores in a range of sizes, but how do you decide which one is right for you? Take a look at the following guidelines and consider the features and models that best suit your RV lifestyle. The examples are taken from Camping World’s lineup of compact, RV-ready Champion portable generators.
For a portable generator to be worth the money, it should be easy to operate. One of the most frustrating problems with generators is when they won’t start, particularly in cold weather. Champion generators include a feature called Cold Start Technology that increases fuel flow to the carburetor during cold starts, sparing you from repeated attempts to crank up the generator.
Producing electricity is only one part of the portable power equation. Being able to tap into it to get the juice to the appliance, tool or accessory is the other. Look for a generator that offers the types and number of receptacles you expect to use. Champion generators come with a variety of receptacles for 120-volt output (depending on the model) in 20-amp, 30-amp and 50-amp variations. The TT-30 RV receptacle makes it easy to use a 30-amp plug without an adapter. Larger Champion models have a 14-50R receptacle for 50-amp plugs.
Something else to think about when comparing portable generators is their mobility. Being able to get the generator where you need the power is essential. Consider whether you’ll benefit from a wheel kit, a pull handle or a frame that offers an easy grip for lifting.
Having power that’s safe to send to your sensitive electronic equipment is another essential requirement. Look for a voltage-regulation feature, such as Champion’s Volt Guard, which shuts off the power when it senses a surge or spike, protecting both the generator and your RV appliances.
Whether you’re using your portable generator at a remote campsite or at home during a power outage, noise levels matter. Who wants to listen to the endless roar of a generator while relaxing outdoors or, worse still, while trying to sleep? Improved technology means modern units are less noisy than the older models that gave generators a bad name. Champion’s 4,000-watt units sound in at 68 decibels at 23 feet—quieter than the average vacuum cleaner yet powerful enough to run a 13,500-Btu RV air conditioner.
RVers don’t need to be reminded about how the price of gas affects their travel budget. The same principle applies to portable generators. You want one that produces the power you need while stretching a gallon of fuel as far as it will go. When comparing generators, look for average run times at about 50% load, since you’ll need to draw the full load from your generator only when starting up major appliances or using multiple electric accessories. The 4,000-watt Champion models run for about 12 hours at 50% load, using about four gallons of gas. Larger generators such as the 9,500-watt Champion model run about eight hours at 50% load on about six gallons of gas. With gas prices around $4 per gallon, that’s a lot of power for less than $25.
Like any piece of power equipment, portable generators require some basic maintenance to keep them starting reliably and running efficiently. Look for products that are easy to maintain. If the job is quick, you’re less likely to put it off or skip it entirely. With that in mind, Champion generators come with a QuickDrain system that streamlines maintenance by making the oil drain plug easy to access.
Other ease-of-use features include gauges or indicators that let you monitor basic functions such as output levels (so you can see that accessories are getting sufficient power) and operating hours (so you know when to perform service). Champion’s 9,500-watt model is equipped with an IntelliGauge display that shows volts, frequency and operating hours and is conveniently located on the integrated control panel. Electric starting is another handy feature, and the Champion 9500 offers that along with manual recoil starting as a backup.
When sized right for your RV, a portable generator allows you to maintain a comfortable lifestyle, no matter where you set up camp. When choosing the best generator for your needs, keep in mind the electrical accessories you plan to power with it and their wattage requirements (usually listed on the appliance or in the owner’s manual). Remember that you probably won’t be using all the accessories at the same time. And don’t forget that appliances such as air conditioners require additional power at startup. Your generator should have sufficient output not only to start your appliances and accessories but to keep them running, so make sure the generator’s peak wattage and running wattage are adequate for the load.
Portable generators come in a wide range of sizes. Models such as the 9,500-watt Champion produce 9,500 peak watts and 7,500 running watts, enough to provide reliable backup power at home during an electrical outage or weather emergency. For powering an RV, the 4,000-watt Champion produces 4,000 peak watts and 3,500 running watts, so it can run your air conditioner and other appliances. At home, the 4,000-watt model has plenty of juice for powering tools in your workshop and running electrical accessories. For tent or pop-up campers, a compact model like the 1,500-watt Champion produces 1,500 peak watts and 1,200 running watts, so it can power a portable refrigerator, lights, a TV, a laptop, a cell phone charger and more.
If you encounter a problem with your portable generator, it’s good to know that technical assistance is available. Look for a generator manufactured by a company that’s prepared to offer support and will stand behind its product with a solid warranty. Champion generators carry a two-year limited warranty along with free technical support over the phone.
To compare generator brands and get the best value for your portable power investment, visit the CampingWorld.com
website. Type “Champion Power Equipment” in the Search bar to see the lineup of Champion products. Click on the Description and Specs tabs to find out more about each model. Then click on the Camper’s Choice Reviews tabs to see how other RVers rate their Champion portable generators.