When you’re travelling around in your RV, just as much as when you’re at home or work, chances are high that you need an air conditioner.
But at home, you’re connected to a whole power infrastructure that will help you keep cool at the flick of a switch or the turn of a dial.Out in your RV, power is the key to keeping cool. How you generate that power determines how cool you get and how much of your RV is bearable at one time.
That means you need a generator that powers your RV air conditioner without cutting out, giving up, or stopping short. You need the best generator for your RV air conditioner.
So… which one is that?
Don’t get overheated. You don’t need to spend long, sweaty, uncomfortable days trawling the internet for the best of the bunch.
We’ve done that for you – and our AC works just fine and dandy, thank you. Let us help you to a cooler, more reliably chilled-out future.
In a hurry? Here’s our top pick.
OUR TOP PICK
If you want to cut right to the chase and go for maximum raw power, you’re looking at the Westinghouse WGen600.
Sounds like a Terminator, works like a generator as you know it, but bigger, and better and more.
Both portable and delivering generating power steadily at 6000 watts, with peak power of 7500 watts, the WGen6000 is a full-on power factory that you can, should the need arise, even use back home in the event of a blackout.
In an RV context, 6000 steady watts is enough to power any air conditioner you care to name, as well as most or all of your other appliances and gadgets.
It has an easy startup, but it still feels like a hardcore piece of equipment – especially given it weights in at a portable but not insignificant 174 pounds.
Thankfully, it also comes with wheels and a handle for easy transport.
Is there a downside to running a generator as big and powerful as the Westinghouse? A few, sure. A full tank of fuel gets you 13 hours of generating action.
Yes, that’s a lot of power generated, but it’s also potentially expensive. And being focused on power, it’s a little rough and ready – it doesn’t have the sort of fancy, slick display panels of some models.
If you’re all about zen purity and the quiet life, the Westinghouse may not be your best friend, either.
It’s on the louder end of the available spectrum, so if it’s the generator you need in terms of power, be prepared to ride the noise.
But that said, in terms of sheer power generation, you’re not getting more watts at the price-point of the Westinghouse, so if you’re all about making sure you have the power on board to run your AC through some hot territory, this is the best generator for you.
Add a 3-year warranty and you have a generator you can use without worry.
- At 6000 watts, this is the largest capacity generator on our list
- It delivers 13 hours of power generation per tank of fuel
- It comes with wheels and a handle for easy transport
- A 3-year warranty is a boost to your peace of mind
- It’s more expensive than some less powerful generators on our list
- It’s louder than others on the list too
If you need a generator that can work with both propane and gasoline, you’re looking for a dual fuel option, and one of the most appealing in the market is the DuroMax 4400 watt.
Electric startup, easy transport with wheels and a handle, and a claimed run time of 9 hours on a tank of gas – and longer with a propane tank – make the DuroMax a smaller generator that can handle your RV air conditioner needs without blinking.
Delivering 4400 watts at startup, and a steady 3500 watts, means you should have no problems running your air conditioner, and a bunch of other appliances too, on the road or at a campsite.
The option of adding a 20 gallon propane tank is a distinct advantage, not least because propane is significantly cheaper than gasoline as a fuel.
Noise-wise, you’re looking at something that sounds like a lawnmower – which presents some challenges to balance against the cool, cool breeze of the AC.
But a reasonable capacity and the option to go dual-fuel makes the DuroMax a generator well worth considering.
- The dual-fuel option gives you flexibility and economy
- The wattage capacity here gives you more than you need for most ACs
- The price involves no sticker-shock
- It sounds like a lawnmower, which is less than fun to live with
- It may struggle to power larger AC units
Balance is important in life. The Champion 4000-watt generator helps you get a balance between expense and performance, maximizing your fuel usage.
Giving you 4000 watts at startup and a smooth 3500 watts consistently, you should have no problem running most air conditioners with this unit.
The impressive headline though is that it claims to run for 17 hours on a single tank of fuel. That’s a lot of sweet, sweet cooling action on a single tank.
In addition to this fuel economy, the Champion is a very 21st century generator, delivering clean power that won’t damage sensitive electronics, plus a USB adapter and an eco mode to help your fuel go even further.
If there’s a downer to owning the Champion, it probably only goes as far as the pull-start, rather than electric start mechanism.
Beyond that, the Champion is a generator that delivers the watts for much longer than other generators on the same amount of fuel.
- This generator has a fuel efficiency that is off the chain
- It comes with lots of options, including a handy USB adapter
- The generator’s eco mode stretches your fuel efficiency even further
- Manual startup is at odds with the technology level of this generator
- Wheels don’t come with the unit as standard
The Generac is both small, quiet, and with a 3500 watt capacity, relatively mighty.
Now, 3500 watts will cover your smaller AC unit and a handful of other gadgets, but might struggle when it comes to pouring juice into a microwave or a bigger AC.
Just as the Westinghouse is a generator specifically suited to RVs with more powerful, full-on AC units, so the Generac is for people who don’t need something with the power of a tractor chugging away in their RV all the time – but have smaller appliances all round, including their AC.
You can get around 8 hours of charge out of the Generac on a single tank of gas, though obviously, how much power your AC draws may affect that figure.
With an electric start, it’s pretty up to date, and it’s deliciously quiet even when it’s running on maximum.
That said, it still weighs in at 100 pounds and no wheels come with the unit, so you might find yourself paying out for extras that come as standard on some other generators.
- This is a very compact generator
- It’s the quietest generator on our list by some considerable way
- It comes with digital displays of things like lifespan on its current tank
- It’s unlikely to be able to power larger AC units
- It comes with no wheels, so it’s hefty to haul
If you need to power your air conditioner, but don’t want to break your bank to do it, the WEN 4750 watt generator may be the way to go.
The genius of the WEN generator is combining the hefty 4750 watt power generation (at startup, with a smooth 3750 when running normally) with a price that you’d expect to attach to a much less powerful model.
You can run the WEN for up to 10 hours on a tank of gas, which is by no means shabby.
And while it may not be bristling with plug options, it does come with an electronic startup and safety-conscious elements like a spark arrestor and a voltage regulator.
It’s on the quieter, more bearable end of the noise spectrum, and with a higher wattage than many.
That means fewer issues with mid-large AC units. If you’re still tentative about which generator to go for, the WEN is a safe option that could well outperform your expectations.
- This is the most budget-friendly generator on our list
- It has a larger wattage capacity than many, meaning easier power for your AC
- It has a decent run time on a single tank of gas
- It is relatively low on plug options, compared to some generators
Best Generators For RV Air Conditioners Buying Guide
When buying an RV generator to power your AC unit, there are a few things to take into consideration.
Bottom line, you need a generator powerful enough to handle your AC’s power drain. If you don’t get one that can handle it, you haven’t solved the problem in any meaningful way.
On the other hand, if you get a massively powerful generator and you have a small AC, you might find yourself inconvenienced by fuel inefficiency or loud noise.
Choose the generator that most closely suits your power needs, without bringing more issues to your RV adventure.
Whatever the size of your generator, it can only hold so much fuel. If it burns through a tank in 8 hours, ask yourself what kind of efficiency you’re getting. If it delivers 17 hours of power on the same tank, you might be justified in paying out more to buy the more fuel efficient model over time.
The price of various fuels is always likely to go up and down. Choose a generator that makes the most fuel efficient sense to you (propane is historically more efficient than gasoline – but also sometimes more difficult to come by in more remote locations).
If you want to open up your options of course, you can go dual-fuel, and use the cheapest or most readily available fuel wherever you end up.
Portability and Size
All the generators on our list are described as portable. Beware the true meaning of this word, though – technically, the Queen Mary was extremely portable for most of her life – that did not then and does not now translate necessarily to “lightweight.” Check out how truly portable the unit is – especially if it doesn’t come with easy transportation options like wheels and a handle.
Given that you’re looking for generators to power your AC, and so give yourself a more relaxing and comfortable time, you need to take account of the noise levels involved.
If you’re cooler, but you can’t hear yourself think, have you really achieved your goal? Wherever possible, go for a unit that delivers the power you need without drilling a hole through your brain with sound.
As with all aspects of life, and van life in particular, you need to be able to justify the cost of your generator. That doesn’t just mean the price you pay when you press the “Buy” button – it also means factoring in the fuel efficiency, the regular cost of keeping the generator going. Before you go off on any RV trip, it’s wise to make yourself a daily or weekly budget.
Know how much the generator fuel costs for the trip you’re taking, and add it into the cost of the journey.
By spending more on the generator to begin with, you may be able to get a more fuel efficient model that will repay you over time in fuel savings.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Years Will My Generator Work?
The answer to this question – as with most questions of longevity – is answered by a saying: it’s not what you’ve got, it’s how you use it.
Run your generator almost constantly and you’ll burn through its lifespan faster. Maintain it poorly and it will get ‘machine-sick’ and stop functioning sooner.
Overall though, you should expect to get something in the region of five years out of a generator – some on our list come with 3-year warranties, so if you go for those, you have an effective guarantee of that length of life, at least.
Can I Drive With The Generator Running?
You can, yes. The power source for your RV and the power source for the generator are entirely separate, so running the generator should in no way be affected by running the RV – and vice versa.
Be aware though that as you drive, things may move about in the RV. If you’re going to run the generator while you drive, make sure it’s safely positioned, cannot move accidentally, and has enough fuel to keep running until you next stop and can adjust it.
How Many Outlets Do I Need – And What Should They Be?
Bottom line, the number of outlets you need, and what they should be will depend on your personal gadget-load on any RV trip.
For the purposes of running your AC, you need one plug-in. But obviously any portable generator should do more than power one device – if that’s all you need, get a battery.
Ideally, get a range of outlet options, including a 50 amp plug, a 30 amp plug, standard 120v plugs, and some modern USB options.
Is An Electric Startup Better Than Manual?
There are two ways of starting a generator: electric or manual. A manual generator is usually a pull-cord, like you’d find on a lawnmower. Or a chainsaw, come to that. Whereas electric start is the push-button option which is less dramatic, but also potentially less dangerous.
It’s not the case that either of these options is better than the other – it’s frequently just a matter of personal choice.
It’s arguable though than in the confines of an RV, having a machine that operates on the basis of a simple push-button is much more reliable than anything that involves you making sudden jerky movements to activate a pull-cord.
Are Open Frame Generators Better Than Enclosed?
Most RV generators break down into open frame versions and enclosed versions, which are encased in plastic.
As with many things, it’s not that either one is better, it’s that they’re each better at delivering certain things.
Most enclosed units will be much quieter than open frame generators – their enclosures mean you get a muffled sound. But on the other hand, enclosed units tend to deliver significantly less in terms of wattage than the open frame units.
So, while neither is inherently better, the choice between them really depends on what is more important to you – quiet operation, which allows you to think and doesn’t interfere in the lives of your campsite neighbors, or hardcore power generation.
The answer you choose will determine which type of generator is better for you.