Last Updated on October 29, 2022 by Jessica Lauren Vine
Are you asking, “How long do RV generators last?”
If you’re lucky enough to have an RV generator with your rig, then you understand how useful they can be. RV generators are a great source of backup power and allow you to enjoy the comforts of home without being at an actual campground with shore power. However, depending on your RV generator type, these comforts won’t last as long as they would with others.
On average, an RV generator can run for 8 to 10 hours at a time. However, depending on the size of your fuel tank, the type of generator you have, and the type of fuel it uses, your RV generator run time can be more or less.
If you’re thinking about purchasing an RV generator or currently have one but haven’t used it yet, knowing the estimated run time is crucial. If you know how long your RV generator will last, you can make plans for refuel and downtime. This article will look at how long different types of RV generators last and how to maximize your run time.
Generator Run Time Based on Type of Generator
Broadly speaking, there are two types of RV generators that you can use with your camper.
Portable generators are RV generators that you can use with your camper or separately for other uses. As the name indicates, a portable RV generator doesn’t have a permanent gas line connected to it. Portable RV generators can sit on a frame or be enclosed in an outer casing.
There are many different types and brands of portable generators, and some of them are more efficient than others. Inverter generators, for instance, have less fuel consumption than a traditional portable RV generator. However, they aren’t as powerful as other types of gasoline generators, which means they aren’t ideal for powering an entire RV.
Portable, gas-powered generators are also easier to maintain and manage than built-in generators. Depending on the size of your fuel tank and how many appliances you’re operating, a portable generator can last anywhere from 3 to 10 hours. With proper maintenance, it will retain this run-time. However, if you don’t maintain your portable generator, it won’t last as long.
The second option for an RV generator is a built-in generator. As the name implies, a built-in generator is built into your RV and typically accompanies it with the initial purchase. A built-in generator can use gasoline or diesel as its fuel source. However, the biggest advantage of a built-in generator is that it can get connected to your propane tank, thereby making it a propane generator.
Built-in RV generators can also operate on solar power or diesel fuel, depending on the type of generator you have. The fuel source and how much you operate with your built-in RV generator will impact how long it can run.
Because built-in RV generators can heave permanent fuel lines running to them, they can last for anywhere from 5 to 20 hours, depending on the size of your propane tank. However, built-in generators that don’t have permanent fuel lines will still last longer than portable generators because they tend to have a larger fuel tank.
Generator Run Time Based on Generator Fuel
The type of fuel your generator uses will also impact how long it lasts.
In terms of run time, propane generators can run longer than most other RV generators. You can connect a gas line directly from the generator to your propane tanks, thereby giving it a constant gas flow. The bigger your propane tank is, the longer your generator will run.
A gas generator that uses traditional, unleaded fuel typically falls somewhere in the middle in terms of run time. There are many different types and brands when it comes to choosing a gas generator for your RV. When you choose a reliable brand, such as an Onan generator, it’s likely to last and run longer than less popular brands.
On average, a gas generator can run for five to ten hours at a time and have a shorter overall lifespan than solar or built-in generators.
While solar generators aren’t as popular as other types of generators, they’re the most efficient and eco-friendly way to power your RV. Solar generators use solar panels or an electrical plugin to charge their internal batteries. Once the batteries are fully charged, you can then use your solar generator to power your RV.
As with traditional generators, solar options have many different run times. On average, however, they can only last for 1 to 5 hours, depending on the size of your generator and what all you’re powering.
Along with solar generators, diesel generators aren’t as popular as gas-powered options. However, as with diesel trucks and cars, a diesel generator can run and last longer than gas-powered generators. On average, a diesel generator is more fuel-efficient and can run for 8 to 14 hours. Diesel generators also have a lifespan of twice that of a traditional RV generator.
Can You Run Your Generator Non-Stop?
No matter what type of RV generator you have, you should never run it continuously. Continuous operation of an RV generator could cause to the generator, one of its components, or to your electrical system. As such, you should never run your RV generator for more than 24 hours at a time without stopping it.
Why It’s Important to Turn Your Generator Off Occasionally
It’s not quite as important to shut down a built-in RV generator as often as a portable RV generator, but it’s still necessary. In addition to the risk of overheating, there are several other reasons it’s important to shut down your RV generator periodically.
If you are camping at an organized campground, there will be more rules in place than when you’re boondocking. For example, most campgrounds have strict quiet hours when campers are supposed to be mindful of their camping neighbors. Conversations and activities must be kept quiet, which means that running a noisy generator isn’t an option.
Refuel or Recharge Time
On a more practical note, every RV generator, regardless of fuel type, will need to be refueled or recharged at some point. This is especially common with a portable generator because their fuel tank usually isn’t as big. However, even if you have a dual-fuel generator or one that operates on your RV’s propane, you’ll still need to turn it off for refueling.
If you have a solar generator, you’ll likely have to turn it off to give the battery bank time to recharge.
To Extend the RV Generators Lifespan
In addition to turning your RV generator off to refuel or recharge, you should also turn it off to extend its lifespan. Running your RV generator too long and hard will put more wear and tear on it than what’s necessary. While a built-in generator is more durable than a portable generator, they’ll all benefit from getting turned off occasionally.
You’ll also need to turn off your built-in or portable generator to perform periodic maintenance on it. Changing the oil filter and air filter, checking the spark plugs, adding a fuel stabilizer, and other maintenance items will extend your generator’s lifespan, and you can’t run your generator while you’re performing them.
Tips for Maximizing Your Generators Run Time
Having your generator connected to a continuous fuel source, such as a propane tank, will negate the need for a large gas tank. Your generator will run until the propane runs out, or you need to shut it down for a mandatory quiet time.
Use Big Appliances Less
The more appliances and power you use in your RV, the shorter your generator’s run time will be. Using major appliances, such as your air conditioner, refrigerator, and water heater, will quickly drain your generator.
Insulate Your Camper
By insulating your camper properly so that you don’t need to run your heater or air conditioner as often, you can help your generator last longer. Insulation will keep the conditioned air inside and the unconditioned air outside.
Install Efficient Appliances and Devices
While it’s a bit of an investment, you can help your generator last longer by installing appliances, outlets, and lights that require less power to operate.
How Long Will an RV Generator Last?
The overall lifespan of your generator depends on the type of generator you have, its fuel source, maintenance, and how roughly you use it. Here is a list of the expected overall lifespan of most generators, as long as you maintain them properly and shut them down periodically.
Portable Generator – 15,000 to 25,000 hours
Diesel Generator – 25,000 to 50,000 hours
Solar Generator – 5 to 25 years
Built-In Generator – 15,000 to 25,000 hours
How Long Do RV Generators Last? – Final Thoughts
While utilizing a generator with your RV is a great way to have continuous power, it’s important to care for it properly if you want it to last long. Continuous operation of your RV generator, operating large appliances, lack of maintenance, and overworking the generator, are all things that will lessen the run time and lifespan of your generator.
The better you care for your RV generator, and the more often you shut it down, the longer it will last.
Before heading off, make sure you check out these other RV related articles.