An RV generator is a great piece of equipment to have. It might not be that important when shore power is available at the campsite, but it becomes necessary when boondocking or tailgating. Sometimes, power will be needed for more than a day or two. With enough fuel, a generator can run continuously for that period, but is it safe? The safe runtime duration for an RV generator will be determined by the load it supplies at any given moment, the size of a fuel tank, the type of fuel, and the model of the generator.
If you are wondering how long you can run an RV generator uninterrupted, this article will answer. And also share a few tips to improve fuel consumption.
An average continuous runtime for any RV generator, whether portable or built-in, will range from 8 to 20 hours; there are exceptions, too. This article will also see the top RV generators and how long they can run.
Safe Runtime Duration for an RV Generator – How Long?
As we have mentioned, a generator’s runtime depends on many things. Most portable generators use either gasoline or propane as fuel. When it comes to efficiency, propane is much more efficient than gasoline but will generate less power than a gasoline-powered generator can.
For a gasoline generator, the continuous runtime mainly depends on the size of a gas tank. How long it will run before refueling will be a prominent factor in deciding the continuous runtime.
For propane, the deciding factor is the size of a propane tank; there will be no tank on the unit; they are available separately and in various sizes. The bigger propane tank will have increased continuous runtime. Also note this will be limited by other considerations as well and not only by propane tank size.
Someone might now argue that we can increase the runtime if gasoline is poured while the generator runs. But that is not safe, not safe at all.
A running generator is hot, which may ignite gasoline fumes, which may result in fire or explosion. On top of that, the gas may expand, which risks overflowing over the hot engine. So, don’t do that; let it cool down before refueling.
The fuel tank size for a portable generator can range from 1 to 10 gallons, and its wattage will decide the fuel consumption rate and ascertain how long the fuel will last.
When these two things are combined with the type of fuel and the power needed, you will have your uninterrupted runtime.
And at last, all these things conclude to a general result of 10 to 13 hours of continuous use, without refueling.
How Long a Built-In Generator Can Operate?
The built-in generators are the same as the portable ones. The major difference between them is their power rating and the fuel tank. They will generally have a power rating from 2000 watts to 6000 watts.
As far as the fuel tank is concerned, they don’t have one on the generator itself, and there will be a separate fuel tank to store the gasoline from where it will travel to the engine through a pipe, or there may be a direct connection from the main gas tank of your motorhome. For propane, there will be a separate tank as well.
The size of the fuel tank for a built-in generator can range from 6 gallons to as large as one with 60 gallons of capacity. Suppose you have a generator with a power rating of 4000 watts, and it is running at its full capacity; everything it can power is on. In this state, it will consume roughly 1 gallon of fuel per hour.
The same goes for propane because a 30-pound tank can store about 7 gallons of propane, which provides a runtime of 7 to 8 hours before it needs to be replaced.
If the tank is bigger, then you will get increased runtime. So, in conclusion, no matter the type of fuel a 4000-watt unit uses, it will consume 1 gallon of fuel per hour.
So, your continuous runtime will be decided by your fuel tank size. For this, you can’t refuel the gas or replace the propane tank when the generator is running.
Other than that, certain campgrounds will let you run your generator for a specific period, which may limit the continuous runtime, which has nothing to do with the generator specification.
How to Improve Fuel Consumption
Improved fuel consumption will result in longer runtimes. By doing some simple things, you can increase the runtime of your generator.
When running your air conditioner unit, you should keep the windows and the doors closed. With this, the temperature will be maintained for longer.
This will increase the time intervals between consecutive sessions as AC operates when the temperature falls below a certain limit.
Moreover, you can replace your lights with LED lights; they are more efficient and require little power. Proper and regular maintenance can also increase the runtime of a generator.
Runtimes of Different Generators
In this section, we have listed down the five best RV generators, their runtime, and the fuel tank size.
- Fuel = Gasoline
- Runtime = 16 hours on 1/4 load
- Tank Size = 5 gallons
- Fuel = Gasoline
- Runtime = 6 hours on half load
- Tank Size = 1 gallon.
- Fuel = Gasoline
- Runtime = 8 hours on full load
- Tank Size =4 gallons
- Fuel = Gasoline
- Runtime = 4 hours on half load
- Tank size =1 gallon
- Fuel = Gasoline, Propane
- Runtime = 14 hours on gasoline and 22 hours on propane
- Tank size = 2.3 gallons
Safe Runtime Duration for an RV Generator – Conclusion
Whether it is a portable generator or a built-in generator you use for your RV, the continuous runtime will be limited by many factors, which we have discussed in detail.
The generator’s brand, model, and maintenance are also the deciding factors for its runtime.
Now the question is, is it safe for a generator to run continuously for days?
The answer is yes. If you need power for more than a few days, you better have a standby generator because they have better and more robust components; a portable generator is not designed to handle that much continuous run.