Disclaimer: As this is an affiliate site, I’ll earn a small commission from qualified purchases, at no additional cost to you.
From keeping yourself cool on a warm night to powering a CPAP machine, there can be many reasons to run an RV generator all night.
But, thinking about running a generator while sleeping brings up concerns that bug many new to boondocking.
Can I run my RV generator while sleeping? Is it safe to leave a generator running all night?
The short answer is, YES, you can run an RV generator (both onboard and portable units) overnight. However, there are a few things you need to keep in mind to ensure the safety of your family and the generator itself.
In this article, I’ll discuss the six most important things to keep in mind before you call it a night with your generator running.
Table of Contents
6 Things to Know Before Sleeping with A Running RV Generator
Generators are designed to run, be it day or night.
But some issues are easy to deal with when you’re awake than when asleep.
Though most of your RV appliances can be powered using your house batteries and an inverter. But, to power your air conditioner and other large appliances, you need to run the generator.
This is where many new RVers shy away from boondocking during summer as they have heard “sleeping with a running RV generator is dangerous”.
Well, it can be unsafe and more so if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Here are six things to keep in mind before running your generator all night to keep you comfortable and worry-free.
01. Safety is Your #1 Priority
You don’t want to run your generator all night to sleep comfortably and wake up dead because of CO poisoning or fire.
One of the biggest concerns about running your generator overnight to power your RV air conditioner comes from its exhaust fumes.
Generators use combustion engines that produce various types of gases as they run. Of them, Carbon Monoxide is what concerns us the most.
Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that can KILL you and your pets pretty quickly. It is known as a silent killer because the gas is colorless, odorless, and tasteless.
From an open window to the gaps between your slide-outs, there are many ways this toxic gas can find its way inside your RV.
However, there are ways to prevent CO from seeping into your camper by:
- Close all the doors, windows, and vents properly before running your RV generator. Additionally, retracting the slides will seal your RV better.
- Place your portable generator at least 15-20 feet away from your RV with the exhaust pointing towards the wind. You can also run a portable fan behind your unit to push the fumes further away on windless days.
- Inspect your onboard generator’s exhaust pipe for cracks and blockages, as this will force the exhaust gases inside the generator compartment.
- Be aware of your neighbor’s generator exhaust if you’re parked close to them.
Pro Tip: Motorhomes with onboard generators can install an exhaust venting system that will help direct the hot gases up above the roof.
Above all, make sure you have multiple Carbon Monoxide Detectors installed in various areas of your RV to prevent CO poisoning. A CO detector is the fastest and the most effective way to detect the presence of this poisonous gas around you.
Note: As Carbon Monoxide is lighter than air, it rises. That is why you need to install the CO detectors at least 5 feet above the floor. Additionally, make sure there are no obstacles that muffle the alert.
Here is the link to a high-quality carbon monoxide detector that got raving reviews on Amazon for its reliability.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning is my top concern when running my generator while sleeping. You can end up dead in your sleep if you don’t take proper measures to prevent the gas from getting inside your rig.
The second safety issue comes from generator fires, which is a leading cause of RV fires.
It is common with built-in generators with poor maintenance records.
The fuel in a generator, be it gasoline, diesel, or, propane is extremely flammable. With less maintenance and service, wear and tear will take a toll on the machine.
This leads to faulty electrical connections, leaks in the fuel lines, and most importantly, overhearing your generator.
This is a disaster waiting to happen.
Issues with a fire burning down an RV are less common with portable generators as they sit far away from your RV. However, a poorly maintained portable generator mounted on your RV can also be hazardous.
Always follow a strict maintenance schedule to avoid disasters and keep the unit in top working order.
Additionally, check the maintenance record of the RV and its generator when renting one.
Remember, the chances of fatalities due to motorhome fires are slim when you’re awake compared to if it happens when asleep.
02. Sleeping with the Noise can be Difficult
For me, falling asleep to the buzz of a running generator is difficult.
During the day, a generator’s noise is muffled because of sound from the environment. But, at night, when everything is quiet, they can reach far.
Though many find the humming sound of a generator is like white noise that helps them sleep better. Some even like the sound because it helps muffle the snoring of their partners.
However, light sleepers may find the sound very disturbing.
It is also rude and is considered poor camping etiquette to run generators if you have neighbors close by who feel disturbed.
Most National Parks have restrictions on generator hours and the maximum noise it can make. You can’t run a generator between 10 pm to 6 am unless you have medical equipment to power.
Note: You should check with Walmart/Cracker Barrel authorities if you’re parking in one before running the generator at night.
With a portable generator, you don’t have to worry a lot about the sound getting inside the camper as the generator is positioned far from the rig.
However, with onboard generators, you have nowhere to hide from the noise and the vibration. Sometimes the generator compartments are right beside or under your bedroom.
Though, with everything closed and the AC running, the generator’s noise drops to an acceptable level. Most importantly, you get used to the humming sound of your generator over time.
I have heard some suggest using earplugs to avoid the annoying sound of the generator at night. However, I would advise against it as using earplugs will prevent you from hearing your CO detectors alarm and anyone knocking at your door in case of an emergency.
03. Secure your Generator to Discourage Thieves
There is one thing that gets stolen the most from any campsite; a portable generator.
RVers with a built-in generator don’t have to worry about it, but RVs with portable generators should keep this in mind.
Leaving your portable generator running outside in the middle of the night is like an open invitation for thieves. Your generator is sitting duck, far from your rig, and at that hour, there is no one around.
All the thief has to do is pick the generator up and drive away.
The easiest way to secure your RV generator is to chain it down to something. I usually chain my generator to my truck with a cable lock like the one from Master Lock.
You can also mount your portable generator on your RV bumper and chain it down. This will keep it secure, hand you the freedom to run it while driving and remove the need to carry it around.
I also have a Power Failure Light that is connected to a power strip in my bedroom. This adds an extra layer of security by alerting me as the power from the generator is cut off.
It is impossible to prevent a thief from stealing your unit if he has made up his mind. What we can do is make the process difficult for them, which will buy us enough time to get up and take action.
04. Fill in Sufficient Fuel to Run Overnight
Sleeping with a running generator can quickly become a pain if you have to refuel it every few hours in the middle of the night.
From load to size, there can be many factors that affect fuel consumption in a generator. However, it may also be that your generator has a small fuel tank or has less runtime on a single tank.
This isn’t an issue for motorhomes with an onboard generator as they use fuel from the tank that is used to run the motorhome.
Note: Onboard motorhome generators come with a safety mechanism that cuts off the fuel supply to the generator once you reach a certain level. This prevents your generator from drying your motorhomes fuel tank and keeping you stranded.
A 4500 Watt Dual Fuel Inverter Generator at 25% load can run continuously for 14 hours on a single tank of gas (2.3 gallons) and 22 hours on a 20 lb propane tank. Though the number largely varies depending on the load, you should be able to run your AC comfortably overnight.
Get a generator that has the longest runtime (at least 8 hours) in the wattage rating you need. Alternatively, you can get a generator fuel tank extender if your existing generator comes with a small fuel tank that doesn’t last you all night.
The Fuel Extender will increase your runtime and, most importantly, will prevent the fire hazards that are common when refueling a hot generator.
Note: Keep the load to a minimum by disconnecting all other electronics other than your air conditioner or furnace. This will reduce fuel consumption and noise level.
05. Wet Conditions are the Worst Enemy
If you have an RV with a built-in generator, then you don’t have to worry about what the weather is like before running it.
However, it’s not the same for portable generators.
Running a generator in a wet conditioner, rain or snow is not only unsafe for the unit but also dangerous as it increases the chances of electrocution.
However, weather phenomenons are unavoidable and may occur on the nights you need your generator the most.
To run your portable generator safely during bad weather, you need to place it in a place where the chances of water pooling are less. Next, you’ll need a good generator tent that fits your unit to protect it from the elements.
The GenTent 10k Generator Tent is an excellent choice as it is built to withstand torture and fits generator sizes between 3000-10000 watts.
06. Use Quality Power Cord
A power cord is the only link between your portable generator and RV. It transfers the juice from the generator to your RV appliances.
Using a wrong or low-quality generator power cord will create safety issues for your RV and the appliance connected to it.
Selecting the right power cord for your RV is as simple as finding if your RV uses a 30 amp or 50 amp electrical system.
If your generator isn’t RV ready, meaning it doesn’t come with a dedicated 30 or 50 amp receptacle, you need the appropriate adapter to connect the cord to your generator.
You can run your RV generator at any time, be it night or day.
However, there is more to worry about when sleeping with a running generator. If you follow the things I have discussed above, you should have no problem running your generator all night.
If you’re still skeptical, you can run the generator to power your rooftop air conditioner all evening to cool down your camper. This way, you can sleep in peace knowing your generator isn’t running.
Remember, a portable generator is a great tool that adds to the fun and comfort of boondocking. But, they can be equally dangerous if not used properly.