Can I Use my RV Generator to Power my House? (What can it Run)

using rv generator to power house

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After a dry camping trip, you return home only to find that your house doesn’t have power.

To make things worse, you don’t even have a standby backup generator for your house because power loss is not a regular thing for you.

Luckily, you have a camping generator that you use to power your RV when camping off the grid.

But, can you use your portable RV generator to power your house?

Yes, you can use your portable generator to power your house when the power goes out. However, what home appliances you’ll be able to power simultaneously depends on the size of your RV generator.

In this post, we’ll take a look at what appliances a portable generator will power in a house, an appropriate generator size for your house, and how to use it.

But before that, let’s look at some basics about generator output wattage.

The Differences between Starting and Running Watts on a Generator

All generators, big or small, come with specific power output ratings that they can produce. It is usually printed on the front panel of the generator.

To determine what appliances your generator can power, you need to understand the difference between them.

Starting or peak watts is the momentary boost of power a generator can produce for a short while. This is the additional power a generator produces to kick start a large appliance, especially motor and compressor-based appliances.

Running or rated watts, on the other hand, is the continuous power a generator is designed to produce while it is running. This constant flow of electricity is what keeps your appliances running smoothly.

Can a Portable Generator Power a Whole House?

No, portable generators are not powerful enough to power a whole house. However, depending on the size of your generator, you should be able to run some basic household appliances, maybe not all at once.

Unlike RVs, most modern homes use a myriad of consumer electronics and gadgets. These residential appliances use more power compared to RV-specific appliances.

This makes a camping generator a little too small to power the appliances of a whole house. However, with a small camping generator, you should be able to power a few lights, fans, a refrigerator, and charge a few appliances in case of an emergency.

How Big of a Generator do I Need for my House?

A portable generator with a wattage rating between 5000 to 7500 watts can power some critical equipment in your home. They will run your lights, fans, refrigerator and freezer, well pump, air conditioning, etc.

The size of your RV generator is the most important factor in deciding the number of household appliances it can run. To find what you can power in your house with your camping generator, you need to determine the wattage ratings of the appliances you wish to run.

Here is a list of some of the most common home appliances with their wattage ratings.

Note: The wattage ratings of the appliances on the table below are industry standard and may vary depending on your specific appliances.

AppliancesStarting WattRunning Watt
Refrigerator or Freezer (Energy Star)1200132-192
Microwave Oven (1000 watts)15001500
Incandescent Lightsas indicated on the bulb (i.e. 60W)as indicated on the bulb (i.e. 60W)
Furnace Fan, gas or fuel oil (1/2 Horsepower)2350875
Television190190
Coffee Maker600600
Sump Pump (1/4 Horsepower)1000600
Window Air Conditioner (10,000 BTU)22001500
Hot Water Heater45004500
Garage Door Opener1420720
Table Source: Honda

From the wattage ratings above, it is clear that a Honda EU2200i camping generator won’t run much. You can use two or at best three small appliances at a time on such a small generator.

On the other hand, with a generator like the Champion 100813 producing 7500 watts of power, you can run many of these appliances at once. Moreover, with a generator like the Westinghouse WGen9500DF used to power a 50 amp RV, you’ll not miss the grid power so much.

How to Use my RV Generator to Power my House Safely?

One way is to connect the appliances you wish to run directly into your portable generator. Or get a transfer switch installed to power your house through the main circuit breaker.

One of the biggest challenges about using an RV generator to power a house comes from the way to use it. You can’t simply connect the generator to your home circuit breaker and call it a day.

You need to install a transfer switch to use a portable generator to power your house through the circuit breaker. Connecting a generator to your home circuit breaker panel without a transfer switch will back feed the power into the grid, resulting in electrocution of the utility workers.

Moreover, integrating a camping generator into your circuit breaker means the power will be drawn by the whole house. This will overload and damage your generator if it is not big enough to meet the power needs of your home.

A workaround would be to turn off the breakers of the large appliances in your breaker panel and run only the necessary items.

However, if your home is not equipped with a transfer twitch, then the safest way to run your home appliances is to plug them into the generator directly. You need to run the appropriate size extension cord that transfers the generator power to your appliances.

Just plug in the item you need to run and unplug the ones you don’t need. Make sure the generator is placed at least 20-feet from your home and away from any open doors and windows to prevent CO poisoning.

Conclusion

Though you can power your home appliances using an RV generator, the number of appliances you can power simultaneously depends on the size of your generator. Generally, most portable RV generators can power a few essential items but can’t power the whole house.

You need at least a 50 amp generator to feel at home. Lastly, the safest way to power your house with an RV generator is to connect the appliances to the generator directly. You don’t want to connect a generator to your circuit breaker without a transfer switch and kill utility workers.