Will a 3500 Watt Generator Run my RV? (What can it Run)

3500 watt generator for rv

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Unlike a 2000-watt inverter generator, a 3500-watt generator offers additional power to run more appliances simultaneously.

They are also relatively silent, use less fuel, and can be lifted in and out of a truck easily.

However, is a 3500-watt generator powerful enough to run an RV?

Yes, a 3500-watt generator can run an RV and is the perfect size generator to power a 30 amp RV. It can run a wide variety of appliances from the kitchen to heating and cooling to entertainment, many, at the same time.

In this post, we’ll take a look at the power ratings of the most common RV appliances to help you find the appliances you can run simultaneously. We’ll also take a look at my recommendation of the best 3500-watt inverter generators.

But first, let’s take a look at some generator basics.

What does Starting and Running Watts Mean on a Generator?

Starting watts are the short burst of power a generator is designed to produce to start an appliance. While running watts are the continuous power a generator is designed to produce while in operation.

Before you can determine what appliances a 3500-watt generator can run in your RV, you need to know how much power your generator produces. Generally, generators come in two different wattage ratings, starting watts and running watts.

The starting watts or peak watts of a generator are the maximum power a generator is designed to produce for a short while. This boost of power gives a motor and compressor-based appliance the additional power to start running.

Generally, starting watts are greater than running watts.

The running watts or rated watts of a generator are the continuous power a generator is designed to produce while in operation. Running watts of a generator is what determine if it has enough power to keep the appliance running.

Generally, the wattage ratings of a generator are usually printed on the unit but some manufacturers only print the higher number of the two. You need to find both the starting and the running watts to make sure you get an appropriate size generator for your RV.

What can a 3500 Watt Generator Run in my RV?

A 3500w generator can power many appliances ranging from heating and cooling to your kitchen appliances to your entertainment systems. However, you need to perform a power audit to find what all you can run simultaneously. 

A 3500w inverter generator like the Champion 200987 is powerful enough to operate all appliances in your RV. However, the main question is how many appliances can it run all at the same time?

To answer this question accurately, you need to do a power audit by finding out the wattage ratings of the appliances you want to run together. The rule of thumb is a generator producing 3500 running watts of power can run multiple appliances together, given their combined power draw is equal to or less than 3500-watts.

Here is a list of RV appliances with the wattage they consume to make things easy.

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

AppliancesStarting WattsRunning Watts
Flat Screen TV120120
RV Refrigerator600180
Coffee Maker600600
Microwave Oven (650 watts)10001000
Hair Dryer (1600 watts)19001800
Radiant Heater13001300
Laptop Computer200-250200-250
Fan12040
11000 BTU AC16001010
13500 BTU AC28001800
15000 BTU AC33002000
Table Source: Honda

From the table above it is clear that a 3500w generator is powerful enough to run all the appliances, but not at once. However, it is highly unlikely you’ll need to power all the above-mentioned appliances at a time.

Here are the steps to determining the total wattage of the appliances you want to run together.

  1. Make a list of the appliances with their wattage ratings you want to run together
  2. Next, add up the running watts together (make sure the total is below the running watts)
  3. Now add the starting watts of the highest draw appliance you plan on running simultaneously (make sure the total is below the starting watts)
  4. Add or remove appliances from the list to balance the power usage

The Champion portable generator we mentioned above produces 4500 starting and 3500 running watts of power. That means you should be able to run an air conditioner along with a few smaller appliances together.

However, make sure you only run the most essential appliances together and use them one at a time to prevent your generator from overloading.

Will a 3500 Watt Generator Run an RV Air Conditioner?

Yes, a 3500w inverter generator can run the biggest RV air conditioner with room to spare. However, it can’t run multiple AC units together on bigger rigs.

A 3500-watt inverter generator like the Champion 200987 can easily run a 15000 BTU RV AC without any issue. A typical 15000 BTU RV-specific air conditioner needs about 3300 surge watts and 2000 continuous watts to function properly, which is less than what our generator can produce.

Once the AC is up and running, you have 1500 watts of power left to run other appliances. This is enough to power your coffee maker, microwave, TV, refrigerator, charge house batteries, etc.

However, a 3500w generator can’t power multiple air conditioners at the same time. Trying to run 2 AC units simultaneously will overload the generator while shortening its working life.

You need the right size generator to run multiple air conditioner units in your RV.

Will a 3500 Watt Generator Run a 30 Amp Camper?

Yes, a 3500-watt generator will easily run your 30 amp RV. It is the perfect size generator to power a 30 amp camper.

A 30 amp RV electrical system can use up to 3600 watts of power at any given time as it has one 120v hot leg. The wattage rating is found using a simple formula (watts = amps * volts).

Therefore a portable generator with a wattage rating between 3500-3800 is the perfect option for a 30 amp RV. We have a detailed article on finding the right size generator for your 30 amp RV.

However, a 3500w generator is small for a 50 amp camper and will not be able to meet its demands.

The Best 3500 Watt Inverter Generator for RV

There are quite a few models and brands when it comes to generators in the 3500-watt category. But not all can be mentioned here and thus I’ve selected three top models depending on actual buyer’s reviews.

All the generators on this list are RV-ready inverter generators from different brands. They also differ in terms of price, runtime, power output, and noise level.

My top recommendation is the Champion 200987 which produces 4500 starting and 3500 running power to run many RV appliances. It is rated to run about 14 hours @ ¼ load on the 2.3-gallon gas tank.

The Westinghouse iGen4500 is the quietest running generator on this list that produces 4500 surge and 3700 rated watts of power. It can power a few more appliances as it produces 200-watts more power compared to the Champion.

Moreover, both the Champion and Westinghouse models above come with a wireless keyfob that allows you to start and stop your generator without getting out of your camper.

Lastly, the WEN 56380i generates 3800 peak and 3400 continuous watts while offering a runtime of 8.5 hours @ ½ load on a 2.2-gallon gas tank. Though this is the smallest generator in terms of output wattage it will get the job done.

The three generators mentioned on this list are loved by RVers for their power and reliability. You can choose them with confidence as they have raving reviews from their customers.

How Long will a 3500 Watt Generator Run on a Tank of Gas?

A 3500-watt generator will run between 7-18 hours @ ¼ load depending on the brand and model of the generator. However, the runtime will be affected by the load on the unit.

The fuel consumption of a portable generator depends on various factors like load, brand, model, etc. However, manufacturers generally list the runtime of a generator at a specific load and vary depending on the brand and model.

The portable generators we spoke about above can run between 7-18 hours according to the manufacturer. Make sure you check the manufacturer’s specs before making a purchase.

Conclusion

A 3500-watt generator is the perfect size generator for a 30 amp RV. It can run multiple appliances simultaneously including an air conditioner.

However, make sure you do a power audit to know how much power you need and use your appliances thoughtfully to prevent generator damage. I talked about three portable generators in the 3500 wattage ratings with my recommendation being the Champion 200987.