Traveling in a recreational vehicle can be a comfortable way to see the country. Most travel trailers have room for cooking, showering and even relaxing with a television. Those activities require electricity, though, and not all recreational vehicles have built-in generators. A properly installed generator and fuel source can provide electricity for your travel trailer, and make your journeys much more relaxing. Options range from large, expensive solar-powered battery banks to small, gas-fueled generators that can be connected to some appliances with extension cords.
Things You'll Need
- RV generator
- Mounting kit
- Fuel source
- Sound dampening equipment
- Transfer switch
Determine how much electricity you'll need. Base your calculations on the number of watts used by each appliance when it starts; that's usually the highest amount you'll need. It's best to build in a bit of a cushion here, since you may want to add other appliances or start up more than one appliance at the same time.
Determine if your trailer is "generator-ready" by reading the owner's manual or asking a dealer. Buy an appropriate model for your trailer's configuration and your power needs. Some of the most popular brands are Honda, Generac, Onan and Kohler generators.
Choose the fuel you want to use to power your generator. Propane and gas tanks are the most popular alternatives. A larger fuel tank is generally better, since it will extend the range of your trip. Propane is generally easier to use and less expensive, but you'll lose about 10 percent of generator capacity. If you use a gasoline tank, be sure you've got a pump to get the fuel from the tank to the generator.
Ask your dealer about materials used to muffle the sound of the generator. A loud, rumbling generator can keep you awake at night or spoil an otherwise peaceful, quiet trip. The material used will depend upon the size of your generator and its location on the trailer.
Provide proper ventilation for your generator. A poorly ventilated area can cause the generator to overheat and fail. Improper ventilation can also lead to a potentially deadly buildup of carbon monoxide in enclosed spaces.
Install a transfer switch that allows you to alternate between using shore power at travel trailer campgrounds and your generator power in other places. The transfer switch will prevent electrical problems, including fires.
Figure out how you want to start the generator. Some generators have remote controls that allow you to fire them up without having to move. Consider using a small, lawnmower-sized battery dedicated to starting up a generator that's smaller than five kilowatts, since RV batteries can be damaged if they're used often to start generators.