Inverter vs. Generator for an RV: Which Is Better?


inverter vs generator lg

There are many ways to get power to an RV. This can be shore power, battery power, or a generator. But Batteries require an inverter to use, so let’s compare Inverter vs. Generator for an RV.

As a general rule, a generator is better than an RV inverter if you are unable to have both. The generator uses gasoline to provide power to all of the systems in an RV, including appliances, air conditioners, outlets, and media. An inverter will be much more limited in terms of total power available.

The inverter allows battery power to be converted to power the internal workings of an RV, such as appliances, outlets, and media too. But it is limited in what it can power, and it can only provide power as long as the batteries are charged.

Let’s have a closer look at exactly what RV inverters and generators are and whether they are worth the price you pay. I’ll also talk about RV inverter generators, which are really handy for all RV owners.

What is an RV inverter?

Before I explain this, you need to know that there are two main types of electricity.

AC means alternating current and is where the electricity moves in different directions. Your RV appliances need AC electricity. DC means direct current and is where the electricity does not change directions. Your RV batteries need DC electricity.

An inverter is a device that will take the DC from your RV battery and turn it into an AC that can be used by your appliances.

The inverter will turn the 12-volt power from your battery into 120 volt AC power for your appliances.

You need an inverter if you are not connected to shore power at an RV site. The shore power at most sites is about 120 volts.

What is an RV generator?

An RV generator is a device that helps you power your RV appliances when off-grid. They are typically built into motorhomes and fifth-wheels. But smaller trailers may need a portable generator.

If you are not connected to the power at an RV site, you will need a generator or solar panels. Solar panels are really expensive, so most people just use generators.

Solar power is the most eco-friendly way to power your RV though, so be sure to check out this recent article on my site. I talk about whether solar power is enough to power your RV and whether they are worth the heavy investment.

It is important to get a good generator for your RV that is reliable. Otherwise, that generator will be a huge source of stress for you if it fails when you are off-grid.

RV generators are powered by fuel. The most commonly used fuels in RV generators are gasoline, propane, and diesel. The fuel is burned by the generator, and the energy released is used to power a motor that is attached to an alternator in the generator that produces electricity.

Gasoline generators are some of the most reliable RV generators, and they are easy to troubleshoot if something goes wrong. However, if using gasoline, you may find the generator gets covered in residue, and you will have to keep the generator clean.

Propane generators are good if you use your RV in warm conditions.

Propane is not as efficient as gasoline for generators, but it burns cleaner. If you plan to use your RV below freezing temperatures, don’t get a propane generator, as it cannot cope with the cold.

The downside to RV generators is the noise they make. The last thing you want is to be at a campsite, only to have people complaining that your generator is making too much noise.

Check out this recent article on my site where I explain how loud RV generators are and what you can do to be a considerate RV user.

Is an RV inverter worth it?

An RV inverter is an essential piece of kit for anyone that owns an RV. They are well worth the cost. Without an RV inverter, you won’t be able to use the battery of your RV to power your RV’s appliances.

If you are only planning to use your RV at an RV park, you might be able to get away with not having one, as you can just use the AC power from the RV park.

However, if you are off-grid, and using a generator to power your batteries, then you have to get an inverter to turn the DC from your batteries into AC for your appliances to use.

Even if you are not going off-grid and using a generator, you should still get an inverter.

If for some reason, there is a power cut at your RV site, or you are not able to connect to the shore power, then you will need to resort to your RV batteries to give you power.

If you want, there are devices called inverter generators that do both jobs for you.

What is an RV inverter generator?

An RV inverter generator is a portable generator. It is a device that generates DC electricity from fuel and then converts it into AC electricity for your appliances such as microwaves, plugs, chargers, and refrigerators.

RV inverter generators burn fuels just like a normal generator.

You can get some that burn gasoline, propane, and diesel, and with some, you even have the chance of using two different fuel sources. This is great because you could, for example, use propane that burns cleanly in warm weather and then gasoline in the cold.

If you plan to use your RV in the winter, you need to check out this recent article on my site. I give over 20 tips that I have learned over 15 years of traveling in RVs to help you stay safe and comfortable in your RV.

Inverter generators are small, efficient, and portable.

If you have an RV and you regularly travel off-grid, I highly recommend one of these devices. They are everything you need in one package. However, you don’t really need one if you stay on RV sites.

Should you get an inverter or a generator for an RV?

As a general rule, you should get a generator for your RV if you travel off-grid, as the generator will allow you to burn fuel to generate electricity for your RV. But an inverter is also essential for powering smaller systems without using excess fuel.

However, the generator produces DC electricity, so you will need an inverter too in order to convert the DC to AC electricity so that you can use appliances in your RV.

If you want, you can get an inverter generator that does both jobs for you.

If you use your RV at campsites, chances are you will not need an inverter or a generator. However, it is best to have one at the ready in case there is a power cut at the site and you need a way to power your appliances like your refrigerator and air conditioner.

When you buy an inverter generator, you get great power output – almost like being connected to line power.

They are also small and lightweight and have great fuel economy despite being small machines. They are often quieter than normal generators too. The best thing about it is you can connect multiple inverter generators together in a parallel circuit if you need more power.

RV Inverter Generators - Better Than Solar?

Conclusion

An RV generator burns fossil fuels to produce DC electricity. An inverter converts DC electricity to AC electricity. You need to have AC electricity in your RV in order to power appliances, as they cannot run on DC. Your RV battery will run on DC electricity.

If you travel off-grid, you need a generator and an inverter.

It would be good to get an inverter generator, as they do both jobs and are smaller and more portable. If you stay at campsites, you don’t need an inverter or a generator, as you can use your RV site’s shore power to power your appliances.

However, you may need to generate and invert your own electricity if there is a power cut at the site or if you get stranded somewhere on your journey.

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Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell travels on and off with his 3 daughters in a Newmar Baystar Class A Motorhome. He writes extensively on both RVs, campgrounds, parenting on the road tips, remote learning & schooling, and much more!

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