Friday, February 3, 2023


Choosing a generator for a fifth wheel

Here’s a question from a reader of about boondocking. 

Hi Bob,
I have a question about generators. We have a 40 ft. fifth wheel and would like to purchase a generator. What would you suggest that would be quiet yet affordable? —Debbie S.

Hi Debbie,

I copied the following from the Generator Power Source:

Portable Vs Permanent

Another important consideration is whether or not you want it to be a portable generator or one that you must leave attached to your RV at all times. Many chose a portable unit because of the versatility they offer. Not only will this generator power the essentials in an RV or Travel Trailer, they can be used for other applications like tailgating, BBQ or power outages caused by storms. Furthermore, most brands offer a parallel capability, which allows two units to work together, producing twice as much power. This is how most RVers will produce enough power to run their air conditioning units assuming they’ve opted for portable power source. On board or permanent applications are more common in Class A or Fifth wheels as these are meant for longer term or even permanent usage.


Noise is also an important aspect of a generator. Would you be able to sleep with a generator thumping nearby? Most are designed to run quietly, but some are quieter than others. Keep in mind that if it is too noisy, it may annoy nearby campers, neighbors, and family members. Also, many National Parks and even private campground limit noise to 60 decibels at 50 feet.

However, I would suggest that you visit a reputable dealer who can show you a variety of generators with varying levels of power and noise. The dealer should also be able not only to explain the differences (pros as well as cons) among them (hard to find online) but also to work with you on your priorities, such as low noise level, ability to run the appliances you have onboard (including how many you expect to use at the same time), and many other variables that you should consider before making a decision.

Then I would go online and check the reviews of the ones you are interested in as well as the price being offered. But don’t make price the most important factor. You will want the help offered by a dealer if something goes wrong, for installation (if a permanent generator), if you have warranty claims, or have further questions. If you do find a much better price, give the dealer a chance to match (or at least get close to) the price of the online source.

Read more about boondocking at my BoondockBob’s Blog.
Check out my Kindle e-books about boondocking at Amazon.

Do you have a question for Bob? Email him at bob.rvtravel (at) .




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4 years ago

The first thing is to know what size generator you need. If you plug into 15 amp service you need one rated for 1800 watts sustained (not surge), If you plug in to 30 amp service you need one rated for 3600 watts sustained (not surge). If you plug into 50 amp service you need one rated for 6000 watts sustained (not surge). This lets you run everything that won’t pop the internal circuit breakers. The surge ability on a generator is how much extra juice it can provide for a brief time, such as the extra needed at startup of the air conditioner. pulling this extra from a generator for too long will burn it out.

Mike Sokol
4 years ago
Reply to  JL

You’re incorrect about only needing a 6,000 watt generator for the 50-amp service. Remember that a 50-amp service is actually 50-amps per leg, and there’s two legs in the 120/240-volt service. So you need 100-amps times 120-volts which equals 12,000 watts. And that’s how big of a generator you want to plug your “50-amp” shore power cordset into a generator and not trip the generator overload breakers. I’ve already written about this here:

2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Sokol

You’re wrong Mike. I just checked my 41′ 50A traier with 2 A/C + res refer running. One leg 19A + other 15 = 34A total. ×120 = 4080 W total. Add 10% for misc loads if you want = 4500 W. But honestly I could avoid the microwave under 2 A/C conditions to save on the genset.
Just because it’s rated at 50A doesn’t mean it uses it. It’s just that the stabdard sizes are 30/50. So if you are over 30 …. you get a 50A service. Also, even if you have 3 A/C units. A 50A 5th wheel will only run 2 at a time.

Mike Sokol
4 years ago

Honda inverter generators are about as quiet as it gets for portable generators. Here’s a video of me with a running EU3000 for a neutral bonding demo. Yes, its in idle mode, but note that I’m hardly 3 feet away from it and yet you can barely hear it running on my microphone.

4 years ago

Also, check the noise level when running under close to full load. Even my E2000 Honda makes a lot more noise when loaded. Sales folks love to show how quiet the gens sets run when idling with no load.

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