Saturday, September 23, 2023


Why do RVers need so much electrical power?

This was posted on our Facebook group RV Advice. We’ll post if here for those of you who do not use Facebook. Please leave a comment.

The post from RV Advice
“A recent post in another RV thread triggered this question, but I’ve been wondering it for a couple of years. It seems as if many or most RVers have no higher concern than electrical power at a campsite, whether that’s a question of 30- versus 50-amp service, or what generator one needs, or what hours one can run it. Whatever the specifics, it seems that for a whole lot of people, power is a constant worry.

“So here’s my question: what the heck do you people do to use so much electricity? Even in our old no-solar camper we could easily go two or three nights without power. With the new camper, with only modest solar (190 watts) and run-of-the-mill batteries (180 Ah), in the summer we can go literally forever and in the winter (far less solar and far more use, with the furnace fan, of electricity) we’re still good for two or three days.

“So . . . what? TV sets? Washers and dryers? Microwaves? Those all seem to me like things you could simply do without for a few days, or at least long enough so that powering them up wouldn’t require you to worry about power in a Walmart or a rest stop.

“I’m not being snarky, really, I’m not. I’m just curious. Whadda y’all do with all that juice?”

Editor’s note: See our survey last week where we asked how much power our readers preferred when hooking up.
Chuck Woodbury
Chuck Woodbury
I'm the founder and publisher of I've been a writer and publisher for most of my adult life, and spent a total of at least a half-dozen years of that time traveling the USA and Canada in a motorhome.


    • and we are both kinds depending on where we are. As full timers we spend considerable time at our home base in an Escapees Coop where we do not think about power usage until the monthly electric bill comes 🙂 When we roll out on the road we are generally indifferent to availability of shore power. Have mooch docked running off household 12-20 amp and have boondocked from Walmart to desert off road for up to 7 to 10 days. Certainly if temps are headed over 80 F, I am considering 30 to 50 amp power for the AC. Otherwise I have sufficient solar, 340 watts, to sustain base load of parasitic draws, minimal LED lighting and recharging computers and phones plus running my CPAP without humidifier – not on the inverter, another story. We do modify usage for dry camp if it will be more than one night by disabling the inverter and being more strict about conservation, but comfort does come first. We always run the generator first thing in the AM for a couple of hours to make breakfast and put some amps back into the battery bank (4×6 volt AGMs) Our first coach was 30 amp with two ACs and 2 TVs, no inverter and 2×6 v flooded cell batteries. We managed quite well with that, it had far fewer parasitic loads.

  1. We do mostly short trips and we don’t need a lot of power, 15 amps will do but we usually get the 2-3 services with 30amps

  2. You described a typical weekend warrior perfectly, camping for 2-3 days and then returning home where you may run your coffee machine, toaster, electric stove/oven, and washer/dryer at the same time without even thinking about the power you are drawing. Many of us are full-timers. We bring our house with us, and we also enjoy our creature comforts, just as you do in your sticks and bricks house. In most cases, our creature comforts rely on electricity. We think of ourselves as fortunate in that we have solar on our RV, a good amount, and so we rarely suffer. I’ve learned what all can be running at the same time. I can watch TV on my computer and run my Keurig machine, but If I want to use the toaster, I must turn off my Keurig. We think of this slight inconvenience as a small price to pay for freedom! So, weekend warrior, have fun camping for 2-3 days, and wonder no more why all these “crazy” people (and I mean that in the merriest of terms) are so set on having a good amount/source of electricity.

  3. Day 4: Same routine….Got up to 11.9V. This time, I went to a local rental store to try a 2000W GeN/Inv. It would not connect to the RV House as the Progressive Surge Protector would not allow this. It gave an “Open Ground” connection. So, with that same generator, we used a normal Stanley battery charger. It has a 15A output. After 3 hours, we were back up to 12.1V again.

    Day 5: Got up to only 11.4 V. Used the generator for 4 hours and a further charge from the Ram Truck for another 30 minutes. Back up to 11.8V.

    Day 6: The inverter ran all night. Then at about 9:30 in the morning, the inverter shut down at 10.9V. No more juice…We packed up and headed back in for more shore power. The on-board system has 90A to recharge everything back up to normal.

    Now for discussion…If (2) 6V AGM batteries run down after 5 days, where is the power loss? It was the refrigerator, the box fan for 8-9 hours a day, recharging our cell phone and computer, using the hair dryer for 5 minutes a day; an intermittent water pump and ghosting powers. That’s it.

    Now, if we were to run the TV’s, stereos, microwave, washer/dryer, dishwasher, using lights, or anything else, it’s just going to take a lot more watts. In our case, we have to have 50A’s just to keep the A/C (2-1500W units) and 42,000 BTU heat on.

    So, from our experiment, we’ll need the Onan 6500 W Generator and (8) 320W Solar Panels with 6-8 batteries in order to stay off the grid.

    Hope this helps.


    • Well batteries are not supposed to be run down below 11.9. Charging is complete when they reach 14.3 to 14.8 volts. They should ke charged promptly and maintained at high charge level in order to get 5 to 6 years life from them. Running down to 10.8 and recharging only to 12.2 will give very short battery life and lots of trouble.

  4. Some background…

    We are full-timers. Our rig is 42′ in length. Our rig is considered “fully loaded”. We usually park in an RV park connected to shore power. But, since we are considering a solar system and/or generator, we just finished a 6 day/5 night tour in a full boondocking location. We wanted to see how long we could go off the grid.

    Our rig has (2) 6 Iinterstate GC2-HD-AGM Batteries. Nothing else.

    Our plans included using only what we had to. We have the Norcold propane/elect refrigerator; a Suburban propane/elect water heater. We used a hair dryer on low speed fan and medium heat. Our lights are halogen (not LED) but we did not EVER use them anyway even after staying up well past midnight. We do use a box fan on low at night for about 8-9 hours.

    Day 1: We disconnected from shore power. We had 13.4V. After the first night, the voltage dropped to 12.5V.

    Day 2: After the first night, the voltage dropped to 12.5V. No problem yet. I just connected the batteries up to my Ram 3500 by jumper cables and within 30-40 minutes, the batteries were back to 13.2.

    Day 3: Basically, we did the same thing as yesterday. This day, the batteries dropped to 12.1. A jump again from the truck and we were back to 12.8V.

  5. Just like life in general we are all different in our needs and wants. We “camp” with a late model motor home that requires a lot of electricity. We are not youngsters and my wife is battling an illness so having all the creature comforts of home is a necessity. Being able to journey to different places provides her with a respite while dealing with her difficulties.

  6. We definitely enjoy the comfort and convenience that our fifth wheel provides us with FHUs. We don’t consider ourselves to be campers as we live in the same location for seven months each year working on the railroad. We have tented in the past and even enjoyed ourselves with our then young kids panning for gold. Sitting around a campfire gave us all terrific memories that they are now experiencing with their own little ones. Been there done that, now my old bones want my coffee, or ice cream.

  7. In our case, it’s a combination of having to use a CPAP machine and the drain from the furnace, which we need probably 10 months out of the year. With a bunch of batteries and solar panels (and a generator) we’re in pretty good shape, but like to have FHU spot at least every week or so do do the dump stuff. I’ve found it is a lot easier to get a good tank rinse if I’m at a campsite where I can let the rinsing-thingy go for a long period of time, which is hard to do at a dump station.

  8. As a few said, we all “RV” differently. I, for one, am not a camper, and don’t feel like I have to apologize for not being one. Although, we did camp for 6 weeks in Australia with our Australian friends, spending time in the Outback. Towed a ‘jumbuck” behind a Toyota Land Crusiser with Roo bar & snorkel. Only 10% of Australians have been to the Outback. So I think I checked the camping box :-). We also dry camp for 10 days at the Daytona 500 and at race tracks where my husband vintage races, where we use our generator & inverter. We like our A/C & heat. We eat a lot of leftovers, either from cooking ourselves or from restaurants, so use our microwave/convection oven often. Also, we like racing & golf so we use a DVR to record programs during the day or evening while we are out sightseeing, shopping, eating or whatever. So, to each, his/her own.

  9. Sometimes we like to have the coffee pot and microwave work at the same time. I’d also note that we’re not all campers. We’re travelers who bring all the comforts of home with us. The OP will generate on average…45-50 amp hours (DC) an day from the solar panels. If you just need some LED lights at night that works…but when you need the furnace fan to work or the inside temps rise to 90 with the windows open… the 50 amphours doesn’t go too far. Your batteries can provide 90 amp hours before needing recharge…so even a rainy day here and there is fine but you can’t run any meaningful AC loads for long. Different strokes.

  10. There are so many different ways to live this lifestyle. We are full time boondockers who rely on our solar system. We never worry about our electricity consumption, the same as most people who live in a sticks and bricks.

  11. With my first RV, the first time I ran without external AC power it was 20 degrees and windy. The furnace ran on propane, so I’d thought that we’d be OK, but the batteries didn’t last the night because of the fan. We were fine, but it was a good lesson about hidden (to me) current draw.

  12. It has to do with your lifestyle. Our RV is our full time house on wheels so we can go places without having to use hotels. We don’t boondock or use Walmarts (at least not yet in the year we have been fulltime). We live just as we did in or sticks and bricks home – TV, computer, microwave, washer and dryer, etc. We probably use less electricity just with the difference in space (4 bedroom house) and in heat because in the winter we try to be where we are not using heat or ac if we are lucky. Could we go without power for a couple of days? Certainly, if we had to. Have done it during storms with power outages. But I don’t want to and we are blessed to not have to. We prefer campgrounds to resorts but want FHUs.

  13. One word, “air conditioning.” OK that’s two words in some parts of this country but in Texas not so much. I doubt any juice saver would actually be comfortable staying in an RV with few windows, 90 degree plus air temperatures and plenty of sunshine and humidity. Yes I have seen a very few trailers with no a/c or pop ups with no cooling and without fail they are not licensed in Texas or the southwest. I always wonder how comfortable they are trying to sleep with an overnight low of (hopefully 80 degrees or less and very little, if any, wind to cool them). I will continue to seek comfort in my RV as I do in my home and I have become very aware that we older folks don’t handle extreme temperatures as well as we once did.

    • Hoss, you are exactly right and when the feel like temp ranges up in the 110 range and above people have been known to die from the heat.

    • It’s not even about age or location for heat stroke, couple years ago a brother had heat stroke, age,mid 20’s, summertime mid Michigan so maybe upper 70’s to mid 80’s. When you need the power it’s nice to have it.

  14. Our current fifth wheel has only 1 AC on 30 amps service. It takes a long time for the RV to cool down after a day of traveling. Even without a day of travel, and we have to park in the sun, the AC doesn’t keep the RV very comfortable.
    So the next unit will have two ACs which will require. 50 amp service.
    We can’t enjoy RVing if we’re uncomfortable a good part of the time.

  15. Interesting question. I have often wondered that myself. We have a single 12 group 27 lead acid 160 amp/Hr battery and I have added 160 Watts of portable solar, so I can move it around to catch the sun and still park in the shade. The only thing “running” all the time when we park is the fridge’s electronics on propane and the CO alarm. The lights, water heater and water pump are only used occasionally throughout the day/night. As long as there is usable sunlight to keep the battery topped off we can go indefinitely. If there is overcast and not enough sunlight I can use the generator to top off the battery. If we are at a campground with electrical hook up, sure we watch TV, use the AC and microwave, but when we are not, we enjoy the outdoors, laid back and without the usual trappings of society. We can be “off the grid” for three or four days at a time, which is about as long as we want to be at one time. We are not fulltimers and don’t have the need to live conservatively off the grid for months at a time. The setup we have works good for our needs.

    • I usually don’t do this but I am replying to my own comment. Based on the majority of others comments on this forum, it has been stated a few times above that everyone has different needs. I only expressed the setup that I have. Why the negative reply? I am curious to the story behind the -1. I try to learn something new all the time.

  16. It depends on your RV. Ours, when plugged in, immediately starts using power to run the refrigerator. The water heater will start using power. If it is winter, the heat pumps use power.

    If we are boondocking, all of the above work off of propane or don’t work at all. But many people don’t want to be without so they almost always want to plug in and not have to worry about blowing fuses. I’m glad this is the case because it means there is still room for us to find boondocking spots.


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