Power generators sure do provide you with the oh so necessary power, but their operation is often accompanied by loud, intrusive noise. And sometimes, you may want to minimize noise as much as possible.
Well, there, fortunately, are rather quiet RV generators out there. Sure, they aren’t whisper-quiet, but they can be quiet enough not to be annoying.
And if you just so happen to be looking for a quiet RV generator, then our review of the best quiet RV generators is probably going to interest you.
THE BEST QUIET GENERATORS FOR RVS
Quiet Portable Generators For RVs 101
Now, let’s try to figure out how to pick the absolute best model from the best quiet RV generators we reviewed. There are many things to consider, and we’ve made sure to cover everything that matters.
TYPES OF GENERATORS
Before diving in the features, you’d want to look for in an RV generator, we think that you should first know about all the types of generators available out there.
The first type of generators that you should know about is the standby generator. If you indeed are looking for a generator for your RV, a standby generator won’t be a proper choice for you. But you should know about standby generators not to get confused when shopping for an RV generator.
As their name suggests, standby generators are not portable, and you can’t carry them around and use everywhere. Instead, standby generators are installed at fixed locations like workshops or garages where there are around-the-clock power requirements.
Because transportability doesn’t matter with them, standby generators can be much larger and have much more power capacity than their portable counterparts. Besides, they tend to be quite pricey. But no matter how high your power needs are, a standby generator isn’t going to be the right choice for RV use.
Portable generators can be easily transported because they are smaller and lighter than standby generators, which allows them to be easily used in RVs.
With wattages usually ranging from 3,000 to 8,500 watts, portable power generators have the oomph to satisfy virtually any RV driver. The only things that you would need in order to run a generator in your RV are free room and fuel for it.
Traditional portable generators, albeit perfect for RV use, have a crucial downside – they can’t be throttled up and down. This means that no matter how much power your appliances actually need, the generator is going to run at full power, unnecessarily wasting fuel and energy.
It would only be reasonable to opt for a simpler portable generator if you will be constantly drawing max power from it. Otherwise, they are very inefficient. In addition, always running at full power, portable generators are going to be relatively noisy.
If you will be using your appliances intermittently and won’t be needing the potential of a portable generator all the time, then don’t opt for one. Portable generators can be rather cheap – around $400-1000 – but they can be costly in the long run.
Inverter generators look pretty much exactly the same as regular portable generators. However, the crucial difference here lies not in the design, size, or weight. Inverter generators’ most important feature is that they are capable of throttling up and down to match your power requirements.
As a result, you don’t waste fuel and energy unnecessarily. What’s even better is that inverter generators tend to be quieter than regular portable generators since they don’t run on full throttle continuously.
And since we’ve showcased the best quiet RV generators on our material, inverter generators are going to be the best out there when it comes to noise.
Inverter generators also produce fewer emissions, again because they don’t run at full all the time. Plus, they tend to actually live longer, which makes them a worthwhile investment.
Inverter generators usually have the same capacities as regular portable generators, but they can be much more expensive, with prices reaching $4,000 and even more. However, in the long run, inverter generators can be much less costly than portable generators.
If you won’t be needing your generator’s full potential constantly, then inverter generators are certainly worth the money. No matter whether you are using just your refrigerator or the entire gamut of your RV appliances, an inverter generator will provide you with as much power as you need.
However, if you will be continuously using your generator at its full, a non-inverter portable generator may be a more reasonable choice.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN QUIET GENERATORS
Now that we’ve established generator types along with their pros and cons, let’s have a look at the specific features that you would want to consider when looking for an RV generator.
The number one feature to look for in RV generators is wattage. Wattage determines how much power the RV generator will deliver in order to power all your appliances.
Any kind of electrical device has two kinds of wattages – startup wattage and running wattage. These numbers are drastically different since electrical devices consume much more power at startup than when running. Both numbers need to be considered when choosing an RV generator, but there are some intricacies that should be mentioned.
Needless to say, you would want to choose a generator that is going to power all your RV appliances. Thus, you need to consider the power requirements of all the electrical devices you have in your RV.
Now, you may be thinking that adding up the power requirements of your devices will do the trick. If all your stuff consumes 8,000 watts in total, then you’d need an 8,000W generator, right?
Actually, no. Such an approach would be very inefficient since people very rarely use their appliances all at once. If this applies to you as well, why go for an excessively powerful RV generator?
Another problem lies in calculating the required wattage. What do you base your calculations on – starting or running wattage? Maybe both? Well, this depends on a number of factors.
Generally, it is advised to start appliances one at a time in order to preserve precious watts. Thus, you don’t really need to have a generator that has more watts than what all of your appliances require at startup combined. You merely need to have enough wattage to start your most demanding device.
Let’s make things clearer with a simple example. Suppose you have an AC unit with 1,500 starting and 1,000 running watts, a refrigerator with 500 starting and 250 running watts, and a blender with 700 starting and 350 running watts.
Here, the appliance with the highest startup wattage is the AC unit with its 1,500 starting watts. If your generator is rated at 1,500 watts, then it won’t have any problems with starting any of your devices one by one.
However, there are some issues in our example that should be mentioned.
One of them is that you can start your AC unit (1,500 watts), let it run (1,000 watts), and then start your refrigerator when the AC is still running (consumes 500 watts at startup). 1,500 watts would be enough for that.
But you can’t do the same with the blender – while the AC is running, you won’t be able to start it up since you’d need 1,700 watts for it (1,000 + 700). Besides, you can’t run all of your stuff all at the same time since it would require 1,600 watts (1,000 + 250 + 350).
This won’t be a problem if you don’t need to run all of your stuff simultaneously, but if you do need it, then you’d need to have at least a 1,600W generator. It’s also helpful to add around 500 watts on top of your power requirements to ensure protection from power spikes.
The example we described above is very simple, but hopefully, it gives you an idea of how to approach calculating the necessary wattage.
TOTAL HARMONIC DISTORTION
Total harmonic distortion (THD) basically measures the quality of electricity. The lower the THD, the “cleaner” the electricity is and the smoother are its sine waves. This is a very broad and simple definition of THD, but it’s enough for you to understand what it is.
Usually, THDs of 6% or less are considered good and can be more or less safely used to power sensitive electronics. And the lower the THD, the safer the electricity is going to be.
Power generators can have a very broad range of THDs ranging from as low as 1-2% (as in the WEN 56310i generator) to as high as 15%.
At THDs over 5-6%, you should be able to safely run heating elements and non-sensitive appliances. But for sensitive devices, you’d want to get a generator that delivers cleaner electricity.
For general stuff like TVs or speakers, most generators out there should suffice, aside from probably very cheap units. But if you are getting an inverter generator, you shouldn’t have any issues with electricity quality.
However, if you’ve had issues with some generator in the past, then you should go for a unit that has better THD than your older model.
Fuel type is the second most important consideration with RV generators. It may seem that you should just go for the cheapest and most efficient fuel type, but in reality, things are a bit more complex than that.
RV generators typically run on gasoline, propane, or diesel. Some generators can run on two or more types of fuel, but most of them are going to work only with one. Multi-fuel generators boast the benefits of all fuel types, but they tend to be costlier.
Each of these three types of fuel has its pros and cons, so let’s have a look at them.
Most RV generators on the market are designed to run on gasoline since it is a more accessible type of fuel for RVers. Plus, the majority of RVers are using gasoline generators since they tend to cost less than other types of generators.
In terms of efficiency, gasoline stands right between the two other fuels – it is less efficient than diesel but more efficient than propane. More precisely, a gallon of gasoline usually produces around 125,000 BTU per gallon, while propane and diesel produce 91,300 BTU and 140,000 BTU per gallon respectively.
While gasoline offers decent fuel efficiency, is accessible, and cheap, it has two notable downsides.
The first downside is that gasoline has a lower ignition temperature than the other two fuel types, which makes it more dangerous to store. Although you need to be careful when storing any fuel type, gasoline requires a little more attention and care.
The second downside is that the shelf life of gasoline is shorter. Typically, gasoline breaks down and starts to absorb moisture within a month. Thus, gasoline isn’t a proper fuel for RVers who won’t be using their generators frequently.
So if you won’t be using your RV generator too often, use fuel stabilizers or go for generators that work with other kinds of fuel.
Diesel is the most efficient fuel among the three types with its 140,000BTU heat output per gallon. Due to this, diesel is more cost-efficient in the long run, albeit it tends to cost more per gallon. The fact that diesel generators usually require less maintenance than other generator types adds to the cost efficiency of diesel.
The ignition temperature is also higher than that of gasoline, so diesel is safer to store, though this doesn’t mean that you should neglect safety procedures.
However, diesel fuel has quite a short shelf life, about the same as gasoline. Furthermore, diesel is actually more demanding because diesel engines (and thus generators) tend to break down if not run regularly. So if you won’t be running your generator very frequently, do not opt for a diesel generator.
Propane is the least efficient fuel type among the three, but it has one great advantage – it has a very long shelf life. This makes propane the ideal option for people who aren’t going to run their RV generators too frequently.
The downside of propane generators is that they usually do not have inbuilt fuel tanks, unlike gas or diesel generators. You will need to have a separate propane fuel tank for this. But you may use your propane grill tank with a propane generator if you have one.
Runtime is also an important thing to consider in RV generators. Unfortunately, it isn’t too easy to match manufacturer-provided runtime figures to real-time applications, as well as to use the runtime to compare different generators with each other.
The thing is that the manufacturers indicate the runtime of their generators at a percentage of its max load, e.g. 25%, 50%, and 75%. For example, the generator’s runtime may be indicated as “5 hours at 50% load.”
And the bad thing about this is that manufacturers don’t follow any certain standards when indicating their generators’ runtime. Some manufacturers indicate the runtime at 50%, while others do that at 25%. Needless to say, it’s nearly impossible to use such inconsistent figures when comparing different generators with each other.
Noise level in RV generators is the key metric within the scope of our material. Unfortunately, things aren’t easy with noise level as well, like it was with runtime.
You may know perfectly what is and isn’t loud for you. However, before actually buying a generator, it isn’t always easy to figure out how quiet it is going to be.
Manufacturers usually indicate the noise levels of their generators with something like “50dB at 50% load” or “50dB at 25 feet.” Some just write “50dB” without indicating load or distance.
Like it was with runtime, such a discrepancy makes comparing different generators with each other directly virtually impossible. Can you say which generator is going to be quieter, one that produces 50dB at 50% load or one that produces 50dB at 25 feet? Probably no. Unless you have matching metrics, you probably won’t be able to make comparisons.
Besides, how do you know how loud or quiet the generator will be in real-life applications at very specific loads?
The noise level figures provided by manufacturers can nonetheless serve as a basis for your decision, but you should know about all the things we’ve described above.
Another problem lies in the following – how loud should your RV generator be in the first place? Well, RV generators usually produce 50-70dB of noise. But which is going to be better for you?
For a perspective, have a look at this chart of common sound noise levels:
|Sound source||Decibels (dB)|
|Whispering at 5 feet||20|
|Shouting in the ear||110|
Hopefully, this chart helps you with finding a sound level that is tolerable for you and then with picking a proper RV generator.
The kind of electric starter used in your RV generator may also matter to you.
RV generators come with two types of starters – electric starters and push-pull or recoil starters.
Electric starters require from you just a push of a button to start the generator. Generators with electric starters are much more convenient and hassle-free compared to push-pull starters.
On the other hand, electric starters are powered by a battery, so you would need to make sure that your RV generator’s starter battery has charge in it at all times. Besides, if your generator doesn’t come with batteries, you will need to buy them.
Push-pull starters, as suggested by their name, require you to repeatedly pull and push a starter handle in order to start up the RV generator. Such generator starters are definitely less convenient than electric starters, so if you have conditions that would limit your ability to use a push-pull starter, an electric starter would be more appropriate.
However, push-pull starters are relatively maintenance-free since they don’t have any electronic components or batteries in them.
You should carefully pay attention to what kind of power outlets your RV generator has.
First of all, your RV generator needs to have a 120V outlet with amperage corresponding to that of your RV’s electrical service. If your RV has 30-amp service, ensure that your generator has a 120V 30-amp outlet. The same applies to 50-amp service.
You can’t plug a 50-amp service plug into a 30-amp receptacle since they are very different. 50-amp plugs have 4 wires in them, while 30-amp ones have 3, so you can’t use one type of plug with another type of receptacle, unless you have a power adapter.
Even if you have a 30-to-50-amp adapter, we’d advise you to go for a generator that has output amperage corresponding to your RV’s electrical service. There are huge power capacity differences between 30- and 50-amp services, and a generator with a proper receptacle is more likely to be able to satisfy your power needs.
If you also want to connect some appliances directly to your RV generator, ensure that it has the required outputs in it. Usually, home appliances run on 120V 20-amp current. But when looking for some specific receptacle, make sure that it corresponds to what your devices can work with.
RV’s can be pretty big, but due to room limits, you may be unable to fit some generators in your RV. If you have a huge RV, generator size shouldn’t be a problem for you, but otherwise, you’ll need to consider it very carefully.
Picking a proper generator size is pretty easy. Just know the measurements of the area that you will be storing your RV generator in and choose a unit that is going to fit in it. If you will be storing other things alongside your generator, make sure to consider it as well.
Weight is as crucial as size in RV generators. And it’s not that much about the easiness of transport – RV generators can be pretty convenient for carrying, to begin with since they often come with handles or transport wheels.
No, the thing that actually plays a much bigger role is the weight capacity of your RV. Needless to say, the combined weight of the stuff you will have with you during the journey should not exceed the cargo capacity of your RV. To select a proper generator, know exactly how much weight room there is left in your RV.
This has been a long one, and you may have picked the right RV generator model for yourself from our top 6. But before rushing to make the purchase, make sure that it indeed is the right generator model for you. RV generators are quite pricey, and you definitely don’t want to make a mistake. So do proper research to make an informed decision.