For How Long Can an RV Generator Safely Run?

Most RV owners have, at some point, wondered just how long they can run their generator without causing any damage. After all, there are situations when it would be nice to run it for hours or even days on end – like during a blackout or inclement weather on your camping trip.

To find out just how long generators can operate without damaging themselves, I have researched the recommended running times for some of the most popular models on the market. For How Long Can an RV Generator Safely Run?For the purpose of this article, we will keep the discussion limited to the common types of generators chosen by RV owners.

The average safe length of time you can run a portable RV generator is 8-20 hours (depending on the model). Built-in RV generators can safely run for days on end, as long as you maintain them properly.

Depending on the generator type, you can keep them running for anywhere from just a couple of hours to several days. To help narrow this number down a bit, we have gathered  11 of the most popular portable generators for a comparison. Their stated run times vary from 8 to 20 hours.

While some other units lie outside of that range, that is a good average you can expect from the vast majority of these generators. And again, built-in RV generators, meanwhile, can often run for several days on end, thanks to their unique construction.

If you want to know more about specific generators and what prevents them from running for longer, we have you covered. Further down, we will discuss all of that and more, so stay with us.

Popular Portable Generators Run Times

To give you a good idea of what kind of run time you can expect for your RV generator, here are 11 of the most popular and highest-rated portable and RV-specific generators, small to large.

Listed for each model are the rated run time, fuel tank capacity, and warranty period. This should give you a great idea of how long you can expect to use your generator.

Because most generators come with two wattage ratings – starting and running – we have listed each unit’s running watts. That way each model is listed consistently, but just know that most feature a higher starting watts rating, which means they can accommodate a surge in power, like when you start up an air conditioner.

One last note before we dive in. We have included several different types of generators on this list, which can be confusing. If you would like to learn more about the key differences between them and which one is best for your situation, check out our great article on Types of RV Generators.

Yamaha EF2000iSv2 1600-Watt Gas-Powered Inverter Generator

Run Time: 10.5 hours at 1/4 load

Fuel Tank Capacity: 1.1 gallons

Warranty: 3 years

This super popular little inverter (inverters provide a smoother power delivery, so they are great for sensitive electronics such as laptops) comes with a run time rating.

PAXCESS 1800-Watt Gas-Powered Inverter Generator

Run Time: 11 hours at 1/4 load

Fuel Tank Capacity: 1.1 gallons

Warranty: 2 years

For those needing just a tad more power, this PAXCESS unit offers an even longer run time. While it is not a well-known brand, owners have reported mostly positive things about this inverter.

Champion 2800-Watt Inverter Generator

Run Time: 8 hours at 1/4 load

Fuel Tank Capacity: 1.6 gallons

Warranty: 3 years

Champion is known for their great generators, and the remote start feature is a handy benefit of this 2800-watt inverter. At a rated 8 hours, however, it sits at the bottom of the list for run time.

Honda 3000-Watt Gas Inverter Generator

Run Time: 20 hours

Fuel Tank Capacity: 3.4 gallons

Warranty: 3 years

Honda makes some wonderful yet expensive generators, and this big inverter is no exception. Sure, you will pay more for it than just about any other generator on the list, but it offers unparalleled reliability and impressive 20-hour run time.

DuroStar DS4000S 3300-Watt Gas Generator

Run Time: 8 hours at 1/2 load

Fuel Tank Capacity: 4 gallons

Warranty: 1 year 

This popular DuroStar gas generator offers a great price-to-power ratio. Unfortunately, it’s run time and the warranty period are the worst on this list.

Champion 3500-Watt Gas Generator

Run Time: 12 hours at 1/2 load

Fuel Tank Capacity: 3.8 gallons

Warranty: 3 years

Next up, we have another Champion unit. With a decent 12 hours of run time, it should get you through the night with no problem.

Firman H03652 4,000-Watt Dual Fuel Generator

Run Time: 14 hours 

Fuel Tank Capacity: 5 gallons

Warranty: 3 years

This Firman could be the RV generator sweet spot. At 14 hours of run time and a 3-year warranty, it’s hard to beat.

Westinghouse WH5500 5500-Watt Gas-Powered Generator

Run Time: 16 hours

Fuel Tank Capacity: 6.6 gallons

Warranty: 3 years

Those needing more power should seriously consider this Westinghouse gas generator. With over 5,000 watts, it can tackle some of the largest jobs in the RV world, not to mention serving as backup power for your house. It’s 16-hour rating is one of the best on the list.

Champion 7500-Watt Gas Generator

Run Time: 8 Hours 

Fuel Tank Capacity: 6.1 gallons

Warranty: 3 years

Here we have another 8-hour generator. While it won’t run for as long as some others, Champion is known for their reliability, so it should last for many years to come.

Firman H08051 8000-Watt Dual Fuel Generator

Run Time: 12 Hours 

Fuel Tank Capacity: 8 gallons

Warranty: 3 years

With a massive 8-gallon fuel tank, this Firman dual-fuel generator offers an impressive 12-hour run time. And with 8,000 running watts, it can handle even the largest RVs.

DuroMax XP12000E 9500-Watt Gas- and Propane-Powered Generator

Run Time: 10 Hours at 1/2 load

Fuel Tank Capacity: 8.3 gallons

Warranty: 1 year 

Finally, we get to the biggest generator on the list. Nicknamed “The Beast,” this Duromax develops 9,500 watts of power, but even with its 8.3-gallon fuel tank, it can only run for 10 hours at a time.

Built-In RV Generator Run Times

When it comes to built-in RV generators, you will find that many do not come with a handy run-time rating. Also, most don’t come with a fuel tank because they hook up directly to your RV’s fuel source – gas, diesel, or propane. Clearly, these generators work differently

To find out exactly how long yours can operate for without damage, look at your owner’s manual. Most will advise you to keep your eye on the oil level anytime you are running the generator for long periods of time. Beyond that, however, most units will be able to run safely for as long as they have fuel. Some owners report having operated theirs for as long as a week with no ill effects.

Limiting Factors

So, what is holding generators back from running continuously? After all, you might be in a situation that requires a power source for more than just a few hours. What prevents long run times changes depending on the model, so there are a few factors that require the generators to take a break every once in a while.

Lifetime Rating

Some generators are built with an advertised number of hours of operation. For example, it may be rated for 5,000 hours of operation. Because the various components have not been built to last longer than that, you will probably need to start shopping for a new generator after that point. Whether your generator will continue to operate for a decent amount of time beyond those hours depends on a lot of factors: build quality, maintenance, and luck. So, if your generator has a lot of hours under its belt, it is probably not a good tool to rely on if you need long term, continuous operation.

Fuel

Any generator that runs on fuel – whether it’s gasoline, diesel, or propane – will need to be refueled at some point. While most models will automatically shut themselves off after the fuel source runs dry (preventing catastrophic harm to the engine), they will need to be shut down and refueled at some point.

Quiet Hours

If you need a generator that can run for as long as possible, we will show you exactly which ones will work the best. There are some things to keep in mind when it comes to continuous operation, however. While it’s not a limitation of the generator itself, many campgrounds have quiet hours. During the listed hours, RV owners are not allowed to run their generators. This allows everyone to have a quiet and peaceful night’s sleep, but does require some planning, so make sure you charge up before those hours begin.

Is Running Good for Your Generator?

According to this great resource from RV University, running your generator for long periods is not only safe for your generator – it’s beneficial! That’s right, no matter what type of generator you own, it is best for the unit to be started and run (with at least a 50% load) for at least a couple of hours each month.

Allowing your generator to sit for too long without running can cause several types of damage. From the fuel breaking down to moisture building up, lack of use is hard on these guys. That’s why proper maintenance, including regular use of the generator, is the best way to ensure yours will live to serve you for as long as possible.  And, as always, consult your owner’s manual to find out the best way to maintain your generator.

Find the Generator that Works Best for Your Needs

Now you should have an idea of how long you can expect an RV generator to safely run. While the answer can be complicated, you can always refer to your owner’s manual for the exact specifications on your generator.

And if you don’t have one yet, I would advise borrowing or renting one to find out just how much power you need and how many hours you need it to run for. That way, you can buy the generator that is perfect for you and your RV.

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