How to Run Your RV Air Conditioner off a Generator When It’s Too Hot

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Are you melting in your RV? This summer, the temperatures have been soaring across the country. Chances are, as time goes on, things are only going to get worse due to climate change. This leaves many RVers wondering, how can I run my RV air conditioner off a generator? 

If you’ve ever tried to run your RV air conditioner off a generator, you probably faced instant disappointment. RV air conditioning units draw much more power at startup than they do to run. This means just because your generator says it is 2,000 watts doesn’t mean it could run a 13,5000 BTU AC unit. That’s because while these AC units need an average of 1000-1300 watts to run, they draw a whopping 2,700-2,900 watts at startup. 

Fortunately, you don’t need to spend the summer melting. There are many tactics to keep your RV cool in the summer. You can even run your air conditioner off a generator when you install a soft start or easy start. Keep ready to learn more.

How Much Power Does an RV Air Conditioner Use?

Before we discuss the problem at hand, it is important to understand the basics. While individual units may vary, here is how much power an RV air conditioner draws on average during use and at startup. 

Roof Top Air Conditioner BTUAverage Watts During UseWatts Needed for Startup
7,000 BTU6001700
10,000 BTU7002000
13,500 BTU12502750
15,000 BTU15003500
Data from Ramsond, which also has a helpful wattage chart for other RV appliances.

To successfully run the RV AC off a generator, your generator needs to handle the startup wattage. That can get pretty pricy as you’d need a very large generator for a single 15,000 BTU air conditioning unit.


An alternative to getting an enormous generator is to install a Softstart or Easystart. 

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What are Softstart and Easystart?

Softstart and Easystart are essentially the same, with the major difference being the manufacturer. The goal of both units is to reduce power consumption when starting up an electric appliance such as the air conditioner. 

Using a Softstart or Easystart you can reduce the initial power draw of your air conditioner by up to 70%. This means you can actually run your air conditioner using a generator without having an excessively one. 

Another benefit of using a Softstart or Easystart is that the startup isn’t so noisy. If you’ve ever tried to sleep with an air conditioner on, you know how loud they are at startup. I have spent many nights getting woken up every time the AC kicks back on. It is better than trying to sleep in the heat, but it is certainly anything but restful. Why not have the best of both with a softer startup? 

If you have a 30 amp RV, using a Softstart or Easystart is also beneficial. You can get over the hump of startup without running into a tripped breaker. It is certainly cheaper than rewiring your entire RV to a 50 amp.

How to Install a Softstart or Easystart in Your RV?

Both units come with an installation kit and instructions. There are also videos on the company websites or YouTube instructing you in installation. Here is a link to the Easystart installation video and an example of a Softstart installation video to give you an idea of what to expect. They estimate you can complete the installation on your own in just about 45 minutes. 

If you’re not comfortable going on your roof or completing the installation yourself, you can also hire an RV technician to complete the task for you.


Do you run your RV air conditioner off a generator using Softstart or Easystart?

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Kathryn Mancewicz

Kathryn Mancewicz is an RV expert who has been a full time RVer since 2019. She has bylines for her RV related content on major publications including MSN, MSN Canada, and AOL. She has also been featured on Yahoo and quoted on KOA. Kathryn is also a regular RV content writer for Cheapism.