How To Run Your RV Air Conditioner On 2200 Watts
In my last two posts, I shared how I reinforced my battery rack in order to carry a heavier generator and how I designed a “table” to carry the generator above the rack. For years I have traveled with a 1,000-watt Honda generator that was sufficient enough to run my wife’s hair dryer on low and keep the house batteries charged, but not large enough to run the rooftop air conditioner.
When it was excessively hot, we found an RV park to hold up in to run the air conditioner on shore power, or we headed to higher elevations where it was cooler. Recently, however, I have been traveling to speaking engagements during the summer, finding myself in hotter climates more often with no high country to seek relief during uncomfortable hot spells.
Help From an A/C Soft Starter
Given the desire to stay cool, press releases and blogs about the SoftStartRV system have piqued my interest in being able to run my air conditioner on a smaller generator. SoftStartRV advertises it can reduce the current required to start your RV’s air conditioning by up to 70%. This reduction in power allows RVers to start and run their air conditioner with a smaller generator like a 2,000 or 2,200, negating the need to haul around a bigger generator like a 3,000-watt or run two smaller generators in parallel.
Determining the Honda 2,200 would fit, I figured if a 2,000-watt could do so, the extra 10% power in a 2,200 should be no problem. After watching several YouTube videos on the subject and the start-up procedures others had success with, I decided to give it a try before adding the SoftStartRV.
Running an A/C with a 2200-watt generator
After watching the videos and experimenting with the 2,200-watt generator connected to my travel trailer, here is what I discovered:
- Running the generator with the Eco mode turned off (RV refrigerator set to gas): Start the fan only on the air conditioner and let it come up to speed, then engage the air conditioner’s compressor. Result: The compressor started up with barely a grunt out of the generator.
- Running the generator with the Eco mode turned on (RV refrigerator set to auto): Starting with just the fan and then bringing the compressor online like the example above. Result: The generator really grunted but soon was turning the compressor and producing cold air just fine. The issue here is the wear and tear on that generator. A SoftStartRV would reduce that difficult startup, and save on that long-term wear.
- Running the generator with the Eco mode turned on (RV refrigerator set to auto): I switched on the air conditioner just like I would on shore power. Result: A concerning deep hum from the air conditioner (things trying to turn, but not quite) and nearly stalling the generator, but the generator really revved up and the air conditioner motor and compressor began to turn, the generator idled down, and cold air started flowing. Here’s where the value of that SoftStartRV comes in. It would have allowed the A/C to start without that really concerning deep hum.
The additional startup power offered by the SoftStartRV A/C soft starter covers me as I gain experience using the generator to run the air conditioner in a variety of different conditions, mainly high elevations. Given that gas engines lose about 3% of their power for every thousand feet of elevation gained, there might even be a point where the generator won’t operate the air conditioner at all. Starting the A/C is the challenge, and that’s where the SoftStartRV excels.
However, since it is also 3-5° cooler for every thousand feet of elevation gain, the two might balance each other out. The generator might not run the air conditioner at 10,000-foot elevation, but it is unlikely it will ever be hot enough that I need to do so. Stay tuned as I head off into hotter parts of the country this summer. Staying cool without having to carry a hundred-pound generator, just another adventure in RVing!
To learn more about A/C soft starters, check out the Top 7 Questions From SoftStartRV.
Dave Helgeson’s many roles in the RV industry started before he even had a driver’s license. His grandparents and father owned an RV dealership before the term “RV” had been coined, and Dave played a pivotal role in nearly every position of an RV dealership. He and his wife Cheri launched their own RV dealership in the Pacific Northwest. The duo also spent 29 years overseeing regional RV shows. Dave has also served as President of a local chapter of the Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), worked on the board of advisors for the RV Technician Program of a local technical college, and served as a board member of the Manufactured Home and RV Association. Dave’s reputation earned him the title of “The foremost expert on boondocking,” bestowed by RV industry icon, the late Gary Bunzer (The RV Doctor). When he’s not out boondocking, you’ll find Dave in the spotlight at RV shows across the country, giving seminars about all things RVing. He and Cheri currently roam in their fifth travel trailer, with Dave doing all the service, repair and modifications to his own unit.
Stephen Monteith Albers says
How about if you could skip the generator, with its noise, fuel and fumes all together and run your trailer air conditioning from your tow vehicle, or solar/batteries. Would you be interested/
Dave Helgeson - Adventures in RVing says
Good idea in theory, but running the tow vehicle to turn a high output alternator to then power a large inverter would burn more fuel and create more fumes than running the generator.
AC improvements are going to be the “next” big improvement on RVs. Right now we are focused on how to power these hugely inefficient machines (by throwing money at them), rather than, improving the machine design. Easy Start and Soft Start (competing companies, btw) have made strides in reducing the startup power, but other electronic manufacturers like LG have designed mini split models that are RV ready. 2020 was the first year these are being seen introduced into RV lineups by the major manufacturers. The can also be purchased aftermarket and retrofitted into earlier models.
Doug Jewell says
I replaced the ACs in my RV in 2018 with Dometic high efficiency 15K Heat Pumps. They have soft start built-in. It Draws 4 amps when the fan kicks on, 16 amps additional for 2 seconds on compressor start up, and run at 12 amps total while running on high fan speed. I can run all three of the ACs on my 40 foot gas class A with a 5,500 watt generator while driving in hot weather.
Dan Engel says
I am high on minisplits and have installed one in an Airstream. It is extremely quiet (42 dB) and very efficient- can heat or cool using only about 1,000 watts of power.
It will replace the current power hogs of RV AC’s.
Just tried running A/C on 2200 Honda Genny two weeks ago. Fridge on propane, Genny out of eco mode. Kicked in like a charm. Didn’t think about starting the fan first.
American Camper says
No not at all!
Have you considered the Predator generators from HF? Get the 3500 one and forget messing around with loads- it will handle it all. Just trow it in the back of your truck.
Dave Helgeson - Adventures in RVing says
The back of my truck is occupied with a motorcycle, ATV, fuel cans and firewood, that is why I carry a smaller generator on the A frame of my trailer as a I have no room for a larger one elsewhere. (see previous blog entry)
You should NEVER transport firewood due to the possibility of spreading insect or mold/blight infestation. In fact, it is illegal in many areas.
If it’s kiln dried wood everything in it is already long dead……..
Never in my life have I seen kiln-dried firewood
Just thought I would toss this out there that Generac is selling the model 2000 (which is really 1600) at Costco for a price of $499. I have purchased 2 and my son has 1. They are VERY easy to pull starts and even quieter than my Honda 2200. Next, I will get the parallel cable to give me up to 3200 should I need it.
They are nowhere near as quiet as a Honda. I have both.
Jefferson Beifuss says
Plus, the Predator 3500 weighs 99 lbs (dry), add gas and oil, and you have a hernia waiting to happen, “throwing it around”. Us old guys are looking for lighter weight, smaller size. I am hopeful that I can run my 13,500 btu ac on my 1600 watt Yamaha, once I get to sea level. Right now, it needs 2 of them and the Easy Start at 5000′, but starting amps are down to 27 from 64. Running amps are 13. The Yamahas are 54 lbs apiece, with gas and oil included.
Terry G Ezart says
Had no problems of running the 13,500 A/C with the Yamaha 2400 at over 8000′ in Yellowstone park. Turn on the fan before to reduce the start up amps and it works even better.
I can run my 15k btu unit With ez start with my 2000watt Yamaha up to about 7000 feet and 82 degrees. It stalled this week at Mammoth ay 8000 ft and 82 degrees
actually, your tow vehicle (as long as its a well maintained modern one) will be far more fuel efficient, quieter, and cleaner emissions than any generator. Cargenerator sells a car power inverter designed for this application. It is pricey but does exactly what an RV needs
The problem is if you want to drive somewhere while others remain at the RV and they need the generator to power the A.C….this means dragging the generator out of the truck bed……and the predator is pretty heavy…..
Glen Schlosser says
I have a Champion 3100 runs everything. Bought in 2006 and their customer service is the best
Good article, but I would like to clarify a couple of items. I live in the desert Southwest at an altitude of 4000 ft. Many of the Southern New Mexico mountains get up to about 10,000 ft but the temperatures don’t always cool down enough. Where I live, the summer temps can get up to well over 100 degrees and even the mountains get that hot and they only cool down to the mid 80s. To me, this is hot. The nice thing is the humidity is usually fairly low (less than 40%), so it isn’t too bad for sleeping. The challenge for many is the requirement to shut off your generator after 1000 pm, even if you are boondocking. Noise travels and nobody wants noisy neighbors.
If you use a larger generator and also use a sound deadening box, you will be able to run it at night and not bother your neighbors. For me, this is one way to maximize your enjoyment while minimizing the noise for your neighbors.
Dave Helgeson - Adventures in RVing says
Harry, Where I boondock, I have no neighbors and typically no requirements to shut off my generator. (not that I leave it running at night). Thanks for sharing.
Concur with Champion’s customer service. Bought a Champion 4000W in 2006. Hurricane Irma hit in 2017 and the lights went out. Champion would not start and I called customer service. They overnighted a new carb and pull start cord assembly – no charge!
Mike Beaulieu says
Hi, good article, I didn’t hear about the Easy Start until now. I bought a Briggs & Stratton P3000 that runs at 2600 watts with a peak starting watts of 3000 watts (thus the P3000 designation), it weighs 84lbs with a full tank and is very quiet, I think that would have been your best bet. Look it up, I think you will find it is a good fit for your situation.
Dave Helgeson - Adventures in RVing says
Mike, “Fit” is the problem for me, that is why I carry my generator on the tongue of my trailer – back of the truck is full of motorized toys. (Those with SUVs run into the same situation with no where to carry a large generator)
I also have the Honda 2200 generator and on my last RV trailer had a 15k btu ac. I tested it out in the fall and it worked fine on normal mode with a small grunt when the compressor kicked in. That winter we went to Florida and no longer got cool hooked up to shore power. I needed a new ac unit. Thankfully it was still under warranty.
Now I have two Hondas. With both running the compressor starts instantly.
Patrick south ga Accountability says
I built a deck on the back of my camper to hold the generator and other things I need also built a cover / wall for the generator in bad weather.
Kerry Batdorf says
Has anyone reading this post ‘experimented’ with air-air heat exchangers/mini-splits which consume much less energy that a typical air conditioner and additionally can be run in ‘reverse’ to act as a heater? It seems this should reduce heating/cooling energy requirements/costs substantially.
Sounds like a great idea
It could be an add on???
Kerry Batdorf says
It could be an add on, but, it could also, possibly, be a replacement for the existing air conditioner and heater. Remove the air conditioner on the outside/roof and replace it or locate elsewhere with the heat exchanger compressor unit. Remove the existing [LP] heater to make room for the inside heat exchanger/fan unit. The common inside units I’ve seen might not directly fit in the space occupied by the LP heater, some creativity/rearrangement might be required. It would be nice to find or manufacture a mini mini-split system.
Keep in mind that a DIY mini split system will not be serviced by qualified technicians, and these sytems use much higher internal pressures than common ac units, and require specialized service equipment. These service companies want to sell and install the equipment, and then sell you a service contract. Combined, this makes a mini-splt system very costly……around $5000.
Roy Bertalotto says
RV AC units are horrible, noisy, inefficient devices of the devil! The trucking industry and the marine industry have much better devices. I’m reading that lots of folks with larger trailers and motorhomes are retrofitting split systems into these units.
Robert E. Bennett says
3000 Watts is nice but not worth 84 lbs, I can carry 2 honda 2000 or 2200 at 46 lbs each and have 4400 watts peak. I carry 3 2000i honda and parallel them for 6000 watt peak and run my 5th wheel with both A/C, refrigerator, 2 TVs without a problem. The best part is that if all I need is to keep things charged and watch football I run just run one at low setting. Runs up to 8.1 hrs on less than a gallon of fuel. Thanks to our exclusive Eco Throttle System.
Roy Bertalotto says
How do you parallel three generators?
Lou S says
With a 3 way paralleling cord. Works fine.
OP failed to mention whether his converter charger was set to OFF.. This is critically important when using a small generator…
William H Spratt says
So it cools down and then shuts off for a few minutes..What happens when it kicks back on? If one had pets inside and you were out ..I wouldnt want to trust it. I’d also suggest you look into extended warranty on a/c units etc. But maybe that easy start thing would work..but not the staggered start..once you had them up and running and they auto kicked on to start cooling again.. I’d beware.
Did a test today with my Honda 2200i generator. Bottom line was that my 13500 btu air conditioner would only run on low fan. If I turned on my tv or put the fan on hi the generator would go into overload alarm and the air conditioner would shut off. I’m not that adverse on electronics but I feel that with such a low performance of the generator I may be doing some harm either to the air conditioner and/or the generator. So with that I’m seriously thinking of selling the Honda generator and upgrading to more watts like a
Briggs & Stratton 30545 P3000 PowerSmart Series Portable 3000-Watt Inverter Generator with (4) 120-Volt AC Outlets and (1) 12-Volt DC Outlet $899 with free shipping through Amazon.
Did you have your refer and converter-charger switched off??
Elevation will also make a difference and lower genny performance.
Bruce Gunckel says
Give it up dude, that generator weighs 94 lbs.
Bill B says
Older Honda 2K inverter and a hybrid inverter in the trailer. Ours, Victron Multi, has a LOT of flex to it.
Honda in Eco mode
AC kicks on
Multi supplies the start, initial run current and stops charging
Honda ramps up in speed / power and the inverter cuts back in balance
Honda at full speed – Victron goes back to charging the batteries replacing the power taken out
Bill M Burton says
Also use a 3 gal, marine tank (so 4 gal total) fed in through the fuel cap. We also monitor the interior trailer temp while away (via internet / phone) because of the dogs. This has been working for 3 years.
Lee Stauffer says
I actually use the Victron 12/2000, solar, lithium batteries and a 1000W Honda generator to run 13.5K A/C all the time, even at altitude. The Victron actually starts the 13.5K even without the HOnda.
Leisure Solar says
I have installed several hybrid inverter systems, from Magnum, Outback and Victron. Combined with a solar panel or two, good battery bank and a small (1000-2000W) generator, this is far and away the most versatile and useful power system for an RV.
Steven A says
Bill, please advise what size AC unit13.5 or 15k btu, which Victron Multi, and what type and how may batts you have.
thanks in advance
Patrick Malone says
I just bought the champion 3100 watt just for my camper, I also have a platform on the back of it to carry it and a portable waist tank and other things, I have plenty of power and it’s out of the way.
Bill B says
Sound level (59 db) looks good – are you comfortable with the 90 lbs? (84 + 7? gas and oil)
Also make sure that you use NON ethanol gas in it. That will save you a world of hurt down the line. I rotate the fuel every 3 months (phone calendar entry)
Arturo Aguilar says
Did you use the Honda 2200 original with the 15 amp outlet or the companion Honda 2200 with the 30 amp receptical?
You will in time ( a short time) burn up your compressor it’s design to run on certain voltage and amps your electrical windings in your more will warm up and up and up until the I o l kicks in shutting down compressor the fan will continue running until iol closes again then back to the windings getting hotter each time it cycles sorry but that’s the fact
you are correct, no one has even mentioned running voltage.
It is critical to keep run voltage at or above 105 AC volts minimum or you will damage the
compressor windings and even the fan motor wire and capicators.
They may run for a wile, but it is trouble brewing for sure.
Dave Hansen says
Ever experimented with punctuation?
I also have Champion 3100
Much louder than expected when running AC.
I run my RV air conditioner purely off a 3000-watt inverter and lithium batteries. Solar on the roof keeps batteries charged no problem. We rarely use our generator because it is so noisy and gives off deadly fumes plus it costs a lot of money to keep it fueled. We determined that 2 years of dry camping we would spend the same amount on generator fuel as we did on our solar setup. Plus you cannot beat the convenience of solar.
Lee Stauffer says
I also run my A/C off of solar and lithium batteries, but I wouldn’t say it’s no problem. I have 1200W of panels, and 5KWH of batteries. During peak sun hours, my 13.5K BTU A/C still demands about 700W from the batteries above what the solar can provide. After a few hot days, I need to start my 5.5KW generator which will put 2.5KW back into the batteries, taking about 2 hours to completely recharge the 5KWH bank.
So You bought a bigger gen set , big enough to run an AC = Big Deal
John Powell says
The plan is ok but slightly backwards, you should put the fan on a delay start relay, the compressor is the high load hard start item, so it should be started first followed by the fan. The relay will reset every time the unit restarts.
We have both the Honda 2000 and the 2200 to daisy chain. Got them to run our horse trailer LQ several years ago. Didn’t get to use them too much because we usually had hook ups. We have them as back ups for the house Gen in the event of another hurricane. Being in Florida you just never know. We will have them or at least 1 of them with us when we take the 5th wheel out for sure. They still crank up smooth as can be and are pretty quiet compared to big one for the house.
Sounds intriguing but here’s why I don’t think it’ll work in the long run. It may be fine for starting up and running AC constantly (or to cool down interior), but there’s no way for thermostatic control throughout the night to maintain a comfortable temperature without having to wake up and manually engage it, over and over again, the same way. Not to mention, this likely hard on the motor (probably similar to a brownout) without full juice to start AC compressor/motor.
Yes it will work, just keep the fan on continuous low speed and the compressor will cut in and out when temp calls for it
Get the Easy Start. Forget about the hassle of starting the AC unit. Plus it is easier on the geni.
Luke Butler says
You might want to try a “hard start kit” on the a/c compressor. This might help it start using less watts.
Big Daddy says
The Easy Start is expensive. You need to check your A/C unit and determine if it has a “start” and “run” capacitor. You can change out the start capacitor with a $15 hard start boost capacitor which does the same thing as the $300 “soft start” unit that’s all the rage now.
Brian T. says
I installed the Soft Start a few months ago, and was encouraged that the A/C worked fine off of a 15amp household 120v circuit at home. Took it out this week, 7,000 ft elevation, 87 degrees outside, Honda EU2200i generator. Started ok, compressor kicked on, generator lugged a little at first, then ran ok for about 2 minutes. Generator then started surging for about 30 second, then overloaded an A/C shut down. Dometic 15k btu, duel Trojan T-105.
Mark T says
Make sure your other loads are off. Specifically the converter to charge batteries can pull 9 or 10 amps on it’s own. You can’t run AC and anything else at the same time. And most folks (including youtube “testers”) don’t take into account that the converter could be drawing 1/2 the gen capacity itself.
How about the Coleman Mach 8 Cub AC unit? It’s only 9,200 BTU and draws 1270 ‘running watts’ (1550 watts in ‘desert test’ 105F). A lower rated BTU AC unit might lower the generator requirement to where it all works together better. I may try this unit on my boat.
What are the results of your testing since you wrote the article? What did you decide on?
You should start the compressor first then the fan since the fan doesn’t have a high starting load. The fan already running is taking away some the starting capacity.