How to Install a Portable Generator in an RVby Craig Woodman
Today's self-contained recreational vehicles contain most of the amenities of home, including bathrooms and refrigerators. While they use batteries for power to run lights and other accessories, a household current source is needed to operate anything using 110 volt AC power. Many motor homes come with generators built in, but with an investment of a few afternoons, you can install a portable generator in a towed RV as well.
Inspect the RV to determine where to mount the generator. On a travel trailer, you may want to mount the generator on the A-frame at the front of the trailer near the hitch behind the propane tanks. With a fifth-wheel trailer there may be a compartment in the front where the generator could be placed. If there is no room at the front, the generator can be mounted on the rear of the RV provided the bumper can support the weight. To make the determination, examine how the bumper is attached to the frame. If it is welded or bolted with a large section of metal at least 12 inches long running parallel to the frame, it may be able to support the weight. If the bumper just butts against the frame with little or no support, a support structure needs to be installed.
Fabricate the sub-structure for the platform. On the front A-frame, the platform may be bolted to the frame. On the rear bumper, attach metal channel perpendicular to the bumper by either drilling and bolting through the bumper or use U-bolts to secure it. If you are mounting the generator directly to the frame, attach the metal channel to at least 18 inches of the frame and secure with U-bolts.
Mount the platform directly on the front A-frame for a front installation by placing U-bolts through the mesh and over the frame. Tighten the U-bolts. For rear mounting, place U-bolts or similar fasteners through the mesh in the bottom of the platform and secure them around the fabricated metal channel sub-structure.
Place the generator on the flat platform, keeping its weight near the center of the platform. Secure the generator to the platform. If the generator base has holes in it to place bolts through, do so. If the generator does not have openings for bolts, you may need to use ratchet straps to secure it. Hook each end of the strap to the mesh bottom of the platform. Run the straps over the top of the generator and tighten.
Connect the electrical system of the generator to the RV. If you hook the generator to a transfer switch, you allow for easier conversion from generator to shore power. You can hook up the power cord from the shore power connector to the RV generator to energize the RV.
- Use only a generator designated for RV use. Construction type portable generators are noisier than RV types. The power output of an RV generator is more suitable to powering the computerized electrical components in your RV due to its cleaner power output.
Things You'll Need
- Metal platform preferably with a mesh bottom
- Assorted square channel iron for fabrication
- Assorted bolts and hardware (depends on approach)
- Electric drill and bits
- SAE socket set
- SAE wrench set
- Ratchet strap tie downs
- The exhaust from the portable generator must be directed away from the RV particularly if the RV is used for sleeping. Failure to do so can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, leading to death or serious injury. Consider using carbon monoxide detectors in an RV when the generator is in use.
- Do not significantly alter the weight balance of the trailer by installing a generator. This could cause trailer sway when towing.
Craig Woodman began writing professionally in 2007. Woodman's articles have been published in "Professional Distributor" magazine and in various online publications. He has written extensively on automotive issues, business, personal finance and recreational vehicles. Woodman is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in finance through online education.