Can A 2000 Watt Generator Run An A/C?

So you are out dry camping and it is hot! You are wishing you could run your A/C unit to get some relief, but you can’t because your generator is too small at 2000 watts. Think again, it is possible depending on the size of your A/C. If your A/C unit is 13,500 watts or smaller, with a soft start and if this is the only thing that you are running, then yes. This is just getting by and not running your A/C on max. Ideally, the best size of the generator would be in the 2800 to 3000 watt to run your A/C unit on max. I would still recommend the use of a soft start as there other benefits other than starting your A/C unit in stages. 

What is a soft start, and why do I need one?

 A typical A/C draws 5 to 8 times the power on startup than when they use when running. This causes a problem if you are using a limited amount of power available. A soft start is an electronic device that ramps up the power to a device, as in this case your rigs A/C unit it is running at full capacity. Without drawing on huge amounts of power, that would otherwise not be possible with the current power requirements. These devices have been around for years for your home A/C Unit, as it lowers the draw of power and prevents spikes in power consumption that might trip your breaker. Soft starts also reduce the wear on your A/C’s motor components from the sudden starts on stops that typically occurs in A/C units. Micro-Air is the first to market with this device that allows your A/C to run on a lower power draw.   Here is a video from them explaining more about their soft-start units.

Do I really need a soft-start? Well, it depends. You don’t really need one, I have been starting my A/C unit when it is plugged into a 115-volt wall, by slowly turning on my unit and scaling it up to power while successfully not tripping my breaker to my house power. If I had used a soft start, it would do this for me. 

What can you run on a 2000 watt generator?

A 2000 watt generator is relatively small and typically compact enough to carry around. Coming at usually 50 lbs and having a decibel of 50 to 60, which is relatively quiet. Generally, 2000 watts is the max output, but they typically run at 1,800 watts. So with that said, you could run a few things. But let’s get a handle of what power consumption typical household appliances consume when in use.



Coffee Machine

300 to 1500

Single burner Induction Stove

200 to 1800

Blender (Vitamix)

500 to 1400

Hair Dryer




Microwave Oven

600 to 1200

Slow Cooker


Instant Pot

300 to 1000

Small TV

120 to 200

Small Electric Heater


If the item you want to use is not on this shortlist, then just look it up on google to get a rough estimate. Type the name of the item with watts at the end. So now you just add it all up based on what you want to use. As you can see a 2000 watt generator idling, at 1800 watts,  just runs a few items together, but things like a microwave oven or hairdryer would be the only item running, without topping out your generator. In the end, it’s not much one could run.

Choosing a Little higher wattage generator for optimal power

If the list above leaves you wondering, if the 2000 watt generator is going to work for you look for a little higher models, that will give you a little more power, while not sacrificing on size, noise, and cost. A generator that is in 2500 to 3500-watt range tends to be the optimal size to power output for most people camping in their RV, this is where you can run your 1500 watt A/C, also with your TV, slow cooker and still charge your onboard batteries. The decibels for this size of generators tend to be in the 50 to 60 db, so it is not much louder than people speaking in the background. At this size, they will typically come with 30 amp power, and some will run on dual fuels. So using gas or propane is an option. 

Choosing Parallel to boost your power with flexibility 

As an alternative, using two 2000 watt generators or a mix of generators sizes (2000, or 3000 watts) may be better suited for your situation. Parallel kits allow you to boost the amount of power from multiple generators to give you more amperage to run more appliances such as A/C, microwave, blender and what not. Typically the kits will plug into the generators and have an output of either 50 amps or 30 amps that you could plug your RV into. Here’s a video from Champion on how to connect the two, but most generators will be very similar. 

This gives you more power without having to carry one large generator that produces more sounds and weights more. On the other hand, you might have a very small unit, such as a teardrop camper or a truck camper and you want to add a smaller generator to run your window-sized A/C. 

Will a 1000 watt generator run a 5000 btu AC unit?

If you have a smaller trailer or truck camper, in which you have a 5000 watt A/C, a 1000 watt generator is more than sufficient to run, as the idling wattage would probably be at about 800 watts, which is more than ample to run a small unit. 

What about Noise from my Generator? What can I do about it?

Most generators that are in 2000 to the 3000-watt range today tend to produce anywhere from 50 decibels to 70 decibels of noise when running. At 70 decibels (db) this is fairly loud and the constant humming of a generator in the background can be quite annoying for some people. To give you perspective on 70 db, its as loud as a vacuum cleaner. So fairly loud. Here’s a chart from Perdue University on the sounds at different db levels. The ideal loudness is around 50 to 60 dbs, with the generator at the backside of your RV so that most of the noise is reflected away from your campsite. Still, their other ways to reduce the noise further. Such as placing a few pieces of plywood against the generator to reflect the noise down into the ground. As a minimum, you really only need on piece to reflect the noise away from your campsite.  

Summing it up

Having a generator to power your A/C when out dry camping can be a huge relief if the temperatures are going to be fairly warm. Or if the temperature is cold and you want to run an electric heater inside your RV to take off the chill. Either way, a typical 2000 to 3000 ish generator should suit most needs when out camping where there’s no electricity. If power consumption is greater, choosing and a parallel kit can expand the amperage that you might need. Either way, choosing the right generator mix is dependant on what your power consumption is, as well as what power you might get from your batteries, and if you are also using solar panels to top up the power. 

74 / 100
74 / 100

About the author 


You may also like

10 Best Travel Trailers For Large Families

RV Fridge Troubleshooting: Why’s It Not Working?

How Does Your RV Refrigerator Work

Do Class B Motorhomes Have Generators?