A PORTABLE generator or a BUILT-IN? PROS and CONS.

A portable generator or a genny (or genset) are the two types of RV generators.

Let's look at the differences, the PROS and CONS of both.

A PORTABLE GENERATOR (free standing):

There are many choices when it comes to select one. First, make sure it is designed for RVers, not the very noisy contractor models.

They range in size from a small 600 watt model to not so small 5 kw unit on wheels. If you do not have a genset (built-in) installed in your RV, the portable gas generator is a very interesting option, mostly when combined with a solar power system to take care of recharging your battery bank.


  • as its name implies, being portable, it can be used for other purposes at home.
  • the RV models like the EU series from Honda are very quiet.
  • it is easier to service a portable generator with better access to its components and possibility to bring it to a specialist to have it repaired.


  • you need to find storage room for the portable generator. Some RVers put it on a small platform mounted on the rear of the RV or simply keep it inside the tow vehicle.
  • has to be lifted up and down, moved around getting stinky hands fueling the gas generator. Starting it and going to turn it off in the rain is not always convenient.
  • the big units (4-5 kw generators) are not really portable anymore. They are generally on wheels and you need two people to lift them.
  • any long extension cord from the generator to the RV would reduce the wattage at destination.
  • you may need an adapter at the end of the electrical cable coming from the RV or have a generator already designed with the proper RV outlet to make the connection.

GENNY OR GENSET (built-in generator):

A genset or genny are other names for a diesel or gas powered generator normally installed in a motorhome , sometimes in high-end trailers . They are hard wired to the AC electric system of the recreational vehicle.

The built in generator is located in a compartment with all the connections already part of the RV and an exit to the outside for the exhaust fumes. It gives the RVer access to a high-kilowatt output (2.5 to 17 kilowatts)


  • you do not have to go outside to move it out of its storage compartment, fill it up, make the connections to the RV and start it.
  • you normally just have to push a button on a panel inside the RV to start and turn it off, something very convenient in the rain.
  • unless it is a trailer, it gets its fuel supply from the engine fuel tank of the motorized RV.
  • if the level of fuel runs low, it will not continue to empty the tank so you are out of fuel when comes the time to start the engine of your vehicle. Instead, it will shut down automatically to prevent this inconvenience.
  • it can be used while moving. You can then recharge the batteries while driving your RV so you have a full charge when you arrive at your new destination.
  • it can also be used to power the air conditioner of a motorhome which is a better option than using the dash unit since the roof-mounted AC will not affect negatively the gas mileage of the motorized RV.
  • a large output generator (6kw ) coupled to a multistage charger or an inverter/charger will be as efficient in charging batteries as a high-output alternator and may by itself replace a full campground hook-up.


  • more difficult access for servicing (oil changes, parts and filters etc...)
  • when the generator is in operation, all windows on the side it is located have to be closed, so there is no carbon monoxide coming into the RV.
  • it can not be used for other purposes than powering the RV.

So... A portable Generator or a Built-in ?

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