Do Generators Charge my RV’s batteries?

It has always been a dream of mine to own an RV and travel across the country. Like many people I’m going to have wait on this dream until my kids are older and the wife and I can slip away for a few days at a time. Those of you who are lucky enough to cruise across the country stopping at your leisure I envy you. Such freedom. Being able to wake up each morning, point somewhere randomly on the map, and start driving.

It is not all fun and games though. There are always problems and hiccups that can occur when driving and camping in your motor home. One of the most common is not having a reliable power source when camping. Most camp sites nowadays have a RV thirty or fifty amp plug-ins available. When these are available it is as easy as plugging in and then you have power to run whatever you need within your RV rather it be your air conditioner, coffee maker, microwave, etc.

When you arrive at a campsite and discover that there is no plug-in, or if you decide to dry-dock it and camp in an off-grid manner then you are going to need an alternative power source. This is where generators come in handy. The generators, either built-in to your RV or a standard portable one, provide alternating current (AC) power to your RV. Most of the appliances in your RV require AC in order to function.

A common question though is will the generator also charge your RV’s batteries? The batteries in your RV are similar to your vehicle’s batteries. They provide you with the power to start the engine. They provide basic lights. With RVs they also provide some other basics such as water pump functionality and even a small television. But that is about all they can do. You need the generator or the plug-in to power the rest of your appliances.

With RVs and motor homes there are two types of power sources. We covered that generators/plug-ins create alternating current (AC) power. This is just like your home. Everything in your home uses AC to power it. This could be your furnace, air conditioner, refrigerator, water heater, etc. The other power source in RVs is known as direct current (DC) power. DC power is just like what you find in your personal vehicle. This is the power that is generated and stored in your vehicle’s batteries. If your batteries drain completely then you will not be able to start the motor home, just like what happens to a car.

The good news here is that most RVs come with what’s known as an inverter and a converter. The inverter converts the DC energy over to AC energy. The converter converts AC energy over to DC energy. SO, if you have your generator plugged-in and running then you are also generating DC power which in turns charges your batteries. The opposite is also true. If you are driving down the road then you will also have AC power based on the DC power inverting over to AC power.

These two power sources loop into each other so as long as you have one you have the other. That being said, DC power is significantly weaker then AC power. Remember, DC is only powered by your vehicle’s batteries. AC power is powered by either plugging your RV into a power source or by an actual generator. You will always have more power from an AC source. As an example, you could technically run an air conditioner using only your batteries… but your batteries would be drained after only an hour or two of use. If you had AC power then your air conditioner can run indefinitely or until your generator runs out of fuel.


In short folks, yes your RV’s batteries will be charged by your generator. They will also be charged if you are docked at a camp-site or RV park and plugged-in. Either way the batteries will be charged and ready to go for the next day’s journey. Lastly, please note that this article is intended to give advice and informational value only. We here at ToughAssTools are not liable for any damage when it comes to using generators rather it be personal, injury, or property.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson


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