Can You Run An RV Generator Overnight?

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If you’re new to the world of RVs, you may have a few questions about your generator. And that’s good – you’re asking important questions. One of the most common ones is if it’s safe to run them overnight.

While most RV generators are safe to run overnight, there are exceptions to this. Be sure to know what type of generator you’re using and where the exhaust goes before trying to sleep with it running. If you don’t, you risk carbon monoxide poisoning.

So what do you need to know about running generators overnight?

Exhaust & Your Type Of Generator

Generators generally come in one of two forms with RVs – in-built or portable. They each have their own benefits and trade-offs, so it’s important to know the difference.

In-Built Generators

These are rather common. They’re generators that are built into the RV’s fuel lines and exhaust, and they’re more common with modern RVs than older ones. It’s important to ensure that the exhaust line does actually run away from the RV to prevent the buildup of carbon monoxide.

Portable Generators

These are extremely common, with or without an RV. The plus side to these is that they can be picked up and carried and that they don’t take fuel from your RV’s tank. The downside to them is that you cannot safely run them while driving or sleeping without precautions. These don’t have an exhausting escape other than just… letting it out wherever you left the thing.

This means that you need to place it outside and at least 10 feet from any open windows or vents. While it is possible to add an exhaust extension to your portable generator, it’s generally better to just place it outside. Perhaps in the bed of your tow vehicle?

Exhaust & Its Dangers

As I’m sure you’re already aware, exhaust from fires or engines that burn fuel can prove dangerous in enclosed areas. This is called carbon monoxide poisoning, and it’s not only fatal – but you can’t smell, taste, or see the danger. This is why I am emphasizing the importance of planning your exhaust.

If you have an in-built generator, you’re set. If not, more planning is needed, as stated above.

Where You’re Camped Matters

Depending on if you’re boondocking or in an actual RV park or campground, there could be park rules related to generators. Considering that generators are, by nature, loud, it’s not uncommon for parks to restrict running them after a certain time.

Local ordinances could also determine whether or not you’re allowed to run a generator overnight, so be sure to check with local authorities first.

Can Generators Even Run All Night?

Yes, most models can. They’re designed to run for hours (if not days) at a time, assuming they’re refueled consistently. And some models even come with remote start/stop functions, meaning you don’t even need to get out of the vehicle to deal with your generator.

The downside to running a generator all night is that they might need to be refueled. Letting a generator run on an empty tank can cause serious damage to the machine, potentially killing it. And while they’re not going to bankrupt you, a new generator can cost upwards of $300, so replacing them isn’t ideal.

How To Safely Run A Generator All Night

If you follow these steps, you’ll be able to sleep like a baby in a perfectly air-conditioned RV all night without issue.

  1. Have a functioning carbon monoxide detector. This is important for general safety, no matter what. They cost no more than $20 and are available at all big box retailers. Seriously, go get one, and have backup batteries on hand.
  2. Be aware of exhaust. This means that open windows are a no-no when it comes to running a generator overnight. And no, air conditioning will absolutely not stop carbon monoxide from coming in, nor will it filter it.
  3. Place it at least ten feet from your RV, open windows or not. Again, carbon monoxide poisoning isn’t fun. Beyond that, generators are loud, and you’re trying to sleep!
  4. Secure your generator. This means both from thieves and against itself. Generators shake and create vibrations naturally. You don’t want it coming loose while you’re asleep if something goes wrong, and you definitely don’t want it stolen. You can chain it to a solid object if you’re worried about theft.
    1. Don’t put it underneath your RV. This is not far enough to prevent the exhaust from making its way inside.
  5. Be sure its tank is filled. Nobody wants to wake up at 3 a.m. to add gas to an empty generator, especially if it’s really cold outside. Make sure to fill it right before bed and you should be set.

Final Thoughts

Generators, when used properly, are awesome. They can also be dangerous, and it’s good to be aware of that. By following safety best practices and knowing your machine, it’s entirely possible to safely run both in-built and portable generators overnight. Just, for the love of all things holy – don’t do it indoors.

Can I Make My Generator Quieter?

Yes. There are lots of ways to soundproof your generator to allow better sleep. These range from using plywood to dampen sound, to buying professionally-made sound dampening boxes to place around the generator. While the former is cheap and easy, the latter is expensive because it works wonders.

Can I Run My Generator While Driving?

Yes, assuming it’s in-built. The considerations here are the same as running them overnight – safety and convenience. It’s technically possible with portable generators but is not recommended, even a little bit. Just pull over if you need to run a portable generator.

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