Why buy a 30 Amp Generator? What’s your intended use? We’re here to clear up any confusion, lay out the facts and recommend a few of the best 30A generators currently on the market. Let’s get started.
We are all accustomed to the Wattage ratings used in all sales literature, and we normally compare generators by these specifications. But it is sometimes necessary to select a generator based on its 30 or 50-Amp user interface outlets. One example of a 30 Amp RV outlet being a factor in your decision would be a generator to power the RV in remote areas. Another example is a boathouse with a 30 Amp round receptacle for generator power. Or you want to run important appliances in the home during a power outage. For this, you may be using either a 30 Amp or 50 Amp transfer switch and panel and the generator must be compatible to it.
There is a lot more to consider than the outlets on the user panel, and we normally do in-depth reviews covering all of them. So, in this article we evaluate what really makes a generator “RV ready” or “Transfer switch ready”. 30 Amp generators are a popular choice among RV owners because most RVs have 30 Amp connectors.
But what exactly is a 30-Amp generator? A generator with a 30 Amp round receptacle is one requirement. Another is that it must at least deliver 30 Amps at the required voltage (120V or 120/240V). You may require 30 Amp receptacles meant for use with travel trailers (NEMA TT-30). For a transfer switch, used for home backup, will require another standard. The more powerful generators normally feature these 120/240V 30 Amp Twist Lock receptacles.
As this discussion develops, you will gain the insight needed to select a 30 Amp generator to match your needs.
VIDEO | An Excellent 30A Generator — Westinghouse iGen4500DF
How much power do 30-Amp generators deliver?
Unfortunately, it is not always clear whether a generator will deliver 30 Amps. Most suppliers rate the output of their generators in Watts and some hide the true amperage delivered by the generator. Reading this you may think: no problem, we can calculate the amperage using the wattage. After all, a 240-Volt 7200-Watt Generator will deliver 30 Amps at full running power. Similarly, a 120-Volt 3600-Watt generator, should also deliver 30 Amps at full power.
But there is more to consider. Generators have an overload protector that will cut the power when it exceeds a predetermined peak output for a set period. Some generators will cut power after about a minute while others may allow a few minutes of over-run. An overload like this, requires that you disconnect the load to rectify the situation before you can reset the generator. The household type 120 Volt sockets on the generator will trip their own 20 Amp breakers without affecting the main circuit breaker.
Let’s say you measure or calculate your running current as 25 Amps, occasionally peaking to 30 Amp for short periods. Then a 3600 running Watt generator sounds like it will do. But, some generators with a 30 Amp receptacle will cut power at 25.8 Amps. In that case, you may have to consider a 4000W generator to allow for the peak amps. Provided the main breaker allows for a full 30 Amps.
Some generators, rated for 4000W running capacity, only deliver 29.2 Amps at 120 Volts. This isn’t even close to 4000 Watts. It’s important to know the capabilities of the main circuit breaker. You will usually find it on the generator spec sheet. Though some manufactures omit the critical information, like voltage and amperage. Fortunately, you can usually find this information in the user manual. If the generator amperage spec is not available, I wouldn’t recommend buying it.
Is 30 Amps enough?
Let’s say you plan to run an RV with two rooftop air conditioners using a generator. It’s always best to use a generator that produces more amps than the RV’s main circuit breaker. This means the RV’s breaker will always trip first, allowing the generator to keep running normally.
You should not load any circuit breaker more than 80% of its rated amperage. So, a 30 Amp breaker can safely supply up to 24 Amp continuously. This is what the wiring connected to that breaker can conduct safely. It can handle short peaks up to 30 Amp, but no more than this. Under normal conditions, a generator that trips at 29 Amp will be fine when you have a 30 Amp circuit breaker in your RV or home. However, in an overload situation, the generator will trip before the 30 Amp breaker on your panel. This means going out to the generator and resetting it to restore power. A generator with a 31 Amp breaker, will not trip in this situation. Therefore, I recommend a generator that delivers more than 30 Amps before the breaker opens.
📒 Note : If you think you may need a 50A generator, read our comprehensive guide on buying a 50 Amp generator, including reviews.
Advantages, disadvantages and risks, benefits of a 30-Amp generator.
Choosing between 30 Amp & 50 Amp
Choosing between a 30 Amp and 50 Amp generator depends on a few factors, mainly your expected load requirements. Most 30 Amp generators will have a TT-30R outlet. This is a 30A 120V receptacle, the standard for travel trailers. Do not confuse them with a NEMA 10-30R outlet, which is rated for 30 Amp 120V/240V with no ground
The NEMA L14-30R is another receptacle you will find on a 30 Amp generator. It’s meant for transfer switches and used for newer dryers that have a grounded plug. It is a 3-pole, 4-wire, grounding receptacle rated for 30 Amp at 120/240 Volts. You can use this receptacle with your RV but you need an adapter. It gives you 30-Amps on each leg or 60-Amp total at 120-Volt. While the socket may be able to safely handle 60 Amp, the generator will still be limited to its rated capacity.
Another need may be to use the generator as backup power for the home. The safest way to do this, is to install a transfer switch. A 30 Amp transfer switch kit will include a 30 Amp connector for a 30 Amp generator cord. The same is true for a 50 Amp transfer system, it will support a 50 Amp generator outlet and may include a 30 Amp connector. The 30 Amp connector can supply a smaller subset of circuits. A 50 Amp generator should feature at least a 50 Amp receptacle, most will also have a 30 Amp 120 Volt receptacle.
Expect to see the following receptacles used for 120 Volt 30 Amp applications
- 120 Volt, 30 Amp twist lock (L5-30R).
- 120 Volt, 30 Amp (NEMA TT-30R)
On 120/240 Volt 50 Amp applications the following will normally be used
- 120/240 Volt AC, 30 Amp Twist-Lock (NEMA L14-30R)
- 120/240 Volt AC, 50 Amp (NEMA L14-50R)
A big generator, like the Westinghouse WGen12000 can supply 125 peak Amps at 120 Volt and 100 running Amps. It has two Duplex 120 Volt 20 Amp receptacles, and one 120/240 Volt 50 Amp receptacle fitted. It also has transfer switch ready 120 Volt 30 Amp (L5-30R), and 120/240 Volt 30 Amp (L14-30R) receptacles. The combined amperage for all these receptacles adds up to 150 Amps, but that is not what the generator can supply. The main circuit breaker will limit it to 100 Amps output.
This means that the main circuit breaker determines what the maximum load can be. You cannot add up the amperage ratings of the receptacles and expect to get that much power from the generator.
Another consideration is the price of the generator, 50 Amp generators cost about twice as much as 30A models.
Buying a 30-Amp extension cord
An RV is usually supplied with a 30 Amp extension cord. If this is a standard TT-30 cord, one end will plug into the RV. The other end will fit most park outlets with 30 Amp receptacles or a generator with the TT-30 receptacle. Adapters are available, allowing for other types of generator outlets.
You may use one to plug the 30 Amp extension cord into a 50 Amp receptacle on the receiving end. Or use another to adapt the 50 Amp cord of the generator to a 30 Amp receptacle on the RV. Even though you can do that, the generator will only supply 30 Amps to the RV. The breaker in the RV will not allow more than 30 Amps.
If you’ve been wondering whether you can plug your 30 Amp RV into the home’s 50 Amp dryer outlet, you can. But you will need the appropriate 30A/50A adapter. These adapters have a 120-Volt 50 Amp male plug for the home and a 120 Volt 30 Amp female socket for the extension cord.
Purchasing advice | 50A Generator
It must be clear by now that it is handy to understand the relationship between Volts, Amps, and Watts. So, before you buy a generator, make sure you do your homework.
Jot down everything you plan to run on generator power. Determine, and list the running Amps and starting Amps for the appliances you plan to use. Next, calculate the sum of the running Amps. The main circuit breaker on the generator must be able to deliver that output current. Select the highest starting current from your list and make sure the generator can support that too.
Make sure it’s safe to make the physical connections and list any adapters you may need.
Make a habit of switching off all circuits before you make or break any connections. That way you will not electrocute yourself. It will also prevent little sparks from jumping between the terminals and corrode them. Over time, this can cause bad connections on the terminals. Ultimately, bad connections become a fire risk.
Make sure you use extension cords rated for outside use and that the cord is not damaged. Handling a damaged cord can electrocute you.
Never top up the gas while the generator is running, the vibrations will cause spillage that can result in fire. Wait for the generator to come to a standstill and use a funnel when adding fuel.
It is dangerous to run a generator in your garage, or in a small enclosed area. Carbon monoxide, emitted from the generator, mixes with air and can accumulate around a running generator in an enclosed area. When you inhale too much carbon monoxide, it builds up in your bloodstream, leading to serious tissue damage or death.
Best 30 Amp Generators
Briggs & Stratton P4500
►Released in 2019 : PowerSmart Series Inverter Generator. With CO monitoring.
The Briggs & Stratton inverter generator supplies 30.8 Amps at 120 Volts. What I found unique about the P4500 is its CO Guard, Carbon Monoxide Shutdown technology. The generator will shut down when harmful levels of carbon monoxide are detected. I’m always one for safety and this one can save lives.
The PowerSmart has the popular “suitcase” design. Inverter generators are great, they generate less noise and deliver clean power. The P4500 does not have parallel connection, which is common to most inverter generators, allowing you to use two generators simultaneously to double your output.
It delivers clean power perfect for sensitive electronic equipment. Making it the perfect power source for equipment like laptops, gaming stations and other electronic appliances.
It is easy to lift and carry with the two built-in handgrips and moves around easily on two wheels when you use the retractable handle.
📒 Read our indepth review on the Briggs and Stratton P4500, inverter.
3400-Watt Dual Fuel Inverter : Best 30A generator you can take anywhere.
The Champion 100263 3400-Watt Dual Fuel Inverter generator has silencing panels enclosing it, making it a lot quieter. It has two sturdy handles and two wheels. The electric start with a 3-position ignition switch is very convenient. Champion “Cold Start Technology” guarantees a quick start in cold weather.
The Champion generator runs on gasoline and you can switch it over to propane with a quick turn of the fuel selector dial. This will allow the generator to run for 14.5 hours at 25% load when using a 20-pound propane tank. A propane hose with a built-in regulator is in the box with the generator.
The circuit breaker trips out at 25.8 Amps at 120 Volts, disappointingly low for a 30 Amp generator. If you do not normally run a generator close to its limits then this quiet inverter generator with dual fuel capabilities is a good choice. Using another Champion with the optional parallel kit, you can double its power.
4000-Watt Digital Hybrid. Best 30A open frame generator.
This 4000-Watt Open Frame Inverter generator from Champion will give you 29.2 Amps at 120 Volts. Its 3500 running Watts is enough for most applications but the generator breaker may trip before a 30 Amp RV panel breaker. This means resetting the generator which is not as easy as simply flipping a switch. You need to restart the generator if the main circuit breaker trips.
The Champion 100302 is a hybrid open frame generator. It looks like any conventional open frame generator but includes an inverter. It is not as quiet as a “suitcase” all-enclosed inverter generator. Yet it offers you a true inverter generator at a lower cost and with the same clean power advantages.
The inverter also offers the ability to run in parallel to another Champion Hybrid inverter. It is a well-priced entry into 30 Amp power with the aim to double the power later.
Best 30 Amp gas generator. One of the best value generators for the money.
This one has loads of power. It will only trip the main breaker at 31.2 Amp/ 240 Volts and 62.5 Amps at 120 Volts. The Westinghouse WGen7500 is a conventional open frame generator with no promises of clean power and low noise levels. It is, however, a workhorse with push-button start and a key fob remote start. It will run for 16 hours at 25% load. Its fuel consumption of 6.25 kilowatt-hours per gallon is amongst the top three performers of 24 generators that I reviewed.
Two GFCI 120V duplex receptacles and a transfer switch ready L14-30R receptacle, makes the WGen7500 ideal for home backup power. This generator has enough power to excel in that, with a limited 3 years or 1000 hours warranty and lifetime technical support thrown in. It is a worthwhile investment.
The Westinghouse WGen7500 is a conventional, open frame generator with a proven design and is well built. You can expect to get good service from this generator, with up to 62 running amps at 120 Volts. That’s 7440 running Watts, enough to support a wide selection of circuits in the home during a power outage.
DuroMax XP12000E / XP12000EH
12000-Watt, 18hp/ Dual Fuel : Best heavy-duty 30A generator
The DuroMax XP12000E is a gas-powered generator that delivers 9500 running Watts. It has some unique features that allow you to draw more current from the generator on 120 Volt services. The DuroMax has a voltage selector that switches the dual 120 Volt AC windings of the generator. You select either “120 Volt ONLY” position to double the 120 Volt amperage and automatically balance the load. Or you select “120/240V” when connecting 240V appliances to the 4-prong receptacle.
The DuroMax XP12000EH is a dual fuel version of the XP12000E. On gasoline, the two generators deliver the same output, 39.58 Amps at 240 Volt and 79.17 Amps at 120 Volt.
When you run the DuroMax XP12000EH on propane it delivers less power because propane is less efficient, and the engine is optimized for gasoline. Peak Watts drop from 12000 to 11,400 and running Watts from 9500 to 9,025. It is a surprisingly small drop in power, probably as result of the very powerful engine. Startup Amps only drops from 100 to 95.00 at 120 Volts.
Both generators deliver ample power and its circuit breaker will not be the first one to drop the connection.