30 amp vs. 50 amp RV Electrical System
American RVs generally come with either a 30 amp or a 50 amp electrical system; most RVs have 30 amps, but the very large Class A and some large Class C motorhomes will have 50 amp systems. If an RV has two air conditioners on the roof, it will be 50 amp. You can also tell if your motorhome is 30 amp or 50 amp by the type of electrical plug it has; a 30-amp plug has three pins, and a 50-amp plug has four pins.
30-amp systems are common in small RVs that have fewer appliances that require a lot of power, such as air conditioners. On the other hand, big motorhomes usually have 50-amp systems to power their luxurious interiors, which not only include two air conditioners but may also include a washer and dryer. An RV with 30-amps can handle up to a load of 3,600 watts; consider that many hair dryers and space heaters use 1,800 watts, and you can see how easy it could be to overload the electrical system. However, a 50-amp RV can handle up to 12,000 watts, so that’s a significant increase.
If your RV has 30 amps, don’t overload the system; for example, if you’re running the air conditioner, don’t turn on the microwave over or blow-dry your hair. Only use one high energy appliance at a time, or you could blow a fuse and trip the breaker.
Campground power pedestals often have both 30-amp and 50-amp outlets; however, it’s not uncommon for an RV park to provide only provide 30-amp service. Once you plug in your motorhome, you’ll need to flip either the 30 amp or 50 amp breaker switches to get the power flowing.
When you make a reservation, you’ll typically be asked if your RV is 30 or 50 amps. If an RV park only has 30 amp service, they may refuse to let you stay if you have a 50 amp RV.
30 and 50 amp Adapters
An adapter will allow you to plug a 50 amp RV into a 30 amp outlet, or a 30 amp RV into a 50 amp outlet. However, while you’ll be able to plug your RV into the power pedestal, it doesn’t change your electrical system; a 30 amp RV will not run more power, it will still be 30 amp. More important, if you use an adapter to plug a 50 amp RV into a 30 amp outlet, you will only get 30 amp power. That means you’ll be limited to running only one air conditioner at a time, and you’ll have to be mindful of your power usage, to avoid tripping the breakers on the power pedestal, or otherwise damaging it.