One of the best things about traveling in an RV is having power when you park. In an RV, you can have lights, fans, a stove, a furnace, a refrigerator, power outlets, and all kinds of luxuries that make traveling more comfortable. But to power all of that, you’ll generally plug your RV in and need a power cord. If your cord is not long enough however an RV extension cord is essential to have. Let’s learn about what makes these cords special.
Table of contents
- Can You Use an Extension Cord for Your RV?
- How Long Should an RV Extension Cord Be?
- How to Choose the RV Extension Cord You Need
- The Importance of Using a Properly Sized RV Extension Cord
- Best RV Extension Cords
- Can I Plug My RV into a 110-volt Outlet?
- FAQ: Should You Leave Your RV Plugged in All the Time?
- Choose the Right Cord To Power Your RV
Can You Use an Extension Cord for Your RV?
Yes, you can use an extension cord for your RV. If your RV is too far from the plug you can extend it, but you need to keep a few things in mind when you do. It mostly depends on how long the cord is and the type of power your RV needs.
How Long Should an RV Extension Cord Be?
The simple answer is: As short as possible to get you connected to the power pole. An extension cord that’s too long can underpower and damage the appliances you’re trying to run. It can also overheat and become a fire hazard depending on how it’s connected.
That doesn’t mean that you should purchase the shortest extension cord that will reach from your rig to the power pole. There are other factors to consider beyond length primarily load. With a longer cord, you may just need to limit how much power you use.
How to Choose the RV Extension Cord You Need
When choosing an RV extension cord, the most important factors to consider aside from length are your power needs and which cord can handle those needs. Extension cords come in varying lengths, gauges, and configurations to facilitate different applications.
When you’re powering your RV, you’re asking a lot from the power source. Therefore, you’ll need the right extension cord for the job.
RV Extension Cord Gauge
The significant power demands of even smaller RVs require the proper gauge wire. Inexpensive cords you find in big box stores typically work for indoor home use or outdoor applications that don’t require much capacity. You’ll need an extension cord with a larger gauge wire to power your whole RV, though.
Extension cords in the U.S. use the American Wire Gauge (AWG) rating. The lower the number, the thicker the wire and the higher the capacity.
For instance, most of the inexpensive cords that you see in a big box store are 14 or 16 AWG, which is good for handling up to 15 amps or 1,800 watts. That’s rarely enough capacity to handle the needs of most RVs, which use 30- or even two 50 amp circuits. A 50 amp connection can handle 12,000 watts! Six times more than a standard house extension cord.
50 Amp RV Extension Cord Gauge
A 50 amp RV extension cord needs to be able to handle 12,000 watts. That means you’ll want a 6 AWG cord. 50 amp extension cords also have 4 wires. Two hot (live) wires, one neutral and one ground. This is different from other cords because it carries split phase power. This means there are two 50 amp circuits (100 Amps total) not just one.
30 Amp RV Extension Cord Gauge
For the 3,600 watts that a 30-amp cord can handle, you’ll want a 10 AWG extension cord. Remember: the longer the extension cord, the lower the AWG number required. You should be able to find all the information you need on the packaging.
The Importance of Using a Properly Sized RV Extension Cord
If your extension cord is too thin, it can be disastrous. When the wire is too thin, the voltage will drop, which underpowers appliances and overheats the cord and outlet. Underpowering appliances can put undue stress on them. When the cord or outlet overheats, it can also become a fire hazard.
To avoid this, using a voltage drop table like this one from Cerro wire can help you determine the proper wire size needed. 20 and 30 amp circuits use the 120V chart and 50 use the 240V chart.
The 12oV numbers are for North American extension cord connections. In the rest of the world with 230V power, you can use the 240V chart and get a safe approximation.
Best RV Extension Cords
The best RV extension cords cost a good bit more than most of the typical extension cords you’ll see in a big box store. That’s because it takes thicker wires to meet an RV’s needs and because they come with some benefits that go beyond typical extension cords.
The Camco 30-amp RV extension cord is 25 feet long and handles up to 3,750 watts, which gives it a bit of a buffer for any 30-amp service. It’s also constructed with a heavy-duty, fire-retardant PVC sheath for added safety, as well as 90-degree, PowerGrip handles that make it easy to connect and disconnect.
Pro Tip: You can turn a 30 amp RV extension cord into a heavy-duty 20 amp cord by using two adapters at each end: a 30-t0-20 and a 20-to-30.
Camco’s 50-amp RV extension cord is slightly shorter at 15 feet, but it can handle 12,500 watts, which provides a buffer for 50-amp service. Like the 30-amp cord, the 50-amp RV extension cord uses a heavy-duty, fire-retardant PVC sheath and 90-degree, PowerGrip handles.
Can I Plug My RV into a 110-volt Outlet?
You can plug your RV into a 110-volt outlet, but you have to be careful about how you do it and what you try to operate.
There are separate adapters that connect a 50-amp or 30-amp RV cord to a 110-volt outlet. There are also separate adapters for extension cords that are plugged into an outlet. The most common type is a dog bone adapter. It connects to the 50- or 30-amp connection on one end and the 110-volt connector on the other end.
Just remember that most 110-volt outlets only provide 15 or 20 amps. Don’t try to operate appliances that will overload the circuit. This can easily happen when running more than one appliance at a time. For instance, an air conditioner or heater might work normally, but turning on a microwave or blender at the same time could trip the breaker or overheat the outlet and cord.
When using an adapter and an extension cord, the same rules apply. Use the shortest extension cord possible and ensure the cord gauge is rated to handle 15 or 20 amps. Even when using the right equipment, check the cord and connections periodically to make sure they’re not getting hot.
FAQ: Should You Leave Your RV Plugged in All the Time?
There’s not one definitive yes or no answer. If you’re using your RV, it’s perfectly fine to leave it plugged in 24/7. If you aren’t using your RV, the answer gets complicated.
When an RV sits in storage, you can leave it plugged in if it has a modern converter. These will manage the charging of the house battery. If you don’t have a modern converter or smart charger, don’t leave the RV plugged in 24/7. Top off the charge on the battery, disconnect the power, and monitor the charge level while it’s in storage.
Choose the Right Cord To Power Your RV
The convenience of always having power in an RV is one of the things that makes it such a comfortable way to travel. Understanding your rig’s power requirements and how RV extension cords work can help you make better choices about powering your RV.
What kind of extension cord do you have? Let us know in the comments below.
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