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What Kind of Plugs Do RVs Use?

Unless boondocking or dry camping (without hookups) rv’s spend a lot of time plugged into power. Do you really understand what the differences in the RV electrical connections and plugs are, however? Do you know in what situations will you need an adapter? And, can you plug your RV into a regular 110 outlet? 

In this article, we answer these questions and more as we take a deep dive into everything you need to know about RV plugs. Let’s get started!

What Is an RV Plug? 

An RV plug looks a little different than a standard household plug. This is because it has to handle a much higher amount of electricity than a single appliance.

Most American RVs have a rating of either 30 amps or 50 amps. This means their electrical system can handle up to 30 or 50 amps of the current draw before it trips the breaker (just like when you accidentally run multiple appliances off the same circuit at home). In Europe its usually a 16 amp plug but operates at a higher voltage.

Tom holding rv plug and adapters
Most RVs will have a 30 or 50 amp rating and will therefore use a 30 or 50 amp plug.

Thus, most campgrounds and RV parks have special electrical hookups that provide ample power and accommodate the larger RV plugs. 

Pro Tip: It’s critical to understand the basics of RV electrical systems for your safety. Here’s a guide that breaks it all down: How Are RVs Wired? Helpful RV Electrical Basics for Beginners.

What Kind of Plug Do RVs Use?

RV’s use different power plugs depending on their size and location of use. In north America, you will find 15,30 and 50-amp plugs. In Europe, you will find 16 amp 240-volt plugs. Let’s take a look at each type.

AMERICAS

30 Amp (NEMA TT-30)

A 30 amp plug is easy to spot. It’s typically larger than a standard 15 amp plug and has three prongs: two slanted prongs on top and one round prong on the bottom. These 30 amp plugs are typically on mid-size RVs, such Class C, B and travel trailers.

The 30 amp plug has 120 volts between the two main prongs and a ground connector. This plug is capable of providing one circuit of 30 amps or approximately 3600 watts of power to the RV.

30 amp RV plug
A 30 amp RV plug and outlet

50 Amp (NEMA 14-50)

You can confuse a 50 amp RV plug for a 30 amp plug if you don’t know the specific differences. The plugs themselves are relatively the same size, but 50 amp plugs actually have four prongs: one round prong on top and three flat prongs on the bottom. You’ll find 50 amp plugs on almost all large RVs like fifth wheels and class A motorhomes—simply because they can require much more electricity with more appliances installed.

The 50 amp plug has 240 volts between the two outside prongs and 120 volts between the outside and center prongs. The round prong is the ground. This plug can provide 50 amps across both 120 v prong connections or across the 240V prongs. This can provide up to 12,000 watts of power to the RV. This is 3 times the capacity of the 30 amp plug because it basically has two circuits in it.

50 amp, 240-volt outlet
This is a 50 amp, 240-volt outlet. Notice the prong configuration: one round and three flat.

15/20 Amp (adapted) (NEMA 5-15 or 5-20)

A 15/20 amp plug is different from 30 amp and 50 amp plugs in that it handles less power. In fact, you can use these plugs in a regular 20-amp household outlet (almost all houses have at least one 20-amp circuit).

You won’t find an RV with a 15/20 amp plug very often, but if you have a very small RV like a pop-up or teardrop, you just might have one. These plugs usually have three prongs (two flat prongs with one U-shaped grounding prong), similar to a three-pronged household plug. They’re also used for other purposes, such as A/Cs, dehumidifiers, and dryers

RV electrical pedestal breakers
Micro campers and small pop-ups often use 15/20 amp plugs.

European RVs

IEC 16309 16 AMP 

If you’ve ever traveled outside of your own country, you might have noticed the electrical outlets are different from yours at home. Well, RV plugs are no exception. European RV plugs are typically rated at 16 amps and have three to five round prongs, depending on the voltage the plug can handle. 

We personally love the European RV plugs because they can handle more power than a US 30 amp plug but have a much smaller cord.

My Favorite Thing About European RVs compared to North American - The Electric Is Better

Are All RV Plugs the Same? 

No not all RV power plugs are the same. They differ depending on their volts and amperage, and it’s very important to be able to tell them apart. For example, if you show up to a 30 amp RV site with your 50 amp RV, you’ll want to be prepared with a 50 amp to 30 amp adapter.

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And even if you have the appropriate adapter, remember that although your RV can run off 50 amps, you’re limited to a 30 amp power source. Thus, if you go over 30 amps, you’ll probably end up tripping the outlet’s breaker. 

➡ Want to learn more about RV plug adapters? Here’s what You Need to Know: Can You Hook a 30 Amp RV to 50 Amp Power?

RV Electrical Safety Tips and Recommendations- RV Security and Safety Series Part 3

Are RV Plugs 120 or 240 Volts?

15-amp, 20-amp, and 30-amp plugs in North America are all operate at 120 volts only. These are basically just larger versions of a standard household plug. The 50-amp north American plug operates at 240V and 120V depending on the circuit connected to. Most of the time RV’s only use the 120V circuits of the 50 amp plug.

The 16-amp plugs in Europe vary between 220V and 240V depending on the country and location. This is the standard household circuit voltage in Europe.

Can I Plug My RV Into a 110 Outlet? 

The short answer to this question is, “Yes,” but there’s some important information you should know first. If you have a 30 amp or 50-amp RV, you’ll need an adapter.

These adapters are referred to as 15A Male to 30A Female or 15A Male to 50A Female. They simply allow you to plug your RV into a household outlet, but they don’t increase the number of amps you’ll be able to use.

15 amp male to 30 amp female adapter
You’ll need a special adapter to plug into a 110-volt outlet.

This is why you must always be mindful of how many amps you’re using in your RV at one time. More likely than not, you’ll only be able to use 15 amps to 20 amps from your household power source. Anymore will trip the breaker.

It is important to consider the safety issues of plugging a 30 amp RV into a 50 amp plug, however. We covered this in detail in our article all about it.

Another way you can make plugging into a 110V standard outlet work very well in an RV is to install a hybrid inverter. These inverters can use battery power when needed to make up additional power and avoided popping the smaller breaker.

Do I Need a Surge Protector for My RV? 

This is a fantastic question, and the answer is, “Its a really good idea” A surge protector is a device that you plug your RV into before plugging your RV into a power source. Its purpose is to protect your RV from any power surges caused by a faulty power source or even lightning.

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A strong surge of electricity (Voltage Spike) has the potential to damage your electronics or even fry your entire RV electrical system. To put it simply, it’s better to have one and be on the safe side! 

Knowing what kind of RV plug you have is fundamental to your understanding of your RV electrical system. And knowing how to use the plug with the correct adapters and a surge protector will keep you and your RV safe.

RV surge protector

Do you need to purchase an RV surge protector? Check out our recommendations here: What Is the Best RV Power Surge Protector?

Safety Is Priority #1

Now that you know the different RV plug types, it’s important that you properly use them. Don’t let plug connections sit in standing water, and always plug them in using only one hand (to avoid a shock across your heart). Also, never overload the plug, and if you smell or see burning around the plug, reduce the load (things running in the RV).

Now that you know the RV plug types, you can enjoy your RV journeys wherever you need to plug in!

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About Tom and Caitlin Morton

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for Hwy.co and an Arizona travel guide.

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james

Sunday 23rd of April 2023

the statement about voltage and amperage is flawed. the 12v battery in my coach has 1,000amps.

J.R.

Thursday 28th of April 2022

Well I have been waiting for that comf. email !

Mortons on the Move

Wednesday 22nd of June 2022

You may want to try subscribing again and check your spam folder for the email. https://mortonsonthemove.ck.page/