So, you just bought a new RV, and you’re ready to test it out. First, congratulations! Second, it’s time to understand your RV’s electrical system—specifically, its plug. For example, what kind of plug does your particular RV use? 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!
Table of Contents
What Is an RV Plug?
An RV plug looks a little different than a standard household plug. This is because it has to handle much higher currents of electricity than a toaster or microwave.
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 electricity draw before it trips the breaker (just like when you accidentally run multiple appliances off the same circuit at home).
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?
So, what kind of plugs do RVs use, and how can you tell the difference between them? Let’s take a look at the specific RV plugs you might encounter.
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 as the Winnebago Ekko, R-Pod, and small Airstream trailers.
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—simply because they require much more electricity.
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.
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.
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Are All RV Plugs the Same?
As you might have guessed, they’re not all 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?
Are RV Plugs 120 or 240 Volts?
As we all know, amps and volts are different pieces of the same cloth. Amps signify the current of electricity, while voltage determines the force behind the current. Therefore, the greater the amperage, the higher the voltage will be.
Thus, 15-amp, 20-amp, and 30-amp plugs are all designed for 120V, while 50-amp plugs are designed for 240V. Moreover, the 16-amp plugs in Europe vary between 220V and 240V.
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.
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.
Do I Need a Surge Protector for My RV?
This is a fantastic question, and the answer is, “Absolutely!” 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 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.
Do you need to purchase an RV surge protector? Check out our recommendations here: What Is the Best RV Power Surge Protector?
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