30-Amp and 50-Amp RV Service: Things You Need to Know

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One necessity that RV parks and campgrounds offer is electrical services. At times, you can just plug your RV cord directly into a power outlet or generator at the campground. However, when the service available does not perfectly fit your RV’s amp rating, you will need an adapter. To safely use the campground’s electrical services, you must understand what power service your RV has, the difference between 30 amp and 50 amp hookups, and what kind of adapters you should use in different situations. 

This article will equip you with everything you must know to make sure you can use electrical services at the campground safely without damaging your RV’s system. As you might have known, your RV either is a 30-amp service or a 50-amp service. The campground also offers either or both 30-amp and 50-amp services. When there’s a mismatch, adapters make it easy to hook your 30-amp RV cord to a 50-amp outlet or vice versa, plug into a generator, or connect to a home outlet.

30 amp vs 50 amp RV Service

Your RV’s electrical system will typically be either a 30 amp service or a 50 amp service. Why the difference, and which one is right for you? This depends on just how much shore power you intend to use when you are plugged in at an RV campground. You can calculate the maximum wattage you can draw at any given time by multiplying the amp service of your RV by the voltage:

  • A 30 Amp system x 120 Volts = 3,600 Watts
  • A 50 Amp system X 120 Volts = 6,000 Watts

How to know which service your RV has? Check the type of plugs in your RV: 30-amp plugs have three pins or prongs, and 50-amp plugs have four.  

  • A 30 amp plug has three prongs, including a 120 volt hot wire, a neutral wire and a ground wire. It is generally used on RVs with lower load requirements. A 30 amp service RV provides a maximum 3,600 watts: 30 Amp x 120 Volts = 3,600 Watts
  • A 50 amp plug has four prongs that supply two separate 50 amp, 120 volt feeds. The four prongs include two 120 volt hot wires, a neutral wire and a ground wire. A 50 amp service RV provides a maximum 12,000 watts: 50 Amp X 120 Volts = 6,000 Watts

The more recent RVs and trailers usually come with a 50 amp service while the older ones come with a 30 amp service. In general, a 30 amp service is more common is smaller RVs with less appliances that consume electricity. For this reason, you will typically find only single AC units in 30-amp service RVs while 50-am service RVs might have two AC units, plus a washer dryer combo, a dishwasher, and a microwave oven. 

Related: A Systematic Guide to How to Wire a 50 Amp RV Plug

Why You Need To Know This

Plugging Into A Power Outlet with Different Service

Why do you need to know what service your RV has? To make sure your plugs are the correct size to fit into a given power outlet at RV parks and campgrounds. The power outlets at RV campgrounds often provide both 30-amp and 50-amp outlets, although some only provide 30-amp outlets. Having an adapter on hand will give you more options, regardless of what the campground offers.

Choosing RV Surge Protector

The second reason is for choosing the most suitable RV surge protector or EMS that matches your RV’s electrical system. If you have a 30 amp service, choose a surge protector that’s for 30-amp RVs. If your RV has a 50 amp service, pick a surge protector for 50-amp RVs. 

FAQ: Can I use a 30 amp to 50 amp adapter to plug my 30-amp RV into a 50-amp surge protector ?

No you cannot. The rule is absolute when it comes to RV surge protectors: 30-amp RVs need 30-amp surge protectors, and 50-amp RVs need 50-amp surge protectors. You should stick with a surge protector specifically made for your RV service. The power source is irrelevant. 

FAQ: Can I use a 50-amp surge protector to plug my 30-amp RV into a 30-amp outlet?

You shouldn’t. A surge protector triggers when it detects a power surge and prevents the current from wreaking havoc on your RV. In this case, a 50-amp surge protector won’t trigger soon enough to protect a 30-amp RV, so you risk damaging your system. On the other hand, if you’re using a 30-amp surge protector  to plug your 30-amp RV into a 50-amp power outlet, the surge protector will trigger too soon, thus limiting the power that your 50-amp RV receives.

Plugging into A Generator

To plug your 30-amp or 50-amp RV cord into a generator, you will need to use a special purpose adapter made specifically for generators. Generator plugs come in 3-prong and 4-prong styles, while 30-amp cords can be adapted to fit both 3-prong and 4-prong generator plugs, as can 50-amp cords. So you’ll need to make sure your adapter fits your generator’s plug style. 

Related: What Size Generator for 30 Amp RV is The Right Choice?

Adapters for RVs

30 amp to 50 amp adapter

FAQ: Can I plug my 30 amp RV into a 50 amp? 

Yes, you can plug 30 amp RV into 50 amp service receptacle, such as a power pedestal at a campground, by using an adapter. The female end of the adapter will plug into your RV cord, and the male end will plug into the power pedestal. 

However, even with an 30 amp to 50 amp adapter, your 30 amp service RV won’t receive more power than the 3,600 watts it can handle. With a 30-amp RV, the maximum power you can use is 3,600 watts, regardless of the receptacle you plug into. Many campers worry that the additional power provided by a 50-amp receptacle will fry their RV’s electrical system, but this isn’t the case. 

FAQ: How does a 30 amp to 50 amp RV adapter work?

How it works is intuitive. It’s in the name: 30 amp to 50 amp adapters are used to plug a 30-amp service RV into a 50-amp power outlet. These adapters have a 120 volt, 50 amp male plug on one end with a 120 volt, 30 amp female socket. 

The right process to plug the cords is to take the 30 amp cord that runs from your RV and plug it into the adapter’s female  socket. Then plug the male end of the adaptor into the 50 amp socket at the RV campground. Do not do this in reverse order.

If you do this in reverse order and the power is already active on the campground’s electrical outlet, you could risk blowing a fuse in your RV system at some point.

50 amp to 30 amp adapter

FAQ: Can I Plug My 50-Amp RV Cord into a 30-Amp Power Pedestal?

Yes. Conversely, to plug a 50-amp RV cord into a 30-amp power pedestal at a campground, use a 50 amp to 30 amp adapter. Plug the female end of the adapter into your RV cord, and the male end will plug into the power pedestal.

In this case, your 50-amp service RV  will be limited to 3,600 watts that the 30 amp power receptacle will provide. This means you won’t be operating at full power, so there will likely be considerable limitations on how many appliances you can run at once, especially when you want to keep the AC on for a while.

As mentioned above, 50-amp power outlets aren’t available at every campsite, so if you have a 50-amp service RV, it’s best to have a 30-amp adapter with you at all times. 

Also: 30 amp to 15 amp adapter

FAQ: Can I Plug My RV into a 15-Amp Home Electric Outlet?

In off seasons, when you need to put your RV into storage at home, you might wish to hook your vehicle to your home’s 15-amp power outlet to keep the battery charged. For this, you simply need a 30 amp to 15 amp adapter.  


About Peter Wade

Peter Wade is a co-ordinator and writer at www.RVTalk.net. His hobbies are coffee, RV camping and photography. He now enjoys exploring the U.S. by RV with his two dogs. After obtaining a MA degree in Public Relations and Journalism, he had 8 years of experience working for the R&D Department of Outdoorsy. Peter provides a unique look and insightful knowledge about the RV lifestyle, and fills his blog with everything from RV camping guides to reviews about necessary RV accessories. If you are an RV enthusiast and want to get the most-updated trends of the RV industry, Peter’s articles are the must-visit contents.

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