Your Guide to RV Plugs
The plug on a recreational vehicle is not the same as what you see on household plugs. RV plugs need to handle much higher loads of electricity than your microwave or iron. RVs are usually rated for 30 amps or 50 amps, each of which requires a special plug.
Types of RV Plugs
Using the wrong plug for your RV will cause an electrical system failure, either from receiving too much or too little electrical current. As a safety feature, the wrong connection will cause a breaker to trip or a surge protector to activate. However, to accommodate the different amp ratings for RVs, most campgrounds have special hookups to handle either load rating.
It’s easy to spot 30-amp RV plugs. These are much larger than a 15-amp plug, which is the plug usually associated with extension cords or oversized devices that run on electricity. There are three prongs to the 30-amp, with two slanted prongs on the top and one round prong beneath these. You will find this type of plug on a midsized RV or units with just one air conditioning unit.
At first glance, the 50-amp plug looks similar to the 30-amp. They are about the same size, but there are different prongs. With the 50-amp, you have four prongs. There are three flat prongs on the bottom and one round prong at the top. Large RVs and motorhomes use more electricity, requiring a higher-rated plug.
There are RV plugs rated as a 15/20 amp, but these are usually on small teardrop or pop-up camping units. These are much smaller than the others and look like a standard three-prong household plug. There are two flat prongs and one U-shaped prong to ground the plug. You will find these outlet options on a large RV, but this plug wouldn’t be the main power source.
Even though the plugs aren’t the same, it’s possible to connect your 30-amp plug to a 50-amp hookup. You would need the right adapter, but it doesn’t change how much power the unit can draw. If your RV requires 50 amps to run all the lights, the electronics and two air conditioning units, but you used an adapter to plug into a 30-amp hookup, you can only draw 30 amps before you trip the breaker. You may be limited in what can run when converting down in amps.
You absolutely need a surge protector for your RV, regardless of what plug you use. Your RV plug connects to the device, which then makes the connection to the power source. The protection will prevent surges in the event of lightning or a faulty power source. A surge could damage your RV’s electrical system or any electronics connected inside the RV.