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Will it hurt my 30-amp RV to run on a 20-amp circuit?
Russ and Tina DeMaris

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Electricity is a wonderful servant, but it can be mysterious. For a new RVer, there are plenty of things to be learned about "RV-lectrics" that probably never had to be considered before. Here's one that can really puzzle:

Your RV has a 30-amp connector, but you want to plug it in at home, and you have only a standard 20-amp circuit. Will it hurt to plug it in and use it? And how can you do it?

First, know that the answer we give here also applies to an RV with a 50-amp plug. The answer isn't a straight, "yes or no," because much depends on what electrical consuming appliances you'll want to use in your RV. Plugging an RV into a "smaller" circuit simply requires the appropriate adapter. You'll find these at any RV parts outlet; many Walmart stores have them, too.

What happens when you plug that "bigger" drawing plug into a "smaller" circuit simply means you have less available power. You'll probably be able to use most (if not all) of your appliances and other power consumers, but you won't be able to use them all at once. For example, our big park trailer has a 50-amp plug. Just the other day the power company had an outage where we're parked. We have a portable generator--and it only has 20-amp outlets.

Using a 50-amp male to 20-amp female adapter, we quickly plugged the trailer into the generator. We could actually run ONE of the two air conditioners, but we had to first shut off the power-consuming water heater. At the same time we were able to run the refrigerator, and a laptop computer.

It's a similar situation in most RVs. The BIG power consumers, air conditioners, clothes dryers, electric water heaters, will have to learn how to share--run one biggy, shut it off, turn on another. Most other stuff, like lighting, fans, and water pump, will all probably be happy to coexist and operate at the same time. You'll know if this isn't the case when the breaker serving the power outlet you're plugged into trips and plunges you into the outer darkness.

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Courtesy Camping World
But a BIG word of caution: Never try to 'extend your reach' when using a setup like this with the addition of an extension cord to your rig--it adds one more layer of "resistance" to the mix and could get you in trouble. It's also wise to have an inexpensive line voltage meter plugged in and monitoring. For less than $20 you can buy one that plugs into one of your RV's power outlets, and a quick glance will tell you how much voltage is reaching your rig. If it drops below 110 volts, it's time to turn a few things off, as low voltage can readily kill some items--like air conditioner motors.

What about "adapting up" the other way. Say you have a 30-amp plug on your RV, and the only available power outlet is a 50-amper? In this case, you'll have plenty of power available for your needs, you'll simply need the appropriate adapter. There's no need to worry that you could have "too much power."



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