Do you have an RV and wonder how to run it on 30 amps without problems overloading your electrical system? What if you have a 50-amp camper, but the campground only offers 30-amp to their guests?
Scenarios like those above are pretty common, and knowing how to run your RV on 30 amps is key to keeping your appliances, lights, and outlets working.
Luckily, this guide will give you all the tips you need to avoid the frustration of blowing fuses or breakers when you exceed the 30-amp limitation of your recreational vehicle or power pedestal.
When you read the information below, you’ll know how to balance RV power draws when you have 30 amps to work with and never overload your camper again!
How to Know What Power RV Appliances Draw
Before you can learn the best way to run a recreational vehicle on 30 amps, you need to know how much power each RV appliance, light, or other electrical equipment requires to operate.
After you have a list of all your camper’s electrical components and how much wattage they require to run, you can tally them up to see if they fit within the 30-amp parameters of your RV’s electrical system or a campground power pedestal.
What if I Have a 50-Amp RV but Only Have 30-Amps Available to Use?
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When you have a 50-amp Class A motorhome, fifth wheel, or travel trailer, you may find the campground or RV park you’re staying in only offers 30-amp power to guests.
In this instance, you’ll need a 30-amp to 50-amp adapter plug to get power to your RV safely. However, when using this setup, you’ll only have 30-amps to work with and will still need to know the power draw of all your appliances and other electrical devices so you know which ones can run at the same time.
Quick Primer: Voltage, Watts, and BTU
What Is Voltage?
“One volt is defined as the electric potential between two points of a conducting wire when an electric current of one ampere dissipates one watt of power between those points.”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volt
What’s the Difference Between BTU and Watts?
“Thus, the key difference between BTU and Watts is that BTU measures energy, which is a stand-alone physical property whereas Watts measures the rate of transfer of energy that is always associated with a time factor.“https://www.differencebetween.com/difference-between-btu-and-vs-watts/
Common RV Appliances and Wattage Requirements
Use the list below to get an idea of standard RV appliances and the electrical power they require to operate.
But, to get an exact figure to know the best way to run your RV on 30-amps, you’ll need to check the labels on all your electrical components that require any type of 110-volt service.
When taking notes, write down both starting and running wattage requirements. This figure is critical information that will help you avoid the dreaded blown breaker when, for example, your air conditioner’s compressor kicks in while you’re running other appliances.
RV Air Conditioner
|Starting: 1700 watts/Running: 600 watts
|Starting: 2000 watts/Running: 700 watts
|Starting: 2750 watts/Running: 1250 watts
- Starting: 600 watts
- Running: 180 watts
- Running: 1500 watts
- Running: 190 watts
RV Satellite Receiver
- Running: 20 watts
- Running: 750 Watts
- Running: 150 Watts
- Running: 3 Quart-700 watts/6 Quart-1,000 watts/8 Quart-1200 watts
- Starting: 800 Watts
- Running: 300 Watts
- Running: 1200 Watts
- Running: 850 Watts
Cell Phone Charger
- Running: 25 watts
- Running: 250 Watts
- Running: 120 Watts
- Starting: 1900 Watts
- Running: 1800 Watts
- Running: 1,500 watts
- Running: 1,500 watts
- Starting: 600 watts
- Running: 300 watts
Space Heater (2kw)
- Running: 2,000 watts
Single light (60 W incandescent/10 W LED )
- Running: 60/10 watts
To ensure you’re not missing any electrical draws, it’s helpful to use an RV wattage calculator totally all the items on the interior and exterior of your camper.
Starting Watts vs. Running Watts
To better understand the difference between starting watts and running watts, I will give you an example of an average residential refrigerator.
For the fridge to start, it needs 2,200 starting watts, but that number drops to 700 watts to keep it running once the compressor turns on. After that, whenever the compressor kicks in during operation, another surge of wattage is required to make that happen. Afterward, the watts fall again to 700.
Air conditioners, generators, and other appliances have a much higher starting wattage than running wattage. In contrast, other appliances or devices don’t need a power boost to start, and the label will only indicate running watts.
The good news is that in an RV, very few appliances require a high starting wattage, so learning how to implement them into your daily routine when you have 30 amps to work with doesn’t need to be complicated.
How Many Watts Does a 30-Amp and 50-Amp RV Provide?
To help you gauge what RV appliances you can operate at the same time, you first have to know that a 30-amp RV electrical service delivers 3,600 watts of power and a 50-amp RV electrical service delivers 12,000 watts of power.
The massive jump in power delivery in a 50-amp RV is mainly due to most large recreational vehicles featuring two or even three air conditioners, which are a tremendous wattage draw.
Since most 30-amp RV manufacturers install lower-wattage or fewer appliances to keep within the power parameters, it’s much easier to learn how to run your RV on less power.
The same can’t be said if you have to reduce your wattage draw to use your 50-amp RV appliances, as they tend to be larger and pull more wattage, so you need to do a power balancing act to get by without blowing breakers.
The key is maintaining all RV electrical draw to less than 3,600 watts at any given time. However, the power must include the highest wattage pull of any appliance, which usually happens when it starts or when a motor or compressor kicks in sporadically.
How to Convert Watts to Amps
If you don’t mind doing a bit of math, you can calculate each appliance’s wattage draw into amps if maximum amperage is not listed.
The following equation is all you need:
A (Amps) = W (watts)/V (voltage) or amps is equal to watts divided by voltage. Since all appliances or devices plug into a standard 110-volt RV outlet, the “V” will always be 110.
For example, an electric skillet uses 1200 watts. 1,200 divided by 110 equals 10.9. So an electric skillet will draw 10.9 amps when in use, which is slightly more than 1/3 of your 30-amp capacity.
You can calculate amperage for each RV electrical draw and add the maximum amps figure next to the watts on your list. This method lets you see at a glance whether or not you’re exceeding the 30 amps or 3,600 watts you have available to use safely.
A great way to determine your typical amperage draw is to look at the items in your RV that are plugged in and actively in use at any given time. For example, maybe in the morning, you’re running your air conditioner while making coffee and toast and listening to the radio while your cell phone is charging on the counter.
Add up each typical RV routine’s wattage, and note which ones may create an electrical overload problem.
Understanding Circuits Within a 30-Amp RV Service Panel
Before you get too comfortable thinking you can avoid blowing breakers as long as you keep under 30-amps of electrical usage, you also need to consider the individual circuits inside your RV’s breaker box.
Most 30-amp RVs only have three to six circuits. One will always be the main power coming into your camper, connecting to a 30-amp breaker. Below that are other breakers that provide separate electric circuits.
There is always a dedicated 20-amp breaker for an air conditioner.
Other large-power-draw items like the RV fridge or microwave may be on their own 20 or 15-amp circuit, or they may also have other outlets or appliances wired to this same breaker.
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Breaking up the electrical system inside your RV into different circuits helps keep the power draw more spread out so as not to overload a single circuit. The lack of outlets in most RVs also helps prevent you from plugging in and using too many devices at once and overloading the circuit.
So, if you have a coffee pot that needs 6.8 amps wired to a 15-amp circuit and then decide to run a microwave on that same circuit that needs 13.6 amps, you’ll trip the circuit breaker because the total amperage draw is over 20 amps.
If your 10,000-watt RV air conditioner that needs 6.4 running amps is on and you decide to run your microwave, you may be okay in an amperage draw if you only need to warm up your food for 30 or 40 seconds.
However, if the microwave that needs 13.6 amps to operate is still running when the air conditioner compressor kicks in and starts to draw 18.2 amps, you’ll blow a breaker because you exceeded the 30 overall amps your RV can handle.
The only way to run an RV on 30 amps is to know your appliances and outlets’ power draw and circuits very well. After that, you get to play the dance of what items can be on together and which ones cannot so you can avoid the annoyance of constantly blowing breakers in your RV or at the campground’s power pedestal.
Tips for RV Camping on 30-Amps
The key to camping comfortably in any RV when you have 30 amps to work with is to ration the power so your main appliances can run without interruption.
Know Your RV’s Major Power Draws
The biggest culprits for pulling amps are the air conditioner and refrigerator, especially if your RV uses an electric-only residential model. Running both, on average, will require around 23-25 maximum amps, which will leave you with 5-7 “free” amps to use elsewhere in your RV for lights, the radio, or television without worrying you’ll blow a fuse.
If you have a 50-amp RV plugged into a 30-amp pedestal, you can kiss the use of two air conditioners at once goodbye. You may need to alternate running separate units to keep your RV evenly cool, but you’ll need the remaining power to keep the lights, TV, radio, computer, and fridge running.
Another thing to note is that your refrigerator is always on, which is easy to forget that those amps will not be available elsewhere in your RV. Maybe your water heater or other device is also always drawing amperage.
It’s imperative to look at ALL of your camper’s components that are continually drawing power so you can subtract their wattage from your calculations when trying to keep total amp usage under 30.
The encouraging news is that for the majority of the time, you’ll not have any issues in an RV with 30-amps of power available, as long as you aren’t plugging every outlet with a high-draw appliance and using them at once.
A typical scenario where you need to make adjustments with amperage draw is during hot weather when most RVers run the air conditioner all day.
The solution is to turn the AC off before making a meal where you’ll require the use of an electric griddle, microwave, induction cooktop, air fryer, or other high-draw appliance. Then, once the food is cooked, you can pop the AC back on. You may need to kill the AC if you need to use a hairdryer as well, depending on the wattage it requires to run.
Tips for no-no RV appliance combinations include any two items that require maximum wattage of around 1200 each. This pairing may push your RV over the limit when you add in the wattage pull from any components that are continually drawing power.
Test What Outlets Are on What Circuit
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The best way to learn what circuits are in your RV and which receptacles are attached to them is to turn off the breakers one at a time and see what outlets don’t have power. You can quickly go around with an outlet tester or test the plug with a nightlight or other small appliance.
A good tip is to mark the outlet covers on each circuit with a dot of nail polish in a specific color to avoid overloading a single group by plugging in too many items. Then, add a drop of the same color to the corresponding breaker tag inside your RV fuse panel for easy reference if you need to cut power to a specific outlet for repairs.
TIP: For safety, a single RV outlet should never have more than 1800 watts of appliances plugged in. That means you shouldn’t plug in two high-draw devices, such as an air fryer and electric griddle, into one receptacle.
If You Keep Tripping RV Breakers, Call in an Expert
Suppose you have continual problems tripping breakers after doing all you can to avoid overloading your 30-amp RV electrical system. In that case, you may have a more serious electrical problem that will require professional help to rectify.
Your RV may have a short somewhere in the wiring, or the breakers are getting old and need replacement. Maybe the transfer switch that automatically powers the generator has gone bad.
A trained RV electrical technician can pinpoint why you keep blowing fuses or tripping breakers and fix the problem before a dangerous fire breaks out.
Please remember that a quality RV electrical system will draw power evenly and safely to several circuits and stop power flow if it senses overloads or underloads of electricity to avoid damage. Therefore, trying to “force” your RV to perform outside its 30-amp parameters is only asking for trouble.
Technically Speaking: Understanding RV 30 Amp vs 50 Amp (Video)
Managing power so you can run a recreational vehicle on 30-amps and still have a functional and comfortable RVing experience isn’t difficult when you know what wattage your appliances and devices require to run.
Learning what appliances you can run simultaneously on 30-amps without causing problems is fairly straightforward for people who RV a lot and know their camper well.
I hope you use the information above to master your RV’s electrical system so that you can avoid annoying tripped breakers and enjoy a peaceful camping adventure instead!
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-- Andre Gide