Electrical plugs can be confusing. The reason for that is that different amperage plugs, even though carrying the same amount of amps, can be designed differently. The key to using 50 amp outlets is to match up the number of wires your plug has and the outlet you are plugging into.
Is my 50 amp RV service 220v or 110? The way to tell the difference is by counting the prongs or the wires to the plug. 3 wires for 120 and 4 for 220. It can be both. Some people say it is a 220-volt system while others say it is a 120-volt option.
To learn more about this 50 amp dilemma, just continue to read our article. It explores the issue so you have the right answer to your questions. Take a few minutes to see what will work best for you.
Actually, it can be both. Most RVs run off the 120-volt system which means that if you plug your 4 wire 50 amp power cord into a 3 wire system, you may end up frying all your electronics inside your RV.
There is no 220 in America anymore, at least according to one electrician. Everything is now 240 and an RV electrical system is 240/120. A three-pronged plug means that there is no neutral wire and it is a true 220 or 240 plug.
You can find 3 pronged 50 amp power cords, especially on a welder, that will not work in a 4 plug 240 outlet. The problem is that for most people who are not electricians, the electrical world can be quite confusing.
The numbers they may understand but they do not understand that even when the numbers are the same, the plugs will not work in the same system. Sometimes, you have to go to the horse’s mouth, a qualified electrician, and get them to explain it to you.
Yet, when you do that, you may be even more confused.
The standard system is a 240/120 or a 120/240/ It doesn’t matter which order those numbers come in. What matters is how many wires are coming to the plug or the outlet. If you have a 3 wire, then you cannot connect it to a 4 wire outlet.
If you have a 4 wire plug, you cannot plug it into a 3 wire outlet. The results will be the same. Either you fry your RV’s electrical system or you start a fire. To make things simpler, you have to match the plug to the outlet in your RV.
If the outlet has spots for 4 prongs, usually 3 flat and one U-shaped, then that is the type of plug you will need. Almost all electrical outlets and appliances in an RV run on the 240/120 circuit and use 120 volts when turned on.
If you have a dryer in your rig, then that would be an exception to the standard electrical rule that is used across the industry. The dryer will not be an indication of a power change in your RV.
It is possible to connect your RV to a house wired for 110 or 120. BUT, you should never connect your RV directly to a plug that is wired for 220. That is too much electricity for your RV’s electrical system.
When you are not at a site where 50 or even 30 amps is available, you can still plug your RV in and use the current electrical system at that site. As long as it is wired for 110-120, you can make a connection.
But to make this connection, you need to use up to 2 different adapters. You will need a 30 to 15 amp adapter, then a 50 to 30 amp one. Then you will need a heavy-duty extension cord.
The drawback to this option is that you may overload the house system and flip the breaker. The only solution to this drawback is to install a 30 or 50 amp circuit. Or cut down on the appliances you use while plugged into that 15 amp outlet.
In comparison to the 30 amp plug, the 50 amp plug has 4 prongs and 4 wires. The 30 amp option only has 3 prongs and 3 wires. The difference between the two is that the 50 amp plug has 2 hot prongs and wires while the 30 amp only has one.
You can plug a 30 amp plug into a 50 amp outlet but you will only be able to use 30 amps at the most. You will never go over that amperage no matter how many appliances you turn on.
You cannot plug a 50 amp plug into a 30 amp outlet without an adapter. Each hot wire draws 6000 watts and since there are 2 of them, that means you will get 12,000 watts of service. Then the system is designed for the RV‘s system to separately use those two power legs.
That means, the appliances, etc., in your RV only use 120 volts of power, not 240. It is rare to see anything but a very high-end RV using both legs and 240 volts of power. Just so you know, the 30 amp option only draws around 3,600 watts.
The 30 amp systems are much weaker than the 50 amp RVs but smaller RVs do not need to use as much electricity as the larger ones. Their systems may be smaller or missing many components you will find in a larger RV.
That means that the 50 amp system will use a lot more power than the 30-watt system. On this system, you can run more appliances at the same time without worrying that the breaker will blow.
The total number of volts the 50 amp system will use is 240 but that is if the appliances are using both hot legs at the same time. The appliances are not using 240 volts, but both legs are working at the same time so adding the two 120 volts together and you get 240 volts.
Other than that, if only one hot leg is active, then you would be using 120 volts of power.
The biggest concern about this task is your electrical knowledge and ability. If you do not like working with electricity or have much experience or knowledge of how it all works, then we suggest you hire a professional electrician to do this job.
There are several steps involved including gathering all your supplies. Then shut off the main breaker to make sure no power is coming to the circuits you are working on. You will need to install a separate 50 amp breaker and wire it properly.
Make sure to know the color code system for a 50 amp wiring task. That will help you connect the right wires to the right terminals. To test the system once you are done, you need to get a voltmeter.
Set it to 240V and place one probe on one hot leg and the other on the neutral. If the meter reads 120 you are fine. Do the same for the other leg. Then place both probes on both hot legs and if the meter reads 240, then you did the job correctly.
This topic is actually covered by the National Electrical Code or NEC and it has a 3-year upgrade cycle. For at least 20 years or more, GFCI connection has been mandatory on all 15 and 20 amp outlets in the bathroom, kitchen, and outdoor outlets.
As far as this code reads right now, it is mandatory to have 30 and 50 amp outlets GFCI protected. Even if the code was taken back to the 2017 edition, many electrical inspectors could make an RV campground upgrade their outlets to have GFCI protection.
The reasoning that making it mandatory is a bad idea is that many RVers may simply break the ground prong off their power cord plugs and circumvent the GFCI system. While plugged into a GFCI outlet, they will be protected from electric shocks. But not if they use the same power cord in a standard, not GFCI protected outlet.
Having a 50 amp powered RV means that you can run more appliances at the same time. But it may cause you a few problems when you stop at a campground that does not have a 50 amp electrical service.
To get around that problem, you will need some adapters.