But if you are like most people, these electrical terms just get confusing after a while.
Well in this article, I want to help you understand the overall differences. That way you will know what kind of electrical service you need in your own RV.
And you will be better prepared to make the choice between a 30 amp vs 50 amp RV.
What Does 30 Amp VS 50 Amp Mean?
Probably the best way to help explain these RV electrical terms is to use the illustration of a water hose.
All water hoses conduct water. But some hoses are bigger than others and therefore can conduct more water.
Think of the difference between a regular garden hose and a fire hose. Obviously the fire hose has much greater potential for moving water through it at one time.
And to get water to go through the hose you need some water pressure behind it. The more pressure behind the water, the faster the water goes through the hose.
But the size of the hose determines how much water eventually comes out at the hose end.
Now using that illustration think of the volts as the water pressure. Then think of the amps as the size of the water hose.
The volts that we plug into at an RV campground is supposed to be 120 volts at all times.
So how do we get more usable electricity for our RVs? We have to use an RV electrical wiring system that can carry more electricity.
In other words, we need to make the hose bigger somehow. And how do we accomplish that?
A 30 Amp RV Outlet – How Much Electricity?
First of all, a 30 amp RV plug has 3 wires, 1 – 120 volt wire, 1 neutral wire, and 1 ground wire.
Now lets use an electrical formula that says that if you multiply volts times amps it will tell you how much total power (or watts) can be consumed.
This means that if we have 120 volts and 30 amps, we multiply them and get a total of 3600 usable watts of power.
This is the maximum amount of power that a 30 amp RV outlet can produce safely at one time.
So what can we run on 3600 watts of power? Usually most 30 amp RVs have 1 air conditioner, a microwave, a television and a refrigerator.
These are the main power hungry devices. But they also have several AC wall receptacles for use of other electrical devices.
If you use too much power at one time by running too many power hungry devices, the system will be overloaded.
And then it will shut down as a safety feature. This means that the main circuit breaker trips to prevent overheating the RV wiring.
If you turn off some of the power hungry devices and turn the circuit breaker back on, you will usually be fine.
As long as your power consumption is within the 3600 watts of power that a 30 amp system can handle.
So how do we get more power into an RV for more devices?
A 50 Amp RV Outlet – How Much More Power?
The best way to increase usable power for an RV is to buy an RV that is set up for 50 amps of power instead.
At face value, it sounds like a 50 amp RV service has just 20 amps more power for use. But it actually has so much more. And here’s why!
A 50 amp RV plug has 2 – 120 volt wires, 1 – neutral wire, and 1 – ground wire.
So that means that they did more than just increase the size of the one 120 volt wire of a 30 amp service.
Instead, they made two 120 volt wires and increased the capacity of each wire at the same time.
So lets use our formula for power consumption again. Now we have 120 volts times 2 lines which equals 240 total volts.
Then we multiply that by the 50 amps capacity and we have a total of 12,000 watts.
This is the amount of power that can be safely consumed by a 50 amp RV electrical system at one time.
What Does It All Mean For You?
So what we have learned is that a 30 amp RV can safely consume 3600 watts of power at one time.
But a 50 amp RV can safely consume 12,000 watts of power simultaneously. WOW! That is a big difference.
This means that a 50 amp RV can easily run more power hungry devices at the same time.
For instance, 2 or more air conditioners. A television. A washer/dryer. Residential appliances, including refrigerators. As well as the microwave and wall receptacles for other devices.
So what does all of this mean for you?
Well, if you buy an RV with a 50 amp service, expect to pay more simply because the heavier RV wiring costs more. Do you really need all of that power?
Then you probably will also need the 50 amp service that often goes with those kind of RVs.
Most of these RVs have only one air conditioner which is one of the major power consumers.
And then 30 amps of power should be just fine and you can save the extra expense of the more robust RV wiring.
Either choice is fine. Just realize the limits of each RV electrical system, and work within those limits.
Happy and safe travels my friends!