How to wire an RV for shore power

RV Shore Power Guide to Using Power Cords, Plugs & Adapters

Updated October 2, 2022

- By Tim Harris

If you own an RV, the most complicated aspect of it is its power. You can power your motorhome or RV in three main ways: shore power (City power), solar power, and generators. This article will discuss the details of shore power and how to wire an RV for shore power. To correctly manage the electrical usages in your RV, you should understand the shore power. So, go through this article to learn the details.


What is Shore Power?

Shore power in an RV means using the RV Park and campground’s power supply. Sometimes the campsites are located near the power pedestals. From the power pedestal, the electricity comes out in your RV as 120V AC power. This power supply is similar to the power in your home.

How to wire an RV for shore power

30 AMP VS 50 AMP RVs

30A or 50A is the primary power system almost in all RVs. Before hooking up to a power pedestal, you should know on which power amp your RV runs.

  • An RV with 30 amp runs on a 120-volt electric circuit and 30 amp. Maximum 3,600 watts the RV can handle using the 30 amp.
  • An RV with 50 amp has two separate electric circuits, and those are 120 volts and 50 amp. Maximum 12,000 watts the 50 amp RV can handle.

So, now the question is how you know which type of RV you have. The simplest way of finding it is to check the power cords. You will get three prongs in a 30A cable and four prongs in a 50A cord.

Usually, in smaller travel trailers and RVs, the most common electric system is 30A. Typically this power system is enough to run a single refrigerator, air conditioner, TV, microwave, and other electronics. Also, at 30A, you can run other small devices, including coffee makers, laptops, and cell phones.

However, if you want to run two or more dryers, air conditioners, dishwashers, residential style refrigerators, entertainment centers, etc., then you should select the RV with 50A power. Usually, the 50A power system is most common in a large motorhome.


RV Extension Cord and Power Cord

An RV or motorhome’s power cord is also known as the RV extension cord as it is a heavy-duty extension cord. Most RVs require 30-50A to operate. So if you buy an orange cord, it will fit the adapter’s plugs, but it is not really designed to carry the maximum power of 30-50 amp. Also, if you try to use this orange cord, it can catch fire.

However, the lock rings system is available in many RV power cords systems to provide additional security. As the 50A cord uses heavier wiring, the cost of this cord is also very high compared to the others. The best recommendation is to take 20-30ft cable while you are traveling in your RV. Most of the time, for reaching from the power pedestal to the RV campsite, you will require these cables.


Puck Adapters and Dog Bone Adapters

Unfortunately, the 30A and 50A hookups are not available on all campgrounds. This implies that if your RV doesn’t have these hookups facilities, you will need the correct adapters to plug into a power pedestal.

Puck adapters and dog-bone adapters are RV adapter’s types. However, the adapters only change their physical shape to fit into the RV. The power output remains the same. They don’t alter it. However, the puck adapters can heat up. Thus they are a little finicky.

Moreover, the puck adapter’s connection and size are not always secure. But these adapters are less expensive, and they are easy to store because of their small size. If your RV has enough storage space, then you should invest in a perfect dog bone adapter.

Whether you use a 50A or 30A adapter, still the electric system capacity of your RV will remain limited to 3,600 watts. Similarly, if you use a 30A pedestal for plugging a 50A RV, the maximum watt you can use is 3,600. You can use this maximum power only because the pedestal is able to supply only this amount of energy.

However, if the running of your motorhome requires 12,000 watts of power, make a call at the campground in advance. By contacting the campground, ensure that they are able to supply the power hookup up to 50amp.


Analyzers, Voltmeters, and Surge Protectors

Knowing how to wire an RV for shore power is extremely important because if the wiring is not up to the mark, it can lead to severe issues. Improper wiring can lead to sudden power surges in your RV, and it can cause your RV or camper’s damage.

Moreover, when the same pedestal is supplying power to numerous RVs at a time, you can face the ground-out situation. The low voltage causes the wiring damage, and the damaged wire immediately starts a fire. Also, your electrical appliances may face wreak havoc due to the grid surges. Thus before plugging the adapters of your RV, check the wiring and power pedestal voltage.

1. Circuit Analyzer

A circuit analyzer works directly in connection with the campground socket. And the analyzer tells you whether plugging it in your camper or RV is safe or not. However, many analyzers also have surge protection features. The surge protection feature protects the electronic appliances in your RV against voltage spikes.

2. Multimeter

Every RV should have the essential general electrical tools, and a multimeter is one such tool. For diagnosing various electrical issues in your RV, the multimeter work as a diagnosing key. However, the RVers can easily use the multimeter instead of the purpose-built electrical adapters.

Using this tool, you can easily check the proper voltage in the box of your campground. Like the other devices, it will not show you continuous reading. But the multimeter will let you know whether its plugin is initially safe or not.

3. Voltage Protector

The circuit analyzer’s almost all the features are available within a voltage protector. In addition, the voltage protector will automatically disconnect your RV’s electrical units when the voltages drop to a lower level. Low voltage can damage your RV wire from overheating. And also it can damage other electrical appliances in your RV. Thus, the voltage protector automatically saves both your RV wire and devices by disconnecting the equipment.

4. Surge Protectors

One of the best and most crucial things you should have in your RV is surge protectors to prevent voltage spikes. Mainly these protectors help to protect the lighting strikes or improperly wired outlets. These protectors not only prevent the maximum electrical problems but also tell you the appropriate voltage. Surge protectors are of two types mainly. Those are:

  • Surge protector of 30 amp and
  • Surge protector of 50 amp


How to Hook up Your RV?

For hooking up your motorhome or RV, follow the suggestions below:

  • On the power pedestal, always start functioning with the breaker switch
  • You should check the voltage in the power pedestal if your RV has a voltmeter
  • Now plugin the voltage protector or surge protector
  • Connect the surge protector and RV power cord
  • Directly connect the RV with its power cord


Managing RV Shore Power

EMS (Electrical Management System) is available in some RVs and motorhomes, reducing electrical hazards by automatically shutting off the electrical outlet. When the power demand in your RV exceeds the available power, then the EMS act to automatically shut down the specific loads. However, once ample power becomes available in your RV, the EMS restarts the loads again.

For using this EMS, you have to enable this feature and set this system and the specific power service in your RV. With the 50 amp mode, the EMS works very well. However, unfortunately, some EMS products works on the 50 amp hot line’s one split side. Therefore, in some cases, this system tends to reduce power though the power reduction is not always necessary.

The standard input for RV is 120 and 140 volts. However, depending on the resistance, the volt can be different from 110 to 125/220-225. Various local power factors also affect the setting of standard input. Always keep in mind that if there is any change in voltage, the wattage output will be affected equally.

Generally, for the RV shore power, the circuit breaker locates at the pedestal at which you plug your RV. However, for disconnecting or plugging the shore power cord, make sure the circuit breaker’s switch is off. So plug in safely in the electrical outlet, then sit back and enjoy.


Bottom Line

For RVers and campers, knowing how to wire an RV for shore power is essential for a smooth and safe road trip. Before starting the journey, ensure proper adapters and power cords are connected to your RV. Always use a solid and perfect wire brush to clean the electrical accessories and power cords. During travel, you should always have a gearbox with various accessories.

The easiest way to get electricity in your motorhome or RV is to use the shore power. Alternatively, you can easily use batteries or solar panels when camping off the grid. Or, while you are staying

Tim Harris

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