Last Updated on November 7, 2022 by Jessica Lauren Vine
Wondering, “What can you run on 30 AMPs?”
One of the biggest debates RVers face when purchasing their RV is, “Do I buy an RV with a 30 amp hookup or a 50 amp hookup?” If you’ve never gone through the process of purchasing an RV, then this might sound strange. However, it’s actually a major question to consider. Not all RV parks offer campsites that can handle a 50 amp hookup, and others may have only a limited supply.
Besides the question of 50 amp availability, there are many other things to consider when choosing between a 50 amp hookup and a 30 amp hookup. In this article, we will look at the pros and cons of having a 30 amp hookup, what all can operate under the power of a 30 amp hookup, and so much more.
Amps Watts and Volts: The Basics
Don’t freak out. We’re not going to do a scholarly study on electricity with an exam at the end. This is just a breakdown of the basics when it comes to an understanding the difference between watts, amps, and volts and how to know the amounts of each.
An ampere or an amp is the term used to measure the amount of electricity present in an appliance or cord at any time.
Volts are what force the flow of electricity forward. On its own, electricity doesn’t know where to go. Volts force it in a certain direction at whatever speed is necessary to power a device.
Watts measures the actual amount of power that is being generated within your RV electrical system. For example, a light bulb will commonly say 60 watts, 90 watts, 100 watts, etc. This means that the light bulb will be using whatever amount of watts specified on the bulb’s label.
The Amp/Volt/Watt Conversion Formula
Now then, down to the nitty-gritty. Volts (V) * amps (A) = watts (W). Using this formula, you will be able to closely estimate the amount of power that a device is using. For this reason, it is a good idea to have a voltmeter handy so that you can easily calculate amps, watts, and volts, respectively.
Using the amp/volt/watt formula, we know that a 30 amp hookup can power 120 volts and 3,600 watts. A 50 amp hookup can power 240 volts and 12,000 watts. The increased power of a 50 amp hookup is because a 30 amp hookup uses one 120 volt cord to power the RV. A 50 amp hookup has a second prong on the cord end that contains a second 120 volts.
What Can I Run Off a 30 Amp Breaker?
Most people who don’t understand much about electricity get easily overwhelmed when they think about amps and volts and watts and many other technical terms. Luckily, you don’t have to be a professional electrician or an engineer to safely operate the electricity in your RV.
A 30 amp breaker on an RV can handle up to 3,600 watts, while a 50 amp breaker can handle up to 12,000 watts. That’s quite a difference!
For this reason, it’s important to be aware of everything that you have plugged in at the same time, especially with a 30 amp hookup.
While you will definitely have more leeway with a 50 amp hookup, it’s still very possible to overload the electrical system and trip a breaker or blow a circuit. It’s much harder to do, but still possible.
Most 30 amp RVs will come standard with several things, including:
- Air conditioner
- Electric water heaters
- Electric heating element of water heater
- Electric dryers
- Electric heater
While these are the essentials for an RV, some may also include a washer/dryer hookup, a small electric stove, an electric fireplace, an electric awning, and an outdoor grill. With each additional item, your electricity output continues to increase, so you have to be careful about what appliances you are operating simultaneously.
- Where & When to Go
- What to See & Do
If you're ready to hit the road and see some amazing national parks in the US and Canada, then check out this book.
- Great for planning road trips
- Less content and more pictures
Watts and Volts in Each Appliance
|APPLIANCE||AVERAGE WATTS||VOLT LOAD|
|Air Conditioner||1700||120 or 240|
|Microwave Oven||1250||120 or 240|
|Toaster||1200||120 or 240|
|Portable Heater||1500||120 or 240|
|Refrigerator||800||120 or 240|
|Electric Water Heater||1250||120 or 240|
|Hair Dryer||1000||120 or 240|
|Coffee Pot||650||120 or 240|
|Televisions||400||120 or 240|
There are many other appliances and devices that you might want to operate in your camper, but these are a few of the basics. As the above table shows, you can safely operate anything customarily in a 30 amp camper. You have to be careful with how many appliances you have running at the same time.
Let’s remember that with a 30 amp hookup, you have roughly 3,600 watts to work with. Keeping this in mind, you will be fairly limited as far as what all can operate simultaneously.
You can run an air conditioner, a hair dryer, and the water heater simultaneously, but not much more. If you want to start a coffee maker or dry your hair, you may have to turn off the AC or make sure the water heater isn’t running. If this were too much inconvenience, it would be wise to purchase an RV with a 50 amp hookup.
What Can You Run On 50 Amps?
Using the same table and formula listed above, it’s easy to see that you can operate much more freely with a 50 amp hookup.
You can operate multiple air conditioners at a time, as well as the water heater, TVs, coffee pots, microwaves, and much more. Although it’s definitely possible to overload your electrical system with a 50 amp hookup, it’s much more difficult.
A 50 amp hookup is essentially the same size hookup as that of a small house. For many full-time RVers, this breaker size is the way to go.
Weekend RVers are less likely to require constant use of things like ACs and water heaters, and in those cases, a 30 amp camper is plenty. But for those who live in their RVs full-time, a 50 amp hookup is much more convenient.
Having said all this, it’s important to remember that appliances and electrical devices are being made more energy-efficient with each passing year.
An air conditioner on an older RV may require 1,500 watts to run, but newer models that require as little as 500 watts are coming out. With this in mind, new 30 amp RVs can handle a lot more appliances at once than older models.
Can I Run My AC on 30 Amp?
You should always be able to run your AC on a 30 amp circuit as long as there aren’t too many other things operating simultaneously.
Using the table and formula above, it would be a good idea to double-check your air conditioner’s electrical ratings to know for sure. If you happen to flip a breaker from running the AC unit, locate your breaker panel and reset the flipped breaker to on.
Although you can commonly run one AC on a 30 amp hookup, very few of these same RVs can operate multiple ACs at once.
The ability to do this still depends on the number of watts each unit requires, along with what else is using electricity. Although newer model RVs often have energy-efficient AC units, the option for multiple ACs is usually not possible with 30 amp RVs.
Another important detail to remember with air conditioners is that whatever the number of watts it uses, the initial startup can be as much as double that amount. So if you have a 1,000 watt air conditioner, it can require up to 2,000 watts at initial startup. This is why most tripped breakers occur with the initial air conditioner startup.
Fortunately, there is a way around this problem. A SoftStartRv device can be installed on your air conditioner to lower the amount of power required at initial startup. A SoftStartUp device can reduce the number of watts at startup by as much as 70%. This can mean the difference between a tripped breaker and a smooth operation.
Can I Plug My 50 Amp RV Into a 30 Amp Hookup and Vice Versa?
One of the most common problems run into by RVers is a lack of 50 amp hookups at RV parks. Although many campgrounds are being forced to update their electrical grids, most of them were designed when 50 amp hookups were extremely rare. Therefore, if you visit an older campground with your 50 amp RV, you may be required to adapt to whatever electric hookup is available.
It’s a good thing then that you can indeed plug your 50 amp RV into a 30 amp hookup and vice versa. To do this, you will require the use of an adapter. These adapters can be used to convert from 30 to 50 or 50 to 30. Just remember that if you have a 50 amp RV plugged into a 30 amp hookup, you will be limited to 30 amps of power. Therefore, you won’t be able to use as many appliances at once as you are used to.
The Difference Between a 50 Amp Plug and a 30 Amp Plug
The main difference between a 50 amp and a 30 amp plug is the appearance and the power capabilities. A 30 amp plug will have three prongs that plug into 3 corresponding holes on the power pedestal at the campground. The pedestal is where you will plug your cord into to send power to your RV, and each campsite will have its own.
A 50 amp plug has four prongs instead of 3, which will plug into the power pedestal the same way. The reason for the extra prong is to provide extra voltage. Each prong carries 120 volts of power, so a 30 amp plug has 120 volts, and a 50 amp plug will have 240 volts. A 50 amp cord may also be thicker and bulkier than a 30 amp cord because the wires are larger.
Is My RV 30 or 50 Amp?
There are two simple ways to know if your RV requires a 30 or 50 amp hookup. The first way is to check your owner’s manual, and it should say in there what type of plug you need. If you can’t find the owner’s manual, contact the manufacturer of your RV and give them your model number, and they can take it from there.
The second and most reliable way is to look outside your RV and find where the hookup is for the electrical connection. There should be clear instructions letting you know if you need a 30 amp plug or a 50 amp plug when you find it. Your RV will also come with the correct power cord unless it has been lost or stolen.
How to Save Energy in RV
Whether you are living in your RV full-time or just off on a weekend campout, it is important to save energy while in your RV.
Although most campgrounds do not charge extra for electricity use, you are still using up fossil fuels and possibly hurting the outdoors that you love so much. For this reason, saving energy to ensure you can continue enjoying the great outdoors is crucial.
The two main sources of energy for RVs are electricity and propane gas. Both of these take a toll on the environment and must be managed responsibly. We will look at several practical ways to save energy that will not hinder your camping experience.
Save on Your Heat During the Chilly Months
Camping in the fall or early winter is delightful, but you have to be prepared for the nights when temperatures can sometimes drop below freezing. Saving on your heating and finding practical ways to keep the heat inside rather than outside is crucial.
- Check all seals and joints.
- Get a wood-burning stove.
- Check your insulation
- Double glaze your windows
- Use your RVs fireplace
- Skirt your RVs bottom
Most of these things can be done fairly affordably and will not only save the environment but they will also make your RVing experiences more enjoyable.
Save Energy On Lights
The first and most effective way to conserve energy with your lighting is to switch to LED lights that are more illuminating and more efficient. LED lighting requires less power to operate, allowing you to be operating more appliances simultaneously if required.
Another way to save energy is to remember what every dad has been saying for years on end, “Turn off the lights when you’re not using them.” This is age-old and practical advice that should be heeded at all times, even when camping.
The final way to save on light energy is to find lighting methods that don’t require electricity. Solar-powered lights, candles, and wind-up flashlights or lanterns are a few common alternatives to electric lights. Not only are they effective, but you will also get a thank you from mother nature.
Save Energy on Appliances
Outside of lights, your appliances will be the other main culprits when it comes to using up energy and fossil fuels. Being thrifty and not using up needless energy is important for the optimal camping experience. Here are a few ways to save energy while running appliances.
RVs will come with most of the appliances included, such as the refrigerator, air conditioner, microwave oven, and stove. If you choose to upgrade these appliances or if one gives out, choosing an energy-efficient replacement is important. Modern appliances give you the benefit of saving energy while not compromising performance.
A ton of energy is used when cooking and preparing meals. Finding ways to prepare food on time while conserving energy could have one of the biggest impacts on overall energy saving. Things like cooking over a campfire or switching to eco-friendly stoves and stovetop kettles can make a big difference.
How Many Solar Panels Do I Need to Get 30 Amps?
If you really want to get serious about saving energy and preserving the environment, then making the switch to solar panels will be the single biggest thing you can do. Fortunately, most new RVs are designed with the capability to switch to solar power at any time.
While the upfront cost of solar panels can be steep, the money saved on energy can make it worthwhile in the long run. Not to mention all the fossil fuel damage you will save the environment.
For a 30 amp hookup, the number of solar panels needed to sustain your RV will depend entirely on the size of the panels and where you are located. Anywhere from 5 to 30 panels may be required depending on panel size and how much sunlight you are getting each day.