If you are new to RVing or have never been to an RV park, it might appear that RVs are standalone vehicles that roam free, however, the proliferation of state parks and campgrounds beg to differ.
If you were to drive into an RV campground, you will discover that every RV is plugged in. This might make you wonder if RVs have to be plugged in all the time. The truth is, they actually don’t need to be constantly connected but they usually are.
When an RV is plugged in, it is able to offer supplementary functionality. There are numerous, varying sources in which an RV can be connected to. Most RVers ensure their RV is connected to shore power and an input hose for water.
So, is it bad to leave your RV Plugged in all of the time? The answer is no, it’s not bad. It even might actually be a great idea to have your RV connected all the time. For one, when your RV remains connected, the battery in it is being charged. So long as the converter in the RV ensures that the battery does not suffer from overcharging, actually leaving your RV connected at all times could help it and even prolong the lifespan of your battery.
What is an RV plugged into?
There are a couple of outlets that an RV can be plugged into at a campground:
- A power cable to connect to shore power/grid power
- A water input hose to provide fresh water to the RV’s freshwater tank
- A sewer output hose to drain your waste into the municipal system
- A cable hook-up can be connected to the camper to provide cable tv
When you ask people about what it means to plug your RV in, the majority of them would consider the power cable first. A power cable enables an RV to use the electrical grid via an electric meter at a campsite.
A sewer and water hose can also be connected from an RV. The water hose when plugged in provides an endless freshwater supply for the RV and the sewer hose connection means that wastewater can be gotten rid of without having to go to a dump station.
There are certain campsites and RV parks that also have cable hook-ups that can be connected to RVs that come with TVs.
While having a tv might seem strange to certain campers, having a cable hook-up can be great for those vacation days that get rained out and also for fulltime RVers that don’t want to spend every single moment outside.
How is an RV plugged into the grid?
RVs typically run on a 30 or 50 amp power system. A 30 amp rated system provides a maximum of 3,600 watts while a 50 amp rated system provides over 3 times that amount at 12,000 watts.
To connect your RV to shore power, you will ideally use a 30 amp rated plug to connect to a 30 amp rated electric meter which then connects to a 30 amp rated electrical system. It is the same process for a 50 amp rated electrical system.
Nevertheless, this is not always the case, as you might discover that the RV park does not have a similar setup to your RV. You might have an RV that runs on 50 amps and the meter at the RV park runs on 30 amps or vice versa.
Should this happen, you wouldn’t be able to directly connect to your RV. What you will have to do is get an adapter that enables you to run the necessary amp. It is important to note that using an adapter has no effect on your system’s wattage.
What this means is that if you connect your RV’s 50 amp rated electrical system to a 30 amp rated meter you are not going to get more wattage than 3,600 watts. The lower amp’s wattage will always be the norm. You should also bear note that an RV park does not typically have an adapter on hand, so you will need to purchase your own and have it with you at all times.
Plugging into the electrical grid is not the only way your RV can be powered. Your batteries, so long as they are not flat can provide power to you RV and its appliances.
An extension can come in handy
If for some reason, you are unable to plug your RV at a campsite, you can try to find out if the meter has a standard outlet. Depending on the meter it is possible to use an extension cord to connect to the power grid. A regular home extension cord typically is either 20 or 15 amps.
Additionally, having an extension cord on hand can be a great way to use electricity without having to go through the process of connecting your RV.
Connecting at home
The RV park is not the only place you can connect an RV. This can be done at your home or that of someone else’s. To do this you will require a different adapter to enable you to connect using their 20 or 15 amp outlet.
One thing to note is that, while it is possible to directly adapt your RV’s 30 amp rated to a home’s 15 amps system, 50 amp rated system have to be connected first to an adapter rated 30 amps, then that adapter is then connected to a 15 amp rate adapter.
Doing this might be fine to get some power in your RV, but you would be severely limited in what you can do or use in your RV. Your RV’s 30 or 50 amp rated system will only be able to run the maximum amp of the house’s system.
This is ok if it is a temporary measure, however, if it is something you aim to do long-term, you might want to have an electrician put in a 30 amp outlet in your home. A simple way to know if a home’ outlet is rated 20 or 15 maps is by simply going to the circuit breaker to find out what the outlet is labeled as.
Notes on connecting your RV to shore power
- It is important to bear in mind that connecting your RV to the municipal grid does not mean you get unlimited power flowing through your RV. Moreover, it does not mean you can simply operate any appliance. For example, the campground provides 110 volts, while dryers and washing machines operate on 220 volts. What this means is that you will be unable to use your laundry appliances while being connected this way.
- Another factor that might limit the amount of power you can use in your RV is the watts. It is important to remember than a 30 amp rated system is only able to work with 3,600 watts. That means you have 3,600 watts available for the whole RV. If you were to concurrently run a microwave, an electric heater as well as other high energy-consuming items, you could end up going over your 3,600 watts limit.
- You should also know that every circuit is only able to handle a set number of amps. Running too many gadgets and appliances on one circuit while being connected to the grid could cause your circuit breaker to trip. If you need to run certain high energy consuming appliances such as toaster, microwaves and blow dryers, ensure that they are not being run on the same circuit.
- A great way to know what outlets are connected to which circuit is by having a look at the map on the circuit breaker box. In the event that the breaker panel is not mapped, you can use the process of elimination to map out the outlets. This can be done by turning one breaker on at a time to discover which outlets it powers.
How is an RV plugged into the water and sewage system?
The majority of RVs come with three tanks that all serve unique purposes. The freshwater tank holds fresh water while the black and grey water tank holds wastewater.
As efficient as these systems can be, they are still inconvenient as they are only able to store a finite volume of water before you have to get rid of the waste via a dump station.
For these reasons, several campgrounds, RV parks, national and state parks all come with hook-up outlets for sewage and municipal water. That being said, not every park comes with a sewage connection. You will, however, find several water-only campgrounds.
For you to connect your RV to these outlets at a campground, you will require a freshwater hose and a hose for wastewater. You will also require a pressure regulator for your freshwater hose to help you regulate the water you get from the municipal outlet.
How is an RV plugged into the cable outlet?
This is a process very few RVers talk about but it is just as important as the other three connections an RV can make.
To do this, your RV has to have a cable jack. It will typically be situated on the exterior. You should then run a cable wire from here to the jack attached to the campground. The campground’s cable jack is generally near the electric meter.
There are instances of certain RV parks providing wired internet. Should the park and your RV both have the capability, you will need to connect your ethernet cable to the outlet found near the cable jack.
Should you prefer to connect your TV and gain access to the internet wirelessly, you will have to bring along both a wireless router and an antenna.
Additionally, you could decide to bring along signal extenders or boosters. These devices help to extend the limited range of satellite television, cellular, and wireless internet.
Given all that you know now after reading this article, do you believe it is bad to have your RV connected all the time? If you still aren’t sure, the answer is no.
It even might actually be a great idea to have your RV connected all the time. For one, when your RV remains connected, the battery in it is being charged.
So long as the converter in the RV ensures that the battery does not suffer from overcharging, actually leaving your RV connected at all times could help it and even prolong the lifespan of your battery.
Moreover, when an RV is connected all the time, you are able to operate its air conditioning and heating systems the way you deem fit.
Most times, these systems are not on when on the road, as they are large energy consumers. However, when your RV is connoted you and the system can run as they were designed to, it can help reduce the occurrence of moisture.
It can also ensure that the pipes in the RV do not freeze. That being said, you should be aware that even heated RVs can have their pipes freeze in bitterly cold weather.