What is the difference between a 30 amp and 50 amp RV?

A 30 and 50 amp system both have the same purpose, to power the RV. However, they are very different and are used in different types of RVs. 

What is the difference between a 30 amp and 50 amp RV? The difference between 30 amps and 50 amps is how many items you can run at the same time on your RV as well as how many items come installed on your RV. Typically 50 amp RV’s have dual air conditioners as well as the capacity to run more devices at the same time.

The Differences

The first difference is that the amp plugs look different. The 30 amp plug has three prongs, one is a 120-volt hot wire, one is a neutral wire, and one is a ground wire. The 50 amp plug has four prongs, there are two 120-volt hot wires, one neutral wire, and one ground wire. If you have forgotten which amp your RV runs off of, this is the easiest way to determine is from the type of plug you have.

Most campgrounds offer a 30 and 50 amp breaker box so that you can hook up your RV. However, if you are at a campground that only has a 30 or 50 amp breaker box, and not both, you can purchase an adaptor cable so that you can still plug in your RV.

This adapter would be used if you have a 30 amp trailer and have a 50 amp outlet.

This adapter would be used if you have a 50 amp trailer and have a 30 amp plug.

Let’s dig deeper into this cable. If you have a 30 amp RV and there is only a 50 amp breaker system, when plugging your 30 amp cable into the connector cable it will not increase the number of amps. You will still only have 30 amps to run your RV.

Now let’s say you have a 50 amp RV and you use the connector to plug into a 30 amp breaker box. This will decrease the number of amps you can use to 30 amps. This means that you will not be able to run both a/c units, at the same time if you are used to using lots of power on a 50 amp RV.

Another difference is the different types of appliances in each RV. A travel trailer with a 30 amp system will usually come with one A/C unit, a microwave, a refrigerator/freezer, a TV, and several outlets. While an RV with a 50 amp system usually will come with two A/C units, a residential or RV size refrigerator/freezer and other kitchen appliances, a TV/entertainment system, and possibly even a washer and dryer. 

30 Amp Systems

A 30 amp system is used in smaller travel trailers and motorhomes. It is most important to make sure the RV doesn’t exceed the 30 amps by using too many devices and appliances at once. A 30 amp system can handle 3,600 watts. There is a formula that can be used to determine the watts, which is Volts x Amps = Watts. All RVs and travel trailers come with a 120-volt system. Multiply the 120-volts by how many amps your camper uses, in this case, 30 amps, this will determine the watts. 

I know from experience that you cannot run your air conditioner along with your TV and hair dryer. We knocked out a few trailers power from that mistake last summer.

Get to know the circuit breaker in your camper, as well as, the campsite’s circuit breaker preferably before dark. On your camper’s circuit breaker, you will see which appliances are on which breakers. For example, you will see one breaker for the entire camper, this will be on a 30 amp breaker switch.

Other larger appliances, like the A/C, microwave, water heater are on separate breakers. These appliances are generally on 15 or 20 amp breakers. With all of these different appliances, it is easy to exceed the total amount of watts being used and trip the breakers. Especially, if you have two appliances being used at the same time. 

To prevent the circuit from tripping, you can check any of your smaller appliances/devices to see how many watts or amps it uses to determine if you can use all of those appliances/devices at once. For example, if you are using the hairdryer and the microwave at once and they are on the same circuit, it will trip the breaker in your camper. It will not trip the campsite breaker.

To trip the campsite breaker, you must have several large appliances going at once. For example, you will need to be using the microwave, A/C, a hairdryer, and a toaster all at once. All of these appliances and devices will cause the entire camper’s circuit breaker to trip which will trip the campsite breaker. 

The solution is easy, if you keep tripping the breakers then you do not need to use as many appliances at once. The camper is designed to run efficiently on the 30 amps, just be mindful of all of the extra devices that are being used. 

50 Amp Systems

A 50 amp system is used in fifth wheels, as well as, larger travel trailers and motorhomes. A 50 amp system uses the same formula as the 30 amp to determine the total amount of watts that can be used. The formula is 120-volts x 50 amps = 6,000 watts. However, in 50 amp outlets, there are two 120-volt plugs. Remember? This is one of the differences between a 30 and 50 amp plug. So, since there are two 120-volt plugs, these larger RVs can hold 12,000 watts. The math to figure out the 12,000 watts is 120-volts x 50 amps = 6,000 watts plus another 120-volts x 50 amps = 6,000 watts. By adding the two 6,000 watts it equals 12,000 watts. These larger RVs can use a lot more power than 30 amp RVs. 

A 50 amp RV has the same circuit breaker inside the trailer, like a 30 amp. In this circuit breaker, you will see two main breakers since there are two 50 amps. There will also be the other breakers for the different appliances, like the 30 amp.

The circuit breaker is split between the two 50 amps and so are the appliances. For example, on one of the 50 amp breaker system, it will have the main 50 amp breaker switch, a breaker for the washer/dryer, a breaker for the refrigerator, and a breaker for one of the A/C units. The other 50 amp breaker system will have the second 50 amp breaker switch, a microwave breaker, another A/C unit breaker, and the water heater breaker. Even though there is a lot more power in a 50 amp system, you will still need to follow the same guidelines as a 30 amp system by making sure too many devices are not plugged in at the same time.

An interesting fact, most houses run on a 200 amp system. So, think about everything that is plugged into your home. No matter if you have a 30 or 50 amp RV, you will need to always keep in mine and reduce the number of devices that you use while camping. 

Happy Camping!

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I have been camping most of my adult life and am passionate about having the best camping equipment as well as writing. Combine these two items and you have our site.

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