Most RVs have outlets inside so you can plug in phones, computers, TVs, and other electronic devices. Many of these outlets look like traditional house outlets, but there are some key differences that you should be aware of.
Let’s take a closer look at the main differences, what RV outlets typically run off, and answer some commonly asked outlet questions.
So, Are RV Outlets The Same As House Outlets?
RV outlets work in the same way as house outlets. However, the way they get power is different. House outlets work off AC power, while the batteries in your RV produce DC power that is converted to AC power before it gets sent to the outlets.
In addition to the way RV outlets get power, they are also built to withstand different conditions. RV outlets are designed to be weatherproof and resistant to vibrations, so they can handle the rigors of travel. House outlets are not built to withstand these conditions and may not work as well in an RV setting.
If you are planning on using your RV’s outlets for electronics, it is important to know the difference between RV outlets and house outlets.
By understanding how they work and what their differences are, you can ensure that your electronics stay safe and powered up while you are on the road.
Can You Use A Household GFCI Outlet In An RV?
Yes, you can use a household GFCI outlet in your RV. The main difference between household GFCI outlets and RV GFCI outlets is that household GFCI outlets are designed for use with AC power while RV GFCI outlets are designed for use with DC power.
A GFCI, or ground fault circuit interrupter, is a device that is designed to protect people from electrical shocks. They are required by law in many places for all new house constructions and they are a good idea to have even if they are not required.
GFCI outlets work by monitoring the current flowing through the circuit. If the current flowing through the circuit is not equal on both sides, then it means that there is a potential for an electrical shock. When this happens, the GFCI outlet will trip and shut off the power to the circuit.
It’s also important to remember that outlets in your RV have to be able to withstand the stresses of being on the road, so purchasing a higher-quality GFCI outlet is a good idea.
Are All RV Outlets 120v?
RV outlets are typically 120v, just like your household outlets. That’s why the 12v DC power from the batteries needs to be converted before it’s delivered to the outlets. The majority of RV appliances and electronics will work off of a 120v outlet, but there are some that require 240v.
Your RV should already be built to handle the appliances that come with it, but if you plan to upgrade or add anything extra, you’ll need to consult the owner’s manual or an electrician to make sure the outlet can handle the new load.
Does An RV Outlet Need To Be GFCI By Law?
GFCI outlets are not required by law in RVs, but they are a good idea to have. They’re usually located near the bathroom or kitchen, places where there is a potential for electrical shocks. If you have young children in your RV, then it is especially important to have GFCI outlets.
Not all outlets in your RV will be on the GFCI circuit, so you’ll need to consult your owner’s manual to find out which ones are.
It’s also a good idea to test all of your RV outlets with a GFCI tester on a regular basis, just to be sure they’re working properly.
If your RV loses power, it’s most likely because the GFCI outlet was tripped. To reset it, simply push the “reset” button.
If the outlet still doesn’t work, you can check the fuse box, your connection to shore power, or consult an electrician for help.
What Do RV Outlets Run Off?
Because outlets run off of a 120v AC system and RV batteries are a 12v DC system, you have to use an inverter, shore power, or a generator for them to work.
Using An Inverter
An inverter takes the DC power from the batteries and converts it into AC power. This is how your RV will deliver power to your outlets when you’re not plugged into an external power source like shore power or a generator.
However, it’s important to monitor your usage so your batteries don’t dip below 50% capacity, which can damage your batteries and significantly shorten their lifespan.
Using Shore Power
Shore power is when you plug your RV into an outside power source, like at a campground or RV park. This will give you access to AC power and allow you to run your outlets without draining your batteries.
It’s also the most cost-effective option, and it gives you unlimited power so you don’t have to worry about running out. The downside is that you have to park near an outlet or spend money on a long extension cord.
Using A Generator
A generator is a great option if you’re boondocking, or camping without hookups. Generators produce AC power that can be used to power your RV’s outlets.
Just make sure to follow all safety precautions, and never run a generator inside your RV or in an enclosed location.
The downside to using a generator is that it’s very loud and may be restricted in some areas or after certain hours. You have to be respectful of anyone parked or living nearby when using a generator.
Can You Add Additional Electrical Outlets To Your RV?
Yes, you can add additional electrical outlets in your RV. However, it’s important to consult an electrician first to make sure that the outlet is properly installed and that your RV can handle the additional load. Improperly installed electrical outlets are a serious fire hazard.
Additionally, RVs can only handle so much electrical load. If you’re adding a lot of additional outlets, or if you’re running multiple appliances off of one outlet, then you may need to upgrade your RV’s electrical system.
Pay attention to how much power you’re drawing at once to prevent damaging the system, which is a very expensive fix.
How To Install An Electrical Outlet In Your RV
If you’ve decided to add an additional outlet in your RV, then the first thing you need to do is consult an electrician.
Once you’ve determined that your RV can handle the additional load and that the outlet will be properly installed, then you can follow these steps:
1. Turn off the power to the circuit you’ll be working on
Starting here will ensure your safety and the safety of your RV. It prevents you from being electrocuted and your RV’s electrical system from damage.
It’s a good idea to shut off power to your RV completely to verify that there’s no current.
2. Cut a hole in the wall for the outlet box
Make sure the box fits snugly and that there are no sharp edges. You don’t need to put the outlet box in it yet, just make sure it fits now so you won’t have to fix it later.
3. Feed the wires through the outlet box and connect them to the outlets
Take the outlet box out of the wall to make it easier to feed wires through it. Make sure you connect the correct wires to the correct terminals.
The black wire is the hot wire and goes on the brass screw, while the white wire is the neutral wire and goes on the silver screw. The green wire is the ground wire and goes on the green screw.
If you’re unsure, then consult an electrician or refer to your RV’s electrical diagram. Make sure all connections are tight and secure. You may want to use wire nuts to make sure they’re extra secure.
4. Mount the outlet box in the hole and screw it into place
Carefully put the outlet box back into the hole and screw it in place. Be careful not to overtighten the screws so you don’t strip the hole or crack the outlet plate cover.
5. Turn the power back on and test the outlet to make sure it works properly
Turning the power back on will complete the circuit and allow you to use your new outlets. Make sure to test them before you start using them for anything important.
As far as the average user is concerned, RV outlets operate in much the same way as household outlets. The major difference is how they’re powered, which isn’t something you need to worry about unless you plan to add more outlets.
While you need to be aware of the amount of devices you plug in at once, you can treat these outlets the same as you would the outlets in your house.