You may think that wiring a 5-amp plug/outlet is a challenging task but it’s more straightforward than you might think.
All you need is a brand new 50 amp breaker, an RV outlet, an electric conduit, and a wire. We recommend a 6/3 gauge with an 8 gauge being the minimum.
A 50 amp outlet for a recreational vehicle (RV) is connected to four wires and uses a four-prong plug. However, it is still a three-pole service with hot, neutral, and ground connections.
It differs from a regular 120-volt service as a 50 amp outlet features two 120 volt hot feeds, both at 50 amps.
Many people think that a 50 amp service is just a 30 amp and 20 amp service combined.
This is not the case. Even when you wire a 50 amp outlet to a large RV, a double-hot-pole or a double-bus installation is almost always used.
This is to draw just 120 volts to two different 120-volt circuits at the same time. Therefore, it can access a potential 12,000 watts of power.
It’s possible to set up a 50 amp outlet on a pedestal such as in a campsite. Or, you can install one on the side of your garage or home. Of course, this depends on where you park your RV most regularly.
If you’re on the road pretty often, you will want to recharge the power systems in your RV as easily and quickly as possible.
Read on to find out how to wire a 50 amp RV outlet so your RV’s batteries and power supplies are ready to go for your next big road trip.
50 Amp Outlets
A 50 amp receptacle should be connected to 4 wires altogether. Two of these should be 120-volt hot wires while one should be neutral and the other grounded.
Each one of these hot wires will supply you with 50 amps @ 120 volts (120 volts x 50 amps = 6,000 watts).
Because of the two hot wires that each give out 6000 watts, the total watts of power will equate to 12,000 watts (6000 watts + 6000 Watts = 12,000 watts).
Just bear in mind that you should always hire the help of a licensed electrician to assist you if you are not 100% certain of how to complete this task.
Items You Need
Before you start, you will need a breaker. You must install a double (or a dual) pole 50 amp 120/240-volt breaker when 240-volt service is divided into 2 Hot feeds.
Inside the dual-breaker, the two breakers will be connected. This is so they can trip at the same time. However, some breakers may have an internal bridge/connection.
You will also require certain wires. These are:
- 25 feet or less: 8 gauge wire
- 25-50 feet: 6 gauge wire
- 50-100 feet: 4 gauge wire
You also need to consider the outlet types you will be using.
If you intend to plug your RV into a regular 15-amp or 20-amp outlet, this is the amount of power you will use.
Nevertheless, the majority of RVs operate 30 amp or 50 amp outlets. If the correct amount of power is then supplied, the RV can achieve the most out of its power sockets.
A common misconception is that plugging a 30 amp system into a 50 amp plug with an adapter will gain more power.
However, the only outcome in this scenario is that you will be able to charge your 30 amp system from the outlet.
On the contrary, if you plug a 50 amp system into a 30 amp socket, you will only achieve 30 amps of power equating to 3,600 watts of power in all.
If you go down this route, just make sure that you always use a high-quality adapter. This should reduce the power consumption in your RV and limit the risk of any breakers being triggered or wires overheating.
Once you have the items in hand, it’s time to start the wiring process.
How To Wire A 50 Amp RV Outlet/Plug
Wiring an RV outlet is not a complicated process. You will have four simple terminals or screws on the back of the outlet. On occasions, these will be color-coded.
If your outlet is color-coded, the green terminal is the ground wire, the 2 brass terminals are for hot wires, and the silver terminal is for the neutral wire.
In general, hot wires are colored red and black. However, they can sometimes both be black. You need to wire these to the brass terminals but it doesn’t matter which one goes on which.
The ground wire is either green or bare and should be attached to the green terminal or the terminal behind the U-shape.
White or neutral wires should go right below this on the silver screw or silver terminal.
Wiring Process: Steps
- First, you need to prepare. This means gathering all of your wiring accessories. For this, you will need one 50 amp plug/outlet (NEMA 14-50R is recommended), a wire (#6 or six-gauge is recommended), and a weather-resistant protective box. You will also require all of your installation tools for wiring.
- Secondly, you need to be as safe as possible. Therefore, you need to switch OFF your main power source/supply.
- Now, it’s time to find the right location. If there are no slots available on your breaker panel, you may need to contact a qualified electrician so they can install an extension.
- It’s time to run the wires. We recommend running your wires through the electrical conduit before you connect any sides.
- Once you have run the wires, you need to connect the outlet. Firstly, connect the red and black (or vice versa) wires to the outlet’s side terminals. These may be brass color-coded). Next, connect the U-shaped side to the green or bare wire. Again, the terminal here may be color-coded as green, white, or in a neutral color). This will be directly below (the silver screw).
- Now you need to connect the breaker. Simply place two black or red and black wires inside the beaker.
- The next step is to connect the bus bars. The ground and neutral buses are terminal blocks and are inside your breaker panel. These will also feature many small holes in them. This is the location where you need to place the appropriate wires and then tighten them up with a screw and screwdriver. The white wire needs to be connected to the neutral bus while the green or bare wire should be connected to the ground bus.
- Finally, it’s time to turn the power back ON. You should always stick a surge protector on the outlet when turning the power back on, even if you think everything was done to perfection. Alternatively, you can check it with a multimeter to be extra sure.
And that’s the wiring process for your 50 amp RV outlet complete. Well, almost. Now it’s time to test it.
Testing The RV outlet
Before you head off in your RV and try to power everything up, you should test it all at home first. The last thing you want is to head out on the great open roads only to find that nothing has been charged up.
Even professionals make mistakes. So, whether you wired the outlet or hired professional help, you should test it first.
You’ll be pleased to know that testing the RV outlet is very easy. You can use a multimeter, also known as a voltmeter, to check if the correct power is coming through.
Alternatively, you could plug in a surge protector. If everything comes through okay, this will light up green.
If you use a multimeter, you need to ensure the readings are as follows:
- The voltage between hot wires = 240 volts
- The voltage between hot and neutral wires (check both of them) = 120 volts
- The voltage between the hot and ground wires = 120 volts
- The voltage between the neutral and ground wires = 0 volts
Once you are satisfied with your checks and everything seems to be working correctly, it’s time to use your new RV power outlet.
Using The RV outlet
Remember that a 50 amp RV outlet/plug supplies a great deal of power. 50 amps allow you to plug in a whole host of devices, unlike a 30 amp service.
Once the outlet is all wired up, many people choose to ignore their RV manual that gives some helpful pointers on how to connect your RV to shore power. Just make sure you do the following before heading off on the road:
- Turn off all of your appliances. Do not try to plug in your cord under any load.
- Turn the shore breaker or your RV breaker off. This is very important if you want to avoid any possible electric shocks or contact flashing.
- Now, plug in your cord. You need to align your plug terminals with your socket terminals. Then, go ahead and plug it in.
- Finally, turn the breaker back on again. Once contact has been made and the plug is secure inside the socket, you can turn the RV breakers or shore brokers on again.
It’s worth noting that this particular setup supplies a heck of a lot of power. Therefore, it may not be necessary to calculate amp usage for each device onboard your RV.
Installing An Electrical Outlet In A Trailer
After you have successfully wired your 50 amp RV outlet, you may want to move on to another task such as installing an outlet in your trailer.
Travel trailers tend to have two separate electrical systems:
- 120-volt systems for hooking up to the grid
- 12-volt system for remote camping
These two systems have very different electrical outlets.
The 120-volt system is pretty much the same as the ones used in traditional buildings while the 12-volt system is more similar to those used in cigar lighters that are found in cars.
Additionally, the installation of these outlets is also performed in different ways.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to install a power outlet in a trailer:
- Find a location and rating for your 120-volt outlet. If the location is in a space where moisture is often found, the outlet needs to be of a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) type. Alternatively, you can use a traditional duplex outlet. Bear in mind that this must be rated to its intended purpose and for general domestic use. We recommend a 15-amp outlet as this is the most commonly used.
- Now, install the receiver by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Firstly, you must determine what style of a receiver is best suited for the location you have chosen. It can be a type that has been designed to rebate into a hollowed-out wall. This is so the outlet is completely flush. Or, it can be mounted onto the wall. This is so the outlet can protrude outwards. This should be around two inches.
- Next, you need to switch off the 120-volt power supplied to the travel trailer. Make sure that the shore connection cord is also not plugged into any outlet. The generator should also be turned off. You need to run a three-conductor wire to the outlet’s location and then connect this to an unused circuit breaker found in the 120-volt breaker board. Make sure this is rated for its intended purpose and is suitable for domestic duties (a 15-amp breaker is most common).
- Here, you need to connect the three conductors to the terminals that have been outlined in labels on the back of the outlet. Usually, the hot wire is attached to a copper-colored screw. The neutral wire is attached to a silver screw, and the ground wire is attached to a green screw. Simply secure your outlet to the receiver and turn the power supply back on.
- To fix a 12-volt outlet to a wall or underside of a shelf, you must do this according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Route the two-conductor wires that are attached to the outlet to your 12-volt fuse board found on the travel trailer. Now, attach the black or red wire to the bus bar that serves the other outlets.
- Finally, attach the white wire to the bus bar that grounds the trailer’s 12-volt circuits.
And, that’s how you install an electrical outlet in your travel trailer.