When you pull into a campground with your RV, you want to be able to connect to a power source. This allows you to run your appliances, including necessary ones like your heater or air conditioning. However, sometimes the amperage may differ.
Can you plug your 50 amp into a 30 amp outlet?
With the right adapter, it is possible to plug a 30 amp RV plug into a 50 amp RV plug. However, it isn’t that simple. You also need to consider the campground’s energy provisions, other campers, and the safety of your rig and the appliances within it.
Many people will provide you with different answers regarding plugging a 50 amp into a 30 amp. These answers especially vary between campers and those who run or own campgrounds.
Once you finish this article, you will have a full understanding of the pros and cons of plugging a 50 am into a 30 amp plug along with the risks.
An Overview of RV Energy and Electricity
Having a host of appliances in your RV means that you will need an energy source to run them. For the purposes of this post, we will be looking at 30 amp systems and 50 amp systems as possible power sources.
30 amp systems use a three-prong plug to distribute 30 amps or 3600 watts of electricity to your rig. These are popular with small to moderate-sized RVs that don’t typically draw a lot of power. On this system, you can expect an RV to have multiple outlets, a television, one rooftop air conditioner, a microwave, and a refrigerator.
If you have a bigger RV, especially one with more than one rooftop air conditioner or residential-sized appliances ( like washers, entertainment systems, and refrigerators) you will need a 50 amp electrical system. This uses a four-pronged plug and must be hooked up to the appropriate 50 amp receptacle.
A 50 amp set up can provide 12000 watts of electricity, much more than 3600 watts of a 30 amp system. Therefore, if you tend to run a lot of appliances simultaneously or have a bigger RV you will likely be equipped with a 50 amp system.
It has been mentioned that a 50 amp plug has four prongs. This is because two of the prongs are each 120-volt transmitter and each supply electricity to their own “main” lines. Then there is a neutral prong and a ground wire. Adapters can be used to plug a 50 amp plug into a 30 amp receptacle and vice versa.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the flow of electricity increases or decreases. If you plug a 30 amp plug into a 50 amp receptacle with an adapter, you still receive 30 amps, your rig doesn’t magically become a 50 amp system.
Additionally, and importantly, if you plug at 50 amp plug into a 30 amp receptacle with the assistance of an adapter, your RV only receives 30 amps or 3600 watts. You will have less electricity available to consume and will have to be savvy about what you are running and when.
What Concerns Are There When Using an Adapter?
So why are campground owners so concerned about plugging in plugs with different amperages than there receptacles by use of an adapter? Because you will be drawing a lot of electricity from that lower wattage circuit.
If you are used to having 50 amps worth of power, and your RV is designed to run on this amount of electricity, it can be difficult to determine how many appliances you can use on a lesser amount. If you use too many you will be bogged down, not only in your rig but those hooked up to the same circuit and could even overload the campgrounds electrical system.
It isn’t always safe to assume the campers breakers will trip either. If this happens, the 30 amp receptacle could burn up and become unusable; something that is likely to upset the campground owner.
The discrepancies lie in the fact that the amps to power or watts aren’t exactly proportional. As we saw above, 30 amps are 3600 watts or 30 x 120. But 50 amps is not 6000, or 50 x 120, it is in fact, 12000. That is over three times the power supplied by the 30 amp plug and receptacle.
When you plug your 50 amp plug into that 30 amp receptacle, expect only one-third of the amount of power you are used to getting. This could strain your appliances and ultimately break them.
Determining just how much you can run, especially while using an air conditioner or heater, on your limited power supply is not easy. You likely won’t know until you have to try it. But in order to be courteous to other campers and the campground, if there is a 50 amp receptacle for your 50 amp plug definitely use it. If there is only a 30 amp option be conservative and closely watch the monitor so that you don’t exceed the amount available.
To hook up to a 30 amp receptacle with your 50 amp plug you will need an adapter. Often referred to as “dog bones” these adapters are just 50 amp female to 30 amp male plugs.
There are a wide variety of adapters available on the market, found here. Most are short in length, like the Kohree 30 Amp to 50 Amp RV Plug Adapter Heavy Duty Dogbone
. Additionally, they are not that expensive, such as the LeisureCords 50 Amp Male to 30 Amp Female Dogbone Adapter.
Most adapters have a portion of an electrical cord in between or a handle. This style is usually preferred to a simple plug adapter unit, like the RV Electrical Adapter 30 Amp Male to 15 a Female Plug Round Grip Motorhome adapter.
To plug into a receptacle with a different prong amount than your plug, you simply plug the 50 amp plug into the dog bone receptacle with five prong holes and plug the other end of the dog bone, with the prongs, into the 30 amp outlet.
You can even use two dog bones at the same time, a 50 to 30 amp and a 30 to 20 amp. Using the first will take you down from 50 to 30 amps and using the second one will take you down to 20 amp service. 20 amps are the same as a standard household outlet.
Most campground pedestals will offer 30 or 20 amp receptacles but not always 50 amp outlets. For this reason, you should always carry two or more dog-bone adapters. Additionally, it is possible to use adapters to “step up” your service and go from a 30 amp plug to a 50 amp receptacle.
Though remember, using adapters has skewed results on how much power you draw. A 30 amp equipped rig will not receive 50 amps worth of power just because of an adapter. But a 50 amp equipped rig will receive less power when hooked up to a 30 amp receptacle.
Precautions and Things to Keep in Mind
Safely using adapters is very important. Start out cautiously and be conservative about your energy usage. As you use appliances watch the monitor closely so you don’t trip the circuit or burn up the receptacle.
Some appliances certainly draw more electricity than others. Microwaves, air conditioners, and refrigerators all use a great deal of energy. This is especially true if you are using them simultaneously. Using all of these items at once can instantly expend your entire electricity allotment.
You can take measures to preserve energy and usage. This includes not standing in front of the refrigerator with the door open. Additionally, assist your air conditioner or heater by making sure doors and windows are closed and sealed. Limiting the number of times you enter and exit the RV will also help.
Though large appliances draw a lot of energy, using multiple small appliances can take up electricity bandwidth as well. Be mindful of using the coffee pot, hairdryer, entertainment system, and fan all at the same time.
Avoiding peak energy usage times is also considerate. If you can save up your laundry or dishwashing to one episode per day, either late at night or early in the morning, nearby campers on the same circuit will thank you.
You can also try to pre-cook meals using the oven or stove during cooler parts of the day. Alternatively, you can cook extra at one meal and use the leftovers for another meal. All of these things will help to manually moderate your energy usage.
Some RVs, likely newer models, have a fancy thing called an Energy Management System or EMS. These can come in handy if you have to plug into a lower amperage receptacle. EMS works to moderate your appliances’ energy usage so that you don’t trip up the circuit.
EMS can also be used to automatically turn on your RVs generator for an extra power boost if you are drawing too much electricity. EMS instructions can be found in your RVs user manual.
Is It Possible?
So, the answer to whether or not you can plug a 50 amp plug into a 30 amp receptacle is yes. However, you must have the right adapter and be savvy about your appliances. Be courteous to other campers and the campground owners. If you have the option to plug into a 50 amp outlet it would be wise to do so.