Skip to Content

Are RV Outlets The Same As House Outlets

After a few weeks of comparing prices between brand new RVs and used models, it’s easy to see why you might start looking at getting a “fixer-upper” to make your own.

Doing so, however, can open up a whole other set of questions regarding plumbing, replacement flooring, and even electric work.

One such question is, “are RV outlets the same as house outlets?”

RV outlets are different from house outlets in a variety of ways.

While power outlets inside a house are set deep inside your walls and involve a complex wiring system, RV outlets are smaller, contained boxes designed to fit inside shallow walls.

These outlets are convenient, but also can overload more easily.

RV Designer S817, Self Contained Dual Outlet with Cover Plate, Black, AC Electrical

Investing in a used RV isn’t a bad idea, but it may take a little love (and research) to properly modernize your new project.

This article will address common questions regarding RV outlets and how they function in your rolling home. 

What is a Standard RV Plug

While there are various ways to power your RV, the most straightforward and conventional is through a standard plug that can easily connect to shore power or generator.

Most standard RV plugs connect through either a thirty or fifty amp system.

Using the three-prong, 120 voltage plug, you can attach your RV to a campground shore power to draw the energy necessary to keep you in comfort.

From this point forward, calculating how much power your camper could draw is a matter of simple math.

The more demanding the appliances you use at a single time, the less power you’ll have to draw in other areas.

In most cases, you should be fine running one or two appliances at a time, as well as the usual air conditioner or heater.  

However, if you overload your camper’s system by using more appliances than your power source can handle, you may trip a breaker in your distribution box.

In most cases, a single break doesn’t provide too much of a problem.

You’ll simply be unable to use the outlets connected to that breaker until the issue has been resolved.

Making this routine a pattern, however, could result in lasting damage to your system.

If you find yourself repeatedly drawing too much energy, you may consider investing in a voltmeter.

This handy tool measures how many voltages your RV is drawing.

It can also tell whether or not the electrical system appropriately charges your batteries, which can be helpful for those who enjoy periodic boondocking.

By paying for this inexpensive device now, you can avoid having to pay much higher repair costs later. 

You might also want to check out: Do I Need a Surge Protector for My RV

KAIWEETS Digital Multimeter Auto-Ranging meter, TRMS 4000 Counts Meter Voltage Tester Voltmeter, Continuity Measures, 1.5v/9v Battery Tester, Capacitance Measure with NCV Function

Can You Add More Electrical Outlets

It can be understandably annoying when you need an extra outlet only to find that all of your existing ones are occupied.

If you’re unhappy with the number of electrical outlets in your RV, there’s no reason you need to stay that way.  

There are various ways an RV owner can add electrical outlets: daisy-chaining, completely rewiring your camper, or “stealing” power from an existing circuit.

However, if you’re not entirely comfortable around electrical systems, it may not be worth the effort.

Any project that involves an electrical system, especially one as sensitive as the kind in your RV, opens risk to a fire hazard.

When it comes to the danger of fires, camper and RV fires can be an incredibly hazardous kind of tragedy. 

20,000 camper and RV fires occur yearly, and according to the National Park Service, roughly three-quarters of those fires are a result of electrical errors.

If you find you need more power outlets to keep your kitchen appliances fully functional, it may be easier and safer to use a power strip or extension cord.

KMC 6-Outlet Surge Protector Power Strip 2-Pack, 900 Joule, 4-Foot Cord, Overload Protection, Black

What Powers the Outlets in an RV

When you decide how you’d like to power your RVs air conditioner, lights, and other functions, you also decide how you’d like your outlets to receive power. 

You can power your RV outlets in many ways, including shore power, generator, or batteries.

While shore power is generally the strongest and most reliable, there are plenty of options available to keep your RV comfortable.

The RV outlets are powered by whatever you choose to use as your primary power source.

While most campgrounds provide access to shore power, generators and batteries are a great option as well, especially for campers who prefer the privacy of boondocking over the predictability of a campground. 

Do I Need a GFCI Outlet in an RV

A GFCI outlet– standing for ground fault circuit interrupter— is a particular type of outlet designed to improve electrical safety in damp, outdoor areas.

This circuit breaker automatically shuts off power when it senses any fault that might spread to cause a fire.

GFCI outlets function differently in an RV than in a typical home because the RV electrical code doesn’t require different circuit breakers.

While GFCI outlets are a fantastic safety feature in damp spaces, they are also not legally required for thirty and fifty amp RV pedestals. 

Whether or not GFCI outlets should be required for thirty and fifty amps is something of a hot button issue.

While many electrical inspectors believe that GFCI outlets should be standard on thirty and fifty amp receptacles, 2020 codes say otherwise, categorizing RV pedestals as feeder circuits rather than branch circuits.  

Regardless of the minimum requirement on electrical codes, RV owners would be responsible for making sure that they include GFCI outlets wherever they might have included one in a standard home.  

It can be an annoying feature of an RV when a tripped breaker in the bathroom somehow shuts off the power in the living area, but in the end, it really is better to be safe than sorry.

5 Pack - ELECTECK 15A/125V Tamper Resistant GFCI Outlets, Decor Receptacle with LED Indicator, Decorative Wall Plates and Screws Included, Residential and Commercial Grade, ETL Certified, White

Conclusion

Renovating an old RV is different than renovating an old home.

There are different rules, codes, and procedures.

Even the electrical outlets themselves are different!  

Fixing up an old RV can be a hassle, but if done correctly, you can look back at the process with the same fondness that you’ll use on the memories you make in this RV later.