Skip to Content

The 50 Amp RV Plug: Power For Everything In Your RV!

The 50 Amp RV Plug: Power For Everything In Your RV!

The 50 amp RV plug is a powerful thing! In fact, it has the capacity to power everything in your RV no matter what size rig you’ve got. 

People often wonder how much a single 50-amp plug can really handle. Well, we can power our entire motorhome on a 50-amp plug when we’re connected to shore power. 

For nearly two decades now, we’ve lived, worked, and traveled full-time in a 43’ diesel pusher with two air conditioning units, a washer & dryer, a residential refrigerator, and a host of other appliances along with a LOT of technology. 

We’re here to tell you that the 50-amp RV plug can power it all, and then some. 

In this post, we’ll investigate the 50-amp RV plug to explain and demonstrate what it looks like, how it works, and why it’s so powerful. 

What Is a 50-Amp RV Plug?

In short, a 50-amp RV plug is a four-pronged power plug. It looks like this:

A 50-amp plug

A 50-amp RV plug is a 4-pronged plug. Each prong corresponds with one of four wires that run through the power cord.

Each prong is associated with one of four wires that run through the power cord. Two of the prongs carry 120V AC power, each with 50 amps of power. (So, combined it’s like a 100-amp connection, though it would never be referred to as such.) The other two of the four prongs of a 50-amp RV plug include one neutral wire and one ground wire.

The receptacle into which a 50-amp plug goes is called a NEMA 14-50R.

Photo of a campsite power pedestal with outlets identifiedwith all three sizes of plugs

This is a campground power pedestal. The receptacle for the 50-amp power plug is on the far left.

What Is the Difference Between a 30-Amp RV Plug and a 50-Amp RV Plug?

Some RVs have a 30-amp plug. A Class B RV is a good example. But larger RVs like ours have a 50-amp plug. 

The 30-amp power plug is a 3-prong plug. Each prong corresponds with one of three wires: 0ne 120V hot wire, a neutral wire, and a ground wire. The plug looks like this:

A 30-amp RV plug

The difference, in terms of the plug provided by the RV manufacturer, is in how much power everything in the rig requires.

So, for example, a Class B RV may have a single small AC unit while a 43’ motorhome has two (or 3) HVAC units. A Class B RV certainly wouldn’t have a washer & dryer, but it probably has a small microwave. It may also have a 3-way RV fridge while a larger rig like ours may have a residential fridge. You get the idea.

So, here’s the technical difference in terms of power provided. And it’s not just the difference between 30 and 50.

A 50-amp connection provides significantly more power than just the difference between 50 amps and 30 amps. A 30-amp connection provides 3,600 Watts of power (30A x 120V), while a 50-amp connection provides 12,000 Watts (50A x 120V = 6,000W x 2 = 12,000W). 

So, the difference between 30-amp power and 50-amp power is technically 8,400 Watts (12,000W – 3,600 W).

Is a 50-Amp RV Outlet 120 or 240?

As we noted earlier in the post, a 50-amp RV plug has four prongs. With these four prongs plugged into a power pedestal, 50-amp service going to your RV provides two 120V legs of 50 amps each, one shared neutral wire, and one ground wire.

Even though a 50-amp power plug or RV receptacle is capable of providing 220/240V AC power, RVs are typically wired to use each of the two 120V AC lines to provide power to half of the RV, splitting the loads between them. (Although 240V for use with an electric drier isn’t uncommon in very high-end motorhomes… that circuit would be wired to combine the 2 120V legs into a single 240V supply, just for the dryer.)

So, each of these two parts of the plug offers a separate 50-amp/120V connection.

Can I Use an Adapter at a Campground Power Pedestal?

You can (and sometimes may need to) use an adapter for your RV depending on the power supplied at the power pedestal or home where you’re plugging in.

It’s important to know, however, that even with an adapter, 30-amp RV service will only receive the 3,600 Watts of power it can handle. So, if you use a 30-amp adapter with a 50-amp RV, you’ll still be limited to 3,600 Watts of power.

So, while you can plug your 50-amp RV into a 30-amp power pedestal using an adapter, you won’t be able to power everything you typically power using a 50-amp service. You need to be sure not to use more than 3,600 Watts or 30-amps of power when using a 30-amp adapter.

The same, of course, is true if you’re using a lower power extension cord. (See the RV adapter section of our RV power cord post for further details on adapters.)

We regularly use dogbone adapters and we consider them to be necessary RV electrical supplies for every RVer’s toolkit.

To connect a 50A RV to a 30A outlet:

Sale
Camco RV Dogbone Electrical Adapter With Easy PowerGrip Handle, 30 Amp Male to 50 Amp Female, 18" (3750W/125V) (55185)
  • Handles make unplugging easier
  • 30 AMP (TT 30P) male to 50 AMP (14 to 50R) female

To connect a 50A RV to a 15A outlet:

Sale
Camco RV Dogbone Electrical Adapter with Innovative 180 Degree Bend Design and PowerGrip Handle - 15 Amp Male to 50 Amp Female, 12" (55168) , Black
  • Converts Electrical Connection Type: Designed to allow easy conversion from a 50-amp to 15-amp connection.
  • High Conductivity: Heavy-duty 15-amp male (NEMA 5-15P) and 50-amp female (NEMA 14-50R) electrical heads. Rated for 125 volts/1875 watts. Constructed...

Here’s our YouTube video from way back in 2012 explaining more about dogbone adapters:

Does a 50-Amp RV Plug Require a 50-Amp Extension Cord?

Technically? No. You COULD use adapters to size your RV’s plug down to a smaller power cord… and then adapt back up to the receptacle’s 50-amp outlet. But doing so could put you at risk of a fire, since you could inadvertently pull more power through the lower-amperage extension cord than it can handle. And, since the circuit break for the outlet is rated at 50-amps, it likely won’t trip.

So, we’d suggest that it’s best to use a 50-amp extension cord to connect your 50-amp RV to a 50-amp receptacle. And, you’ll want to us a high-quality, heavy-duty 50-amp extension cord like this one:

Sale
Camco 55195 30' PowerGrip Heavy-Duty Outdoor 50-Amp Extension Cord for RV | Allows for Additional Length to Reach Distant Power Outlets | Built to Last
  • Extended Length: Extension cord extends 30 feet long, providing the necessary length to power your RV
  • Flexible, Safe and Durable Construction: Extension cord is extremely flexible. Coated with a heavy-duty flame retardant, heat resistant PVC sheath...

Likewise, if your RV has a 30-amp service and you need to use an extension cord, you’ll want to use a high-quality, heavy-duty 30-amp extension cord like this one:

Sale
Camco 50' PowerGrip Heavy-Duty Outdoor 30-Amp Extension Cord for RV | Allows for Additional Length to Reach Distant Power Outlets | Built to Last (55197)
  • Extended Length: Extension cord extends 50 feet long, providing the necessary length to power your RV.
  • High Conductivity: Features a standard 30-amp male (NEMA TT-30P) and 30-amp female (NEMA TT-30R) connectors. Rated for 125 volts/3750 watts....

If you’d like a quick tutorial on how to hook up an RV at an RV park or campground, (not just the electrical service but water and sewer as well), check out our YouTube video on how to hook up an RV!

Geek Out with Us Every Week

Join our newsletter to learn about all things RV-related. Every week we offer free tips, tricks, product reviews, and more to our online community of RVers. So, whether this is your first time on the road or you’re a seasoned expert, we’d love for you to geek out with us!

We'd Love It If You Shared This!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Steve Hill

Sunday 28th of August 2022

On topic of using a smaller 30 amp extension cord on a 50 RV/trailer. To prevent exceeding the rating of the extension cord you, can plug a 30 amp cord into a 30 amp source and then use a dog bone back to a 50 amp . That will save you a few bucks and you would never overload the extension cord. Never dog bone from 50 amp source to 30 and then back to 50 again as you can do it but you have lost your safety factor and you have to remember not to exceed the 3600 watts of maximum power as the pedistal breaker is still 50 amps and your RV is too. If your RV power command unit senses 30 amp circuit then it would shed loads like hot water, air 1 and air 2 to prevent an over current situation for you. You have short circuit protection only from the breakers. Remember it is best just to buy a 50 amp extension cord if you have a 50 amp RV rig. Safe travels.

Mike

Sunday 28th of August 2022

Great post. We are upgrading from a 30-amp to 50-amp coach and I'm wondering about using a dog bone to connect a 50-amp to a 30-amp power source. I realize it won't "power everything" because of the 3,600 watt limit, but how does that break out in use?

Should we run only 1 AC? Can we use the microwave?

Thanks

Mike

Sunday 28th of August 2022

@TheRVgeeks, Very helpful! Thanks!

TheRVgeeks

Sunday 28th of August 2022

Hi Mike! Congrats on your RV upgrade! When you dog-bone a 50-amp RV down to a 30-amp connection, you can then think of yourself as being back in a 30-amp RV, with the same amount of power available as you used to have. That generally means you can run up to 2 large-draw simultaneously. For example, one air conditioner and the microwave, but not also the battery charger (on bulk charge, which draws lots of power.... once the batteries are charged, trickle charging uses far less power). Because there are so many other things that may be running while you're on that 30-amp circuit (fridge on electric, and so many other various draws), we generally limit ourselves to one high-draw item at a time when possible. That means when we first hook-up and the batteries are in bulk charge, we'd likely wait to microwave dinner until the batteries went to float. And we'd try to wait to turn on the electric side of the water heater until we'd turned off the A/C. If you have an EMS (energy management system) with a digital readout like we do (visible in quite a few of our videos), you'll know exactly how much current you're drawing. Without that, follow the rule of two.... never more than two of the following at a time: bulk battery charging; one A/C unit; microwave; electric water heater... you should be good. If running two items pops the breaker in a park, limiting yourself to one high-draw item at a time will assure you're good to go. By the way, A/C units are a special case due to the power surge that happens on start-up. So running two A/C units on 30-amp will likely trip the breaker when the second one fires up. We made a video and post showing how we can run both at once by installing Micro-Air Easy Start units. If you plan to summer in warm climates on a 30-amp hook-up, you'll want to look into them!

Scott Floyd

Sunday 28th of August 2022

I thought I understood the 30 and 50 amp power. Wrong. Thanks for a terrific explanation. Now I’ve got it right.

TheRVgeeks

Sunday 28th of August 2022

Thanks so much, Scott! Glad you found the info helpful.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

PLEASE NOTE: We're handy RVers, not professional technicians. We're happy with the techniques and products we use, but be sure to confirm that all methods and materials you use are compatible with your equipment and abilities. Regardless of what we recommend, consult a professional if you're unsure about working on your RV. Any task you perform or product you purchase based on any information we provide is strictly at your own risk.

We participate in the Amazon affiliate program, which provides a means for us to earn a small commission by linking to products there. But our opinions are our own and we only link to products we can recommend to friends with complete confidence. And using our links won't cost you an extra penny!