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:
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.
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:
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:
- Converts Electrical Connection Type: Designed to allow you to hookup to your campground's power pedestal, adapting the electrical connection to fit...
- High Conductivity: Heavy-duty 30-amp male (NEMA TT-30P) and 50-amp female (NEMA 14-50R) electrical heads. Rated for 125 volts/3750 watts. Constructed...
To connect a 50A RV to a 15A outlet:
- 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:
- 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 resilient, 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:
- EXTENDED LENGTH: 30 amp 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!
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