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Plugging in an RV (Dog Bones 101)

Plugging in an RV (Dog Bones 101)


A new RVer recently asked us how to plug their RV into a regular household electric outlet, so we thought we’d cover the basics of connecting different types of RVs into 20-, 30- and 50-amp electric service.

A standard 3-prong household electric outlet provides 20-amp service (sometimes also referred to as 15-amp service). Most medium-sized RVs (usually with only one air-conditioning unit) have 30-amp service, which uses a larger three-prong plug with two of the prongs at an angle. Larger RVs (usually with two or three air conditioners) utilize higher-power 50-amp service, with larger, 4-prong plugs.

Most RV parks offer both 20- and 30-amp service, with many parks also offering 50-amp service as well. But what do you do if you’re staying at a park that doesn’t offer an outlet to match your plug? The answer: Dogbones.

A “dogbone” adapter (named for it’s resemblance to the canine treat) attaches to the end of your RV’s electric cord, and steps it up or down to match an available outlet. Since 50-amp service is often unavailable at smaller or more rustic RV parks, just about everyone driving a big motorhome (like us) carries at least one dogbone — to convert their big 50-amp plug into the smaller 30-amp size. We also carry a second dogbone to further step down to 20-amp service.

It may not sound possible to power a large motorhome on less than 50-amp service, but it’s really not a problem. It’s all about power management. We know that we can’t run both of our air conditioners and our electric water heater element and our microwave all at the same time unless we’re on 50-amp service. But 30 amps is plenty to run 2 or 3 items at once. As a matter of fact, we just spent the entire winter in British Columbia in a 30-amp site without a problem!

Even a 20-amp connection is enough for us in certain cases. It will keep the batteries charged, allow us to watch TV, run the fridge, or power our big computer, or even microwave dinner… just as long as we stick pretty much to one of those things at a time. It’s all about learning how much power each appliance in your RV uses, and living within the limits of the available electric service.

We would certainly never expect to park in a friend’s driveway on a hot summer day and power our air conditioners by running an extension cord to a household outlet in their garage. Larger power requirements demand at least 30-amp or even 50-amp service… or firing up the generator.

It’s a real luxury on a brutally hot August day to pull into a 50-amp RV park, crank up both air conditioners, heat water for showers, and microwaving dinner… all at the same time. Just don’t expect to do that without that 50-amp connection!

Here’s a great article that goes into a lot more detail about this whole topic.


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Dee Hodges

Saturday 16th of March 2019

Thank you so much for the reply & the info. I look forward to viewing your other videos...most informative!!!

Dee Hodges

Friday 15th of March 2019

Hi, my 1999 Avion Savanna is my primary residence since losing our double wide mobile home to fire in 2014. I am not having a problem, but would like to know where I can buy circuit breakers for my RV. These would be the breakers inside the RV, not the ones in the pedestal outside. Thanks for your site, just found it and love it! Dee

TheRVgeeks

Friday 15th of March 2019

Hi Dee! So sorry to hear about the loss of your home. But glad to know you have the Savannah as an alternate place to live! The 110 V circuit breakers in your Airstream should be the same ones that are used in a regular house, so you should be able to find them at a big box store like Lowes or Home Depot, or at any electrical supply warehouse. If you’re in doubt, you can always take one from the Airstream with you, to compare, and make sure you get the correct one. Just be sure the RV isn’t plugged into power, and the inverter is turned off, before removing the circuit breaker.

Hector A Rodriguez

Friday 5th of January 2018

Have a question about connecting to 50amps. Everytime I connect I see two blue lights telling me all is good. I always get to lights when am at home on my driveway, but today I only have one. The panel inside tells me I have two legs at 120 Volts each and it also shows 50 Amps

TheRVgeeks

Friday 5th of January 2018

Hi Hector,

Hmmm... when you say "I always get two lights"... where are these lights? On your power cord itself? Or on some other component of your electrical system?

It's certainly possible that one of the lights has failed, and that everything is OK. But it's also possible that there is something wrong with the wiring of the pedestal (are you at home or at a different hookup?) that could be serious. Do you have another outlet that you could connect to? We'd err on the side of caution here, since if there's something wrong with the 50-amp hookup, it could do serious damage to your RV and its electrical system.

Mike Fisher

Wednesday 20th of December 2017

You gets are top notch and you are both a walking RV informational library! Being as new to a newbie as I can be I am finding out this RV stuff is confusing at times and I thank you for all of your work and taking a lot of worry out of something so new to many. To put it in a simple way..you guys rock! As we move into our holiday season I will refrain from my usual Grinch holiday sport and put aside my Bah HUMBUG holiday cheer and just say Merry Christmas and hope that the Santa Clause brings you all the toys that you have asked for. Enjoy the New Year and let it bring to you both mush happiness and good health. Thanks for helping me along as I surely hope I'll never start the house on fire! < FISAH <

TheRVgeeks

Wednesday 20th of December 2017

Thanks so much, Mike! You just made our day! We're so glad that we can help people out and encourage them to get out in their RVs! We hope to see you out on the road! Thanks for the holiday wishes... we hope yours are happy & healthy, too!

Mike Ward

Friday 10th of March 2017

Just getting started in RV. Built these Dogbone Hangers. Getting out on the road soon. Planning on installing those 360 siphon-vents this summer after watching your video. Thanks for all the tips!

http://waywards.org/dogbone-hangups/

TheRVgeeks

Friday 10th of March 2017

What a great idea, Mike! Thanks for sharing.

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