The best thing about a good RV is that it can have all of the amenities you might find in a good home. But, those amenities often require electricity and it is important to know if RV plugs are 110v or 220v and how to spot a difference.
Thankfully, this is not hard and just by the look of the plug, you can determine the type. Generally, all RVs can be divided by how much electricity they need:
- Small sedan trailers – 15 amp/110v
- Medium RVs and campers – 30 amp/110v
- Large motorhome RVs – 50 amps/220v
Technically speaking, the voltages on the plugs are 120v at the hot wire, not 110v, but because it is reduced due to loss we count it as 110v. This is what most of the smaller appliances will use and how your interior outlets will function.
Probably a majority of motorhomes today will only need this much power. This would especially be the case if heavy-consumers such as stoves are gas-powered and not electrical. If you have a medium RV and like to do your grilling outside the 30 amp/110v plugs will be more than enough to charge your batteries efficiently and power everything in the RV continuously.
Take note that if you have your generator or any outlet plugged into your RV while you are using power, the power will first go to the appliances and only then to the battery. That is made so that the battery lasts longer.
What Can You Expect?
All appliances, at least in the United States, are gauged to work with 110v charges at 60Hz. What the appliances use has no bearing on what your RV would be plugged in. The question is how many of them are there and how hard or frequently they need to work.
Namely, if you need to charge your batteries before a trip but also need to use the RV, doing so on a 110v charge will not be easy. If you need to use your electric stove or something similar, that will use up all of the power, leaving nothing to charge.
Additionally, the charging will be slower for all power banks. That isn't an issue if you are out and about while your small RV is charging, but in the biggest models, there are always some appliances working, like the AC or WiFi. In those cases, the charging for the batteries from only a single 110v plug will be abysmally slow.
In those cases, you will need the 220v plug that will charge everything much faster. The difference is not double because the 220v plug can give up to 12000 watts of power per hour, which is roughly 3.5x more than what you can get with the 110v plug. Also, the amperage is higher so that more power is given at greater speeds.
Such charging is not always necessary. If you have something like a 25 AH battery then a normal charge will fill it up in less than an hour. But, if you have a 200 AH battery you don't want to spend a whole day out of your RV or lose the extra fuel for the generator just because you don't have the right plug.
How do the Plugs Look?
Most people will be very familiar with the classic 110v plug. At the bottom, you will have two parallel wires that will be the hot wire and the neutral wire, with the ground wire at the top. This same plug can go in almost any outlet in the nation and you can even charge your RV with the power from your home.
The 220v plug will have four wires in total, with the two 110v hot wires going parallel to each other, the neutral being in the bottom and the ground still being at the top. The plug itself will usually be slightly more heavy-duty because of the added thickness, but differences with modern cables can be minimal.
To attach the 220v plug you will need to have either an adapter or a dedicated outlet that will give out that much power. It is completely safe to use any appliance while you are attached because it will never happen for electricity to be drawn from both hot wires to the same place at once.
In most cases, one hot wire will recharge the batteries while the other one will be spent on appliances. Once the battery is full and nothing is turned on the outlet will stop drawing power.
30 Amps vs. 50 Amps
Conversions are not easy even with measurements that we can see with our eyes, let alone with something that is happening inside a wire. But, once you get a hold of it the distinction is not that difficult.
Your Volts, when it says 110 or 220 volts, is your electric force. It is the electric potential difference between the grid and your appliances. Generally speaking, this number will never change inside one country as it is usually made at a standard, which for the United States is 110 volts.
The Amps are the current. The number on the box shows how much power the entire circuit can hold at the same time. The more you have, the more appliances you can use at the same time. For instance, a new fast phone charger is currently 2.4 amps. This means that a 50 amp battery can charge up to 20 iPhones at the same time quickly.
Finally, watts are amps times volts and it shows how much actual power something is using. This can also be a good way to calculate how much amps something is using if you know that it is a ‘’2000 watt’’ machine. At 110v, that is roughly 18 amps.
If you have the option, having more amps in your RV is always a better choice. Still, most boondockers will find that 15 amps are more than okay if you don't use a lot of stuff. If you only need something for your phone and the AC that will be enough.
But, if you want to have a real home on wheels you will need more. Something like a water heater will take quite a bit of juice and you don't want to lack anything if you fancy yourself a luxury boondocker.