Plugging Your RV into Home 120-Volt System
You know what is pretty awesome about a part-time or weekend RVer? You’ve got a full house and garage. You can store your extra tools. You have a full kitchen and laundry room. All the awesome things about a house that those full-timers miss.
And if you are fortunate enough to be able to park your RV at your house, you can even plug your RV into your house’s 120-volt electrical system without special RV hookups. And no storage fees!
It’s not a difficult process to plug the RV into your home electrical system. Really, even our friends in Athens can do it. No electrical engineering degree required!
Don’t worry full-timers, we love you too! But you have to admit, there are some benefits to stick and brick homes. Some you may even miss.
We know the awesome benefits of the full-time life, with the ability to get new neighbors and see new places at the drop of a hat. It’ll be fun when I can retire and do that too. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the extra space while I can.
Benefits of Plugging the RV In
It’s really nice to be able to plug your RV into an electrical system while it is in storage or between uses.
RV Batteries Stay Charged
First, plugging in your RV will keep your batteries charged up between uses. You won’t ever have to come out to the RV after a period of non-use to find out it won’t crank because the batteries are dead.
Because that would be a horrible way to start a weekend football road trip.
RV Fridge Stays Cold
Second, by plugging in and providing power to your RV between trips, you can keep your fridge running between uses.
I turn my fridge and freezer to the warmest settings that are still on. By keeping the fridge running, you don’t have to worry about mold growing while you aren’t using it.
Or you can treat the RV fridge as your extended beer fridge!
And during football season, when you are using the RV every weekend, you don’t have to unpack all the non-perishable stuff.
When it comes to those mid-week or early departures, the fridge will be nice and cool when you pack it (which means a lower risk of food poisoning, another way to ruin a great weekend of RV tailgating!) All this without using up the propane in your tank!
Small Electronics Can Run
Third, with the RV plugged in, you can run small electronics in your RV – the ones that take power.
Some of the small electronics that I run include:
- The ultrasonic pest repellent that I use to keep ants, mice, and other critters away from the RV.
- A small dehumidifier to control humidity in the RV. Electric dehumidifiers seem to work much better than the bucket of Damp Rid.
- In the winter when the temperatures are below freezing, I’ve used electric space heaters to prevent the pipes from freezing up.
- You can monitor your RV with the Ring Alarm Pro, including cameras, air quality, and security.
Power Your Power Tools for RV Maintenance and Mods
Finally, when you are working on your RV, it’s great to have power. Power tools require, well, power.
Sure, battery-powered tools are awesome but if you are doing a large project, the battery will wear out. And plugged in versions are often more powerful. (Even though it is often really hard to beat the Ryobi battery tools for pure convenience!)
And if you are working in the RV during summer, you’ll want some fans and maybe even the air conditioner. Or if you want to wait until night time, you’ll probably want to use lights and all that jazz! Wouldn’t it be awesome if you didn’t have to use the generator for this?
Thus, you need to be able to hook up to your home electric.
Is it 110 volt or 120 volt?
In the United States, they are the same thing for all practical purposes.
Today, the standard is 120 volts in your home for regular outlets (240 has two 120 for larger appliances like ovens and dryers). But it used to be 110.
And for whatever reason, mostly habits being hard to break, the public has stuck with 110 in common nomenclature.
So when we talk about plugging in your RV at home, you’ll be plugging into the 120 volt system. Unless your home is more than 50-60 years old and the electrical hasn’t been updated, then it might actually be 110. But it’s the same common plug.
See Also: Tips for RV Winter Storage with Power
How to Plug In the RV to Home Electric
You can go the expensive way: have an electrician come out and wire a plug for your RV, either 30 amp or 50 amp service. If you go this way, it’ll be like sitting at the campground with full service. You can run everything in your RV all at once, including air conditioners.
Or you can go the cheaper way. It’s not as effective because you’ll be using your home’s 120 volt AC system, not the RV’s 14 volt DC system. You’ll have to convert it from your 30 or 50 amp service to the 15 amp service. Then you can plug it directly to the standard three prong plug in your garage.
For 30 amp RVs, you’ll need: 30a female to 15a male. Remove the 30 amp plug from the generator plug, like you would at an RV campground. Then plug it into this adapter. Then you can plug the adapter into your heavy duty outdoor extension cord.
Buy Now: 30 amp to 15 amp RV Adapter
For 50 amp RVs, you’ll need: 50a female to 30a male and then the 30a female to 15a male. Yes, you’ll need both!
Remove the 50 amp plug from the generator plug, like you would at an RV campground. Then plug it into the first adapter (50a female to 30a male). This then gets plugged into the second adapter (30a female to 15a male) which together you can then plug the adapter into your heavy duty outdoor extension cord.
Buy Now: 50 amp to 30 amp RV Adapter
Limits on the Appliances You Can Use
Because of the smaller amp service, you probably won’t be able to run your RV air conditioner. In fact, when I come in from a roadtrip and plug in, if I have forgotten to turn off the A/C first, it will trip the circuit in the home’s electrical panel. So make sure you know where the circuit panel is. Because you will forget.
Microwaves and hair dryers are also going to be iffy on whether you can run them. Best case, go inside your home to use those appliances. If you need the hair dryer for some kind of repair work on the RV, run an extension cord from a different circuit out to the RV.
A different circuit is important. Don’t try running too much from one circuit – you might as well be using everything plugged into the RV. You will trip the breaker. Trust me.
The Adapter and Cord Connections
I prefer the dog-bone adapters rather than the simple plug adapters. In the typically limited space at the generator plug, you don’t want to be stacking up adapters with no room to go. It’s hard enough getting your hands in there to pull the plugs out, don’t be limiting your space even more.
Once you have all the dog-bone adapters setup, try to put all the connections inside the RV power cubby. Try not to expose the connections to the elements to help reduce the risk of damage from water.
Also if possible, use a plug in your garage, not an outdoor plug. Again, keep the connections out of the elements as much as you can. You will reduce the risk of fire by keeping the connections protected.
Heavy Duty Outdoor Extension Cord
I recommend that you use a heavy duty outdoor extension cord. First, it will be exposed to the elements. So make sure that it is in good repair.
New is preferable. (Did you know that extension cords have a limited lifespan?)
Indoor extension cords are not suitable for outdoor use or exposure to the elements. They are also typically not suitable for the larger loads that you may put on the cord with it plugged into the RV.
Get yourself that heavy duty outdoor extension cord for safety!
Monitor Your RV
Don’t ignore your RV. It’s easy to do when you aren’t using it every week during the off-season.
You should check in at least weekly to make sure that everything is working appropriately.
The dehumidifier may need emptying. Check that there is no standing water or leaks, a problem that will be made worse by electricity.
While you are at it, inspect that extension cord to make sure that there is no damage to it – cars running over it, critters eating at the cord, or even a lawnmower chopping it up. All can lead to damage to your home or your RV.
See Also: RV Security System by Ring Alarm Pro
Power Your RV with Home Electric
See, it wasn’t that hard to plug in your RV to your home’s 120 volt electric system.
With a few precautions, you don’t have to worry so much about fire. And you can reduce other problems from not having electrical hookups. No mold, freezing pipes, or dead batteries. Awesome sauce!
Adapters Also Useful at RV Campgrounds
PS It’s a good idea to throw all the adapters into the RV before you leave on a road trip!
You never know when a campground isn’t going to have the right electrical service for your RV.
While you may not be able to run all the systems in your RV (most notably, the air conditioner), having limited electrical can be the difference between being able to stop and having to continue on.
Or use the generator. Which may not be allowed after hours. Be prepared with all the cool adapters!
Recommended RV Products
Here are the products that RV Tailgate Life recommends to be prepared for all RV electrical sources:
You May Also Like:
How to Prevent and Get Rid of RV Odors
RV Insurance Explained Before You Shop
TPMS: Protect RV Tires with Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems
Is it okay to use an extension cord splitter to connect the extension cord from the RV to more than one circuit in the house or should extra extension cords be used?
I really recommend that you not use splitters on extension cords. Most RVs, especially newer RVs, are going to be running up to the limits on most home electrical systems. Using splitters lets you put other things on the same circuit and will likely lead to the breaker tripping. Or worse – the cords heating up and starting a fire or other damage to your home or to your RV. That’s the most important thing here – safety and no fires!
If you can, you can run separate extension cords to the RV to help reduce the load on any one circuit. For example, right now with the cold spell coming through much of the country, many people will be running electric heaters in the RV. If you can run a separate extension cord, from a different circuit, to the RV just to run the heater, that would be wise. The regular cord can run the battery chargers, the fridge, etc.
Hope that makes sense.
I just brought home our first ravel trailer last week. I had it plugged in to the outside outlets of the house just the way you said above. Only used the lights the few times I went in there over the past week to measure, etc, for things I need to get. Went in there today, no lights were working. Nothing. I am new to all this and something like this happening was what i was afraid of by purchasing in the winter and having no experience whatsover. What have I done wrong? what could be the problem? I was in there 2 days ago and all was fine.
Christy, congrats on the new travel trailer! I’m sure that you are learning a lot of new things right now and all of this is kind of crazy to you. I know it was when I bought my first RV. The good news is that it gets better, things slow down as you get the hang of it all.
Is anything working in the RV? For example, is the fridge working? Water pump? Fans? Try a few different things to try to isolate the problem.
If other things are working, then it is likely that there is something wrong with the lighting system – check to see if you tripped a breaker inside the trailer.
If nothing is working, then we need to figure out if it is the house or the trailer that is causing the problem. First, check your breaker box in your house. Is the breaker on or did it get flipped at some point? If no power is getting to your trailer, then it won’t be charging the batteries and they will slowly drain (or quickly, if you have a lot of things running in the trailer).
Second, check the outlet that you have the trailer plugged in to. Does a clock radio work on the outlet? For whatever reason, sometimes people will disable outside plugs – this was a problem on a rental house that I lived in a few years back.
If the breaker is good and the outlet works, then let’s start looking inside the trailer.
Do you have an automatic transfer switch on your trailer? When I plug in my RV, I can hear it switch from battery power to shore power or to the generator. It usually takes a couple of seconds after I plug it in but not too long. This is to help guard against power surges. Sometimes, the ATS (automatic transfer switch) is bad, even on a new trailer. Do note that some of them do not make a noise when they changeover. If you turn on the generator, will the lights work? Any other systems? If you can get power with the generator, it is likely that this switch is the problem.
Good luck! Please let us know if you get the lights working again. If not, we can keep brainstorming what could be wrong.
Hello! We just bought a 2018 Carado Banff on a Dodge Promaster Van chassis with 2300 miles and very little coach use. It has dual lithium batteries, solar and the VoltStart system. We brought it home yesterday and connected it to a 110 receptacle as suggested from the dealer. Our concern is that it makes a loud, high pitched ringing noise, like a ringing in the ears after a loud noise, inside the coach. It does this after several minutes of being connected to 110 power. Both lithium battery switches are on, the inverter switch is on, and the battery disconnect is on (lights and appliances are operational). It seems like it begins doing this once the batteries get to 13.1 or 13.2 charge. It’s quite loud inside the coach and we could not hang out, let alone sleep, with that sound. I then disconnected it from power, but sound persisted. Then switched off battery disconnect, sound persisted. Switched off inverter, sound persisted. Switched off battery 1, sound persisted. Switched off battery 2, and it finally stopped. So I switched batteries back on and reset them, switched on the inverter, and switched on the disconnect. Checked lights and heater, tv, etc. Then turned off all appliances but kept disconnect, inverter and batteries on. Reconnected to 119 power and it was silent. So we went in the house and thought it was ok. But 20 minutes later it was whining again. I don’t believe it is a fan of any sort as it is a very high pitch noise as stated above.
Any ideas?? This is our first RV and are clueless about this. Thanks for your help!!
Jennifer, I’d be concerned about your converter/charger – this is what takes the power from the batteries to run your 12V systems and when plugged in, runs those systems and charges the batteries. See if you can find your converter and see if this is what is producing the noise. You won’t want to do any repairs on the converter yourself. You’ll need an RV electrical mechanic to take a look at it. Since you just bought it, perhaps the dealer’s shop can help you here.
Electrical issues: please be aware after pulling your hair out and thinking you have exhausted every possible cause….I had an extension cord “BLOW OUT “ unless you where physically standing next to it when it blew out, you would assume a cord does not go bad and check Everything except the extension cord.. I damn near disassembled the entire 120v and 12v system. Before finding this issue. A long wasted afternoon. I hope I save someone from this.
Hi Paul. It’s always a good idea to start the troubleshooting with the “easy” or less painful options. I work out from the house (breakers, plugs, cords), so I would check the extension cords pretty quick. But it is a good reminder for everyone to check the cords and watch for maintenance issues with them when you plug your RV into your house.
We just bought a whole house generator with an automatic switch. It will power our house and 2005 National Tropical. Is it safe if it automatically switches the RV power from house electric to house generator electric? Thanks!
Patricia, in general, the RV won’t care about the source of the power as long as it is consistent. The main thing I would be concerned about it is a surge of power when the generator kicks on. So make sure you have a good surge guard on your RV. You can buy a portable RV surge protector from Amazon to protect your RV from surges. This is a really good investment for any time your RV is plugged in – at home, to the generator, or to campground power.
Our RV is 100 feet from our home’s
50 amp service. Can we use both a 50 foot and a 30 foot in sequence to reach our RV? The directions in the new cord box state ,”don’t connect one ext cord to another”.
Long cords mean voltage drop and heat. The best advice is to always use the shortest cord possible and to avoid connecting them together (so one long cord is better than two shorter cords). While it is pricey, I’d recommend going with a 100 foot cord to avoid daisy chaining the extension cords together. Also, make sure that you are using the 50 amp RV cords and not the cheaper 14 or 12 gauge cords that you can commonly find at Walmart, Home Depot, etc.
Since you already have the other cords, if you don’t want to buy a new cord, then you will definitely want to protect the connection from water intrusion which can lead to fires and other damage to your RV or home electric. I’d recommend the large Sockitbox which should provide enough room inside for the large 50 amp connection and still keep water out.
I would also limit what you were running inside the RV with that kind of distance and watch the voltage inside the RV carefully so you don’t damage any kind of equipment. Also, you should regularly check your extension cords to make sure that they are working properly and have not been damaged. Don’t coil any excess length together (remember, that heat that the long cords will produce…)
I have a 2004 hornet lite travel trailer. When I plug into a 20 amp house style plug I have power, but when I plug into a 30amp plug i have nothing… any idea what could be wrong? Everything work this past summer when plugged into a 30 amp plug. I’ve checked breakers and fuses…. please help.. 🙁
First, is the 30 amp source actually providing power? Is the 30 amp power source breaker on? Low voltage could be a problem.
Next, can you get power from a generator when not plugged into shore power?
I’d do a visual inspection of the wiring – on Starter RV, my old 1990 Winnebago, I once had a problem with the generator wires dropping down and being damaged by road wear. The generator would still run but it wasn’t providing power to the RV itself. It was easily fixed by splicing in some new wires. Your wiring could also have been damaged by pests during storage.
Do you have a surge protector? I know that when these go bad, they can prevent power from going to the RV. Check to see if yours is giving any error codes. Try connecting without the surge protector.
My next guess would be the power transfer switch. It could have been damaged.
If you keep your TT or RV connected 100% of the time like I do, you also need to routinely make sure the battery(s) have water in them! If you don’t disconnect the battery, the maintainer in the electrical converter will cook the water out of the battery within a month or two. I prefer to not disconnect my battery while connected to the shore power.
I definitely agree! Checking the water in your batteries is important. Thanks for reminding everyone.
Like you, I prefer not to disconnect my RV batteries while I’m plugged in at home or a campground. Really convenient to keep the RV fridge running during short power outages (I use my RV fridge as the extra beer fridge between trips… can’t have the beer getting warm!)
For those that don’t know why you need to “water your RV batteries”, then read more about it here: Water Your Batteries: RV Battery Maintenance
I have always thought the 30 amp plug for my ATC toy hauler was the same as my dryer 30 amp outlet. I have seen many references to the trailer 30 amp being 120…not 240 volt. I think it’s time to make a call and I’m probably not alone?
The outlet for an RV is not wired the same as the dryer outlet! Please consult with a licensed electrician to make sure that you get it right.
We have a 2019 travel trailer and plug it into our home electric with the dog bone adapter and heavy duty extension cord as you recommend. My question is should we unplug it in the winter? We do not plan on running the fridge or dehumidifiers, only electronic pest repellents. We have read conflicting things about it causing issues with overcharging batteries. Also we live in an area where it gets below freezing and sometimes down near 0 at times. Will the freezing temps harm the batteries?
Another question is if we should use some sort of surge protector when we have the camper plugged in to home power? If so, do you have any recommendations?
The newer converter chargers will not overcharge your batteries if you leave the trailer plugged in all winter. You’ll need that power to run the pest repellers. Also, batteries that are plugged in with full water are way less likely to freeze or have other problems from the cold weather than if you leave them unattended. If you are not going to plug your trailer in, then I would definitely recommend that you pull the batteries out of the trailer and leave them in your garage on a trickle charger.
Since you have power, you can also run a small heater to keep things above freezing inside. This will help protect not only the batteries but things like the TVs and other electronics. I highly recommend it. To see my winter setup, check out Tips for RV Winter Storage with Power.
Surge protectors are very important. Check out these 30 Amp or 50 Amp surge protectors.
So if I plug into the house with 30 amp to three prong connector you can’t use AC?
Lex, if you have an RV 30 amp connection, then you will generally be able to run one AC while hooked up. However, if you have to step down to a 15 or 20 amp connection, most RV air conditioners will not be able to run without tripping a breaker. Some of the new portable energy-efficient ACs can run on that but you’ll need to be very careful about what else you run at the same time so as to not overload the circuit.
We are having trouble with our AC plugged into 15 amp I believe. It is a brand new 2021 model. The fan on the unit runs, but does not produce cold air. Do you think this is an AC issue, a 15 amp load issue, or 2 cords over 100 total feet issue?
I’m going to guess that it is either an AC issue or the 15 amp issue, although it could be the cord issue as well. Unplug from the house, turn on the generator and see if the AC works (produces cold air) there. If so, that rules out the AC issue and makes it a plug-in problem. You can try plugging it in at a campground to see if it works there or moving it closer so you can use only one cord.
More than likely, the AC just takes up too much power for the 15 amp plug, regardless of the distance of power cord. Most ACs take too much power, especially at start up when there is a big surge of power needed. To run one AC, you’ll typically need a 30 amp plug-in. And while sometimes you can cheat on a 20 amp plug, it is likely over time that you’ll do damage to either your RV or your house.
Locating your breaker box or circuit breaker can help protect RV’s electrical system from many issues. This breaker panel will be within most RVs’ interior and mounted onto a wall close to their floor. You might even find it inside one of your RV’s external storage bays.
Can I plug my RV into a 110V outlet?
With the proper plugs to convert from either a 50 amp or a 30 amp down to the 110V plug, then yes, you’ll be able to plug your RV in. You’ll need to monitor your energy usage and not use anything that draws too high of a power draw though. More on that above.