In your recreational vehicle, your electrical system is important. It's this system that gives you those extras that can make or break a vacation. Kitchen appliances? Check. Powered furniture? Check. Your electrical system is definitely not a system to be forgotten. With these connectors (and don't forget the extras!), you have the tools to create, add to, or fix this vital system. Made of durable materials and made to last, these electrical components are built to give you the best time possible and allow you to shape your vacation into a time of relaxation and convenience.
What's the Difference Between a 30 Amp Plug and a 50 Amp Plug?
The 30 Amp plug and the 50 Amp plug are the two most common plugs on an RV. Most campgrounds still run on 30 Amp power receptacles and if you have a 30 Amp plug, you can just connect straight to it. If you have a 50 Amp plug, however, you will need to use an adapter to connect to power. So what are the big differences between the two plug types?
A 30 Amp plug has three prongs. There is a 120V hot wire, a neutral wire, and a ground wire. This kind of plug is generally used on RVs with lower load requirements. Even if you use an adapter at the campground, your 30 Amp service RV won't receive more than 3,600 watts of power, which is the amount that it would be able to handle.
A 50 Amp plug has four prongs. There are two 120V hot wires, a neutral wire, and a ground wire. This supplies two separate 50 Amp, 120V feeds. This plug provides a maximum amount of 12,000 watts. If you were to use an adapter for a 50 Amp RV, however, you will still be limited to the 3,600 watts of the 30 Amp receptacle.
Now, on a related subject, can you hook your RV up to your home's power? After all, it runs off of a different amp draw than the 30 and 50 Amps that you can find at a campground. The short answer is yes. The long answer is that you need to be careful and not use a whole ton of electricity while you're doing it. While you can hook your RV up to your home's electrical system, you won't be able to run every appliance or use the electricity all the time. The most likely situation you'll find yourself in is having to change your RV system to accept the standard 3-prong household plug that exists within your home. Some may be able to change their home's power to the 30 or 50 Amp plug capability, but that would take a bit more work and a professional electrician. NOTE: If you are unsure about anything electricity-related, ALWAYS consult an electrician. Electricity is not something to be unsure of or "eh, this might work". Because you would be hooked up to an external power source, make sure you are using a cord that is designed for outdoor, all-weather use and is heavy-duty. Also make sure that the cord is as short as possible to help prevent overheating.
What is RV Plug Burn?
RV plug burn occurs when the plug or receptacle becomes overheated and begins to melt. This destroys the plug or receptacle because even if the wires inside were unharmed in the process, the plug/receptacle is now unsafe and cannot be used again.
RV plug burn is caused, in short, by overloading the plug. Over time, the male prongs that squeeze into the female receptacle start to loosen a bit and the contact between them can worsen, causing the voltage to drop. When the voltage drops, the current (the amps) increase. Because of this increase in current, more heat is produced, burning the pins and even melting the plastic connectors. Most of the time, the shore power receptacle will be the cause of the melting/burning issue, since you can't always count on something that's exposed to the elements to not be dirty or corroded. These voltage drops and resulting heat increase are commonly the result of poor connectivity, corrosion, or dirtiness. So when you get to the campsite, check the age and wear of the shore power receptacle, check to see how used it is, and check out the receptacle. If your plug is moving around in there, that's not a good sign. You can also use your hands to check the condition of the receptacle. If there is a problem, go to the campsite administration to see if there is a solution that will work.
Even if the receptacle is in good condition and everything is fine, that's not the end of the story. While using the plug, check it periodically, especially if you are running a heavy load. If it feels warm, reduce the load and keep an eye on it. Notify the campground and if you are unable to use your necessary appliances, ask that the issue be resolved. If you are able to catch it soon enough ,the campground can simply replace the receptacle and move on. If you do not catch it soon enough, the heat damage can affect the plug and even the wiring leading to it. So, even if everything looks good, make sure you pay attention throughout your trip.
There are also a few things that you shouldn't do. First, don't sand or file the contacts. This will make them thinner, which will make the problem worse. If the contacts have visible corrosion, clean them. And second, don't buy a surge protector. While these work on internal electrical issues, these will do nothing for plug burn, as it isn't caused by a power surge.
If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of finding plug burn, remove it immediately and do not use that plug again. Replace the plug with an RV plug replacement either on your own or with the help of an electrician.
When handling electrical items and RV connectors, safety is of the utmost importance. If something happens to your electrical system, it could be as small as flickering lights or as large as an electrical fire. Because of the serious range of harm that can occur within electrical systems, it's vital to know the danger signs and necessary maintenance to keep things in working order.
For plugs and sockets, watch for hot plugs and sockets, scorch marks, fuses that often blow, or flickering lights. These signs can mean that you have loose wiring or other electrical problems that could become worse or cause harm. Badly wired plugs should also be noticed and avoided. If there are any colored wires sticking out, these could come loose and debris could also get into the plug. You should also avoid plugging too many things into the socket, as this could cause overloaded and overheating sockets.
With your cables, extension cords, and leads, you need to check to see if there is any damage or fraying on the cord. Make sure that the outer covering is in good condition and if it is in poor condition, with fraying, breaks, or other damage, then it will need to be replaced. Do not try and just patch them up with electrical tape. You will need to get a new replacement cord for proper safety. Don't position the cords carelessly, either. Don't place them where others will trip over them and don't leave them under rugs or carpets, as they can wear out without anyone noticing.
For maintenance, make sure you are checking for the danger signs as well as using the proper fuses for the appliance and using the proper power load. Don't overload cords, sockets, or other electrical items, as this is a common problem that can lead to electrical issues.
Electrical fires aren't a joke and they aren't something to be taken lightly. With the amount of destruction that can occur due to the electrical problem and resulting fire, it becomes even more vital to make sure your electrical system is installed correctly, used correctly, and is maintained properly.
Causes of Electrical Fires
First things first, electrical fires are not reserved for residential homes only. RVs, trailers, trucks, boats, and other mobile vehicles are not free from the possibility of an electrical fire. So, while you're wanting to have a good time on vacation, make sure that you're doing so safely.
There are many possible causes of electrical fires:
Faulty outlets and appliances. Electrical fires can be caused by faulty electrical outlets, connectors, and old appliances or the cords, receptacles, and switches that come with the old appliance. When you're checking over these older appliances, make sure that the cord is not frayed or worn, as a frayed cord can send heat onto combustible surfaces like floors, curtains, and rugs and this can, in turn, start a fire.
Light fixtures, lamps, and light bulbs. Installing a bulb with a wattage too high for the lamp or light fixture can lead to an electrical fire. This heightened amount of electricity and wattage can cause the bulb to heat up, causing nearby combustible materials to catch fire. Always check the maximum recommended bulb wattage on the light fixture or lamp and never go over this amount. Also, don't place materials like cloth or paper over a lampshade.
Extension cords. Using an extension cord in an unsafe or unintended manner can cause a fire. Plug extension cords into the outlet directly rather than plugged into another extension cord. If used temporarily, it should be safe, but do not do so permanently or for long periods of time. Extension cords are only to be used as a temporary measure. Don't run any electrical cords under carpets or rugs, as this can lead to wear that you might not see. Don't remove the grounding plug from the cord to make it fit in a 2-prong outlet. This prong is there so that the cord is only used in outlets that can handle the amount of electricity that these appliances draw. When used improperly, the extension cord can overload and overheat. Never alter an extension cord to change the length or perform inadequate repairs such as taping it up. If you spot any kind of wear or damage, such as fraying or a cut, use a different cord or get a replacement cord.
Space heaters. Space heaters are notorious for causing problems due to careless placement. Often, we place the heater next to the couch with all of our blankets so that we can feel warmer. This proximity to flammable objects, though, is a big problem, especially with coil space heaters. The coils in the heater heat up and become warm enough to ignite any nearby flammable surface. So if you are using a space heater, never leave it unattended, keep it away from flammable items, and be conscious of when it's getting dangerously hot.
Wiring. Outdated or poorly done wiring can cause electrical fires. Homes built before 2000 may not have the electrical capacity to handle the increased amounts of electrical appliances in today's average home, such as computers, wide-screen TVs, video games, and other appliances. In the situation of an overload, the breaker should trip. If the breaker box is outdated, however, it could have worn connectors that don't work, causing the system to overload and start a fire.
Actions in Response to an Electrical Fire
So, if you do notice an electrical fire, what do you do? While you should definitely call 911 immediately and tell them that you have an electrical emergency, there are a few things you can do in the meantime. If you have a fire extinguisher, you can use that. If you don't have a fire extinguisher, you can use baking soda to extinguish the fire or a heavy blanket to smother the fire. Note, however, that you should not throw the blanket on the fire, as it needs to cover the entire fire and throwing it can cause it to miss. Also make sure that the blanket is large enough to cover the fire. Turn off any appliances, cords, breakers, and other electrical items associated with the location of the fire. Finally, DO NOT throw water on the fire. The water could cause the fire to spread through the electrical current and could lead to electrical shock if you or another person or animal comes into contact with the water.
*While these are suggestions for how to handle the event of an electrical fire, you should still contact emergency services and use their instructions for thow to handle the situation.