Electrical systems in recreational vehicles (RVs) are more sophisticated than in standard vehicles. Two 12V systems and one 120V system are available.
This may surprise you, but RVs require electric power when on the road and when parked, which is why there are three unique systems.
Refrigerators, bathwater, and microwaves are all powered by the 120V system.
The systems are designed to be energy efficient, but they are also notoriously finicky and can break without warning.
This post will teach you about 7 common RV electrical problems and how to remedy them so you can get back on the road.
What are Watts, Amps, and Volts
Here’s a quick primer on amps, volts, and watts. A volt essentially “pushes” electricity through your electrical system’s wires. You may equate it to your plumbing’s water pressure. It refers to the electrical capability.
An amp is a unit of measurement for electrical flow. It’s similar to the amount of water flowing through your plumbing system. The length and size of your electrical wire determine how much amperage your system can manage. When too many amps are passed through undervalued or smaller wire, the wiring becomes heated.
As a result, the resistance to flow causes constriction, which generates heat as the current travels through the wiring. Fires can start when too much current warms up the wiring and melts the housing.
Watts represent the amount of power in your electricity. Here’s an example of an equation. If you have 30 amps of main service and 120 volts coming into your RV, multiply those two numbers to get the number of watts. So, 120 multiplied by 30 equals 3600 watts. So, what now?
Assume you have your RV plugged in and various electrical appliances turned on at home. You disconnected your RV to travel and then plugged it back in when you got at your location. Let’s see if we can predict what will happen when you plug back in and all of those appliances turn on at the same time.
- 120 volts x 12 amps = 1,440 watts hot water heater
- 120 volts x 4 amps = 480 watts Refrigerator
- 120 volts multiplied by 7 amps equals 840 watts.
- 120 volts x 20 amps equals 2,400 watts for the air conditioner.
That means 5,160 watts flooded the circuits, and the breaker tripped because you only had 3,600 watts to work with. That was a quick Physics lecture to help you better understand your RV’s electrical system.
Common RV slectrical problems
Breakers and Fuses
Because more than 42 million people go camping each year, the RV sector is worth billions of dollars. It’s awful that a ten-dollar component can bring a camping trip to a halt. We’re talking about fuses and circuit breakers. When you have a power outage, the first thing you should do is check the power breakers.
If this is the source of the power outage, disconnect any systems connected to the power breaker and reset it to its default setting. To avoid burning the system, replace the damaged fuse with one that matches the amperage. For fuses, there are standard color codes:
You can add the colors to determine the maximum current that your fuse can withstand.
There are common color coding schemes that can notify you to which fuses you need to utilize in your RV. Black is 1 amp, Grey is 2 amps, Violet is 3 amps, Pink is 4 amps, Gold is 5 amps, Brown is 7.5 amps, Red is 10 amps, Blue is 15 amps, Yellow is 20 amps, Clear is 25 amps, and Green is 30 amps, so you’ll know how much amperage and voltage is flowing into your RV.
12 volt system
To create 12V power, your RV has a series of batteries. Lights, a leveling jack, propane detectors, and a circuit board are all powered by electricity. A converter that converts 120V to 12V is also available. If you’re having issues with the lighting or indicators, it’s most likely due to a problem with the 12V system. Use the voltmeter to see if your batteries need to be replaced.
System powered by 120 volts.
Newly installed household appliances are the primary cause of this system failure. Examine their specifications, which are normally expressed in Voltage, Amperes, and Watts. Check that they correspond to the manufacturer’s description.
The power system is being overloaded.
Running many appliances at the same time may drain power from your electrical supply, resulting in a blackout. The circuit breaker trips when there is a considerable amount of current on demand. Make sure the hairdryer, microwave, air conditioner, and water heater are not running at the same time.
External power supply.
If you examine your batteries and they appear to be in fine condition, the issue could be external. Ungrounded or corroded cables may make contact with the RV, resulting in a short circuit. Drive your RV to a new location, connect it to a different power supply, and check to see if your 12V and 120V systems are in good working order.
The solar panel.
Because of the continual movement of the RV, solar panels are prone to damage. If you have an electrical problem, rule out all other possible causes before checking the solar system and its connections. You can hire an expert to examine the power and connections of the solar panels to ensure they are as indicated in the manual.
Circuit boards are electronic circuit boards.
Examine your circuit breaker panel, which is typically found near the 12V batteries. Close all small circuit breakers before proceeding to the main intake circuit breaker.
Examine the board for any signs of acid buildup. It should be cleaned with 12 ounces (0.45 kg) of water and a teaspoon of baking powder. Acids contain ions that can conduct electricity, resulting in a short circuit that could blow the breakers.
Common RV Electrical Problems Cost
There are average prices to the regular repairs of common RV problems – both electrical and non-electrical – in order to calculate how much you might spend to employ one of the methods to solve the frequent RV electrical problems we have listed.
The waste system is one of the most expensive repairs, with costs ranging from $2,400 to $3,400. Engine repairs can range from $1,400 to $30,000 on the high end of the spectrum, depending on whether you need a total engine replacement or only to repair a specific element.
The transmission repair costs between $1,900 and $12,000, while the generator is another common RV electrical problem that costs between $2,000 and $4,000 to fix or replace. The fuel system costs between $600 and $3,400 on the low end, while the leveling system is a typical issue that costs between $500 and $2,000.
The slide outs on the sides of the RV for extra space may be repaired for $%0 to $!,700, while the dash air can be restored for $700 to $3,800. If you have a fifth wheel, several of the frequent RV electrical problems apply to it as well, such as the roof AC costing between $600 and $3,500 to replace and the generator costing between $2,000 and $4,000.
Understanding the difference between minor and major electrical problems
Even a novice may learn how to evaluate their RV for electrical faults and determine if they are minor or major. Whether you rent or own your RV, perform a brief inspection of it before embarking on your road trip.
Here’s an example of a minor issue that you can resolve on your own. If the GFI tripped or you tripped the breaker while plugging in all of the above-mentioned equipment, the fix could be as simple as changing a fuse or resetting the breakers. Most folks can check the batteries for water or determine that there are too many appliances turned on. As a result, the problem is easily solvable.
If your refrigerator has stopped working, you may have a serious problem. Should you check the propane management circuitry and wiring on the back of your fridge? Most likely not. As someone with limited electrical wiring understanding, you should avoid attempting such repairs on your own.
It is not secure. In situations like these, you should call an electrician. A qualified expert understands what to look for and how to resolve any electrical issues as quickly as possible.
Even the smallest mistake might keep you docked all day. Check that your toolkit is completely functional. Take a few fuses, extra connecting wires, and a voltmeter with you.
Basic RV Electrical Information
Here’s some general information on your RV’s electrical system to assist you troubleshoot some common electrical issues. For starters, your RV has a plethora of built-in electrical devices. There is intricate protection circuitry and electrical controls in place to ensure the safety of its occupants.
All electrical goods in the RV are powered by three different power sources, which can be used alone or in conjunction with one another.
The switches, thermostats, slides, and lights are powered by direct current (DC), which is 12 volts.
Alternating current, or AC, as previously stated. AC is typically 115 volts and is used to power products such as air conditioners.
Some appliances, such as the refrigerator, run on propane fuel.
DC power is supplied by the RV’s batteries. When the electricity in the batteries runs low, the converter charges them. It accomplishes this by converting higher-voltage alternating current power to 12-volt direct current power. This converter is also known as the inverter.
However, the term “inverter” refers to a different equipment that performs the opposite: it transforms DC electricity to AC current for other appliances such as your television.
AC current is generated by your RV’s generator or other outlets at the campground where you plug in. It offers a 20-, 30-, or 50-amp supply. The control panel for AC power distributes electricity to all AC outlets and appliances. Campgrounds include two distinct cables for alternating current current. They divided a 240-volt power source into two 115-volt lines.
The output of your 12-volt converter is typically routed through two 30-amp fuses that power the 12-volt fuse panel. It then feeds into all of the slides, switches, lights, and so forth.
Because RVs vibrate when traveling, problems might arise in either of these systems. These vibrations have the potential to shake electrical connections free. These issues are in addition to the ordinary wear and tear of the appliances and wiring that occurs with use.
Sometimes current flows in places where it is not supposed to, shorting out a circuit. This energy flow has the potential to start a fire, injure people, or burn out equipment and wiring. The insulation shakes off a wire from time to time. When something within an appliance burns out or shakes loose, it can cause other difficulties.
Either of these concerns has the potential to interrupt the flow of electricity in any of your electrical systems.
As a precaution against harm and fore. If there are any difficulties with the RV’s fuses and breakers, the electricity will be turned off. In addition to the breakers and fuses for the AC and DC systems, most 110-volt electrical receptacles have Ground Fault Circuit Breakers (GFCBs) or Ground Fault Indicators (GFIs) that turn off the power to plugged-in equipment if a circuit or cable shorts.
The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 was a huge triumph for Nikola Tesla when his proposal to use alternating current (AC) to power all of the lighting there won the contract because it was more cost-effective and efficient than Thomas Edison’s DC. Many people believe that is the reason our household electrical systems use AC current rather than DC.
RV Electrical Dos and Don’ts
Sometimes the remedy is as simple as changing the format of your power usage, such as what appliances are connected in, where they are plugged in, and whether or not they are left on. One of the most important resolutions is to remember to turn off the appliances while unplugging the RV or turning off the main electricity. Turn on electrical gadgets just when they are required.
Do not connect your air conditioner to a 15-amp outlet. If you plug it in without an adaptor, you risk burning the wire or damaging your air conditioning equipment.
Examine the power sources before plugging into an RV park’s electrical stand. Purchase a power management device or learn how to use a voltmeter. Electrical management devices connect to the electrical pedestal and alert you to any problems before you plug in your RV and may damage your electrical system or electronics.
Use no electrical gadgets unless you are certain of their power requirements. That brings us back to the earlier established equation: Volts X Amps = Watts.
Can I connect my 30 amp RV to my house?
Because the normal home has a 15/20 amp electrical outlet, you will need to purchase and install a 30/50 amp converter with extra “prongs” to ensure an efficient passage of electricity. After that, you should be able to plug in your RV without issue.
Is it dangerous to leave your RV hooked in at all times?
Yes, leaving your RV charging all the time is fine; but, you must ensure that your RV has ‘Wet cell batteries,’ which are batteries that include several conductive acids that allow your batteries to be recharged without issue.
You should also ensure that the charger you are using to charge your battery does not have a charge rate that is too high for your batteries, as this will cause them to be damaged by overcharging.
Even if the charger is the correct specification for your batteries, you must be careful not to leave it on for too long.
This is where’smart chargers’ come in; they are chargers that automatically limit or stop charging once your batteries reach full charge, keeping your batteries from being damaged.
Will an RV converter function in the absence of a battery?
It is suggested that you use your RV converter with a battery because the majority of converters rely on the battery to convert ‘Alternating Current’ into ‘Direct Current.’ However, it depends on the charger and camper model; if it says in the instruction manual that it is impossible, you can do it; if you are unsure, use an RV converter with a battery.
How does an RV conversion work?
A converter takes ‘Alternating Current,’ abbreviated as AC, and transforms it to ‘Direct Current,’ abbreviated as DC. The distinction between the two is that the voltage of an Alternating Current moves in cycles but the voltage of a Direct Current is constant, resulting in the two being compatible with various types of electrical appliances.
In a month, how much electricity does an RV consume?
Every RV is different, but the average is believed to be 20 kWh per day, which equates to approximately 600 kWh per month and approximately 7000 kWh per year. It all comes down to how frequently you use your RV, which appliances you use for how long, and how many overall appliances you have in your RV.
You can lower your RV’s electricity consumption by adding insulation, which reduces the need to spend electricity on heating or cooling yourself down during the summer using air conditioning.
Is a 30 amp RV plug 110 volts or 220 volts?
A 30 amp RV plug can handle 110 volts. You can simply tell what sort of RV plug you have by counting the number of prongs on it. If your RV plug has three prongs, it is a 30 amp RV plug. The majority of modern RV models use only 110 volts, whereas larger vehicles use 220 volts.
There are, however, adapters and heavy-duty extension cords that will allow you to run more appliances in your RV if necessary.