RV electrical systems are probably the least understood systems on board. RVillage members share their knowledge and helpful tips about the 12-Volt system, using shore power, and three forms of electricity for RVs: batteries, solar, and generators.


Safety disclaimer: Please be very careful when working with electricity. It is recommended to hire trained professionals when needed.

Understanding electrical systems: 12 volt, shore power, solar, generators. RVillagers are a wealth of information. Ask questions and share your experiences in the discussions below. If you don't understand all this, it's best to hire an electrician. (Unless you are one!)

The RV 12-volt system

RVs were designed to be camped in, and are self-sufficient in many ways when not plugged in, provided the batteries are strong. Typically, the cabin lights, water pump, fan for the gas furnace, and fan over the cook stove will run on 12 volt. Refrigerators in newer units may have a 12-volt setting, while most have a switch to run on either propane or 110. RVillagers share their tips for trouble-shooting 12-volt systems.

Shore power

Electrical outlets are powered by shore power, generator power, or an inverter which pulls from the batteries—usually installed with solar (but not always).

RV park pedestal with un-metered electric, and water. Photo: rvpedestal.com

Shore power is when you are plugged into a pedestal at an RV park with "hookups," or into an outlet at home.

See all the great responses explaining the difference between 30amp and 50amp hookups.

IMPORTANT: "Hot skin" or "stray voltage" is a very serious issue. It occurs when the RV is not grounded properly.

Don't forget to unplug the shore cord before moving!

Can you plug your RV into a 110 outlet?

See VERY helpful responses, with photos and diagrams.

Trouble-shooting power issues

See responses here.

Should you use a surge protector or an EMS (energy management system)?

RVillagers feel very strongly about using a surge protector and/or EMS when plugged in anywhere, and share WHY:

Learn about surge protectors, and about a couple of EMS brands here.

Hardwired or portable? Answers differ, with some helpful wiring tips.

See clever tips for storing that bulky shore power cord.

Annual safety maintenance of RV electrical systems

View discussion for more important information.

Sources of Electricity for your RV

Check out the individual pages below for extensive information on each topic.

RV Batteries

Learn about the "house" batteries in your RV, and what the options are for purchase when it's time for new ones, including lithium batteries. Jump into conversations about how those batteries are charged with converter/chargers and inverter/chargers. See trouble-shooting tips for issues with batteries and chargers, and why having a battery monitor is important.

Learn more


RV Solar

Learn about the basics of solar and the main components: solar panels, charge controllers, inverters and batteries. Join the discussions about sizing your system based on your electricity usage; and the benefits of going solar.

Learn more


RV Generators

Learn about using generators to power the larger appliances in your RV, including optimal use of air conditioning. Get tips for using your gas, diesel or propane on-board generator. Join the discussions in choosing a portable unit, whether inverter/generators or solar generators/power banks. See safety tips.

Learn more


A little electrical humor...

   Return to The Guide Chapter: RV Utilities

Disclaimer: The information gathered here is compiled from the posts and opinions of RVillagers, and not of RVillage itself. RVillage assumes no responsibility for any inaccuracies or omissions.

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