What does the term “shore power” mean?
All of the RV ( recreational vehicles ), except the very smallest camping trailers, will have some connection on the outside of the camper which allows the RV to receive power. The generally accepted term for the power ( at RV Parks or state parks ) is called “rv shore power“. I don't know for sure, but I believe that is a a throwback to the sharing of terminology and technology with marine products.
While the RV is a truly a land based machine, I think the shore power is very descriptive. If you imagine the countryside to be the sea, and your RV ( and you ) to be sailing the sea of adventure, then you can see how the term shore power is very apt. You come to “shore” and camp.
The two major types of RV shore power? (and maybe a 3rd)
The two primary “levels” of power your fifth wheel will utilize are 50 amps ( 2 air conditioners ) or 30 amps ( everything else ). There are different cables and plugs for the two different types.
50 Amp power is one type of RV shore power connection
50 Amp power has become prevalent in the last 20 years at most parks. This type of RV power allows for the connection of two RV air conditioners which is a new (ish) innovation since the beginnings of RVing .
50 Amp is likely most common in larger travel trailers or 5th wheels.
30 Amp power is another type of RV shore power connection
Before 50 Amps, 30 Amps was the most common form of RV power. This was back in the day of the original Airstreams or the old Spartan RVs of yesteryears. These only had a single AC… if they had one at all. Our Tiny Texas Tumbleweed only has 30 Amp connections.
30 Amp is likely most common in small to medium travel trailers and 5th wheels.
Be prepared to convert between RV shore power and your RV
Most parks have 50 amp service but just in case they don't, you might want to have a converter cable which allows a 50 amp plug to use a 30 amp service. You won't be able to run your second air conditioner, but you will have power for everything else and that is pretty nice. This is a MASSIVE TIP! See the list of convert plugs below.
There are some tiny RVs that can use a more standard 15 Amp plug. You can plug into a 30 Amp plug and power your RV. You won't be able to rely on the circuit breaker at the RV parks pedestal to save your RV, but hopefully your breaker on your RV will break the circuit if you use too many Amps.
Here is a list of converter plugs that convert between 30 Amp and 50 Amp connections.
If the male plug (the prongs that stick out) have FOUR connections then the shore power connection is 50 Amps.
If the female plug (the holes that accept the prongs) have THREE connections, then that is for your 30 Amp RV.
If the female and male are swapped, then the plugs go the other way.
- 30 Amp and 50 Amp Converter plugs on Amazon
- 30 Amp and 50 Amp Converter plugs at Walmat
- 30 Amp and 50 Amp Converter plugs from Camping World
- 30 Amp and 50 Amp Converter plugs for sale on eBay
Here is a list of converter plugs that convert between 15 Amp and 30 Amp connections.
- 30 Amp and 15 Amp Converter plugs on Amazon
- 30 Amp and 15 Amp Converter plugs at Walmat
- 30 Amp and 15 Amp Converter plugs from Camping World
- 30 Amp and 15 Amp Converter plugs for sale on eBay
When you are plugging into the shore power with your RV, there are lots of things to think about and be careful doing – I'll list some tips ( this is not complete, but just a couple of simple tips )…
- Shut the breakers off on the shore power pedestal where you'll plug into the shore power. (the picture below only shows the RV side of the power connector) before plugging in your power. That way you don't accidentally get power pins connected in the wrong order.
- Before plugging things in, take a meter and measure voltages on the 50 amp receptacle ( for a fifth wheel ) to make sure that voltages make sense.
- I have a series on RV electrical power – I need to write MORE articles, but these can be pretty helpful.
- Three Primary Systems of an RV LP Gas System / Water System / Electrical System
- RV Electrical Power System Overview – An awesome power
- RV Electrical Power Distribution Panel
- RV Electrical System How To Videos
- 30 amp 50 amp and brief primer on RV electrical connections
- RV Basics : An Electrical Primer : Power or Watts
- RV Basics : RV Electrical System Basics
Amazon RV shore power listings: