RV electrical panel


RV Living On 30 Amps: Understanding Your RV’s Electrical System

With a better understanding of your RV’s electrical system and some simple electrical formulas, you can live comfortably on 30 amps.

Typically, RVs come equipped with either a 30-amp or a 50-amp electrical system. The majority of RVs are equipped with a 30-amp electrical system. Using the 30-amp electrical system in your RV is quite different than using a 200-amp electrical system at home.

Before diving in, it’s important to review some basic electrical formulas. If you understand these simple formulas you’ll begin to understand why a circuit in your RV, or at the campground electric pedestal, is overloaded.

  • Watts / Volts = Amps
  • Amps x Volts = Watts
  • Watts / Amps = Volts

These basic formulas can be used to answer questions based on what information you have available at the time — if you have two pieces of information you can solve any electrical equation dealing with your RV’s electrical system.

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A label on an induction cooktop appliance that reads 1,300 watts

Labels on RV appliances typically identify the wattage and or amperage of the appliance.

RVs have a 120-volt AC electrical system, so that’s the first piece of information you’ll need to understand the basics of your electrical system. Labels on appliances typically identify the wattage and or amperage of the appliance, so that will be the second piece of information you’ll need. 


  • You want to use two 120-volt appliances at the same time, which totals 2,000 watts. 

  • Here’s the formula you would use: 2,000 watts / 120 volts = 16.7 amps

If you used both of these appliances at the same time on the same 15 amp circuit, the circuit breaker in the RV would trip.

An RV circuit board with defined amperage for RV appliances

There are several different circuits, identified by the individual circuit breakers on your RV electrical panel.


  • You want to determine the maximum wattage capacity for an RV with a 30 amp, 120-volt AC electrical system. 
  • Here’s the formula you would use: 30 amps x 120 volts = 3,600 watts

If you exceed the total 3,600-watt capacity or the total 30 amp capacity, the 30 amp breaker in the RV or the 30 amp breaker at the campground pedestal would trip.

You can go one step further by looking at the power distribution center in your RV. You’ll notice there are several different circuits, identified by the individual circuit breakers. 


  • Let’s take a 15-amp circuit, 15 amps x 120 volts = 1,800 watts.

  • A 15-amp circuit that’s used solely for electrical outlets in the RV is based on the premise that you won’t use all of the outlets on that circuit at the same time, or use appliances that exceed the amperage rating. 

If you attempt to use appliances like a coffee pot and an electric skillet at the same time, the 15 amp breaker in the power distribution box will probably trip. Here’s why: The combined 16 amps x 120 volts = 1,920 watts, which exceeds the 1,800-watt rating of a 15-amp circuit.

A circuit breaker for larger and more powerful devices on an RV.
For devices in your RV that require more amperage, you’ll notice larger-sized circuit breakers in the power distribution box.

Larger devices, like your rooftop air conditioner unit, are on separate larger circuit breakers. It’s important to understand that if you attempt to use too many power-hungry devices in the RV at the same time, it’s possible to damage the appliances and electronic devices. 


  • Your rooftop air conditioner unit draws 13 amps, you start the microwave which draws 10 amps, and you want to use the toaster, which draws another 8 amps.

  • You won’t exceed any of the individual circuits in the RV, but you will exceed the campground’s 30-amp service resulting in the 30-amp circuit breaker tripping.

Living on 30 amps comes down to monitoring how many appliances or devices you use at the same time, and on what circuits. In a typical RV with a 30-amp electrical service, power-hungry appliances and portable devices include: the air conditioner, electric water heater, microwave, coffee maker, electric skillet, a hair dryer, space heaters, and a toaster. The key to living on 30 amps is to not exceed the amperage of an individual circuit and to not exceed a total of 30 amps at any given time.


RV Education 101

Mark Polk and his wife Dawn created RV Education 101, a video production and RV information company. Since 1999, RV Education 101 has helped educate millions of RV owners and RV enthusiasts on how to properly and safely use and maintain their RVs. Mark’s favorite past times are RVing in their 35-foot Type A motorhome with their two dogs Gracie and Roxie, and restoring vintage RVs, classic cars and trucks. For more information on using, enjoying and maintaining your RV, visit RV Education 101.