I had family friends that wanted to visit us for a few weeks, but didn’t have enough beds in our house to accommodate them. We thought the RV would be a comfortable place for them to stay, so we offered them that.
They agreed that they would sleep in our RV, as that would give them privacy and we could all have our own space when we needed it.
The only problem would be the electricity, as we didn’t have a proper RV power hook up at our house. I went on some RV forums and asked:
Can I plug my RV into my dryer outlet?
In almost every case, the answer is NO – it is not advisable or in most cases not even possible to plug your RV into the dryers outlet.
I wanted to find out why, so I did some research and found some really helpful information that I want to share with you.
We really wanted to have our good friends stay with us during the summer for a few weeks, and we wanted to make sure that they could use the lighting, water, air conditioning, and all of the other features in our RV that require electricity.
I learned why we can’t just plug our RV into the dryer outlet and what I needed to do to resolve this issue.
Let’s take a look at how our house’s electricity system works and what we need to do to provide our RV with power.
RV Plugs Versus Dryer Plugs
To help you understand better why we can’t use RV plugs in dryer outlets, let’s differentiate them from each other.
Dryer plugs are powered by household electricity.
All residences – whether house or apartment, and any other type of dwelling places – are relying on their local power companies for their electricity needs.
The power companies provide 240 volts at the main electric panel where the voltage is divided into three circuit feeds.
One circuit feed is at 240 volts for the kitchen electric range and dryer.
Another circuit feed at 120 volts is for the lights, wall plugs, and toaster.
And the last is a 120 volts ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) which safeguards us from faulty electrical devices and shuts off all electricity to protect us from electrical shocks.
Majority of the household appliances only use 120 volts AC. This includes the household lighting system and wall plugs.
The electric range and the clothes dryer, on the other hand, requires 240 volts each which is higher than most of what we use at home.
For us to not to incorrectly plug 240-volt appliances into 120-volt outlets and cause power failure and accidents, it became a standard to make larger plugs for 240-volt machines.
For this reason, electric range and dryer plugs are larger than regular household plugs since they both require 240 volts to operate. Read more about the differences between 120v and 240v outlets here.
On the other hand, RVs operate on 120 volts with a reasonably high 30-amp service.
Since RV plugs are also larger and would not fit normal household sockets, it’s easy to mistake it as something that would fit electric range and dryer sockets.
To avoid plugging RVs into dryer plugs, the RV’s plug is designed to not fit any other socket. Its plug and socket are designed only for RV use.
So you see, while dryer and RV plugs are both oversized, they are designed for specific uses and cannot be interchanged. This is true for most RVs.
But as they always say there is always an exception to the rule. Class A RVs are at 240 volts (50 amps), thus CAN be plugged into dryer sockets.
Take note of the operative word here: CAN. You CAN but it doesn’t always mean you should. Because while it can be done, it will not work as well as when you plug it in RV plugs.
The reason for this is that house panels may not be able to provide the electrical draw that the RV requires. Thus, the resources are not maximized.
Hence, whatever the case, it would always be best to charge your RV batteries using receptacles designed for RVs. On the other hand… to be more independent with your electricity needs, think about installing solar power.
Hooking Your RV Up to Your Home Electrical System
Given that we can’t plug RVs into the dryer outlets except Class A’s, is it still possible to plug RVs into our home electrical system?
The answer, fortunately is YES. Although, you can’t plug it in just like that.
Generally, RVs need 30 or 50-amp hookups, thus, your normal plugs at home are most likely unable to give enough power for that.
Some building codes in certain locations allow you to have a 30 or 50-amp receptacle which you can install near the RV. If this is allowed in your area, contact an electrician to do it for you.
Having your own receptacle will allow you to charge your RVs just like you would in RV parks.
However, if your building code does not allow you to install the receptacle for RVs, don’t worry because there definitely is another way.
Hooking up your RV to your home electrical system is made possible by using a distinct adapter for RV power levels.
This will help you ensure that the power is well converted into the energy that your RV requires.
You must remember to not plug your RV into your household electrical system without the adapter or you will get into a lot of trouble.
Another thing to note is not to use extension wires that are too long. Use one whose length is just enough to avoid overheating.
The longer the cord, the higher the possibility of overheating, so you should avoid that.
If it’s your first time to plug in your RV, follow these steps.
1. Determine what type of adapter you need. Check your manual to determine if your RV is set up for 30 or 50 amps.
If you don’t have the manual, look at the male plug – 3 prong plugs are for 30 amps, while 4 prong plugs are for 50 amps.
2. Turn off all the things inside your RV that require electricity – from appliances to lighting systems.
3. Turn off the circuit breakers inside your home as well.
4. Attach your special 30 or 50-amp adapter to your household electricity system.
5. Plug the extension cord into the adapter attached to your home electricity system and then into the RV.
6. Reset the circuit breaker so you can start charging your RV.
Now, just because your RV is already plugged in doesn’t mean you can use all the appliances at home as if you’re hooked up in a campground.
Remember that household electricity doesn’t work that way. There’s a limit that you should follow.
If you’re like me who’s not really an electrical person, it’s sometimes a challenge to interpret the electrical usage in layman’s terms.
But here are things I know should not be run inside the RV when charging:
- Hair dryer
- Microwave oven
- Roof air conditioner
So now you know the answer to the question “Can I plug my RV into my dryer outlet?” It’s impossible – that’s a fact.
However, there are other ways to hook your RV up into your home electrical system without causing damage or mishaps.
Check your building code and see if you’re allowed to install a 30 or 50-amp receptacle at home. If not, make use of a special adapter and ensure you remember the do’s and don’ts.