RV Tips

30 Amp Lesson The Hard Way

When we got our camper the electric usage wasn’t really a major concern. We knew we couldn’t run the A/C, the microwave, and the hot water heater all at the same time. No biggie. We adjust. After the first few times of ‘thinking’ while getting ready to cook, turning things off is now a natural reflex. I’m happy to say we’ve only popped the main 30A breaker in our camper once and it wasn’t me, it was the Mrs. 🙂 I’ve popped a 20A when attempting to cook because I had something else plugged in and on…the coffee maker maybe….I don’t remember.

So, what can we run while on 30A service? I went through our camper and logged the amp usage of each device plugged in. I then found the owners manual and logged the amp usage of installed items. The A/C uses 12.4 amps, the hot water heater uses 12, the microwave uses 13. These are the big pulls on the electric as expected from any item that heats or cools. The fridge pulls 3.5 amps but could be switched to gas if needed…or just temporarily turned off as we learned in a previous article I wrote titled Can I Tow with my Propane On So the Refrigerator will Stay Cold.

On a daily basis we’ve had the A/C on and when lunch time rolls around we’ll throw something in the microwave (12.4 + 13 = 25.4 amps). We’ve got our computers plugged in as well but they’re only .5 amps so 2 amps total. We’re still under 30amps at 27.4 amps. Again, this routine has never popped a breaker on the pole nor has it popped a breaker in our camper.

A few days ago our A/C kicked on and it sounded like it was struggling to come back up to power after the compressor engaged. I made a mental note and thought to myself I’ll see if I can check the amp usage at the pole to make sure what I show us pulling is accurate. However, at times when the A/C sounded like it was struggling we were not cooking nor did we have the hot water heater on. My next thought was that the A/C may need to be serviced as we’ve been in Florida for most of the summer and on some days it’s all the A/C can do to keep up. We weren’t popping a breaker and the A/C was still running so it wasn’t high on the priority list.

The other night we were sitting outside and my wife said “Somebody is cooking toast”. I couldn’t smell what she was smelling so it made no difference to me. A few minutes go by and the next thing she says is “Why is our electric box smoking”. WHAT?!?!? I run over to the power pole to find it smoking pretty bad. I lift the panel and trip the breakers manually. I then grab our 30A cord about a foot from the connector and pull it from the plug. One of the pins on socket had overheated and melted through one of the male metal plugs on our main cord.

30 Amp plug30 Amp Socket

It was 9pm and electrical work is not my strength. We call the park to report the incident. They immediately sent over a maintenance crew to replace the outlet on the pole. A friend of mine and I headed to Walmart in hopes to get a new male connector to splice in. Walmart didn’t have any so we bought an adapter, cut it, and spliced it in to get us through the night until I could get to Camping World the next day to get a new connector. In talking with my friend he says this is common for people who run the A/C and microwave at the same time. It doesn’t go over the 30 Amps allowed but it does pull quite a bit of electricity through the lines which causes heat which causes breakdown which ultimately ends up in a “Somebody is cooking toast” situation. : )

From what I understand 50 Amp service is not as prone to this type of occurrence.

So the moral of the story is: Just because you have 30 Amps to use, doesn’t mean you should.

BTW, when I bought the new connector, I bought an extra just in case. : ) Now that I know, I can at least be prepared or can help someone else who might end up in our situation in the future.

By Brian Gilbert

Prior to August 28th, 2012 we had never spent the night in a camper or RV. Now we're full timers and have never looked back. If you've ever dreamed of doing the RV thing, do it. It's much easier than I ever imagined. The only thing I regret so far is not doing it sooner.