Do RV Outlets Work on Battery Power?
Are you planning an RV camping trip somewhere that doesn’t have shore power? If you don’t want to be left in the dark, the first question to ask yourself is if your RV outlets will work on battery power.
If you want to buy an RV, there are three main options: local dealers, national dealers, and online. Do a web search to find local RV dealers in your area, and take a trip to visit one or two. Get to know the owners and see if an RV in their lot will suit your pocket and needs. The big bonus when using a local RV dealer is they are close to home.
Suppose you want a large range and are willing to travel to find the best RV. Look to national dealers like Campers Inn or Lazydays. In that case, they both have many branches across the USA and some of the biggest selections of RVs you are likely to find.
You can also find almost any RV you can imagine online either on marketplace platforms like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. For the experience of dealing with RV specialists but still buying online, visit online RV sellers like RV Trader or Pop RV.
Once you are behind the wheel of your RV, look no further than this post for everything about how RVs work on battery power and RV battery systems. Even the amount of watts an RV can produce for those trips to sites with no shore power.
Do RV Outlets Work on Battery?
Modern RVs have outlets inside to power appliances and lights. When shore power isn’t offered where you stay, you will need to power the electrical system another way. One alternative is using the built-in battery power in the RV.
An RV can be powered by a battery, but be aware that it is not just a simple battery connected to the outlets in your RV. The battery system that powers the outlets without shore power is intricate.
The batteries that power the outlets are usually separate from those that run the RVs engine and are called the House/Coach Battery System and Starter/Chassis Battery System, respectively.
In most RVs, the House/Coach batteries power 12-volt water pumps and built-in 12-volt RV refrigerators and TVs. They cannot power larger appliances like air-conditioning and home appliances plugged into the outlets.
RV outlets use a higher voltage AC power than the lower voltage DC power the built-in batteries produce. To make the conversion, the system comes with an inverter to transform the DC power to the AC power needed in the RV. This is usually housed in a separate battery compartment (often found under the dinette’s seats) and wired into the RV.
Remember as well that these batteries will only last for a limited time. While there is charge in the batteries, they will power your RV outlets. When the batteries are depleted, they must be charged again to use them. You should use the batteries sparingly if you know it will be a while before the next charge.
What Are Two Battery Systems in RV?
The two-battery system in an RV is the combination of the:
- Starter/Chassis Battery System
- House/Coach Battery System
The starter/chassis battery system runs the RV as a vehicle on DC power from the batteries in the engine. The house/coach battery system runs the appliances and other outlets in the living space of the RV.
The starter/chassis system works on DC. It has its batteries and an alternator and generator in the vehicle’s engine to generate and store electricity. This electricity operates the starter motor, the RV driving lights, and all the electronics in the cab of the RV. In short, the RV’s starter/chassis battery system allows the RV to operate as a vehicle and supplies electricity to all the necessary components.
The house/coach battery system, on the other hand, is the battery system that supplies electricity to the living space of the RV and all its appliances and outlets. Imagine the RV was a trailer or a portable cabin. The power supplied by the house/coach batteries would be its electricity supply.
A two-battery system is necessary because an RV will use DC power to operate the vehicle and engine but usually needs AC power to operate the living space. Also, if it were only one system, the RV wouldn’t have the power to start the engine or operate as a vehicle if the batteries become depleted from use in the living area. Keeping them separate is a good idea!
What Is the Difference Between DC and AC Electricity?
Recreational Vehicles use AC and DC power in the vehicle to power the outlets and other accessories.
AC (Alternating current) power is the standard electricity supplied from the shore power. This electricity has a periodic change in direction. AC flows from a positive (upward) and negative (downward) direction which is why it can change direction. DC (Direct current) power flows straight without any direction changes.
Most RVs run on a two-battery system:
- The 12 Volt DC system powers the engine and battery.
- A 120 Volt AC system powers outlets and appliances inside the RV.
This two-battery system allows the RV to drive and operates the RV as a vehicle, and it supplies electricity to the living space with appliances and lights.
When an RV is connected to shore power, it is most likely supplied with AC power. Batteries, solar cells, or fuel cells supply DC power. A conversion will need to happen for your RV to use stored DC power. Inverters and other electricity supply systems ensure the correct AC or DC power is supplied to the correct appliances and outlets.
How Does DC Electricity Turn Into AC in an RV?
There are two steps involved in converting DC electricity from an RV battery to AC electricity to use in appliances inside the RV:
- Convert the DC output to AC output using an inverter to increase the voltage to whatever is needed by the appliances in the RV
- Electromagnetic induction in a built-in transformer will then step up the voltage of the AC to whatever is required in the RV, usually 120V.
Inverters use transistors as switches to create an alternating current from the straight DC. Once the current is alternating, its voltage can be stepped up.
In this way, DC power stored in the batteries of the RV can be converted to AC power to use on appliances and lights while there is no shore power available.
How Does an RV Get Power Other Than House Batteries?
An RV can get power in more than one way other than batteries. Alternative power sources include a generator, a solar panel, or a vehicle engine. The obvious other way an RV can get power is with shore power. You can also charge your house/coach battery system while traveling in your RV.
Solar panels and solar-powered vehicles are becoming more popular. Several RV models now come with solar panels as standard. The Thor Sanctuary 19L and 19P, Tiffin Cahaba 19 SC, and Coachmen Galleria Li3 have solar-powered options built into and onto the RV.
Some RVs are taking it even further and powering the whole vehicle (including the engine) with solar power. These solutions use solar panels with inverters and batteries to power the RV.
Generators are also a popular method of powering an RV. Still, they are loud, cause fumes, and use a lot of extra diesel. Most often, these are stored in a storage compartment and plugged into the RVs electricity input in place of shore power.
What Are the Different Types of RV Outlets?
Typically, an RV will have three different outlets in the living area.
- A Standard 110 Volt Outlet
- A GFCI Outlet
- A 240 Volt Outlet
Your RV may have all three, or it may only have one.
Outlets in an RV are typically standard 110v outlets. This is so that appliances from your home can be used in the RV. These outlets look and operate in the same way that house outlets do.
Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets are sometimes installed in RVs as these protect against short circuits and faults when there is the potential of water getting into the outlet. GFCI outlets reduce the risk of electrical fire and prevent electric shock by monitoring electrical current and cutting power when water is detected.
GFCI outlets are required in the bathroom, within six feet of any sink, and on the exterior of any RV.
Some RVs have 240-volt appliances like electric heaters and water heaters. Because of the higher voltage appliances in the RV, they require a higher voltage outlet. The 220v outlets will have a different plug-pin configuration and should be easily identified.
Why Won’t My RV Outlets Work?
There are several possible reasons outlets may stop working in an RV, these include, but are not limited to:
- Interrupted shore power
- A tripped GFCI outlet
- A circuit breaker that needs to be reset,
- A faulty power source (inverter, a converter, a generator)
- A fuse or an outlet that needs to be replaced.
The first thing to check if you are connected to shore power at a campsite is if the shore power is being supplied. If there is no shore power, the power to the outlets will obviously not work either.
If all the 120v outlets in the RV stop working, it may be a tripped GFCI mains. Check if the main Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) has tripped and reset it.
Similarly, a circuit breaker on the circuit board of the RV may have tripped, and needs to reset. In both cases of a tripped GFCI and breaker, try to identify the outlet or appliance causing the trip and unplug it.
In the case of a faulty power source, it could be any number of the components causing the outlets to stop working. The inverter, converter, or generator may be malfunctioning. Because these are highly technical equipment, a professional will usually need to test them.
In the case of DC power or the straight 12-volt power supplied to the RV, some fuses keep the system from overloading. Unplug all appliances from the outlets, replace the fuse in the fuse box, and slowly plug only necessary appliances in one at a time.
Lastly, one outlet in the RV may be faulty. Unplug all appliances in the RV and reset the circuit breaker. Then plug an appliance that you know works into each of the outlets. If one of the outlets trips the circuit breaker or blows a fuse, it may be inaccurate. Replace the whole outlet.
How Many Watts Can My RV Outlets Provide?
The wattage your RV can provide will depend on the amps that the RV can accept from the inlet plug. 50-amp service RVs will provide higher wattage than 30-amp service RVs.
A 50-amp service RV can provide a maximum of 12,000 watts. A 30-amp service RV will receive and provide up to 3,600 watts. In some cases, an RV will have an adapter for 50-amp service, but the supply is 30-amps; in this case, you will be limited to 3,600 watts.
Calculate the total wattage your RV will need when deciding what wattage your RV should be able to provide.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Will Some Equipment Not Run Off Batteries with an Inverter?
Some basic appliances will not work correctly when using a battery with an inverter. For instance, some fluorescent lamps will not operate properly with a modified sine wave inverter. The bulb may burn too bright or will fail to light.
Some other appliances, like battery chargers for cordless power tools, carry warnings about dangerous voltages on the battery terminals. Read these before using battery power with an inverter.
Be aware that some medical equipment will not run off batteries with an inverter. Unless specifically noted in the regulatory approvals for the product, inverters do not have regulatory approval for use with medical devices or life support equipment.
- Will 120-volt Outlets Work When the Inverter Is Powered Off
120-volt outlets will work when the inverter is powered off. These require the inverter to supply the 120-volt power to the outlet.
- What is RV Inverter Sensible to Get?
A 1500-watt standard version will cover most power needs in an RV, but a 3000-watt pure sine wave inverter will more than cover any energy needs. The Go Power! GP-SW3000-12 3000-Watt Pure Sine Wave Inverter is a sensible choice to ensure your complete power needs are met.
- Can A Solar Power System supply additional Power?
Additional power can be supplied to an RV by a solar power system. This will need to be integrated into the inverter system or run as a completely separate system.
- What are RV batteries used for?
RV batteries power outlets, lights, and appliances when no external power is available from shore power or other sources.
- Should I disconnect my RV battery when plugged in?
You do not need to disconnect your RV’s house batteries when plugged into electric or shore power. The RV uses the battery; disconnecting it from electricity will turn the power supply off.
- Do RV batteries charge when plugged into shore power?
RV batteries will charge while it is plugged into shore power. Any external power source will allow your RV batteries to charge while connected and provide power to your RV.
- What are some tips for recharging RV batteries?
An RV battery can last six years or longer if charged and recharged correctly.
- Never let a battery’s charge drop below 80% or 12.4 volts. Note that a fully charged 12-volt battery is actually at 12.73 volts.
- Use a digital volt meter to check your battery’s charge level accurately.
- Remove all parasitic loads from the battery (i.e., items that run when the RV is not in use).
- Do not let the battery overheat or overcharge, check water levels frequently.
To answer the question of ‘Do RV Outlets Work on Battery Power?’ the answer is a resounding yes! When no shore power is available, an RV can run off battery power using an inverter to convert the stored DC electricity to AC power and step it up using a transformer.
RVs use a two-battery system, one to power the electricity and engine of the RV and the other to supply electricity to the living area of the RV. RVs can also get power from solar panels, generators, and other sources.
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