Understanding the Electrical System in Your RV

Before you can head off for a camping trip in your RV, it’s important to understand how your electrical systems work. For many new motorhome owners, getting to grips with the differences between the electronics in a car and a camper can be challenging. That’s why our camping experts here at Bretz RV & Marine have put together an easy overview of the main points for you to keep in mind about your camper’s electronics. Should you have any questions or require assistance from a professional, don’t hesitate to contact us today.

Three Types of Electrical System

The first thing you should know is that your RV has three different electrical systems. One of them is a 12-volt DC automotive system, just like the one in a car or crossover. Its task is to provide the power necessary to start your engine and run the electrics you’d find in any vehicle.

The second system is a 12-volt DC coach system, which supplies power to many appliances and lights inside your RV. These include roof lights, television, and LP gas alarm. The 12-volt coach system gets power from a deep-cycle marine battery, which can provide a steady supply of energy for an extended period of time. You can recharge this type of battery repeatedly without causing damage to it.

The third electrical system is a 120-volt AC coach system. This network is necessary to operate certain appliances in your camper, such as the microwave, roof fans, and the fan above your stove. You’ll typically be able to connect to 120-volt AC power at a camp site, since RVs usually have a thick power cord for this purpose. Alternatively, you may have an RV with a generator that can supply 120-volt AC power wherever you may be.

Connecting to 120-Volt Electricity at a Camp Ground

Once you park your RV at a camp site, you can connect it to a nearby power outlet. Many RVs have a power cord that’s 25 or 30 feet long, giving you plenty of flexibility to find a power source. Most power outlets at a camping site provide 30 amps of power, although you’ll occasionally find 50-amp outlets. There may also be simple household outlets supplying 15 or 20 amps. To use these outlets with your power cord, you’ll need an adapter to connect.

One of the most important things you need to keep in mind when you’re connected to an external power source is not to overload it. A 30-amp outlet will provide enough energy to run a few appliances in your RV, but you’ll want to avoid accidentally overloading the system, as this can cause serious damage.

For example, you need about 13 amps to operate a microwave and 9 amps to use a toaster, so you’d be using 22 amps if these two appliances were running at the same time. A hairdryer requires between 9 and 12 amps to work, so turning this on alongside your microwave and toaster would take you over the 30-amp limit. In some RVs, a trip will kick in and disconnect the electricity to avoid damaging appliances. However, it’s best to be aware of the limit yourself so you don’t have to rely on a safety backup.

Battery Maintenance Tips

The two 12-volt DC systems in your RV rely on batteries to operate. To ensure that your electronics work properly, routine battery maintenance is essential. The car battery that provides power to your 12-volt DC automotive system should be maintained in the same way that you’d maintain any other car battery. You should inspect it regularly for signs of deterioration or a grime build-up on the connections. You can clean the connections with a diluted solution of water and baking soda and a brush.

If you’re performing battery maintenance, there are several safety measures you should keep in mind. First, never use an open flame near a battery. Vapors can escape the battery and catch fire, causing severe damage and posing a risk of injury. Additionally, repeated charging can reduce the electrolyte level in your battery. You can top it up with distilled water. However, make sure you only top up each cell until the split-level marker, as overfilling the battery can damage it.

Some deep-cycle batteries are maintenance free, which means you won’t be able to maintain it yourself. Instead, a color-coded system on the battery’s eye will show you its condition. Any maintenance will need to be performed by a professional at your preferred RV dealership.

Generators in Motorhomes

Many motorhomes will have their own generator to supply you with 120-volt AC power at the touch of a button. This is a very convenient feature if you’re regularly on the go and don’t know if you’ll find a site with a power source. However, generators need to be maintained just like batteries.

The precise maintenance steps that you need to perform will depend on the type of generator your RV has. You can learn more about this by consulting your owners manual. Your generator will also have a fuel source, which you’ll need to ensure is adequately supplied or charged.

If you’re unsure about anything, you can make a service appointment at Bretz RV & Marine at one of our Montana or Idaho locations, and we’ll help you put things right. You’ll then be able to head out on the road without worrying about the reliability of your power supply.

Get Your Motorhome Maintained at Bretz RV & Marine

We hope we’ve been able to help you understand a bit more about the electrical systems in your RV. With this basic knowledge, you should be able to avoid common pitfalls, including overloading your electrical system and ignoring key maintenance tasks. If you require advice from an RV expert, we’re here to help. Our team at Bretz RV & Marine in Montana and Idaho are proud to supply high-quality motorhomes to our loyal customers. This includes conducting repairs and maintenance to a high standard, allowing you to enjoy your outdoor summer camping trips with confidence.

Outlaw RV parked on grass near trees by Damon On Road is licensed with Unsplash License

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