Can you plug your RV into your dryer outlet?
Good question. I commend you for reading this post. You think ahead. That’s good! This isn’t the time for “better to ask forgiveness than permission.” Crossing your fingers and plugging in is a good way to shell out an extra $5,000 you hadn’t planned on.
You may have heard the one-size-fits-all answer, “No, you cannot plug an RV into a dryer outlet, you Neanderthal!’ That is not 100% true. There are actually four types of dryer outlets and two types of RV power systems, so what’s true for one isn’t necessarily true for the rest.
Here’s what you should know right away:
- There are four common types of dryer outlets.
- You CANNOT plug an 30A RV into a 3-prong (10-30R) dryer outlet, full stop.
- You CAN plug a 50A RV into any type dryer outlet (usually with an adapter), but two are not recommended.
- The only dryer outlet that doesn’t require an adapter is a NEMA 14-50R four-prong 50A dryer outlet.
Table of Contents
Introduction to RV Electrical Service
If you’re not familiar with your RV electrical system, please read the sections below. You should understand the basics of watts, volts, and amps before continuing (volts = watts x amps). Most importantly, you should know if your RV has a 30A or 50A power inlet!
P.S. Don’t get confused by the two pictures. “Twist-lock” RV power inlets can look very similar between 30A and 50A connections, but the 30A inlet only has three contacts while the 50A connection has a fourth contact (the metal tab on the outside circle).
The pictures show the power inlets on your RV sidewall. These are NEMA L5-30 and SS2-50 twist-lock connections, respectively. These are the popular styles, but there are “straight-blade” NEMA versions as well. And the plug side of your power cord probably doesn’t have the same NEMA code. So don’t be surprised if the power inlet on your RV doesn’t match the look of the power outlet you’re plugging into.
Info – 30A RV Service
A smaller RV travel trailer usually runs off 30A 120-volt power.
Volts, in layman’s terms, measure electrical pressure. As you’ll see in a minute, that’s a major compatibility problem with dryer outlets.
For reference, power lines near your house are typically at 13,800 volts. The transformer on the power pole down the street drops the line voltage down to 240 volts, which is tied into your home’s circuit breaker box. Within your breaker box, some circuits (such as for your dryer and oven) are 240 volts, and the rest are split into 120 volts.
Here’s the big takeaway: Higher voltages can “fry” equipment not rated for such pressure! Electricity can literally arc across contacts, spark between wires, and burn holes through insulation. Imagine water flooding a broken dam: That’s what happens to “fried” electrical equipment.
Anyways, smaller RVs and campers (without multiple air conditioners) commonly use 30A 120V single-phase electrical service. That’s not directly compatible with ANY dryer outlet.
Info – 50A RV Service
Unlike a 30A RV, your 50A motorhome or 5th wheel runs off 240V service. Which is good! That’s how all common dryer outlets are wired, too.
50A RV service is kinda confusing. As I explained in my article comparing 30A to 50A RV power service, the Big Rigs still use 120V circuits. But by using splitting the legs of 240V service, you can get 100A at 120V rather than 50A at 240V. That enables a Big Rig to use up to 12,000 watts of power, compared to just 3,600 watts for a 30A RV!
As you can see on this list of RV appliance amp draw, you can run many more appliances at the same time with a 50A 120/240-volt power supply!
Too much mathematical mumbo-jumbo? Ok. Anyway, 5th wheels, motorhomes, and large travel trailers typically use 50A 120/240V split-phase electrical service.
Dryer Outlets By Type
Back to your dryer outlet.
There are four popular types of dryer outlets in American homes:
- NEMA 10-30R (old 30A outlet)
- NEMA 14-30R (modern 30A outlet)
- NEMA 10-50R (old 50A outlet)
- NEMA 14-50R (modern 50A outlet)
If you live in an older-ish home (pre-1997), you probably have a NEMA 10-30R or 10-50R receptacle: two hot legs plus a neutral. There’s no ground. The more modern 14-30 and 14-50 receptacles have an added ground wire.
Let’s work through RV compatibility, outlet by outlet.
30A NEMA 10-30R Outlet
For 30A RVs: Don’t Even Think About It
It’s those pesky NEMA 10-30R receptacles that cause all the problems! Because if you haven’t already noticed, they look awfully similar to your RV power pedestal receptacle: a NEMA TT-30R. “The only difference is the ground contact shape,” you muse. “But an adapter could fix that, right?”
WRONG! *slap across face* Don’t do that!
An adapter doesn’t fix the intrinsic problem: Your NEMA 10-30R 30A dryer outlet is wired for 240V service. Your 30A RV isn’t. The two are simply not compatible. And no adapter (without a transformer/rectifier) can fix that.
Yes, they make adapters from TT-30 to 10-30. Guess what? They’re useless. Even worse, they’re dangerous. Plugging your 30A RV into a 240V outlet will short your equipment, at best. At worst, it’ll burn down your RV. Don’t do it!
There is, sadly, no quick solution. However, if you don’t need to run your dryer anymore, you could replace your double-pole circuit breaker with a single-pole breaker and install a new TT-30R receptacle, marking one of the old hot legs with tape to signify ground.
For 50A RVs: Yes, With Caveats
A 10-30R outlet, as I said, supplies dual 120V/240V power. That’s good. But again, there’s no ground! – just a neutral.
It’s not a great idea to plug your 50A RV into an antiquated 10-30R plug. Yes, you can find an adapter for this purpose. Yes, the volts match up. But a 10-30R outlet isn’t grounded. You’ll be stuck with a floating ground, which can electrically energize grounded materials. This can cause dangerous shocks and shorts. Consider yourself warned!
There’s another problem, too. Your RV is designed for 50A service; the outlet can only provide 30A. If you try to run too many appliances at the same time, you’ll trip the circuit breaker – not the breaker in your RV, but the double-pole 30A breaker in your house. That’s a hassle. And worst, if the breaker doesn’t trip in time, you could overheat the wiring and cause a house fire.
So possible? Yes. But not recommended.
30A NEMA 14-30R Outlet
For 30A RVs: Yes – With an Adapter
If you own a home newer than 1996, you probably don’t have a 10-30R dryer outlet. Instead, you have a 14-30R outlet, which is wired for 240V. Typically, your dryer heating element uses 240V, and the motor uses 120V.
So, some good news! You can’t directly plug your 30A RV into this outlet – but you can use an adapter! You need to purchase a 14-30P to TT-30R adapter. Not to get too technical, but the adapter will rearrange the legs so that the TT-30R end is wired with 120V service, perfect for your 30A trailer or 5th wheel RV!
For 50A RVs: Yes, With Caveats
A 14-30R dryer outlet puts out 240V power. That’s a perfect fit for your RV.
The only downside is the amperage restriction. Your RV is designed for 50A service; the outlet can only provide 30A. If you try to run too many appliances at the same time, you’ll trip the circuit breaker – not the breaker in your RV, but the double-pole 30A breaker in your house. That’s a hassle. Worst-case scenario, if a defective breaker doesn’t trip in time, you could overheat the house wiring and cause a house fire. But that’s unlikely.
50A NEMA 10-50R Outlet
For 30A RVs: Don’t Even Think About It!
No adapter can fix the intrinsic problem: Your NEMA 10-50R 50A dryer outlet is wired for 240V service. Your RV isn’t. The two are simply not compatible. And no adapter can fix that.
Plugging your 30A RV into a 240V outlet will short your equipment, at best. At worst, it’ll burn down your RV.
There is, sadly, no quick solution (that’s the problem with a 3-wire 240V connection). You could modify the circuit to become a 30A 120-volt connection by installing a new receptacle and single-pole breaker, but now you can’t operate your dryer. Out of the frying pan, nto the fire …
For 50A RVs: Yes, With Caveats
These 50-amp dryer outlets exist in homes build before 1997. They supply dual 120/240V service at 50 amps to the appliance. But again, there’s no ground! – just a neutral.
It’s not a great idea to plug your RV into an antiquated 10-50R plug. Yes, you can find an adapter for this purpose. Yes, the volts and amps match up. But a 10-50R outlet isn’t grounded. You’ll be stuck with a floating ground, which can electrically energize grounded materials. This can cause shocks and shorts. Not safe!
50A NEMA 14-50R Outlet
For 30A RVs: Yes – With an Adapter!
Good news, folks! With an adapter, you can plug into a NEMA 14-50R receptacle!
At first glance, this might be confusing. “Doesn’t a 14-50R supply 240V power?” you say? Well, yes, it does. That’s where the adapter comes in. The adapter rearranges the contacts so you get 120 volts at the TT-30 side. It’s kosher and safe.
For 50A RVs: Yes!
Good news, folks! A 14-50R outlet provides 50A power at 240 volts with a ground. And that’s exactly what your 50A RV needs!
In fact, most RVs are made with 14-50P power inlets. So you won’t even need an adapter. Just plug in your power cord, and you’re good to go!
Safety Steps to Plugging In Your RV
When plugging an RV into a home outlet, here’s the proper sequence you should follow for electrical safety:
- Plug an adaptor, if necessary, into your home outlet.
- Plus an EMS surge protector into the adapter.
- Turn off all electrical appliances inside the RV.
- Switch off the proper circuit breaker in your home breaker box.
- Plug your extension cord into your EMS surge protector and then into the RV.
- Switch the breaker back on and check for EMS codes. If all looks good, allow the RV batteries to charge.
Don’t have EMS surge protector? *slap across the face* Why not?! Don’t you have health, auto and home insurance? Why wouldn’t you pay a pittance for an EMS that does the same thing?
Caution About Extension Cords
Extension cords lose power. The longer the cord and the smaller the wire, the more power you lose. The reason extension cords lose power is because of voltage loss. The resistance from the wire decreases the voltage.
Voltage loss can actually be a major problem. If the voltage drops too low (below 108 volts), that’s called a voltage brownout, and that can cause blown breakers and fried equipment in your RV. I discussed voltage brownouts in my post about EMS surge protectors for RVs. So if you only have 115 volts at your dryer outlet, then you can’t afford to lose many volts along your extension cord, see?
The solution is simple. Don’t plug multiple cords together. Use the shortest extension cord with the bigger gauge of wire possible.
So, can you plug your RV into a dryer outlet?
If you have a 30A RV, then probably not – unless you have a four-prong 14-30 receptacle and purchase an approved adapter.
If you have a 50A RV, then yes – but you should really only plug into a 14-30 or 14-50 receptacle. Ungrounded split 120/240V connections can really ruin your day!
Thanks for reading!