RV Air Conditioner

Running the air conditioning in your motorhome on a standard 110 home electrical outlet is a common question among owners. You will probably run into this scenario if you are pulling into a friend’s house or sitting in the driveway at home.

It is possible to run your air conditioning on a 110 outlet. The trick is in how your Air Conditioner is started so that it does not draw too many amps at once and pops the breaker. If you choose to run your A/C like this on your rig, you should not have any other appliances that run on AC power at the same time, such as your fridge. You will also want to make sure that your A/C is 15,000 watts or less.

 Now, there is more to running your air conditioning unit on a 110 circuit than just pulling up and plugging into the nearest outlet. In my research, I have found that there are several factors to consider before you plug in.

How Do RVs Use Electricity?

Before plugging in, you should make yourself aware of how RV electricity works.

There are two types of currents used to run electricity. The first is AC, or alternating current, and the other is DC, which means direct current. Typically, homes run on AC and vehicles will run on DC. Luckily, most RVs come standard with both DC and a system to hook up to AC, such as when you are plugging into a home outlet.

Most RVs happen to come equipped with a 12-volt house battery which is what is necessary to run DC. This battery charges while the vehicle’s alternator is running. However, when parked you will need to charge this battery, or batteries if you choose to go with 2 six-volt batteries instead of the larger 12-volt option, either by solar power or by hooking up to an AC outlet.

Interestingly, most RVs come outfitted with a 120-volt shore power system. What does this mean in terms of hooking up to your household electricity? Several things come to mind.

How Do I Run My RV A/C On A 110-Home Circuit Using A 30-Amp Adapter?

First things first, you need to know that a typical household electric socket is a 15-amp socket. Occasionally you will see a 20-amp socket, but for the most part a 110-circuit is going to give you roughly 15-amps.

You can plug your RV into one of these circuits, however, you will not get the full 30 amps from your household electric. Thus, if you want to run your air conditioner from a household outlet, you will need to do a couple of things:

  • First off, you will need a 30-amp adapter, similar to this one sold by Amazon, though you can find one at nearly any store that sells camping supplies and/or RV equipment such as Wal-Mart or Camping World. This adapter should connect to a heavy-duty extension cord, or you could go for a dogbone, also found at any store that sells camping supplies, where the adapter and cord connect to the same piece, though the cord is only a few inches long.
  • Secondly, you will want to run the a/c on a low setting to ensure that you are using less than the basic 1500 watts of power you get from your house.
  • Third, you shouldn’t run anything else in your RV while the air conditioning is running on a home outlet.
30 amp to 15 amp adaptor

If possible, the best choice is the dog bone adapter as the longer your extension cord, also referred to as run, the more you tax the circuit, making it more likely to trip the home’s breaker.

How many amps does a camper air conditioner use?

On average, your RV’s roof air conditioner pulls 12-16 amps. So, you can see why the a/c is the only thing that should be running while plugged in. Another thing to keep in mind is that when the a/c kicks in, it will draw up to 7 times the number of amps than it does while just running normally. we just want to reduce that to as much as possible, so the amperage draw does not pop the house breaker.  Now you know why you want to run the a/c on the lowest setting possible. It is to avoid the surge that happens when your air conditioning kicks in and risks damage to your RV, not to mention the home’s circuit breakers.

An alternate way of doing this is to install something called an easy start or a soft starter. 

Can you run a 50-amp camper on home electric?

If you have a 50-amp RV, then you will need a 50-amp adapter in order to hook up to the house electrical system. While it is possible, you should still use caution when doing so.

You will still only have 15 amps available to you from the house circuit. Therefore, you need the 2 separate adapters. You need to step down from 50-amp to a 30-amp, then step further down from the 30-amp down to the household 15-amp breaker.

50 amp to 30 amp adaptor
30 amp to 15 amp adaptor

The process of hooking up a 50-amp service is the same as hooking up a 30-amp service. The only difference is that you will need an extra dogbone adapter that will allow you to plug in to a 50-amp then subsequently plug that into the 30-amp adapter.

The same rules apply here as they do with the 30-amp service. You want to run nothing but the air conditioning unit and be sure to use the proper extension cord of the right length to avoid the extra heat generated from the run. The cord should be no less than a 10-gauge exterior extension cord.

Can you leave your RV plugged in all the time?

Keeping your RV plugged in all the time is fine. This will not cause any harm to your Rv or it's electrical system. Though, you will need to make sure you keep a good eye on your RV’s house batteries, if they are lead acid, as the electrolytes can become depleted if left unchecked. It is a good idea to check them at least once a month, but more often is better, and add distilled water if they are low, otherwise you could be facing extensive damages.

You will also want to make sure that none of your 120-volt appliances are running if you are not using the camper while being plugged in. This can cause damage to your RV as well as deplete the house batteries which are expensive to replace, especially when the damage is easy to avoid.

Can I plug in my camper without a battery?

By not having a house battery in there is no closed loop for the Rv's electrical system so nothing will work. Your RV must have at least one house battery of at least 12-volts in one form or another, whether one single battery or by using 2 six-volt batteries together.

It is necessary for your house battery system to be available and charged when you hook up to a shore system, i.e. your house. The reason for this is that the house batteries will act as sort of a backup system if your shore power goes out. If the backup system has no charge and the shore system starts to short out, there will be no reserve to draw from.

Therefore, it is important to keep watch on your house batteries. Never let them go dry and be sure to clean off any corrosion you may see forming on the outside of the batteries. This can cause uneven wear on the batteries which means the life of the battery is in jeopardy.

RV Batteries

Can I run the A/C on solar power?

Update: Since the improvements in technology with solar panels, lithium batteries and Direct Current powered Air conditioners, it is possible today to run a small AC unit of 2000 to 3000 watts. Skip to the next section below. Running on regular 13,500 to 15,000 watt solar panel is still difficult at this time to run on solar panels.

It is certainly possible to run your RV on solar power. However, it is not very practical, and it is expensive. You will need a lot of batteries and solar panels to turn the solar energy into usable electricity. Another thing to consider with solar energy is the size of your rig. The larger the rig, the more electricity you need to run the a/c, which means the more solar panels and equipment needed to run it.

What happens if your camper doesn’t have enough room to carry the number of solar panels needed to run the a/c?

A caveat: it will be a good thing to remember that we are only talking about the air conditioning now, no use of any other electricity is being considered. If your camper doesn’t have enough surface room to handle the solar array needed, then this isn’t going to be an option for you.

There are a lot of positive things about solar power, as well. There is low maintenance once installed and if you happen to park where it is sunny all the time, you will be able to garner a lot of energy this way. This is one of those occasions when you must decide for yourself and your family, whether solar is the way for you to go.

Adding Solar Panels to RV

Do They Make 12-volt DC Air Conditioners?

In the last few years, DC air conditioners have been appearing on the market for RV’s. They use solely DC power to run the motor in the compressor of the air conditioner. DC powered A/C units make it ideal to run solar panel power as they do not need to have an inverter to produce AC power to run the air conditioner. They appear to be more efficient to their AC powered counterpart air conditioners. DC air conditioners are on the small side, designed more for a class B or small trailer. You can watch this video below on the efficiency and running it off solar panels. So if you do your fair share of boondocking a DC air conditioner may be the way to go. 

Dometic CoolAir RTX 2000 is the first on the market with the 12v DC powered air conditioner. They have a review on the air conditioner below

Can I run my A/C on an inverter?

It is certainly possible to run your A/C on an Inverter. It would need to have at least 3000 watts running on a pure sine inverter and you would enough batteries to support the inverter to produce enough amps to run the A/C.  Since most RV AC units are about 1500 watts you would need to be able to have an inverter that can produce at least that type of power. The battery bank would need to lithium batteries to produce the need power to start and run the unit. Plus, additional, solar panels, to recharge or top up the additional power draw from the batteries.

Rv power Wiring

The use of a soft start would also be needed to reduce the initial power draw. (I mentioned that the initial start of an AC can have a draw of up to 7x the running power) There is also a chance you could cause damage to your electrical system due to the power draw to do this, so it is not advisable. If you wanted to try it out or just wanted to have a look at this video below.

Unsure about what an inverter does or how it works, head over and read this article right here for more information.