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RV Electrical Distribution

Last Changed 3/23/2009

The layout of the circuit breaker panel of an RV is different for 30 amp and 50 amp services.  The 30 amp breaker panel has one bus that all the circuit breaker attach to.  In a 50 amp breaker panel, there are two buses with about half of the circuit breakers on each.

The value of a 50 amp RV service is more in the two electrical legs than just the 50 amp number over a 30 amp.  The actual available current for a 50 amp service is 100 amps, over three times that of a 30 amp service.

We say "available" because a maximum of 50 amps can be used on one leg.  If enough appliances are turned on in one leg such that the total current draw is more than 50 amps, the circuit breaker will flip, even if there are no turned-on appliances on the other leg.

30 amp Service

Electrical Distribution With a 30 amp RV service, you have just one electrical phase with 30 amps of available current.  All of the internal circuit breakers are on that single leg.
Electrical Distribution The input breaker does not look much different that the breakers for the circuits.
click on images to enlarge

50 amp Service

Electrical Distribution With a 50 amp RV Service, you are using two electrical legs, each with 50 amps of available current, for a maximum amount of 100 amps.

The internal circuit breakers are split across the two legs. Major current draw devices like air conditioners are usually attached to different legs to balance the current drawn between the legs.

Note one AC is red on the red leg and the other is black for the black leg.
Electrical Distribution The 50 amp input circuit breaker is double wide so that both input legs are disconnected if there is an overload.

Note some dual breakers are used in this box.  Dual breakers are two circuit breakers in one module.  The circuits breakers are separate but both circuits are attached to the same bus.  Incorrectly used, these dual breakers can unbalance the loads across the two buses.
Electrical Distribution Sometimes the two buses are obvious like just above where the circuit breakers for each leg is  arranged across from each other.  You will also find the buses are interlaced like this arrangement where the circuit breakers alternate between legs.
Electrical Distribution The interlaced bus is just visible.
click on images to enlarge

30-50 amp Adapters

Electrical Distribution When a 30-50 amp Adapter is used with a 50 amp Service, the single 30 amp leg is connected to both of the internal bus bars and therefore all the devices connected to the circuit breakers are on the same circuit.  Note both AC units are black.

Not only are all the devices on the single leg, that leg is only 30 amps instead of the normal 50 amps.  This is why careful limitation on the number of electrical appliances used at the same time is necessary when an 30-50amp Adapter is used.
click on images to enlarge

Disclaimer: The information in this site is a collection of data we derived from the vendors and from our personal experiences.  This information is meant as a learning guide for you to  make your own decisions  Best practices and code should always be followed.  The recommendations we make are from our personal experiences and we do not receive any compensation for those recommendations.
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