Summer RV Electrical Need-To-Knows

Boondockers Welcome hosts are generous to a fault, but it’s unreasonable for guests to expect them to cover the cost of electricity to run A/C.

As we head into summer, we want to remind our traveling members that, whenever you use hookups, we expect you to offer to compensate your host for any costs. Each host should stipulate on their host location profile what they expect in compensation. They can select $5, $10, $15, or no donation requested. Please be sure you check this section on their profile so you know what to expect when you arrive.  

You also NEED to know this before hooking up to hosts’ hookups!

Here are some important safety considerations for RVers who are using electric hookups.

How to avoid blowing out your RV electronics from a home electric hookups

All Boondockers Welcome hosts, and probably even more importantly, all guests who plan to plug in at a Boondockers Welcome host location, need to watch this short 2-minute video featuring RV tech and electrical engineer, Mike Sokal.

As the video states, an electrician who wires a 30- or 50- amp outlet may be accustomed to wiring them for home use (eg. for a dryer or welder), but be completely unaware of a very important difference if the outlet is intended for an RV. This can result in the outlet being wired for 240V instead of 120V.  Here’s an image showing how similar the plugs are:

Be sure that your electrician (or that of your host) has wired this outlet up properly!

Three electrical testing devices all RV owners should carry and use

In this 2-minute video, FMCA technical advisor, Gary Bunzer, suggests RVers shouldn’t ever assume any outlet (whether at a campground or a Boondockers Welcome host location) is safe without performing these simple tests before plugging in.

Know your amperage!

Most RVs are set up to pull 30AMPs. However, there are some larger RVs that can pull up to 50AMPs. Most homes only offer outlets that pull 15AMPs. So, if you’re plugged into a 15AMP you will only be able to pull half the amps for an RV that pulls 30AMP. This means you will not be able to run multiple appliances and/or your A/C at once. Usually, with 15AMP you can run your microwave but not at the same time as your hairdryer. If you do, you will likely trip the hosts’ breaker leaving them and you without power.

Please know what amps you are pulling so you can prevent that from happening. Many new RVs have a digital read that tells you what amperage you are pulling. In some rigs, you could even set it to pull only a certain amount taking the guesswork out of it. You can certainly test what you can pull by plugging into your home’s electrical outlet. This will help you know if you are able to run your A/C or what appliances you can run while plugged into a 15 AMP outlet. Here is a great article that gives you an idea of what amperage each appliance draws

Bottom line, be careful when plugging into a host location’s electrical outlet. Our hosts are not running a campground so they don’t have the same level of electric amperage to offer. This should go without saying but, never try to alter your host’s electrical unit to fit your amperage. That is very dangerous and inconsiderate of your gracious hosts. 

The No-Shock-Zone. A 12-part series about basic electricity as it pertains to RVs

Finally, RV electrical expert Mike Sokol has a series of articles where he explains basic electricity and the precautions all RVers need to take before using any electric hook-up. Mike also publishes a weekly article in every newsletter on Saturdays. Consider subscribing for other tips and advice on this subject.

The onus is on the RV traveler!

Finally, we’d like to remind all our traveling members, that the onus is on you (not the host) to know your rig’s electrical requirements and to use proper precautions before connecting to any electrical hookup provided by the host.

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  1. Cars 'n' Carving
    12th July, 2018

    Can I use an analog meter instead of a digital meter?

  2. Kerry
    12th July, 2018

    Actually a 50a plug in is 240V. Only the 30a is 120V.

  3. lonfu
    30th April, 2021

    The reason I started charging for power, water, sewer and wifi is that in the beginning it was a trade. Folks with homes exchanging places to stay with free utilities. When I went to a host location I wasn’t charged for the utilities because I offered the utilities at my place for free. That changed after a while when we started having more folks show up that had no home bases and were living full time in the RV’s. For these “full timers” we were providing not only our space but utilities for free with no possibility of an exchange. We full timed in our moho for 6 years and enjoyed every minute of it. But… providing free utilities with no possibility of an exchange is not what I signed up for.
    To keep me from dropping the group I started charging $10 per night for utilities to cover my labor and cost of providing them unless a guest owns a property and offers it in exchange. Then I don’t charge them anything even if they charge me when I go to their place. Most larger moho’s are mostly electric, the 30 amp that I offer is barely enough to provide them with power to heat and cool their RV. Many choose to use electric heaters at night rather than burn their propane and prefer to use the electric feature on their water heaters, thus becoming a very large “killowatt hour” user. My solar electric system and well are maintained by me. I provide filtered soft water at 40 to 60 psi for RV’s vs paying so much per gallon for city hard 80psi water. I have to work to maintain both systems.
    Today, we mostly see “full timers” in larger rigs because most hosts limit the length of their guest rigs to 30 feet or less. Our rig is 38′ so we are not welcome at most BDW locations, no ones fault but my own.
    I enjoy our visits from BDW guests, we often have a outdoor fire just a few feet from their rig door and watch the spectacular sunsets that we have here. I enjoy hearing about their adventures, family and their change to becoming full timers.

    1. Anna
      30th April, 2021

      As we’ve said many times before, when we started BW we expected only that people would share as safe place to boondock. The fact that so many in our community are willing to provide electric hookups is amazing, and any guest who is lucky enough to stay with such a host is always expected to offer to compensate the host for their costs, although hosts are obviously welcome to decline their offer. As a host, you can certainly choose who to charge for electric hookup and who not to. We continue to hope that all our guests are grateful for anything and everything that our hosts offer. Thank you for being one of our amazing hosts!

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