From time to time, when you are traveling in your RV, you may come across a camping area that has limited power. Many times, this means that you’ll either need a generator or battery power to run your appliances. One of the most power consumptive appliances in your RV is the air conditioner.

Typical RV air conditioners use between 13 and 16 amps of power for most efficient operation. If you’re stuck with only 15 amps of power available, this can mean making a few choices about what appliances you want to run, or not run when you’re in dire need of a bit of air conditioning.

This isn’t an impossible task, however. Running your RV air conditioner on 15 amps is certainly possible, with a few minor modifications to the power supply and air conditioning unit.

Can you run an RV air conditioner on 15 amps?

The simple answer to this question is, yes. It is possible to run an RV air conditioner on a 15-amp circuit. However, how you get there isn’t quite as simple as plugging in your RV.

Before you plug in your RV, you’ll want to first determine the amps your RV air conditioner requires. The power output of your air conditioner is stated in the BTU value. BTUs or British Thermal Units are a measure of power.

You’re probably most familiar with this measurement with appliances like grills or gas stoves that create heat, but the measure of power with cooling units is the same. In general, the higher the BTU the more power necessary. Most RV air conditioning units require between 13 and 16 amps of power.

This pushes the limits of a 15-amp circuit, and your normal RV plug will need to be modified to avoid stressing the circuit and tripping the breaker. The simple modification is to use a converter plug that will reduce the draw from 30-amps to 15-amps. Keep in mind, even if you have a 20-amp circuit to work with, it’s not a great idea to run multiple appliances on the same circuit as your air conditioner. If you’re working with reduced power, you’ll have to limit the items running in your RV.

How much power is required to run an RV’s air conditioner?

Most standard sized RV or large fifth wheel campers need a minimum of 50-amps of power to run the AC plus all the other appliances and lighting.

Most RV parks and campgrounds provide 50-amp service, but that may not always be the case. If you come across a location that has 30-amp or lower service, you’ll need to adjust your RV power requirements.

Most standard RV air conditioners require 12 to 16 amps of power, and this can fluctuate depending on the operating mode the air conditioner is in. For example the AC running on low will use less power than if you have your AC cranked all the way up. If you’re working with limited power, you’ll want to keep the AC on low.

How do RV’s use electricity?

RVs use a combination of both AC (alternating current) and DC (direct current) to send power to the electrical components of the RV. Travel trailers also use both AC and DC currents, but that electrical system works a bit differently than what you’ll find in an RV.

In your RV, the direct current system is usually run from a 12-volt battery. This 12-volt battery runs the electrical system for the RV’s engine. Much like the 12-volt battery in your car.

The AC system in your RV is most often a 120-volt system that is used to supply power to your appliances including the air conditioner. RVs are supplied with a heavy duty power cord that is used to plug the RV into electrical hook-up at RV parks and campgrounds. Most of the time, you’ll find that you’ll have the option for 30-amp or 50-amp service. You’ll select the proper parking spot for your RV based on the electrical needs of your rig.

If you’re in a place where electrical service isn’t available, you’ll want a generator to run your AC system. Your RV will plug into the generator just like it does to a campsite hook-up. Just remember, if you use a generator, it should generate more amps than are necessary to run the appliances in your RV, or you’ll blow the circuit breaker.

How to run RV air conditioner on 15 amps?

If you get stuck needing to run your RV air conditioner on 15-amp power, you’ll easily be able to do so, if you follow a few simple steps.

1. Determine the RV amperage capacity

First, determine the total amperage needed for all of the appliances (including lights) that are in your RV. Most RVs have a capacity of 30 to 50-amps. This information can easily be found in your owner’s manual. Determining the amperage needed for your RV will tell you what appliances you can or can’t run on 15-amps of power if you’ve got your AC running.

2. Identify the Outlet Amperage

Before you can plug your RV into a reduced power supply, you’ll want to determine the amperage of the receptacle you’ll be using. Most of the time you’ll find this information on the receptacle itself or on the circuit breaker, or you can tell by looking at the number of prongs the receptacle will handle.

A good rule of thumb is that 15 and 20 amp circuits have 3-prongs and will look like your standard home wall outlet. 30 and 50-amp circuits will have receptacles for 4-prongs.

3. Find the Proper Cords and Adapters

If you need to connect your RV to a 15-amp circuit you’ll need to have a few different supplies. We would recommend that you carry a variety of these in your RV just in case you need them.

Dog Bone Adapters: As the name suggests, these adapters are shaped like a dog bone. They have different configurations, but their primary purpose is to connect an RV to any source of electricity.

RV amps Adapter type
30 amps 15-amp male to 30-amp female
50 amps 15-amp male to 50-amp female

For a 50-amp RV you can also use a 50-amp female to a 30-amp male, tied into a 30-amp female to a 15-amp male converter.

Heavy-duty Extension Cord: Never use an indoor extension cord to connect your RV to a power source. They are not made to handle the current necessary to supply enough power to your RV. Our recommendation is to purchase a heavy-duty, RV specific extension cord that is between 50 and 55 feet long. This will give you plenty of length in case you’re trying to connect to a power source further away from your RV.

When converting 50 amp RV to 15 amp

We think that the best way to convert a 50-amp RV to 15-amps is to use the two-adapter method. It seems to be more stable than using a direct 50-amp to 15-amp convert. The two-adapter method kind of steps down the power.

To do this, first use the 30-amp male to 50-amp female connector directly into the RV. From here, connect the 30-amp female connector to 15-amp male adapter to the first adapter. Then plug-in your heavy-duty extension cord to the RV, and run it to the desired electrical outlet or generator.

When converting 30 amp RV to 15 amp

The process for converting 30-amp to 15-amp is similar to converting 50-amp to 15- amp, but you only need one adapter.

To plug your RV into a 15-amp circuit, start by using a 30-amp female to 15-amp male adapter. Plug this into the RV. From there, plug in your extension cord and run the extension cord to the outlet.

One thing to remember with converting power, is that you don’t want to use too long of an extension cord. This can cause overheating which isn’t an ideal situation.

What limitations do 15 amp RV air conditioners have?

If you’re forced to reduce your power supply from 50-amp or 30-amp power to 15-amp power, you will have to limit the appliances that you’re running in your RV.

If your main goal is to run your air conditioner, and your AC unit pulls 13-amps of power, it may be the only appliance you can run. And you may be forced to run your air conditioner on the lowest setting possible.

If you don’t need to run your air conditioner, but are still stuck on 15-amp power, there are other high use appliance you shouldn’t use including:

  • Microwave oven
  • Hair dryer
  • Toaster
  • Televisions
  • Clothes dryer

Appliances that can be run on 15-amp power include:

  • Lights
  • Refrigerator
  • Laptop computers
  • Mobile device chargers