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The Basics of RV Power: How It Works and What You Need to Know

The most common question we receive is regarding how the power in the RV works.

After all, what's the point of glamping if you can't charge your phone and post about your trip on Instagram? (Tag us, @chillrv)

All jokes aside, there are 3 ways to get power in the RV. You can plug into an electric hookup, run the generator or use the inverter.

In this blog, we'll cover the basics of RV power and provide you with the information you need to feel confident and in control on the road.

Shore Power AKA Electric Hook Ups

Shore power is a power source that is connected to a stationary electrical source, such as an RV park's electrical hookup. This power source is easy to access and provides a reliable and steady supply of electricity. The pros of using shore power include access to a stable electrical source and the ability to power larger appliances, such as the air conditioners, microwave, coffee maker and other appliances without needing to run the generator. All of our RVs use 30 amps for power, but we provide all the adapters in case you need to plug into 50 amp or 110V (regular house outlet). If you are planning on going somewhere where the temperature will be above 80 degrees, we strongly recommend that you find a campground with electric hook ups to stay comfortable. (Check out our blog on our recommended websites for finding campgrounds with electric hook ups). Keep in mind that the RV ACs can only do so much if the outside temperature is near 100F. If it’s going to be hotter than 100F, perhaps you should consider a different destination for your trip. It’s also true that you need an electric hook up to recharge the house battery if you are planning on camping somewhere cold and will need to run the heater a lot. Although the heater does not require the generator or an electric hook up to power on, it drains the house battery as it operates. Check out or blog on camping in the snow.


Generators are an excellent option when shore power is not available. They provide a portable power source for your RV and can be used to power appliances, other electrical devices and recharge the house battery. The pros of using a generator is the ability to generate power in remote locations or where electric hook ups are not available, such as at many state campgrounds, tailgating events or in boondocking locations. All of our class C Rvs have built in generators which run on liquid propane. On a full tank of liquid propane, the generator can run about 10-15 hours. If you run low on the propane, you can find a place to refill it, but you will need to drive somewhere to do so, as the propane tank is built into the RV. Many Uhaul locations, gas stations and even campgrounds offer liquid propane refill. (Be sure to check out our blog post about our favorite useful camping apps & resources here). If you don’t think you’ll be able to refill the propane tank, you can always rent an additional 5 gallon propane tank and the connector from us. That should give you about 4-6 additional generator hours. We also offer additional external gas generators for rent.

The Revel Van does not have a built in generator and needs an electric hook up or external gas generator to run the AC.

House Batteries

All of our RVs come equipped with a built-in house battery, (separate from the car battery). These batteries are what powers the refrigerator, lights, control panels and the air heater. Like all batteries, they get drained with use, but they are rechargeable. You can recharge the house battery by plugging into an electric hook up, running the car engine, running the generator if it’s equipped in your RV or with the help of the solar panels. (All of our RVs come with solar panels). The solar panels help to top off the battery, but they are not enough to recharge a depleted battery. If you are camping in the cold, you will need to keep a very close watch on your house battery to make sure that it doesn’t discharge completely. If you are camping somewhere where it will likely be colder than 60 F, you will need an electric hook if you plan on running the heater a lot. Running the heater all night long without an electric hook up most likely will drain your battery to zero and it may even shut off during the night. If you like colder temperatures and are not planning on running the heater much (or at all), you don’t need to worry about recharging your batteries as much.


All of our RVs come with an inverter, which takes the power from the house battery and makes it usable in the outlets. You can use the inverter in the Model J and Model V to run the TV or recharge a phone or a laptop for example, but it is not enough to power the heavy draw items. (Those require an electric hook up or the generator). Because the inverter gets the power from the house battery, you can only use it for a few hours. The Models P and K use the inverter a little differently. They actually need the inverter to stay on in order to power the refrigerator. The Revel Van does not have a generator and only has an inverter. It works a little differently as well, and you need to turn the inverter on to power the appliances. (The AC in the Revel Van requires the generator or an electric hook up). So for that reason, don't worry too much about understanding the purpose of the inverter, we will teach you everything you need to know about the specific RV that you'll be traveling in.

Final Thoughts

Because the RVs are wired for 30 amps, you can operate one heavy-draw item at a time. Heavy-draw items are the following, AC, microwave, toaster, coffee maker, electric tea kettle, hair fan, electric water & air heater and any other small appliance that you may bring. The gas stove does not use any electricity, so it’s okay to be cooking using the stove and making coffee or running the AC at the same time. Our Model Js and Model Vs have both electric water heater & air heater and liquid propane water heater & air heater. We recommend sticking to just using the liquid propane option. We can discuss more about that when we train you on how to use your particular RV.

As a rule of thumb, if you are not an experienced RVer, we strongly encourage you to find a campground with an electric hook up, it will make everything so much easier and enjoyable.

Quick Summary (TLDR)

This blog post is about the different power sources available for RVs, including shore power (electric hook up), generators and house batteries. Shore power is a stable electrical source that is accessible at RV parks and is suitable for powering larger appliances such as air conditioners, microwaves and coffee makers. RVs use 30 amps. Generators are a power source that can be used in remote locations or when shore power is not available, and they run on liquid propane. They have a limited amount of time they can work before the liquid propane needs to be refilled. All RVs come equipped with a built-in house battery that powers the refrigerator, lights and control panels and it can be recharged using electric hook ups, the car engine, generator or solar panels. The house battery must be closely monitored, especially in colder temperatures. Electric hook ups make life so much easier and are always preferred.

Don't feel like reading the above? Check out this video.


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