As you can imagine, we travel in some very remote areas and stay at some very remote campgrounds. In remote areas, you won’t see electric poles lining the highway like we see in the “lower 48”.These campgrounds are “off” the power grid. These campgrounds rely on electric generators to supply the power for the campground. Often, they do not have enough electric generator capacity (or it is too expensive) to supply all of the RV sites with 30 or 50 amp power. In rare cases, the electric generator will be broken and you may not have electrical service; usually, for one night only.
At home, we don’t think much about the power that we are using. We run the clothes dryer, stove and air conditioner: all at the same time. That is because our homes have sufficient power to run a lot of appliances at the same time. Your RV is different. It has a limited power supply. Some RVs are limited to 30 amp service. Some RVs are limited to 50 amp service. You probably already know what this limitation is for your RV and have grown accustomed to limiting your power usage appropriately. Here, I am referring to a new limitation that you may not have encountered before; the 15 amp limitation. Just as you now limit your usage of electricity to 30 or 50 amps, you will now have to learn to limit your electricity to 15 amps.
You will need to be able to convert your RVs electrical connector to 15 amp service. Depending on your RVs electrical connecter, this will require you to bring one (or two) conversion plugs. If your RV uses 50 amp service; a 50 amp to 30 amp converter is needed. And, everyone will need a 30 amp to 15 amp converter. These converters (50 amp to 30 amp and 30 amp to 15 amp) can be found at your local RV supply store. Often, Walmart carries these converters in their RV section.
The trick to surviving on 15 amp electrical service is to know the number of amps all of the devices in your RV are using. You can then add up all of the devices you have turned on to get your total amperage. Keep the total amperage at or below 15 and you will be fine. Keep in mind that every electrical device you have turned on in your RV contributes to your total amperage; including the battery charger.
All electrical devices use a different amount of amperage. To get an exact amount, you will need to refer to the label printed on the electrical device. But, the following list gives some typical device amperages. These can be used to get a rough estimate of your total amperage.
Microwave Oven - 12.8 amps
Air Conditioner - 15,000 BTU - 12.5 amps
Electric Water Heater – 6 gallon - 12.5 amps
Coffee Pot - 9 amps
Toaster - 10 amps
Hair Dryer - 10 amps
Electric Frying Pan - 10 amps
Electric Coffee Pot - 10 amps
TV - 2 amps
Crock Pot - 1.5 amps
Heating Pad - .5 amps
Space heater - 7 - 10 amps
Remember: These are rough estimates. Your devices will differ.
In addition to the electrical devices you have turned on, your RV has a 12 volt lighting system and a battery charger. This will use a small amount (3 to 5 amps) depending on how depleted your RV batteries are and how many lights you have turned on.
As you can see from the table above, it may be a little difficult to stay within 15 amps.
Tip: Only use one large electrical device at a time (microwave, hair dryer, toaster, coffee pot, etc.)
Tip: Turn your electric water heater and refrigerator to use gas to save on total amps. That will free-up about 13 amps to use with other appliances.
Tip: Your electrical device label may only show watts used. To convert watts to amps use this formula: watts / voltage = amps. So if your coffee pots says it uses 1025 watts, just divide 1025 by 115 and you get 8.9 amps.
Tip: It is very difficult to run an air conditioner while on 15 amp service. The good news is that it is rare to need an air conditioner while on the Alaska Adventure Trek.
Tip: Know where the campground's circuit breakers are. If you accidentally exceed 15 amps, the campground's circuit breaker will trip so as not to overload the electrical circuit. If you know ahead of time you can then adjust your total amperage and then reset the campground's circuit breaker for your site.
With a little bit of knowledge and some planning, it is possible to survive on 15 amp service.