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Does Shore Power Charge RV Batteries?

Power - by Bryan Veldboom - updated on 6/15/2022

RV coming up a road

There are a number of different ways to charge your RV's deep cycle house batteries. The easiest way is to let your RV's alternator charge the batteries while you drive. If you're going to be parking somewhere for several days though, that's not a great option. If you're staying at a campsite or RV park, you can take advantage of shore power. This handy guide will help walk you through everything you need to know about RV shore power.

How Does Shore Power Work?

"Shore power" is a casual term used to describe an external power source like those found in many campsites and RV parks. Shore power is an AC (alternating current) power source, while the batteries in your RV's battery bank run on DC (direct current) power. Without getting too technical, the difference between the two lies in how current flows within each electricity standard. DC power flows consistently in one direction, while AC power is characterized by sudden periodic changes in direction.

When you plug your RV into shore power, it will provide power for any AC electrical devices onboard. The AC power will also run through a power inverter which turns it from AC power into the DC power used to charge the batteries in your battery bank.

How Many Amps is a Standard RV Hookup?

RVs connect to shore power using either a 30 amp or 50 amp electrical system. You can tell which type you have by looking at the plug on your RV's power cord. A 30 amp system will have a three pronged plug and is capable of receiving 3,600 watts of power. A 50 amp plug features four prongs and can provide a maximum of 12,000 watts.

So, what do you do if you have a 30 amp RV and a 50 amp shore power outlet? In that case, you can use an adapter, which will allow you to plug into the shore power outlet while limiting the power you receive to the 3,600 watts that your electrical system is designed for. You can also use an adapter to plug a 50 amp RV into a 30 amp system, however, you'll only receive the 3,600 watts that the shore power can provide.

Is It Safe to Plug Your RV into Shore Power?

Before plugging in your RV, it's important that you test the shore power outlets first. If an outlet is wired incorrectly, it could cause damage to your appliances or electrical system. An outlet tester is a simple, inexpensive way to ensure that an outlet is safe. Just plug it in and one of several lights will illuminate, indicating whether the outlet is safe or not to use.

Should I Disconnect My RV Battery When Plugged Into Shore Power?

There's no reason to disconnect your batteries when connecting to shore power. The only thing disconnecting them will do is prevent them from charging up, which is the opposite of what you want.

If you're placing your RV into storage or not using it for a longer period of time, that's when you want to disconnect the batteries. When an RV sits idle, the electronics will continue to drain small amounts of power from your battery. This can lead to sulfation if the battery remains discharged for too long.

Batteries Plus is Your RV Battery Headquarters

Are your batteries having a hard time holding a charge? Bring them to your nearest Batteries Plus and have them tested for free. If you need to replace them, we have plenty of starting, deep cycle and dual purpose RV batteries both online and in store. We also carry additional RV accessories like chargers, generators, headlights and windshield wiper blades.

Learn more about RV batteries in our RV Battery Buying Guide. Or, check out our online blog. Some of our most popular RV topics include "Starting, Deep Cycle & Dual Purpose: Breaking Down Your RV Battery Options" and "What Does 100Ah Mean on a Battery?"

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