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How to manage your RV Power Load on a 30 Amp Service box - All it took was a visit by our Grandkids.

Updated on March 18, 2016
Don Bobbitt profile image

Don has been an avid traveler and motorhome owner for most of his life and he shares his knowledge of motorhomes and other RVs.

A couple can Camp comfortably in the Heat

Here you are, sitting in a nice campground, that you an I have enjoyed often in the past.

You are all set up, and connected to the Power, Water and Sewer hookups, and settled down to relax and enjoy yourself.

Just the two of you.

You have used this Campground often in past. You camped here often in both the Spring and the Fall, and you had no problems.

There had never been any problems with; the Appliances, the AC, the Heat, the Fridge, nothing at all!

But, this time it was the middle of a very Hot Summer, and the daily temperature was in the upper 90's, with a Heat Index of 105F, and there was no change projected for the near future.

So, we were already being judicious with your power usage. We kept a close eye on our Power Control Panel meter (if you have one), and everything was still manageable.

Our food was nice and Cold in the Fridge, and the AC was keeping the Coach. oh so comfortable, even in the heat of the day!

Life was Good!

Then, we make one simple, selfish decision, and our whole world of camping was turned upside down.

Cool Iced Tea on a Hot day

A refreshing Glass of Iced Tea can Cool one down on a Hot Day!
A refreshing Glass of Iced Tea can Cool one down on a Hot Day! | Source

Visiting Grandchildren are Power Hogs

Normally, my Wife and I spend a lot of time in our RV, just the two of us, and we have developed our own routines, not only of life, but of how and when we do certain things in our RV.

It's an automatic process to us now, and things usually run well for us, regardless of the electric service we have at our campsite, regardless of whether it is a 50-Amp, or 30-Amp service at our campsite..

Admittedly, at times, having an older 30-Amp campsite service requires some serious rationing of power, but we are only hooked up to such low power services when we are visiting friends or relatives, so we endure, so to speak.

Well, this day we did a simple unknowing thing.

We were camped a few miles from our two daughters, and we invited our 13-year-old grandson, and a friend of his, to stay with us in our RV, for a few days.

Of course, my Daughter jumped at the opportunity, (for some peace and quiet I suspect) and we picke upd the boys and their gear the next day and brought them back to the campground.

As we drove through the campground, to our site, the boys started with the Wows. You know;

Wow, look at that Pool,

Wow, look at that lake,

Wow, look, miniature golf,

Wow, Wow, Wow!

Well, by now we were smiling from ear-to-ear as we unloaded them, and put their gear away. They quickly disappeared on their bikes, for a couple of hours, just checking out the campground, they said.

My wife and I settled back, in our lounge chairs, enjoying the shade at our campsite; patting ourselves on our backs as we commented on how well this was going to work out.

As it turned out, that was probably the last quiet, and uncomplicated hours we had, for the next five days.

Learning Curve - Teenagers

The boys eventually returned to our camper and immediately ran into the RV, for some kind of snack.

They marched in, opened the Fridge door and stared.

After at least five minutes of conversation on what to drink, they selected a couple of soft drinks and walked over to our dinette, kicked off their dirty shoes and sat back sucking down those drinks.

I looked and the RV door was still partially open and the Fridge didn't close itself so it was open also.

I closed the Fridge door, and then walked over to the RV door to close it. After I closed the RV door, I turned and .....they were standing in front of the Fridge again, with the door open.

They were just staring at it's contents, like a pair of starving Wolves looking at young Sheep, deciding on what to attack first.

I realized that they needed a little training, so I, asked them to shut the Fridge door and sit down for a minute.

They, in turn looked at me and then back at the food in the Fridge, not really wanting to move until they were fed.

My wife stepped in at this point and offered to fix them some lunch, while i talked, and they reluctantly sat down at the table with me.

I went through a quick explanation of;

1-how our Camper power was limited,

2-how much current each of the appliances and the AC consumed, and

3-the importance of keeping the RV door closed, and

4-keep the Fridge door closed.

By this time, their grandmother had laid out sandwiches and chips for the boys to eat and their young heads bobbed up and down, as they promised to follow my directions.

I walked away, foolishly confident that all was going to be OK.

We had raised three kids through their Teen years, and time had dulled our memories of just how unfocused a 13-year old is, as well as how disorganized, messy, and self-centered they are.

Then the Games Began!

We watched them as it seemed that the boys considered it their job to be human tornadoes of useless motion and activity.

At the same time, it was obviously ours to close doors, serve food, pick up clothes, clean up their mess, and generally just be their dullard servants.

I tried! Honestly, I did,

I repeatedly explained how much we needed them to follow our directions, as the RV got hotter, the food in the fridge got hotter, and the main circuit breaker started kicking out.

It was all to no avail.

They were like those bobble-head dolls, they kept avidly nodding affirmatively that they understood and would do better, while continuing to "forget" by the minute.

To survive this new set of circumstances, the wife and I started a new plan of power management to at least keep that darned circuit breaker from being kicked OFF.

We changed our camping routine and how we did a number of things to even out our Power usage during the peak usage parts of the day. This new routine would allow the major appliances to continue to operate efficiently throughout the day.

Here are some of the things we came up with, and I thought that you could profit from some of our Power Conservation methods.

Power Saving Tips for campers with Kids

These Power saving tips can really help you in reducing power consumption in your RV;

Pick the right Campsite-

This can really make a big difference in energy consumption for an RV, in both winter and summer conditions. In the winter, pick a site where you are protected from the blowing wind and stay away from open fields and high elevations without something to block the winds.

And, in the Summer, look for a site with shade and a breeze to reduce the direct heat from the sun, and the stagnant heat that will build up around an RV sitting where there is no wind.

Avoid Peak Usage-

Peak power usage time in an RV are at mealtime, and during the heat of the day in the summer. During these time periods;

  • Turn off any unused accessories and appliances during the daylight hours.
  • Turn off your Hot Water Heater during the day.
  • Wash dishes only once a day, usually late at night.
  • Use cheap paper plates and washable reusable plastic utensils for eating your meals outside, while camping.
  • Do smart things like precooking parts of your meals during the cool of the morning, for eating later in the day.
  • Cook larger dishes, and serve for more than one meal. Breakfast Bacon and Sausage an franks, are particularly good examples of this.
  • Plan your meals so that you get everything that you will need from the Fridge at one time, rather than have the Fridge running all of the time from constantly opening doors.
  • Keep the RV doors closed. When you open an RV door, that nice cool air rushes out and hot air rushes in. And the AC unit must run much more often. I found that, if there are kids outside, tell them that they must knock and ask permission to enter the RV. When they knock, ask them what they want. Half the time it is just a silly question that you can answer through the door, without opening it.

Even more Power saving Tips

Set your RV AC Unit to a temperature only 3-4 degrees blow the actual inside temperature and allow the AC to reach that temperature before you drop the control for another 3-4 degrees. Really, if it is 88 outside, set it for 85.

Otherwise, if you set it as something like 70, at an 88-degree outside temperature, it will never cycle the compressor off, and it will run, with the compressor on, all of the time.

If it works well enough and cycles at 85, drop the temp a couple of more degrees. Just make sure it is set where it will cycle ON and OFF regularly.

If you are able to run two AC units, set them for different temperatures by at least one degree. At all costs, try to avoid having both units run and their compressors cycle at the same time.

Remember that each unit can draw 15 to 18 amps during the peak current draw of each cycling compressor. You must avoid this, or you could end up with a breaker thrown at your campsite.

Schedule Outside Time-

Do your shopping, sightseeing, read a book, go to the pool, go to the campground activity center, and other outside activities, during the heat of the day to get out of the RV and reduce the AC load.

Outside TV-

We have an outside TV, and we have found it not only entertaining for us in the evenings, but a great form of entertainment for kids when they get bored in the afternoon.

Even if you don't have a built in outside TV for your RV, and you have kids, pick up a small portable TV, either new or used at a yard sale, Then set it up outside the RV, to entertain the kids. This will help keep them outside more often.

Trust me the current drawn by an Outside TV, is a lot less than that drawn by a constantly cycling AC unit.

Outside Cooler-

As always in an RV, storage space is always at a premium, so many do not have cooler.

I recommend that you keep one, even if only a small one, outside, filled with ice, a water jug, and for the adults, sodas and beer.

This will cut down on the trips inside when people get thirsty.

Insulated Cups, Mugs and Coozies-

OK, this is common sense, but do not use those thin glasses and plastic cups when camping in hot weather.

Put a little more money into them, and get a nice assortment of Can Cozies, and insulated glasses, cups, and Mugs. They will keep your beverages cool longer, and cut down on your ice purchases.

And, for you wine drinkers, yes a nice long-stem wineglass is cute, but, you are camping. Get over yourself, and pour your wine into a nice insulated Mug, and drink it.

It will keep cool longer, taste better, and you will refill it less often.

Bathe Smart-

Bathe at the campground bathhouse, when possible, and when you have to bathe in the RV, do it at night and before bed, and remember, use a minimal amount of Hot Water.

Use CG Laundromat-

Many RV's now have a Washer/Dryer, but you should use the campground Laundromat, when available, to do your laundry. That Washer/Dryer, in your RV draws a lot of current when it is in use, and it also generates a lot of heat in your Camper.

Use Your Grill-

Whenever possible, do all dinner preparation work, and cooking on your Grill.

There are many great recipes that you can use to provide hearty and healthy meals for everyone, prepared either before-hand or on the Grill.

Plus it is a great time for social action between family and friends.

Get everyone involved when cooking on your Grill. Plan well, and take everything you need outside at one time and recruit others to help with things like, setting the table, slicing vegetables, keeping flies away, bagging trash, etc.

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Simple Math can save the day

It is a simple mathematical problem.

If your site has a 30-AMP breaker, trust me, it will kick when the load gets to 30-Amps. It will not kick out at 25-Amps, or 35-Amps. It will kick out at, as advertised, 30Amps.

You cannot use more than this level of Current at any one time with your RV.

You must manage the current load yourself, the campground is not going to sympathize with you if the breaker keeps kicking out. They will just tell you to turn something off, Dummy!

If you turn a typical RV's AC on, it will draw 4-7 amps when running without the compressor. When the compressor turns on, the current draw will surge to as much as 13-16 Amps momentarily, and then level out at, around, a total current draw of 4-7 Amps again, while cooling.

This leaves you with anywhere between 12 and 24 Amps for other appliances and accessories to utilize.

It is actually up to you to manage the overall daily usage of current, to avoid an overload condition during peak periods of the day. Hopefully, some of these tips will help get you there, in the heat, and have a more enjoyable camping experience.

Good Luck!

Heating and Cooling Options for your RV

© 2010 Don Bobbitt


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    • Don Bobbitt profile image

      Don Bobbitt 2 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      ben-jamin"o"- Don't call yourself an OLD GRUMP! I prefer to call myself a "Seasoned Fount of Knowledge". It just sounds better.

      As to the Kids, I found that MY IQ dropped when they hit their Teens. And I was considered pretty stupid for the next 15-years or so.

      I think it's a little known truth?

      Thanks for the comment,


    • profile image

      ben-jamin"o" 2 years ago

      MY GREAT NEW FRIEND.... (since I read this article)

      This one describes kids to a "T". And I thought I was the only RV'ING OLD GRUMP. Our fridge door had been left open so much, I actually held a training session on "how to open and close fridge and exit door. MAN" !!!! I even had to go behind and close lid on cooler. Thanks for the great info in you videos. Really don't want to upset anyone. Don't have the problem anymore. Kids grown, but they say Paw-Paw taught them well.

    • myjesus49 profile image

      myjesus49 4 years ago

      Thank you so much, these are really great tips! God Bless You!

    • profile image

      shelby 7 years ago

      Don - as you know, I don't camp, don't own a RV, but all of this makes damn good sense to me, and the part about the TEENAGERS - you couldn't have described them better or told is funnier. They sound just as we were at that age, with or without AC considerations, with or without grandparents to give us such a great opportunity for summer fun and memories - just two young boys well loved and protected . . . off to see the wizard!

      Good job!