Power and water are two elements that make RV camping more comfortable than tent camping. To harness these elements safely and effectively, you need to know how to hook up power and water to your RV. We’ll walk you through it.
The video above provides a quick tutorial on connecting water and electricity to your motorhome. To get the most out of your RV, subscribe to the Camping World YouTube channel to receive notifications for future videos.
Let’s walk through the basic steps to get your RV hooked up to power and water.
What is Shore Power?
Shore power is any power source provided by a campground, RV park, or even an outlet on the side of your friend’s garage. You’ll need to make sure that the power source is compatible with your RV’s internal electrical system.
30 Amp Versus 50 Amp Service
Most RVs require either thirty-amp or fifty-amp electrical service. To check yours, look at the plug on your shore power cord. Thirty-amp plugs have three prongs, and fifty-amp plugs have four.
There may also be a warning label next to your power outlet stating the recommended amperage for your unit. Consult the campground or check the electrical stand to see if they supply thirty or fifty amp service.
RV Power Adapters
RV power adapters also allow you to plug a fifty-amp trailer into a thirty-amp service or vice versa. However, even with an adapter, you won’t get the full amperage that your coach’s power system is built for.
So what does using a power adapter mean? Be careful not to run multiple large appliances at a time, such as two air conditioning units or the microwave and air conditioner at the same time. Otherwise, you’ll run the risk of tripping a breaker. If this happens, be mindful that there may not be a problem with your electric service but that you may just need to be more strategic with your power usage.
How To Hook An RV Up To Shore Power
Once you’ve sorted what kind of shore power connection you need, you’re ready to plug in your RV.
Step 1: Locate Your Power Cord
In some RVs, the power cord is coiled up in the same driver’s side compartment as your holding tank outlets. Others will have it in a separate storage area. Check around your RV or consult your owner’s manual to know where your power cord lives.
Step 2: Check Cord Length
The length of RV power cords varies, so it helps to check yours before parking. Knowing your cord length is important when parking near an outlet to connect to the electrical grid.
Step 3: Park, Level, and Stabilize
Complete the process of parking, leveling, and stabilizing your RV or travel trailer before hooking up to shore power. Ensure your camper is exactly where you want it to be and your cord reaches the outlet before plugging it into all campground utilities.
Here are some additional resources to help you with this step:
Step 4: Turn Off Appliances
Before connecting your RV to a power pedestal, ensure your appliances (especially your A/C unit) are turned off. It’s also good to shut everything down before disconnecting and storing your power cord when you’re ready to head down the road.
Step 5: Use a Surge Protector
Some power cords have an indicator light that turns on when plugged in. This light signals that you’re receiving power, but it doesn’t tell you anything about the quality of your electrical hookup.
That’s why we recommend using a surge protector. This accessory plugs into the electrical stand and then your trailer’s power cord plugs into it. There are many surge protectors out there, but, on a basic level, they all protect your camper’s electrical system from power surges, shorts, high and low voltages, and other potentially dangerous electrical issues.
Step 6: Plug-In Your Power Cord
Most electrical stands at RV parks are equipped with breaker switches that control the flow of electricity to the stand’s outlets. Before you plug your power cord in, make sure the breaker associated with the outlet you’re using is turned off. Once you plug your power cord in, you can flip the breaker back on.
Some power cords are hardwired in, so you’ll simply pull the cord out and plug it in. Others will require you to connect one end to an outlet on your RV and the other to the shore power source.
Step 7: Check Your Systems
To check that you have power, go inside and look at your microwave. If the lights are on, you’re connected. If you’re not getting power, check your trailer’s internal circuit breakers. If you’re still having issues, contact the campground, and they can assist you with power management at the park.
Hooking Up Water To An RV
Now that your RV is powered up, it’s time to ensure you have water for your RV kitchen and bathroom. For starters, it’s essential to understand where you’ll be getting your water: city water or your freshwater tank.
City Water Versus Your Freshwater Tank
City water is a general term for any external water source at a campground. Some campgrounds get water from a well instead of the city, but the concept remains the same–you’re hooking your RV up to an externally pressurized water spigot, regardless of the water’s source.
On most RVs, the city water connection is located on the driver’s side exterior wall. This is a threaded connection that your water hose screws directly into. The connection to fill your freshwater tank, on the other hand, is a non-threaded opening that you set a hose into when refilling your tank.
Here are a few more resources to help you further understand RV water systems:
How To Hook Up Water To An RV
For our purposes today, we’ll be discussing how to hook your RV up to a city water connection.
Step 1: Get The Right Water Hose
To begin, find a hose that is drinking water safe, often referred to as a potable water hose. The hose’s length will tell you how close you need to park to the water source. Most campsite spigots are next to the electric and sewer connections. A 50-foot water hose is an excellent place to start because it’s better to coil up a little extra hose than to come up short.
Step 2: Install a Pressure Regulator
Water pressure regulators reduce water pressure to a safe level for your RV’s internal plumbing. The best place to install one is between your water source and your hose.
Water pressures from city water connections vary dramatically. If you don’t use a pressure regulator the risk of damaged hose fittings or cracked pipes increases. So does the likelihood of having to fix an expensive leak.
Screw the female end of the regulator onto the water spigot, and then attach your hose to the male end.
Step 3: Install an Inline Filter
You can also install an inline water filter to your city water inlet before connecting your hose to filter your drinking water. Inline filters offer a male and a female end to screw right into your water hose and the city water connection. You can even attach your pressure regulator to the male end before connecting it to the water source.
These filters reduce the number of chemicals and contaminants that enter your RV’s plumbing. Because water quality standards vary from region to region, they are the best way to improve your water quality when traveling in an RV.
Under-sink filters and whole RV filtration systems are also great if you want to skip this step when hooking up to city water. Learn more about these filters and other methods for getting clean drinking water in your RV.
Step 4: Install a Connector On Your RV
Now that one end of your hose is fitted with a regulator and filter and connected to your water source, it’s time to connect the other end of your RV. Using a 90-degree connector or a flexible hose fitting here is a good idea.
If you connect your hose directly to your city water inlet, the weight of the hose can damage the inlet over time. This is why many city water inlets start to leak. Installing a 90-degree of flexible fitting takes the pressure off that inlet and maintains a leak-free connection.
Step 5: Set a Fail-Safe in Place
Once you have a pressure regulator, filter, and connector in place, go inside and partially open one of the faucets in your kitchen sink. This will reduce potential issues with excessive water pressure if there’s a malfunction with your pressure regulator.
Step 6: Turn on the Water
Then, turn the city water on and you should find your RV equipped with running water. Check all your faucets for adequate water pressure and make sure water isn’t dripping from the connection points at either end of your water hose outside.
If it is, shut the water off and check the O-rings on your hose and water pressure regulator. They should be present and in good condition to prevent leaks.
Now you’re ready to perform the final step of setting up an RV campsite: hooking up your sewer hose. Learn how to hook up and empty your holding tanks properly at a dump station here. From there, it’s time to kick back and enjoy the camping experience in comfort!
Do you have any questions or tips for hooking up an RV to power and water? Share them with your fellow RVers in the comments below.
If you’re still learning the ins and outs of RV maintenance, check out our downloadable RV ownership and maintenance booklet!