All About RV Hook Ups: What you Need to Know

RV Owners

RV hookups can make or break your camping experience – and no, we’re not talking about “hookups” of the romantic kind. (Though, come to think of it, those would certainly have an effect, too.)

We’re talking about the ways you connect your RV to the amenities available at your campsite, like water, electricity, and cable television. After all, the whole point of RVing is bringing creature comforts along while camping! Even the most scenic vista in the world is improved with freshly brewed coffee, a comfy couch complete with a cozy throw blanket, and, of course, air conditioning.

RV hookups might seem self-explanatory. You just plug your rig into the amenities and you’re done, right?

Well, it’s certainly not rocket science – but there are a few things you should know in order to make your RV hookup experience easier.

Whether it’s your first time RVing and you’re looking to familiarize yourself with the setup before you get to the campground, or you’re an old hat looking forward to a trip in a new make or model of RV, here’s the skinny on RV hookups and what you need to know about them.

RV Camping

Before we dive into the details about full RV hookups, let’s get one very important thing settled upfront: not all campgrounds offer them!

Camping without RV hookups, otherwise known as dispersed camping or boondocking, is one of the best ways to experience the wilder, more untouched areas of the country. This also means working hard to conserve your water. You may also need to run a generator if you want access to electric power.

This brings us back to RV parks that offer hookups. Those hookups provide a source of water, power, and sometimes even cable TV and WiFi so you don’t have to worry about “roughing it” while you’re in your camper.

Main RV Hookups

Which hookups are available will depend on what kind of park you’re staying in. For example, privately owned, resort-style campgrounds usually offer the full array, including water, power, and RV sewer hookups, too. More modest public campgrounds may offer some, but not all amenities. Others may only offer 30 amps of power (as opposed to the 50 amps a large Class A motorhome might draw).

We’ll talk more about how to find great campgrounds with full hookups in a moment – and even save you some money. But for now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty.

Water hookups to travel trailer in campground

What Are RV Hookups?

There are three basic RV hookups that take care of the “essentials.” There are also a few extras that may or may not be offered depending on the poshness of your campground.

Let’s start with the basics.

RV Electric Hookup

If an RV park is going to offer any kind of hookup, it’s likely to be this one: shore power.

When it comes to an RV electric hookup, it is pretty much as simple as plug and play. However, it’s important to power down all your electronics before you do so, just in case the campground’s power source has faulty wiring that might fry your electronics. You can also invest in a polarity tester to ease your mind before you plug in. Finally, you can route your devices through surge protectors just like you would at home.

Another important note: RVs draw different amounts of power, or amps, depending on size and design. Your rig might come with a 30 amp plug (three prongs) or a 50 amp plug (four prongs). You may need to invest in a converter if the site where you’re staying doesn’t offer an exact match. Keep in mind, too, that if you can only draw 30 amps of power, you’ll be able to use fewer electronics at once.

RV Water Hookup

Next on the list: water. With an RV water hookup, you can run your kitchen and bathroom sinks, flush your toilet, and even shower without worrying about using up your fresh water supply. However, when you go to connect your hose, there are a few things you should know.

First, if you’re planning on drinking your tap water, or even brushing your teeth with it, it’s wise to invest in a certified potable water hose, which won’t impart any funky odors or flavors. The good news is, a drinking water hose is easy to spot – it’s always pure white in color!

Other accessories that’ll protect your RV’s plumbing and improve your water quality include a water pressure regulator and a filter system.

RV Sewer Hookup

While some campgrounds offer RV sewer hookups at each site, many opt instead for a centralized dump station. It’s easier for the park to manage and often easier for campers, too. You never want to leave your holding tank valves open, so you’d be dumping your tank about once a week or so. This is about how often most campers pick up and move anyway!

No matter which options your campground offers, just be sure to invest in a high-quality RV sewer hose. That’s one piece of equipment you don’t want to run into any trouble with!

a large Class A motorhome

Hookup Sites

As we discussed above, not all campgrounds have hookups. And campsites with full RV hookups can be expensive, running $75 per night or more, depending on when and where you’re traveling.

That’s why we recommend a Passport America membership, which gets you 50% off your campsite accommodation fees at almost 1900 RV parks across the USA, Mexico, and Canada. Many of those parks offer luxurious amenities and full hookups. At less than $50 for your whole year’s membership, it may pay for itself the very first time you use it.

Can I Plug My RV Into My Dryer Outlet?

Your dryer outlet looks like it takes the same plug as your RV plug. Can you just interchange them and plug both things into the same outlets?

No. You can’t.

The plugs may look the same, but they handle different amounts of voltage. Plugging your RV into your dryer outlet will damage your batteries, could damage the electrical system in your house, and, in the worst case, could start a fire.

However, there are some solutions that will allow you to use your home electricity to charge your RV.

What’s the Difference Between an RV and Dryer Plug?

RV plugs and dryer plugs look very similar, but they have some key differences. Your dryer was designed to run off of household electricity. Power companies provide households with 240 volts at the main electric panel, where the voltage for your appliances is divided into three different circuit feeds. One feed is 240 volts, and powers your electric range in your kitchen, if you have one, and your dryer. One feed is 120 volts and powers lights, wall plugs, toasters, and other small appliances. The final feed is a 120-volt ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) which keeps you safe from malfunctioning electrical devices by shutting off electricity to protect you from shocks.

To keep you from accidentally plugging your dryer or electric range plug into a 120-volt outlet when they need 240 volts to operate, manufacturers make those plugs larger.

For most RVs to charge, they need a 120-volt AC plug with 30 amp service. Because the RV plug is larger, it’s easy to make the mistake of thinking it could be plugged into an electric range or dryer outlet. However, as you can see, the dryer outlet has twice as many volts, which is why plugging it in there would ruin your batteries and possibly your electrical system at home.

Can I plug my 30 amp RV into my house?

You can’t simply plug your 30 amp RV straight into your dryer outlet or other outlets in your house. However, there are special adaptors you can get that will allow you to charge at home. You’ll need a 50- or at the very least a 30-amp hookup since the normal outlets at your home won’t supply enough power. Look for a 30/50 amp hookup, which is an adaptor you plug into your 3-prong wall outlet. You can then plug your RV into an extension cord and into the adaptor to charge your RV.

You’ll also want to keep your extension cord as short as you can – the longer the cord is, the more chance there is of it overheating.

a Class C camper crossing a bridge

Can I hook up a 30 amp RV to a 50 amp?

Although you can’t usually plug your RV straight into your house, one exception is that Class A motorhomes tend to operate on 50 amps. That translates to needing 240 volts of power, and you can plug those RVs into your dryer outlet. It may not work quite as well, because it’s very possible your house panels can’t provide the electrical draw your rig needs.

But what if you have a 30-amp RV? Can you plug that into a home outlet?

With a few adjustments, yes, you can. One, as we discussed above, is to get a 30/50 amp adaptor to plug into your wall. If your building code allows, you can also hire an electrician to install a 30 or 50-amp receptacle near your RV. You can then charge your motorhome just like you would at a campground.

If you choose to use an adaptor as we discussed above, you need to follow these steps to safely install and use it at home:

  • Determine whether your RV is configured for 30 or 50 amps. Check your RV owner’s manual, or look at the male plug – if it has 3 prongs, it’s 30 amps. If it has 4, it runs on 50 amps.
  • Turn off all appliances, lighting, and anything else in your RV that requires electricity
  • Turn off your circuit breakers
  • Attach the 30 or 50-amp adaptor to your home electrical system by plugging it in
  • Plug the extension cord into the adaptor plugged into your home outlet, then plug into the RV power
  • Reset the circuit breaker
  • Try to avoid using appliances in the RV while it is charging.

If you like to return home and charge up for your next trip, the small amount of time and effort you spend to adapt your electrical system to handle charging an RV could be worth it!

a Class A motorhome next to a lake

Installing RV Hookups on Land

You may also want to be able to use your RV on your own land. Maybe you have friends coming to visit and would like to give them their own place to stay. Perhaps you’d like to use your trailer or motorhome as an office. RV owners who have land may want to consider installing RV hookups on that land.

Of course, it does cost to install RV hookups. The investment won’t be a small one, and it’s a good idea to budget for this kind of project.

We will use this article to give you an idea of what kinds of costs to expect, and help you understand how to install your hookups.

Cost to Install RV Hookups on Land

First, let’s talk about money. The cost to install RV hookups on land can vary quite a bit. In the end, the total will depend on 1) how much work you’re able and willing to do on your own, 2) how many amps your RV requires, 3) the type of sewer system you’re working with, and 4) how far from your house you’d like your hookups to be.

  • Cost to Install an RV Water Hookup — $30 if DIY; $700 if not.
  • Cost to Install an RV Electric Hookup — Around $1,200 for a professional install.
  • Cost to Install an RV Sewer Hookup — Free or extremely cheap for use of current sewage disposal system. $2,000–$3,000 for RV-specific septic tank.

So how much does it cost to install RV hookups? The true answer is that the cost can vary wildly! You’ll be looking at an investment of anywhere from $200–$300 for a DIY job. It will be a few thousand dollars for a professional to do the work.

How to Install RV Hookups at Home (Step-by-Step)

Want to save a few bucks on RV hookup installation costs by doing the work yourself? Most of this project is pretty straightforward and can be done by a moderately handy individual with a good bag of tools.

Here is our RV hookup DIY installation guide.

Create a Parking Pad

The first step is to create a parking pad for your RV. The goal is to have a level surface that can support the weight of your RV should the ground become very wet. Gravel and cement both work well.

Your pad should be at least 4 feet wide and long enough to comfortably accommodate your rig and then some. Make sure there are no low-hanging branches or power lines over your pad, and consider the distance to your house and how that will affect your water and electric hookup installation.

Install a Post

Once your pad is in place, a hole should be dug to hold a post securely in place. The hole should be about 8 inches wide and 30 inches deep. Place a 4’x4’ post into the hole and pour concrete around it to hold it in place.

This pole will hold your electric and water hookups, so it should be placed on the driver’s side of the RV.

Put In Your Water Hookup

Putting in a water hookup is a relatively straightforward process. Dig a trench below the frost line from your water source to your post. Then run a high-rated CPVC pipe through the trench, connecting it to the water supply and securing it well.

Wrap the exposed waterline with heat tape to prevent freezing. Then secure the water line to your post using pipe clamps, fill the trench with cement, and cover with dirt. Add your faucet to your water line, and now you have a water hookup!

Note: It’s important to contact utility companies before digging in your yard. This will ensure you avoid gas, water, and power lines, saving you money and possibly your life.

Turn to the Electricity

Next, you’ll need to consider the electric hookup. While this can be done by a knowledgeable individual with experience working with electricity, this isn’t a job for the average layman. We recommend calling an electrician if you don’t already have experience with electrical work.

Whoever installs this hookup will need to be aware of what type of plug your rig uses: 30-amp or 50-amp. The ‘heads’ of these cables have different, specific prong layouts. You’ll want to make sure a compatible one is put in place.

Finish with Sewer

Last but not least, you will need a sewer hookup. In some cases, you may not need to install anything at all. If your home is connected to a public sewer system, you likely have a cleanout in your yard. As long as it’s legal in your area, you can pop the cap off this cleanout and hook your RV up to that. If you’re far away from it, you might need a long hose and a macerator pump to move the sewage along.

If you have a septic tank, the process could be just the same. However, you may find that there isn’t a cleanout to dump into. You may need to install a 4-inch pipe upward and out from the septic tank in order to give yourself something to dump into.

The final option is to add an RV-specific in-ground septic tank. This is expensive and much more difficult. Therefore, we only recommend it as a last resort. If this is what you need to do, you will want a contractor to bury the tank, and you will need someone to pump that tank from time to time.

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