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RV Safety: How to Connect to Shore Power

regular inspection and maintenance travel trailers
November 29, 2019

Shore Power Components & Operation

This article will discuss some of the different components and how they operate inside your camper, as well as safe and potentially dangerous power connections. Your Oliver Travel Trailer is designed with a 30-amp shore power connection on the street side of the unit, and some campers may also have an optional convenience 30-amp power connection on the front LP housing. These connections can be used with campground pole connections and a generator.

Your camper has a built-in transfer switch to determine where the power is coming from. It will automatically switch between the two power inlets to supply power to your main power panel through the surge protector.

Shore Power Components & Operation

Connecting to a Power Supply

When you hook up a shore power connection, whether from a campground pole or a generator, it is important to make sure that the power is good. The power cord that Oliver supplies with every camper has a built-in LED at the power pole end that will light up when power is present but does not indicate whether the power you are connecting to is safe.

Rest assured, all new Oliver campers are equipped with a built-in surge protector. This protector acts as a gatekeeper, ensuring that only safe power is allowed into the main converter box. It’s like having a security guard for your camper’s components. However, it’s important to note that the power cord itself and the power inlet are still vulnerable to damage from a bad power supply or improper connection.

Remember, it’s your responsibility to connect to the side of the camper before plugging into the power source. Always ensure that you twist the connector to set it properly, and use the twist lock collar. Neglecting these steps could lead to heat build-up at the power inlet, potentially melting the power cord plug end and the power inlet itself.

Once you have correctly connected to the power inlet on the side of the camper, ensure that the breaker for the pole (shore power) is turned off before connecting the plug end of the power cord. Flip the breaker to the on position once the power cord is plugged into the power source.

Using Extension Cords & Adapters

In some instances, you may be unable to reach the power supply without connecting an extension cord and/or an adapter to a lower-amperage receptacle. You need to know a few things about using these options and what might occur if they are not used properly.

First, let’s take a look at extension cords. Not all extension cords are built for the same purpose. When using an extension cord, Oliver recommends you purchase an RV-rated 30-amp power cord extension. RV 30-amp power cords are 10/3 cords rated to carry the 30 amps your camper requires to fully operate. This does consider that you are still connecting to a 30-amp receptacle. Still, if your only option is to connect to a standard 15 or 20-amp receptacle like those at most residences, you might consider using a lower gauge extension cord with an adapter.

Please remember that we do not recommend using an extension cord rating lower than 10/3 that matches your main power cord. If you do choose to use a lower-gauge extension cord, you should first understand its rating. Extension cords come in many different sizes and lengths. The longer the cord, the more voltage drop will occur, and when this happens, some components may not operate properly or at all.

It would help to use an extension cord rated at least the same breaker size as the receptacle you are plugging into. If the receptacle you are plugging into has a 15-amp breaker, then you would want an extension cord that meets that rating. Failure of the cord to meet the rating can cause heat build-up, and the wires inside the cord may melt before the breaker trips the receptacle.

Heavy-Duty Extension Cords Chart

Length of Cord Gauge of Wire
25 feet 14 AWG
50 feet 12 AWG
100 feet 10 AWG

*When using an extension cord outside these specs on a 15-amp rated receptacle, a certain amount of power will be lost between the receptacle and the trailer. 

Losing this power may cause components to malfunction or become inoperative.

*You should always use an extension cord with a ground. Some older cords and receptacles may need a ground. You should check or be aware of the power you are plugging into to ensure that it is properly wired, grounded, and installed with the proper breaker size prior to connecting your Oliver camper.

NOTE: Oliver recommends using the appropriate 30-amp 10/3 RV extension cord. The above chart is for reference if you use a different extension cord.

30-Amp to 15-Amp Adapter

Oliver does not support using an adapter from the 30-amp camper power to the 15-amp receptacle. These adapters are widely available and used in the RV industry; however, you should be aware of limitations and potential dangers when using an adapter. When connecting to a 15-amp receptacle, you should always know the size of the breaker in the circuit.

The size of the breaker lets you know how much power is available and how much power is safely protected. Breakers can provide up to 80% of their rating. A 15-amp breaker can provide up to 12 amps of continuous power for 3-4 hours. Not all breakers are equal. There are different types of Trip Curves, which simply mean when or how quickly a breaker will trip to protect the wire.

Most breakers have a 3x – 5x in-rush rating, meaning they can handle more than its rating for a second or two, but only if the load quickly drops back within working parameters. In layman’s terms, you cannot fully operate a 30-amp camper on a 15-amp power source. You should ensure that the breaker for the receptacle is sized correctly before plugging in your camper.

30-Amp to 50-Amp Adapter

Oliver does not recommend using an adapter to step down from a 50a connection to the 30a power cord provided with your camper. Your Oliver Travel Trailer has been designed to work with a 30-amp power supply. Connecting to a higher-rated power connection could damage wiring and/or components inside your camper trailer.

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