Are RV Outlets the Same as House Outlets?

rv outlets same as house lg

Most RVs have what looks like regular household outlets all over the RV. But how do they work, and are RV outlets the same as house outlets?

Here’s what I know from being an RVer:

As a general rule, RV outlets and house outlets function the same and allow the same type of devices to be connected to them. But outlets operate on a 120v AC system, and RV batteries are a 12v DC system. Therefore, it is necessary to either use an inverter, generator, or shore power to power the outlets.

But technically, they differ in terms of how they’re attached to the walls.

In a house, the electrical outlet’s box is screwed into a stud. But RVs have no studs. As such, a plastic clamp is employed to vice the electrical outlet against the plywood.

But, there’s a lot more to know.

In this article, we’ll explore whether RV outlets run off of batteries and whether RV GFCI outlets are the same as the ones we find in a house? But we’ll also look at why an RV could keep tripping GFCI electric circuits.

Let’s dive right in.

Do RV outlets run off of the battery?

RV outlets do not run solely off of the battery. Outlets operate off 120-AC volt power, while batteries put out 12-volt DC power. If the battery is the only option, an inverter is needed to convert the power to be able to run the outlets. But they can also run off of a generator or shore power.

And if you’re at a campground and connected to the campground’s electricity, they will work just fine that way. The same is true if you have your generator on.

There are two distinct electrical systems that ensure that the right kind of power is available for different facets of the RV.

Overhead lights and USB charging points can work off of battery power, but the outlets won’t get powered until an alternate power source is connected.

The 12-volt DC (direct current) system is powered by two or more batteries (depending on the RV).

It’s automatically charged when you’re connected to shore power at the campground. For motorhomes, one set of batteries starts the engine. And with the engine on, anything on the dash usually turns on.

The second set of batteries usually powers the water pump and the refrigerator (which often also gets power from the propane tank).

The other devices and appliances you own would be powered by 110-volt or 120-volt AC power. So something else is needed to get them to turn on.

So if there’s no shore power, generator, or inverter, the outlets won’t work!

To have a better understanding of RV battery systems, check out a recent article of mine. In it, I looked at whether an RV generator is required to charge the chassis battery and if plugging in your RV charges the battery. But I also explained how you charge the RV house batteries.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Are RV GFCI outlets the same as home?

RV GFCI outlets are the same as those found in a home. They perform the same function of tripping a small breaker built into the outlet in the event the circuit gets tripped, often due to being splashed with water.

GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) is designed to ensure that the amount of current going out in the circuit and the amount of current coming back in is the same.

If there is a difference, then the current is taking another path (a ground fault), and someone’s body could be the source of this leakage (read: electrocution).

So, whether they’re in our homes or in an RV, they serve the same purpose.

But the residential GFCI outlets may be larger and of better quality. The ones in an RV (depending on the model) may be smaller as space is a serious issue in an RV.

Why does my RV keep tripping GFCI electrical outlets?

One of the most common causes of a tripped GFCI is water that has splashed into the outlet. But many times, 1 GFCI outlet will be connected to multiple outlets. So, the issue may be with a nearby outlet and not the one with the GFCI button.

So, unplug everything from the GFCI outlet and the nearby outlets if they too are not working.

Look for signs of water in the outlet. If you see that, while you can wipe it dry on the outside, you will have to allow time for the water to dry inside the holes in the outlet.

If you don’t see any water, the issue could be in something that had been plugged in.

In this case, press the breaker back on when nothing is connected. Assuming the button stays in, then try plugging in the devices that had been plugged in. Do this one by one until the breaker trips.

Then you will know which device is faulty and may need to be replaced or allowed to dry if wet.

GFCI outlets are designed to be used close to sinks. This is why they’re usually found in kitchens and bathrooms, and outlets outside the RV. They come with built-in circuit breakers and are highly sensitive to a bad ground and reverse polarity in electric systems.

If you’re positive it’s not that water splashed into the outlet, then it most probably tripped because of bad wiring, or the outlet could be defective. If you’ve tried to reset it and it’s not working, you may have a defective outlet on your hand.

Have it replaced by a qualified technician.

They would be able to know if other things need to be done. But if you’re hip to electrical systems, don’t forget to take the needed precautions such as cutting the power.

How do you reset a GFCI outlet in a camper?

To reset a GFCI outlet in a camper, simply press the “reset” button on the outlet. It’s the button at the center of the outlet. But to have it working, there must be power running to your RV. So ensure the RV is connected to shore power, the generator is on, or the inverter is on.

But not all GFCI outlets have the “reset” button.

As I mentioned above, many times, a GFCI outlet is connected to a few nearby outlets. And not all of them will have that reset button.

In that case, these outlets simply have a sticker showing: “GFCI”. They are connected to the main GFCI outlet, and it’s usually located in the bathroom. It controls all the other GFCI outlets.

This leads us to the question of why the outlets in your RV may not be working.

I offered a troubleshooting guide in a recent article. I revealed the most common causes and spoke to whether RV outlets work on battery power. But I also showed how to fix an RV outlet.

Just click that link to read the guide on my site.

Are RV outlets 12V?

RV outlets are not 12V. They are 120-AC volt, just like household outlets. As such, they require either shore power, generator power, or an inverter in conjunction with the house batteries to operate.

RVs are powered by both alternating current and direct current.

The 12-DC volts run the electrical parts of the engine and the battery of the automotive part, while the power outlets and the usual appliances one finds in an RV are powered by 120-AC volt.

At most campgrounds, 50 amp/120-volt power is provided, and this is adequate for everything in the RV.

This is required if you want to use the AC, microwave, or refrigerator in electrical mode and the 120-volt electrical outlets. Every other thing on your RV, for the most part, can work off of 12V.

When you’re driving, do the outlets work?

This is what I explored in a recent article of mine where I revealed whether you have to put the generator on while driving to power the outlets. I also shared the steps to take if the outlets are in your RV aren’t working.

And I even spoke to whether it’s safe to use electrical outlets in a moving RV.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

RV Outlets Not Working: Troubleshooting Tips & Precautions


In this article, we learned about some of the similarities and the differences between RV electrical systems and the electrical systems we use at home.

We explored whether RV outlets run off of batteries and whether RV GFCI outlets are the same as the ones we find in a house?

But we also looked at why an RV could keep tripping GFCI electric circuits. Then, we checked out how to rest a GFCI outlet in a camper. Lastly, we looked at whether RV outlets are 12V.

Photo which requires attribution:

Crispy Outlet by Ken Bauer is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped, edited, and had a text overlay added.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell travels on and off with his 3 daughters in a Newmar Baystar Class A Motorhome. He writes extensively on both RVs, campgrounds, parenting on the road tips, remote learning & schooling, and much more!

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