Common Electrical Appliances


Usually, a camper will have two electrical systems. Yep! Two separate electrical systems and some electrical devices can work on both systems. What are we talking about here? 

Shore Power

“Shore power” means the trailer is “plugged-in” to an outside power source like a 110/120, 30-amp, or 50-amp receptacle. A generator can provide this power, but with the caveat that some generators won’t have enough “strength” to power everything (like Air Conditioners and microwaves). 

When you’re connected to shore power or a generator that produces enough output power, everything electrical on your camper should work. This includes 12-volt items like lights and fans. How? Well, the trailer’s converter converts the 120-volt shore power into 12-volt power that both charges the RV’s 12-volt battery system, and that system sends power to all of the 12-volt gadgets.

12-Volt Power

The 12-volt system is specifically referring to the RV’s battery system and all it powers. The list of things the 12-volt system powers includes the lights, fans, some 12-volt televisions, radios, and the water pump. Even your electric tongue jack and electric awning are powered by the 12-volt (battery) system!

NOTE: Many of the propane appliances (water heater and furnace, for example) require a nominal 12-volt power supply in order to self-ignite and to power their control boards. More on propane appliances in a bit…)

Testing the Electrical Stuff… now that you’re hooked up…


  • Lights
  • Fans
  • Tank indicators on the “courtesy panel”
  • 12-volt televisions
  • 12-volt – compressor-driven refrigerators (non-propane models)
  • USB outlets
  • Holding heating pads (heaters to keep your fresh, gray, and black water tanks from freezing)

*If any 12-volt appliances are not working, check the associated fuses.

120-volt (Shore Power)

You must have the trailer plugged into shore power or a generator… with the breakers on, to test these appliances

  • Air Conditioner
  • Microwave
  • 120 capable water heaters 
    • ***NEVER heat up a water heater without water in the water heater
    • To fill the water heater – turn on any hot-water faucet until the water flows normally, without bubbles and “spitting”
    • Then start heating the water heater.
  • 2-way and 3-way refrigerators
  • 120-volt televisions
  • 120-volt or residential-style outlets 
    • If other 120-volt appliances work but the outlets don’t, find the main GFCI outlet and make sure it is “reset”, not “tripped”

*If any 120-volt appliances are not working, check the associated breakers.

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