How Does Electricity Work in a Pop up Camper? [Explained]

You just bought a new pop-up camper, or maybe you are planning to buy a new one. Or perhaps sometimes you’re facing some electrical problems. And you don’t have any idea what you’re dealing with, and you just want to know the basics.

So, you might find yourself asking, how does electricity work in a pop up camper?

There are three electrical systems in the camper. Besides AC and DC systems, the power consumption level of the trailers, power sources, maintenance and troubleshooting, and other kinds of stuff to know about.

Don’t worry! We got your answer right here! Stay with us to know more about how electricity works in a pop-up camper.

Camper Electricity Basics: Overview

Whichever camper you bought from the market, they all come with three electric systems. To understand how the electricity works in a trailer, we need to discuss these first.

Those three systems are;

  1. AC Camper Electrical System (120/240 Volt).
  2. DC Automotive Electrical System (12 Volt).
  3. DC Camper system (12 Volt).

All of these systems work simultaneously to work through the camper electric system. Let’s learn them one by one.

AC Camper Electrical System

Although this is the last electric system, on the whole, it is the most important one. Not because it is connected to all the appliances and everything, but it mostly covers everything inside your camper.

The Air conditioner, Television, microwave, water heater, washer, dryer, everything is covered by this 120-volt alternative electric system. When you plug your camper into a grid, the power comes through the twenty, thirty, or fifty amp cords. 

To summarise, this 120-volt electricity system is similar to your home’s and works precisely the same.

DC Automotive Electrical System

The DC automotive system comes with a 12-volt, primarily connecting the lighting outside your camper.

The wiring of this system varies from camper to camper. For example, in the small trailers, you will find only four wirings, whereas in medium to semi-large camper’s, that changes into having up to seven.

Besides, this unit is responsible for supplying power to the braking system of your RV. Basically, that made this system one of the most important among these three.

DC Camper System

The DC camper system is the battery power. When you plug your camper into a grid, the battery gets charged. That same thing happens when the system is connected to the solar or wind system, from where the battery gets power.

The DC system runs the small yet essential regular appliances. Those include lighting on the exterior and interior, a water pump, a blower, and others.

Now, let’s get into detail about how they work simultaneously.

How Does Electricity Work In A Pop Up Camper? [Everything You Need To Know]

Source: outdoorsy

Here we will discuss all the crucial parts that run the whole electric system of a pop-up camper. Those topics include;

  • AC and DC system inside the electric system of a trailer.
  • Power a camper needs.
  • Power sources for a camper.
  • Maintenance and troubleshooting.
  • Cautions while maintaining an electric system inside a camper.

Let’s dive in and learn them in detail one by one.

What Are Ac And Dc In The Rv System?

One of the essential things in the whole electric system is the power source. As the entire camper is running on the power sources, it is crucial to understand all the ins and outs f it.

Here we will discuss all the power sources in the camper and how it works.

Of course, two systems power up the RV system: AC (Alternating Current) and DC (Direct Current).

You’re already familiar with these two. Alternating currents are used in your home; on the other hand, the direct current is in your general vehicle, such as cars, trucks, etc.

Direct current is provided from the battery installed in your camper. But when you charge or connect your trailer with any external power source, that’s an alternate current or power system.

Now, you might ask, why are we discussing these two systems?

We discussed that to understand which components or appliances run in which system. 

Big appliances such as microwaves and air conditioning need more energy than most. So, they run on alternating power sources. On the other hand, general items such as TV, lights, fan, and pump run in a direct system.

Now the question is, how do they work combined?

In a camper, both systems work simultaneously through a converter and an inverter. When your trailer is connected through the AC system, all the appliances are run through that. 

But simultaneously, they power up the battery in your camper. So that you can use that power for later use. An inverter helps in the process of storing the AC power to DC. 

To sum up, the whole thing, when you’re connected to an AC power system, everything runs through that. It also stores the power of your battery. 

And later, using that battery power, you can run the general appliances when you’re not connected to an AC system. So, You can travel or go for a week without any concerns. That’s it! 

How Much Electricity Does A Pop-Up Camper Use?

The answer to this question entirely depends on the size of your camper and what appliances you’re using. Besides, big machines, such as air conditioners, significantly impact power consumption.

Let’s see which appliances consume how much power so that we will have an idea about that;

A fan uses the lowest amount, which is forty watts. That follows, the tv, refrigerator, satellite, and DVD players consume 200 watts, 180 watts, 250 watts, and 250 watts, respectively.

As for the heavy or big appliances, such as coffee makers, microwaves, heaters, electric grills, and air conditioners (Depending on the size), they use 600 watts, 1000 watts, 1300 watts, 1700 watts, 1300-2000 watts, respectively.

And the main difference is the air conditioner. When using a big AC, the consumption rate typically increases.

So, to sum up, the overall average use in a day this consumption rate is around 2500 to 3500 watts.

Now, you might question where all the powers come from. Let’s learn about that now.

Power Sources For The Camper

The power comes from the generator or solar panels when you’re dry camping. On the other hand, when solar panels or generators are not connected, the camper gathers power from shore power. Besides, there are batteries.

Let’s discuss them one by one.


When you’re not connected to shore power, they don’t supply exactly and are as efficient as the shore power, but this is the best option.

A generator is your go-to power supply system; when you have a small or semi-medium camper, a thousand watts of generator is likely enough for your trailer to provide enough power. 

But, if you have a medium to big camper, you might need 3500 to 4500 watts of a generator to run the whole trailer and all the appliances smoothly.

However, you must be careful not to overdraw or overload your camper. There is a possibility that your appliances could damage because of that. Also, don’t use them during the night or when you’re not awake, and not indoors if they are equipped that way.

Some campers have built-in generators, which are not noisy and don’t pollute the air with carbon monoxide.

Solar Panels

As the world is going towards green or renewable energy sources, this is one of the essential power supply systems.

Through these, you can store power and then use it later. It is part of the direct current supply system. And as you can recharge repeatedly, it is perfect for long-term use and a power supply system.

But, it also comes with some cons. The batteries can’t store enough power to run the camper for a week or more. It doesn’t provide enough power to run everything, let alone the air conditioner. 

So, you can’t run big appliances, but for the time being, you can run the small or regular appliances when you’re on the road.

Shore Power

Now, shore power is the most common and most used power source out there. You can just plug in your thirty or fifty amp adapter to the electric grid and even someone’s home. And of course, you need to be careful about that.

You might damage the system by trying to draw more power than it can provide. So, you need to be careful about that too.

In any camper or RV park, you will find circuit breakers. You can plug it in with an electric grid and turn it on. But remember to turn it off when you disconnect the line. 

Camper Battery

Your camper already comes with batteries. Later, you can add more batteries to the existing ones. Automatically, batteries are charged when the trailer is connected with external power sources, such as shore power, solar, or generators.

But as the battery is limited, so you can’t run everything using this source. Maybe the lights, fan, and any appliances that don’t require that much energy.

Essential Pop-Up Camper Maintenance And Troubleshooting

We already discussed the other maintenance and troubleshooting in our other guidelines. Here we will just give you a gist of what you should do and look for regularly. Here is the list;

  • Weekly or monthly, check the batteries and other connections to all the systems. And of course, before you go onto a trip or somewhere, get a quick look at the wirings and connections.
  • Look for damaged, fried, or any kind of sign that is usual and fix them.
  • In the case of lead-acid batteries, before you depart for the adventure, you must check the electrolyte and add water levels.
  • Check if the circuit is ok or not. Look for tripped or fired fuse and similar kinds of stuff.

You should look for these basic things in a camper electric system. If these are ok, you’re good to go!

Basic Cautions You Should Maintain

If you find any faulty connection or anything similar in your electric system and you’re capable of fixing them by yourself, here are the things you should keep in mind;

  • Always turn off the power sources before doing any electrical work.
  • Use tools with non-conducting handles. That way, you won’t get electrocuted even without any connection.
  • If there is any problem that you think you can’t fix, get professional help. Just in case, to be on the safe side. 

That’s all! 


How Does A Pop Up Camper Get Power?

A pop-up camper gets power in three ways. One is by plugging the camper into the grid. And the second is by the battery, which is stored during the solar and plugged into a grid. And last but not least, the third one is the solar or wind source.

How Long Will Battery Last On Pop-Up Camper?

That entirely depends on the appliances you use, how long you use them, your battery capacity, and how much energy those appliances consume. With the existing battery installed in your camper, the pop-up camper can last a day or two without running the heavy instruments.

How Does A Pop Up Camper Battery Charge?

When you plug the camper into a grid, the battery gets charged. Another way is when the solar or wind supply system is connected, and they continuously charge the battery.

Does My Travel Trailer Battery Charge When Plug In?

Yes, your travel trailer battery charge when plugged in. The DC system activates when you go into an RV park and plug your camper into a grid. This results in charging your battery in your trailer. 

Final Words

We tried to provide enough information to get an overall idea about the camper’s electric system. We hope this answers your question.

Every camper comes with three electric systems; with that, there are power sources, AC and DC, and other stuff. You will learn more about these in our other guides.

Until then, happy camping!

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