How Does an RV Electrical Converter Work?The RV Electrical Converter is an essential part of the RV electrical system. RV converters, like any converter, converters Alternating Current (AC) power into Direct Current (DC) power. A Converter should not be confused with an Inverter, which converts DC power to AC power for boondocking.

Basic Electrical Terminology

Before getting into how an RV converter works. We need to understand 4 simple terms associated with electricity as well as 2 basic formulas.

  • Ampere (amps or I): is the constant current, if maintained in two straight parallel conductors of length, and placed apart would produce an attractive or repulsive force. Amps are the measurement of electrical current.
  • Ohms (R): is the resistance on the electrical current. Ohms is the electrical resistance between the two parallel conductors.
  • Voltage (volts or V): there are multiple definitions for volts. We will focus on the standard definition of the amount of work needed to move a test unit between two points. This is also known as the electrical potential or electrical voltage that is measured in volts.
  • Wattage (watts or P): is the power created by the volts multiplied by the amps.

Think of it water running through the pipes of a plumping system. The water pressure is like volts, water flow is like amps, while the size of the pipe creates resistance or ohms.

These terms will especially come in handy when looking to add a generator or solar power to the RV.

Understanding what is known as Ohm’s Law will help when working with electrical systems. Ohm’s Laws states that current (amps) is equal to the voltage divided by the resistance (R) or I = V/R. This formula can be worked in a number of ways as long as 2 of the 3 are known.

You will also need to understand how to calculate the amps needed. That formula will be I = P/V.

AC Power IN

How Does an RV Electrical Converter Work?

The RV works on both AC and DC power. First, we will look at how the AC power enters the RV. This is the power that is converted in the converter. AC power can come in through 30 amp or 50 amp circuits. Most smaller RVs or pop-up campers will use the 30 amp circuit. While larger drivable RVs, such as a Class A, will use 50 amp.

The RV Electrical converter is used to convert the AC power coming into the RV through the shoreline. This 110V power can come into the RV from the site utilities at the resort or from any residential 110V outlet. The difference will be in the amps of the connection. This difference in amps will also determine which appliances you will be able to run together. The RV converter can charge the batteries on the RV for use of the 12V system in the RV

Remember to always add a surge protector anytime the RV is connected to 110V or 120V systems. DO NOT connect the RV to 220V systems like an electric dryer. This will overload the RV circuit and could cause a dangerous situation and possible fire.

DC Power OUT

As the AC power enters the RV Converter it is converted into DC power by the use of rectification. Refectication is when the electronic circuits called rectifiers work. The most common electronic components are the diots that allow the AC power to pass in one direction.

The DC power produced is no steady and is considered “pulsating DC.” Although DC power is moving in one direction, the voltage level will rise and fall.

How is the DC Power Used?

The DC power produced from the RV Converter is used in a few different locations of the RV. As stated above, some of the DC power can be used to re-charge the batteries. It is a good practice if planning on boondocking, to have the batteries fully charged.

The DC power is used for everything on the 12-volt system of the RV. A majority of the interior and exterior lights are on the 12-volt system as well. Also on the 12-volt system are the control panels for the water levels and the battery levels. If the RV is equipt with any USB outlets for charging things like cell phones can be on the 12-volt system.


How Does an RV Electrical Converter Work?Not the be confused with the Inverter, the RV Converter is not used as much. However, the RV Converter is a vital part of the RV electrical system. Understanding a little basic electrical terminology will help if the RV Converter needs troubleshooting. The RV Converter is the connection between the AC power coming into the RV and the batteries. The RV Converter helps protect the batteries from possible damage. Remember, the RV electrical system in a 110volt system and the use of a 220volt connection will create a dangerous situation. Finally, ALWAYS use a surge protector when connecting the RV to 110volt AC power.

Hopefully, you understand the RV Converter a little more now.

If you found this helpful. Please share and add any comment you have below.

Ken Sagendorph


  1. Reply

    Great post-Ken!

    And thank you for the lesson. I now understand a little more of how these things work.
    This is great info for setting up my Tinny House (12v system) on my property in the North.
    Keep up the great work.

    Have a happy day!

    • Reply

      You are welcome Cathrine, I was glad I could assist. The Converter and the Inverter are two vital components within the RV electrical system. If you are thinking of placing your Tinny House off the grid, the Inverter will be especially helpful if you are going solar or generator. I would suggest solar for off the grid if you have a good sunny location.

      Thank You for the comment. Please feel free to share.

  2. Reply

    Hi Ken,
    Great info. After graduating from college two year ago, I kinda forget some of the information you provided above. This kind of remind me the law behind the electric current, voltage and resistance.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply

      I have also found that myself Stephen. I was a welder by trade, got laid off. My retraining included some basic electrical as an HVAC Technician. I have to review a few notes to complete this project. That is proof that if you don’t use it, you lose it. Its still there filed away somewhere. Just need to blow off some dust and it comes back.

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