RV Power – AC and DC

Before we even start thinking about your RV solar power system, we should understand a few things about your RV power.  Some of your power needs in an RV will require AC (alternating current), and other power needs will require DC (direct current).  What is the difference between AC and DC?

In direct current (DC), the electric charge (current) only flows in one direction.  Electric charge in alternating current (AC), on the other hand, changes direction periodically.  The voltage in AC circuits also periodically reverses because the current changes direction.

AC – Alternating Current in your RV

The power that you connect to at a park, or at home when you plug your RV into your home electric system is AC power.  Alternating current runs many of your standard appliances.  Normally at home you can plug into a 15 or 20 amp connection, and in parks a 30 or 50 amp connection.  That connection allows you to run your microwave, air conditioner, refrigerator (on the AC setting), and provides power to all your standard outlets in your RV.

DC – Direct Current in your RV

When you’re not plugged into shore power and you don’t have an inverter, the power you have stored in your batteries is DC.  DC by itself cannot run those big appliances.  The DC power stored in your batteries can normally run your house lights, DC outlets, often your hot water heater, your RV heat, and your refrigerator.  Beyond that, all AC devices will require an inverter to take your DC power and convert it to AC.