For a quick answer, the best wire to use for 50 amps in an RV is a 6 AWG wire.
However, if you are working with longer runs, you can use a 4 AWG wire instead.
So, if you have a 30 amp, a 40 amp, or a 50 amp breaker, you will always need to consider the size of the wire as well.
On top of this, before you take on any specific wiring job, you will want to know exactly what size of wire you are looking to use.
This all might seem overwhelming, because of this, we have put this guide together to give you all the information you will need!
If you want to just know which 50 amp wire will be best to use, for a quick recommendation we have to suggest the WINDYNATION 6 Gauge 6 AWG 25 Feet which you can buy on Amazon now if you want.
However, if you are looking for more specific product recommendations and want to know how to use this equipment, then this guide will have all the preliminary information needed.
However, if you are looking to do a run longer than 100 feet, we prefer this wire from Amazon instead!
So, if you are doing a wiring job for your RV, but you do not know where to start and you feel like you are under prepared, then this guide should fill in any gaps you are worried about.
So, if you want to ensure that you are fully informed for any wiring job, whether it is in an RV or in a different situation, keep reading to get all the correct information here!
What Is Gauge And AWG?
So, before getting any deeper into this guide, we think it is important to get some key terminology definitions out of the way first, like the phrases gauge and AWG.
Firstly, gauge is a measurement for a wire, usually its size in particular.
Then AWG is the standard system which is used when talking about the measurements for the wire.
Your wire gauge will be determined from high down to low, the bigger the number is, the smaller the size of the wire is, and vice versa.
You will need to have a proper understanding of proper wire sizing, this is because this is a necessity for your breaker as it will help in working out how much electrical current will be able to go through the wire safely and how much resistance you will receive as well.
What is worth noting here is that a lot of the information mentioned in this guide will not go massively in detail on certain aspects, so you may need to do further research on certain specifics to get more detail.
Even if you do not want to pay them to do the whole job, getting help from a professional electrical contractor can help a lot in working out a lot of details for a job that can then be tailored to your particular circumstances and needs.
30 Amp RV Plug Or 50 Amp RV Plug?
When working on specific jobs it is important to know the difference between different types of plugs, for this example, we will be pointing out the differences between a 30 amp plug, and what makes it different from a 50 amp plug.
The main difference you will find between these two plugs that is pretty obvious is the number of prongs each plug has.
While the 30 amp plug only has 3 prongs, the 50 amp one has 4 prongs, making them easy to distinguish from each other!
How Many Electrical Systems Are In Your RV?
In every RV there are usually 2 electrical systems which you will need to have at least a basic understanding of.
Firstly, there is the 120 volt system which is usually used to power your bigger appliances, for example, your kitchen appliances, or your TV, this is because these use more electrical energy.
For this system you will want to know what size wire will work best for your 50 amp RV service (see also: Recommended Wire Sizes For 200 Amp Electrical Service) (see also: Recommended Wire Sizes For 200 Amp Electrical Service) (see also: Recommended Wire Sizes For 200 Amp Electrical Service).
Then there is a 12 volt service which uses a 12 volt battery, this powers different home appliances using a generator or electrical plug!
The Best 50 Amp RV Plugs
So, if you have a project you want to be prepared for when working on your RV, then you will likely want to know what 50 amp wire and plugs will work best for you.
Because of this, we have put this section of the guide together to give you some of our top recommendations for products like this!
Firstly, we are highlighting this 50 amp extension cord from Camco, and this product is perfect for if you are looking to run 50 amps (see also: What Can You Run On 30 Amps In An RV?)over 30 feet.
This is one of the best reviewed extension cords out there, and if you have any specific questions about it, the Amazon page goes in detail on everything this product is capable of, but trust our recommendation if you think this is the right length for your needs!
If you know you will need to look up your own 50 amp service for your RV, then having an enclosed receptacle is important, because of this, we recommend this outdoor rated receptacle by Talon.
If you want our top recommendation for this product type, then this is our favorite!
If you are looking to transform your RV plug to keep it both safe and durable, then we have to recommend using this power grip replacement plug by Camco.
This has a very high conductivity making it perfect for an RV, it is also sleek and compact as well as very easy to install, even for a beginner!
Our final product recommendation for this section of the guide is this copper clad aluminum wire (see also: DIY Guide: How To Wire A 30-Amp RV)which is perfect for its purpose and also reaches the ASTM standards as well.
If you need a wire that will be perfect for a smaller project in your RV that will need a 4 wire gauge, then this one will be perfect.
It also has a soft touch jacket made from PVC, and this means it is able to deal with higher temperature from anywhere between -104 Fahrenheit to 221 Fahrenheit!
Questions To Consider When Using 50 Amps?
If you are using a 50 amp service, then there are some questions that you should consider before you start working on the project.
For example, what kinds of conditions will you be running the wire through?
If there are more extreme conditions then you will need to have a wire that will be able to cope with these conditions, and you might need to buy a specific wire that is able to work with this!
You will also need to consider how far away the wire is going to be ran, and then how long this wire will be.
This is because you want to ensure that you are getting a wire that is the correct length so you do not need to buy extra wires and you can just do the job right the first time.
The specific type of wire you are getting will change depending on how much voltage is going to be running through the wire, so make sure you are considering this as well.
Something we will also be considering more in detail later in the guide is how much voltage drop you will be allowing through the run of the wire as well.
If you are unsure what this means, keep reading until our section on voltage dropping so you can understand how this impacts your choice in wires for your RV.
What If You Use The Wrong Wire Size?
So, what if you use a wire that is the wrong size for the job you are giving it to do.
You want to avoid using a wire which will not be suitable for the specific amperage that it will need to carry.
This is because in certain situations your wire might melt, but in even worse scenarios your wire coil overheats.
If you need a wire that will be the right gauge for a 50 amp wire specifically, but you end up using one that is only appropriate for a 40 amp wire instead, there is a good chance that this could overload your wire, and could end up starting a fire!
This is meant to emphasize how important it is to not use a wire that is too small as this will usually cause issues.
On the other hand, if you are using a larger wire, this is nowhere near as dangerous, so if you are unsure, always go larger than smaller to avoid potential fires.
The only drawback for using a wire that is larger than you need it to be is that it might be more expensive and that working around it could be an inconvenience!
Something else you want to consider which is partially related to this issue is circuit breakers as well.
When working with wires like this you will always want to know what amperage your circuit breaker is going to allow.
For example, if your circuit breaker is only rated for 50 amps, then you will not be able to safely use any electronics or appliances that will draw more than 50 amps.
This is like in the previous case as it could very easily cause an overload and this can lead to a fire potentially,
Is 6 AWG Necessary When Using 50 Amps?
Yes, as we have mentioned earlier in the guide, this is the best size of wire to use for a 50 amp RV service.
Because of this, this is the wire you will want to be using for a wide variety of different reasons.
However, the main reason for this is that a 6 AWG wire will be able to carry 50 amps without overheating which is incredibly important when you are working with an RV.
However, there are some other reasons why 6 AWG wire is better than other choices in particular.
One of the top reasons why a 6 AWG wire will be chosen over a 4 AWG wire is that it is more affordable (see also: Can You Afford To Retire To An RV?)when looking at wires from the same manufacturers or a similar quality.
On top of this a 6 AWG wire is a lot easier when working with it compared to other appropriate sizes for 50 amps, this is even more important to consider when you are not a professional and you want a wire that will be as easy to work with as possible.
On top of this, using a 6 AWG wire is the most common choice when you are working with 50 amps, this can make repairs easier compared to working with a more uncommon wire choice.
You will also be able to get better advice or instructions if you are looking for how to fix any issues since it is the popular choice.
Similarly to this point, it is actually quite a bit easier to get a 6 AWG wire compared to some other choice like a 4 AWG alternative.
The 6 AWG wire is also a lot thicker than some other choices, this means that it will be able to withstand a considerably higher amount of heat when compared to a smaller gauge wire instead.
A 6 AWG wire will also be able to put up with more excessive power when compared to other choices, so it should be able to put up with anything an RV could make it deal with, so it is a safe choice to go with.
What To Consider When Choosing Wire Size?
When you are choosing the wire size for your RV, there are some main aspects that you are going to want to consider when you are choosing the size of the wire.
However, the main two we are going to discuss are the length of the wire, as well as the type of wire material that is used as well.
Firstly there is the length of the wire, the best option to go with when figuring this out is what size of wire you will need for a certain length.
The best way to get a specific answer for this is to just consult a professional as they will be able to assess all of the conditions and give you a more specific answer which will be tailored for what you need.
However, if you do not want to do this, we recommend following a simple rule of going one size up for what is needed for your job requirement.
This is especially pertinent if your job requires to go inside a conduit, or if it is ganged with some other wire that will end up inhibiting the heat dissipation, and especially if it is running longer than 100 feet as well.
Then with the wire material, you will want to consider that you are using a wire that is not made using brass, copper, or silver, that you will want to check specifically to see if there is a different size of wire that is required.
For example, wires that are made from aluminum are known for being less common than wires that are made using something like copper, and because of this they will differ with different requirements as well.
Like, aluminum uses about 61% of conductivity compared to copper wires, however they weigh about 70% less, so knowing the differing requirements is important!
50 Amp Aluminum Wire
As we mentioned at the end of the last segment, aluminum wires are ranked in a very different way when compared to copper wires instead.
An example of this is how for a 50 amp aluminum wire, you will need to use a No. 4 AWG. Then, the smaller the size of your wire is, the larger your wire size will need to be.
An example of this is how the No. 4 is larger than a No. 6 and these aluminum wires will be available in a variety of different sizes.
Then there are types like RHW and THWN which are the types that are most common. It is worth noting that No. 6 will only be useful up until 40 amp.
50 Amp Copper Wire
Now, if you are using a copper wire instead of an aluminum wire, then a No. 8 or a No.6 THWN will be the best choice to use.
You can use a No. 6 copper wire for supporting up to a 55 amp up to a temperature to around 60 degrees Celsius.
We recommend using a No. 6 wire as it is always better to have a larger size than what is needed for the job in certain circumstances.
Something that we mentioned earlier in the guide is voltage drop, and we think it is important to discuss alongside considerations you need to make when choosing the best wire for the job.
Something you might not know is that when your wires are bringing your current they are constantly facing fundamental impedance, which is more commonly referred to as resistance which resists the existing flow.
So, this is why voltage drop is used to specify the quantity of voltage loss that will happen through the circuit due to this resistance.
This concept can be pretty tricky to get a grasp of, this is why we use the common example when discussing voltage drop is a garden hose.
The best comparison to make is comparing your voltage to the water pressure which a hose pipe is provided with.
Then you think of the current like the water that is streaming through the water hose.
Then the resistance is the size of the tube in a similar way to the type and size of the wire which identifies resistance.
If you face extreme voltage drop, then your circuits can face issues like lights that are flickering, or lights that will be burning poorly.
This can cause issues with heating units in particular. Then your motor could be running hotter and this could stress your motor.
This specific condition in your wiring can trigger your load in a way that makes your load work with less voltage and this makes the current need to work harder.
To accurately measure your voltage drop and how it will affect your RV and its wiring, we recommend using the multimeter that will help you understand the situation better in your RV.
What Will Your 50 Amp RV Cord Look Like?
As we mentioned when differentiating between a 50 amp RV cord to a different one, the best difference to work out what a 50 amp RV cord is, should be recognizing the number of prongs it has.
Your 50 amp cord will have a thicker cord and will have 4 prongs, this is compared to a 30 amp cord that will have a thinner wire and 3 prongs instead.
Wire Size Ampacity
To quickly break it down, a 2 gauge wire can handle an amperage of 95 amp, then a 3 gauge wire can handle 85 amps instead.
A 4 gauge wire will be able to deal with 70 amps, and a 6 gauge wire will be able to handle up to 55 amps.
An 8 gauge wire is good for up to 40 amps, while a 10 gauge one is only good for 30 amps.
Then a 12 gauge wire will only work up to 20 amps, and for a 14 gauge, this can only use 15 amps.
So, if you are working with 60 amps, then the most appropriate wire size for the task will be 4 gauge wire.
However, there are some specific cases where you could use 6 gauge, but only use this if you are sure that it will be appropriate for the task.
If you are only using 50 amps like we are focusing on in this guide, you will want to have a wire gauge of 4.
There are some devices in the RV that will only need 40 amps, however, when you have some that need 50 amps like a dryer or washer, you will need a wire that is able to work with this.
As mentioned in the previous section, you can sometimes work with a wire size of 6 when working with 50 amps, however, you generally want to scale up just to make it a little safer to work with.
This makes your wire thicker, and therefore more durable. You definitely want to use 4 AWG if you are running it longer than 100 feet.
Now for 40 amps, you will want to use a wire gauge of 8, this is a common amperage for an electric cook top.
Then for a 30 amp device, a 10 gauge wire will be perfect!
When Using The Wrong Wire Size For A 50 Amp RV Service
It is well worth pointing out that you should avoid using the wrong wire size when working with a 50 amp RV service as this can be incredibly harmful.
This is because if you use a wire with a gauge that is too small, a lot of negative things can happen and can end up causing a massive amount of damage.
It is likely that if you use the wrong size wire that the wire will melt as it will get too hot.
This melting can lead to a variety of negative problems like appliances getting permanently damaged and a very high risk of fire as well.
However, the negative effects only really happen when you are using a wire gauge that is too small.
If the wire gauge is too large, or just bigger than necessary, you do not have to worry about this nearly as much.
The only main issue that you could run into is the wire being a little heavier and stiffer to work with, but other than this minor issue.
There is no big issue that you will have to worry about running into!
Solid Wire Or Stranded Wire?
When picking a wire for your projects something that you will need to consider is the design of the wire as the best option will vary depending on what you require.
Some wires will be made from a solid copper conductor, however, some wires are made from strands instead, and these are called stranded because of this.
If your setup uses a metal conduit then the solid wire will not pull as quickly, compared to if there are lots of bends.
However, using a solid wire is a lot more simple, especially if you are securing under a screw terminal.
You can use these terminals on a basic switch receptacle. In these cases using a 14, 12, or 10 gauge wire will be a good copper conductor and is a great choice for residential circuits as well.
So, when are the best times to use a stranded wire?
The main reason to use a stranded wire is that you need a wire that is more flexible compared to a solid wire, or if it will need to bend frequently.
If there is a higher chance of stress being placed on the wire, then it should be stranded, or if it needs to be simple to work with.
If there are higher impact environments where you need high shock resistance, or if solid wiring is not a practical choice, like when extending an already existing cable, then use stranded.
If you need the wire to resist high temperatures, or if you want the job to be easy and foolproof, then using stranded wires is a good idea.
One thing to note about stranded wire is that if you want to ensure you get the most secure connection, aim to use a terminal block if you are extending or slicing your wiring, as well as trying to avoid crushing your conductors while you are making your connections tighter.
However, there are many circumstances when using a solid wire will be more practical, for example, when you want to make your wire as simple to strip as possible.
Also, if you need your wire to be simple to splice, then stranded wire is a good option. If you want to be cost effective, solid wire tends to be cheaper.
Solid wire also tends to have a better conductivity, and there are often situations where flexible stranded wire is not appropriate.
The main reason you will find solid wire being used so commonly in household wiring is because of how it is cheaper than stranded wire.
The solid wire will struggle to work in tighter spaces because of the lack of flexibility.
However, since it is simple to use and does not cost as much, it is commonly used in the house.
What About Resistance And Heat With Wiring?
The main reason you want to avoid going overboard when you are wiring are concerns that can arise when it comes to your resistance and heat.
Even if you are working with some of the best wires in the world, it will still start to overheat if you are trying to pull too much power through it.
If you want to understand how this works, you will need to have a good understanding of resistance and how your electricity works when going through a wire!
What Is Resistance?
Resistance is something that all materials have, but in this case it is how much something is able to oppose how an electric current flows.
For example, some materials like copper and silver are incredibly conductive so they will not oppose a current much, but then there are materials like rubber or glass that do not conduct so they will strongly oppose the current.
So, if you are aiming to push quite a lot of current through your conductor, for example a wire, you will want to use something with low resistance and something with a high resistance.
However, issues arise if you try to push too much through either of these, whether it is high or low resistance.
If you put too much through either of these, they will eventually start to heat up.
If you do not understand how resistance leads to heat, then it is worth explaining some simple properties of electricity.
If you are not aware electricity is how electrons move from one location to another, these electrons are particles that are negatively charged and can also be found in atoms.
You can generate this electricity using a power plant that is spinning turbines and using heat or magnetism.
Then electricity will travel along a transmission line to a substation and then the voltage will be reduced for use in commercial or residential application.
There are resistors that will control how the electricity flows within the home and they work with copper because it has a lot of free electrons.
Because of this, the free electrons will travel down your wire from one point onto another, and they will hit other free electrons when travelling and this will cause friction, and then this friction will make heat inside the wire, so some energy will be lost in heat.
This is why you find your electrics will sometimes get hot after being switched on and plugged in for a certain amount of time, this is the energy they lose from resistance.
When designing a system of electrics, you need to know how much current is going to flow between wires that connect your different pieces.
You do this to predict how much heat is going to be produced by the wires so you know how thick to make them so they will not catch fire or end up melting from excess heat energy.
Basic Wire Uses?
For a simple wire use like cords for lamps or lighting that is low voltage, this has an amperage of 10 and uses 18 gauge wires.
For something like light duty extension cords, these use 13 amps and need a slightly thicker 16 gauge wire.
For light fixtures like lamps and light circuits, these use 15 amps and 14 gauge wire.
Then for an outdoor receptacle or some air conditioners, these use 20 amps and need 12 gauge wire.
Now for some stronger air conditioners, or an electric water heater, these use 30 amps and need 10 gauge wire.
For something stronger like a range or cook top, these need somewhere between 40 and 50 amps and will need 6 gauge wire.
Finally, for something like a large electric heater or an electric furnace, you will use 60 amps using 4 gauge wire.
Installing Your Own 50 Amp Service
In spite of some of the earlier information, it is not too tricky to install a 50 amp service within your home, especially if you know what you are doing and have the right directions to work with.
This section will give you all the tools and materials you need, and then we will go into the steps that you will need to follow to get it done.
So, for installing a 50 amp service, you are going to need:
- A voltage meter
- An electrical tools kit
- A 50 amp breaker
- An RV pedestal hookup
- Plastic zip ties
- UF Rated 6 gauge 4 conductor wire
- You can also have a 50 amp outlet as well
How Much Does It Cost To Install 50 Amp RV Outlets
The cost for this project should cost you somewhere between $200 and $350, but this is if you do it all yourself.
If you are going to get a professional to do it for you, this usually costs somewhere around $1300.
This varies so much because there are extra considerations that need to be taken into account depending on the state you are in, and whether you need to permit an inspection as well, some of these permits can cost close to $200.
How To Wire A 50 Amp RV Plug
As long as you are following the correct color codes as well as the correct prongs, this process should not be too difficult.
The first step is simple and to just get all of the tools and materials listed in the previous section, it is not recommended to start this job if you do not have all the tools ready as stopping to buy materials can cause its own range of issues.
After this, if you need to replace a wire that you are already using, you want to make sure that it is not connected to any power that could be leading into this plug.
Now, if you have not already labelled your wires, this is what you want to do next.
You want to add simple labels onto your wires as this will make your job a lot easier to do. This will not only make the job easier now, but later if you need to redo it.
Then you want to check with the wire manufacturers to ensure that the standard color code is what is being used. This is not too difficult.
Then move onto connecting each of your wires onto the designated prong.
First, attach the white wire onto the neutral prong, then the red wire goes to Hot #1 prong, and the black goes to Hot #2 prong.
Finally, you want to attach your orange or your green wire into the ground prong.
Is A 50 Amp RV Plug 110 Or 220?
There is a simple way to work this out. Simply, if your 50 amp plug has 4 prongs, then it is a 220 volt plug, but if it does not, it is 110 volts.
The 4 prongs will be one neutral and one ground, and then the other 2 are worth 110 volts each.
Installing A 50 Amp RV At Home
First you are going to want to disconnect the breaker panel, the supply to this board is going to split using the single phase.
This single phase means there is one ground connection, as well as a neutral connection which runs along 2 hot wires that will serve the breaker.
After this simply test your wires. You do this by pulling the wires and linking them to the panel.
This will be your outdoor receptacle. Then install the 50 amp breaker to your sub service box and remember the wire colors, this aids in working out the placement of the wires.
Once you have the red wire, attach this to the breaker terminal on the side of the outlet. Then attach the black wire.
This will be on the other terminal which is on the outlet on the breaker.
Then your white wire needs to be attached to your neutral bus bar, and the green wire is the bare one which is attached to your grounding block.
What Is Electrical Range?
If you do not know what an electrical range is, this is to do with how appliances, for example those in the kitchen, will need electricity to work properly.
The electric current will be converted to heat, and this is what is used for cooking.
So, as an example which is relevant here, to support the electrical range for a 50 amp 240 volt circuit, you will need a 6 gauge wire, but if you want it to go a longer distance, you will want a 4 gauge wire for more security and durability.
Safety Precautions When Working With Electricity
One thing that is important to keep in mind are the safety precautions that you should keep in mind when you are working with electricity.
These are all important to keep in mind when you are wiring an RV outlet, so make sure you go over this whole section in detail before you start working on the project to ensure that you stay safe.
Firstly, you want to ensure that you are working with electrical gloves, these will safeguard you from potential shocks, burns, fires, and any kinds of explosions.
Make sure you are using official safety gloves that have been certified to the ASTM F496 requirements.
Also, if you are working with a receptacle, then you want to turn off the mains and install an indicator on your service panel so no one will mistakenly turn it on while you are working.
One thing to keep in mind is to ensure there are no liquids close by as these can be dangerous to have close when you are working on electrics.
You also want to work with insulated tools as well as these will keep you safe when working with them. Also, do not try to fix any energized devices.
You instead want to ensure that it has been de-energized and you can do this by using a tester.
Finally, avoid using a steel or an aluminum ladder when working near a receptacle as the electric current can ground you and then go through you.
Insulating Your Wire
If you want your wire to last as long as possible you want to insulate it. This will protect it from the elements making it a lot more durable at the same time.
This also protects the people who are going to come into contact with the wire when working with it.
It is worth keeping in mind that you do not always want to insulate your wires since occasionally there are some drawbacks.
Mainly, this will reduce the capacity of the wire and will also increase voltage drops.
Also, worth keeping in mind is that if your insulation becomes damaged this can cause a short circuit, a fire, or an electric shock.
There are a variety of different methods you can use for wire insulation, but the three most common materials you can work with are rubber, plastic and metal.
Hopefully this guide has given you all the information you need for wiring a 50 amp RV service.
Make sure to closely read the safety precautions before you start work on the project.