By Mike Sokol
Welcome to my J.A.M. (Just Ask Mike) Session, a weekly column where I answer your basic electrical questions. If you’re a newbie who’s never plugged in a shore power cord (or ask – what’s a shore power cord?), or wonder why your daughter’s hair dryer keeps tripping the circuit breaker, this column is for you. Send your questions to Mike Sokol at mike (at) noshockzone.org with the subject line – JAM.
I’ve had several postings this week over on my RVelectricity Facebook group about dogbone adapters. No, these are not the bones that you actually feed your dog. But you’ll see below that they sort of resemble the cartoon version of a big juicy bone any cartoon dog would love.
In the RV world these are AC power adapters that allow you to plug your 50-amp shore power RV into a 30- or 15-amp pedestal outlet. Or you can go the other way ’round and plug your 30-amp shore power RV into a 50-amp pedestal outlet.
Power to the people…
But I’ve noticed some confusion in the naming of these adapters. For example, about half of my readers would call this male 30-amp to female 50-amp adapter a 30- to 50-amp dogbone since it allows you to use a 30-amp pedestal to power a 50-amp RV. However, the other half of you will call it a 50- to 30-amp dogbone adapter since it allows you to plug a 50-amp RV into a 30-amp pedestal.
This isn’t just some argument about semantics and double spacing after the period at the end of a sentence. (Yes, our editor, Diane, and I discuss this all the time, and I throw in the occasional double space just to see if she’s paying attention. [He does, and then uses that as his excuse. 🙄 —Diane])
Who’s on first?
For example, take a look at this next dogbone adapter, which is the reverse of the previous one shown. Note that it’s a male 50-amp to female 30-amp adapter. So do we call this one a 50- to 30-amp dogbone because it lets you use a 50-amp outlet to power a 30-amp RV? Or do we call it a 30- to 50-amp dogbone since it lets you plug your 30-amp RV into a 50-amp outlet?
TNSTAAFL (There’s No Such Thing As A Free Lunch)
Now in neither of these cases do these dogbone adapters actually give your RV more amperage. That’s determined by both the circuit breaker capacity of the pedestal outlet, and well as the circuit breaker capacity of the RV’s load center. So a 30-amp RV plugged into a 50-amp outlet is limited to 30 amperes of current (or at least it should be) by its own inlet breaker. And a 50-amp RV plugged into a 30-amp pedestal with an adapter can only use 30 amperes of current because it’s limited by the pedestal’s outlet circuit breaker.
Let’s take a poll
This is so interesting (and confusing) that I’m going to take a poll to see what you call the dogbone pictured below. I’ll give you the results of the poll next week along with how I would name it. So please take this poll (seriously) as I’m trying to determine the best way to write about this simple (yet confusing) adapter.
OK, everyone. Remember that electricity is a useful and powerful force, so we all need to pay attention to safety precautions while using it.
Let’s play safe out there….
Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 50+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.
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