Amperage compatibility is one of the most common aspects of any electrical plug, connector, or cord. But why? As long as you can place the plug in the complimentary socket, the system must work flawlessly, right? Well, that is not the case.
Amperage talks about the maximum current ratings of a particular electrical tool. It ensures that your electronics connect safely to a power source and work flawlessly. It is, therefore, a critical aspect to keep in mind while choosing the right extension cords or plug.
The 30 Amps And 50 Amps Conundrum
When connecting with home outlets or RV power sources, a common mistake is choosing between 30 amps and 50 amps. Sometimes, you might end up with a 50-amp outlet and a 30-amp extension cord extending from your RV. Or even worse, you might not know the amp ratings of the cord or outlet. It seems easy to try and fit the wire and go about powering simply. But this connection may not be as easy as you think.
So how do we go about connecting correctly to the power source? How do we identify what amps the cord or outlet is? You may start by understanding the difference between 30 amp and 50 amp plugs and connectors. Let us explore their five differences to know more about working with them.
1. Plug Design
The plug design is the simplest way to identify 30 amps or 50 amps connection. A 30 amps service comes with a three-pin plug allocated for Neutral, Ground, and Hot. The plug connects to an outlet with three holes that can provide 120 volts. A 50 amp, on the other hand, is a four-pin system. The connections are Neutral, Ground, and two Hot wires, each providing 120 volts. The overall power delivery here is, therefore, 240 volts.
So, can we power a three-pin plug into a four-pin, 50 amps outlet? Well, not directly. Instead, you can use an adapter that converts the 50 amps to become compatible with the 30 amps system. Even though the prongs may fit in, connecting the systems directly under any circumstance is inappropriate. Also, the adapter is a simple system to add to the cord to ensure you can connect to 30 amps and 50 amps without hassle.
2. Power Delivery
Based on the requirements of the electronic items connected to the cord, one may need more electricity to drive power-hungry devices. Try to compare it with the water flow potential of a regular garden hose and a fire hose. The pressure at the water source will determine how fast the water travels through the hose. But the size determines how much water can flow through it at any point. A similar analogy is applicable to compare the power capacity of 30 amps and 50 amps.
The maximum supported voltage in the hotline is 120 volts. Given the case of a 30 amps system, there is only one hotline, and the usable power in wattage is 120*30 = 3600 watts. The 50 amps system contains two hotlines, each carrying 120 volts. Overall usable power here is, therefore, 50 * (120+120) = 12000 watts. The power delivery in comparison is almost four times that of the latter.
3. Supporting Devices
As mentioned, 30 amps provide about 3600 watts of power to support large appliances such as microwaves, television, and refrigerator. The outlets can also offer an array of smaller appliances. But the challenge is that simultaneously running multiple power intense devices could cause an overload and failure. For example, if you connect a cooling unit with a TV and dryer, the circuit may break and leave you in the dark.
It may not be the case for higher amps. 50 amps are capable of more wattage delivery. It can hence comfortably drive more sophisticated appliances like larger televisions, grills, cooling units, and air conditioners that may be power hungry to deliver enhanced performance.
In terms of durability, 30 amps and 50 amps have specific differences. The gauge rating of a cord refers to the wire thickness that influences the maximum power delivery capacity within safe limits. While most devices work with a 12-gauge cord, some power-hungry devices may require lower gauge numbers. The reason is that the gauge value is inversely proportional to the thickness.
30 amps cord typically comes with ten-gauge wires to support the best power delivery. Whereas 50 amps cords usually feature eight gauge or even six-gauge cables in some cases. Similarly, 50 amps plug connected with the respective gauge wire is more durable than 30 amps. It is a heavy-duty system designed to undergo more wear and tear, thus making it ideal for long-time applications.
5. Adapter Usage
As we discussed, adapters are an efficient solution to make your cords compatible with mismatching outlets. But they may influence the final power capacity of the system. For example, if you plug an adapter into a 50 amps service, the maximum power delivery is limited to 3600 watts. Also, even with an adapter, a 30 amps service could not receive more power than 3600 watts.
Understanding the power ratings of your cord and evaluating its compatibility with the outlet is critical to ensure you create a safe connection. Mismatch of amperage could increase the risk of electronic failures and fire hazards. So, identify the appropriate cords and adapters for your cable before connecting to a power source for the best experience.