Hooking-up to the mains
Connecting your caravan or motorhome to a campsite’s electric hook-up point will give you an instant supply of electricity into your home on wheels. Here we bring you all you need to know about electric hook-ups when on site…
All modern caravans and motorhomes should be supplied with a 25-metre flexible cable (usually orange, so that it can be seen in the grass to avoid people tripping over it) with pre-fitted 3-pin blue connectors suitable for UK sites. They should be compliant with BS EN 60309-2.
Follow these simple steps to make sure you hook-up safely when on site:
- Turn off all the switches and appliances in your caravan or motorhome. As a safety precaution, locate the mains consumer unit and turn off all the switches on that as well.
- Unwind your hook-up cable fully in order to prevent the cable overheating and potentially catching fire. If your cable is damaged in any way, replace it. Do not put tape around it or put in a polythene bag – condensation might form.
- Insert the supply plug (the female end) into the mains inlet that’s fitted on the outside wall of your caravan or motorhome. For safety reasons, the plug has recessed tubes rather than projecting pins.
- Unravel the cable, making sure there are no projecting loops which could trip someone up. Now insert the plug at the other end of the cable (the male end) into the site’s hook up point.
- Lay any excess cable under your caravan/motorhome in large, loose coils.
- Normally the current will now be flowing to the consumer unit in your leisure vehicle.
- At this stage, you go back into your caravan or motorhome, and flick the consumer unit’s switches to their ON position. Next, carry out a safety check by pressing the test button to confirm that the master switch “trips out” – as it should if anything goes wrong. If it does this promptly (as it should) then turn the switch on again so that the supply is ready for use.
- The next task is to insert a mains tester into a 13 Amp socket to check that there isn’t a case of reversed polarity. This term means that the site system has somehow got wired the wrong way around with the neutral and live cables incorrectly swapped over. That’s potentially dangerous so it’s best to go without a mains supply if this condition is revealed on the tester. In reality, it’s very unlikely in the UK, but reversed polarity is occasionally found on the continent.
UK electric hook-ups
Most sites in the UK supply a maximum of 16 amps. The ampere (amps) rating on the hook-up refers to the amount of current available.
If staying on a temporary pitch or attending a rally the amps tend to be lower (more like six amps), so check before hooking up.
Most electric hook-up points in the UK are simple to connect to by simply plugging straight in. However, on a few sites you’ll find that the plug in the hook-up pillar has to be rotated clockwise and released to complete the connection. These versions are easy to identify because they also have a red push button which has to be pressed when you later want to disconnect the plug.
European electric hook-ups
European electric hook-up points look similar to the UK’s, but some countries, like France and Germany, use a two-pin connector.
Simply buy an adaptor as a back-up before going on your travels.
The amount of current available at a hook-up point can vary considerably from between three and 20 amps In Europe. It’s not uncommon for the electricity supply in the Netherlands to vary between four and 10 amps.
Some countries like Germany and Austria have metered hook-up units or charge a daily rate, particularly during the ski season. Always check before booking, otherwise, you might get a shock when you receive your final invoice.
Sometimes a 25-metre cable is not long enough to reach the electric hook-up point on some French sites so it’s worth carrying a spare 10-metre cable and a weatherproof plug and coupler safebox – just in case you need extra length.
Electrical safety in some European countries might not meet our high standards. Some hook-up points look a bit like a spaghetti junction, whilst some pitches require you to run the cable across an access road.
Always exercise caution and if you feel that the unit is not safe, then find another hook-up point or report it to the site reception. Safety is paramount!
What appliances can I use?
Most electrical appliances are rated in watts, which refer to the rate of consumption. Most modern caravans and motorhomes run from a 230 Volts AC supply (check your handbook).
To work out the maximum consumption from your hook-up unit a simple calculation can be used:
watts ÷ volts = amps OR volts x amps = watts
All electrical appliances should have a label stating their power consumption.
As an example, a typical kitchen kettle is 2200 watts. Dividing this figure by 230 volt supply gives 9.6amps. That’s about 60% of the consumption on a 16 amp electric hook-up. This is before you allow for your essential electrical appliances such as your vehicle’s water heater, lights, fridge, space heating and pumps.
It’s advisable to carry out this simple calculation before turning on all your electrical items at once. Otherwise, you might upset a few campers and the site staff when you trip out the hook-up point! Consider buying low wattage appliances, like travel kettles, which are around 750 watts.
Here’s an example of some appliances and their approximate ampage.
|In-built heater (3 Settings)||2000W, 1000W or 500W||8.7, 4.3 or 2.2|
|Battery trickle charging||From 7W||From 0.03|
|Lights (depends on bulbs used)||Negligible|
Please note: These figures are based on appliances in the author’s caravan.
Electric hook-ups and insurance considerations
To protect your caravan or motorhome from risk of fire and avoid a costly caravan or motorhome insurance claim, don’t use unbranded phone and laptop chargers to power up your devices. They’ve been known to overheat and cause household fires.
Also, make sure any electric accessories which you fit to your leisure vehicle, e.g. solar panels, are suitable for leisure vehicle use; are fitted by an expert, and meet UK specification.
Over to you…
Got any electric hook up tales or advice you want to share with other readers? Feel free to share in the comments box below.