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The Savvy Caravanners Guide to Using Electric Hook-Up


Everything You Need to Know About Hooking Up Your Caravan to the Mains.

Connecting to a Caravan Electric Hook-Up Point

Connecting your caravan to the electric hook-up point at a campsite will provide you with an immediate supply of electricity.

Our helpful guide runs you through the basics of setting everything up quickly and safely. 

All newer caravans should come equipped with a 25-metre flexible caravan electric hook-up cable that has 3-pin blue connectors compatible with the supply at UK sites.

The cables are typically a high-visibility orange colour and should meet BS EN 60309-2 requirements.

Hooking Up the Cable

To ensure that you hook up safely while on the campsite, follow these simple steps.

First, switch off all the lights and electrical appliances in your caravan. Locate the mains unit and turn off all of the switches there as well. 

You should always turn off all the switches on the mains unit just as a precautionary measure.

You don’t want to risk your hook-up cable overheating or even catching fire so make sure it’s fully unwound.

If you find any damaged areas on the cable, replace it. Do not wrap it in tape or pop it in a plastic bag, since moisture may occur and it can conduct live electricity.

Connecting to the Supply

Connect the supply connector (the female end) of your caravan electric hook-up plug to the mains inlet on the exterior wall of your caravan. You’ll notice that the plug has recessed tubing, rather than protruding pins, for safety reasons.

Untangling the cable as you go, check for any loops or coils that could trip someone up. Now, you’re going to put the male end of the cable's connector into the site's hook-up point.

Once you’ve done this, be sure to lay any extra cable in loose coils under your caravan. This will prevent anyone from falling over it and help to stop overheating.

Back to the Caravan for Testing

The current should now be flowing to your caravan from the site’s hook-up point.

Now you’re connected, go back to your caravan, and flip the mains unit's switches to the ON position. Next, push the test button to ensure that the main switch trips out correctly, as it should if something goes wrong.

Once you’ve done that, you can turn the switch back on to make the supply ready to use.

Test for Reversed Polarity

The next step is to test a 13 amp socket to make sure that there is no reversed polarity. This is just in case the site’s system has been wired the wrong way around.

If the test reveals an issue with reversed polarity, it's best not to connect to the site's supply because it's potentially dangerous. Reversed polarity is extremely rare in the UK, but it does happen occasionally on the continent. 

Quick Checklist 

  • Switch off all the electrical appliances and lights in your caravan
  • Turn off all the switches on the caravan’s mains unit
  • Connect the supply connector (female) to the mains inlet on the caravan’s exterior wall
  • Run the cable to the campsite’s hook-up point and connect it (male)
  • Lay any excess cable in loose coils under the caravan to avoid overheating
  • Flip the caravan’s mains unit switches to ON
  • Push the test button to check that it trips out correctly
  • Test a caravan socket for reversed polarity
  • Put the kettle on

Caravan Electric Hook-Ups in the UK

In the United Kingdom, most campsites provide a maximum of 16 amps of power. The current available is shown by the amps rating on the actual hook-up point.

The amps tend to be lower—perhaps 6 amps—if you’re staying on a temporary site like a festival pitch, so it’s best to check before hooking up.

In the UK, most electric hook-up points are easy to connect to by simply plugging them in. On a few sites, however, the connector plug on the hook-up pillar needs to be released before you can connect to it.

If it’s one of these connections, you’ll see a red push button that you’ll need to press to disconnect the connection when you’re finished with it.

Electric Hook-Ups in Europe

Campsites with electric hook-up points across Europe are comparable to those in the United Kingdom, but some countries use two-pin connectors. So, if you’re travelling in Europe, take an adapter with you.

The current supplied at the hook-up points you’ll find at European campsites can range from 3 to 20 amps.

During the ski season, countries like Germany and Austria often have metered hook-up units or charge a standard daily rate. If you don’t want any nasty surprises when you get your bill, it’s best to check this at the time you make a reservation.

On some French camping sites with electric hook-up, a 25-metre cable may not be long enough to reach the hook-up point. If you’re going to France, be on the safe side and pack a spare 10-metre cable as well as a weatherproof plug and coupler safe box just in case.

Safety Standards in Europe

It might be prudent to mention here that some European countries' electrical safety may not be up to our usual rigorous standards. In fact, some hook-up sites resemble a spaghetti junction, while others run their cables across roads! It goes without saying that running a cable over a road can subject it to serious damage.

If the electric hook-up socket at the site looks unsafe, find a different hook-up point, or tell the owner. Safety first!

What Sort of Electrical Items Can I Use?

The supply used in most modern caravans is 230 Volts AC, and the most common unit of measurement for electrical appliances is watts, which tells you how much power they use.

There’s a very simple calculation that lets you determine the maximum usage from your hook-up unit: watts ÷ volts = amps 

All your electrical items should have a sticker that states how much power they use. To make sure you don't trip the switch, look at the wattage of your electrical appliances.

For example, an average kitchen kettle uses 2000 watts. When you divide this amount by 230 volts, you get 8.7 amps. On a 16 amp electric hook-up, that's around 54% of the consumption. That’s before you account for lighting, fridge, water heater and so on. 

Don’t Switch Everything On at the Same Time

Before you decide to switch all your electrical equipment on at once, it's a good idea to do this speedy basic calculation. Otherwise, when you trip out the hook-up point and plunge the site into darkness, you might seriously upset a few campers as well as the site owner!

It’s worth thinking about taking low-wattage items with you as they’re designed for travel. 

If you want to protect your caravan from fire, never use an inferior quality laptop or phone charger. They've been known to overheat and start fires!

That’s all for now. Safe hook-ups and enjoy

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