Issue 12 • October 28, 2018
MIKE SOKOL, editor
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Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends…
Here’s an update on the RVelectricityTM seminars that I presented in 2018, and where I’m going in 2019/2020. Now, I’m a seasoned seminar instructor with more than 1,000 classes presented during the last 25 years, but those were primarily on “uninteresting” topics like mixing DTS and Dolby 5.1 surround sound for movies, concert sound system calibration and setup, and mixing music in large churches around the country. I’ve even done a few dozen No~Shock~Zone seminars for the pro-sound and theater industries, since there’s a lot of live wires involved in both. But 2018 was the first time I’ve done any formal RVelectricityTM seminars for the RV industry, and I’m happy to say they’ve had rave reviews.
I think one of the reasons these RVelectricityTM seminars are such a big hit is that I do a lot of hands-on demonstrations. Do you want to see how to detect a hot-skin/stray-voltage? Well, I bring along a scale model of a VW RV and energize it with up to 120 volts AC. Want to know how to properly measure a pedestal voltage? I not only bring along a real 50/30/20-amp pedestal, I also connect it to a 3 KVA 120/240-volt step-up transformer (that weighs nearly 40 lbs.) to create an actual 50-amp/240-volt electrical service just like you’ll see in any campground.
Want to learn how to use voltmeters and Non-Contact Voltage Testers? Well, I bring along samples of nearly every type of meter and tester you’ll likely encounter and demonstrate how they work using an overhead video camera which shows up on a video screen. Want to know how surge-protectors work? I connect a few of them to a variable AC power supply so you can watch how they detect high and low voltages, open grounds, etc.
In short, I bring along an entire electrical test bench and let you watch me do these electrical demonstrations in real time on a big screen while I answer questions.
Want to attend one of these fun and informative hands-on demonstrations? Then see below for a list of RVelectricityTM seminars I’ll be presenting in 2019 and possibly 2020. And if you have an idea for a seminar topic you might like (in addition to those I’ve listed in the Poll, below), then please comment at the bottom of the page and I’ll see what I can come up with.
Let’s play safe out there…
P.S. And just a quick note that this newsletter is made possible by the voluntary pledges of the readers of RVtravel.com. We could not bring this to you without their support. If you deem what we provide to you here and at RVtravel.com to be of special value and would like to be a part of our effort, please consider pledging a voluntary subscription. More information is here. We will include you in special emails, articles and videos exclusively for our supporters.
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Neutral-Ground campground bonding in detail…
Ground sounds like such a simple and friendly word. But here’s what it actually means and how it’s often misused by electricians, technicians and the public at large. It ain’t what you think….
Put on your thinking caps, because we’re headed down the rabbit hole of how grounding and bonding work in a RV, starting with the electric pole feeding the campground. I’ve never seen this all in one place before, so I’m breaking it down into Part 1 and Part 2. Part 1 in this issue will explore how the general electrical connections work to get power from the power company into your RV, and Part 2 in the November issue of RVelectricity will show the different load and fault current paths possible. Strap in…
Read all about it here.
Email me at mike (at) noshockzone.org with your questions.
This Month’s Survey
Here’s your chance to let me know what I should be teaching in my RVelectricity seminars for 2019. I already have three 60-minute seminars in the can, and I can add at least one more topic. So please pick your TWO favorites out of those listed, and feel free to suggest an additional topic in the comments.
Of course, if I had my druthers I’d teach all these seminars each time. But I’m usually limited to one or two topics per show or rally.
Email me at mike (at) noshockzone.org with your questions.
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Seminars in 2018
Here’s where I presented RVelectricityTM seminars in 2018. Scroll down below for a list of seminars scheduled for 2019. These are 60-90-minute hands-on demonstrations covering every aspect of RV electrical hookups and safety.
- RVillage Rally One in Elkhart, IN – May 17-18, 2018
- FROG Rally in Goshen, IN – Aug 14-15, 2018
- Holiday Rambler Rally in Winston-Salem, NC, Aug 17,2018
- Hershey RV Show in Hershey, PA – Sept 12-16, 2018
- Thor Diesel Club in Goshen, IN – Oct 3, 2018
- FMCA Rally in York, PA – Oct 4, 2018
Tools and Other Devices
Carry on, my wayward volts…
I’ve noticed that the majority of attendees in my RVelectricity seminars don’t carry any kind of digital multi-meter with them. Well, having a good meter with you is the best way to diagnose all kinds of electrical problems on the road. Not only can it tell you pedestal AC voltage, you can use it to check DC voltage on your house batteries. It’s also great for testing bulbs and fuses for continuity, or to figure out why your ceiling fan isn’t working.
So what’s better than a digital meter? Well, how about a digital meter kit from Southwire that also includes a Non-Contact Voltage Tester (NCVT) as well as a basic 3-Light Outlet Tester. At about $30 this kit is affordable for everyone with an RV, and it will help you utilize all the electrical diagnostic tips and tricks you’re learning from my articles, videos and seminars. Don’t guess about a voltage, MEASURE IT!!!
Last Month’s RVtravel.com Posts
• Use 50-amp to 30-amp adapter in a pinch?
• What residential refrigerator do you have?
• Campground power upgrade – expensive but necessary.
• Start me up … Generators and rooftop air conditioners.
Q&A’s from Forums
I spend a lot of time on dozens of other RV forums answering questions about electricity. Here an interesting one:
Confusion about volts and watts
From the Forest River Forum:
Q: I have a 2019 Georgetown Forest River 36B5GT5. I just plugged into an electrical outlet for the first time and I’m plugged to a 15-watt amp using a converter. When I pulled in last weekend after running my generator, I turned the generator off and plugged in and heard everything come back on. When I went to check on it yesterday, the microwave was off and refrigerator was beeping at me. Is there something I’m not doing when I switch to electrical? Thanks in advance.
A: I think your confusion is due to a lack of understanding of the difference between amps, volts and watts. What I really think you mean is you’re plugging your RV into a 20 “amp” pedestal outlet using a “dog-bone” adapter.
Let’s break down the differences. First of all, outlets are rated in amperage, not wattage. So there’s no such thing as a 15-watt amp (or outlet). And for all practical purposes, there are no 15-amp outlets in pedestals or even modern houses. They are all generally powered by a 20-amp circuit breaker; even if the outlet or adapter “looks” like a 15-amp version, it is usually capable of providing 20 amperes of current. And I’ll bet the reason the pedestal power went off in your RV some time after you turned off the generator was that some combination of your appliances drew more than the 20 amps of current available through the circuit breaker, and that’s what caused it to trip. So you’ll need to be aware of power management next time you want to run your entire RV from a single 20-amp circuit breaker. Make sense? —Mike
Email me at mike (at) noshockzone.org with your questions.
The best book on RV electricity, hands down!
RV Travel contributor Mike Sokol is America’s leading expert on RV electricity. Mike has taken his 40+ years of experience to write this book about RV electricity that nearly anyone can understand. Covers the basics of Voltage, Amperage, Wattage and Grounding, with additional chapters on RV Hot-Skin testing, GFCI operation, portable generator hookups and troubleshooting RV electrical systems. This should be essential reading for all RVers. Learn more or order
Popular topics from past issues
Mike, you’re always warning us about overloaded wiring, but what can really happen if that occurs? Does the overloaded wiring just get hot, or can it actually catch on fire? —Caleb
Read Mike’s response.
Using a dog-bone adapter
If you have a 30-amp shore power plug on your RV you can use a dog-bone adapter to plug it into a 50-amp pedestal outlet if that’s the only thing available. However, you won’t get any more power out of it since your RV’s electrical system is limited to 30 amperes of current. And you certainly don’t want to be pulling 50-amps through a shore power cord that’s only rated for 30 amps. Best to eliminate all adapters if possible and plug into the proper 30-amp outlet to begin with. See Gary Bunzer, The RV Doctor’s, article on this topic here.
Yes, I’ll be back. If you missed my RVelectricity seminars in 2018, I’m gearing up for even more fun electrical demonstrations in 2019. So, as they say, “Coming to a rally or show near you.” I have time to do perhaps a dozen of these larger shows next year, but I’m only halfway there. So if you’re involved in one and think I should be presenting an RVelectricity seminar there, please leave a comment below or email me directly at email@example.com .
Final Dates and Times TBA
- Quartzsite Rally in Quartzsite, AZ – Jan 24-26, 2019
- FMCA National Rally in Perry, GA – March 15, 2019
- RVillage Rally 2.0 in Live Oak, FL – March 28, 2019
- Heartland National Rally in Goshen, IN – June 12, 2019
- Hershey RV Show in Hershey, PA – Sept 11-15, 2019
Editor: Mike Sokol. RVtravel.com publisher: Chuck Woodbury. Managing editor: Diane McGovern.
Everything in this newsletter is true to the best of our knowledge. But we may occasionally get something wrong. So always double check with your own technician, electrician or other professional first before undertaking projects that could involve danger if not done properly. Tips and/or comments in this newsletter are those of the authors and may not reflect the views of RVtravel.com..
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This newsletter is copyright 2018 by RVtravel.com.
Mike – Topic suggestion – best way to check pedestal receptacle retention force for acceptable use and what to do if it’s too loose, outside of site hopping. Seems many are marginal just by feel; a loose connection is a bad connection as you know.
I’ve already built that exact gadget you speak of. It’s not a commercially available product, so you have to do a little hacking to make one. But it’s part of my campground inspection SOP I hope to introduce in 2019. Of course, convincing campgrounds the importance of pedestal testing and maintenance is the real challenge. But given that interest in my RV Electricity seminars seems to be ramping up in 2019 there’s hope for the industry. I just need a major campground franchise to commit to let me train their own maintenance staff on electrical hookups and things could change for the better. But it’s been slow going so far.
Good morning Mike,
I greatly enjoy reading your newsletters! I live in Tacoma, WA so it’s a bit of a challenge to try to get to one of your seminars, but I’ll keep your 2019 schedule in mind to see if I could make it down to one of them.
Anyway, I have a ‘fairly’ good grasp on RV electricity and how the systems work/work together. What I am NOT very good at is reading wiring diagrams if I am trying to troubleshoot an electrical problem with something. I’ve never really had exposure to it and so far what I have found online really hasn’t been for those of us with NO experience in reading wiring diagrams.
Is this something that you might consider doing or do you have an idea of where I might find training/help with this? This might be a little more than you want to get into since you are primarily helping with the ‘safety’ side of things, electrically-wise that is, in an RV, but it never hurts to ask.
Thanks so much!
I currently teach how to read and troubleshoot using wiring diagrams every week to a bunch of audio-electronics students at the university where I’m an adjunct professor. So I could easily put a program together for the RV industry that would teach that topic, but I just need to find a sponsor to help pay for it. There has to be some sort of educational grant that would support this type of program and allow me to offer this training for free to RV technicians (and interested RV owners). So far I’ve had zero success getting any RV manufacturers interested in having me develop training programs for them, and the only support has been from RVtravel.com memberships. But if anyone has ideas on an educational grant I could pursue, then please let me know.
May I suggest that you describe different types of wires and cables that would be safe to use in an RV solar system or for wiring new lighting as a mod. For example I have recently learned about marine duplex cables. What gauge would be correct for various solar controllers or long runs in an RV?
I enjoy reading your newsletters to learn more about RV electric.
Yes, I’m working on the whole enchilada, as it were. Now, did I spell enchilada correctly, Diane?
Affirmative, Mike. But you spelled “whole” wrong — just kidding! 😀 —Diane at RVtravel.com
Don’t do that to me. I have a fragile ego, you know… (Did I spell fragile correctly?)
Of course you did. You know you never make mistakes, Mike. Or only very rarely, and intentionally, so that I feel useful. You’re so thoughtful! 😀 –Diane at RVtravel.com
Mike would you ever video one of your RVelectricity seminars so people could see it when we can not get to a rally where you are at?
Chuck and I are talking about it, and we’ll do a few experiments at my various seminars in 2019.
How do we sign up for the Quartzsite seminar?
Bob, we’ll have information in the RV Travel Newsletter within a couple of weeks.
I’m sure Chuck will come up with some sort of sign-up form.
why so many different kinds and styles of plugs?
aka: home dryer, rv, and twist lock, to name three.
as in my eu3000 has a twist lock 30 amp plug,
but my rv has a different style 30 amp plug.
(not sure of rating, believe 30 amp) the dryer has a third style plug.
i understand a twist lock to to help keep the ex cords from pulling apart.
I SO WISH you would remind people that they should not only check Campground Pedestals for Stray Voltage with a NON-Contact device (like I do). BUT ALSO, MAKE SURE THE PEDESTAL BREAKER SWITCH IS TURNED OFF!
TOO MANY TIMES I GO TO PLUG MY SURGE PROTECTOR IN AND FIND THE BREAKER IS STILL ON. Meaning, that last camper to use the pedestal simply YANKED the plug out without turning off the Breaker. NOT VERY SMART! But, when you deal with so many people who don’t have a clue about electricity and how dangerous it can be, this doesn’t surprise me!
Please remind people to turn off the Breakers Before attempting to Plug in!
Great reminder. I go over that during my hands-on seminar about Pedestal Testing and Hookups, but once I get out from under some of my other projects I’ll make a video on pedestal connections.
Thanks Mike for responding so quickly.
I know you are busy with all this RV Stuff and I hope you can get the message out. Would be great if you could create a SHORT Video displaying the dangers of plugging into a HOT receptacle without turning off the breakers.
I try not to be pushy when out camping, but I DO try to explain to Campers, why they need to check these power pedestals before hooking up. Also, recommend them getting a Surge Protector as well!
Fortunately, most campgrounds are relatively safe, unlike the one I discovered in southern Missouri this last summer (that I reported to you) with the ALWAYS HOT 50 AMP OUTLET, NO WATER COVER! Fortunately, I didn’t BLOW ANYTHING UP Plugging in my Surge Protector First before the RV. This was a Dangerous Campground and an accident waiting to happen!
The Park I described is in SIKESTON, MO. TOWN and COUNTRY RV PARK!
You can read my review on GoodSams Website!
Those are the same gloveless people who rinse out their sewer hoses with their fresh water hose, and let the sewer hose dry on the campground table.