RV Electricity – No~Shock~Zone by Mike Sokol – Issue 14

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Issue 14 • December 30, 2018

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Welcome …

By Mike Sokol

Dear Readers,
Here’s a quick update on my residential refrigerator test and what it takes to boondock on solar power without a 3-way fridge. No, I haven’t forgotten you. It’s just that talking manufacturers out of gear to test and then designing a valid experiment takes time. But I’m happy to report that I’m on track to begin gathering data in mid-January.

The Process
Now, while many of you couldn’t care less about what’s under the hood, there’s a small segment of readers here who are groupies/geeks and want to know how it all works. And I welcome them for peer review. You see, I don’t do anything in a vacuum. Every hypothesis I postulate, every experiment I devise, all empirical data I collect, and every conclusion I reach is subject to peer review by some of the most intelligent people I know. That is, I have a number of really smart colleagues around the planet that review my work and tell me if I’m doing valid science or not. And these guys are specialists in their own fields of nuclear power, marine power, utility power, pro-sound and lighting power, as well as others that are just plain smart about everything. And our own RVtravel.com staff includes a “persnickety” (her term) copy editor who makes sure everything I write is grammatically correct and makes sense. So you can be sure that before I release any data to the public it’s been vetted for content and clarity by a lot of different people.

That doesn’t mean we (or, more specifically, I) can’t make a mistake, so your job is to keep us (me) honest. If something doesn’t seem right or a conclusion doesn’t seem to fit the data, then by all means, speak out. That’s the same rule I have in my university classroom. If you see something, say something – politely, of course. And then we’ll dig in and find out what went wrong. Sometimes it’s as simple as the arithmetic, and other times it’s a silly premise that just happens to match the data set. But just know that I’m here for you, and doing everything I can to educate everyone from the RV manufacturers to the customers on how this electricity stuff works.

So let me show you what I’ve collected for the fridge experiment. It’s going to be really cool. (Get it…?) Read more.

 

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.


RV Electricity Interviews

Video Podcasts starting in January

I’ve been promising to create a series of video podcasts where I interview RV industry leaders about their products, and already have 5 or 6 guests lined up to do a 10- to 20-minute phone interview with me. It’s a simple formula: I ask the questions, they answer what I ask, and we all learn something.

First up is the marketing director for XL Technologies, LLC, the company that’s doing the Plug-In Hybrid conversion of the Ford F-150 pickup trucks. I completed the phone interview with him last week, and just have to clean up a few edits and it will be ready to run by the next RV Electricity Newsletter. And it will also run as a feature article in RVtravel.com in a week or two, so stay tuned for the release date.

For you audio geeks out there, I’m using a vintage Shure SM7 microphone for my own voice as well as a BlueKeeper Bluetooth interface from JK Audio for the caller’s phone connection. I simply HATE bad audio on YouTube videos, so I’m going over the top to make sure it sounds good.

And, of course, I’m asking questions that will give us all added insight into the various technologies that make our lives better. Seriously, I really don’t want to be camping out of a pop-up tent with a Coleman gas stove. Been there, done that.

Email me at mike (at) noshockzone.org with your questions.


Did you miss?

The last issue of the RV Electricity Newsletter? Read it here.
• Yesterday’s RV Travel Newsletter? Read it here.
The most recent issue of RV Daily Tips? Read it here.
• The most recent issue of the New RVer Newsletter? Read it here.


Industry Updates

RV electricity expert Mike Sokol to train RV techs 

(December 26, 2018) — The Pennsylvania RV and Camping Association (PRVCA) has announced an RV electricity technician training seminar to be held Jan. 31 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Keller Marine and RV in Port Trevorton, Pa. The all-day session will be taught by RVtravel.com’s Mike Sokol, the nation’s leading authority on RV electricity.

Instruction will cover the basics of electricity, how AC and DC power are used in RVs, the causes of hot-skin/stray-voltage and how to test for it, RV battery technologies, electrical system maintenance and other topics.

Only 30 seats are available. The course is free of charge to PRVCA members and lunch is included. Technicians are asked to bring their own meter and writing utensil.

Those interested in registering for the course should apply here.

Any other companies or groups interested in having Sokol provide instruction at their conventions, rallies or other events can reach him at mike(at)RVtravel.com.

Also reported at RVBusiness.com


Survey Question

How do you provide shore power for your RV when it’s sitting in your home driveway or backyard?


Last month’s survey results:

Would you be interested in a weekly or monthly newsletter reviewing emergency preparedness advice and tips, plus gear and supplies for your RV? (Click image to enlarge.)

Well, it appears that around 95% of you are interested in an RV preparedness newsletter, which is obviously a very positive response. I’ve received a number of emails from our readers who have lost their homes to the recent fires and are living in their RVs, loaned out their RVs to families in need who had lost their homes to a fire, and even those who were letting a family with an RV camp on their front lawn by running an extension cord out to them for power. In all cases these are great examples of RVers coming together to help others in their time of need.

Once the RV Travel newsletter is completely upgraded, and the RV Electricity newsletter gets its own facelift, Chuck and I will begin the process of creating an RV preparedness newsletter of some sort. Hopefully we can begin by the time the 2019 camping season is in full swing. We’ll keep you posted.


Tools and Other Devices

Here, Spot…

I have a number of friends and acquaintances (and a sister) who like to go off the beaten path while camping, sometimes hiking for days in the wilderness out of reach of every cell phone tower or other technical residuum of civilization. While that can certainly be a wonderful experience, it’s not so great if you get lost or hurt and emergency rescue personnel put themselves in harm’s way to find you after your loved ones don’t hear from you at the preordained time and call in the cavalry.

While gadgets like satellite phones have been the gold standard way to maintain communication in the wild, they’re just too expensive and bulky for hiking in the mountains, when you really don’t want to talk to other human beings anyway.

Enter SPOT-X, a compact text-only satellite “messenger” that will not only allow you to send text messages to your family on their own cell phones, it can also send GPS coordinates at any desired intervals, or after you stop a hike. So you can send a text to your significant other every hour or after every hiking break you take, and everyone will know you’re all right. But if you do run into trouble, such as tumbling down a hill or getting trapped in a flooded river, SPOT will let you send a text to them or 911 with your own information on what you need, along with GPS coordinates of where you need it.

Now, at $249 this isn’t exactly chump change, and in addition it will cost you a monthly connection fee of around $15, depending on how many messages you want to send. But considering the peace of mind this can give your family and friends who stay behind I think it’s cheap insurance. I’m going to ask SPOT for a review sample before I hike the Appalachian Trail the next time (NOT), or wherever my next adventure takes me. So expect a full review of it later if they come through with a loaner unit to try out. Find out more at SPOT, LLC. Or learn more or order at Amazon.com.


Last Month’s RVtravel.com Posts

KOA pedestal fix.
Don’t blow your fuse!
Is it a leak or a noisy water heater element?


Q&A’s from You

I spend a lot of time answering questions from RVtravel.com and other forums/newsletters. Here are two of them that I recently received. 

Email from an RV Travel reader

Q: Hey Mike,
You promised to publish Part 2 of your article on the ABCs of RV Grounding soon, but I haven’t seen it. Did I miss it or is it still in the works?

A: Patience, grasshopper… Good things come to those who wait… Tempus fugit… and all that jazz. I’ve been a bit overloaded keeping up with all the other RV Travel articles and such. Plus I have two new electrical diagnostic seminars I’m presenting in January. But not to worry, as I’m publishing Part 2 of my ABCs of RV Grounding article in the RV Travel newsletter due out next week. And then I’ll republish it here in my own January RV Electricity newsletter#15. In the meantime, here is Part 1, which you’ll want to read (or re-read) first.

Lots to do. —Mike

From the RV Travel reader comments

Q: I want to install a 30-amp box hookup on a stand in my RV concrete slab in my back yard. I hear of several methods, but some don’t sound so safe. What is the proper and safe way? I know it has to be totally separate with its own breaker and the wire needs to be at least 6-12 inches underground, and that wire is expensive. I’d like it to be in a PVC pipe so if there is digging at least the pipe will be visible. Yes, I realize I need an electrician, but not all electricians deal with RVs. Would like your input.

A: According to the 2011 National Electrical Code NFPA-70, any non-protected wire over 20 amperes must be buried at least 18 inches below grade. And since plastic (non-metallic) conduit does not protect the wiring from penetration due to a shovel or whatever, it still needs to be 18″ deep for a 30-amp circuit, unless it’s buried under a concrete slab, in which case the depth can be 12″. However, if you use metallic conduit then your wiring may only need to be 6″ below grade. These cover depths can vary from state to state, county to county, and municipality to municipality, so you’ll need to check with your local electrical inspector (aka the AHJ for Authority Having Jurisdiction) before you start digging the trench. Read more

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 


RV Electricity Seminars in 2019
by Mike Sokol

(Note: My Quartzsite seminar this January has been cancelled due to a lack of sponsorship support. Maybe next year?)

  • 1/31 — PRVCA RV Tech Training, Trevorton, PA
  • 3/28-29 — RVillage Rally 2.0, Live Oak, FL
  • 6/11-12 — Heartland Rally, Goshen, IN
  • 9/11-15 — Hershey RV Show, Hershey, PA

Camco Store at Amazon.com
There isn’t much you need for your RV that Camco doesn’t have. If you think we’re kidding, then click through to the Camco store on Amazon where you’ll find some of their best-selling products — all for your RV or for you to make your RVing better. Click here and you’ll feel like a kid in a candy store.


Road Signs

By Mike Sokol

Stone Soup

We should all remember the story of Stone Soup, where a weary and hungry traveler comes into town looking for a meal. But none of the townspeople have enough food to share, and he’s turned down everywhere he goes. However, once he tells everyone that he has a recipe for a wonderful stone soup and just needs a few garnishes to make it great, all of a sudden everyone works together to create a fantastic meal for the entire town. It’s a lesson in sharing and caring for your fellow man (and woman).

I was reminded of this parable after reading many of the stories coming out of Chico, CA, due to the evacuation from the fires in Paradise, CA. Read more.


STAFF

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..

Mail us at 9792 Edmonds Way, #265, Edmonds, WA 98020.

This website utilizes some advertising services. Sometimes we are paid if you click one of those links and purchase a product or service. Regardless of this potential revenue, unless stated otherwise, we only recommend products or services we believe provide value to our readers. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. RVtravel.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

RVtravel.com includes links to other websites. We cannot control the content and/or privacy policies of those sites. Please be aware when you leave this newsletter or any other section of RVtravel.com to read the privacy statements of any of those websites that collect personally identifiable information. Our own privacy policy applies only to RVtravel.com and its affiliated blogs and websites.

This newsletter is copyright 2018-2019 by RVtravel.com.


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J Trigg
J Trigg

Spot, the flipside, subscription services and their predatory credit card practices. In May 2014 I purchased a Spot Gen3 for an off road motorcycle trip across the US on the Trans-America Trial. I went to the Spot website, set up an account, and activated the Gen3 for a one year service subscription. In June 2014 Spot charged my credit card $179.00 for a one year service. The Gen3 performed as described in the product description. Thankfully I did not have a need to use the SOS feature. Family and friends enjoyed being able to track me along the trail and… Read more »

G Arthurs
G Arthurs

Perhaps a comparison of the SPOT and Garmin inReach Mini is in order…both are small text messaging devices requiring subscriptions, but work on different satellite systems.

Al Simons

The “I don’t bother” response on the survey seems to cover three alternatives; maybe sometime you’ll break them out.
1. I don’t bother, and let the battery just over-winter on its own.
2. I don’t bother putting shore power in the RV because I pull the battery and put it on a tender.
3. I don’t bother because I have a solar installation capable of maintaining the batteries.

We will be in category 3 when / if we stop full-timing.

On another note, consider the Garmin InReach as an alternative to the Spot.

Thanks for your continued efforts on the behalf of the RV community.
-Al

Linda
Linda

Have a 13′ Scotty which uses no electricity when not in use. No hidden usages. So….what should I do to preserve my battery? Ok to leave it where it is ? Have to disconnect and bring in? Thank you for your advice.

Mike Sokol

If you don’t have an easy way to provide 120-volts AC to the Scotty when it’s in storage, then the best thing to do is remove the battery at the end of the season, and put it in your garage with a battery tender. A tender is a very low-amperage charger that monitors battery condition so it can’t overcharge the cells. Don’s use a conventional battery charger for this since it will tend to boil out the electrolyte. And if you do have 120-volts AC at your storage location, you should still use a battery tender or intelligent 3-stage charger.

Snayte
Snayte

I installed a 30 amp outlet on the outside wall of the garage. I ended up with a free 30 amp breaker when I converted my dryer and range to gas. It is close enough I can use the RV power cord to plug in.

Joe Allen
Joe Allen

Hi Mike; I was hoping you would be attending the Tampa RV show in January, but have not heard you mention it. One of the largest shows in the country next to Hershey! Great job on your tech articles from someone who knows enough about electricity to get one’s self in trouble! lol

Sue
Sue

We supplemented a power cord at an exterior outlet with solar panels on the 5th-wheel when it was parked at our house previously. Unfortunately, we can’t keep it at our current house for more than a day to load or unload it.

squeakytiki
squeakytiki

I don’t bother to power my RV when it’s in my driveway because I make it a point to actually drive it at least twice a week.

Ed
Ed

I really don’t use an extension cord when I use the outlet in my garage. I use a 15 amp adaptor,

Mike Sokol

Just curious if it’s a GFCI protected outlet.

Ed
Ed

Yes.

Michael J Downey
Michael J Downey

I go along with Ed I don’t use an extension cord I plug into an outside outlet and yes it is GFO.