Issue 24 • October 27, 2019
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Welcome … to Issue 24
WOW! So it’s been two years since I started writing this Sunday newsletter, and in that time it has grown to more than 15,000 readers. And my Facebook RV Electricity group now has more than 4,000 members. That’s a double WOW, at least! And in that time I’ve learned a few things about you, my readers, that I didn’t know or was only peripherally aware of.
First, I’ve discovered that I have a lot of very smart readers. While many of you are real newbies and never touched a digital meter before you bought an RV, there are dozens (perhaps hundreds) of you who are totally up to speed on electricity including Electrical Engineers, Master Electricians, Journeyman Electricians who run power lines, Ham Radio Operators, System Design Engineers, RV technicians, etc.
And there are many readers who are professionals and tradespeople who just haven’t learned about electricity yet, but who know how to learn things. That includes hundreds of readers who are active and retired doctors, lawyers, chemistry teachers, firefighters, OTR truck drivers, pilots, AV designers, chefs, musicians, nurses, and lots more of you who want to learn about electricity for both your RV and your own home or business. So that’s a triple WOW!
Second, there are a LOT of generous readers who heard my call for monetary support last month, and have donated to my I LIKE MIKE campaign. Hundreds of you have donated so far, dozens with automatic monthly pledges.
Yes, I do receive 100% of those donations, except for the piece the IRS will take at the end of the year. Your support to date has been far what I imagined, and it inspires me to work even harder to serve you with information that is not easily available elsewhere, yet critical to you to keep you and your RV safe. Here’s a great big THANK YOU!!!
So please keep up your support whenever you can, because I’m building some really cool demonstration tools for 2020, the likes of which have never been seen before in an RV seminar. And you know that I never exaggerate about such things.
Third, as I’ve mentioned in an earlier newsletter, the comments of encouragement from you all have been fantastic. Sometimes it feels like I’m teaching in a vacuum, which is why I’ve started doing live seminars around the country. I’ve only done a dozen or so RVelectricity seminars in 2019, but 2020 could be really big as I’ve already been asked back to Hershey 2020, RVillage, Airstream, FROG, FMCA, and a dozen more. So if managed properly I could double my seminars in 2020. Hope to see you at at least one.
Fourth, lots of you are asking for more video training, so I’m setting up to do that over the winter months. I’ve dabbled in video over the last year, but now I think I’ve got a production formula that will work out for everyone. And I’m keeping all consumer-level online training videos free for you, while beginning to charge RV manufacturers and technicians for deeper level training.
Finally, I now have some traction with several of the RV manufacturers who are discussing monetary support for me teaching RV technicians at their dealerships around the country. That’s right, if all goes well in 2020 I’ll begin to improve the troubleshooting ability of RV technicians around the country. I can hardly wait. Really…
As I’ve written many times before, I believe that teaching is one of the most important and rewarding professions one can do, and it’s my privilege to teach you all about electricity. So when I say that I want To Serve Man, I’m not talking about a cookbook like in my favorite Twilight Zone Episode. But I digress….
So buckle up. We’ve got some interesting things to cover in this newsletter. Yes, here’s one final WOW!
Let’s play safe out there…
If you haven’t yet, be sure to join the popular and informative Facebook group, RV Electricity. (More than 4,000 members and counting.)
Generator automatic transfer switches 101
But first, a few definitions:
ATS is an abbreviation for automatic transfer switch, and its job is to be a traffic cop between the pedestal shore power and your on-board generator power.
Email me at mike (at) noshockzone.org with your questions.
RV Electrical essentials
Surge Protectors • Dogbone Electrical Adapters • Multimeters • Power Pedestals for Home or Campgrounds. • Portable Generators • RV Solar • RV Inverters • RV LED Lights • 30 and 50 amp extension cords
WAGO connectors could become an industry standard
After my article a few weeks ago about an improved wire splice system that could eliminate wire nuts in RVs, I was contacted by Progressive Dynamics, who offered to send me one of their new power distribution panels with WAGO connectors instead of standard screw-terminal strips. According to a field engineer there, this spring-loaded design could eliminate screws loosening up from road vibration, or improperly installed wire nuts, which are likely the reasons for many failed and overheated connections in RVs.
Do you use any sort of surge protector or EMS to protect your RV?
Last month’s survey results:
Has your RV been in the shop for electrical repairs?
Since the topic of how long RV electrical repairs take is a favorite one, I decided to ask that simple question last month, and here are the results.
While 81% of you didn’t require any RV electrical repairs (which is a good thing), 13% of you who answered the survey said the repair was done in a week or less. However, 3% took up to a month for repair, 2% took months, and 1% of you said your RV had been in the shop for months for an electrical repair and it still wasn’t fixed.
However, if you normalize the survey to compare only those who needed electrical repairs, that jumps the percentages up to 65% of those responding were fixed quickly, 15% took up to a month, 10% took months to be repaired, and 5% were still in the shop for months without being repaired. If the auto industry had those kinds of repair numbers, there would be a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth, but the RV industry seems to accept that as normal.
Well, this is just one more reason for me to begin teaching advanced electrical troubleshooting classes for RV technicians. As noted in my Welcome letter above, I’m finally getting some traction with the manufacturers to support my training efforts for their dealer technicians. Let’s hope it really gets going in 2020.
Don’t let loose or corroded connections stop your party in its tracks
I’m often getting questions like this one asking about why shore power plugs can get hot and melt. Here’s a basic tutorial on what to watch for, and simple maintenance steps you can perform to help keep your shore power cords and connectors happy (and not melted down).
Last Month’s RVtravel.com Posts
These articles are rated Moderate to understand for most RVers.
These articles are rated Easy to understand for beginners.
• Leggo my WAGO… Mike explains why the WAGO 221 lever-action splicing block could be the greatest innovation in wire splicing technology since the invention of the wire nut.
• Predator parallel generator power. A reader questions the power produced by parallel generators compared to what’s claimed in their ad.
• What are inverters and converters?
• What is an RVelectricity™ Master Class?
Tiny LED button lamp perfect for RV’s small, dark spaces
This 6-pack of tiny, battery-powered LED “Button Lamps” is just what you need for your RV’s closets and storage spaces. The tiny lamp is ultra-bright and has all the power of a normal-sized lamp. Backed with a strong adhesive, these little lamps will stick to any surface. They’re waterproof and good to have in case of an emergency. Learn more or order.
Q&A’s from my Facebook group:
I’m getting a lot of interesting questions on my RV Electricity Facebook Group. Here is a good one:
Q: We are having a soft start installed on our new camper before pick up. Can someone tell me how to test this to make sure it’s working properly? I have one of the meters that has the clamp. Can you clamp it around the main power cable into the trailer to see the amp spike when you turn on the air conditioner?
A: There are two things you need to measure the starting current of a motor.
First, you’ll have to have a peak-hold clamp ammeter. As others noted in the group comments, a regular meter won’t show the peak current long enough on screen to be useful, so you’ll need one specifically designed to measure inrush currents. Some of my really expensive ($500+) meters do this, but with a little Amazon searching I found a clamp meter with inrush current function for less than $40. While I can’t vouch for the accuracy of this meter, it does look pretty good at first blush, and might be just what you need for testing. Buy it HERE.
The second thing you’ll need is some kind of line splitter to separate the hot and neutral wires on your shore power for doing the measurement. That’s because if you clamp around the entire cord, the outgoing current on the hot wire and incoming current on the neutral wire will cancel each other out and read zero, no matter how much amperage is flowing.
You can make one of these by carefully slitting off the jacket of a short extension cord and separating the black or red wire out of the bundle. Or for quickie testing you can use a 15-amp dogbone adapter plugged into one of these line splitters. Yes, it will carry the 20 amps of current temporarily for testing, but you won’t want to run your entire RV off of one of these – only turn on the air conditioner that you’re testing to get the peak current measurements. You can buy it on Amazon HERE as well.
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 50+ 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.
Did you miss this morning’s RV News newsletter?
If so, here is what you missed:
• Major RV retailer put on bankruptcy danger list.
• Your chances of dying in a vehicle crash have gone down a bit.
• Homeless “RVers” in Northwest dumping a million pounds of raw sewage into local waters.
• Another good reason to keep your RV fully “ready” as a self-contained unit.
• Two teens die from carbon monoxide poisoning in trailer during power outage.
PLUS: Latest fuel prices • Upcoming RV Shows • Latest RV recalls • Free and Bargain Camping locations. Plus a reader survey.
Camco Store at Amazon.com
There isn’t much you need for your RV that Camco doesn’t have. 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.
By Mike Sokol
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” —Albert Einstein
To be successful at teaching potentially complex subjects, it’s necessary to break them down into the smallest possible elements, then build from there. And to do that I spend a lot of time with thought experiments. These are little mind games I play in my head about possible ways that things actually work. Read more.
Let’s play safe out there….
Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 50+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.
Editor and publisher: Mike Sokol with the assistance of Diane McGovern and the helpful staff of RVtravel.com.
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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