RV Electricity – No~Shock~Zone by Mike Sokol – Issue 25

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Issue 25 • December 1, 2019

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Read back issues of this newsletter and many other articles by Mike Sokol on RVtravel.com. Warning: There is a lot to learn here.


Welcome to my 10th anniversary edition…

By Mike Sokol

Well, in addition to 10 years of writing for the RV industry, I’ve finally made it through setting the clocks back from daylight saving time, braved a few windstorms and a little snow (some of you have had more than a little snow) and celebrated Thanksgiving with friends and family. I’m finishing this newsletter up on Black Friday, which for some reason started about a month ago and seems to go on forever, perhaps to Christmas and beyond.

So I’m not going to inundate you with even more online and in-store bargains to consider. Nope, this newsletter is chock full of yummy information for your head. Brain candy, as it were. And this begins my official 10th anniversary of writing for the RV industry. How time flies!

However, I am going to ask you once again for your monetary support of my I Like Mike campaign. While I’m pressuring manufacturers for any kind of monetary sponsorship so I can afford to spend the 20+ hours each week it takes me to write and publish at least eight RVtravel/No~Shock~Zone articles along with this RVelectricity newsletter each month and moderate my Facebook RVelectricity group, it’s been slow going with only vague promises of sponsorship in 2020, but no real commitments just yet. Plus I’ve been inundated with requests for my RVelectricity seminars and Master Classes at RV rallies around the country, with most groups having zero budget, even for travel. I’m now working on the idea of forming a non-profit corporation to accept foundation grants, but that’s a lot of time and work as well.

In the meantime, I really need your support so I can not only continue my current writing schedule, but can expand it to include even more video demonstrations and seminars at RV rallies and trade shows. If you’ve already made a one-time or monthly donation to I Like Mike, then thank you very much. And if not and you can afford it, then anything will help. However, I recently had one reader ask why I had set up a “begging site” since, with my background in electrical engineering I should easily be able to get a full-time job. The answer is that I don’t want to take on another 9-to-5 job after 45 years of working as an engineer in a number of industries – because if I have to do that then I won’t have the time to continue answering your questions about RV electricity as well as developing new training and test procedures for RV owners and technicians.

So, in this issue I’m going to begin the discussion of a few not-so-popular ideas. That is, what does it actually cost a campground to supply power to your RV, and should they be metering you for it? I see the pitchforks and torches on the horizon already, but I’m not here to discuss the policy or politics of campground rates. I’m just trying to get a handle on why so many campgrounds seem to have poorly maintained electrical pedestals, very low voltage (as low as 95 volts at some state campgrounds), and lost electrical grounds that should NEVER pass any kind of electrical inspection. I believe it’s because campground electric power is considered to be a loss-leader and somebody has to be willing to pay for it. Read more below and lets talk about it…

Also, I’ve been in discussion with a number of vehicle manufacturers (including Ford and Volkswagen) about the future of eRVs (Electric Recreational Vehicles), which includes the charging network across the U.S. No, I don’t believe that you’ll be able to afford an electric Class A or C next year, so I’ve turned to the Boomer generation (of which I’m a part) to remember what it was like to go on adventures in a VW bus or Westfalia conversion. Read about my plan (below) to do a ’60s music eRV tour starting late 2021 once an I.D. Buzz becomes available in the states.

I’ve included an industry report on portable electric heater dangers with data on the number of fires they caused in 2018. The bottom line is while a portable electric heater can be safe if properly used, they’re not really plug-it-and-forget-it technology. Few things are scarier than a fire in an RV, so proper maintenance of your shore power and internal power connections are even more important if you plan to heat with electricity.

And finally I’m going to introduce my first audio Road Signs commentary. But no, you’re not going to hear my sultry voice. I’ve found a great seasonal message from someone who was arguably the greatest verbal storyteller of them all, Paul Harvey. You older folks will have heard him tell “the rest of the story” many times, while you youngsters may be saying “Paul who?” But no matter what your age, this is a great story about the importance of family traditions, especially around the holiday.

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.


If you haven’t yet, be sure to join
my informative Facebook group, RV Electricity.
(More than 4,400 members and counting.)



What cost, electricity…?

How much does it cost a campground to supply you with “free” electric power?

No, this isn’t going to make me a popular guy with the general readership. But I’m going to discuss what it actually costs a campground to supply electricity to your RV, and should they be metering you for it? I see the pitchforks and torches on the horizon already, but I’m not here to discuss the policy or politics of campground rates. I’m just trying to get a handle on why so many campgrounds seem to have poorly maintained electrical pedestals, very low voltage (as low as 95 volts at some state campgrounds), and corroded or missing electrical grounds that would NEVER pass any kind of electrical inspection. READ MORE.

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


Watch Mike’s one-hour recorded webcasts 
All about portable generators. Recorded May 19, 2019
RV power pedestals: what you should know. Recorded May 10, 2019


Industry Update – Portable Heater Safety

Everyone…

If you don’t believe me about the dangers of portable space heaters, then look at this report from the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association – the keepers of the National Electrical Code) about space heater fires and deaths in the U.S. While this report is primarily for sticks-and-bricks homes, one can imagine that RVs won’t be any more fire-resistant than the average house. So if you must heat your RV with a space heater, please read the following report and recommendations carefully.

Editor’s update: On November 30, seven people were displaced from their home in Roanoke, Virginia, after a fire started from improper use of a space heater. No one was injured. On November 29, a fire caused by a space heater too close to combustibles burned a trailer, cars and outbuildings, in Pasco, Washington. A man escaped with minor burns to his face. There was no smoke detector in the trailer.


Space heaters account for 43 percent of U.S. home heating fires, NFPA reports

NFPA reports that heating equipment is the second-leading cause of U.S. home fires and the third-leading cause of home fire deaths. More than half (53 percent) of all home heating fire deaths resulted from fires that began when heating equipment was too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses or bedding.

READ MORE


Survey Question

How do you power your CPAP machine in your RV?

Please answer only if you use a CPAP machine. We know from a previous survey that 34 percent of you do use a CPAP machine, with another 14 percent used by your partner.


Maintain those slide seals!
RV Travel Newsletter Issue 879If you’ve heard a cracking or popping sound when extending your slideouts, it means your seals are sticking and/or drying out! Using a seal conditioner about every 8-12 weeks is recommended to avoid drying and cracking. Once they begin to wear and show damage, they are no longer working to their fullest capacity. We recommend using Thetford Premium RV Slide Out Rubber Seal Conditioner– it works like a charm.


Last month’s survey results:

(click to enlarge, unless you have really good eyesight!)

Do you use any sort of surge protector or EMS to protect your RV?

Hmmmmm… Perhaps I worded this incorrectly, but I can’t believe that 87% of RVers out there have some sort of surge protector for shore power, with 61% of them having an advanced ($300 to $400) EMS version. So I’m going to revisit this survey in the future. The reason for my doubt is that when I ask this question at an RV rally or trade-show seminar, it seems more like 10% have some sort of basic surge protector and maybe less than 5% have an EMS version. Or perhaps it’s because my readers are smart enough to get one? In any event, I need to find a way to reach a more generic audience for this sort of question. Turns out that my readers are smarter than the average bear.


Tools and Other Devices

Be it ever so humble, when you need some PTFE Teflon tape, you really need it

I learned a lesson in preparedness last week when replacing a toilet. While I thought we had everything needed to install a new 1/4 turn valve, I’m the one who forgot to pack the Teflon PTFE Plumber’s Tape. And guess what? Without the tape the valve leaked and we had to pull the new toilet out to get to the valve, make a trip to the big box store, and waste an hour of time – all because I didn’t have a roll of the proper plumber’s tape. Talk about embarrassing…

So don’t let this happen to you. Keep a roll of this for anytime you need to replace a water valve or fitting, and avoid the lost time and added frustration of pulling a job apart that would have worked the first time if you had the right tape. It’s under two bucks a roll, so you can easily get a 5-pack to use as stocking stuffers for your plumbing and RVing friends. Do you think I’m kidding??? Learn more or order at Amazon.


Last Month’s RVtravel.com Posts

These articles are rated Moderate to understand for most RVers.

Parallel generator neutral bonding.
GFCI testing.
How infrared temp guns work.
Pedestal voltage readings.
Surge protector types.

Last Month’s JAM (Just Ask Mike) Session posts:

These articles are rated Easy to understand for beginners.

AC meter basics. More on how to use a digital meter.
AC meter usage. Mike explains how to use digital meters.
50-amp test plug. A reader asks where to purchase a test plug with 50 amp to a Y with 15-amp outlets on each side so he can test that L1 goes to one side of the Y and L2 goes to the other side.
Why did this plug burn up? A member of Mike’s Facebook RV Electricity group wonders why his RV’s 30-amp power connection prong was charred and semi-melted from his last trip to a campground.
Generator neutral bonding – Part deux. A reader asks Mike why his 2000-watt Honda generator doesn’t power his RV at all.


cord-753Don’t come up short!
Sometimes your 50-amp power cord is not quite long enough! That’s when this 15-foot extension cord will come in very handy. Sure, you can use a wimpy orange extension cord with an adapter — and risk burning up the cord, ruining appliances, or maybe even burn up your rig! With this cord along you’ll be all set. 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’s one about battery overcharging:

Q: While putting the camper away for the winter, do you prefer to leave it plugged in to shore power or just put the battery on a tender? I am beginning to feel the converter is overcharging my battery.

A1: David Rogge — If you think they’re overcharging disconnect them and take indoors.

A2: James Siros — Best to bring them inside if you can. Put it on a tender.

A3: Tim Bard — Depends on what converter you have.

A4: Me — I would probably use the battery disconnect switch and hook up the batteries to a dedicated battery tender. Batteries are way too expensive to destroy, and I’ve had several readers whose RV floor was eaten away by acid after the batteries boiled over due to being overcharged. —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 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.


Mike’s 2021 Road Trip

With any amount of luck, by this time in 2020 I’ll have a prototype of the new all-electric Volkswagen I.D. Buzz to take on a 2021 nationwide tour, presenting seminars and demonstrations about electric vehicle charging along the way. And the best part is, I’m pitching the idea of a retro ’60s music tour as part of it.

Yup, my guitarist and best friend Karl of 40 years has agreed to help me put together an all-electric “flower power” music tour that will take us on a 6,000-mile Odyssey in a 2022 Volkswagen microbus. I drove around in a VW microbus during my long-hair days back in the 1960s, so now it’s time to show off an updated all-electric version. And there should be room to take along a keyboard and a few guitars plus a really nice PA system, so any of you who show up at a campground or dealership can jump up on stage and jam along with us on tunes like “Mellow Yellow” and “Wild Thing.”

Sound like fun? Well, then, watch this space for more updates as the tour comes together. I think the eRV revolution is going to start with small electric vans, not Class A motorhomes, and I’m doing my part to try them out. Groovy, baby. For more information on the I.D. Buzz go HERE.


Camco Store on Amazon has everything!
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

This Little Light

By Mike Sokol

Yes, it’s time for the holidays, which to me includes time with our families as well as remembering those no longer with us. And perhaps the way we can keep those who have passed on “alive” is through stories and traditions that have been passed down to us. While I’m a pretty good storyteller, I’m going to turn this duty over to one of the greatest storytellers in recent history. Yes, it’s a great Christmas story from none other than Paul Harvey.

Each of us has (or, at least, should have) some sort of holiday tradition. Of course, many of these holiday traditions will be built around your own upbringing and culture. But for every culture that I’ve ever interacted with there seems to be a common thread. The winter months seem to be the best time to reflect on our ancestors and the various faiths we were brought up in. I think everyone can agree that memories of our parents, their own parents, and their parents’ parents are important to us since they help define where we came from and who we are.

Hear the rest of the story HERE.

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.

For information on how to support RVelectricity and No~Shock~Zone articles, seminars and videos, please click the I Like Mike Campaign.


STAFF

Editor and publisher: Mike Sokol. 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.

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This newsletter is copyright 2019 by RVtravel.com.

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Charlie Gilmer

I am building an rv with 12vdc and 120vac circuits. I understand that the 12vdc system grounds to the van chassis…. just as in all automobiles.

Does the 120vac system also ground (green wire) to the chassis?

Mark B

Most CPAP require an AC plug-in transformer to work on AC. You become so accustomed to the power brick and forget you are actually transforming 120 volts down to 12 volts.

Most CPAP work on 12volt with just a simple adapter cord. Unfortunately, each manufacturer has their own proprietary cords and a specific cord may be for specific models. They also seem to be about $35 because – well they can charge it.

While you might be thinking I always/only sleep in campgrounds with electric, there may be a time, while traveling you pull into Walmart for sleep, because you need to. Or, the power in the campground goes out in the middle of the night.

PS You won’t be able to use your humidifier on 12 volts.

Mark B

Despite what looks like an ad for CheapHeat below, it isn’t really cheap. You have to pay for the part, you have to pay for the install. Savings will be years away, and only if you camp where electric is “free”. It does offer a convenience factor.

Many rooftop AC units allow for installation of heater element. That installation is very easy and the priced is less than Cheapheat.

I like cheap and quiet heat, and am prepared for boondocking and campground electric. My accessories are as follows:
1) an electric blanket, and that allows me to lower thermostat and use just a tiny amount of electricity.

2) a 12volt blanket and 12volt under the sheet heating pad, and either allows me to lower the thermostat and sleep comfortably, while still running CPAP on house battery while boondocking

3) an AC heating pad (padded, 33″x17″) for those aches and in my easy chair to keep me warm (not for sleeping on). Newest addition and I love it! Best $20 gift to myself.

4) a small wall mounted electric heater about 1″ thick, and can be mounted on combustible surface
5) a very thin oil filled heater panel, and
6) a baseboard oil filled heater
7) a small profile portable ceramic heater (this is a booster heater and should be used w/caution)
8) for emergency, the portable Heater Buddy (never used), and running my engine will heat the entire motorhome

I selected electric units that are lower wattage, or have a selection for lower wattage. I use as amperage being provided will allow.

Except for the ceramic, these heaters have no fans/noise, will are able to be touched. The smaller electric heaters keep the furnace from cycling incessantly. If above 45-50, they will usually keep the furnace from running at all.

PS I acquired the electric heaters in the spring, when stores are clearing out with large discounts (usually 70% off).

Phil Atterbery

Good Morning Mike. Your survey on protection devices had me confused. I have a SouthWire surge protector on the post. My coach has an Intelletec load management panel installed. So, I have both, a surge guard AND an EMS, correct?

Zoom

Mike you are exactly right about power in a campground being a loss-leader. I hear so many comments from campers that if the campground charges for power they will not stay there. Or they say if they charge for power they want a nightly discount. Personally I am willing to pay for a well ran campground with good power. I didn’t purchase an expensive camper to take a chance on having damage from power or other things just to save a few bucks. If the power connections look sketchy I move on.

Richard Hubert

Re: 1960’s VW Bus Camping – In 1962 my family took a transatlantic ship over to Europe where we picked up a VW Camper bus (European delivery) and spent 2 1/2 months touring and camping all over Europe. Pump up Coleman “white” gasoline stove, a few cabinets, a “dinette” table and a pop-up top with a side fitted tent. There were 6 of us living out of that little thing – but because there were no Class A’s or 5th wheels then we had nothing to compare that lifestyle to. Looking back on it now I do not know how we did it. A couple of years ago I saw a restored 1964 VW Camper bus and was was amazed what our parents were willing to put up with in order to travel. But we did it with great fond memories. Not only that – they liked it so much that in 1964 they did it all over again, buying another new VW camper, and bringing it back to the US. Made our 1st trip to Florida in it that Christmas (from NJ). Guess that’s why I am in an RV now – though a much different monster than that little bus.

Robert E Staples

Thank you Mike for all that you do!

DeVere

Thanks for the “rest of the story”. I grew up listening to Paul Harvey, what a news reporter, story teller and a GENTLEMAN! I had the privilege of knowing his family and him. Even though I was just a kid, I will always remember him. Thank you again for the “rest of the story”

Ralph Caldwell

The NFPA report lumps wildly different space heaters together depending on their energy source. Delonghi Oil-Filled Radiator Heater, Presto HeatDish Plus Parabolic Heater and BLACK+DECKER Ceramic Heater all get lumped together but the relative risk is very different. We have a Scamp 16 travel trailer. We use a small ceramic electric heater when we are on shore power and a Origo Heat Pal Alcohol Heater / Stove when we are boon docking. Window and vent cracked open.

Ed Hibbs

Regarding CPAP use in an RV. We like to “camp” in state and national parks as well as normal RV parks and as such, are often boondocking vs plugged in. I have us set up for either but neither is a problem (we’ve boondocked as long as nine-days without firing a generator or motor and by then we needed to dump tanks and the fresh water was getting low so we moved on). Our motorhome is a Class A diesel pusher at 35′ in order to fit in most state and national parks. I have a professionally installed two-solar panel system providing 305 watts solar with four 6-volt batteries that provide plenty of power for our two CPAPs, lights and everything except A/C and microwave. I also had two 12-volt DC accessory plug outlets installed, one on each side of the bed again by professionals. The CPAP machines require an adapter to accommodate 12-volt usage but they are easily available on the internet, just be sure to match it to your manufacturer’s CPAP. We’re set as this is working out really well. Our last boondocking was on BLM land in the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine, CA. Awesome place to visit and plenty of space. Set your RV up properly and boondocking with CPAPs is not a problem.

Larry

Mike for those RVers that want to reduce their use of propane with an Electric Heater supplement. there is solution for them. It’s called the CheapHeat System by RV Comfort Systems and it’s UL listed RVIA compliant product that’s designed for 100% duty cycle. This system comes in a kit form and attaches in to the RV’s current Central Heating System. With the CheapHeat system you have the option of Gas or Electric as a heating source at the simple flip of a switch.
The company has over 2500 systems in the field with nothing but happy customers.
Check it out at http://www.rvcomfortsystems.com or you can contact them at Ph# 425-408-3140.

Darrel

CPAP – invertor using the house batteries when not connected to a pedestal.