Issue 26 • January 5, 2020
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Welcome, 16,038 readers…
By Mike Sokol
To my 16,038 readers as of Issue 26 – Welcome to 2020. Yes, we made it. And unlike 20 years ago, back in 2000 when the Y2K scare was in full swing, there is no technology juggernaut ready to destroy our computers (or smartphones) at the stroke of midnight. So this is the best time to review some of the more interesting things that have happened for RVelectricity in 2019, and fill you in on what my plans are for 2020. However, as usual, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” so there will likely be some course corrections in 2020 depending on a lot of variables I can’t control or even know about yet.
The rise of the RV Electricity Facebook group
Wow, little did I know that starting up my RV Electricity Facebook group 8 months ago would result in close to 5,000 members by the end of 2019. While some of you won’t join Facebook due to privacy issues (and that’s certainly a legitimate concern), nearly 5,000 of you have joined so far and participate in all kinds of discussions centering on RV Electricity. This group also has a lot of RV technicians and electricians on it, as well as thousands of non-technical RV owners who simply need advice on basic RV electrical operation and troubleshooting. Learn more about and join this group HERE.
RVelectricity Master Classes
When I started doing seminars about RV Electricity two years ago, there was only moderate interest from the host sites, so all I could teach was a single 60-minute seminar. But due to an ever-increasing pressure from attendees (as well as Standing-Room-Only attendance!), many of my 2020 seminars will be a 3-part Master Class with each session lasting 90 minutes. So, over a period of two days you could take three 90-minute RVelectricity sessions covering all aspects of shore power, electrical troubleshooting, portable generator hookups, and even solar panel basics. Here’s the full list of all my seminars planned in 2020, including Basic, Master and Technician levels.
RVelectricity Technician Classes
I recently created a 6-hour advanced RVelectricity workshop for RV technicians, which has been getting great reviews from attendees. And they’ve even asked me to create an advanced 201 RVelectricity course with two or three days of hands-on instruction for technicians. Seems like electricity is a popular topic nowadays, so I’m working on the syllabus for it. Sorry, but you have to be an RV technician already in order to qualify to take one of these advanced classes.
I Like Mike donation campaign
I started this campaign last September in response to my lack of monetary support by the RV industry in general. The question was how could I keep spending 20 to 30 hours a week writing up to a dozen articles and answering hundreds of questions every month, and still have time to make an income on the side.
The short answer is it can’t work, and I was at a crossroads where I needed to decide if I needed to go back and take a full-time engineering job outside of the RV industry, or keep writing and hope for support from my readers. And hundreds of you responded to my I Like Mike campaign with a one-time or monthly monetary contribution. While I’m not getting rich off of this (and it’s not even a living wage), at least it provides another income stream that affords me the free time to keep writing for the RV industry, as well as create new RVelectricity demonstrations that illustrate electrical principles. Thank you all VERY MUCH!!!
RVelectricity video shorts
While my videos in 2019 have had a few startup bumps and restarts, that’s because I’ve been working on how to do these live without spending days on pre-production planning and post-production editing. And instead of really long 45-minute videos, it seems that you want more 3- to 5-minute videos you can watch in a single sitting. It also appears that I have to tailor them for smartphone playback since that’s how many of you now watch videos. This takes a lot of time as I simply won’t publish a video that has any technical errors in it, since telling you something incorrect could be dangerous. So yes, I’m planning more 3-minute Video Shorts for 2020, topics TBA. Check out the Video Shorts format HERE.
J.A.M. (Just Ask Mike) articles
I created this as a simpler version of my regular RVelectricity column, and it’s been a big success. It seems there are a lot of RV owners out there who were never instructed in the basics of hooking up their RV to shore power, resetting a circuit breaker, or understanding the differences between an inverter, converter and battery charger. These JAM sessions publish in every Monday RV Travel Daily Tips newsletters, as well as in the Saturday RV Travel newsletter. There are a lot more basic electrical concepts to write about, so I can keep publishing weekly JAM Sessions for years if I want to.
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 new Facebook group, RV Electricity.
(More than 4,800 members and counting.)
The Lowly Extension Cord
Basic test and maintenance procedures
Few objects in an RV get less respect than the lowly extension cord. They’re kicked around, stepped on, run over, and dragged through the mud. And most of the time they don’t even get wrapped up neatly. No, they’re often thrown unceremoniously into a tangled heap, then plugged in and expected to pass more current than they were ever rated for.
Read more HERE.
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
The VW Beetle is retiring after 70 years.
So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adeiu….
How many of you owned a VW Beetle, worked on one, rode around in one, or turned one into a dune buggy? I had three of these little air-cooled cars by the time I was 21 years old. My first “bug” was a ’59 without a reverse gear which I got for free when I was 14 years old to drive around in the woods. My second bug was a ’61 with a moon roof that I drove from 16 to 20 years old, and blew up (and rebuilt) the engine at least half a dozen times. My third one was a ’57 convertible that I swapped in a turbocharged Corvair engine that went REALLY fast.
But all good things come to an end, and after 70 years, the Volkswagen Beetle is finally retiring. I’m in discussion with Volkswagen about partnering with me on a nationwide electric tour in 2021 using their upcoming I.D. Buzz, an electric-powered version of a VW micro bus that many more of us rode around in during the ’60s and ’70s. Groovy…
So click on the graphic to the left/above and say goodbye with Ren McCormack, Kevin Bacon, Andy Warhol, and Andy Cohen as the little bug drives its last mile. #TheLastMile
What is your electrical knowledge level?
I asked this question a few years ago, but now is a great time to revisit it. Be honest, as I’m trying to cover all the bases here.
Last month’s survey results:
How do you power your CPAP machine in your RV?
Interestingly, only half of those using a CPAP machine depend on shore power to run it overnight. There’s 5% of you who use a generator overnight, and the final 45% use battery power, either from the RV’s house batteries (35%) or a dedicated battery (11%). No wonder I get so many emails about how much battery capacity is needed to run a CPAP machine overnight.
I’m going to contact a few CPAP manufacturers and see if I can get more information on actual power usage. That will help me do some calculations which I can follow up with experimental data. More to do in the roaring ’20s.
Tools and Other Devices
Get the right tool before you strip that wire…
I wrote about having a proper wire stripper a few years ago as a Daily Tip, but after looking at an RV’s power panel a few weeks ago I decided it was time to cover it again.
For you DIY types out there who have to cut and strip wires, there are few things more frustrating than nicking the copper or pulling the insulation off. What you really need is a great pair of wire strippers. But not all wire strippers are created equal. I’ve gone through dozens of them during the 50 years I’ve been working on electronics and power wiring, and these Greenlee Grip P10 strippers are simply the best and what I keep in my own toolkit. They’ll strip anything from 10-gauge wire (for electric brakes and TT-30 wiring) all the way down to 24-gauge wire (for electronics and control wiring).
Last Month’s RVtravel.com Posts
These articles are rated Moderate to understand for most RVers.
• Upcoming RVelectricity™ Seminars with Mike Sokol.
• A few of Mike’s favorite things….
• What cost, electricity? Part deux.
• GFCI Clarification.
Last Month’s JAM (Just Ask Mike) Session posts:
These articles are rated Easy to understand for beginners.
• Can I run a generator and shore power at the same time? Mike answers this question, including clearing up a couple of urban myths.
• Move it like a roadie! Moving heavy things easily and safely around your campsite. (Learn from an expert – and find out how he knows so much about this.).
• Battery charging for a residential refrigerator. A reader asks Mike why his truck’s alternator won’t keep the house batteries charged (and his fridge running) in his 5th wheel trailer while he’s towing.
• Blown fuse indicator. Mike loves this “cool gadget,” which tells you which 12-volt DC fuse is blown. (Fascinating how it works!)
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 a brand-new campground outlet with no visible circuit breaker.
Q: OK, gang. We just arrived at Carabelle, FL, and the pedestal does not have any breakers. Is that normal or legal? This place was under water 2 years ago from a hurricane and everything looks newly rebuilt so I assume it is up to code. (OK, maybe that’s a dumb statement.) Thanks.
A: Am I seeing it correctly that there’s no circuit breaker on this campsite outlet? So there must be a properly sized circuit breaker at the service panel (I hope)? The code requirement is that there’s a disconnect (but not necessarily a circuit breaker) located within 5 feet of the receptacle. Most campgrounds simply use a 20/30/50-amp pedestal with three circuit breakers, which fulfills that code requirement.
And I do worry about the proximity of the water faucet to the outlet, but I’ll have to look that up in NFPA 1194 to know what the actual code requirements are. It all looks a bit dicey, though, especially for a new install.
However, since very few campgrounds are inspected anyway, following the National Code appears to be optional in many cases. But since you have a Surge Guard EMS you should be safe, but what about the next camper who uses this site? —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
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.
By Mike Sokol
Dave Barry and my mustard rebellion…
I don’t just write for the RV world. I sometimes interact with celebrities (well, sort of…). Here’s what I sent to humor columnist Dave Barry in early January, 2000. Yes, that was 20 years ago. And yes, he answered me back TWICE in two decades. So I’m on a roll, or should that be a “bun”?
Editor: 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 2020 by RVtravel.com and RVelectricity.com.
I, too, have a CPAP machine. I’ve been told that it will not last the night on a 12-volt DC Battery because I use the humidifier and heating element to provide enough water vapor. If I don’t use it my nasal passages are very dry in the morning and breathing becomes difficult. My machine is a Res Med 9 model that runs on 24-Volts DC and draws a maximum of 3.75 amps. For eight hours of sleep that works out to 30 amps. My wife uses a two year old Respironics REMstar Auto System One C.P.A.P. that is listed as 12-volts DC and 6.67 amps. Both types use a transformer [?] to step the voltage down to 12- or 24-volts DC. Hope this info will help you determine if one 12-volt battery will last the night. With two of us using CPAPs I would doubt if it will last the night. If we purchase their battery pack we would need 120-volt AC every day to charge their battery. Kind of shoots down any chance of dry camping.
Thanks for the info, Tom. Much more for me to study.
I have never met anyone from RV Travel or Mike Sokal at the Tampa RV Supershow that is on every year in January. This size of this show certainly is the same as the other large shows like Hershey and other large shows. Is anyone from this group scheduled for this year? I believe it starts on Monday January 13, but for the general public it opens on Wednesday January 15. I have been going every year for a long time and never met anyone from your group. It would be nice to have a lecture by Mike. I bet It would be standing room only
According to the power supply for my CPAP, input is 1-1.5 amps @ 110VAC, output is 3.75 amps at 24 VDC. When dry camping in my Class B Roadtrek, I have no problems running the CPAP off the outlet fed by the inverter and still have adequate power in the morning.
I use a portable battery pak/jumper power source for my CPAP but I have to turn off the humidifier & heater on the CPAP to make it through the night. Recharge it while driving with a cig. lighter inverter.
I wasn’t sure what to mark on the survey. Being a GM certified master technician, I am very familiar with 12v systems, 120 VAC 3 phase hybrids and 360VAC 3 phase hybrid, and the safety requirements involved.
I’ve requested Mike Sokol present a video or short talk on troubleshooting short circuits. I haven’t received any response. I guess I can go elsewhere on You Tube.
Drew, I did get your request and I’m working on it. Remember I also publish at least 10 articles each month.
Not to mention just a few other things Mike’s working on. I honestly don’t know when he ever has time to sleep! 😯 —Diane at RVtravel.com
Re: CPAP power, that’s like asking how big an object is. What object? I can give you min/max possible power usage, but temperature/humidity/breathing rate/fatigue/sleeping position and probably 59 other factors throw off actual predictability. I CAN give you actual power after the fact (I have several meters) but who knows what’s typical average for all RVers.
Re: Y2K scare being over…NOPE. A much bigger and harder to patch computer disaster is right around the corner when “seconds since 1970” overflows registers. GPS has already had similar issues with epoch rollover, but its much easier to patch that than all the little processors deployed everywhere with IoT et all.
A word of advice, please. I have a Nor Cold 1210IMD fridge. Last month the compartment light was out. When I went to check the bulb, the clip that holds the bulb broke off in my fingers. I got a new bulb and a new fixture. Everything worked fine till two weeks ago when the light began to go on and off while we had the door open. Sometimes it does not turn on when you open the door, then suddenly comes on. sometimes it is on but goes off. Sometimes it goes on and off and on and off while the door is open. I checked the two door switches. Nothing changes when I tap or pound on them. When the light goes on or off, I can hear a relay switch somewhere in the fridge wall click. So the question is 1) is this a danger to us? Can it short out and cause a spark and start a fire? 2) Is this something I can attack or should I call a service person?
I doubt it could short out, but it sounds like you have a high resistance connection somewhere. Did you have to take anything apart to change the bulb fixture?
Re: CPAPs. There are many different CPAPs that use a variety of voltage and amps. I have an older machine that uses 12V via a step-down transformer from 120V. That CPAP has no humidifier. As a kayak camper, I would take a 35 AH AGM battery in the kayak for week-long trips and charge it with a Solbain 23W-2 AH solar panel mounted on the front of my ‘yack. It provided plenty of recharge power on summer days. But that machine has been retired. Having no humidifier sucks.
Now I own a fancier 24V/120V machine with a humidifier that uses 3.75 AH. I can easily power it overnight with my 540 AH AGM battery bank that charges from a 450W solar array on the roof of my camper. I don’t have one of those noisemaker things they call a generators
Yes, that’s the problem with determining how much battery power is needed to run these CPAP machines. But at least I’m gathering some information on the various types.
The Greenlee Grip P10 strippers, like every other wire stripper on the market, works just fine for you lucky guys (and gals) who happen to be right-handed. Put these in your left hand and see for yourself just how useless they become. First, you can’t read any of the markings. Second, all the wire slots are on the bottom. Can’t someone design a stripper that will work from either side?
Huh? The markings are orientated towards the hand, so it can be seen from either the LH or RH. Actually, with the 22 deg angle built in the handles, a LH user can read them better. “Wire slots on the bottom”??? What is that?
Good thing beer bottles are ambidextrously simple to operate, eh?
Oh BTW, I forgot to mention I would not recommend these strippers as there is NO crimper built into them.
Any chance for an update on the SVP next month?
Not sure where to mark myself in the survey, having a lot of electrical / electronics experience (radio, radar) , but not in the RV arena. Anyway, used the middle one… Thanks for keeping on with your efforts for the RV community.
Hi Al. I agree. My education background is electronics engineering technology and have spent 30 + years in the aircraft avionics and electrical maintenance industry. Perhaps if Mike added another selection, to reflect others with relatable backgrounds, it would provide a better overview of the experience demographic survey. Thanks Mike and the RV Travel staff for the information and updates.