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.
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:
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…
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.
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
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By Mike Sokol
Editor: Mike Sokol. Managing editor: Diane McGovern.
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