Issue 30 • May 3, 2020
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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.
By Mike Sokol
The word for the day is “boondocking” (remember that), and I believe that it’s the future of camping, at least until the COVID-19 Pandemic is completely under control. Until then there’s likely to be even more limited campground spots when the industry was already short on them.
As of this writing it appears that nearly all state campgrounds are shut down, and many private campgrounds are severely limiting access. If you thought finding a nice (or even any) spot in a campground was difficult last year, it’s going to be even worse this season. More and more of my readers seem to be heading for the “woods” – perhaps not literally the woods, but non-traditional camping spots without water or electricity, and maybe even other campers around them. Hey, that’s how I started camping with my family back in the 1960s in a Cox pop-up camper.
With that in mind, I’ve been studying technologies and techniques that can help keep you and your family safe while boondocking without ready access to power or medical care. Check out my extended report on the Vitrifrigo Danfoss compressor refrigerator paired with a Briter Products Lithium Battery. This is Part II of my Saturday RVelectricity piece in RVtravel where I reported on the basics. It’s at least twice as efficient in terms of battery usage as an equivalent residential refrigerator with a conventional compressor. So it could be possible to use many less solar panels and batteries than might be required for a residential refrigerator. Read more about how Danfoss compressor technology works in this article.
And now that I’ve become deeply involved with monitoring cardiac problems for my 91-year-old father, I’ve found a portable ECG unit that’s the size of a pack of chewing gum, connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth, and produces a 6-lead ECG of your heart beats, all without having to attach those sticky leads to your chest. And it’s been FDA approved and is now being used by leading cardiologists to help monitor their patients. That means that even if you’re thousands of miles away from your cardiologist you can send him or her a daily 6-Lead ECG that will help keep track of that all-important muscle in the center of your chest. Yes, I’ve already contacted the developer of the KardioMobile 6L and they’re sending me a review sample next week, so I’ll be reporting on it soon.
Also, I’m announcing the beginning of my study to determine if SnapPads for your leveling jacks might just help reduce electrical damage to your RV in the event of a nearby lightning ground strike. Yes, for years I’ve assumed (and wrote) that insulating pads under your jacks would do nothing to help keep your RV safe in a lightning storm, but now I’m not so sure. Here’s my chance to prove myself wrong, which I really love to do.
Why am I so happy when I’m wrong? Well, it means I can study something new that I didn’t already know, and come up with new theories on how it works. Hey, if it was good enough for Einstein, it’s good enough for me. Read my SnapPad Lightning study below.
Finally, read my Road Signs piece about the last cross-country camping trip I took with my parents when I was 15 years old and heard the lunar landing of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on July 20, 1969, using nothing more than a battery-powered AM radio. And as you might guess, I was sitting in our pop-up camper building an Estes model rocket while listening to the landing. Good times….
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.
Staying safe in a lightning storm
Can RV SnapPads under your leveling jacks help reduce damage to your RV’s electrical system from a nearby lightning ground strike?
I’m beginning to study this concept just in time for lightning season. For many years I made the claim that insulating pads under your RV jack stands would do nothing to protect your RV from electrical damage in the event of a direct lightning strike. And I believe that is still true, having performed a recent insurance inspection for a $500,000 coach that suffered a direct lightning strike on its roof.
However, for every direct strike, there are probably hundreds of smaller lightning ground strikes in the area that energizes the campground wiring. And it’s possible that insulating jack pads could prevent something I’m now referring to as a whiplash effect through the ground and where a DC pulse lightning current damages more of your electrical system due to secondarily grounding your RV, rather than insulating it from the ground. Join me as I begin to study this phenomenon and review technical papers on how insulating your leveling jacks might reduce electrical damage to your RV.
Email me at mike (at) noshockzone.org with your questions.
Run two air conditioners on 30 amps – Wow!
When the temperature really gets sizzling and your 50-amp rig is stuck with a 30-amp hookup, you’re out of luck if you want to run two air conditioners. That is, unless you have a state-of-the-art SoftStartRV. It’s inexpensive, simple to install, and works just as promised. Don’t miss watching the short video by RV electricity expert Mike Sokol. Learn more or order at a special discount.
Watch Mike’s 30-minute recorded webcasts. Here are my RVelectricity Basics seminars Parts 1, 2 and 3.
Yes, I have no live seminars scheduled this year due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, but I’ve been able to convert them all into live webinars, through the wonder of the Internet and a YouTube channel. Hey, I look pretty good on the small screen, I think…
• RVelectricity Basics Part 1: Volts, Ohms, Watts and Meters
• RVelectricity Basics Part 2: Campground Pedestals and Surge Protectors
• RVelectricity Basics Part 3: Generators, DC-DC Chargers and Lightning Protection
Could there be a Danfoss compressor in your next RV refrigerator?
Just yesterday I posted my first report on how a Vitrifrigo Danfoss BD compressor refrigerator and a Briter Products 100 amp-hour lithium battery run over 36 hours on a single charge, more than tripling the time that a residential refrigerator could run on the same battery technology. So what exactly is a Danfoss compressor and what makes it a better technology for RV refrigerators?
Will you be camping this summer? If so, where?
Troubleshoot with an AC/DC clamp meter
You see me use a lot of AC/DC clamp meters while troubleshooting all kinds of RV electrical systems, both short circuits as well as why a battery is discharging too quickly. Here’s the one I use that has never let me down, a Southwire 21050T, which you can find at many Lowe’s Stores or on Amazon HERE.
Last month’s survey results:
Are you interested in RVelectricity™ boondocking information?
Looks like 44% of you who responded to the survey want more boondocking-specific information, and 49% are a maybe. Only 8% of you aren’t interested in boondocking info, which I’m guessing is due to the probability that you don’t plan to boondock. Fair enough… But the 92% of you that want boondocking info at some level are a great target audience. That means more information on Lithium vs. AGM batteries, solar panel selection and installation, and inverter reviews. Plus I can think of a ton of other topics to cover for those of you who want to cut the umbilical cord and camp away from campgrounds. Can’t say that I blame you because my first family camping trips were definitely “off the grid.” Read my Road Signs piece below for more information on that.
Just add a smartphone to begin testing your own heart for problems, no matter where you happen to be camping or sheltering in place. This can save your life!
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.
• Reader asks meaning of AC power, and Mike explains.
• Think rubber tires will protect your RV from lightning? Think again! Why are you protected in some RVs but not at all in others? Find out here.
• Is a warm electrical outlet cause for concern? Mike explains why anytime you feel an outlet or wiring getting warm, that’s time for concern.
• Do I need a generator grounding rod? A reader asks Mike if he has to ground his new generator to a ground electrode, as the manual says.
Q&A’s from my readers:
Q: Do you know anything about how loud a contractor generator is? There’s a really good deal on them at my local hardware store, but I’m worried about it being too loud for other campers. I’m nearly deaf so it won’t bother me, but I don’t want to be a bad neighbor. —Sam
A: Indeed I do. As I’ve noted before I’m a live-sound professor at a major university where I regularly teach about and measure loud sounds. I know that rock-n-roll and generators don’t seem like the same thing, but as far as my decibel measurement tools are concerned, they most certainly are.
The basics are this…, Every portable contractor generator that I’ve looked at is too loud for camping. Click on the image to watch (and listen to) a calibrated comparison of the noise difference between a Honda inverter generator and a typical contractor generator. While the prices of contractor generators may be attractive, the noise levels certainly are not. While Honda is the leading manufacturer of portable inverter generators, there are now many competitors making more affordable inverter generators. However, you get what you pay for, and some of the inverter generators I’ve looked at seem to have inflated wattage numbers, so they won’t perform as well as the higher priced one. Sorry, but TANSTAAFL (There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch). But there are indeed Honda alternatives that should get the job done – I just haven’t reviewed them yet.
In the meantime, please read the article HERE that I published on RVtravel.com last week comparing the different classes of generators, including the CarGenerator™, which might be ideal for those of you who just need an occasional hour or two of generator power to augment your solar panels but don’t have the room to haul around a dedicated generator with a gas can, etc. And it can be quieter than a Honda inverter generator if your tow vehicle hasn’t had its mufflers removed. —Mike
Q: Can I use the built-in generator in my RV coach to power my house if the power goes out. What are the basics?
A: Whatever you do, never use some sort of male-to-male back feeding extension cord to power your house from your RV generator. I think the best way to accomplish this would be to add a circuit-breaker protected NEMA 14-50 FEMALE outlet inside of your RV’s access panel that’s connected to your generator transfer switch. Then install a proper twist-lock MALE inlet on the side of your house that’s connected to your home’s electrical service panel via a proper generator transfer switch. What you can get away with for this home connection depends on your local electrical code, so I can’t tell you exactly what you need for inspection, but you’ll need to pull a permit and get it inspected – don’t do this on your own.
Finally, get a Male 50-amp NEMA 14-50 to Female twist lock dogbone adapter to connect into your home inlet. Once you have all of this done you can connect your existing RV’s shore power cordset in reverse from the outlet inside of your RV’s generator compartment to the inlet on your house. When you run your RV generator it can then power your house safely. Please let me know if you would all like an extended article on how to do this. It’s all in my head right now, but my head’s been doing this sort of thing for 50 years. —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 Video Quick Tips
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.
What do model rockets and the first lunar landing have to do with camping? Turns out, quite a lot….
Yes, like many of you I remember where I was when Neil Armstrong stepped out onto the moon for the first time in history back in 1969. I was 15 years old camping in a Cox Pop-Up camper somewhere in Canada building my own model rocket. Where were you?
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: 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..
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