Issue 8 • June 24, 2018
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By Mike Sokol
Thanks for reading RV Electricity Issue #8. Readership continues to grow with more than 9,100 subscribers. Plus many more of you read it after finding it through Google searches or from friends. Of course, I continue to publish a weekly No~Shock~Zone article in every RVtravel.com newsletter on Saturdays, so you should subscribe to it as well. Sign up for either or both of the newsletters here.
While my lead article below will seem more technical than most things I write, it’s necessary because we’re comparing generator noise. I’ve watched and read hundreds of videos and articles on the “interweb” about generator noise levels, and I’m a bit embarrassed by how little the average self-proclaimed “expert” knows about sound. But that doesn’t stop them from making blanket statements about generator noise that are completely wrong. So read my piece on Generator Noise Pollution below a few times until it sinks in.
The takeaway is that a generator that measures 62 dB versus one that measures 56 dB isn’t an increase in sound of only 10%, it’s actually a 400% difference in sound levels. Why? Read on….
Let’s play safe out there…
Generator Noise Pollution – Part 1
I’ve had several recent emails about noisy generators bothering nearby campers. I guess it’s that time of year when everyone needs air conditioning in their RVs and no sane amount of solar panels and house batteries has enough power to run an air conditioner for more than a few minutes. So unless you’re connected to shore power, you need a generator.
Read the rest of this article here.
Save your propane!
Easily convert to electric heat!
SAVE $$$! Until now, the standard for heating recreation vehicles of all types has been to use bottled propane (LPG). With the CheapHeat™ system there’s a better option. Now you have a choice to change the central heating system between gas and electric with the flip of a switch. When you choose to run on electric heat rather than gas, your coach will be heated by the electricity provided by the RV park. Learn more.
If you’ve been following along with this series, you already know about voltage, amperage and wattage. But what about that 800 lb. gorilla in the room, Voltage drop?
Rumors and innuendo
We’ve all heard about how hooking up an RV on too long or too skinny of an extension cord can force its appliances to run on 100 volts instead of the regular 120 volts, thereby burning out the motors or other components. While this may happen only rarely in your home, that’s because the electric company works very hard to keep the voltage levels constant no matter how much current you’re drawing. However, that may not be the case when you’re using your own extension cord running from a campground pedestal.
But before we get into the reality of what happens to electrical gear that’s running on 100 volts rather than a full 120 volts, let’s figure out why this voltage drop thing happens in the first place.
Read the rest of this article here.
Truma AquaGo®: Instant, Constant and Endless Hot Water
The revolutionary Truma AquaGo® hybrid instant water heater provides instant, constant and endless hot water. The Truma AquaGo® is the only RV water heater that can be decalcified to extend product life and maintain performance. And its “Easy Drain Lever” makes winterization simple. Use the Truma AquaGo® to replace any 6 – 16 gallon water heater. Find a dealer at www.truma.net.
In case you missed it, Bobby Raatz from Southwire/Surge Guard was a guest on the RV Daily Report podcast last week. He discussed the reasons why you need a surge protector on your RV and how this technology works, including basic MOV (metal oxide varistor) operation. I highly recommend that you listen to his technical interview, which is NOT a sales pitch for Southwire by any means. Listen to it here.
Also, I was a guest on the RV Daily Report last month and discussed lightning safety and hot-skin voltage dangers. Listen to my interview here.
Never Stop Learning… — Mike
What kind of generator do you use?
Please let us know. After you click your response, you’ll see how others have responded. Feel free to leave a comment. We’ll post the final results in the next RV Electricity Newsletter.
Stop rust and corrosion
Of the many gremlins that attack your RV —like mold, mildew, leaks and black streaks — rust will attack your hand tools, spare parts, door hinges & other vulnerable metal surfaces & moving parts over time. STA-BIL® Rust Stopper prevents rust & corrosion by protecting metal surfaces with a long-lasting barrier while lubricating parts & tools to stop squeaks & sticking. Learn more.
survey results (see right):
Well, it looks like I’m hitting the middle of the bell curve, so steady as she goes. Anytime you think I should write a variation of an article to make it much harder or softer, just let me know. Click to enlarge the survey results.
Tools and Other Devices
Sprinter Torx bits
If you drive any kind of a Class-B Sprinter, then you should consider carrying a set of metric Torx sockets and bits. You can use these for everything from adjusting a door hinge to changing the fuel filter. And if you get stuck on the road with only a hometown garage to help with your repair, then having the right sockets can really help get you repaired and going faster. I speak from experience, having driven my Sprinter some 300,000 miles back and forth across the country numerous times. I can’t find a duplicate of my old Craftsman set, but this looks like it should do the job. Learn more or order at Amazon.com.
Last Month’s RVtravel.com Posts
• Hot-skin voltage troubleshooting.
• Can I use a welder outlet for 50-amp RV power?
• Inverters 101: Understanding amps and volts.
• How to safely test for a hot-skin condition on your RV.
Don’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. Need a 30-amp extension cord? It’s here.
Q&A’s from Forums
I spend a lot of time on dozens of other RV forums answering questions about electricity. Here are two of them:
From the No~Shock~Zone:
Q: On Jun 14, 2018, Alan and Karla West wrote:
I ran across your No∼Shock∼Zone article on using a neutral/ground bonded plug with portable inverter generators to power an RV when using a Progressive Industries power monitoring system. Super informative! I also watched your YouTube video on the subject. Really appreciate you putting out this helpful content. Thanks!
I have a Honda EU2000I and an EU2000I Companion 30 amp. I parallel these together to run the AC in our 5th wheel. When I run these paralleled together, do I need to have a neutral/ground bonded plug plugged into each generator or just the one that has the 30-amp receptacle?
Thanks for your response in advance. —Alan West
A: Dear Alan,
That’s an easy one. You only need to use a Neutral-Ground Bonding plug in the generator with the 30-amp outlet. That establishes the proper Neutral-Ground bond on the outlet feeding the RV. The other generator will go along for the ride and do whatever the Companion generator does. Be aware that the parallel kit for the Honda generators is non-polarized, which means you can connect them in or out of phase (Hot to Hot and Neutral to Neutral OR Hot to Neutral and Neutral to Hot) but that’s no big deal because the generator outputs are totally floating. But if you put a 3-light outlet tester in the non-bonded generator there’s a 50/50 chance it will read reversed polarity. Again, no big deal but don’t get worried if you test both generators with a 3-light tester and one seems reversed. I usually mark the parallel kit with some colored electrical tape once I determine proper polarity. But that’s just due to my own tendency to over-test everything I do.
And here’s a video I made about neutral/ground testing and bonding of a Honda EU3000iS generator. —Mike
From the Airstream Forum:
I just finished reading your book “RV Electrical Safety“. Does the aluminum structure of an Airstream create a Faraday cage? Does a Faraday cage require ferrous metal to generate magnetic field? —Cordially, Larry Determan
Yes, it should act like a Faraday cage. No, ferrous metal isn’t required. Anything conductive will work to generate a magnetic field. Consider that a loop of copper (which is non-ferrous) will generate a magnetic field if any current passes through the wire, and vice versa, of course.
For those of you who don’t know, a Faraday cage is simply a metallic box that forces an electric current (like a lightning strike) to flow around the outside of itself, and prevents that current from getting inside of the box. The most common example is your car, which will protect its occupants from a lightning strike by bending the lightning around the outside of the car. And no, this doesn’t have anything to do with the rubber tires on the car, and no it doesn’t work with a convertible. —Mike
Email me at mike (at) noshockzone.org with your questions.
The best book on RV electricity, hands down!
Mike Sokol is America’s leading expert on RV electricity. He’s taken his 40+ 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
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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Have you done any research on the addition of a wind turbine to both generator and solar? Seems like on overcast or rain days this would complete the Hybrid power circle.
No, but I did see one at the FROG rally in Goshen a few weeks ago. Looked pretty interesting, but I don’t have any data on how well it worked. It would be an interesting study, so I’ll approach a few wind turbine manufacturers to see if I can get a demo unit to report on.
While staying at a friends, using a 30 Amp, and after several hours of use, my progressive industries surge guard shut off the power due to a reversed polarity issue. I unplugged and checked the receptacle and got a hot / neutral reversed with my plug in tester. Pulled receptacle and it was wired right went to panel box it was wired right. Tried again later everything was ok. Then it went to reversed polarity again. I’m confused what would cause this back and forth problem.
Mark, Is this the type of tester you were using? https://www.rvtravel.com/deciphering-the-3-light-outlet-tester/
Did you happen to also use a volt-meter to test the outlet? These 3-light testers are not a definitive test and IIRC (if I remember correctly), a loose, but still connected ground wire can cause a hot/neutral reversed indication. Were the yellow and red light on brightly, or was one of them dimly glowing?
I am not certain if your Stray Voltage reports are up and running. It is actually my wife that reads the news letter regularly.
We were recently in Bighorn Canyon staying at Horseshoe Bend, sight 8B. I checked for hot skin when we first plugged in, and everything seemed ok. When we turned on the AC, we kept losing power. We have a permanent surge protector, and I was afraid that it was going bad. It turns out that it was doing exactly what it was designed to do. We left a day early, and we spoke to a ranger as we were leaving and he told us that the park had documented prior problems with voltage fluctuations. While this may not have endangered us, it certainly put our pet in danger as we had left her in the RV with the AC running.
I do want to point out that the campground is run by Hidden Treasure Charters, not the Park Service.
As far as hot skin and Faraday cages (2 separate articles, I know) … does hot skin occur on fiberglas or other non-metallic sided units? Also, is there a Faraday effect on Saturn vehicles (a popular toad with plastic body parts) and others such as Corvette?
On all-fiberglass RVs you don’t get a hot-SKIN voltage per se. But since virtually everything metal in an RV is bonded to the chassis, and the chassis is electrically hot, then everything bonded to the chassis becomes electrically hot including your entrance steps, door frame, tow hitch, water connection, tow vehicle, propane tank(s), etc… As I’ve said many times over, I really don’t like the term “hot-skin” but I use it because that’s what many readers and manufacturers understand. I should really (and often do) call it a hot-chassis voltage.
And yes there’s no Faraday Cage Effect (or bananas) in a Saturn or Corvette or any convertible, for that matter. So if you want to give me your 1963 Corvette Stingray with the 327 engine and 4-speed transmission I would be glad to take it off your hands and avoid driving it in lightning storms…
I read a teaser somewhere about some campgrounds not allowing rigs with 50 amp service to connect to their 30 amp pedestals. Now I can’t find the story. Is there a link to it?
Hi, Shannon. Here’s a link to the continuation of Chuck’s essay this week, where he mentioned that warning: https://www.rvtravel.com/more-from-the-editor-issue-851/ He also indicated that electrical expert Mike Sokol will write about this subject in the future — so be watching for it. Thanks for asking! 😀 —Diane at RVtravel.com
No worries…. I’m looking at the possible 30/50-amp adapter ban at some campgrounds very seriously, and will do a full article on it soon, probably in my next full newsletter in July.
Mike M: make the plug under a dollar from Homeless Despot. Get a 3 prong male replacement plug, and literally bond G/N, ignoring L. Wire doesnt need to leave the plug and really shouldn’t.
Sokol: definitely NOT too technical, and I look forward to part 2… I hope you won’t ignore the distance factor in this discussion, since I would never use a generator where I was packed in tight to neighbors anyway, and there’s usually shore power at sardine sites.
Where do you find a neutral-ground bonding plug? I have looked for it but it says that progressive industries doesn’t make it anymore.
Surge Guard / Southwire will soon be selling generator Neutral-Ground bonding plugs, or as Wolfe as alluded to it’s pretty easy to make your own. I will tell you though that I’ve had a number of readers get the wiring mixed up when making their own G-N bonding plug, so you still have to be careful.
I guess I must be half blind as I’ve been thru this newsletter several times looking for part 2 on generators, but I can’t find it. I was under the impression it was to be published today 6/24/18.
If you’re looking for Part II on my generator noise article, Part I was just published in my newsletter on 6/24/18, and Part II won’t publish until the last Sunday in July. You probably pre-read Part I on generators earlier in the week because you want to stay ahead of things (the early bird gets the worm). For those of you who don’t know, all of our RVtravel articles are pre-published a few days in advance of their actual newsletter release date. That gives us a few days to see what they’ll actually look like online and gather a few comments before they’re sent out to 80,000 readers every Saturday morning.
Or are you thinking about some other article I wrote previously and forgot about? I must admit to losing track sometimes because I write so much for a variety of publications outside of the RV industry. And I’ve covered a lot of “ground” (hah) on generators for pro-sound engineers doing rock concerts and such.
The reason why I sometimes forget what I’ve written is that I’ve been publishing feature articles in magazines for 35 years now, with MANY thousands of full articles in print, and tens of thousands of technical responses on hundreds of forums of all kinds, not just RV forums. So please forgive me if I sometimes sound confused. It’s only because I am….