Wednesday, October 27, 2021

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RVelectricity – Get your RV ready for winter maintenance

By Mike Sokol

Dear Readers,

Watch my new SoftStartRV installation video HERE.

Since the camping season is just about over, I’m including some tips and gadgets that you can use during your post-camping season maintenance time. There’s more to winterizing your RV than just blowing out the water lines. This is a great time to go over the electrical systems on your RV.

So today’s column will include several tech tips on interesting and important technologies that will help keep your RV humming next spring.

Three of these tips will help keep your RV operating safely and your family safe, while the fourth tip is a quick video of how to pick a better microphone for your Zoom sessions when you call into one of my virtual RV seminars. Yes, I’m a gadget guru or techno-geek or whatever you want to call me. But while you may not use a laboratory grade power supply to run your 12-volt DC refrigerator (yes, that’s exactly what I’m doing in the first picture), many of these techniques are applicable to regular folks like you, both in your stationary house and your RV.

Cold as Mike

Yes, I’m playing Foreigner’s “Cold as Ice” in my head as I write this. While I’ve seen tricks to find out if your freezer thawed out while you were away from your RV such as a penny on an ice cube, there’s a much better way to know just what temperature your RV refrigerator and freezer is maintaining.

I bought one of the Govee portable thermometers last year just as a lab temp gauge, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized it included a very useful Bluetooth logging app that would be great for your own refrigerator. Once it’s Bluetooth connected to your smartphone, it automatically logs temperature and humidity by the minute, day, week, month and year. All for around $15 of your hard-earned cash.

And yes, it works perfectly in your freezer or fridge. To make it even more useful, the Bluetooth signal is robust enough that your iPhone will connect to it without opening the metal door on your refrigerator.

That’s right, I’ve tested it with both a stainless steel Vitrifrigo fridge and a painted metal Dometic fridge, and in both cases it will sync to your phone through the closed doors. Just walk in front of the fridge with your iPhone and app will automatically sync the data.

And take a look at how much data you get. The first graph shows the temperature and humidity fluctuations for a single day. But you can also view the data for a week, month, or even an entire year.

I now have two of these temp gauges in the Dometic fridge I’m current testing, one in the fridge and one in the freezer section. For you all, I think that one thermometer in the freezer would be sufficient to know if your meat has defrosted and spoiled, only to be refrozen once the power came back on. You can get one of these cool Govee thermometers on Amazon HERE.

Leggo my WAGO

Yes, I know WAGO is pronounced with a “short” a, as in a dog wagging its tail, but WAGO (pronounced as in Eggo waffles) is much more fun to say.

I wrote about these handy lever connectors last year (read HERE), and have used them on dozens of projects since them. They are great replacements for standard wire nuts, especially the new larger 221 version that’s rated for up to 10 gauge wires.

During your post-season inspection if you find any melted or discolored wire nuts, these are great replacements for the repair. Just make sure that you clean the copper conductors properly and the insulation isn’t damaged. If the insulation was melted or discolored you’ll need to cut back the wiring until you find good copper and insulation.

Note that these lever WAGO connectors are UL Listed for either stranded or solid copper wire, and you can even add a wrap of tape around them to be doubly sure the level won’t pop open. I just used a bunch of them in an installation video showing how to install a SoftStartRV™ in an Dometic Penguin II air conditioner – which you can watch HERE. And you can find Wago 221 connectors in many big box stores or on Amazon HERE.

Torque it to the limit (sorry, Eagles)

Don’t let this happen to you. Just yesterday I had an RVelectricity Facebook reader send in pictures of her load center with wires that would glow cherry red when she turned on the electric water heater. The picture shows that inches of the white insulation on the neutral wire (the second wire down on the top-left) has already melted, exposing the bare copper.

And this wire has overheated the neutral bus bar to where a lot of the other wires have been damaged. Yes, it could easily have caused a fire, so she’s lucky. This will be a time-consuming (expensive) fix which could have been avoided with a yearly re-torquing of the screws in the power center. However, before you all start stripping screws, I highly recommend some sort of torque limiting screwdriver.

I’ve written about this before (read my previous article HERE), but your post-season maintenance time is a great opportunity to get a proper torque screwdriver and retighten all your RV wiring connections, especially in your transfer switch and load center. Do it now so you don’t forget in the spring when you’re packing for your first camping trip. Find out where to get one HERE.

Can you hear me now?

Okay, this isn’t exactly an RV maintenance tip, but it’s one of my pet peeves that drives me crazy. I’m sure that you’ve all watched newscasters working from home. And you may have even participated in Zoom virtual rally sessions where your face and voice is transmitted to thousands of others to watch and hear.

I’ll focus (ha!) on camera and lighting issues later, but here’s a quick video of me comparing the audio quality of the built-in mic on my Logitech camera (sounds horrible) with my $2,000 DPA and Lectrosonics RF headset mic (IMHO the best headset mic in the world), and a $30 USB Cardioid mic that works amazingly well. Listen to my comparison video by clicking on the image above, or buy one of these inexpensive USB Cardioid mics 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.

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Tom
10 months ago

I like Mike.

Mike
1 year ago

Hi Mike – You do great work!

“DOG-BONE” REDUX: I recently disconnected my oft-used Camco “Dog Bone” Adapter from the 30 AMP pedestal (30 AMP Service to 50 AMP RV Cable). It was secure in the socket when I turned off the power and pulled the dog-bone out.

I was shocked to see burn and heat damage to 2 of the outer 3 30 AMP prongs. 1 was far worse than the other. I also saw a burn mark on the equivalent pedestal socket.

I did a semi-autopsy of the dog-bone (pics available). The worst prong had overheated all the way to the wiring it was connected to, and the prong was a mix of burnt and clean copper. I’m guessing it was caused by corrosion in the pedestal sockets/contacts.

I’ve never inspected the pedestal sockets for corrosion before – and am wondering if I do inspect and suspect some, do you have a recommendation how a pedestal socket might be safely cleaned (turning it OFF before proceeding)? Or should the campground be contacted to replace it?

Mike
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Sokol

Thanks for your incredibly quick response! I did have the campground immediately replace the pedestal outlet when I saw the damage. I kind of figured just “cleaning” it (I was thinking non-conductive emery board) would not work – at the very least because of grit left behind from using an emery board. THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU DO!

Randy
1 year ago

Hi Mike,

Great article – lots of helpful tips! Do you have a recommendation for a battery maintainer to use during off-season months?

steve
1 year ago

Mike, Thanks so much for the reasonably priced Govee recording thermometer recommendation. I have been wanting a recording thermometer for a/c and refrigerator work for a long time. Do you know of any such gadget that would do the same (record) for voltage and amperage, ac and/or dc?

Mike Sokol
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Sokol

And here’s an interesting possibility that’s really inexpensive. I wonder if the app does logging?
TOPGREENER Smart Wi-Fi Powerful Plug with Energy Monitoring, Smart Outlet, 15A, 1800W, No Hub Required, Works with Alexa and Google Assistant, 4 Pack https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FDGYYN7/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_XtjLFb1YT7GPC?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1

steve
11 months ago
Reply to  Mike Sokol

Thanks Mike. I’ll look into those.

Bob
1 year ago

Hi Mike,
I bought the torque wrench and checked all the connections in my transfer switch. As you can imagine, I found some very tight and some loose and everything in between. But, one thing I noticed with the screw terminals is that they deformed the stranded wire and it was difficult to get all the strands captured under the screw. Do you recommend tinning the wires before clamping them in the screw terminals?

Mike Sokol
1 year ago
Reply to  Bob

Solder on stranded wires (called tinning) is not recommended for compression termination (screw connections) because solder changes dimensions (shrinks) under compression, causing it to loosen up on its own. I’ll do a video on using copper ferrules with stranded wire. Also this is why Wago lever connectors are now being used in many Progressive Dynamics power centers.

Steven Sims
1 year ago

Thanks, Mike! It seems to me that every week your columns get better, more informative, and engaging.

I appreciate what you are doing for the community!

Mike Sokol
1 year ago
Reply to  Steven Sims

Thanks very much