By Mike Sokol
Welcome to my J.A.M. (Just Ask Mike) Session, a weekly column where I answer your basic electrical questions. If you’re a newbie who’s never plugged in a shore power cord (or ask – what’s a shore power cord?), or wonder why your daughter’s hair dryer keeps tripping the circuit breaker, this column is for you. Send your questions to Mike Sokol at mike (at) noshockzone.org with the subject line – JAM. This week I explain dog-bone adapters and more on surge protectors.
Join me tomorrow night, March 16, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (5:00 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time) for my next Ask the Expert live stream interview with Will Russell from SmartPlug. You’ll be able to text your questions about RV shore power connectors to us in real time. Sign up for a YouTube reminder here.
I’ve just picked up my first RV with a 30-amp plug, and wonder if I need any kind of electrical adapters before hitting the road for my first camping trip the end of March. And do I really need a surge protector? Seems like a lot of money to spend… —Dominique
Both are great questions that I can certainly answer here. Yes, there are a few adapters that can come in handy, and I do suggest an Advanced/EMS surge protector as well. But first things first…
Dog-bone adapters to the rescue
You should have noticed by now that your RV uses a pretty heavy cord to hook up to power, and the plug won’t fit in any of your home outlets. So the first thing I’m going to recommend is a 15- to 30-amp dog-bone adapter. Here’s why we call them a dog-bone adapter. Note that I’m modeling the latest in Dog-Bone Fashion (not), and it sort of looks like a cartoon version of a dog chewing on a bone. Hah!!!
15- to 30-amp dog-bone adapters
While this type of adapter won’t allow you to run everything in your RV at the same time, or even a lot of things in your RV simultaneously without tripping a circuit breaker, it will allow you to plug your RV into a home 15- or 20-amp outlet to get your batteries charged, refrigerator cold, and check out your entertainment system, etc.
It would even allow you to run your microwave as long as not much else was turned on at the same time. There are a few other variations of this dog-bone adapter (for example 50- to 30-amp) that are suitable for more advanced campers. Let’s start with a basic one first, and I’ll add others in the next few weeks. Here’s a nice one from Camco that should do the job for you.
Advanced/EMS surge protectors
I just wrote about this at length in my Saturday column HERE, but as a quick recap this is what I recommend for you to purchase before you hit the road for the first time. Just be aware that the 30-amp outlet you plug into could have been miswired by a DIY guy or residential electrician with 240 volts, instead of the 120 volts that your RV requires. If you do accidentally plug your RV into a 30-amp outlet miswired with 240 volts, the Advanced/EMS surge protector won’t even let the electricity into your RV at all.
Yes, these cost close to $300, but know that the $85 Entry Level surge protectors won’t stop that over-voltage from happening. So bite the bullet and get an Advanced surge protector. I like the ones from Surge Guard, but Progressive and Hughes both make Full Protection Surge Protectors as well. You can get the Surge Guard 334930 HERE.
Gentlemen (and women), start your engines and get camping!
Ready, set, go…. OK, everyone. Remember that electricity is a useful and powerful force, so we all need to pay attention to safety precautions while using it.
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.
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