RV Electricity – Just Ask Mike (J.A.M.): Keeping cool without an AC

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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.


Dear Mike,
We’ve been stuck in a campground for weeks that has very limited electrical power. In fact, sometimes it drops below 100 volts in the afternoon and our EMS shuts down the power for hours until it comes back up. I understand that running on low voltage can be bad for air conditioners and I don’t mind getting out of that tin can of an RV for some fresh air, but how do you deal with 100+ degrees of air temperature? —Soleil 

Dear Soleil,
Well, I’m a bit of an expert at dealing with hot outside temperatures without the benefit of an air conditioner. For example, when I was the principal engineer running sound at a bunch of live music festivals during the summer I would often be sitting under a small tent out in the middle of the crowd to mix the music for the bands. I couldn’t have walls and an air conditioner in my tent because I needed to hear the band, so there I was, stuck for days at a time under a 10×20 portable tent, and the air temp was overwhelming.

I could rent in or order most anything I wanted for these gigs, so I started getting contractor misting fans. These looked like medium sized table fans that sat on a bucket of water and had a small pump that would create a fine mist in the airstream. And this actually works on the principle of evaporative cooling, so it really does cool the air.

Now many of these early fans needed AC power, which wasn’t a problem when I had a physical mixing console under the tent that also needed power. But in the last few years of doing festivals I did all my mixing from an iPad wirelessly, so I didn’t need a power plug at my tent. They were just coming out with some great battery-powered contractor misting fans, and I used one at a gig several years ago and it worked great.

I loved this misting fan at my gigs so much that I even brought along bags of ice to put in the water bucket, which enhanced the cooling effect even more. With that in mind I just did an experiment with my Vitrifrigo portable refrigerator/freezer a few weeks ago and used it to freeze a bucket of water overnight. This ice bucket would be perfect to sit in the water pail of a contractor misting fan and should help keep you chilled for hours. I don’t have one of these yet to try but the Ryobi one looks great and should run 6 or 8 hours on a single battery charge.

Also, this misting fan from Ryobi can get its water supply from a hose or a bucket, which I’m sure would make you a hero with the kids when you set up a misting area close to your campsite or even your backyard. Just don’t be tempted to run any misting fan inside of your RV since it would quickly turn the interior into a swamp. Find it at Home Depot or Amazon.

Hope this helps you keep your cool.

OK, everyone. Remember that electricity is a useful and powerful force, so we all need to pay attention to safety precautions while using it. And 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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Dr4Film
3 months ago

I installed a Power-Master Voltage Booster model VC-50 years ago for just these types of problems, low voltage in RV Parks and older campgrounds. I have it installed prior to my EMS system so the EMS will never shut me down for low voltage. This device is no longer available but you can purchase a Hughes Autoformer which does the same thing.

Gordy
3 months ago

If the heat is getting to you, a cheap non-electrical aid would be a bucket of ice water and a wash cloth. Dip your hands in the ice water up to your wrist about 1/2 in. above the joint for a couple seconds while wetting the wash cloth. Take the wash cloth (wring it out or not, your choice) apply it to the back of your neck until it warms and repeat. Ice water on those three points will help your body cool itself. This also helps someone who is suffering the effects of heat stroke.

Snayte
3 months ago

I have found much relief by putting my feet in a bucket of cold water. If you can find some of this https://www.amazon.com/Village-Naturals-Therapy-Muscle-Foaming/dp/B00J2ZLSBY and add to the water it makes it feel cooler longer too.

Last edited 3 months ago by Snayte
Snayte
3 months ago
Reply to  Snayte

Another benefit is that I really swear this stuff makes me unpalatable to mosquitoes. They will land on me but then fly off.

Glenda Alexander
3 months ago

I agree with those in humid climates that a misting fan is not appropriate. However, just a simple battery-powered fan without the water helps. I also have a little fan that plugs into a USB port. It probably would be useful for someone using a computer in the outdoors. I bought it at Bed, Bath and Beyond, but no doubt other stores would have them.

Richardjay.whitaker
3 months ago

We have two of these which we used over the 4th of July weekend as people at the Frio river weren’t distancing at all. We sat at the trailer with our bathing suits on using these and didn’t even get a sunburn.

Chuck B
3 months ago

I hope folks don’t try this inside their RV. You are adding so much moisture to the interior, there will sure be mold and mildew forming in many places. Chuck

PennyPA
3 months ago

Mike, where is the helpful info for those of us that are NOT outside in tents? What do WE do to escape this awful, debilitating heat when we’re in our RVs??

Tom
3 months ago

With humidity at 100%, evaporative cooling is limited. Welcome to the Deep South.

Rob
3 months ago

Not very good in the south east when it’s 99/99. 99 degrees and 99% humidity

Steve Mac
3 months ago

Great idea. I will be purchasing one this week. Thanks for the info.