December 6, 2020
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By Mike Sokol
We’ve all had a lot of challenges this year. As a personal example, I had more than a dozen RVelectricity seminars scheduled around the country in 2020, including the Hershey Show, the FROG rally, and teaching electrical safety classes for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories (no kidding). Here’s a pic from my last Master Class Seminar in Live Oak, FL, with 300+ attending each day for 3 days in a row. What a great class!
But all my live events were then canceled due to COVID-19, forcing me to reinvent myself. However, I’m lucky since I already had video cameras, microphones, lights, computers, and every kind of editing software you can imagine. Yes, I teach audio production techniques as an adjunct professor, as well as write about audio-video editing and production for a number of pro-audio magazines and websites. You guys know I’m really just a sound-guy posing as a teacher, correct?
But it hasn’t been easy. I do miss the seminar crowds, and visiting the rallies to meet my readers was one of the highlights of my road trips. Still, I’ve learned a lot about virtual teaching over the last 8 months or so, and have turned it into a powerful tool. So when I do get to restart live seminars sometime in 2021 (fingers crossed) I’ll be live streaming them for the rest of the country as well. I’ve already discussed this with the various show promoters, who all love the idea. As ZZ Top writes “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide.”
Now, this type of remote learning would never be possible without millions of RVers who are currently watching Zoom classes covering thousands of topics on their mobile devices and computers, which means that you are the ones actually driving this technology. So even if I don’t see you on the road in 2021, I’ll see you in one of my virtual sessions real soon.
Let’s all keep safe and meet in 2021 – either virtually or face-to-face. I can’t wait…
See you on the road. Let’s play safe out there…
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.
If you haven’t yet, be sure to join
my new Facebook group, RVelectricity.
(More than 11,000 members and counting.)
Hughes Autoformer testing – Part 3
I’ve just gathered the next set of voltage and current measurements showing how the Hughes Autoformer works with a 15 kBTU Dometic Penguin II air conditioner, this time using the stock starting capacitor.
It’s now operating with the voltage/current boost ratios that all my textbooks predict should happen. By itself none of this data is conclusive one way or another in terms of reversing the NEC decision to ban all booster transformers from campgrounds as of the 2020 code cycle.
So now I have to do several sets of experiments with and without the Hughes Autoformer in-circuit to determine if it creates too much extra current draw in a campground, or if it actually can reduce current draw from an air conditioner that’s operating on extremely low campground voltage.
Read more HERE.
Email me at mike (at) noshockzone.org with your questions.
Watch Mike’s one-hour recorded webcasts
• All about portable generators. Recorded May 19, 2019
• RV power pedestals: what you should know. Recorded May 10, 2019
And you’ll want to watch my 12-minute video about how to troubleshoot a short circuit in a 12-volt DC system without blowing a bunch of fuses. It very safe and simple to perform. Click on the picture to view the Powerpoint presentation as well as watch me do a desktop demonstration of short-circuit current tracing.
Need a question about RVing answered? The Facebook group RV Advice is an excellent place to ask it.
RVillage acquired by Togo Group: A Curtis Coleman exclusive interview by Mike Sokol
Togo Group, the Cincinnati- and Chicago-headquartered travel technology company, has acquired RVillage, the online RV community sometimes referred to as the “Facebook for RVers.”
Following is an exclusive interview I did Friday afternoon, December 4, with Curtis Coleman, founder of RVillage, regarding RVillage being acquired by Togo Group and what it means for RVillage members.
Read my exclusive interview with Curtis HERE.
Be like Mike! Use this 3-light and digital voltage tester!
Mike Sokol says: “I found this nifty tester online and have been using it in a variety of voltage checking situations. It performs all of the 3-light tests for outlet polarity, open ground, open neutral, etc., as well as being a 3-digit digital voltage indicator. In addition, it performs a standard 5 mA GFCI safety test – which you should be performing on all of your GFCI outlets once a month (or at least once a camping season).” Read more about it here.
Last month’s survey results:
Interestingly, nearly 1/4 of you actually pull your RV batteries out and keep them in your garage or basement. That’s a lot of heavy lifting and rewiring to be done. I will note that in the springtime I always get a lot of emails from readers who can’t remember how to hook their batteries up correctly. Or, even worse, they get the polarity reversed and swap the positive and negative terminals. At the very least that will blow fuses in your converter, but it also has the potential to fry a lot of your other 12-volt DC electronics.
So if you are planning to remove your batteries for the winter, make sure you mark all the cables properly with white electrical tape and a Sharpie marker, take a lot of pictures, remove all metal jewelry, and be careful to loosen and take off the negative battery terminals first.
Don’t be like this reader who got his metal bracelet trapped between the alternator wire and the chassis. That was a painful lesson – with the scars to remember it by. In fact, 12-volt DC systems can be more dangerous than 120-volts AC just because of the huge currents (up to 1,000 amperes) available during a short-circuit. Read more about staying safe while working on batteries HERE.
I’ll be sure to publish another article about replacing batteries in the spring – just in time for you to reinstall them. But in the meantime, I would suggest you get a battery tender, leave the batteries in place (after checking for electrolyte level, of course) and avoid the strain on your back. Batteries don’t mind the cold … they just don’t like to be discharged completely and sit for weeks or months. That’s what kills those batteries.
Tools and Other Devices
Ring video doorbell for watching the elderly
Last year I picked up a Ring video doorbell to help watch my 91-year-old father, who lives alone. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
After we lost Mom over a year ago, we moved my dad into a townhouse very close to me. When he took a big fall we also got him a fall-alert system which has alerted us a few times when he tripped in the house. But I was worried about him going to the mailbox across the little street and not coming back, or even locking himself out of the house when he takes a few steps to get his paper in the morning. This concern was compounded by my scheduled cross-country seminars, where I would be gone for days at a time teaching RVelectricity classes.
So I thought that a Ring video device on the front door would help give me some peace of mind, especially when I was 1,000 miles from home and Dad wasn’t answering his phone. Perhaps you have your own aging parents who you worry about while you’re out camping or on business. Well, the most basic Ring camera costs around $99, connects to your existing doorbell wiring or runs off its internal battery, and links to a Wi-Fi router in your home. For a $30 per year service fee, Ring will keep recordings of whatever happens at the front door, sending an alarm to your cell phone no matter where you are in the world. And it will also let you know (from thousands of miles away) if there’s been a report of neighborhood break-ins.
The latest Ring video algorithms are great since they allow you to set the sensitivity and trigger area – including waiting for a person-shaped object in visual range to start the recording and send an alarm to your smartphone. And, of course, it’s great at recording when a delivery person drops off a package at the door and rings the doorbell. You can even talk back to the person at the door using your smartphone and the built-in speaker in the Ring device.
Now, my dad can’t operate this since he still has his 10-year-old flip phone, so I have it linked to my own phone to help watch over him. This is just one more tool to help keep your parents or other family members safe while you’re on the road for business or fun.
Learn more about the Ring video doorbell or order at Amazon.
Last Month’s RVtravel.com Posts
These articles are rated Moderate to understand for most RVers.
• Cheap trick for finding a short circuit.
• It may be time for SmartPlug upgrades.
• Power adapter overview – What works or doesn’t work?
• Power principles further explained.
Last Month’s JAM (Just Ask Mike) Session posts:
These articles are rated Easy to understand for beginners.
• Charging batteries with a tender.
• Water heater woes…
• Appliance power usage update.
• Avoid space heater danger: What you need to know – Part 2.
Q&A’s from my readers: November 2020
I’m getting a lot of interesting questions from my readers, many of which are on my RVelectricity Facebook Group. Here are a couple:
Q1: Long time since I last talked with you. I keep seeing your articles referencing the neutral bonding issue, which you and I dealt with almost 8 years ago, before you created your own dummy plug for sale. You instructed me on how to create one, so I created one the next day and it’s worked great since then. However, there is one minor drawback that frustrates me. I can’t use both of the 15-amp outlets on the duplex on the generator, since the bonding plug takes up one of them. …
Q2: I read your article and have attempted to put a battery cutoff switch on our 2011 Newmar Bay Star without any luck. For the house batteries, I have two 6-volt batteries in series, as your diagram shows. I ran a battery cable from the ground to the frame to the switch, then from the switch to the negative terminal (where the other negatives are all connected).
When I turn the knob to the OFF position, everything works, same as when it is in the ON position. Very confused why it does not work…
Read the rest of these questions and Mike’s answers HERE.
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. 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
• Short Circuit current tracing (training video) – 12 minutes
• Mike’s new mic (Yes, I care about my audio)– 3 minutes
Snoopy and the Red Baron with a message for our times
By Mike Sokol
The Christmas season can now officially begin because my wife, Linda, has finally heard the “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron” Christmas song by The Royal Guardsmen. She listens for it every year and says that she’s not in the mood for Christmas until she hears it. So what is so special about this song, and what can we learn from this precocious beagle and his arch-nemesis, the Red Baron? Well, it’s about fierce enemies declaring an unofficial ceasefire.
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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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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You forgot one question in the Survey. I would’ve added “Do you use your generator year round because you live in an area that doesn’t freeze?” ME ME I DO I DO. We camp year round in California where you go north and see it rain…..go east and see it snow….go south to the warm sun……go west to the beach. But don’t tell anybody.
Agreed Snoopy and the red baron and my favorite David Bowie with Bing Crosby, little drummer boy. Very rare they play it.
last year our second vehicle sat for 2-1/2 months in our garage while we were traveling in our RV. When we returned, I found its battery not only dead but ruined due to being discharged by the vehicle vampires and sitting too long without recharging. This year I plan to connect the new battery to a charger/tender. Do I need to disconnect the vehicle battery cables or can I just install the charger/tender to the battery with its cables still connected?
Thank you for all you do!
My 2 Honda 2000’s that are 20 years old get ran a few times a year for a few hours under load . When we lose power at home. I don’t use stabil that has left me down. All gas in my Honda’s are premium with sea foam. I generally don’t believe in additives but sea foam is a exception. I run full syn oil so I don’t change it often
Yep…I’m one of those who bring the batteries (two 6 volt) inside for the winter. Actually, I bring them inside after every trip. Not so much to protect the batteries from weather, but to prevent them from being stolen. Theives can get $5-$10 for a battery. Even had mine in a locked box which just slowed the thief down a little. Anyway, it’s good exercise!
Generator is built into the motorhome. Thought I had a problem as it won’t start. found the problem was the battery disconnect was turned off. Turned it on and generator started. Hurray!!!
When I leave central Maine for the winter, I shut off power to the house, and stash my truck in my unheated garage. I remove the battery, and leave it in the same garage, right beside the vehicle. Sound dumb? NO! Central Maine can get horribly cold in the winter. In some circumstances, it is possible for a battery to freeze, and when it freezes, it cracks the case. If the battery is in the vehicle, acid will run all over the engine compartment, causing a lot of damage. So I take the battery out and put it in a plastic basin to contain the acid. A frozen battery has happened to me only once in 20 years, but the small effort needed to remove the battery was well worth it.
Mike, buy her the song! It’s on my Christmas playlist, too!
Yes, but she also loves hearing it on the radio. She knows all the words by heart.
Ring system is nice. I just purchased camera #5. Great to be able to “see” around your property while on the road. A great deal of peace of mind.
There are other systems available. Unfortunately the many different brands do not exchange data between systems. This locks you out of some features you might prefer.