Issue 31 • May 31, 2020
Brought to you as a public service by RVtravel.com. Support comes from our sponsors, advertisers and the contributions of readers, who believe that an educated RVer is a safe, happy RVer.
Subscribe to one of our many online newsletters (including this one) about RVing.
Read back issues of this newsletter and many other articles by Mike Sokol on RVtravel.com. Warning: There is a lot to learn here.
Welcome … and Power to the People
By Mike Sokol
Hello again, and welcome to my RVelectricity Newsletter. This is Issue #31, which marks more than 2 1/2 years of monthly publication. In that time much has happened. I’ve retired from my day job as a live sound engineer so I no longer have to climb around on rock stages setting up huge speakers and mixing consoles. Now the music I play and mix will be only the music I like to play and mix.
More importantly, I can now devote more time to producing articles and videos about electrical power and safety for both the RV and Pro-Sound industries. And if you haven’t noticed – my RVelectricity Facebook Group now has more than 8,600 members, and my YouTube channel has dozens of new videos and thousands of views in just the last few months. I’ve also done a virtual Rally for TechnoRV and Heartland RV as well as the Virtual Seminars I produced for the cancelled FMCA Rally two months ago.
In addition, I now have my test lab up and running, which means I can begin formal testing and product reviews like the Vitrifrigo/Danfoss/Lithium review I published last month. And I’m now working on more technical reviews of interesting technology such as the CarGenerator and comparing pure-sine vs. modified-sine inverters to see if they’re safe for things like electric blanket controllers and microwave ovens.
So while COVID-19 has wreaked a lot of havoc with lives and businesses everywhere, I’m thankful that I’m healthy and able to publish even more information about RV electrical power and safety. In fact, my media output has grown by an estimated 200% over the same time last year, and I’m getting dozens of emails from readers every week thanking me for all the new information.
Gasp…! That’s a Whole Lotta Love. (cue Track#1 Led Zeppelin II)
In this and upcoming issues I’m going to include even more articles on how to reduce your dependence on shore power, which allows you to “unplug from the grid” anytime you like and become totally energy independent. No, I can’t promise you an all-electric RV that has a 600-mile driving range, and you won’t be able to run your air conditioners off of solar panels anytime soon, but I’m beginning to do those experiments as the technology improves. When it’s possible I’ll let you all know.
So if you’re ready to give up total dependence on shore power, unplug from the utilities, and go more places without services, then stick with me for the next year. I now have a dozen experiments to perform and lots technology to integrate that will allow you to unplug from shore power even more. And since knowledge is also power, that’s a double power-play. P squared, as it were.
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 Facebook group, RV Electricity.
(More than 8,600 members and counting.)
I’m going solar, baby…
Part of my test lab will soon be going solar as I begin experiments in June to see just how many solar panels are needed to indefinitely power a 12-volt DC Danfoss compressor refrigerator compared to a 120-volt AC standard residential refrigerator with a pure-sine inverter. The plan is to hook this all up with a RV Whisper® monitoring system so I can automatically gather information about battery in/out amperage, room temp, sunlight times, etc.
Read more HERE
How well does SoftStartRV™ actually work?
Run two air conditioners on 30 amps – Wow!
Yes, this appears to be true. You’ve all seen the ad for SoftStartRV™ at RVtravel.com over the last few weeks, and likely read my first article and watched my intro video on how it works. The more I experiment with the SoftStartRV, the more impressed I am with its ability to reduce air conditioner peak startup currents by at least 50% compared to the manufacturer’s standard hard-start capacitors.
So here’s a little more info on what kind of data I’m gathering for my next full-scale report on this technology. But first, let’s take a brief look at the various loads a rooftop air conditioner imposes on the shore power or generator.
Read more HERE
Watch Mike’s virtual seminars
Here are more of my RVelectricity virtual seminars from the Heartland/TechnoRV Virtual Rally last month. I’m not sure if the future of rallies will be entirely virtual because there’s a lot of social interaction in a campground rally that virtual rallies can’t replace, but it is a way I can reach thousands of RVers with video training rather than the hundred or so at a time I can present to at campground rallies. So I predict that once this COVID-19 challenge is behind us I’ll be splitting my time between virtual and campground seminars. We shall see…
- Maintaining Your Shore Power and Smart Plug HERE
- Hot Skin Voltage Testing HERE
- Surge Protector Comparison HERE
I’m announcing my new No~Shock~Zone, Inc. 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation
After 10 years of writing hundreds of articles for the RV industry, there’s a lot of interest in electrical safety from dozens of the RV rallies and owner groups across the country. Unfortunately, the vast majority of them have no budget to bring me to one of their rallies, and I mean not even enough to pay for my gasoline or a hotel room. While I do get a fair amount of support from my I Like Mike donation campaign and RVtravel.com, that’s barely enough to pay the internet bills, let alone what it costs for me to fly to or drive around the country to teach seminars, which is what I really want and need to do.
So here’s what I’ve done to help alleviate the cash crunch. And no, I’m not asking you for money…
Do you need AC power for air conditioning?
Troubleshoot with an AC/DC clamp meter
You see me use a lot of AC/DC clamp meters while troubleshooting all kinds of RV electrical systems, both short circuits as well as why a battery is discharging too quickly. Here’s the one I use that has never let me down, a Southwire 21050T, which you can find at many Lowe’s Stores or on Amazon HERE.
My article last week about the CarGenerator prompted a lot of questions. So I asked the owner of CarGenerator Jonathan Schloo to answer them. Take a look for the latest Q&A on this interesting product: CarGenerator
Last month’s survey results:
Will you be camping this summer? If so, where?
Now that campgrounds are opening up a bit, the numbers should be getting even better. But as of a month ago, 51% of you had already found places in an established campground this year, which is great. And another 14% will be boondocking, plus 14% are full-timers who have found a place for the summer. So it seems like most of you already have a camping plan in place.
But if not, let’s not rush things so we can all keep safe. I’ve already cancelled my Italy vacation plans for 2020 (I should be in Tuscany as I write this) and rebooked them for 2021, which I’m confident will happen. In the meantime, I’m getting a lot of big projects done around the home which gives me more guilt-free traveling time for next year.
Tools and Other Devices
My favorite thermometer/hygrometer for refrigerator and room monitoring
Since I’ve been doing a lot of refrigerator testing lately, I found it necessary to keep a thermometer stuck in the freezer or fridge for data logging. And then I thought how handy this would be just to have on the road. Here’s what I’ve been using from Govee [on Amazon.com] for the last few months.
It registers not only high and low temperatures in the room and a refrigerator, but shows humidity as well. And the bonus is that it will log the temperature and humidity highs and lows for the last 2 months for you to access later via Bluetooth. Now, I can’t get a real-time Bluetooth connection from inside of a stainless steel refrigerator, but maybe it would direct-connect in some refrigerators that are not so well shielded as the ones in my lab. But in any event it’s a great way to see how well your refrigerator or RV heating/cooling system has been performing over the last few months.
Last Month’s RVtravel.com Posts
These articles are rated Moderate to understand for most RVers.
• A portable ECG that could save your life.
• State of the virtual RV rally – This is exciting news!
• Preliminary report on Vitrifrigo Swing Compressor Refrigerator.
• What’s all the noise about generators?
These articles are rated Easy to understand for beginners.
• How to meter a fuse. A reader asks Mike how to tell if a fuse is good or bad by measuring it with a meter.
• Electrical connector maintenance. How to clean contacts in electrical connections.
• Solar battery tender? Yep! How to easily maintain the health of RV house batteries when the RV is parked somewhere remote without a nearby electrical outlet.
• How much power do I have? A reader wonders why the circuit breaker keeps tripping in the house from a trailer hooked up in backyard.
Q&A’s from my readers:
I’m getting a lot of interesting questions on my RV Electricity Facebook Group. Here is one about batteries boiling over from over-charging.
Q: My batteries are boiling from the charger/converter. Is there anything or any way to fix it, or should I just order a new one now? It’s fried 2 batteries so far.
A1: John Ko: Google the model number of your converter. It may not be a charger/maintainer. May have to replace or wire in a charger/maintainer to replace.
A2: Duane Conner: Years ago, (I don’t know if it’s still true) the charger/converter used would never stop charging, no smart technology in them at all. If you weren’t using the battery regularly, unplug or turn the breaker off to your converter.
A3: James Wilson: I had the same problem and it was set at 13.6 volts. So I ordered a Progressive multistage charger. It starts at 14.4 vdc then drops to 13.6 and finally 13.2. It has worked well for me.
A4: Mike Sokol: These are all great answers. Yes, many of the early converter/chargers were only 2-stage: fast charge and trickle charge. However, if you leave a trickle charger on a lead-acid battery for weeks without checking the electrolyte level, you’ll likely overcharge it and leave a big puddle of sulfuric acid on the floor of your battery compartment – which will eat away everything. You want a 3-stage converter/charger that will go one step further with a battery tender/maintainer. That will keep you batteries healthy and not overcharged even if connected for months at a time. And all Lithium batteries have their own built-in charge controller and there’s no acid to boil out. Still expensive, but battery technology is getting better and less expensive every year.
Hey, be sure to join my RVelectricity group on Facebook. See what a great bunch of smart people we have already. —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. 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
Camco Store at Amazon.com
There isn’t much you need for your RV that Camco doesn’t have. If you think we’re kidding, then click through to the Camco store on Amazon where you’ll find some of their best-selling products — all for your RV or for you to make your RVing better. Click here and you’ll feel like a kid in a candy store.
From Russia with Love…
Many of you know that I’m a child of the ’60s and ’70s when it comes to music. But did you know that my name, SOKOL, is actually Russian for falcon or bird of prey. Here’s the actual Sokol coat of arms, which I think is really cool looking. I’m actually Hungarian, but my grandfather had an accidental name change on Ellis Island in the early 1920s. So no, I’m not related to any Russians except by a spelling mistake.
Read more HERE
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..
Mail us at 9792 Edmonds Way, #265, Edmonds, WA 98020.
This website utilizes some advertising services. Sometimes we are paid if you click one of those links and purchase a product or service. Regardless of this potential revenue, unless stated otherwise, we only recommend products or services we believe provide value to our readers. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. RVtravel.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.
This newsletter is copyright 2020 by RVtravel.com.