Issue 34 • August 30, 2020
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By Mike Sokol
Lots going on in the Funkstown Skunk Works (my lab) this month. I’ve turned my test bench by 90 degrees so there’s room to get front, read and overhead cameras in place, and upgraded my USB cameras (as good as they are) to Sony HD PTZ cameras running on a Blackmagic ATEM switcher and HyperDeck recorder. This means more and higher quality videos without need for a green screen in my tiny office.
This is in preparation for a really large virtual RV Rally at which I’ll be presenting, near the end of September. I’ll be there in live and prerecorded segments while sitting in my Funkstown lab, sipping a cold drink. Hey, it sure beats driving 1,000 miles so I can make a 60-minute presentation about RVelectricity then drive back home. The RV owners group and promoter have embargoed the details of this Virtual Rally for another week, but it looks like I’ll have a major role to play in what should be the largest virtual rally of its kind so far. Stay tuned for more information as soon as I can release it.
I’m also beginning my battery/inverter powered air conditioner experiments next week which will integrate technologies from CarGenerator, SoftStartRV, Xantrex, REDARC, Briter Products, and Dometic to see how practical it is to modify an existing RV’s electrical system to be able to run a rooftop air conditioner for a few hours on battery power alone. Read more below as I step out onto the bleeding edge (like the leading or cutting edge) of technology and try to make this type of system more practical for everyone.
Plus, I’ll answer a reader question about using a Generator Bonding Plug on a Companion Generator without losing the convenience outlet, and enter the way-back machine in Road Signs Retread to discuss what Pat Benatar taught me at a show about always giving 100%.
Read on … and 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 popular Facebook group, RV Electricity.
(More than 9,800 members and counting.)
The Bleeding Edge – Part 2
So you want to run your air conditioner from batteries and an inverter….
Well, I’ve heard the same question for years: How can I run my air conditioner from batteries and an inverter, and how many solar panels will it take? I used to dismiss the possibility of making this happen as pure poppycock, but now the stars (and technologies) are aligning so that it’s currently possible to achieve this dream (at least for a few hours of run time). However, while it’s not cheap and it’s not easy, I’ve put together a lab demonstration that will show you how to do it.
Read the rest of Part 2 HERE.
Email me at mike (at) noshockzone.org with your questions.
RV Propane/LP Gas Alarm may save your life
This Safe T Alert Propane/LP Gas Alarm is designed specifically for your RV. It features advanced technology with an “Alarm Mute” button that silences the alarm when the RV is ventilated and a rapid recovery sensor that resets when silenced or reactivates if dangerous levels of propane remain. An easy 12-volt installation means there will be no missing or dead batteries to replace. Learn more or order.
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
Sokol and Zimmerman begin TT-30 Study
Mike Zimmerman and I have begun a study on my RVelectricity Facebook group to determine why TT-30 shore power plugs seem to burn up more often than they should. And why would the TT-30 neutral contacts appear to burn up more often than the hot contacts while they’re dimensionally the same. None of this makes sense since the NEMA specifications rate the plug for minimal overheating at 125% of rated load.
In fact, Mike Z did a casual experiment earlier this week by overloading his TT-30 plug with 40 amperes of current for 6 hours, with only a minimal temperature rise. What’s going on is to be determined, so I’m arming myself with digital calipers and a really big current overload transformer (up to 180 amperes continuous) along with a FLIR Systems infrared camera and other measurement toys. As Bill Shakespeare said in Hamlet: “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” But not to worry, as Mike Z and I have extensive backgrounds in measuring things (as well as burning up a few conductors and connectors on occasion).
Feel free to leave a comment.
Stay organized like Mike!
Here’s a tip from Mike about staying organized: “After one more frustrating dive to the bottom of my ‘battery drawer’ looking for a few AAAs to power my latest gadget, I’ve decided to get organized. This holder should keep you stocked with enough batteries for an entire camping season, and even includes a nice tester to find the dead ones. Also, you all know not to just throw used (or new) 9-volt batteries in a drawer where they can make contact with metal objects and catch on fire, right? Here’s what I’m ordering to keep it all under control.”
Last month’s survey results:
Wow, things are worse than I thought. Anything below 105 volts is considered dangerous for air conditioners and residential refrigerator compressors, and there are 43% of you who have experienced campground power below 105 volts. Now, I didn’t ask how many of you have an EMS/Advanced Surge Protector of some sort, but everyone who answered must have some way of monitoring the voltage, which is a good thing.
I’m making headway on my campground power balancing project, but won’t be ready to release any information for at least another month, so I’m doing my part to help keep the voltage up. Stay tuned for more articles on this important topic soon.
Tools and Other Devices
Here’s how to keep your shore power connections clean and cool
As promised, here’s a brief tutorial on how to clean your shore power plug contacts to help prevent overheating. Note that if the pedestal outlet is already damaged simply cleaning your own plug will do little to prevent damage from overheating. But at least you’ll know that you’ve done everything possible on your end of things. Please don’t be opening up a live campground pedestal and poking around inside as that could get you killed.
Read more HERE.
Don’t be sheepish!
Learn about RVtravel.com’s different newsletters and Facebook groups
(photo taken along the Ring Road in Iceland by RV Travel editor Chuck Woodbury)
Last Month’s RVtravel.com Posts
These articles are rated Moderate to understand for most RVers.
• Can I get shocked from a GFCI?
• Can I make more power by stepping up the voltage?
• Hard start capacitors vs. SoftStartRV. Big difference!
• Avoid potentially dangerous shore power meltdown.
Last Month’s JAM (Just Ask Mike) Session posts:
These articles are rated Easy to understand for beginners.
• Why does my 30-amp plug overheat?
• Can I swap in a lithium battery?
• Where did the Power Pal 50-amp tester go?
• How many amps should a water heater draw?
Q&A’s from my RVelectricity group:
I’m getting a lot of interesting questions on my RV Electricity Facebook Group. Here’s one I’ve never thought about before.
Q: Hi Mike,
I want to thank you for your generosity in sharing your knowledge for the RV community. I have no doubt you have saved many of us countless hours, frustration and injury with your willingness to share information.
I have a Honda EU2000i generator that has two plugs, one 20-amp Edison style plug, and one three-prong twist 30-amp plug. The latter I use to plug my RV’s 30-amp service. If I plug a homemade G-N plug into the 20-amp, that outlet is no longer available for use and I would like to use it while the trailer is plugged into the other.
Read the rest of the question and Mike’s answer HERE
The best book on RV electricity, hands down!
RV Travel contributor 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
Boondocking Power Requirements – Part 3 of 4
Hybrid Inverters are a total game changer…
While you could just move to a cabin in the woods and live totally without electric power like humanity did 100 years ago, few of us want to give up our current lifestyles. So if you want to camp without power connections to a campground pedestal, there are some special technologies needed if we want to maintain our electrically charged lifestyle while off the grid. Enter the hybrid inverter which is the topic of Part 3 of this series.
Sponsored by CarGenerator™
Read more HERE.
Mike’s Video Quick Tips
• How to measure AC voltage with a meter – 4 minutes
• How to measure 30-amp volts WITHOUT a meter – 4 minutes
• How to properly torque screws in a transfer switch – 4 minutes
Road Signs – Retread
By Mike Sokol
Hit me with your best shot….
Life lessons are all around us, if only we pay attention to them. Last year on a 1,100-mile drive back from Florida to Maryland, I witnessed something that reminded me of a Pat Benatar concert I once worked. I’ll start with Rose at the Comfort Inn first.
I used to travel a lot as a seminar instructor. So, like the Bob Seger song – You can listen to the engine moaning out its one lone song most of the time. And when I stayed in about 100 hotels a year, all of them began to look pretty much the same after a while. So it’s the people that make the difference, and this one I’ll call Rose.
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.
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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I am interested in what causes you find in the common side of 30 amp outlets “burning up”. I am a workcampers working maintenance in a small campground in Pa. With 14 years as an RV tech and over 20 years as an industrial air compressor tech, I feel I’m above average when it comes to electrical. This past week I had to replace a 30 amp outlet that was only 2 weeks old. All connections were tight and properly sized conductors.
My answer to the survey would be, “No, I’m not interested in running my a/c from batteries”. Pure and simple.
RVWithTito just did a first look at AC on battery. He found that the 600W solar could only supply about half the need, so at the end of the day, his batteries were down with not enough power to get through the night. This was with pretty much full sun.
Great newsletter, Mike. I really enjoy your nerdy professor style. Seriously, it is comforting to know you know what you’re doing and are able to teach it and demonstrate it in a clear way. It’s meant to be a compliment.
As I read through the newsletter, I’m wondering if the products in the ads were endorsed by you. Some clearly were, but others not so much. As an example, the Safe T Alert Propane/LP Gas Alarm. Is this a specific brand you recommend or just a product that advertises in your newsletter?
Thanks, again, for what you do.
If I write an article about some product and specifically approve its features, technology, operation, etc… then I’ve endorsed it. However, Google ads inserts a lot of adverts that I (and RVtravel.com) have no control over, so caveat emptor. Also, others on the staff insert ads, but they’re pretty careful about the products they advertise.
I am convinced the reason 30 amp receptacles and cord caps burn up a lot is wear, they get plugged in and out a lot, and in combination with being heavily loaded most of the time (heat) I believe it causes a loss of spring tension in the receptacle. As far as the cord, it gets handled a lot and when a cord gets handled a lot some of the strands break inside the molded cap eventually leading to over heating (also the reason for most engine block heater fires).
Yes, all of the above. Those 30-amp receptacles and cord caps (plugs, for you non electricians) sure do live a sad life.
Regarding AC from Battery power. Yes, we want to run the AC from the battery off grid. We just ordered a Winnebago Travato 59GL that is claimed to run the AC for 6 to 8 hours from the battery. Our fifth Wheel has some solar but only two normal size lead acid batteries so it can not run more that a few 12 V loads over night. But we have used it off grid in hot weather with some 12 V fans. It is not ideal but is workable. Eventually we will upgrade the fifth wheel to have capability like the Travato. But the incentive to upgrade the fifth wheel diminished a lot with the purchase of the Travato. I expect to use it for the majority of the off grid stays.
Give it your best shot! Great story. Thank you for the reminder and advice. Just like Mom always said; Do it ‘right’, or don’t do it at all.
I appreciate your efforts.
Pat was a great artist to work with, and I had a ton of fun doing her show. Another great artist I’ve worked with who takes her performance seriously is Martina McBride.
Martina, my wifes favorite.