To be transparent, NetworkRV, the manufacturer of the SoftStartRV, is a sponsor of RVtravel.com.
By Mike Sokol
Just in time for the long, hot summer, I’ve hooked up my Dometic Penguin II air conditioner on my test bench (literally) to begin gathering data on the peak current draw of a Dometic Penguin II air conditioner with a stock starting capacitor compared to the same air conditioner with the SoftStartRV modification. Watch my video explanation of how their technology works HERE.
The reason for my interest in this product is that I get emails every week from readers wanting to know if they can run a rooftop air conditioner from a 2,000-watt inverter generator, or maybe two air conditioners from a 3,000-watt generator or a 30-amp pedestal. The manufacturer says that their SoftStartRV product will allow you to do that. But you know me and my measuring(!). So I’ve spent the last two days figuring out how to measure and graph an electrical event that takes less than 1/2-second to occur.
Here’s an actual picture of my first meter experiments this week so I could determine what technology could log this much data rapidly. More on that next week, but this took some serious head-scratching to make it happen. Yes, that’s a lot of meters, and no, that’s not all of them as there are lots more brands and models on my bench. But these were the initial contenders.
So I’ll detail the measurement process then do an in-depth article in my next RVelectricity Newsletter due out on Sunday, May 31. But in the meantime I want to show you the basic graph I created from my actual testing. No, this isn’t anything I cut and pasted from marketing literature. This is raw data that I gathered myself and imported into Excel without any editing. Much more on how I did it later, but for now I’m going to explain the basic idea of what the SoftStartRV does in layman’s terms. And it does appear to work exactly as advertised.
As you probably know, all AC motors have a starting surge current that’s much larger than their normal running current once they get up to speed. And that surge current is what trips a lot of generators when you’re running them close to the edge of capacity. As you can see from the diagram, the Penguin II required 35.7 peak amperes of starting current to get the compressor up to speed, which is way too high for a small generator to supply most of the time.
But after I installed the SoftStartRV kit on the exact same air conditioner and measured it exactly the same way, you can see that the peak current was only 17.7 amperes, which is a 50% reduction. So it appears that the SoftStartRV lowered the peak starting current to 1/2 of the factory current by spreading it out over a starting interval that’s twice as long.
Stay tuned for a more in-depth article on this interesting technology in my next RVelectricity Newsletter in a week (sign up here). But in the meantime, know that I’m busy gathering even more data to help keep you safe and cool this summer.
Let’s play safe (and cool) out there….
Oh, to read more about the SoftStartRV and learn where to order one or more, read Chuck Woodbury’s (RVtravel.com editor) article about it here.
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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