Use your RV air conditioner in low-power situations

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By Chuck Woodbury
EDITOR

As most readers know, we don’t say nice things about a company just to earn money. But I am about to say something very nice, and it’s about a company that approached us about helping promote its product. They were willing to pay us, as a respectful advertiser would. Right now, with our advertising way down due to the pandemic, we were receptive to the idea — but only if the product did what it promised.

The small SoftStartRV™ allows you to run two air conditioners on a 30-amp hookup (you’ll need two devices to do run both at once), or one air conditioner using only the power of a small portable generator like a Honda 2000 or 2200. We know from experience that this is a big deal on a hot summer day.

You can even run one air conditioner on a 20-amp hookup. The next time you park in the summer in your RV in a friend’s driveway with only household power available you’ll at least be able to run one air-conditioner (13,500 BTU maximum). If you you need an extension cord it should be of good quality, at least 12 gauge, no longer than 50 feet. The SoftStartRV™ makes this possible.

SUMMING UP:
Here’s what the SoftStartRV lets you do:
• Run two air conditioners on a 30-amp hookup.
• Run one air conditioner using only a small portable generator.
• Run one air conditioner on a 20-amp household hookup.
• Run an air conditioner or two using your onboard inverter system.

TESTING IT OUT
The first thing I did was have the company send a device to our RV electricity expert Mike Sokol of RVelectricity.com. If Mike were to report back to us that it was junk, then we’d have nothing to do with the device or the company. However, after testing it, Mike said it did everything it promised, and that it was a game changer for RVers. You can see his video below.

Here, very simply put, is how the SoftStartRV™ device works:

When you turn on the air conditioner in your RV, there’s a huge jolt of power needed to get it to start. That’s why you hear a loud thud right when it’s kicking in.

But only moments later, its need for power drops dramatically to about 13-14 amps.

What the SoftStartRV™ does is manage the start-up power surge so that it doesn’t hit at once, but gradually, avoiding the huge power spike. That’s why you can run two air conditioners on a 30-amp hookup, which you could never do before because of that spike. Ditto running one air conditioner with only the power of a small portable generator. With summer coming, obviously, this device can make a huge difference in your comfort.

So, that’s our story about our relationship with Network RV, the manufacturer of the product. Now, you may want to watch this short video from Mike Sokol that tells more about how the device works. As most of you know, Mike will absolutely not be associated with anything that does not live fully up to its promises.

If you want to learn more, visit our special page at the SoftStartRV™ website where you can get a discount if you decide to buy one or more of the devices.

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133 Comments
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jane shure
6 hours ago

I have done a little research myself. I can see this so called soft start costs between 1/4 to 1/3 of the cost of a new air conditioner. In fact it costs more than a small house window air conditioner. Having seen the inside off the unit in question there are less parts than inside of a radio. I have to conclude that the $299 price tag is to pay for the R+D of this thing. Having work in the electronics field for over 40 years I can tell you with absolute certainly this thing is way over priced. I can buy a lot of gasoline for a generator with $300 dollars instead of what this thing costs. The $300 is a serious drawback for what it is. This looks like a good plan for air conditioner manufacturers to install in their units at a far less price.

Brandi Montalbo
17 hours ago

Can this help me when I’m experiencing what seems(we’re assuming because a voltage meter we have plugged in shows dips below 110) to be low voltage from my camp grounds, I had an RV guy come check it my trailer, he said everything inside including my power cord is operating correctly, but my AC won’t stay running more then 10 mins and we’re experiencing 110°+ days right now, I only have one ac a 30amp trailer

Dennis G
1 day ago

I bought and installed one of these units on my RV and it works exactly as advertised. I can run one of my AC units off a little Honda 2000 generator with no issues.

Andrew
6 days ago

Mike, what is your take away from this statement from edd over a month ago “I run two A/C’s w/o a soft start. Run the 1st with temp set as low as you can, 65. After it stabilizes start the second. The A/C runs at about 13 amp X 2 = 26 amps on a 30AMP circuit.” Curious as to whether or not this act will damage an a/c unit?

Bobby moreman
8 days ago

How hard is it to hook up? Could a rv handyman hook it up or do I need an electrician. Easy to understand instructions?

Pete
13 days ago

Does installing a softstart void a/c warranty if unit still has one?

Terry Courtney
14 days ago

What is the difference between the SoftStartRV and the Micro-Air Easy Start. I note the Micro-air needs 5X runs to allow the unit to “Learn The System” before it is ready to perform the normal running operation?
Also will the SoftStartRV work with a Coleman 7000 Ducted Roof 13.5 K BTU unit? I have a 1997 American Eagle Class A motorhome.

Berts
14 days ago

I own a 1978 GMC Royale Motorhome that came with two factory-installed roof air conditioning units. Unfortunately, the way it was wired was that you could only use one at a time. The circuit breaker panel would switch between shore line power or generator power. Each was on a 30 amp circuit. By installing two SoftStart devices (one on each air conditioner) and rewiring the loads, I am able to run both air conditioners simultaneously from either circuit. That is much appreciated as I live in Arizona where the summer temperatures sometimes reach 120 degrees fahrenheit.

PJ Nyvall
15 days ago

The SoftStart unit cost is 10X that of a Capacitor that the A/C manufacture parts departments will sell you, they have Kits for around $27, where as SoftStart guys want to sell you their units for $299.

Member
Mike Sokol (@mike)
15 days ago
Reply to  PJ Nyvall

That’s not true. These intelligent soft start units work on a different principle than a standard starting capacitor. ALL single-phase air conditioner compressors use a starting capacitor of some sort that will draw 5 to 10 times the continuous running current during the startup cycle. The aftermarket hard start capacitors you’re referring to tend to draw even MORE current during the starting cycle which might help jump start a compressor on a low voltage shore power line, but will overload a portable generator even more than a factory capacitor. I’ve personally measured the SoftStartRV unit and found that it limits the startup current to around 2x the running current by chopping the starting current and spreading it out over a longer length of time (1/2 second or so). Starting capacitors can’t do that, which is why why they tend to overload small generators and trip circuit breakers already running close to capacity. I know because I’ve run these experiments myself.

David Elliott
20 days ago

I have a 5200 watt Onan on my class A it has a dedicated 30 amp circuit to the factory ac. I have removed the forward vent and installed Dometic Cool air II it is wired to under the RV to plug in on a 20 amp plug at pole. I also have it wired into the RV on a separate circuit next to the pole plug in, That runs off the 20 amp breaker of my generator but only run the fan while in motion. Could I use this on my 20 amp circuit when it’s all that is plugged in on that side, and run my ac while driving???

JOHN A
23 days ago

Mike, upon initial reading, I was extremely excited, thinking this is exactly what I need when parked in the driveway. You say this can run a 13.5 btu on a regular 20a household circuit. With the exception of my kitchen outlets and other outlets requiring high amperage, my “regular” outlets are only 15 amps? Any solutions or am I out of luck?

Mike Sokol
22 days ago
Reply to  JOHN A

Well, here’s the secret of 15 vs. 20-amp outlets. Most of them have exactly the same amount of contact area inside. And if you look at any 15-amp plug you’ll see its contacts have exactly the same surface area as a 20-amp plug. So if there’s a 20-amp circuit breaker and 12-gauge wire feeding a 15-amp outlet, it’s actually rated for 20-amps of current. There’s an exception in the code as well as UL allowing this, so don’t worry. If you’re on a 20-amp breaker with 12-gauge wiring, then you have a 20-amp circuit, even if it’s using a NEMA 5-15 outlet.

Lee WOKNAP
7 days ago
Reply to  Mike Sokol

I read the reply and I would NOT want a 20 amp 12 ga. extension cord on a 120VAC 15 amp breaker in the House Panel, most of which have 14 ga wire, 15Amp. 1500 Watt Max load.. 120 x 20 = 2400 Watts. If the 15Amp breaker is replaced with a 20 Amp,The wiring would become the fuse! Max on a DEDICATED outlet,. Which needs to be a GFI ! A 20 amp outlet is Not the same as a 15. And outside with 14ga run to it ? And $299 x 2 = + tax is a huge investment.
Are the units you advertise tested on GFI circuits? GROUND wires are NOT grounding wires. It mentions that after Start most Air Conditioners run under 15 Amps. Would it be possible to list the Air Conditioners that RV mentions with those specs? Thank You so much.
On a side note, does RV believe in and explain Power Surges that do not trip breakers?

Member
Mike Sokol (@mike)
7 days ago
Reply to  Lee WOKNAP

Lee, I’m not sure exactly what you’re saying. I’ve noted above that a NEMA 5-15 receptacle has exactly the same contact area as a NEMA-5-20 receptacle, so if it’s connected to a 20-amp circuit breaker with 12 gauge wire, it’s capable of supplying 20 amps of current. I’ve never said that 14 gauge wiring can be upgraded to a 20 amp breaker. Where did you read this? Do you have any test data, code text or close-up photographs to support your 5-15 outlet theory?

I’m also confused about your statement on GFCI Ground wires not being grounding wires. What is your point? GFCIs don’t need a ground wire at all to operate. I know that some older air conditioners can develop small amounts of ground-fault leakage which can randomly trip a GFCI, but I don’t think that’s what you’re saying. Please explain.

And can you clarify your statement “does RV believe in and explain Power Surges that do not trip breakers”? I”m not sure what that means? Are you talking about thermal/magnetic breaker curves?

Crowman
28 days ago

I installed one on our Jayco trailer and it didn’t work with one Honda 2000i kept tripping the overload on the generator. Worked with their service tech and it’s wired correctly and does work with a shoreline and both my 2000i’s Hondas coupled together. Yes the Hondas are putting out their maximum wattage.

Mike Sokol
22 days ago
Reply to  Crowman

Not sure. You should contact tech support as mine starts a Dometic Penguin II 13.5 kBTU air conditioner on my Honda EU2200 generator easily.

Crowman
14 days ago
Reply to  Mike Sokol

I did work with with their tech support on the phone we went over everything and came up with no answer. I’m a plumbing contractor with 33 years in the trade so I have a little skill in installing equipment. I have 2 Honda 2000i tried them both (one at a time) with them same results trips the overload. The A/C works great on shore power or the 2 Honda’s coupled together.

Rick
8 days ago
Reply to  Crowman

Perhaps Mike’s 2200 gen is 200watts larger than your 2000 gen and that is what is making the difference?

Mark Shillinger
1 month ago

Mike, has there been any research into possible damage to the compressor due to the slow start up while using the soft start equipment?

Mike Sokol
22 days ago

Only anecdotal evidence that there’s no damage. In fact, it might reduce long time wear and tear on the compressor due to less starting stress. Time will tell…

Randyb
1 month ago

Mike, I believe you should compare the SoftstartRV to the Micro air soft start.i purchased the Micro-air 364 soft start and installed it on our Coleman ducted 15000 btu ducted AC on our 5th wheel. Last week I received the SoftstartRV that I ordered from your link. I installed the SoftstartRV on our front Domestic Penguin 13500 btu non ducted unit yesterday. I’m interested in a comparison to both units when you get your testing equipment up and running. I did notice a big difference in what SoftstartRV sent me for installation and what I received from Micro-air. Installation instructions were harder to follow on the SoftstartRV video as I could not find any Utube videos on the SoftstartRV where there are numerous installation videos on the Micro-air.

Mike Sokol
22 days ago
Reply to  Randyb

It wasn’t too complicated for me to do the SoftStartRV install, but I’m on my bench and have read thousands of schematics in my 50 years of doing this sort of thing. But yes, I would agree that installation videos are a great help.

Tommy Molnar
1 month ago

I just had my SoftStart installed yesterday and it works like a charm. My cheapo Champion 2000 watt generator runs the a/c in our Arctic Fox travel trailer with no problems.

Gary Smithett
1 month ago

Will it work in Australia using 240v

Mike Sokol
22 days ago
Reply to  Gary Smithett

I’m guessing not. Sorry…

WILLIAM ALLMAN
1 month ago

Frequently we only have 100 volts. Will this device help with that?

Mike Sokol
22 days ago
Reply to  WILLIAM ALLMAN

It should help get the compressor started, but running any air conditioner at 100 volts for extended times will tend to overheat the compressor and is not recommended by any of the air conditioner manufactureres.

Rick
1 month ago

Am wondering can this soft start be used on window units in a house?

Mike Sokol
22 days ago
Reply to  Rick

I’m not sure, but I don’t see why not. I’ll ask tech support.

Edd
1 month ago

I run two A/C’s w/o a soft start. Run the 1st with temp set as low as you can, 65. After it stabilizes start the second. The A/C runs at about 13 amp X 2 = 26 amps on a 30AMP circuit.

Ed McMullen
1 month ago

Regarding the SoftStart, we have been trying to have the company get back to us to discuss our problems installing the 2 units. According to my electrician, the instructions are confusing, at best. We have spent the last 2 days trying to figure out the issues. Soft Serve was of no help to us. While they acknowledged our call, they have yet to get back to us with assistance. We are leaving for a month long trip, in a few days, and I know that several of our campsites only have 30amp service.