SoftStartRV installation tips and first impressions

19

By Dave Helgeson

Enjoy boondocking locations like this with a SoftStartRV

Flattening the curve is a phrase we have all become familiar with during the COVID-19 outbreak. The principle behind flattening an epidemiological curve is to spread out the number of people getting sick over a longer period of time to avoid overwhelming the available healthcare services.

The same concept is used by the new SoftStartRV™ product allowing RVers to start up and operate one or two air conditioners on their RV without overwhelming the available electrical supply. This easy-to-install revolutionary product allows RVers to run two roof top air conditioners on 30 amps of service or one air conditioner on 20 amps of service regardless of whether it is shore power or delivered via a generator.  No more tripped circuit breakers or overloaded generators. For a dry camper like myself that chooses not to lug around a heavy generator this is a game changer.

After seeing this product recently introduced on RV Travel, I quickly obtained and installed one on my RV rooftop air conditioner. I am impressed!

Below is my experience with installing the product and my first impressions of its operation. This summer, after I have had a chance to field test it far and wide under varying conditions (especially higher elevations*), I will share my findings and experience.

Installation:
Start by thoroughly reading the instructions and watching the installation video (more than once is a good idea) you will find one online at the company’s website.

In addition to what is included in the video and written instructions, here are some additional tips and observations I would like to share to make the installation even easier:

  • Reminder: De-energize the power to your air conditioner before beginning by disconnecting shore power and/or turning off the circuit breaker to the air conditioner.
  • To avoid unneeded trips up and down the ladder to the roof of your RV, round up all the tools and supplies you will need in advance and have them ready. Following is what I suggest:

Tools:

  • Wire strippers
  • Wire crimpers
  • Wire cutters
  • Screwdrivers (Philips and hex for a Brisk Air) for removing the cover, run capacitor cover and unstrapping the run capacitor
  • Drill and bit to drill a pilot hole for the screws that will attach the SoftStartRV to the air conditioner housing**
  • Soldering iron and solder***

Supplies:

  • Several extra yellow spade terminals designed for 12 – 10 AWG wire for three reasons: 1.) In the event that you lose one that comes in the installation package as you fumble around on your roof. 2) In the event you didn’t choose the wiring path wisely and find yourself needing to cut one off to reroute, as I did. 3.) I found the insulated jacket on the spade terminal that came with the install kit wouldn’t fully slide onto the capacitor terminal due to interference from an insulation ring around the capacitor terminal. A spade connector that didn’t contain a jacket around the spade portion slid right on.
  • Extra tie straps to secure wires. The installation kit includes two tie straps to secure the wires, which is probably sufficient in most installations. In my case, I mounted the SoftStartRV on the opposite side of the air conditioner from the compressor and run capacitor. I used extra tie straps for the following: 1.) To assure the wires could not travel into the path of the exhaust fan. 2.) Since I cut the factory zip ties loose from the wire bundle allowing me to clearly trace the wires from the compressor to other points, I had to replace them.
Securing the wires away from the exhaust fan with extra zip ties
  • Electrical tape to help eliminate the possibility of rain or snow getting into the wire splices.
  • Carefully plan the route for the wires before you start connecting things. The instructions will tell you not to attach the SoftStartRV until everything is wired together. In addition to the SoftStartRV unit being loose per the instructions, you will likely have to remove the run capacitor from its housing/mounting bracket to gain access to the terminals. With these two items loose and exposed along with the wires from the compressor readily accessible, you can quickly and easily attach the five wires from the SoftStartRV. For me, the problem arose when I tried to reinstall the run capacitor and mount the SoftStartRV to the air conditioning housing. It was then that I discovered I routed the wires on the wrong side of the copper tubing and the wires from the SoftStartRV weren’t as long as I thought, necessitating a more direct path. Even after I thought I corrected the problem once, I still had to go back and do it again! Luckily it just involved the spade connections and removing/reinstalling the run capacitor – thankfully, not the soldered and crimped connections.

The final steps for me included the following:

  • Double-check that I had the wires hooked to the correct places.
  • Applied electrical tape to the splices to further secure them together and keep moisture out of the connection.
  • Made sure the crimp connectors were aimed up so that water has no chance to pool in them if it were to enter. (I live in the Pacific Northwest and rain or condensation gets into everything!)
  • Used extra zip ties to make sure all wiring was secure from movement and potential wear points.
Splices soldered, crimped and taped

Testing:
Before you reinstall the cover on the air conditioner, I suggest you test the operation of the SoftStartRV/Air Conditioner via shore power to make sure you installed the unit correctly. Be forewarned that the SoftStartRV does a great job at eliminating/softening the “bang” and low vibrations/hum you are accustomed to hearing when the compressor starts up in your air conditioner. Initially, I thought I had installed it wrong as I didn’t hear the compressor kick in, but after a few moments I could feel cold air flowing out of the vents.

Generator users:
This is where things get exciting. Prior to installing the SoftStartRV on my RV’s air conditioner, I plugged my RV into my 2,200-watt Honda generator and hooked an amp clamp to measure amperage draw. Starting the generator running in ECO mode I started the air conditioner several times to measure the amps required to get the air conditioner started. (Click here to see pre-SoftStart installation video.) The current required varied between 26 – 28 amps and in one instance the generator went into “overload”. After installing the SoftStartRV I ran the same test and the start-up amperage was approximately 12.5 amps on average, or less than HALF what was required before installation of the SoftStartRV. (Click here to see post-SoftStart video.)

My first impression of the unit is very positive. It does what it says it will do. The compressor in the air conditioner doesn’t work as hard, which will extend the life of the compressor, and the compressor makes less noise during startup, which will make it easier to sleep during operation. The huge reduction in startup power equates to less power management on my part and plenty of margin for my generator to still do the job at higher elevations.

Stay tuned for my field test report later this summer.

If you’d like to learn more about SoftStartRV, or purchase your own, click here

*The internal combustion engine in your generator loses approximately 3% power for every thousand feet of elevation gain. While those of you in the lowlands of the SE might get away with a smaller generator and no SoftStartRV, those of us in the West, like me, might run okay at home (140 ft. elevation) but not when I am camping at 6,000 ft. in Montana, where the engine in my generator is producing almost 20% less (6 x 3%) power to turn the electrical generation portion of my generator.

**While the install kit includes self-tapping screws, I found that the sheet metal where I wanted to secure the SoftStartRV had too much “give,” prohibiting me from applying enough pressure to the screw to get it started without excessive deflection of the sheet metal. Pilot holes made this much easier.

***While the install kit comes with wire crimps, I chose to go a step further and solder the wire splices as I tend to travel rough roads and didn’t want to risk the connections coming loose. I then installed the crimps over the solder joint for extra strength and to insulate the connection. Note: If you elect to solder, please keep your RV’s rubber roof in mind as a hot soldering iron or solder drips could damage your roof.

##RVT954

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19 Comments
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Tom Janzen
2 months ago

I just wanted to add to the discussion that NetworkRV has a fabulous return policy. I had mine wired up but could not find a solid place to mount the unit as my A/C is mostly foam inside. Tried taping it but that didn’t work, so returned it. No charge to return it and the refund was swift. And they didn’t even ask why I was returning the unit. Amazing.

J J
2 months ago

The Converter might need to be disabled IF running off just batteries or with batteries charged by solar but the converter would not need to be disabled when using a generator or shore power.

Sorry for the “might” but in most RV’s the inverter would not power up the Converter but an owner-installed inverter may be wired that way. The explanation below assumes the onboard inverter does in fact power up the Converter.

When running off batteries only, something needs to create 120 VAC to fire up the Converter, such as a big inverter. So the current flow would look like this:

12 VDC battery -> powers the 120 VAC inverter -> powers the 120 VAC-to-12 VDC Converter -> charges the batteries

See next post.

J J
2 months ago
Reply to  J J

This was too long for one post.

So you’re taking battery power to run the inverter, which is not 100% efficient, which powers the Converter, which is not 100% efficient, to charge the batteries.

In the “no generator and no shore power” scenario you’re actually trying to charge the batteries from themselves and that will kill them quicker.

Make sense?

If this hurts your head because it’s circular logic, well, it’s also “circular charging” and will also hurt your battery life. 🙂

HTH

Tom Richards
2 months ago

Has anyone considered (or done) a comparison of the SoftStartRV vs. the MiroAire EastStartRV? THAT would be an interesting article!

J J
2 months ago
Reply to  Tom Richards

A friend just installed a pair of Micro-Air EasyStart’s on his Airxcel AC1511’s units. He said it needs to go through a “learning sequence” where you have to start each one and stop each one six times (I think it was) as it fine-tunes its operation. That may give it an edge but the SoftStartRV might be “good enough” also. He was able to run both A/C’s on a single 30-amp pedestal.

Steve
2 months ago
Reply to  J J

The soft start has a learning cycle also

Tom Richards
2 months ago

So what’s the final report. The SoftStart does enable operation of the A/C with one Honda 2000i, or not? And, does the Converter have to somehow be disabled, or not?

Steve
2 months ago
Reply to  Tom Richards

Yes you can run it with a 2000 watt gen.

Bd2
2 months ago

1> Don’t use a wire nut, solder [which is the best electrical & mechanical connection possible]. Normal wire nuts are not water/moisture tight. There are a few that are but usually in larger gauges,
2> Never – Never use electrical tape for any connections. Always use heat shrink tubing.

brian
2 months ago

When waterproofing connections one must be careful not to create a trap that will hold moisture in the connection. I like to use the heat shrink tubing with the sealant in it that fills all the voids as it melts. Anywhere you have air you will have trapped moisture, just ask anyone who has ever pulled wire out of underground conduit, it will be sopping wet.Best to eliminate the air or leave the connection open to drain.

Gary Swope
2 months ago

Is it doable to add an extra layer of moisture protection to the wire connections in the way of shrink tubing?

Crowman
2 months ago

I installed a Softstart on our Jayco Designer trailer and it doesn’t work with 1 Honda 2000i generator. Had their tech guy call me to walk me through the wiring so its wired right runs on shore power and 2 Honda 2000i hooked up together fine. With 1 Honda it kicks on the circuit overload and shuts down. Had the Honda checked for output and its perfect just a heads up that not all things work as designed.

Dave Helgeson
2 months ago
Reply to  Crowman

Crowman, Did you ever measure the amperage draw of just the air conditioner once the SoftStart was installed? There could be other loads in your RV contributing to the overload situation.

tom mason
2 months ago
Reply to  Dave Helgeson

Dave ,do you have to shut down the converter for it to work ?

Dave Helgeson
2 months ago
Reply to  tom mason

Tom, Possibly – if you have been dry camping for awhile and your house batteries are run down a bit your converter will begin to aggressively charge your batteries when you start your generator. The extra load from the converter might be enough to put your generator into overload when you start the air conditioner. Try running your generator for awhile first to charge the batteries before starting the air conditioner. You might also try turning the refrigerator to gas as well.

tom mason
2 months ago
Reply to  Crowman

I have the same issue. Gonna try a 2200 watt unit.

Roy V Bertalotto
2 months ago

I’ve been using one for a few years. I visited the factory in NJ to pick it up and see their operation. Very impressive little company. Very smart engineering! I’ve installed a few on others AC units with all great results. Highly recommended!

Steve
2 months ago

Dave, excellent rendition of your installation! One suggestion I have for those who are going to do the work of soldering your connections, use adhesive lined heat shrink over the soldered joint to fully water-proof it, a 100% sure method.

Dave Helgeson
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve

Steve, Good point. I thought about soldering the wires together “inline” and using heat shrink tubing (didn’t have any tape). The heat shrink tubing I had was in the wrong diameter, so I opted for soldering and using the the crimp nuts that came with the kit.