Living full time in our motor home allows us to be Ready To Go. . .on to the next adventure!

Golden Gate Bridge - San Francisco Skyline as seen from the Marin Headlands - California

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Full Time RV Maintenance: Guarding Your Electrical System Can Save Big Bucks Down the Road

We all know that having our computer plugged into a surge protector is an absolute necessity. . .too much fluctuation in power can burn out major components that sometimes cause it to be cheaper to just replace the entire unit than it is to fix the problem.


Well, the same thing applies to your RV. . .there are numerous circuit boards onboard your RV that are highly sensitive to voltage variations. . .which is why we think $300 for a whole house surge protector is cheap insurance when it comes to protecting your investment, and less than $100 to monitor your voltage is an absolute necessity.


The following statement is posted on the Camping World page:

Surge Protectors

Dangerous currents in the electrical system of your recreational vehicle can become a serious problem for your RV as well as the appliances in it. Sudden voltage spikes can potentially ruin expensive devices that are integral for you and your family to have a comfortable trip. Before you get in your vehicle for that next trip, make sure that your surge protectors are in tip-top shape. If not, look through Camping World's selection of surge protectors and guards for a replacement.

In addition there is a video on this page that may be very beneficial to watch.  Although the video is a bit of a commercial. . .it also has some very valid points that may help you understand the importance of owning a surge protector.


I have learned way more than I ever wanted to know about electricity since we have been full timing in this rig for the last ten years. . .my philosophy was always. . .by George. . .if I plug it in, it better work. . .ha ha. . .good plan!


Doesn’t always work that way in an RV though. . .there are many, many more factors involved than just YOUR rig. . .


RV Park systems are not always designed correctly. . .even when they are designed correctly. . .sometimes they are just old, and not quite up to speed with these new fancy, dancy rigs with all these extra electronics onboard. . .


Municipal Electrical Grids are not always up to speed either. . .sometimes the grid was only designed for the current population at that time. . .and then suddenly, there is a growth spurt, new subdivisions being built, new folks moving in, three story apartment complexes. . .and the powers that be can’t catch up quick enough with the demands being made on the infrastructure.


Brown outs occur. . .you do know what a brown out is. . .right?  Everyone gets home from work about five in the afternoon. . .they all kick the a/c way down. . .turn on the electric oven to get ready for supper.  You’re sitting in your house, or your RV. . .suddenly the lights dim a little bit. . .the fan slows down. . .you hear the compressor on the fridge or the A/C  go whomp, whomp, whomp. . .then everything speeds back up to normal. . .the reason for that is. . .nothing is getting the actual power it needs to run. . .so it all sort of stalls for a second, doing irreparable damage to motors, wires, circuit boards, etc. . .and although nothing goes out right that second, the damage is done. . .the life of the appliance or electronic is shortened. . .and replacement is eventually inevitable.


That is why YOU need to know what is going on. . .and for that, in addition to the Surge Protector, you ALSO need a DIGITAL VOLTAGE MONITOR . . .this link will provide a much more thorough explanation for the necessity of one of these than I would ever be able to tell you.



What I can tell you about the monitor is this. . .had we always had one of these in addition to the surge protector. . .we probably would not have needed to replace two refrigerators. . .yes our rig has two. . .a roof top a/c. . .and various other electronic devices over the last ten years. . .but we didn’t know, what we didn’t know. . .and ignorance always has a price.


That is my main purpose for writing this blog about all our lessons learned. . .perhaps I can save you a buck or two!


This lesson was really driven home in our last location at Estes Park Colorado where we were volunteering in exchange for our RV Site. . .the Voltage Monitor Alarm kept going off due to low voltage. . .so much so that we wouldn’t leave anything running when we left the rig for fear something would burn out. . .BUT. . .the Surge Protector was NOT kicking us off. 


The reason for all this nonsense was. . .we were only getting 20 amps of power at our pedestal. . .BUT. . .we did not have a dedicated breaker at our pedestal. . .and the breakers in the main breaker box were ganged together in threes. . .don’t ask me what all that means. . .but the breakers did NOT trip. . .as would have normally been the case if the circuit was overloaded.


According to the National Electronic Code Table, 10 gauge wire strung 200 feet from the power source, no longer provides 30 amps of service. . .in order to provide 30 amps of service over 200 feet, 4 gauge or maybe even 2 gauge wire would have been required. . .I found this information in Trailer Life’s RV Repair and Maintenance Manual. . .

RV Book


After a month of discussions with managers. . .and literally turning off the refrigerators before turning on the microwave. . .forget running an air conditioner. . .or even the hot water heater on electric. . .we decided enough was enough. . .if our service wasn’t valuable enough to follow through on promises made to provide at least 30 amp service. . .we did not need to be there.


I hope you have picked up a tip or two from this discussion. . .and for all you electronical geniuses out there. . .I know you will want to explain all the various and sundry workings to the little lady. . .please don’t. . .LOL. . .hubby does that enough for all of you. . .(read eyes rolling). . .I am only trying to get someone to think enough about the entire situation to do some further research. . .and make whatever decisions are necessary to protect their investment.


Thank you all for your time,