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RV Living in the 

21st Century 

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Learning  to  Live  with  30-Amps

 

 

                                              

 

It is a given that houses or apartments are wired for heavy-duty electrical use to accommodate the air conditioning, stove, fridge, dryer and other electrical ‘toys’. When the temperatures rise each summer,  most of us assume if you turn an appliance on it will work.  Yes occasionally a city experiences a brown-out situation in exceptionally hot weather when everyone is using maximum power to stay cool, however running the A/C at the house usually works well to keep temperatures moderate.

 

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Unfortunately this is not always the case in a campground. Park power sources can be overtaxed especially during peak periods.  It is not uncommon for the appliances in RV’s to function in harmful brownout conditions. It is also possible to be plugged into a 30 amp connection but in reality have only 20 amps to work with. 

Last summer we met several RVers new to this lifestyle and it was such fun reliving our early days of learning through them.  Two special Newbie RVers, Jim and Joan, had the seasonal site next door. Helping them learn the ropes brought back such wonderful memories of our early days. In 1985 when we bought our first unit we knew NOTHING - by August that year when we found a park near work, John and I spent all available time at the motorhome.  Thankfully we were camped next to seasoned RVers from Florida.  Over the following weeks they patiently taught us many of the basics step by step.  Working with Jim and Joan last summer took us back to our beginnings only now we are the seasoned RVers helping the Newbies.  Guess the old adage of ‘What goes around comes around’ holds true more often than we think.

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             As the heat wave arrived last summer our friends decided to try out their A/C, all was well until they also plugged in the kettle for a cup of tea. Guess what, the first lesson of what you can do and cannot do when living with 30 amps was very obvious.  Yes it's possible to run your RV air conditioning but not when other high draw appliances are in use. We relayed this info and suggested they change the fridge to propane but all this was very new to them.  Jim had to leave for a family emergency the next day and when we came home late that afternoon Joan was so hot, yet she was very fearful of turning on the air in case she blew the breaker again. She was also upset that a big fifth wheel down the road had his air going and she thought he was stealing all the park power. Not the case because he had his own hook-ups well away from hers.  It was obvious Joan and I needed to spend some time going over how to enjoy all the electrical comforts of her home on wheels while on the move and/or in a campground by selectively using each appliance, but to learn to use them as a trade-off. 

 

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            On the good side even of things even if your site  power is not a full 30 amps it is still possible to use the A/C, you can even use it on low if you have a good 20-amp source. Be aware the A/C does not have to be going full force on high to be effective. Try closing everything up including all doors and windows, lower the blinds to block the sun; then turn the air on at the low setting.  It helps if you have a table fan or two to move the cool air around within your unit. (Other friends added a ceiling fan to their motorhome in the indented space of a vent.  Many fifth wheel ceilings are high enough to add a ceiling fan as well). By changing your fridge to propane when you have the A/C turned on you free up another margin of power. 

             One of the reasons breakers trip is two power hungry appliances cut in at the same time. If you decide to heat water for a tea or coffee choose your stove instead of an electric kettle.  Those wishing to use their micro or additional appliances that use many amps such as a hair dryer etc. can turn the A/C temporarily to ‘fan’  (for at least 4 minutes so the A/C can re-adjust to avoid freeze up).  When you quit using the extra high draw appliance(s) you can then safely turn you’re A/C on again.  Be aware even on 20 amps you can still use a limited number of low power appliances such as the lights, TV, computers, printers etc. along with the air without a problem

 

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RVers on the move or those stopped for a spell without hook-ups can function quite well on DC battery source.  No you cannot run your air but your fridge operates on propane (we always turn our propane off {for our piece of mind} while going down the road---the fridge stays cold for eight hours if the door is not continuously opened). Plus a 12-volt TV, portable fan(s), lights and other 12 volt accessories will work well on battery power.  We also have two Fantastic Vents in our unit to move the air around, these amazing fan/vents force air in or take the heat out; some models also include a rain sensor.  The best part is they only consume 3 amps/hour on high; these amazing vents are a big plus to all RVers who take mid day breaks or camp without hook-ups.  Inverters, solar panels and generators can help keep batteries fully charged so they can power additional appliances while camping without hook-ups but that is another story. 

I asked my RV tech friend Les Doll from BC and webhost of <www.rverscorner.com> for the formula to determine the actual power used by each appliance. His answer will help you determine what can be enjoyed and what should be avoided when high draw appliances are used.

 

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Regarding the watts and amps question - watts equal the voltage times the number of amps. To find the number of amps that an appliance uses, divide the number of watts by 120 (voltage). For instance, a 1500-watt hair dryer would be 1500/120 or 12.5 amps AC.

 

It works the same for a 12 volt appliance  - the typical three way fridge has about a 300 watt DC heater element - divide that by 12 volts to get an amperage draw of 25 amps DC.

 

By the way, low voltage causes the amperage draw to increase - motors get overheated and burn out. The same 1500-watt hair dryer operating in a low voltage situation of say 105 volts would draw 1500/105 or 14.3 amps.

 

          There are several ways to be watchful of the amount of power each item uses.  One is with a small two-inch square Line Voltage Monitor that plugs into a 110/120 socket.  The analogue model has a needle that moves side to side to record the amount of power available.  Safe amounts are between 102 volts and 130 volts. Below 105 you’re appliances begin to ‘starve’ in ‘brown-out’ conditions and by 102, the low voltage will slowly ‘kill’ the motors. Above 130 is a surge situation that will instantly ‘burn-out’ many appliances.  The analogue model of a Line Voltage Indicator provides a good idea of power used however the more expensive digital models register more accurate readings.

 

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           Another option to control power is to install an in-line Power Line Monitor. Several models are available in 30 amp and 50 amps but they are costly, plus installation.  Since we added this option six years ago, on numerous occasions we have immediately shut down in microseconds due to high or low power. When that happens we are without power for four minutes.  This delay allows the A/C to return to normal temperature before restarting. It’s comforting to know we will never have to deal with damaged appliances due to low power or surges ever again.                 

       There is also a wide selection of varied designs of exterior protection products sold at RV Dealers. These attach to the electrical outlet post---they connect between your cord and the park outlet. The add-on devices are less expensive but because they take more time and effort to connect, especially in inclement weather, it is easy to occasionally forgo usage. Your special device may not be connected when it is most important such as during a lightening storm.  Plus unless you add an extra lock-up type system this accessory may be easily ‘borrowed’ without your permission. 

 

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      For convenience one friend installed his inside a storage pod ‘in-line’ to his electric cord.  This way it is always connected.  The bottom line is RVing is a wonderful lifestyle and when power is not perfect, go outside and enjoy the wonderful world around  us.  T he bottom line is if you do not have any power, simply go outside and enjoy the wonders of the great outdoors.  Happy Camping

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Note: RVers who rent a season in a park will benefit from seasonal rates much lower then the monthly rate. However seasonal residents are expected to pay for their metered power as well as keep the grass on their site cut (the parks usually provide gas lawn mowers for use by the residents). Seasonal residents may and may not be provided picnic tables either---this park benefit could be reserved for overnighters.

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(Below values are a compilation of several tech manuals and catalogues)

             Another way to control power is to know how much power each item uses---the chart below will give you an idea.

 

Approximate Power Consumption guide 

(Check owners manual for exact wattage) 

 

Typical 120-volt AC Appliances

 

Appliance 


Blender

Battery Charger

Beauty Mirror

Can Opener

Coffee maker

Corn popper

Computer   

Curling Iron 

Elc. Drill, 3/8- ½"  

Electric Shaver

Electric Blanket

Electric Fry Pan

Electric Heater 

Fan    

Freezer  

General lighting 

Hot Plate (Single) 

Heating Pad 

Hair Dryers 

Hair Setters 

Iron

Ice Maker  

Juice Maker 

Micro Oven   

Mixer

Air Popcorn popper 

Radio 

Refrigerator (small) 

Refrigerator  (large) 

Satellite Dish

Soldering Iron 

Stereo

TV 9 inch colour

Toaster  

Trash compacter 

Vacuum Cleaner      

VCR   

Washing Machine

 

 

Wattage


120-900  

200-600

25-40  

120-300   

650-1500  

275-600 

60-100

300-800

360-750    

35 

500    

1150-1500 

650-1500     

40-300 

500

60-150

275-750    

250 

500-1500  

300-840 

1000 -1500

600 -700

90 

950-1500  

100-290

1400

40-100

50-400

400-1200

200-250

40

200

300

950-1500

800-1000

400-900

20

600

 

Amps 


1.0-7.8

1.7-5.2

0.22--0.35 

1.0--2.6

5.7--13.0

2.4--5.2

       /

2.6--7.0

3.1--6

0.3

4.25

10.0--13.0

5.7--13.0

0.35--2.6

      /

1.3--4.8

2.4--6.5

2.1

1.3--13.0

2.6--7.3

8.7--13.0

      /

0.78

8.3--11.0

0.87-2.5

       /

0.35-0.87

0.4-3.5

3.5-10.4

       /

       /

       /

2.6

8.3-13.0

      /

3.5-7-8

      /

      /

 

 

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