RV Daily Tips Newsletter Issue 861

RV Daily Tips Newsletter Issue 861

Issue 861 • March 7, 2018
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RVing Tip of the Day

Care and feeding of your shore power connection – Part 3

By Mike Sokol
As promised, here are a few specialty dog-bone adapters you can use when connecting your RV’s shore power to non-standard hookups. Here we go…

45 amp dog-bone adapters? 
Y-Cable dog-bone adapters can use both 20- and 30-amp outlets on a pedestal to connect your 50-amp shore power cordset. They’re called a 45-amp adapter and available on Amazon here. I can’t find anything specifically that’s a code violation about this gadget, and they probably can’t be UL listed, but because they’re not inherently dangerous I’ll discuss them here. Since many pedestals that don’t have a 50-amp outlet do have a 30-amp outlet in addition to a 20-amp outlet, it’s sometimes possible to use the 30-amp outlet to power one leg of your 50-amp RV power, and the remaining 20-amp outlet to power the second leg of your 50-amp RV power (not sure how that adds up to 45 amps, but I’m not their marketing guy).
 
However, two caveats come to mind: 
First: If the power pedestal at the campground isn’t metered, then you may be grabbing more power than you’re “officially” paying for. But if the campground doesn’t care, then it’s not an issue.
 
Second: The big kicker is that a GFCI is now required on all 20-amp outlets on a pedestal. If you’re connecting this Y cable to a less-than-modern pedestal with non-GFCI 20-amp and 30-amp outlets, AND the pedestal was wired perfectly (no reverse polarity, with a 50-amp feed and separate 20- and 30-amp circuit breakers) then it should work and be safe. However, this Y cable probably won’t work with a GFCI on the 20-amp outlet since the neutral current will be mixed between the 20- and 30-amp sides, and the GFCI is looking for the outgoing 20-amp current to match the incoming current. So using this 45-amp adapter is a “maybe” that you have to be careful of the outlet polarity before hooking in, and don’t be disappointed if there’s a GFCI that it trips. In short, don’t count on it working.
 
Update: A savvy reader (Dan) pointed out that if you have any 240-volt appliances installed in your RV then there can be a back-feed of voltage from one of the plugs to the other if it’s disconnected from the pedestal for any reason. So this would be a code violation for any RV with 240-volt appliances.
 
30-amp dryer outlet to power a 50-amp RV cordset? 
While you probably know that plugging your RV’s 30-amp/120-volt cordset into a pedestal outlet that’s been accidentally miswired as a 240-volt dryer outlet will result in frying your RV’s electrical system (read my full article about it here), one reader asked about the possibility of powering his 50-amp RV from a 30-amp dryer outlet – and the answer is sometimes but not always. See his question and my answer below. 
 
I follow you on RV Travel, find your articles very informative. I know that you cannot plug a 30-amp camper service into a 30-amp dryer service. I have 50-amp service on my 5th wheel. Would I be able to plug that into a 4-wire/30-amp dryer outlet? I understand that my total Watts would only be 7,200 compared to 12,000 for the standard RV 50-amp/240-volt service, but that’s enough for me. Thank you. —Mike P.
 
So here’s what he’s asking. Since Mike P.  has a 30-amp dryer outlet at his house with 4-wires (hot-1, hot-2, neutral and ground), and the legs are wired with 120-volts from neutral to hot-1 or hot-2, and 240-volts between hot-1 and hot-2, then it’s exactly like an RV 50-amp/120-240-volt outlet except that you only have 30 amps of current available rather than 50 amps of current.
 
He just needs a NEMA 14-30P to 14-50R adapter. Looks like they make one to charge your Tesla (no kidding) but it should work just as well for an RV. Available here on Amazon.
 
He also asked about using an early/vintage 3-wire dryer outlet with a similar type of adapter, but I’m afraid that’s a big no-no according to code. That’s because it uses the ground connection as both the neutral and the ground, and there was a special usage permitted for a 240-volt dryer or stove-top due to the fact they both use mostly 240-volt power and only a little 120-volt power for the drum motor (on the dryer) and the clock (on a stove-top). So don’t be tempted to wire into something like this yourself since you’re not only creating a code violation, your homeowner’s insurance might refuse a claim if a fire inspector sees it. Just DON’T go there.
 
Stay tuned for Part 4 on the care and feeding of shore power on generator hookups.
 
Let’s play safe out there….
 

Klein 11-1 screwdriver winner
 
I announced this contest/quiz in my RV Electricity Newsletter two weeks ago, and it had more than 250 correct entries about how many amperes of current at 120 volts are needed to create 1,000 watts of power. Yes, if you look at the Ohm’s law chart on the right it’s as simple as dividing watts (1,000) by volts (120) to come up with amperes (8.3333333333333).
 
Great job, all of you! As promised, the early bird gets the worm, but so does the random bird. The first correct answer came in at 5:30 a.m. Sunday morning and was entered by Al Simons. So Al, I’m sending you an email to get your shipping address. And the random bird winner randomly drawn from the other 250 correct entries is Gary Stone (aka dragonpilot38). I’m also getting Gary’s shipping address, so both prizes will ship out this week.
Thanks to all of you who participated. Look for another giveaway quiz in my next RV Electricity Newsletter the last Sunday in March. See you then (if you sign up for my newsletter, that is).

Read yesterday’s tip: Navigating parking lots with a big RV.

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QUICK TIPS

Trailhead parking lot too small?
Got a big rig but have plans to visit a trailhead? If you carry a bicycle or motor scooter, you may find it a lot less frustrating to use that than your rig when you get to the trail parking area — only to find it’s too small for your rig.

Be safe and be seen!
With electricity expert, Mike Sokol
This may look a little silly at first, but all of my road crew keep a yellow safety vest in their vehicle and put them on whenever they have to step into traffic. You should have at least one of these to keep in your RV just in case you have to get out while you’re on a busy road to check a tire or flag down help. They fold up into a really tight package which can easily live in your glove compartment so they won’t be lost in the general mayhem. Being safe and seen is the latest fashion statement.  

Camp overnight at a casino?
Want to overnight in a casino parking lot? Most don’t mind, but it’s best to check first – some are now issuing a permit to be displayed – unless you don’t mind being rousted by security at 3:00 a.m. Check at OvernightRVParking.com or get the 2018 American Casino Guide to locate RV-overnight-friendly casinos. 

HOT TOPIC AT RV TRAVEL.COM
RV Electricity: Can reversed polarity shock you?


fire extinguisherFire Extinguishing Aerosol, Two-pack
The First Alert Tundra Fire Extinguishing Aerosol Spray is easier to use and discharges 4 times longer than traditional fire extinguishers. With an aerosol nozzle and portable size, it’s suited for the kitchen, car, garage, boat or RV. The formula wipes away with a damp cloth & is biodegradable. Available at 50% off the last we looked. Learn more or order.


WEBSITES OF THE DAY

American safaris: Best places to see wildlife
The U.S. is home to about 3,000 wild animal species. This site lists where to find some of them other than in zoos or controlled sanctuaries. 

Too tired to cook? Browse delivery and takeout restaurants by location or by cuisine. More than 12,000 menus to choose from, with discounts and deals.

Remember the milk
“The best way to manage your tasks. Never forget the milk (or anything else) again.”

Check out the long list of great RVing-related websites from RVtravel.com.


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If you don’t take care of your slideout you’re asking for problems including dangerous, costly water damage. This rubber seal lubricant from Thetford prevents fading, cracking and deterioration. It cleans, conditions and shines, keeping seals flexible and protected from sunlight destruction. It is also useful on door seals and window seals. It’s a mineral oil product and also acts as a lubricant. Learn more or order


VIDEO OF THE DAY

RV fire? You have 20 seconds to escape
RV fire expert Mac McCoy runs down what you need to know to escape your RV in an emergency. Most RVers don’t know the right way to escape and that can spell a disaster. What you learn here could save your life or those of your loved ones.

CLICK THE VIDEO TO SEE THE TIP.
See all of our videos on our YouTube Channel.

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MORE QUICK TIPS

Safely store aerosol cans
“After the cap came off one of my spray cans and emptied its contents into a storage bay, I decided to see if I could find a better way to store them. I found that the popular plastic bicycle water bottle cage works for most of my cans. Just mount the cage(s) to any appropriate surface, then stuff the otherwise-runaway aerosol cans in the cage.” Thanks to Jim Anderson for the “canny” idea.

Easy non-skid shower stall floor
Shower stall floor too slick for safety? Cut a piece or two of non-skid mat (normally used in the kitchen cupboard to restrain unruly dishes) and lay it in the shower.
 
Do you have a tip? Send it to diane (at) rvtravel.com .

Batteries last a long time!
Motion detection nightlights can last a year on a set of batteries
When you need a nightlight when without hookups, these are great: they light only when they sense motion, shutting off after 30 seconds of no movement. They use no wires & install in less than 5 minutes. Use outdoors, too. Lights come in a 3-pack. Can last up to a year! Watch the short video for a demonstration or learn more (or order at a great price) at Amazon.com.


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LEAVE HERE WITH A LAUGH
A small frog goes to a fortune teller and asks if he is going to meet a young girl. The psychic says, “Yes, you are.” The frog replies, “Where? In a bar, at a party?” The psychic says, “In biology class.”

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RV Daily Tips Staff
Editor and Publisher: Chuck Woodbury. Managing editor: Diane McGovern. Staff writer: Emily Woodbury. Contributing writers: Russ De Maris, Bob Difley, Gary Bunzer, Roger Marble, Deanna Tolliver, Mike Sokol, J.M. Montigel and Andrew Robinson. Advertising coordinator: Gail Meyring.

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Related

13 thoughts on “RV Daily Tips Newsletter Issue 861

  1. Larry McGaugh

    Why only plug in to a ground Fault protected socket?
    A Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) can help prevent electrocution. If a person’s body starts to receive a shock from the current, the GFCI senses this and cuts off the power before he/she can get injured. The GFCI will “sense” the difference between the amount of electricity flowing into the circuit, to that flowing out– even for an amount of current as small as 4 or 5 milliamps. The GFCI reacts quickly (less than one-tenth of a second), and trips or shuts off the circuit.

  2. Larry McGaugh

    Mike,
    The problems I see with the Y connector are the main reason you would consider using one, because the pedestal doesn’t have a 50-amp 4-wire socket. In most cases those are older pedestals and may NOT have ground fault 20-amp sockets.
    That being said you should never connect your RV to a 20-amp socket that doesn’t have ground fault. Second and maybe even more important is you are connecting a 15-amp plug in to a socket that is rated for 20-amps and has a 20-amp breaker protecting it. In fact if you look at the socket you may see the brown overheat spots on the white socket. That’s because you are not the first one to use a 15-amp plug in a 20-amp socket with a 20-amp breaker backing it up.

    1. Actually, there’s no difference in the current carrying capacity between a 15 and 20 amp receptacle. It’s just a keying thing. The brown overheating is probably due to corrosion causing high resistance, and that will overheat most any connection.

  3. Kim

    The fire escape video was an eye opener! So much so that I went to YouTube to see if Mac was going to actually demonstrate how to exit the rv. So far, he hasn’t made that video! I would love to know where one can buy that fabulous ladder he used.

  4. Wolfe

    Great fire escape video…I thought I was the only one weird enough to try actually using the escape window! Despite being 40s and strong enough to lower myself, I’m also fat enough and the rig is high enough it’s NOT pleasant! Other family members completely couldnt even attempt it – I now keep a full size extinguisher in the bedroom since the main door is their only exit.

  5. Dr4Film ----- Richard

    Mike, I don’t understand what the problem is with using a 45 amp 3 wire older welder outlet connection for a four wire 50 amp RV providing that an additional fourth Ground/Neutral wire is added to a known good ground since the Neutral and Ground are bonded at the service panel anyway. The existing 3 wire 45 amp welder outlet uses 2 hots and a neutral but since the Neutral and Ground are bonded please explain why this is considered taboo?

    1. Here’s why. The ground wire is actually called the “non current carrying conductor,” and it’s supposed to remain isolated from the neutral wire for two really important reasons. First, if they’re bonded externally as you suggest and there’s any kind of open or high resistance circuit in this neutral/ground wire, then the entire chassis of the appliance or RV will be energized by the back-current feeding from the hot conductor and the chassis bond. So the appliance will appear to be off, and yet its chassis will be energized. Secondly, if you create this bond outside of the service panel, any normal voltage drops that would occur on the neutral due to current draw will be reflected in the EGC (Equipment Grounding Conductor) and show up as a chassis ground voltage that varies by up to 5 volts depending on current draw. So if you now interconnect two appliances with a control cable of some sort, that little cable could be asked to carry many amperes of current since it’s in parallel with the neutral. And that can cause hum in an audio system, hum bars in a television signal, or even control circuits to behave erratically or burn out. And it’s a clear code violation that could get your insurance company to refuse a claim if the inspector sees it. So while this could be made to work if zombies were attacking and you don’t care about insurance or code, in the real world we care about both things. So don’t be tempted to plug a 4-wire shore power cordset into a 3-wire dryer or welding plug with some homemade adapter. And any electrician who tells you to do it is clearly to be avoided. This has been drilled into them for at least 25 years that I can remember.

      1. Dan

        Mike, I read about the 45Amp dog bone in todays hints. I wonder if, the RV has a 240 volt device installed, would one side get a back feed from the other if both sides aren’t plugged in before energizing the circuit?

      2. Dan

        Mike, would one leg of the dog bone adapter back feed from the other if a 220volt device is installed in the RV?

        1. Because most US built RVs really don’t have actual 240-volt appliances (except in very rare cases like the Cheap Heat system) all of the load current should return through the neutral wire, and not back-feed to the other leg. That’s because virtually everything in your RV is 120 volts and the return currents go through the neutral. Again, if you lose that neutral connection somehow and you were connected to a 3-wire ground-neutral outlet, then the load resistance of every appliance on that leg will feed back to the neutral and create a hot skin of 120-volts with a lot of potential current.

          With the Y cable on a perfectly connected pedestal, if you did have any 240-volt appliances in your RV, then the one hot leg of a dog-bone adapter will indeed back-feed voltage and current to the other hot leg if it’s disconnected for some reason. That’s one instance where those 45-amp Y adapters can be dangerous. Not my favorite gadget as you can tell.

      3. Dr4Film ----- Richard

        Mike, thank you for your reply. That makes sense to me. However in the situation I described above, the 45 amp outlet is adjacent to the main panel in a barn on it’s own power from the electric company. The neutral and ground are bonded at the main panel and the panel has two very long ground rods buried in the ground according to code. Plus my 50 amp RV utilizes a Progressive Industries 50 amp EMS-HW-50C device which monitors both the ground and neutral shore power in that if either have a problem coming from shore power ALL power is severed from the coach. That’s my protection. In fact the device monitors many other qualities of the incoming shore power. I might suggest writing an article on the features and value of having one of these devices installed on every RV for the protection of the RV’s components and occupants.

        1. While I think you’re correct that your proposed hookup will work, and probably work safely, I really don’t want to recommend something that’s an obvious code violation. This is more for your insurance company than anything else. If you do have any sort of electrical problem that results in damage to the RV, and an inspector gets a look at that 3-wire outlet, he’s likely to red-flag it and say that was the cause, even if it wasn’t. Would it be so hard to just go ahead and install a NEMA 14-50 outlet right next to the welding outlet? That would keep any code guys happy. And if you look at my past articles you’ll find that I’ve written dozens of them on the topic of EMS surge protectors. Also note that I’ve discovered and named a miswiring condition that no surge protector on the market can discover or disconnect you from. I call it an RPBG (for Reverse Polarity Bootleg Ground) and I’ve personally demonstrated it to both Progressive and Surge Guard engineers who were not aware their products would ignore this dangerous condition. Read more about RPBG mis-wiring as well as “Reflected Hot Skin Conditions” here: http://rvtravel.com/rv-electricity-dec-9-still-need-use-ncvt/

          1. Dr4Film ----- Richard

            Thanks again Mike. Yes, I realize that it is a code violation and this coming summer when visiting my brother’s place and staying hooked up to his barn power I will see if his main panel has enough space to add a 50 amp RV outlet. Plus I do carry a NCVT and use it. I purchased one right after reading about it on the Internet.

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