Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Electric Breaker at Your Campsite Keeps Tripping!

When we hear a camper say, “Your electric breaker is bad, because all I’m running is my water heater and air conditioner and it keeps tripping!” we know we have to share more info with them!

Brace yourselves, because here comes the truth you may not want to hear!  Are you ready?  Just because the RV manufacturer put all of those electric appliances in your RV does not mean you can run it all at the same time!  There, we said it.  Yes, we know, it hurts a little, but it is the truth.  And you need to understand what exactly that means for you, as an RVer.

If your new travel trailer is wired for 30 amps (110 volts), your RV can sit on a 30 amp campsite.  That’s great, you think, because the 50/30 amp sites cost more at the campground!  So, it saves me money!  True story!  It certainly does.  And the RV dealer sales person may have even told you, “This baby has a propane/electric water heater, so you can heat your water on electric and save even more money, by having to purchase less propane.”  However, that is not necessarily true.
   
Here’s why!  A 30 amp campsite only provides 30 amps of electricity or slightly less, depending upon the safety margin and age and condition of the breaker itself, it could provide slightly less – like 26-27 amps.

So, like the case of the camper above says, “I was only running my water heater and air conditioner.”  That is never true.  More experienced RVers know that you are running your air conditioner (15-17 amps), water heater (12.5 amps), refrigerator (5.7 amps), and electric converter (2-3 amps)!  You were trying to pull almost 35.2 amps on a 30 amp breaker.  (Light bulb comes on!)  The new RV thinks, “Oh wow, now I see the issue! So, I guess I can’t do that?”.  Yes, that’s right.  You have to shut something off.  You can shut the refrigerator over to gas, and that might bring you below the threshold for the breaker to not kick, but that is, until you turn on a light, the TV, or the wife tries to make coffee, dry her hair, or attempts to thaw the chicken in the microwave, in which case, you’re outside resetting the breaker again! 

In addition, if your RV comes with an outside kitchen with a refrigerator, it too is running and eating up another 5.7 amps or so of power.  And so on it goes!  That 12.5 amps the water heater is using is the easiest way to drop that amperage draw back down below a safe area that won’t trip your breaker.  It gives you the room and flexibility to dry your hair, run the microwave, or have lights on.

This has been a recurring theme this summer as more people are buying these travel trailers that are wired for 30 amps – and trying to operate a 42-45 amps of electrical appliances draw off a 30 amp breaker because they are running their propane/electric water heaters on electric.  And apparently, some RV dealers are telling people to do that – as a sales pitch that it’ll save them money.

Okay, so how about if I move to a 50/30 amp campsite.  Can I do that?  Yes, you can do that, if one is available, but that won’t help the situation.  Your RV is only wired to use 30 amps!  You cannot plug into a 50 amp hookup with an adaptor and draw more than your 30 amps, anyway!  The only way to prevent breakers from tripping is to manage you amperage usage.

And of course you're welcome to read what others have written on the topic: http://rvservices.koa.com/rvinformation/rvmaintenance/rv-electrical-101.asp

Below, we’ve attached an info sheet that will show you the approximate use of different appliances.  You are free to go through your RV and calculate your own appliances!  The sheet will show you how!  Hopefully, it’ll be of some use to you in calculating your approximate electrical usage, and save you some time and aggravation!  So if you’d like a hard copy to keep, please email us, and we’ll be glad to email you a copy.  We sincerely hope it helps you! 

Before You Blow Your Breaker!
Take a minute and see how many amps you could be using in your RVs 30 or 50 amp electrical system. It is surprising how fast the amps add up which causes your breaker or the RV park's breaker to "trip". Knowing the amps of all the electrical appliances in your RV can help you manage electrical use and prevent the inconvenience of "My electricity went out!". This list is the typical appliance used and the average amps required to operate them:
Air Conditioner
15-17 amps
Refrigerator
5.7 amps
Electric Water Heater
12.5 amps
Microwave Oven
12.8 amps
Electric Coffee Pot
9 amps
Toaster
10 amps
Hair Dryer
10 amps
TV
2 amps
Dirt Devil Hand Vacuum
2 amps
Electrical Power Converter
2-3 amps
Electric Fry Pan
10 amps
Iron
10 amps
Food Processor
6 amps
Crock Pot
1.5 amps
Heating Pad
0.5 amps
1,100 Watt Heater
10 amps
In the morning - if you start your air conditioner and the hot water heater is on, then you start your coffee pot, make some toast, watch some TV - you are pulling 50 amps when all appliances are operating at maximum. If you also cook something in the microwave at the same time - LOOK OUT! Most RVs have a switch so you can run only the microwave or the water heater at one time - HOWEVER, NOT ALL RVS HAVE THIS FEATURE.
Most electrical products show how many watts or amps it takes to operate the appliance printed on the product itself or on the instructions. If it shows the watts - divide the watts by 120 (volts) and that gives you the amps. To get the watts - multiply the amps by 120 (volts).
It is worth your time to take an inventory on the "amps" each of your electrical appliances uses, then you can manage your total usage at one time and this greatly reduces the "My electricity went out!" anxiety.
Reprinted with Permission from Frank & Willy Surrell of the New Orleans/Hammond KOA.
We wish you safe and happy kamping where ever your travels take you! 

By Robyn Chilson

Tim & Robyn Chilson own and operate Meadville KOA Campground in Meadville, PA.  Robyn can be reached at 814-789-3251 or at www.MeadvilleKOA.com