Thursday, February 26, 2015

Do RVers Really Need A Power Monitor System?

I see that question all the time on Facebook and most of the Blogs that I read.  For the simple, easy, straight forward answer, YES you do.  There are so many factors involved here that I can not possibility cover them all in a single post but, I would like to cover the basics so that you can better understand why you need a Power Management system of some kind.





1. You need to know what the AC (Shore Power) voltage is inside your rig.  This is the power that indirectly powers lights, water heater, microwave, furnace, charger for the 12 volt battery system, etc.  If the voltage gets below 102 volts and should stay there for a few minutes it would be possible to sustain approximately $1200 of damage or more.

So what do you need?  You will need a AC Line Voltage Monitor .  The unit shown below is plugged into an AC wall outlet that you can see and will monitor what the line voltage is.  If it should go below 105 volts you need to unplug your rig from the outside power pedestal until the voltage goes back to normal.
AC Line Voltage Monitor
So how do you know when the outside power pedestal is back to normal.  You plug the Voltage Monitor into the 125 volt two pin socket in the power pedestal and see what the monitor reads.  It should read 110 volts or higher up to 125 volts.  The same caution goes for over voltage.  You should unplug the rig form the power pedestal if your Voltage Monitor begins to reads over 122 Volts.  Plug the Voltage Monitor into the power pedestal and watch for the voltage to drop to below 122 Volts.
Could this monitoring of the voltage be done for less money?  Yes, by using a cheap Digital Volt Meter  pictured below;
 Digital Volt Meter  

You could plug the test leads that come with the meter into the meter and then the other ends of the test leads into the slots on the AC wall socket. (Caution do not leave unattended) Or  you could make up a cord from a 6 foot extension cord and the test leads that come with the meter.  See below for an example.
AC Cord With Test Meter Leads

2. Next is  The Polarity Tester .  This is used to be sure that the Neutral wire of the power line is not reversed with the positive lead of the power line.  If that where to happen you could have what is called a hot skin condition.  Meaning that if you had an aluminium skinned rig you could receive quite a shock from your rig.
 The Polarity Tester
The Polarity Tester can also tell you if the Earth Ground (the bear copper wire) is hooked up properly.  
The Earth Ground is a separate conductor which may seem to be doing nothing but, is in fact a protective wire. It is there, ready to take the current away to earth ground, from the body or frame of the electrical device it is connected-to, makes contact with any "hot" wire. [the 120 volts mains power is carried in two current carrying conductors called "hot" and "neutral".] 
So, IF one of the "hot" conductors should contact the metal frame of the rig or housing of an appliance, perhaps because the appliance got damaged by being dropped from a table, or similar accident,  the third wire which is the earth ground wire, which runs directly from the housing to the grounding [or earth ground bus] in the fuse or breaker panel, will in effect cause a short circuit which should blow the fuse or trip the breaker. 
This third wire also guarantees a current path back to the electrical panel where the fuse or circuit breaker protecting that circuit is located, in the event that the hot wire should come in contact with the rig frame, but the neutral conductor should happen to have been cut or damage and become disconnected, or open. 
The idea is to guarantee that if a part of the rig, device or appliance should become "hot," which could be fatal to anyone who then came into contact with it. That the earth ground would trip/open the circuit protection device [fuse or breaker], and turn off the flow of AC current. 


To help further in checking for unwanted or wanted electricity a good investment is the the Voltage Sensor which is shown below;
 Voltage Sensor
With this probe you do not need to touch the power line to tell if there is voltage present.  You can use this probe to find power lines behind the wall or under the floor of the Rig as well as the towing vehicle.

3.  Often times you want to know or need to know how much power something uses, especially if you keep popping a breaker or the power pedestal. The solution is Kill-A-Watt .  The unit shown below can be used to show how much power a appliance, tool, or piece of electronics is using.
 Kill-A-Watt
4. Next let's look at surge protectors for the various pieces of equipment in your Rig.  Surge Protectors protect only what is plugged into them and only for over voltage surges.  Surge Protectors do not protect for under voltage or high voltages.  Shown below is a pair of good simple surge protectors;
Surge Protectors
There are Appliance Surge Protectors made just for appliances likemicrowave and coffee makers


Appliance Surge Protector

AC refrigerators, freezers
Refrigerator/Freezer Surge Protector

These special surge protectors offer extra features like audible alarms, flashing lights, displays, etc and are to be used with just the items listed on the packaging for the one you would buy.

5.  Next is a group of power management items that will protect your entire Rig not just one item or several items in it. First is the Portable Power Management System This type of system looks at High and Low voltage protection, time delay for air conditioning compressor start up, 3-mode surge protection, reverse polarity protection, open neutral protection, open ground protection, AC frequency protection accidental 220 Volt protection. Includes an Integrated information panel, previous error code display, is weather resistant, and has a built-in locking bracket so it can be chained to the power pedestal at the campground to prevent theft.  The only thing this unit can not do is flush the black water tank.  The miracle unit we are talking about is shown below.
30 Amp Portable Power Management System
These portable units come in two sizes the one above 30 amp and the one shown below 50 amp.
50 Amp Portable Power Management System
Let's say you were involved in a lightning caused power surge at a campground.  It is estimated you would suffer approximately $3000 worth of damage to the electrical system of your Rig along with the things plugged into it.  The features of the 50 amp unit are the same as the 30 amp unit.
Ah, but there is more!  What happens if you do not want something portable but something more permanent in the Rig? Then you have the permanent installed units which are called Fixed Power Management Systems  These units are not really DIY type of items but, they can be installed by the DIYer if care is taken during the installation.  The 30 amp models is shown below;
 30 Amp Fixed Power Management Systems
There is also a 50 amp version of the same unit as above and can be found here;  50 Amp Fixed Power Management Systems .  The features of both units are the same and are,  high and low voltage protection, time delay for air conditioning compressor start-up, 3 mode surge protection, surge trip indicator, reverse polarity protection, open neutral protection, open ground protection, AC frequency protection. Accidental 220V protection, with remote information display panel, and unit bypass switch.  Unfortunately this unit also does not dump the black tank.

I hope that you now have come to the conclusion that some type of power management is needed to protect your Rig, its contents and YOU!




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Until Next Time

To Lube Or Not To Lube That Is The Question

Answer: To Lube.  Most RVers lube the hitch and maybe the ball of the pull-a-long with Reese Hitch and Ball Grease
Reese Hitch and Ball Grease

that is what I use.  But is that all there is?  Does lubrication of the RV stop there?  I am afraid not.  Let's see what else needs to be lubed and with what type of lubrication to make RVing fun and safe for you and your family.






Ok we have covered the ball and hitch but what about the tongue jack and shaft for the front foot?  Most of us do not even remember the last time that was lubed do we?  Well you're in luck.  Most of the time no lubrication will be required.  Just clean the part that goes up and down to remove the grime that maybe there and you are good to go.  However if while turning the handle and the crank tightens up you should squirt some White Lithium Grease in the top gear area.
White Lithium Grease

This is good for a quick field repair but for a better fix keep reading.
Yours may differ but you get the idea, right?
 Access to this gear area can be found by a small hole just below the handle on the tube or you may have to remove the handle and lift up the top cover to expose the gear area or in some cases the top cover just above the crank will pop off and allow you to add some grease.  Some of the newer tongue jacks  come with a Zerk fitting that you can use a grease gun to pump grease into the tongue jack.
I'll bet some of you are lucky enough to have one of those 12 volt power tongue jacks that raise and lower the RV with the push of a button.  (I am saving for one of those myself.)  Cleaning of the pipe that goes up and down is fine, but beyond that follow the manufactures instructions for maintenance and if the tube hangs up be sure to take the unit in for service.
 Next comes the stabilizer jacks.  The ones on my KZ Spree are manual crank down so there is a lot to lube.



First clean off the screw, getting the threads good and clean.  Then apply spray white grease to the threads, watch for drips.  Next lube the driver area in the front of the jack with T-9 Lube Spray
T-9 Lube Spray

it is the best spray for outdoor lubrication I have found.  While you have the spray out get all the pivot points on the jack.  You may have to crank the jack up and down a few times to find them all.

Then we have the folding entrance steps.


As each trailer step is a bit different it is best just to tell you to locate the folding points and use your T-9 or spray white grease to lube those points  It is important to not allow the pivot points of the steps to rust or be bent by forcing the steps open.
Be sure to check the door hinges of the RV to be sure that they are smooth operating opening and closing and that the handle and lock operate smoothly.  T-9 here is the best choice.

Every two years or 5000 mile whichever occurs first you should have the wheel bearings checked and repacked with grease.  You don't want the tires to fall off the axles do you?  Anyway, while the Technician is there repacking the wheels have him check the breaks as well.




Until next time.

Why not join the "Weekend RVers" Facebook group? We cover the range from newbie to Fulltimer so stop by.

Campfire Safety

As we all get ready to start camping or have already started.  I am reminded that in many parts of the USA you can not have a campfire do to outdoor burning restrictions caused by the lack of RAIN.  So many of us remember the nights spent by the fire watching the sparks work their way up into the air from the burning logs and hearing the original snap, crackle, and pop. (sorry Kellogg)  Well things have changed that's for sure.  First in many states now you can not bring firewood from one state to another or even from one part of a state to another do to bugs, worms, and what have you.  You must use the firewood that is at the park store or Ranger station.






How far is too far to move firewood? And what is meant by "local" firewood?  When discussing local firewood, I am referring to the closest convenient source of wood that you can find. That might be from down the street, or a state forest in your county. As a general rule of thumb, 50 miles is too far to move firewood, and 10 miles or less is the max firewood should be moved.  In many states there are rules, regulations, and quarantines that clearly state how far is too far. Always acquaint yourself with local rules and regulations when transporting firewood from one jurisdiction to another.  Find out more here Don't Move Firewood .
So you buy some firewood from the Ranger's supply at the park and you can burn it during the time you are in the part but you have to leave what you do not burn behind.  How can you make a camp fire fun and exciting?  Well, S'mores are fun to make S'mores.

When you are done making the S'mores you might want to be amazed by the camp fire northern light show.  Camp Fire Northern Light Show .


Now sit back and enjoy the rest of the evening and watch the light show from your camp fire.

What happens when you can not burn wood but you still want to sit around a campfire.  Well the solution for that is the gas campfire.  Most RV camping areas do not have a problem with the gas campfire even if there is a burn ban because the fire does not give off sparks and with the turn of the gas valve the fire is off.  You can still make those S'mores the kids want and you can still enjoy sitting outside of the RV around the campfire.  See Portable Gas Campfire for what I am talking about.
This portable gas campfire runs off of LP gas either the little 1lb green cylinders (runs for 2hrs) or the 10lb gas tanks.  It runs for hours and the red cover is used for storage and to elevate the gas campfire off the ground.  Also the red cover has the carry handle attached.  With the extra accessory you can even cook on the campfire just like a fire log one.
With any fire outside you need to have a fire extinguisher at the ready just in case.  Not just for grass fires. Fire Gone White/Red Fire Extinguisher - 16 oz 

Fire Gone White/Red Fire Extinguisher - 16 oz






Until next time.

Bugs, Bugs, And More Bugs


Now that Spring has finally sprung, and Summer is on the way, it is time for the bugs of the RV campgrounds to rise up against their camping overlords.  I am sure that you have had your fair share of bugs either the crawling type or the buzzbomb type. I will try to give you some hints and tips on how to get rid of both types safely and cheaply. 





 So lets go.
Ants
Ants we all seem to collect them either during storage or while camping. Here is a cheap and pet safe way to get rid of them both in the RV or your sticks and bricks.

You need to mix in equal parts of

1 part baking soda
           and
1 part powdered sugar (not the granulated kind used in coffee)

You will need.
   
1 lid from any jar

Mix the baking soda and powdered sugar and put into jar lid and put out where you have seen the ants. It will not be long and the ants will be gone. So you may ask why this works. Inside of ants there is an acid type fluid when mixed with the baking soda causes the ants to explode. If you or the dog should eat the mixture nothing much happens, it just doesn't taste good.

Corn meal is another safe way to get rid of ants, but it can be a bit messy. Just sprinkle the meal around the nesting area or along the ant trail. In a day or so the ants will be gone.







Stink Bugs
These little devils are not native to the USA but, like many of our ancestors have immigrated to a better life here in the USA. So how do you get rid of them now that they have hitched a ride in your RV?

In a spray bottle, combine 32 ounces of hot water and three-quarters of a cup of Dawn dish washing liquid and spray the exterior of your RV's, windows, and doors. On the inside spray around baseboards inside cabinets, closets, and any other dark area inside the RV. For an extra kick, you can use the anti-bacterial variety of dish washing liquid, but understand that it contains additional chemicals. Of course a good bug spray will also work but might not be safe for Fido.



Wasps

You are getting your RV ready to go for spring and you spie a wasps nest or several wasps returning to the same spot time after time. What can you do? Well spray the area or nest with WD40 and that will rid you of the nest or neutralize the area that the wasps were going to use to build their nest.

There are also a variety of commercially made glass wasp traps that claim that they are helpful in reducing wasp populations in the area. The trick is to make sure you keep replacing the bait, as wasps like fresh bait. And also, please consider using savory bait, such as tuna, as that will attract the yellow jackets and wasps, but not honeybees, which a sweet bait will. The glass traps are actually very pretty, but you can also make your own inexpensive version out of any type of plastic bottle (soda pop bottle, or water bottle). Follow these instructions to make your own.



Mud Dauber (Wasp)

While these wasps are non aggressive to humans, they do cause problems to RVers by getting into places they should not be.  Like gas orifices of the heating system, hot water system, and refrigerator.  The best defence here is to plug the holes leading into these areas of the RV.  See below for screening suggestions.


Mosquito
The scourge of the RV camping experience the Mosquito. First how do you keep them off you? Use Skin-So-Soft. You can purchase here Skin-So-Soft and it really does work for several hours. It is safe for kids and does not contain Deets. However during scientific tests, Deep Woods Off, proved to be the best you could buy in keeping Mosquitoes away from you. BUT it does contain DEETS. Please be careful when using Deets around children. Be sure to follow directions for use of the product.

So what about those flying around? We need to construct a mosquito trap. Please see below;



 Take a plastic water bottle and cut the neck off. (The neck is the cone part of the bottle including the cap.)



Flip the neck upside-down, removing the cap first, and place the neck into the bottle.



Tape and/or staple the top together or punch a couple of holes and keep them together by two screws, which you can even use to hang the trap up.

Bait the trap. Mix 1/4 cup of Brown Sugar with 8oz of hot water. Mix thoroughly and allow to cool. After the mixture cools, pour into the bottom of the plastic bottle. Add 1/4 TSP of Yeast. DO NOT MIX!!! The mixture gives off carbon dioxide that attracts the Mosquitoes.









Tape some string to the bottle, (or make holes and put the string through) and hang it up near where you plan to be either outside or inside.
Once the Mosquitoes are tricked into going in they can't figure out how to get out, so they get trapped and die.


Dispose of the Mosquito trap regularly whenever the number of dead Mosquitoes does not appear to be increasing.


You are now finished. You have saved the planet and your camping area from thousands (well maybe hundreds) of Mosquitoes.
We thank you!

So how do you stop or slow down bugs getting into your RV when the front door is kept closed most of the time?  You put screens over the openings caused by the water heater, furnace, and refrigerator.
Lets take each one and see what can be done.
Water heater.  You can buy a water heater vent screen, such as this one, Flying Insect Screen


Flying Insect Screen
and install it (easy DIY project) over the water heater RV vent.  I have a KZ Spree and could not find a water heater vent cover so I covered the inside of the water heater cover louvers with insect screen and used silicone to bond the screen to the metal water heater cover.  Works great.
Furnace vent. You can buy a furnace vent screen, such as this one, RV Furnace Screen


Kit comes with everything you need and will keep the Mud Daubers out.
Refrigerator Vents.  You can buy a refrigerator vent screen, such as this one, Refrigerator Vent Screens



I installed these on my KZ Spree and use some zip ties to hold the screens in place so they would not move around.  This was an simple DIY project and will keep the bugs and Mud Daubers out.  Check around windows and doors for any cracks or small openings that may have developed and keep storage doors closed while camping and you should keep the bugs out and enjoy the indoors as much as the outdoors.




Until Next Time.