Do we really need this techie stuff?

One of our readers (a newbie Airstreamer) asked a few interesting questions of us this week. We thought the answers might interest others too, and maybe even generate a comment or two. So (with their permission) we’re putting the questions and answers in this blog.

The first question is,

Do we need to buy and use a SURGE PROTECTOR?

o Need/don’t need? We aren’t considering the outlet strip “surge protectors” you can buy at office supply stores. We’re talking about the heavy duty transformers with sophisticated electronics to handle your RV’s 30amp or 50amp power and smooth out the high and low voltage excursions. We do NOT use this.

You must make your own decision here. Most parks have pretty good power, only one park in the past couple of years had power that varied a lot. But you can over-protect on one thing and never know what will get you. Electrical surge protection seems to be one of those “insurance” things. Some people swear by it but majority of people we encounter don’t seem to need it.

o Any recommended ones? We cannot recommend one, never used one, never plan to. Every month or two we’ll stay in a park which prohibits the use of the large surge suppressors. We do have a couple of friends who are readers of our blog, both are super smart engineers who airstream. We’ll ask them, and we welcome any readers comments on this issue.

The next question is, Do we need a VOLT METER?

o Need/don’t need? Yes, you need this in at least two different versions plus one variant. It is important to check, at least initially and then periodically, the 120 v.a.c. level in your trailer while in a campground. If the indicated voltage varies more than 10 percent plus or minus from the 120 volts, then we unplug from park power and run on batteries only. How do you know the park’s electrical power isn’t reasonably steady if you don’t periodically check a volt meter? More on this below.

We also have a small twelve volt meter to indicate battery voltage. This one plugs into one of the RV’s 12vdc accessory outlets and digitally displays voltage to nearest 1/10 volt (e.g., 12.3, or 13.8). It also has green, yellow, red light to indicate the range of voltage at a glance. Jim likes to fret about our battery voltage after a day of dry-camping, and the 12vdc meter helps.

Jim can watch the battery creep down, gradually, from 12.6 to 12.2 and below. Makes him really nervous and want to get the candles out. We learned though, while spending ten days dry camping in cold weather in Ketchum, Idaho, the batteries will do just fine overnight even from 12.2 at bedtime. The furnace ran a couple of times and the batteries pulled it just fine. In the morning we were still at 12.2vdc. This is real handy — not the end-all but nice to have.

But, most important of all is the IDEAL-Sperry 61-500 (or equivalent) polarity tester. You must use this when you connect park power to your trailer before either of you contact the trailer’s metal parts. This little polarity tester tells if the park’s power is wired properly.

Electrical wiring hazards in your RV (and in your home) can include absent connection to “ground”, or the hot and neutral wires may be reversed, or the connection to neutral may be open. Any of these hazards can be a shock hazard danger to you and a physical hazard to your trailer’s electronics. These little polarity testers cost between $8 and $15.

o Any recommended ones? We use a square tan jobbie for monitoring 120vdc. It plugs straight into any wall outlet, has approx a 2″ X 2″ clear view window. It has absolutely no brand marking on it whatsover. We purchased it from Camping World five years ago for a little less than $20, I think.

o Or criteria to look for in one? The 120 vac meter is an analog meter, has green and red display area to indicate acceptable (green) and bad (red) voltage conditions. This is so simple and is hard to beat. For 12 vdc, one alternative is an electronic smart meter to read multiple battery aspects and perhaps keep some info in memory. We haven’t gone this route yet and don’t know if we will. It isn’t anything we’ve needed. Some solar charging systems include pretty neat metering capability and we might find our way to one of these meters someday.

The last question for today is, What about a WATER PRESSURE REGULATOR for the trailer?

o Need/don’t need? We haven’t seen any reason to add a second pressure regulator for our trailer. Your Airstream has a water pressure regulator built in, at the potable water inlet, recessed into the trailer’s exterior wall. Ours has not given a minute’s trouble in four years. Some people wear suspenders and belt.

Some people contend (and some parks suggest) it is important to place a pressure regulator between the park’s hydrant and the RV’s water hose, to protect the water hose from the park’s extremely high pressure. Jim worked in a large RV campground in Kissimmee, Florida, almost forty years ago. Folks would spend all day at Disney World or Sea Land or wherever. When they returned they would find their water hose had burst from the sunlight softening the vinyl water hose and also creating high pressure.

That park recommended folks turn off their campsite water hydrant when they left for the day. Sometimes we still turn ours off for the day, but usually we leave it on. Two summers ago we were staying a very very hot week in Bakersfield, California. Spent days visiting a dear friend in the hospital. Returned late afternoon to find the hose had melted down completely. Oh, it wasn’t the water hose, it was the other hose — you know, the big one.

Yeah, it was a big one alright. We always always leave our black drain valve closed when not dumping (and very rarely leave the grey one open but sometimes forget because we walk away while it takes its five minutes to empty). Our sewer hose was empty and dry, and the direct sunlight and 106F degrees air temperature was just too much for the vinyl on a very good quality hose. Camping World very readily replaced it with a free one, same hose. We’ve used it over 18 months since without incident. Who knows just what happened that hot August day in Bakersfield, but it was a sight!

o Any recommended ones? We don’t use one, and don’t think it is necessary for your Airstream trailer. Occasionally we’ll find a park, like Yellowstone NPS, with high (80 psi?) water pressure. We tried with, and without, a pressure regulator to protect the hose. Just don’t need to worry with today’s high quality braided white water hoses.

We generally find the water pressure is lower than we want in our trailer. In some parks the water pressure is so poor our in-trailer showers were awful. Solution? You can, as long as you have water in your potable tank, run your pump during the shower. Gives great pressure. Even better, though, is to replace your RV’s shower head with an Oxygenics BodySpa hand held unit.

We did this and it is among our top ten improvements. No matter the water pressure, we get a nice spray anytime, yet still we’re conserving water. This is especially great when we’re boondocking.

You can probably find someone who will attest we are completely off base on this regulator issue, as well as the voltage regulation issue. Every group of five RVers seems to have one who has had every imaginable disaster — what we used to call “snake-bit”. We’ve met a couple such folks at the Airstream factory in Jackson Center, Ohio. Of course, this is the place you’ll meet people having problems with their Airstream, right?

A few of these folks have had such terrible experiences it’s a wonder some of them keep RVing at all. Some of them are convinced it is just an Airstream problem, and they’re getting their’s fixed to sell it and
switch to another brand. Reminds us of the lemon cars or haunted houses we’ve luckily avoided so far. We wish them all the luck, and we are very happy we’ve been so fortunate.

o Or criteria to look for in one? Just don’t worry about adding the water pressure unless you know you’re constantly going to be in very high (greater than 80 psi) potable water pressure situations.

CAVEAT: We are speaking from our first-hand experience with approx 1,000 nights between this Airstream (2005 CCD 25) and our previous 2005 Airstream (CCD 22). And we get a little help and a few fun anecdotes from some of the many friends we’ve camped with.

Future attractions: Comparing solar power to portable generator for RVing, and how do the dreamstreamrs maintain their fresh (potable) water tank throughout the year?

Come back and see us, we’re enjoying your comments and feedback.

Jim and Debbie
locate us here
visit our website

©2010 Dreamstreamr

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7 responses to “Do we really need this techie stuff?

  1. I found this instructive article after posting my answers, it is much more comprehensive and well-researched about surge suppression and autoformers for RVs.

    Jim

  2. Good advice here. We find that using our potable water tank much most of the time provides good pressure and safety. Using the tank helps maintain it. Even with “white” safe hoses, I don’t care for water that has been sitting stagnant in the hot sun. I am looking forward to your next installment.

  3. And I thought belts plus ‘spenders was just a fashion statement…

  4. We purchased the same shower head nearly two years ago and found it made a big difference. I like it because even when Matt puts a second regulator on the supply, I can still get a good shower. He likes it, because he no longer has to use the tote tank when the kids camp with us on the weekends.

    • Aw, make him take the second regulator off. Then he can install a second Oxygenics shower head in-line — just think of the vigorous spray — ha ha. Yeah, the shower head makes a huge difference for us.

  5. I installed an EMS system in our RV. It is not a surge protector or voltage regulator. It does all the things those little meters you carry around do and more.

    The EMS continuously monitors line voltage, frequency, polarity and checks for shorts, if any of these things go out of range it will disconnect us from the park system or not connect us if we are just moving into a site.

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