Monthly Archives: January 2018

How an RV 50 Amp Circuit Works

Lately I’ve been seeing questions about the electrical power supply in RVs. Specifically, in one Facebook RV group, someone asked how large a generator should they buy for their travel trailer. The answers given by some people were confusing or downright incorrect. I’ll take a minute to try to explain how this works as simply as I can.

Recreational vehicles typically are wired for a 30 amp or 50 amp power supply. This is where the confusion begins. It seems like a 50 amp power supply would be capable of supplying 20 amps more than the 30 amp power supply. It doesn’t work that way. The 30 amp power supply uses a three-prong plug – a hot lead, a neutral and a ground. All current flows through one hot lead. A 50 amp power supply uses a four-prong lead – two hot leads (L1 and L2), a neutral and a ground. Each hot lead – L1 and L2 – can provide up to 50 amps of current.

An RV wired for 50 amp service has the power outlets and electrical consumers split into two separate circuits. Each circuit has the capability of providing up to 50 amps of current. For example, L1 might provide power to the front air conditioning unit, the microwave/convection oven and half of the wall outlets. L2 might provide power for the rear air conditioning unit, the converter/battery charger and the rest of the wall outlets. A 30 amp coach has all of the consumers and outlets on one power supply circuit. So, we can see that the 50 amp service can really supply up to 100 amps while the 30 amp service is limited to 30 amps.

Back to the question – how much power do I need from a generator? To answer this, we have to understand a few terms. First is voltage. Voltage is electromotive force – think of it as the pressure creating the flow of electricity. Amps describe current – it tells us how much current is flowing through the circuit. Watts describe power – the rate of electrical transfer. We need to understand watts because that’s how electrical consumers are rated and it’s also how generators are rated. The formula is simple – watts = volts X amps.

In a coach wired for 50 amp service we can use the formula to see that when the coach is plugged in to a 50 amp service, we have 120 volts times 50 amps = 6,000 watts on L1 and 6,000 watts on L2 – 12,000 total watts ( sometimes listed as 12kW). Does this mean I need a 12kW generator? That would be expensive.

Looking at the information regarding typical appliance loads in my Onan generator manual, I see the following:

Appliance                                               Load (watts)

Air conditioner                                       1400 – 2000

Battery charger/converter                     300 – 2000

Microwave/convection oven                  1,000 – 1500

Electric hair dryer                                     1000 -1500

Television                                                    200 -600

Coffee maker                                              550 – 750

As you can see, anything with a heating element will require quite a bit of power. Also, large electric motors like the one in an air conditioner also requires a lot of power. The power requirement drops after start-up. In other words, the maximum power requirement for an electric motor comes when the motor is first activated, then drops as the  motor RPM stabilizes. Likewise, a heating element draws the highest amount of current at start-up and the power requirement drops as it heats up. Our Dometic Penguin II air conditioners have a delay built in on start-up and both units never start at the same time – there’s a few seconds of delay before the second unit kicks in.

Our coach is wired for 50 amp service, but our generator is a 7.5kW Onan Quiet Diesel. It provides about 30 amps of current on each circuit. So L1 can provide enough power to supply about 3,600 watts of electrical consumers. Likewise L2 can provide 3,600 watts. With the circuits on the coach split, I see that this should be adequate. The only issue I have is if I want to run the front air conditioner, the microwave/convection oven and the coffee maker at the same time, I may overload the circuit and trip the breaker on the generator. So, if we’re cooking breakfast and making coffee, I don’t run the front air conditioner at the same time. If we need AC, I can run the rear air conditioner as it’s wired to L2.

On shore power, we have more than enough power – 12,000 watts total – to run everything without concern. I hope this makes sense and my simplified explanation helps someone understand the power requirements and how to choose generator size.

We’re continuing to enjoy great weather here in Mesa. We really like Viewpoint Golf and RV Resort. I’m hitting the pickleball courts four or five times a week and Donna has been playing more and she’s really stepping her game up. That’s all for now.

 

Bachelor Days in Mesa

I haven’t posted in a week – that’s a long layoff for me. The thing is, I just haven’t had anything exciting to add. Donna was away from Thursday morning, January 4th through Wednesday evening January 10th. While she was away, I settled into a fairly boring routine – I wasn’t bored, it just wasn’t anything to write about.

I started most of my days on the pickleball court. Then I would come home, make lunch, feed the cat and clean her litter box. Then do dishes and sweep the floor. With my domestic chores done, I’d read for a while before heading out for happy hour with the guys at Lucky Lou’s. On Monday, I hit happy hour at Red, White and Brew and caught up with my favorite bartender there, Kasondra.

We had a cold front move into the area on Tuesday afternoon. With it came wind and rain Tuesday night. I covered the Spyder in anticipation of rain. When I looked outside before going to bed, I noticed the cover for the Spyder was gone! The wind had carried it away. I went out with a flashlight and found the cover on the next street to the north of us. I covered the Spyder again and made sure I had it secured with the bungee hooks.

Meanwhile Donna spent the weekend with her brother and his family in North Miami, Florida. It wasn’t too warm there – the east coast was having a cold snap that extended all the way down to south Florida. Mark had rented a house for a month there and hosted a party on Saturday for their Miami friends. On Sunday, Mark rented a pontoon boat for the day and they traveled south on the Intracoastal Waterway and to the Miami River.

After the weekend, Donna went up to Boca Raton to visit her friend, Lynne Ogren. She spent the night in Boca Raton then moved down to Fort Lauderdale to visit her friend, Karen Dayan, who also lives in Boca Raton, but had a rented a room at the W Hotel. She had a good time visiting her friends and hanging out.

View of the Intracoastal Waterway from Donna’s room at the W in Fort Lauderdale.

Another view of the ICW and the Atlantic Ocean on the left

On Wednesday morning, I went to the pickleball courts which were very wet – it had rained most of the night. I pushed the water off of the court with a roller made for drying the court for about half an hour, then rain drops started falling again and I gave up. I played Thursday morning with Donna and this morning I played with the 3.0-3.5 group. I’m prepping for a tournament tomorrow and I felt like I played well today. Hopefully it’ll carry over to tomorrow’s tournament.

Rain clouds just before sunset

Thursday evening I went to Lucky Lou’s for happy hour. Donna walked there and arrived around 4:30pm to join me. She wanted to make the four-mile walk to get her exercise before she had a beer. We got take-out from the Thai food place next door to Lou’s and brought it home for dinner.

The mornings have been a bit chilly – upper 40s to low 50s. The afternoons have been nice with temperatures in the low 70s after the cold front passed. This weekend we should see mid to upper 70s and no rain in the forecast for the coming week.

Donna asked me to share this article with you that she wrote on behalf of The Home Depot for KOA about choosing the right RV grill. It was published just this week. Enjoy!

Snow Birds

We have a variety of birds visiting our site at Viewpoint Golf and RV Resort in Mesa, Arizona. Snowbirds aren’t just people from the north wintering here – a lot of real birds also come to the southwest for the nice winter weather. We set up a hummingbird feeder with a suction cup on our living room window. It soon attracted a number of hummingbirds that visit throughout the day.

Before long we noticed other birds also came to the feeder. I’m guessing they’re attracted to the smell of the sweet nectar. We had finches perching on the feeder and I even saw a woodpecker – I’m pretty sure it was a gila woodpecker – drinking the nectar from the feeder. This prompted Donna to suggest setting up our finch feeder.

The finch feeder is a wooden tube with a mesh sock hanging from the bottom. I filled it with nyger seed. Nyger is also spelled niger and sometimes it’s called thistle. It doesn’t come from a thistle plant though, it’s the seed of the African yellow daisy. It’s grown in Africa and parts of India and is also used in local cuisine there. The name niger comes from it’s origin in Nigeria. In 1998 the wild bird food industry trademarked the name nyger. It’s a favorite food for finches and other birds feed on it too. Finches can live on it exclusively and the high fat and protein content help them get through cold winter nights.

Finch feeder

Now we have finches and sparrows in the orange tree on our site flitting back and forth from the feeder and tree. Some of nyger seed falls to the ground and in the late afternoon quail come to our site and pick at it. It’s fun to watch the birds.

Wednesday evening our friends Joel and Lana picked us for happy hour and dinner at The Hub Grill and Bar down on Baseline Road at Sossaman – a few miles from here. The food is good and they have a wide variety of beers on tap. We came here once before with our friends, Hans and Lisa. I had the pot roast sandwich – it’s a mid-western take on a French dip. It has sliced pot roast beef on a hoagie roll with mozarella and is served with a bowl of brown gravy for dipping instead of aus jus. It was tasty and I brought half of it home.

We came home early. Donna had already packed for her trip to Florida but had to be up early for her flight. She was heading to Miami to meet up with her brother and his family. He rented a place in Miami to celebrate his birthday and get away from the cold weather in Philadelphia for a month. It turns out Donna had to pack some cool weather clothing – they’re having unseasonably cold weather there, but it should warm up over the weekend. Meanwhile, we’re having great weather here in Mesa.

I didn’t sleep well Wednesday night and Donna was up at 4:30am. I got out of bed to see her off – I’ll be fending for myself for the next six days. I didn’t take much advantage of the nice weather on Thursday – I mostly read and napped, then met the guys for a happy hour beer at Lucky Lou’s. The temperature reached 77 degrees.

This morning I played pickleball for a couple of hours and I’m looking forward to another day of abundant sunshine and mid-70s temperatures.

Goodbye 2017

Happy New Year first of all! Donna and I spent a quiet New Year’s Eve mostly binge watching early season reruns of Breaking Bad. Today is the first day of 2018. As we look forward to the year ahead, it’s always nice to reflect on the past year.

2017 was an eventful year filled with many good times for us. We started the year in San Diego, then moved to Arizona where we spent a month at RV Renovators getting the wall on our coach repaired. We stayed in Mesa, Arizona at Viewpoint until mid-April, then returned to San Diego for a month.

Our travels took us north through California. We stayed at the Escapees Park of the Sierras at Coarsegold where we met new friends and fellow pickleball enthusiasts, Joe and Melinda. Then we moved to Sacramento where Donna found excellent bike trails and I reminisced about my elementary school days there. We also found a fantastic boondocking spot at Lake Shastina.

We continued north to moochdock in my daughter, Alana’s, driveway in Arlington, Washington. We were there for our granddaughter, Lainey’s, graduation from high school. Heading east from there we stopped in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho where we were able to hook up with my high school buddy, Gary Stemple and spend a day on the lake.

We moved on to South Dakota where Donna had to get a replacement driver’s license – she lost hers somewhere in San Diego. Next up was one of our big events for the year – the Register Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI). It was a bucket list item for Donna and we spent a fun-filled week with our friends Jeff and Deb Spencer and also their friends Geoff, Tom and Fred.

Next up was the total eclipse of the sun in Nebraska. Our next major event was crewing for the Hearts A’Fire hot air balloon owned by our friends Brad and Jessica Rice. It was our third straight year at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

These are just a few of the highlights. In 2017, the states we visited were California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. If you ever want to look up a post about a certain area, you can search for posts by state by clicking on the state name in the categories on the sidebar of this page.

Saturday night Donna prepared green curry shrimp and vegetables over brown basmati rice for dinner served with a side of grilled baby bok choy. On New Year’s Eve she topped that by making a bowl of her famous split pea soup served with a portobello mushroom stuffed with crab meat.

Saturday’s green curry shrimp

New Year’s Eve plates with a glass of wine

I often mention our meals because it illustrates the fact that we’re not camping out. This is our lifestyle and we don’t eat out often or roast hot dogs over a campfire. We mostly dine on nutritious, delicious meals that Donna prepares in the galley of our motorhome.

The last day of 2017 was cloudy here at Viewpoint RV & Golf Resort in Mesa, Arizona. The temperature only reached 71 degrees but it felt chillier. Today we have abundant sunshine and it feels nice. The high should reach the mid 70s and the nice weather is forecast to continue for coming week. We don’t know where 2018 will take us, but I’m sure we’re in for more good times and great places.