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RV systems-What you need to Know | RV Safety Tips and Tricks
RV Elecrical Systems-Still more of what you need to know

RV Elecrical Systems-Still more of what you need to know

A Short Re-hash on Part’s 1&2

In part 1 I wrote about some of the difficulties my wife and I had on a trip we took late last summer, which also became the main reason for me to research and write about RV systems, in particular, electrical and some related electrical stuff so others, new to the RV lifestyle and maybe even some that have been around awhile, might be able to avoid the issues that my wife and I encountered.

In my initial thinking about these issues, I came up with 6 things off the top of my head that I thought should be the basics for every RVer to have on board.

I also talked about 20, 30 and 50 AMP systems and how many appliances/devices one could run at a time, adapters for 50-30 AMP service and 30-20 AMP service and a couple of other things as well.

In Part 2 I intended to talk about batteries. inverters, converters, inverter/converter combos, surge protectors, and power sources used to charge our batteries but, I ended up doing a whole post on batteries instead.

In this post, I want to talk about those items I thought I could get to in the last one.  So, Here we go……..

First I want to talk a little about how our batteries get charged, to talk briefly about the three most used ways that house batteries are charged in our RVs.

The first way we charge our “House Batteries” is when we are driving down the highway.  They are charged in the same manner as our vehicle battery.

The second way these batteries get charged is when we park and plug into the city power.  Our house batteries are now being charged by the AC “City Power” coming from the tower which flows into a converter charger which in turn changes it into DC power which is then used to charge the batteries.

The process is the same when using a gas generator.  The generator produces the 120-volt AC power which is then converted to DC power which then charges the 12-volt batteries.

There is a fourth way our house batteries can be charged and that is with “Solar” power.

Inverters, Converters and inverter/converter combo

Inverters – Inverters come in all sizes and shapes.  This is the device that changes, (inverts), DC battery power (12-volt) into AC power (120-volt), making it possible to run the air conditioner, microwave,  and other devices, in the RV, that require 120-volt power when you’re not using city/shore power or a gas generator. This can also include the fridge when it’s not being run on propane.  

As I discussed in an earlier post, IF you are using only battery power, you can’t run everything all at once.  You have to be selective about what you use because you only have limited battery power unless you have a battery bank and even then, they would not last very long unless you have a way to recharge them.

Converters – These devices also come in many shapes and sizes.  Essentially, “Converters” change 120-volts to 12-volt power.  Once you are connected to a 120-volt power source, (Shoreline/Generator), the Power center/Converter in our RV serves 3 purposes:  

1) Power distribution – all the incoming power is distributed to the RV through the 120-volt circuit breakers and 12-volt fuses within the power center.

2) Converting 120-volt power to 12-volt power – utilization of the converter will, in essence, reduce the usage of the RV battery.

3) It will recharge the battery.

It should be noted that when plugged into a power source for long periods of time, it will be necessary to be more diligent about doing battery maintenance on a more frequent basis.  This is because the battery is constantly being charged so checking the fluid levels (if applicable) is critical to proper care for your battery/s.

Now, I’m not saying that you have to check them every day.  Some batteries are sealed so they don’t lose a significant amount of fluid but other types are not.  Check to see what type your is and ask about the proper maintenance routine for your particular situation.

Inverter/Converter Combo – This device does both jobs, it inverts 12-volt power to 120-volt power when you are running your RV on battery power AND it converts 120-volt power to 12-volt power which reduces the amount of power consumed from the battery.  They also come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

And now a little about Surge Protectors

Surge Protectors are a portable device that you would connect to the city power pedestal before connecting the RV landline.  These devices protect your RV power system from electrical power surges and monitor power fluctuations/variations in the power that comes from the pedestal.  This is important because the low voltage will harm your electrical appliances and equipment just as fast as high voltage surges.

This CAN happen and you won’t have any warning so, whether you have a Travel Trailer. Fifth Wheel or Motorhome, the best-case scenario would be to have a full-size surge guard that even cuts off automatically when the voltage drops too low and won’t reconnect until the power is at safe levels.

Power Sources

There are a couple of ways to generate power for your RV, one of which we have already talked about and that is “City” power that comes from the tower at the RV park and comes in the form of 20, 30, or 50-amp power depending on your particular RV requirements

Other sources of power come in the form of “Solar” and “Gas Generator”.  As I mentioned in a previous blog, Solar Power is a great way to keep your batteries topped up and, In the long run, will pay for itself.  There is no noise associated with this option so they don’t disturb the people around you and they are virtually maintenance-free once installed.  Other than cleaning the dust off the panels and checking to see that they are working properly there is not much to do with them.

This option is good for the environment, (0 co2 emissions), and other than cleaning the dust off the panels and checking to see that they are working properly there is not much to do with them.

Gas generators are another option for supplying power for your RV.  Some are very fuel-efficient, compact and very quiet.  The downside to this option is that noise can be a factor with neighbours and they produce CO (carbon monoxide which is caused by lack of O2), and CO2, which some scientists claim are greenhouse gasses.

Gas generators also require periodic maintenance such as tune-ups, oil changes and, from time to time, repairs will need to be done which could be costly depending on the issue.

In the end, it comes down to personal preference but, I would be inclined to go with the Solar option myself because, for me, it just seems to be the better option.  They are low maintenance, not fuel dependent, quiet (no noise at all) and come in a variety of systems suitable for everyone’s specific needs, from small 12-volt battery chargers all the way up to systems that can charge a battery bank that will power all your electronic requirements.

So, there you have it.  I think that just about covers everything.  There is a chance, however, that I might have missed something.  If I have or you would like me to publish info on a related topic or any topic for that matter, please leave a comment or question at the bottom of the page and I will get back to you with a response.  

let’s chat and until then, HAPPY CAMPING AND DRIVE SAFE.


2 thoughts on “RV Elecrical Systems-Still more of what you need to know

  1. This is on my bucket list–renting an RV and going across country! There’s so much I still want to do and see. And with your website, it should make it much easier to “navigate” all the details of traveling by RV. Makes me feel like I could actually do this by myself. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for dropping by, Judy and leaving a comment. Traveling in my RV with my wife is something I would really like to do as well. Traveling in an RV can pretty economical as well. Camp sites are a lot cheaper than hotels and I think you have a lot more freedom. Just make sure that you do a ton of research and buy a unit that fits well with your tow vehicle. I read somewhere that it was a good idea to have a vehicle that is capable of towing twice as much as the RV you purchase and able to tow the RV up a 15% grade. This way you don’t have to worry about struggling up hills. Make sure you have a good brake package a well. Hope this is helpful and Happy Camping and always drive safe.


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