RV Electrical Problems and Solutions
An RV trip is one of the best outdoor experiences! It is fun and liberating. At the same time, it can also be frustrating. There are many unexpected things that can happen, which can ruin your trip. Among others, electrical problems are some of the most common issues you will be confronted with.
The good news is that many RV electrical problems can be easily avoided if you have a proactive approach. This includes proper care and maintenance of the electrical system. More so, you don’t have to be a licensed and experienced electrician to implement easy fixes. With the right knowledge and tools, most problems are easy to solve. Keep on reading and let’s talk more about the problems and solutions that you should know about!
Start by Understanding Your RV’s Electrical System
Before anything else, one of the most important is to be familiar about the electrical system of your RV. Especially if you are new to RVs, there are many things that might appear to be too technical and boring. However, especially those that concern electricity, you have to understand this stuff to prevent problems and execute the necessary solutions when confronted with an unfortunate situation.
You should know that there are three electrical systems in an RV. The first is a chassis 12-volt system. It is powered by the chassis battery and the one responsible for running exterior lights. The second is the RV 12-volt system. It is a deep-cycle battery that converts power into a 12-volt system. The third is the house 120-volt system that powers some of the most common appliances, such as air conditioner and microwave oven.
Also, you need to know if the electrical problem is a minor or major issue. If it is a major problem, then you will need the help of an electrician to deal with it. It can be unsafe to fix it by yourself, especially if you do not have the necessary tools. In a minor problem, on the other hand, you can fix it yourself. Do not open panels and fix the electrical system without first identifying if you are experiencing a minor or major electrical problem.
The Most Common RV Electrical Problems
What RV electrical problems can confront you? What are the best solutions? This section has the answer to your questions.
1. Fuses and Breakers
The fuses and breakers are two of the most important components of your RV’s electrical system. It protects the RV and the connected appliances once there is a problem in an electrical line and when too much current is drawn. To add, it also regulates electricity to prevent damages when there are fluctuations in electrical supply. They can also help in preventing fire by stopping the flow of power as soon as a problem has been identified.
When there is a blown fuse or tripped breaker, then this is an indication that there is something wrong with your RV. For instance, it could be because an appliance is in an unsafe mode or there is an electrical surge. If it is often prone to problems, its functionality will soon decline, which will make it unable to supply the needed electricity.
The easiest solution to this problem is to reset the breaker or change the fuse. This is also when you will appreciate the presence of a GFCI or ground fault circuit interrupter. It is a receptacle that comes with a reset button. If the current exceeds the maximum, the GFCI outlet will power off automatically. This prevents damage to the connected appliance. Once the appliance is off, you can simply push the reset button and the plug will work.
When there is a problem with the fuse or breaker, the common reaction for most people is to upgrade. However, this may not always be the best solution. Using a fuse or breaker with a higher rating may do more harm than good. It can cause an electrical fire and damage your appliances.
2. Outside Power Source
The power supply is another common source of RV electrical problems. The source might be providing too much or too little power, which could be what is causing the issue. Corroded connections and incorrect grounding can also be the culprits. If there is too much current, the appliances can blow out and wires can melt. On the other hand, when the power supply is too little, the lamps will dim, and the appliances will not function as needed. Ask the campground management to make sure that the power supply is suitable for your needs.
If your lights and appliances are not running as they should, check with the campground management. If the campsite is full, chances are, the power supply is not enough to accommodate the demands. This is especially the case during hot and humid days when air conditioning units from different RVs are running simultaneously, resulting in a large power draw.
Using a surge protector device can also be a promising solution, However, before doing this, take note that the main AC breaker already acts as the surge protector. Individual appliances can also have individual breakers that will offer surge protection. They will limit input voltage once it gets too high. However, if you want a faster response time, then you should choose a commercial surge protector. If that’s the case, then make sure to not skimp. It is best to invest in one with exceptional quality even if this means spending more.
3. Appliance Current Draw
It is also a common problem that the appliances are drawing more current than what is necessary. It can be a problem with the 120-volt system, which is best handled by a qualified electrician. Avoid dealing with such, especially if you have no experience. Otherwise, it can worsen the problem instead of having the issue resolved.
For instance, a portable RV air conditioner will have a power of 13,500 to 15,000 BTU. When it starts, the current draw is anywhere from 12 to 14 amps. During its operation, it needs 5 to 8 amps. Meanwhile, a microwave oven uses 8 to 13 amps when it is running. The power supply may be unable to handle the power requirement, resulting in current fluctuation. One of the most common things that will happen is that the water does not get hot even if the heater is plugged.
4. 12-volt System
Your RV is equipped with two 12-volt batteries. In most set-ups, you can find one battery in the coach and the other in the compartment. The battery located at the compartment is charged while the RV is running. The battery on the coach, meanwhile, can be charged when running or by using a power converter. If the 12-volt system has a bad connection, your RV is prone to suffering from electrical problems.
There are some quick DIY fixes if you suspect that there is a problem with your RV’s 12-volt system. One of the first things to do is to check the fuse and circuit breaker, making sure that they are not blown, tripped, or loose. The connection to the DC battery can also be the problem. More so, the battery may not have sufficient water. Overworking and overheating results in water evaporating quickly. If you are going to replace water in the battery, make sure that you are using distilled water only. Aside from not having enough water, the battery may also have insufficient charge.
Safety Tips for RV Electrical Systems
To avoid the RV electrical problems, it is important to do different things, including the following:
- Find the right location when camping: Choose a place with shade. Avoid a spot under the direct heat of the sun. The hotter the location is, the more the air conditioner needs to run. This puts a lot of stress in the electrical system, which can result in overheating and similar problems.
- Once your RV is parked, make sure that all appliances are turned off: and unplugged before connecting the system to the main power supply. Once the electrical supply is ready, it is only then that you can plug your appliances one by one and turn them on individually.
- Do not overload your electrical system: Pay attention to the current draw of each appliance and the power output of the supply. When there is a mismatch, electrical problems are common. When there is overloading, there is a higher risk of a fire, which can quickly turn your RV trip into a nightmare.
- Keep your electrical system regularly maintained: Regular inspection is a must, making sure that the wires are free of damage. If there are cracks and other issues, fix it immediately. Replacethe wires when needed. Use high-gauge wires if necessary. Propermaintenance will help maintain the peak performance of your electrical system aside from ensuring your safety.
- Pay attention to the positioning of the appliances and outlets: For instance, make sure that the plugs are away from sources of water. Otherwise, there is a high risk of electrical shock. Keep the wires neat and organized to prevent being a tripping hazard while also minimizing potential wear.
- Consider installing alternative energy sources: The most popular would be solar panels. The initial cost can be high, but the long-term benefits will be worth it. You will be harnessing the energy of the sun instead of relying on traditional electricity. It is a safer alternative, but this does not mean that there are no problems. If you are installing solar panels, make sure to match it to the power requirements of the appliances you will be running in your RV.
- Use only the right kind of wires for your appliances: Each appliance has unique needs. Consider its requirements when choosing a wire. The cord rating should exceed the power requirements of the appliance. Also, you should not use extension cords. If you need to, then make sure that the wire has a highgauge. Do not connect an extension cord to another extension cord. Put the cord in low-traffic areas to prevent tripping.
- Make sure that you have a fire extinguisher in your RV: Regardless of how careful you are, some situations are outside of your control. It pays to be ready to respond to an unfortunate situation arising from an electrical problem. Having a smoke detector is also a must so that you will be immediately alerted when there is a fire.
- Mind what you plug in the RV outlets: You cannot just connect any appliance and expect it to run without any problem. From current to voltage, take note of the technical specifications of the appliances to avoid having a mismatch.
- Invest in a handy voltage monitoring device: This will help in checking the voltage and making sure that it is sufficient for the appliances. If the voltage is too low or too high, there is a possibility that the appliances will be damaged. If the voltage reading is below 110, then you should not be operating any appliance.
- Be careful when you are using a campground hook-up: While it is a good thing that power supply is conveniently available in the campsite, watch out for potential problems. There should be no apparent damage. Also, avoid using power hook-ups in crowded areas. When the demand is too high and supply is limited, you can suffer from fluctuations in electrical supply, which can also damage RV appliances.
As noted above, RV electrical problems can be caused by several factors, such as fuses and breakers and appliance current draw. In many instances, these problems can be fixed by yourself. If it is a major issue, however, we recommend that you get in touch with a competent electrician as soon as possible. Do not attempt to make it another DIY task if you do not have the tools needed and if you are not knowledgeable of the problem.