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Old 10-22-2017, 07:47 PM   #1
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Arcing Power Post What to look for

Last weekend we were out camping and made it to the CG late Friday night and no moon. It was dark... I did my normal test of the power post making sure it is was hooked up correctly. I use one of these circuit analyzers.


And you need a 15 amp to 30 amp adapter


Many of our members have these and if you do not yet, this is a good low cost tool that really helps make sure you’re the power post you are plugging into is wired correctly. The power post passed this test fine.

I plugged the camper in and went on with my routine of setting up camp in the dark. We have a TRC Surge Guard power post surge protector that takes a small amount of time before it allows the power to come on. This is normal and I didn’t think anything was out of the ordinary but it was.

The next day an alarm was going off in the camper. I went in and by then it stopped. H’mm OK what’s up? I do have a battery monitor display with an alarm I use for boondocking, but the 12 volts was all good. After finding nothing I went back outside.

Later that night after campfire we went in and started getting settled for the night. Then the alarm went off again. Now I’m in the camper when it is happened. Nope, not the 12 volt alarm, but it is my 120 volt AC monitor. I use this mainly for when running our generator but it is plugged in all the time and also monitors low and high voltage, loss of ground, switched hot and neutral wiring. So I opened up the entertainment center where I use that TV plug for the monitor. Sure enough it is going off and sending an “open ground” alarm. Oh boy, this is not good.

Here is the monitor. It is a TRC Digitial Monitor. This one Surge Guard Digital Monitor - AECM20020 85 to 150 Vac RMS | Technology Research, LLC



And here are the alarms it sends


I have had this monitor go off before on low voltage during hot summer months when everyone in the CG has their AC on all the time. This monitor is a little costly but a worthwhile investment if you do a lot of camping. I’m not suggesting everyone has to get one of these, but it has helped me 3 times now since I bought it. Two times for low voltage and now and open ground to the camper. This loss of ground can be a serious issue if something in the camper shorts out while the ground is lost as it is a shock hazard.

I go out to the power post and look, then push in harder on the power plug and I hear arcing in the power post. OK, this is the issue. I shut off the breaker in the post and I pull the surge protector out. I can see the power post 30 amp plug is burnt but this is an old burnt not new. The 30 amp receptacle is bad and has been for a while. The fit is so loose that the ground pin will not make contact all the time. And I’m getting arcing on the AC hot and neutral from time to time.

See here. The power post 30 amp receptacle.


A close up. You can see the discoloration of prior arcing and burning the plastic.


I wanted to show this so while you may not have one of the Digital Monitors, you can look and feel this when you plug in. If the 30 amp plug is not a good solid fit, this creates an issue of the plug not making contact. In this case do not use that plug. I missed this as it was dark and the circuit tester tested OK then. It should of rang the bell in my head, this plug is loose but it didn’t at that time. It won’t happen again.

Now it is 10:30pm on a Saturday night when I found the issue and I had to stop and think…. OK, one thing for sure we are not using this receptacle as we need to run the AC in the camper as it was so hot that night. It was 76 inside and 74 outside. Unusually hot for this time of year. I dug out my 50 amp to 30 amp adapter and plugged the camper in the 50 amp receptacle and that was a proper fit.

This is what the power post was doing to my plug in this condition on and off over the day. I’m glad I caught this as the plug had started a slight softening of the plastic around the plug blade.

The blade in the top center of this pic is the AC neutral and you can see the plastic is slightly raised at the plug and the blade tip has arc spots on it.


Here is a pic of the other side of the same blade


And here you can see some arcing on the tip of the hot wire blade. The inside lower right blade in this pic.


When you hear the “ZZZZZZZZ” going on in the plug, that is the arcing causing this. Not a good situation.

I wrote up a note and handed it to the park office to not use that campsite until maintenance can fix the power post as the next person may not realize the issue and the shock hazards that can come with it.

Hope this helps someone in the future.

Thanks

John
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Old 10-22-2017, 08:06 PM   #2
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Thanks John for a great post again! Pictures really hit it home on how dangerous it can be to hurry to start the fun!
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Old 10-23-2017, 08:13 AM   #3
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Wow, that quickly could have become a fire hazard! Good thing you caught it when you did. My surge protector has a built in ground check when I plug it in, so they say to plug it in, turn on the breaker, and then plug the trailer in once all the lights are good. I've seen some questionable plugs though, they've clearly had a lot of use and are well overdue for replacement.

This is all the more reason to carry not only a surge protector, but also the 50 to 30 adapter.
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Old 10-23-2017, 09:17 AM   #4
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JohnB, Will exposure to water cause overheating and melting of the plug? I connect two 25ft, 30Amp, cords together and I usually keep the connection high and dry but not one time. Overheated with nothing extra running in TT. Molded plug melted. All I could think of was rain.
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Old 10-23-2017, 02:36 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Janalee View Post
Thanks John for a great post again! Pictures really hit it home on how dangerous it can be to hurry to start the fun!
Thanks Janalee, yes the pics help tell a lot beyond the words.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sunline Fan View Post
Wow, that quickly could have become a fire hazard! Good thing you caught it when you did. My surge protector has a built in ground check when I plug it in, so they say to plug it in, turn on the breaker, and then plug the trailer in once all the lights are good. I've seen some questionable plugs though, they've clearly had a lot of use and are well overdue for replacement.

This is all the more reason to carry not only a surge protector, but also the 50 to 30 adapter.
Hi Jon,

What brand, model and year surge protector do you have? I have one of the older TRC Surdge Guards. Mine has a time out circuit. Once you plug it in, it times out and then engages a few minutes after. If the plug wiggles out, it will have to re-time out again at least on the hot or neutral blades. It seems Surge Guard has redesigned their unit. It listed as "New" under the grounding feature. Surge Guard 30A Portable with LCD Display | Technology Research, LLC

Basically the new unit will now shut off the camper if an open ground is detected or an overheating situation starts. My vintage will not do this as that is how my internal 120 VAC monitor picked it up. What it sounds like the new Surdge Guard is doing is creating an "Arc Fault" type of sensing at the power post. Arc Fault breakers have been out now for new houses a while. The NEC code keeps expanding where they add them. If any little ZZZZZ sound starts on that circuit it will trip the breaker instantly. It will also trip the breaker if the neutral or ground wire ever touches. I will not be surprised if Arc Fault breakers do not make their way into campers in the future.

And yes, using the 50amp to 30 amp adapter method saved the day. It also helps on low campground voltage sometimes during times of high AC use by everyone. That circuit may not be as loaded up as the 30 amp circuit. I have done this before to get the voltage up higher.

Thanks

John
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Old 10-23-2017, 02:53 PM   #6
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Hi Jon,

What brand, model and year surge protector do you have? I have one of the older TRC Surdge Guards.
It's a Progressive Industries SSP-30X, it's only about a year and a half old. I hadn't had one before and I think I got it after our trip to PA last year. I was thinking it would be cheap insurance to prevent the factory converter from frying.
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Old 10-23-2017, 03:40 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim-Bev-2363 View Post
JohnB, Will exposure to water cause overheating and melting of the plug? I connect two 25ft, 30Amp, cords together and I usually keep the connection high and dry but not one time. Overheated with nothing extra running in TT. Molded plug melted. All I could think of was rain.
Hi Jim,

I know the 2, 30 amp cords connection you are referring too. If moisture gets to the blades of the plug, it can start conducting electricity and create heat. It might not be enough to trip the breaker, but it will be arcing there.

This is what I do. I get a gallon zip lock bag, I fold the cord connection into a hoop. Then put the hoop of wire connection into the open zip lock bag. The plug connection is all the way inside, the corded part is at the opening of the bag area. I twisty tie the bag opening to the cords tight. Then I put the entire thing up on 4" or so of wood blocks to get it off the ground. Make sure gravity is in your favor and the open end of the zip lock is down hill.

I have not "yet" seen a waterproof way that we can buy to make the corded connections. The zip lock was what I started using after seeing it on Poppy and Nana's camper a number of years ago. Leo used a baggie and I'm thinking, yes that will work for this and have been doing it ever since.

Thanks

John
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Old 10-23-2017, 10:13 PM   #8
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Quote:
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It's a Progressive Industries SSP-30X, it's only about a year and a half old. I hadn't had one before and I think I got it after our trip to PA last year. I was thinking it would be cheap insurance to prevent the factory converter from frying.
I looked that one up. It is a very good unit and I see they now incorporate the circuit checking of the power post wiring. Good deal on that. Back when I was looking I did not know about the PI surge protectors and went the Surge Guard route. Back then, both where just surge protection and now they are much more. I bought ours back in 2005ish time frame and both brands have changed with upgrades since for the better. I need to use 3 devices now to do what the new ones do all as one unit.

If I where to get another one, Progressive Industries would for sure be a top contender.

Thanks

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Old 10-24-2017, 10:17 AM   #9
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Typical campground problem that's from a poor connection either not properly inserted or weak contacts in the outlet generally not from overload. Driving off while still plugged in is a good way to damage a 30 amp outlet it prys open the contacts inside the socket. From the fault codes you gadget showed it had been doing that for awhile. A heavy load from an AC probably finished it off. The 30 amp TT30 is an outlet all to it own nothing else uses it it's for 120 volt use only most better campgrounds keep them in stock it is a continuing problem. Something else to consider most of the adaptors are 15 amp rated not 30 like the plug itself and the 30 amp outlets are not GFI protected. A 50 amp campground outlet is actually two 120 volt feeds so when you are plugged in with an adaptor your max is going to be 25 amps add an adapter you are down to 15, will it carry more probably but I have not seen one rated at 20 amps if it's rating at all.
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Old 10-24-2017, 01:01 PM   #10
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A 50 amp campground outlet is actually two 120 volt feeds so when you are plugged in with an adaptor your max is going to be 25 amps add an adapter you are down to 15, will it carry more probably but I have not seen one rated at 20 amps if it's rating at all.
Hi mainah,

H'mm, your response has triggered much thought on my part.

Yes, I understand the campground 50 amp outlet is 2, 120 volt feeds. Got it, understand and fully agree.

Now to plugging in with a 50 to 30 amp plug adapter and the max will be 25 amps to the camper, if I understood your note right, this one I might have missed something. Please explain more so I can understand the errors in my thinking how only 25 amps can pass to the camper.

I myself have not seen the inside of all of the power posts out there, but I can read a wiring diagram. I tried to find a better one, I found this one. See here, scroll down to the bottom, the schematic is on the bottom. 50, 30, 20 amp Surface Mount RV Power Outlet Box - RV Park Supplies

That is a 125 amp rated box. I have seen others at a 100 amp rating too so they may be derating the max power to the post. The 50 amp receptacle is wired a 2 pole breaker. The question is, what is the rating on each pole of that breaker? 50 amp or 25?

They do make a 25 amp double pole breaker but all the breakers I have seen have the rating markers on the breaker switch that the breaker pole is rated for.

See these 2 pics. This is from a different power post then the one that had the toasted 30 amp receptacle. This 50 amp 3 pole breaker shows 50 on each pole. Unless I mixed something up, each pole can pass 50 amps. Yes/ No? What did I miss?

The post


The breakers


Thanks

John
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Old 10-24-2017, 02:11 PM   #11
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OK I haven't seen one of them in a long time I'm not even sure they are still code. I can only make out 3 pin from your picture. The ones I am talking about are 4 pin 2, 120 volt feeds, in the bigger RV's the panel is split there is no 240 circuits yes there is 240 in the camper but no 240 outlets so basically it's 25X2 The standard RV 30 amp service is a #10 wire not enough for 50 amps you only have to trip one side of a breaker to trip it at 25 amps disconnecting both. Yes the posts are wired from the load center often with a 2/0 wire to cover every possibility.
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Old 10-24-2017, 09:13 PM   #12
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Something doesn't make sense.
The 50A outlet is wired with 2 phases. Two hot wires each coming from a 50A breaker. The 50A output has to 2 hot (left & right) each powered by an independent wire off an independent 50A breaker.
In an RV with a 50A power center there are 2 legs, each 50A.

If one leg draws more then 50A, yes it will trigger both 50A breakers at the box because it's a double pole breaker. But each phase is rated at 50A not 25A because its 2 phase, not single phase like the 30A and 20A outlet, which both only have 1 hot, 1 common and 1 ground.
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Old 10-24-2017, 10:01 PM   #13
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OK I haven't seen one of them in a long time I'm not even sure they are still code. I can only make out 3 pin from your picture.

The ones I am talking about are 4 pin 2, 120 volt feeds, in the bigger RV's the panel is split there is no 240 circuits yes there is 240 in the camper but no 240 outlets so basically it's 25X2

The standard RV 30 amp service is a #10 wire not enough for 50 amps you only have to trip one side of a breaker to trip it at 25 amps disconnecting both. Yes the posts are wired from the load center often with a 2/0 wire to cover every possibility.
Hi mainah,

OK, here is a better picture of the receptacle. Is is a NEMA 14-50R 50 amp 125/250 volt


I'm still not following your 25 amps will trip the breaker. Correct me where I go wrong. I'm seeing this as a 50X2 feed setup. Not the 25/2.

1. The main line coming to the power post is 4 wire, 240 volt. There is a ground, AC neutral and 2 hots. This is a split phase setup where the incoming voltage is 240VAC between the 2 hot wires. Between each hot and AC neutral is 120 VAC. With the split phase on the 2 hots, we do not overload the AC neutral when we run 120 volts. I think we are in agreement here, Yes?

I found this pic of one opened up.


2. On the 50 amp receptacle circuit, there is a 240 VAC double pole breaker to protect this circuit. Each hot wire goes to one pole of the breaker. Each pole can pass 50 amps of power (6,000 watts each pole for a total of 12,000 on both). If one branch exceeds 50 amp, it will trip both breakers as they are tied together with the trip bar on the switch. I think we are in agreement here, Yes?

3. At the receptacle, it wires up like this. Voltage between X and Y is 240VAC. Voltage between X and W or Y and W is 120 VAC. I think we are in agreement here, Yes?


4. As you said, nothing in the camper is 240 VAC, everything is 120 VAC on the circuits. The way this is used with the 4 wire cord, it is like they are bringing 2 separate 120 VAC 50 amp supplies (the X and Y wires) to the camper. In the camper they split these up in the breaker box and limit each supply on the X and the Y wire to not draw more then 50 amps each. Is this as you see it?

5. Assuming yes, then when you plug in a dog bone 50 to 30 amp adapter at the power post, this is the one I have 50AM/30AF PwrGrip 18" Dogbone

6. The adapter only connects one of the X or Y hot leads in the 50 amp receptacle to the 30 amp end. The other hot lead stops at the adapter. It also connects the AC neutral and the earth ground wire to the 30 amp end. Which ever hot lead it connected to, there is 50 amps available at the 30 amp end due to the 50 amp breaker protecting that X or Y hot lead.

7. Since we are plugging in the 30 amp camper shore line cord to this adapter which has a supply of 50 amps, the 30 amp main breaker in the camper will limit the power draw to 30 amps. Any power draw in the camper above 30 amps will trip the camper main breaker.

I'm not seeing how we can only pass 25 amps to the camper? I see 30 amps.
OK, where did I go wrong?

Thanks

John
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Old 10-25-2017, 11:34 AM   #14
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Hi Jim,

I know the 2, 30 amp cords connection you are referring too. If moisture gets to the blades of the plug, it can start conducting electricity and create heat. It might not be enough to trip the breaker, but it will be arcing there.

This is what I do. I get a gallon zip lock bag, I fold the cord connection into a hoop. Then put the hoop of wire connection into the open zip lock bag. The plug connection is all the way inside, the corded part is at the opening of the bag area. I twisty tie the bag opening to the cords tight. Then I put the entire thing up on 4" or so of wood blocks to get it off the ground. Make sure gravity is in your favor and the open end of the zip lock is down hill.

I have not "yet" seen a waterproof way that we can buy to make the corded connections. The zip lock was what I started using after seeing it on Poppy and Nana's camper a number of years ago. Leo used a baggie and I'm thinking, yes that will work for this and have been doing it ever since.

Thanks

John
Thanks JohnB. I wasn't sure if it was water or something inside. I do now have a 2x6 I place the plug connection on and cover that will a upside down planter with brick on top that keeps it all in place. No problem since doing it this was. Like the zip lock bag and will keep onboard when out and about.
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Old 10-25-2017, 01:24 PM   #15
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I think my wording was wrong 50 amps is 50 amps but you don't get 100 amps no matter how it's wired also my point is the camper wiring is not capable of handling 50 amps especially with an adapter involved. Many camper do not have a main in their breaker box so connecting to a 50 amp circuit you are subjecting a 30 amp service to a possible overload.
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Old 10-25-2017, 02:15 PM   #16
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I think my wording was wrong 50 amps is 50 amps but you don't get 100 amps no matter how it's wired ...
For my FW, it has 50A service and with the power center containing 2 legs each with a 50A main breaker (see picture below). Each leg (i.e., with the 50A main breaker) is powered by one of the hot lines of the 50A shore power outlet. Each leg is 50 amps @ 120 volts. 50-amp X 120-volt = 6000 watts. But since there are 2 HOT 120-volt legs at 6000 + 6000 = 12,000 watts.
So in theory for trailers that have 50A service, they are getting a combined total of 100 Amps (12,000W / 120V = 100A), it's just split into 2 - 50A legs.

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... also my point is the camper wiring is not capable of handling 50 amps especially with an adapter involved. Many camper do not have a main in their breaker box so connecting to a 50 amp circuit you are subjecting a 30 amp service to a possible overload.
Your are correct and I agree that you need to be careful when connecting a trailer with a 30A service to the 50A power source with an adapter, particularly if the trailer does not have a 30A main breaker as you pointed out. The other concern, even if the trailer has a 30A main breaker, is that there is no protection for the 30A cord between the 50A power post and trailer. In theory the 30A cord could also be damaged if an overload condition did occur.
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Old 10-25-2017, 03:30 PM   #17
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I'm not electrically inclined and am trying to avoid getting confused... I don't know how old a trailer has to be to not have a main breaker. Most of us are running trailers that are 30A and new enough to be protected by their own 30A breaker. The 30-50 dog bone adapters are wired so that the trailer's 30A cord is indeed connected to one of the 50A hot legs. However, the 30A cord will never carry 50A because there probably aren't enough appliances in a 30A trailer, and if there were, the 30A main would trip. It's fine to say that "maybe" "something" could go wrong, but we don't seem to worry about our house. We are constantly plugging sub 15A appliances into 15 or 20A outlets and nothing goes wrong because those appliances can't overload that outlet. If we're stupid and use an adapter to plug in a toaster, kettle and microwave into the same outlet, the breaker will trip. If it didn't, the house would burn down, or if we worried about it too much, we'd live in a cave. I don't see how plugging a 30A trailer into 50A is any different and I have done it a number of times when the park's 30A outlet has been abused. Charging a phone off a 15A outlet doesn't mean it's getting 15A. What am I missing?
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Old 10-25-2017, 04:50 PM   #18
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Many campers do not have a main breaker they rely on the camp ground breaker and individual 15/20 amp, my T1700 does not have a 30 amp disconnect. 15 amps is 1800 watts electric heater with a fan 1200 watts toaster on the same circuit and you are at 1800 watts my camper had two circuits A//C at 20 and everything else on a 15 with 3 outlets giving me 6 things to plug in, wife with a hair drier me making toast in my case it doesn't happen but you can see where I'm going. Running the A/C, microwave, hairdryer you are pushing to limit on 30 amps hopefully the the individual breakers or the campground breaker will trip or you'll have a pretty hot power cord. Electrical codes are what if's personified. People will push the limits for no other reason than ignorance of power limits. That is one reason houses burn down wires get hot before a breaker trips if it's on the limits particularly if the wires are bundled together.
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Old 10-25-2017, 11:16 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by mainah View Post
I think my wording was wrong 50 amps is 50 amps but you don't get 100 amps no matter how it's wired also my point is the camper wiring is not capable of handling 50 amps especially with an adapter involved. Many camper do not have a main in their breaker box so connecting to a 50 amp circuit you are subjecting a 30 amp service to a possible overload.
OK got it. Thanks. Wanted to make sure I did not mix up remembering all this right.

After digging into this, some of the power posts are rated as 100 amp boxes and some 125 amp. There may be other sizes but the Midwest and the other ones I found all had the 20, 30 and 50 receptacles in them. If they are rating the box at 100 amp max, they must be figuring you cannot pull max load on all 3 outlets at once and do a load shedding or else. And they need to fuse the main feed accordingly to not overload the box. I really hope I do not see a camper using all 100 amps of 120v anyway....

Your point on the older campers not having a 30 amp main breakers is a good point. We have a lot of members now getting old Sunlines, fixing them up and using them that really where not setup like the newer ones. I really do not know what model year the 30 amp main breaker came. The old ones had 1 or 2 breakers, maybe a 3rd if it had AC. And back in the 80's a lot of campgrounds only had a 20 or 30 amp power post and there was only 1 receptacle in it. All our state parks had to have power upgrades in the last few years to upgrade and add the 50 amp and overhaul the entire power supply system. Then the 20/30/50 outlets came to be.

I agree, using a 50 to 30 amp adapter on a camper with no 30 amp main breaker in the camper is a concern. The proportion of extra current available to the loads used is higher. Having a single 15 amp and a 20 amp, 2 breaker system in an older camper is 35 amps which is already over the 30 amp shore line cord. Not realizing this folks can get into issues a lot faster.

Even our camper, we have the 30 amp main in the breaker box, and several breakers to help shed the load more even and protect all aspects of the system. There was a learning curve for my wife. The AC and the microwave on high for a long time is an issue, when the fridge is on electric and anything else that might be plugged in to 120AC. I finally figured out to tell her, you can only plug in one heat producing device at once. One microwave, 1 heater, 1 coffee pot, 1 toaster, 1 hair dryer. etc. And the AC unit cannot be on with any of them or the hot water heater on electric. This worked and now we do not get overload trips any more.

The way they wire what is called, "the utility" circuit is only a 15 amp breaker with almost all the receptacles on it in the camper and it has the power converter on it too. We do at least have a separate 15 amp galley receptacle by the sink counter with the GFI which helps but the fridge is on that too. The microwave, hot water heater and AC unit all have their own breakers.

Thanks

John
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Old 10-25-2017, 11:28 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by PTHutch View Post

Your are correct and I agree that you need to be careful when connecting a trailer with a 30A service to the 50A power source with an adapter, particularly if the trailer does not have a 30A main breaker as you pointed out.

The other concern, even if the trailer has a 30A main breaker, is that there is no protection for the 30A cord between the 50A power post and trailer. In theory the 30A cord could also be damaged if an overload condition did occur.
Hi Hutch,

On the campers with the 30 amp main breaker inside, this limits the camper draw on the 50 amp to 30 amp adapter setup. Technically the shore line cord and part the power adapter only has 30 amp wiring in it plugged into a 50 amp source. That piece of wire under normal conditions will not see over 30 amps due to the main camper breaker.

If someone with a lawn mower or other something that will cut the 30 amp cable in this situation, if the cable shorts, odds are favorable that dead short will trip the 50 amp breaker.

The issue will be increased resistance or worse weather. Loose plugs are bad news but the user can realize this and not use it. When I used my dog bog adapter to get out of this bad 30 amp outlet issue, I put the plug connection between the 30 amp cord and the adapter in a zip lock bag and wrapped up the cord ends, and then stuffed the whole thing up under the weather cover of the power post. The bad part of the dog bone adapters is they have no weather protection for the actual plug in point. That plug getting wet in a rain storm is just plain not good. That I see is a concern as the dampness is a problem.

Hope this helps

John
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