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Old 11-21-2007, 11:34 PM   #1
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Outside electrical outlet issue

We have had an issue with our outside electrical outlet. We were camp hosts for two months and had an electric cooler plugged in all the time and then a coffe pot and fan sometimes. After more than a month of the cooler and a coffee pot or fan plugged in and working outside, we had random working of the outlet. We checked the fuses and plugged and unplugged the cooler and fan. Sometime the upper outlet would work and sometimes the lower one would work. It all seemed rather random. Eventually we gave up trying to have the cooler and coffee pot or fan plugged in. We put the coffee pot in the kitchen and plugged the fan through the bedroom door. We kept the cooler plugged in and it worked fine. We thought we'd investigate the issue further over the winter. Anyone have any ideas or suggestions? Thanks!
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Old 11-21-2007, 11:45 PM   #2
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Re: Outside electrical outlet issue

Quote:
Originally Posted by janetpowell
We have had an issue with our outside electrical outlet. We were camp hosts for two months and had an electric cooler plugged in all the time and then a coffe pot and fan sometimes. After more than a month of the cooler and a coffee pot or fan plugged in and working outside, we had random working of the outlet. We checked the fuses and plugged and unplugged the cooler and fan. Sometime the upper outlet would work and sometimes the lower one would work. It all seemed rather random. Eventually we gave up trying to have the cooler and coffee pot or fan plugged in. We put the coffee pot in the kitchen and plugged the fan through the bedroom door. We kept the cooler plugged in and it worked fine. We thought we'd investigate the issue further over the winter. Anyone have any ideas or suggestions? Thanks!
I found that the outlet itself was not of the best quality when I swapped it for an X-10 remote outlet several years ago. It is just a standard residential duplex 15 amp outlet. I recently swapped back to a standard duplex outlet and used one that I knew to be of decent quality, and have not had any problems with it.

That would my suggestion to you as a first step. Since you said that one or the other of the outlets would intermittently work, that pretty much says the problem lies right there with the fixture and not in the wiring somewhere.

A quick trip to your local Home Depot or Lowes and you should be able to get a replacement. Just remember to unplug the trailer from the shore supply before working on it.
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Old 11-22-2007, 08:38 AM   #3
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Thanks. why did you switch back to the standard duplex outlet? I'm assuming it was a GFI type? Happy Thanksgiving!
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Old 11-22-2007, 09:09 AM   #4
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Re: Outside electrical outlet issue

Quote:
Originally Posted by janetpowell
We have had an issue with our outside electrical outlet. We were camp hosts for two months and had an electric cooler plugged in all the time and then a coffee pot and fan sometimes. After more than a month of the cooler and a coffee pot or fan plugged in and working outside, we had random working of the outlet.
See if this helps.

The 3 items you listed, a cooler, a fan and a coffee pot. Depending how big they are, they can for a lack of simpler words, "draw power".

Most of the smaller and even some larger campers are setup on 30 amp service. And those 30 amps are split with dedicated wiring to select known high power drawing camper appliances.

The AC unit has a dedicated 20 amp circuit.
If you have ele HW heater, that is a dedicated 15 amp circuit.
If you have a microwave, that is a dedicated 15 amp circuit.

From there the individual circuits vary some. However what is common is that the all 120 wall receptacles can be on 1, 15 amp circuit and protected from one GFI receptacle. Smaller campers most likley 1 wall circuit, larger camper, maybe 2.

If you can look at your cooler, fan and coffee pot, on then is a tag somewhere stating how many amps or watts it is rated at? Or how much power it can draw. Add all 3 up. They are generally all rated at the same voltage. The total watts may be approaching the limit of your receptacle.

The simple formula is Watts = volts x amps. Volts can vary depending on where you are plugged in. 110 to 125v can be common.

1650 watts = 110V x 15 amps
1725 watts = 115V x 15 amps
1800 watts = 120V x 15 amps
1875 watts = 125V x 15 amps

The normal house plug that has a prong configuration that looks like this is rated at 15 amps.


Pending the brand and grade, the quality or service duty can be a lot different. Here price is sort of what you get. Cheap is cheap.

Add up the amps and or watts of your 3 appliances. If they are approaching 15 amps, and do you have any thing inside working plugged in? The cheap receptacles suffer first.

If you are actually drawing a full 15 amps, loose camper wiring from bouncing down the road can have aggravate the problem as well.

The campground voltage drifting up and down like some do when people all turn there AC units on in the summer, can make a known power load from 3 appliances change from OK to not OK just by the voltage going up and down.

If you have receptacle not working or working intermittently, they should be checked and or changed out. That 1 symptom points to a faulty receptacle, loose wiring or both. The breaker will only trip when you hit full current plus a little. And if it is GFCI protected, it will normally only trip is power is sensed on the ground line.

Your issue brings up yet another reason hopefully some day Arc Fault Circuit breakers will make it into campers. These are above and beyond GFCI. The arc fault breakers will trip if a loose wire or spark comes from a faulty receptacle. These new breakers are now in the NEC code required for new homes bedrooms since 2003. A great device.

Good luck and let us know how it goes. Hope this helps. This may have been more then you where thinking of, but the details may help you figure out what is going on.

John
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Old 11-22-2007, 10:26 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by janetpowell
Thanks. why did you switch back to the standard duplex outlet? I'm assuming it was a GFI type? Happy Thanksgiving!
I forgot to mention that I swapped the circuit breakers that control AC outlets to GFCI's several years ago. Thus all of the trailer is protected.

JohnB's discourse on amperage and useage is the best. Using high current draw items like coffee pots almost certainly necessitates the 20 amp duplexes even though the circuit is on a 15 amp breaker. It's just a matter of using "heavy duty" stuff when you are going to heavily utilize something like this.
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Old 11-22-2007, 11:03 AM   #6
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...as with above, my first thought was demand exceeding supply- those coolers suck up a LOT of power.

Please let us know what you find out!
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