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Old 02-10-2016, 09:30 AM   #1
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Power Converter Problem Last Night

I am living out of my Sunline right now, the furnace is running pretty constantly. Sometimes I instead run an electric heater during the day when I am home.

Last night, instead of running the propane furnace that cycles on and off, I put the electric heater on in energy saving mode. This mode keeps the fan and unit on continually, but cycles between high and lower power to deliver the heat.

Just before midnight, I woke up and noticed my alarm clock was off and the electric heater was completely off, and so was the fan for the Power Converter. My fan runs non-stop, it is never off so I noticed it was off right away. There was also a very slight burn smell.

All the breakers were tripped. I tried flipping them on, nothing. I tried on/off one or two more times, nothing.

I then pulled every fuse, checked and reseated each one. The only time my 12V interior lighting went off, was when I pulled the fuse. I am not sure how the 12V lighting continues to work when the breakers are off, but there must be some sort of bypass directly to the battery.

After I pulled and reseated every fuse, I tried flipping the breakers on again, and the RV powered up, all appliances, etc. I am guessing the time it took me to dabble, gave the unit enough time to cool down from a possible over-heat.??

Now I am concerned there might be some sort of wiring weak spot in the Power Converter that could be a fire hazard. Is this possible?

The electric heater still works, so that is undamaged. And this is the first time this has happened after many hours of running this electric heater in the past.

I do remember that slight smell, in the last week or two, but there were no other symptoms that went along with it at the time. I might have shut off the electric heater to give the power converter a brake after that.

P.S. I do not have a surge suppressor on my RV, maybe it was a surge?
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Old 02-10-2016, 08:17 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Rocketgirl View Post
.... I am not sure how the 12V lighting continues to work when the breakers are off, but there must be some sort of bypass directly to the battery.

... I might have shut off the electric heater to give the power converter a brake after that.

...
First let me talk about the 2 different, but related, electrical systems in your camper.

The 12 volt system powers the lights, the furnace, the water heater, the control board in the fridge, the LP detector, and maybe some other stuff. All the 12 volt stuff is protected by fuses located, usually, in the "converter box".

The second system is 120 volts AC which powers the microwave, the 120 volt element in the fridge (when not running on LP), the electric element in the water heater (if you have that option), and the outlets that you have the heater plugged into. The 120 volt AC also powers the converter who's only job it to "convert" 120 volts AC to 12 volts DC to charge the battery and power the 12 volt stuff. The 120 volt AC feeds are protected by the circuit breakers.

These 2 systems are seperate even though the 120 volt circuit breakers and the 12 volt fuses are usually in the same "converter box".

I can't say why ALL the circuit breakers tripped but heat is a big factor. When a circuit breaker runs at near capacity it gets warm. If the wire connection to the circuit breaker is not tight and clean the breaker can even get hot. No doubt the heater being on for a long time could get the breaker warm and, more often, the outlet gets warm too.

Perhaps the above will give a better understanding to how things are related. Shutting off the 120volt AC heater will not affect the converter. Maybe in the time everything was off the breakers did cool down, as you said. Often it helps to feel the surface of the breakers and outlet to see if they are hot.

As an aside, I had a problem many years ago with my water heater electric element tripping the circuit breaker after 5 to 10 minutes. I thought it was the electric element. Then I found the breaker was getting HOT. When I removed the cover on the converter I saw the wire had some melted insulation. Turns out the circuit breaker was defective. Since I replaced the breaker everything has been good.
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Old 02-10-2016, 09:31 PM   #3
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If this problem happens again it might be that you are just overloading circuits. Since everything on the camper runs from the 110V there are limits to what all you can run at one time. During the day when you are not running the lights the battery doesn't need charged so running your heater may not overload the circuit. At night when you run the 12V lights and appliances you make the battery charger run along with the electric heater and maybe the refrigerator even kicked in. All of these things can overload and trip circuit breakers. You might find a smaller electric heater that will do a good enuff job but not trip the breaker. Or, if you are also running the refrigerator on 110V you might try running it on LP to reduce the electric load. That would use less LP than the house heater.


Since the circuit breakers did reset and everything has worked for awhile it seems all is OK now. Just don't overload anymore.
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Old 02-11-2016, 04:21 AM   #4
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As an aside, I had a problem many years ago with my water heater electric element tripping the circuit breaker after 5 to 10 minutes. I thought it was the electric element. Then I found the breaker was getting HOT. When I removed the cover on the converter I saw the wire had some melted insulation. Turns out the circuit breaker was defective. Since I replaced the breaker everything has been good.
Your whole post is very good to know, thank you for responding!

Now because I did smell a slight burn smell, I am wondering if the wire on the breaker had some melted insulation as you mention above, and may need to be replaced.

I think I can check that myself, and I might have a more knowledgeable friend with me. I would just need to unplug the RV and I suspect I should probably disconnect the battery also. -- I should be safe from shock at that point?

Any idea what kind of life span these converters have? This is a 2002 trailer and it did not have a lot of wear on it when I bought it. But now, the heat is running 24/7. I would just hate for it to die in the middle of the cold snap we are going to have this weekend and I am thinking maybe I should have a spare on hand.
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Old 02-11-2016, 04:25 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Jim-Bev-2363 View Post
If this problem happens again it might be that you are just overloading circuits. Since everything on the camper runs from the 110V there are limits to what all you can run at one time. During the day when you are not running the lights the battery doesn't need charged so running your heater may not overload the circuit. At night when you run the 12V lights and appliances you make the battery charger run along with the electric heater and maybe the refrigerator even kicked in. All of these things can overload and trip circuit breakers. You might find a smaller electric heater that will do a good enuff job but not trip the breaker. Or, if you are also running the refrigerator on 110V you might try running it on LP to reduce the electric load. That would use less LP than the house heater.


Since the circuit breakers did reset and everything has worked for awhile it seems all is OK now. Just don't overload anymore.
Good info, thank you! The heater I have, I was running in "green" mode and I thought it drew less continuous power than normal mode, but I could be wrong. Most smaller electric heaters run around 1500 Watts; I did find one the other day at the hardware store that was 700. I think that was about the best I could find. I should probably pick it up.

I will also try the refrigerator switch to propane also, if I find I need to run the electric heater. I did not think about that. Right now, I am not running the electric heater at all, I'll see if I can get by. It's just that the electric heater seems to be kinder to my sinus's than the propane for some reason.
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Old 02-11-2016, 04:20 PM   #6
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As far as your question on how long does the converter last.
We had a 1999 Sunline for 7.5 years, and never a problem with the converter.
Our last Sunline was a 2005 (bought new) and had to replace the converter after ~8 years.
I got a Progressive Dynamics PD9260CV power converter as a replacement.
Our WFCO convertor in our 2007 model, has been replaced with the Progressive Dynamics also. I want to say about 2010 - 2011 time frame
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Old 02-12-2016, 05:24 AM   #7
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You said the heater in energy saving mode will cycle between low and high settings. That means it will reduce power consumption when conditions allow it but will also suck lots of power when needed. It is that burst of energy that probably, along with other power needs, tripped the breakers.
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Old 02-13-2016, 10:38 AM   #8
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Too much load. The converter running the furnace and the lighting + a 1500 watt heater will be right at the edge of a 15 amp breaker. Throw in and extension cord and an adapter from 30 amps to 15 amps that makes it even worse.
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Old 02-14-2016, 05:14 AM   #9
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Extension cords, especially for high load applications such as heaters, need to be heavy duty. Using the cheaper, lower amperage, two pronged outlets isn't good and I do not use them for anything. Always use larger wired cords with the grounding hole. Even a short length cheap/thin cord will act like a resistor to high amperage.


When I use the heater in our camper I plug straight into the outlet, no extension, even though where it has to be isn't where I'd like it to be. Heat will fill the camper.
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Old 02-14-2016, 08:16 AM   #10
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What happens when extension cords are in the mix is voltage drop. What this does makes devices draw more current because of the lower voltage so it becomes double trouble and compounds the problem. If the voltage drop is 10 volts a lot but conceivable (110 instead of 120) your heaters current draw just jump up 1 full amp. so that it's now drawing 13.6 amps that's very little margin on a 15 amp breaker. When an extension is added it is being connected to an extension granted the camper is a #10 wire and the loss is fairly low but together they really start to add up.
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Old 02-26-2016, 10:42 AM   #11
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Just an update.... I did not want to mess with the converter in the middle of a cold snap, so I just stopped using the electric heater all together. I have since then bought a little 700 Watt heater to supplement and I don't use it in the bathroom GFCI since that is where I had the problem before.

No problems since, but I am not running the electric heater at night either. Once it gets a little warmer, I might give it a try.
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