RV Power Monitoring System (Take Advantage of it!)
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- AC Voltage monitor (or line monitor). Check for voltage problems, as well as how many amps are you using.
- EMS Surge protector. Check for problems coming from the shoreline power supply.
- DC Battery Monitor. Keep an eye on the condition of your battery.
- Digital Multimeter. Diagnose any power failure problems. Non-contact multimeters (paid link) could be used as well.
AC voltage monitor
Monitoring your shore AC power for proper voltage is an important component of happy and safe RV camping! So, why should you monitor your shore power? There are many reasons for that.
First of all, inadequate electrical voltage at the campground is a very common situation that many RVers are facing. You don’t want your fun to be ruined by an expensive RV appliance repair, do you?
This situation generally happens when all the RV park residents start turning ON all their devices at ONCE! Since they are all sharing a common electrical grid, an RV park that is operating beyond its electrical capacity will not be able to handle the load and supply everyone with an appropriate voltage.
Devices that are commonly affected by low voltage are usually appliances with small motors (like AC, refrigerators, etc.). They tend to draw more amps when the voltage in your power line drops. If this happens, wires get overheated and in a worst-case scenario, can cause a fire.
Hopefully, upon detection of this problem, your surge protector would be able to disconnect the power and “save the day” or your circuit breaker would trip with no damage done to your appliance.
A proper way to hook up your RV before even trying to turn anything ON is to connect a surge protector first! You are dealing with electricity here and you don’t want any:
Second of all, don’t forget that your RV’s electrical system can only handle a certain amount of watts and NO more:
For 30-amp service – it’s 3,600 watts
For 50-amp service – it’s 12,000 watts
Your electrical circuit can get easily overloaded in a situation when your appliance is not getting enough voltage. If you have a 30-amp service, for example, you can only turn ON a limited amount of appliances at the same time and this is where an AC voltage monitor can be a big help!
It will tell you exactly how much power you are drawing from a line and checking that before turning something else on, it will save you from lots of headaches (and flipped circuit breakers).
These devices are most popular in two versions:
- Line monitor. This one you put in your outlet and read on display what kind of power you are being supplied with. Here is a good polarity checking device (paid link) from Amazon.
- Line and usage monitor. This one you put in between your outlet and your device to find out how much power it is drawing. Kill-a-Watt (paid link) rules! Sorry, got carried away ????…
Since it is also a recording device, along with measuring voltage it will automatically store previous readings as well (even when you disconnect it). If at some point you need to erase this information, just press the “reset” button for 5 seconds to 7 seconds and it will automatically turn into a blank screen or “zero consumption value”.
These handy devices can also check for polarity (depending on the model) and give you information about improper wiring and a wrong amount of current coming through. This is very important to check before your plug your electronic or electrical equipment in, especially if you do NOT have a surge protector.
You can use this device in your house as well and get a good reading of your kWh usage! These days, with many interesting gadgets coming out every day, we want to have EVERYTHING and a lot of it, but when our utility bill comes in with a lot of numbers and formulas that we don’t understand, we start wondering about our energy consumption.
Very often we do not have this information and don’t even think of it until our bills start getting higher… Once you figure out which devices use more power than you thought they did, you can simply use them less and save money.
AC voltage monitoring device also has the ability to give you information about your electricity consumption, which will allow you to be “in charge” of your monthly electric bill! Voltage monitors could be also installed within your RV power system.
If you would like to do something like that, here is a video to help you out:
** Warning! Do not attempt this kind of installation if you are not comfortable with electricity and don’t have the needed skills. Power must be OFF before you touch anything in your breaker panel.
EMC Surge protector
Yes, I know, we all have circuit breakers, but just like a smoke detector, they should be the LAST level of protection, not the first one! There are many things that could be happening inside your wires and getting a tool that will NOT allow the WRONG amount of amps to even get to your circuit breaker (God forbid if that malfunctions) is a very wise investment.
EMS stand stands for Electrical Management System and these devices get plugged between your electrical line and electrical box at your campsite. Their main purpose is to monitor incoming voltage and cut off the power if any problem is detected.
These are possible problems with the electrical distribution system that you could encounter:
- Low voltage. Your shore power is NOT giving you appropriate power.
- Reversed polarity. No, not all camping services hire the brightest electricians. Sometimes their receptacles are wired wrong! This is a bad situation if you don’t check your outlet with a multimeter or surge protector BEFORE plugging anything in.
- Circuit overload. Yes, you can easily overload your system and this normally would lead to a flipped breaker. EMS surge protector will give you a second layer of protection for all your valuable electrical equipment.
- Spikes and surges. And yes, this is the BASIC reason why people get surge protectors! Of course, we don’t get a lightning bolt hitting our power pole very often, but what if it happens? Will you be willing to sacrifice all your appliances and your family’s well-being if it happens?
Power surges that come from a lightning strike are not very common, but they do happen. It is more common to have extreme power surges when some large equipment on the same line gets turned ON and during electrical maintenance by the utility company.
Also, AC power is known for its instability, that’s why it is called “Alternating Current – AC” in comparison to “Direct Current – DC”. These spikes may not be large, but they surely exist and will shorten the lifespan of your sensitive electrical equipment if it’s not well protected.
DC Battery Monitor
The DC battery monitor will show you the status of your battery and how much charge you have left. Great device, isn’t it?!
If you want your RV 12-volt batteries to last for a while (3-5 years), there are several rules you need to follow:
- Don’t fully discharge. Make sure you don’t discharge them below 50% (around 12.2 volts). If you are not happy with this arrangement, good, deep-cycle batteries may be a good solution for you.
- Don’t undercharge. Make sure you charge them fully! Believe it or not, their lifespan will be severely shortened if you undercharge. You need to get your battery charged to around 12.75 – 13 volts to be on the safe side. A good DC battery monitor will display this information, but you can also use a multimeter.
- Don’t overcharge. These guys are demanding, aren’t they? Overcharging will also kill them! This is where a battery voltage monitoring device comes in handy as well, but good battery chargers will NEVER let your battery overcharge because they are programmed to shut down before this happens.
- Watch your water level. Unless it’s a sealed battery, it constantly needs to be checked and topped off with distilled water.
- Watch your acid buildup. Battery connections tend to have rust and acid buildup on them. Don’t forget to open all the covers once in a while and clean them (usually a baking soda solution will do the trick).
DC battery voltage monitor along with multimeter are very important tools to have in your RV’s “arsenal” since all the stops require careful planning and you don’t want to be left without power up in a mountains, right? Another potential problem that could be faced with DC power is:
Low Battery + Inverter = Problems with AC devices!
Once again, you will only know if your battery is running out of steam (or juice) if you have some kind of measuring device. Regular DC devices like lights, some refrigerators, control panels, etc., usually have built-in low-voltage protection and will be fine.
In this situation, whether your appliances will get burned or not comes down to the quality of your inverter. Some higher-end models of inverters WILL have a shut-OFF feature that will be activated upon detecting potentially dangerous low voltage.
Monitoring the state of charge of your batteries will give you a complete picture of what is happening with your battery (except for water level and acid build-up of course). And even then, if you notice that your battery is not charging properly, you may want to add some water and clean it up.
This device is also useful in checking how much energy your appliances are draining. Here is an interesting video on battery monitoring devices.
And another installation video:
Why do you need an RV battery monitor? This device is so useful in extending the lifespan of your batteries, that sometimes I wonder why would someone not get one?
Just savings in constant battery replacements would easily justify even the high-end model!
If you are on the road with many electrical devices and appliances, you MUST have a digital multimeter in your arsenal! They are not very expensive and could save you from a lot of headaches.
With a multimeter, you can easily check your shore power for proper voltage before plugging anything in, or troubleshoot any “mystery problems” like: “Honey, next time could you please don’t use your hair drier and microwave at the same time?”
Preventing problems before they arise is the KEY to happy and safe RV traveling!Feel free to save the infoPin below for your future Reference :
Well, the kitty-cat (or any other energetic companion) you probably already have. Unfortunately, the device to track their energy level hasn’t been invented yet…
I hope you liked my article. See you next time.
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Attention! This article is for informational purposes ONLY and is NOT a replacement for professional advice! ALWAYS consult your local specialist for an appropriate solution to your problem. All statements, prices, contact information, recommendations, and reviews contained herein came from sources that we believe to be reliable, but the accuracy or completeness thereof is not guaranteed. Please contact the service provider for complete details and updates.