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Old 09-05-2008, 08:53 PM   #1
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Gentlemen (and Angel), please enlighten me.

Caveat: I am an electrical neophyte armed with only a laywoman's vocabulary. That said:

Last weekend I plugged into a friend's home to stay for a day or so at the start of a 5 day trip. I'd used his outlet, a regular household outlet with the "dogbone" in the past to charge the house battery. This time, I wanted to stay in the van, use the Starcool and literally chill.
I plugged in: van>30 amp cord>30 amp extension cord purchased from SMB>dogbone>household outlet. No flashing green light at the inverter panel showing me the van was receiving power. Nothing.
I checked the outlet with a portable radio, it was hot. I jiggled and twisted all connections. Nothing.
I went to another outlet with the same arrangement. Nothing.
I subtracted the extension cord. Nothing.
I called Paul at SMB Austin and he helped me figure out that, in fact, the van was OK, it had to be the line in. So I went back to the original outlet and with the extension cord included, got a flashing green light! Home free!
I turned on the Starcool and then came a LOUD thumping and clicking from beneath my EB50 couch. The inverter panel flashed red, "heavy load." I went out to check the Starcool fan just behind and under the driver's seat, nothing amiss, using the hoop step as leverage to get up, I got a shock that went to my shoulder.
More thumping, clicking and red warning lights, I unplugged, started the van and there was no noise from under the back seat, Starcool was cool, no objections from the inverter panel.
I called Paul. He said maybe there was a problem with the ground. I decided to go to a RV park for a 30 amp outlet. All was well. Everything ran smoothly for the rest of the weekend.
What WAS that?


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Old 09-05-2008, 10:39 PM   #2
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Your friend isn't grounded?

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Old 09-05-2008, 11:47 PM   #3
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I’m by NO MEANS and a reliable source, but I would guess that the knocking was the compressor under improper load, and the clicking was the manual reset circuit breaker. Is the relay plate with the circuit breaker under that couch?

Steve has a point about your friend’s house being the variable.
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Old 09-06-2008, 06:53 AM   #4
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Are you sure that the circuit you were using was really a 30amp circuit?

It almost sounds like you were on the verge of pulling too much juice.

The AC unit needs lot to get started, and then the load drops once it has built pressure. If it was not able to get enough juice it might have been turning off and on much more rapidly than yo would ever normally hear.

The shock part is interesting. Normally if you have an intermittent ground issue it stays a problem, and as the amps increase the problem increases.
It sounds like for you, with higher amperage the problem went away.

(but you didn't say what kind of fun trip you are heading out on ???)
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Old 09-06-2008, 11:51 AM   #5
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A normal household circuit is 15 amps. A 30 amp circuit must have a different plug to prevent overloading the standard circuits. If the outlet looks like a standard outlet, it is not a 30 amp circuit.

A NEMA 30 amp plug has blades that are angled as compared to the straight blades on the 15 amp plug.

It is very rare to find a true 30 amp circuit in a house. Usually 15 amp or a 50 amp connector for a dryer or an electric range.

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Old 09-06-2008, 02:49 PM   #6
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I know the house outlet wasn't 30 amps, it was just a regular outlet. This why I used the "dogbone" to translate one level of power to another. I had done this before in the same outlet when I was charging the house battery but not running anything in the van. I assumed the charge was successful, there was certainly no alarming messages coming from the panel. Just reassuring flashing green light.
I don't know about the ground. The outlet was situated on a breezeway, with a corresponding outlet in exactly the same spot inside the house.
It was: outside outlet:wall:inside outlet. I didn't notice a ground wire, but I didn't look either, once jolted and with the van behaving so bizarrely, I quit trying to solve the matter there and went to an RV park with a true 30 amp outlet.
Even though I'm not going to try to run the van there again, here's the question. Does plugging in to that outlet charge my battery?
As for the trip, it was a low key solo exploration of the coastal area North of me, farm roads, beaches, Texas scrub. A break from eldercare and a chance to hike, enjoy some wine and listen to music while checking out the local flora and fauna. Plus fiddle with the van.
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Old 09-06-2008, 03:30 PM   #7
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What inverter or charger do you have?

Depending on the equipment, there may be a setting causing the AC running issues, but that still does not explain the shock.

Could you read the battery voltage when plugged in to charge without the AC on? I bet the charging was happening.

OT : I was wondering if you have done any exploring of the coast SOUTH of you. We were looking at the map a couple of weeks ago, and it looks like some areas might be pretty remote.
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Old 09-06-2008, 05:13 PM   #8
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Have you used your dogbone successfully anywhere else? This sounds like your hot/ground wires are crossed, or your ground/neutral wires are crossed and the polarity is reversed (effectively crossing your ground and hot, for example, if the dogbone does not have one plug bigger than the other, or a ground plug, and allowed you to plug it in upside down).

I think you were running the Starcool off of your inverter, and that is why it did not start and the inverter was showing 'high load'. If you were running off of shore power the inverter would not be under any load.

I do not yet have my sportsmobile, so I don't know if the electrical panel they supply has a reverse polarity indicator light. If not, you can pick up a plug in tester for about $15 at Home Depot. This and a voltmeter are both good ideas if you find yourself plugging into outlets that you don't entirely trust. These plug in testers will also check that your ground is properly wired.

I think what happened, in order of probability, is one of these scenarios:
- Your dogbone is wired incorrectly and has the ground/neutral reversed, and you plugged it in upside down-- connecting the ground to hot.
- Your dogbone is reversing the ground/hot.
- Your friends AC outlet has the polarity reversed, and one of your AC appliances is wired incorrectly (with the AC neutral connected to the ground).

There is more depth here:
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Old 09-06-2008, 05:27 PM   #9
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I would actually have to be there to check for sure but for the most part it sounds like the voltage is too low, the polarity of the plug was wrong or your cord is wired up incorrectly. Do to the shock it's probably a combination of problems. There could be other problems like an open neutral but you tried a radio and it worked plus you took the van to a different place and it worked alright. Many electrical devices with a 2 prong plug will work with the polarity backward. Looking at a standard 110 house plug there are 3 points of contact. The ground is the semi round prong on the bottom. The left slot on the outlet is larger and is the neutral, where the right slot is shorter and is the hot side. If you plug in a cord that has 3 prongs and the polarity is wrong it should blow the breaker at the source unless the ground was not used in the plug or is compromised somewhere. Some older plugs don't have a ground and even might have slots of equal size. Don't ever plug into these. Many times whoever wired the house might have made a mistake and wired it up backwards (even in new installs). Places like Radio Shack or Camping World have cheap devices that plug into the socket and alert you if it's wrong. This link is a typical monitor to watch voltage. Some simple testers that cost less show good or bad polarity via red and green LEDs. ... itor/24900
There are also others like these that actually protect you to a point and are a good idea if you plan to uses shore power a lot. ... yzer/35145
Notice the type of plug that goes into it.

Low voltage is a major concern. Like Mike said a standard house socket is not rated to run the Starcool. It will be ok for things like a small heater, microwave, lights, and charging your batteries as long as you dont load up too much at once. Adaptors are not a good way to make a connection and you need the proper type of plug and properly sized extension cord hooked to the correctly rated panel as Mike posted. It's still important to check the voltage when the air is turned on to make sure it's up to grade while running on any new sources of shore power just in case. Failure to do so might even cause a fire. Ever heard of the penny in the fuse trick? Ive seen some stupid stuff done out there and many times the power supplier may not know they have a problem.

Most inverters will warn you there is a problem with the shore power but when my Starcool operates off shore power it does not require the inverter. Ill dig up a thread about trying to run your Starcool off the inverter and PM you if you wish. I do know Starcool III pulls more than a 2000 watt inverter can put out. I am assuming because youve used it quite a bit on shore power that you know the thermostat controls the ac portion of the Starcool. The thumping may have been the compressor cycling. An open neutral can really mess up a compressor.

If you plug in and dont check the voltage you might be doing harm to the air conditioner if the voltage is too low (or too high). I have tried this. I also work with several state and local recreation areas. I had a bunch of RVers climbing out of their diesel pushers at Don Pedro claiming I was giving them dirty electricity after I had restored power to the park. After some investigating I found the maintenance people at the park had (illegally) adjusted the settings on the transformer that fed the shore power causing the problem. He didnt know what he was doing, so it stands to reason its best to check it yourself and not rely on others. Many parks have control over their shore power and sometimes their systems are not up to par so beware. Anything can happen. Voltage might be fine for a while only to fail during the night, so automatic protection that monitors and protects your van is a good thing to pack along with you.
Hope this helps.
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Old 09-07-2008, 11:45 AM   #10
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Add one of these to the van equipment:

This exact model (orange w/ 3 lights) is what I use and is available at most hardware stores for a few bucks.

After all before plugging a $100K vehicle in somebodies jack booted home wired socket, you might want to check for basic things like ground, and reversed wiring.

and then
everything changed
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