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Old 04-03-2013, 12:56 PM   #1
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Electrical Puzzle

A year ago, a 15 amp breaker tripped. It was labeled "Conv./Gen'l". I had difficulty getting it to go back to "on" position, but was finally able to do so. I intended to replace it, but never did since everything was fine until on a recent trip to Arizona it tripped again.

This time, it tripped while I was in the trailer. When it tripped, the lights slowly dimmed until they went out--connected to shore power at the time--and this dimming was accompanied by a high pitched whining noise (no, not me or my wife).

I again had difficulty getting the breaker to reset, but did so and now will replace it. But the question is, what is going on here? Is the breaker bad, or is is something else having to do with the converter, or some other arcane electrical situation?

Any feedback and guidance would be appreciated. Thanks, RM Drifter
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Old 04-03-2013, 01:57 PM   #2
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Its hard to tell from your description. I would check all the connections and make sure they are tight.
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Old 04-03-2013, 02:14 PM   #3
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when your breaker tripped,it shut off the power to the converter. the lights (12vt) were then running on battery power which sounds like a dead battery if your lights dimmed and then went out. the fan on the converter makes a high pitched whine when it is under load,but in your case your converter wasn't running,so i can't say what the noise was. first thing i would do is replace the breaker. then i would check the battery and connections. . you didn't say how old your rig is or the battery,
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Old 04-03-2013, 02:46 PM   #4
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SP 186 2009, battery one year old. Battery was fully charged before we left, and charged whole 600 miles to AZ. We were on shore power the whole trip, or driving. Thanks for your insights, and I will replace the breaker.

When you indicate the "converter under load", what exactly does that mean? I ask because the noise sure sounded like the one you reference above. And to clarify, only one breaker switch tripped, not both.
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Old 04-03-2013, 02:48 PM   #5
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Squeel was probably from CO detector from low voltage. You stated that lights went dim and finally went out. Your battery is either dead or not working.
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Old 04-03-2013, 02:59 PM   #6
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Interesting and accurate. If the converter is not working because breaker thrown, then no more AC obviously, but I assume from what you're saying that all electrical now reverts to 12V...correct?

And when I'm on shore power, is the 12V system being used at all? Just trying to figure out why battery would go dead. If not used for a week, would it just discharge?

Just checked battery by turning on lights in trailer, and they're at full illumination. Is it possible trip home--700 miles--recharged battery?
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Old 04-03-2013, 03:10 PM   #7
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700 mile trip connected to TV will charge batteries, might not be full charge but sufficient to either maintain or partially charge, depending on TV.
Convertor uses A/C from campground or home hook-up to convert to 12 volt dc. This is used to charge the battery and supply all other 12 volt needs. Most equipment is 12 volt except for Television, Microwave, and any other appliances plugged in.
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Old 04-03-2013, 03:18 PM   #8
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Thanks. So if the breaker throws on the converter, is there some mechanism which puts all non-AC dependent appliances back on to the trailer battery, or if the converter is dead, does the whole system shut down? Still having trouble believing the battery was dead I guess.
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Old 04-03-2013, 03:21 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rmdrifter View Post
Interesting and accurate. If the converter is not working because breaker thrown, then no more AC obviously, but I assume from what you're saying that all electrical now reverts to 12V...correct?

And when I'm on shore power, is the 12V system being used at all? Just trying to figure out why battery would go dead. If not used for a week, would it just discharge?

Just checked battery by turning on lights in trailer, and they're at full illumination. Is it possible trip home--700 miles--recharged battery?
There's parasitic draws that will drain battery dead if not plugged into shore power .
Co detector
Radio
To name a few.

You need to disconnect battery if not plugged into shore power
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Old 04-03-2013, 03:52 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rmdrifter View Post
Interesting and accurate. If the converter is not working because breaker thrown, then no more AC obviously, but I assume from what you're saying that all electrical now reverts to 12V...correct?

And when I'm on shore power, is the 12V system being used at all? Just trying to figure out why battery would go dead. If not used for a week, would it just discharge?

Just checked battery by turning on lights in trailer, and they're at full illumination. Is it possible trip home--700 miles--recharged battery?
rmdrifter, what the converter does (as it names implies) is to convert AC power to DC power. The converter takes 120 volt AC power, and converts it over to 12 volt DC power. This converted 12 volt DC power is what powers all your things in the trailer that run off of 12 volt DC power.

Now when you are not plugged into 120 AC volt shore power, all of your 12 volt stuff still works, but now it runs directly off of the battery....and not the converter.

Your 12 volt DC powered things always run off of 12 volt DC power.....either from your converter, or your battery. The 12 volt system is tied together with your battery and your converter. You just have two possible sources of 12 volt power, that are connected.

If plugged into shore power, they run mainly off of the converter. You don't have to do anything besides plug into 120 volt shore power for this to work. The converter also charges your battery to a point. Some converters are better than others, and have battery stage chargers built into them. If you leave your trailer plugged into shore power all the time, depending on what converter you have, it can actually overcharge the battery. You need to always keep an eye on the battery water levels.

If not plugged in (or the converter is turned off, faulty, or a breaker thrown) then all your 12 volt stuff runs off the battery.
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Old 04-03-2013, 04:09 PM   #11
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I had to find where this was saved, but here is another forum post that may explain your converter better:

Now, letís talk briefly about what your RV converter does. When you plug your RV into an electrical source, or when you use the onboard generator, the converters job is to reduce 120 volts AC down to 12 volt DC to supply power to all of the 12 volt appliances and accessories in the RV. If you werenít plugged into an electrical source your RV battery(s) would supply the power to all of the 12 volt appliances and accessories in the RV. The converter basically prevents your RV battery(s) from draining when youíre plugged in.

There are two types of amperage draw concerning your RV. The AC amps we are using and the DC amps we are using. Iíll try to explain. When you plug your RV into an electrical source and use 120 volt appliances like the roof air conditioner, the microwave and a TV you are drawing amps from the available supply at the campground, usually 30 or 50 depending on your RV electrical system and the electrical supply you are plugged into. When youíre plugged into an electrical source and you use DC appliances and accessories like fans, lights, pumps or the TV antenna booster you are drawing amps from the converter. Are you more confused now than when we started? Letís try wording this a little different.

Letís say you plug your RV into a 30 amp electrical supply and you only use 120 volt appliances. Youíre using available amps from the 30 amp electrical supply for whatever 120 volt appliances are running, but the converter is drawing almost 0 amps because youíre not using any DC accessories. It will use a small amount for items like the LP gas leak detector, clocks or maybe an aisle light, but not enough to really affect the amperage you are plugged into.

Your RV converter is rated for a certain amperage i.e. 30 amps, 45 amps, 55 amps. In other words a 45 amp converter is capable of running 45 amps worth of 12 volt appliances in the RV. When your RV converter is working at its maximum capacity, which in this case is producing 45 amps for 12 volt appliances and accessories, it is drawing a full 8 amps AC out of the 30 amps available from the campground electrical supply.

Letís say you're plugged in and you're using a couple of 12 volt overhead lights (2 amps) and a ceiling fan (4 amps). In this case your converter is drawing very little from the camp grounds 30 amp electrical supply. In another scenario let's say youíre using a lot of 12 volt overhead lights (8 amps), you're running the furnace fan (11 amps), water pump (4 amps), TV antenna booster (8 amps) range hood fan (2.5 amps), and the battery is being charged by the converter charger (3 amps). Now, when the converter is running close to its full capacity it draws the full 8 amps from the campgrounds 30 amps, leaving you with 22 amps for other 120 volt appliances and accessories. As you can see it's unlikely that all of this would be happening at one time. The bottom line is the converter amperage draw will fluctuate depending on the 12 volt demand placed on it.

Another question I was asked was; I know my converter is also a battery charger so why wonít it bring my discharged batteries back to a full charge? RV converters do provide a charge to your RV house batteries, but only a small portion of the converters amperage rating is used for this. Normally 3 to 5 amps, which are not nearly enough to charge batteries that are discharged.

The converter battery charger is designed to keep the house batteries topped off with this trickle charge. Another problem with older RV converters is they charge at a fixed voltage in the range of 13.5 volts. If your batteries are fully charged this can be too much for a float charge and over time it will deplete the water level in the batteries cells. This is why itís important to check the water level in your batteries on a regular basis, especially when you leave the RV plugged in for extended periods of time. You need a three stage charger that can provide a bulk charge then an absorption charge and finally a float charge. Newer RV converters on the market are capable of charging the batteries this way.
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Old 04-03-2013, 04:18 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rmdrifter View Post
SP 186 2009, battery one year old. Battery was fully charged before we left, and charged whole 600 miles to AZ. We were on shore power the whole trip, or driving. Thanks for your insights, and I will replace the breaker.

When you indicate the "converter under load", what exactly does that mean? I ask because the noise sure sounded like the one you reference above. And to clarify, only one breaker switch tripped, not both.
converter "under load" would be with a lot of 12Vt items turned
on......my converter will squeal a bit if a lot of lights are on,especially when the 4 vanity lights are turned on . its actually the cooling fan on the converter that is making the noise in my trailer.
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Old 04-03-2013, 04:29 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by realebill View Post
converter "under load" would be with a lot of 12Vt items turned
on......my converter will squeal a bit if a lot of lights are on,especially when the 4 vanity lights are turned on . its actually the cooling fan on the converter that is making the noise in my trailer.
If you have a wfco converter most likely that fan is about to quit as its common with wfco converters.
It should not squeal.
If the fan dies your converter will overheat and soon die thereafter.

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Old 04-03-2013, 04:46 PM   #14
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He stated "When it tripped, the lights slowly dimmed until they went out--connected to shore power at the time--and this dimming was accompanied by a high pitched whining noise (no, not me or my wife)."

This would indicate that it is not the fan.
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Old 04-03-2013, 04:51 PM   #15
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The first thing to do is load-test the battery.
If it is faulty, it may be drawing a lot of power, and might cause the breaker to trip.
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Old 04-03-2013, 05:09 PM   #16
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Thanks all for the responses--I appreciate it. I have since googled other forum discussions on this very topic, and "dimming lights" is not uncommon. RV electricity is fairly complicated. I will replace the breaker and hopefully the converter is not going bad as well. Another possible explanation from what I read is a surge in the line, but I didn't hear other campers mention it, and I think I would have heard if they had the same breaker thrown.

One of the comments above does bring up another question: Can I charge my battery by plugging into my 110 outlet at home before taking off on another trip, or is this method of recharging not advisable?
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Old 04-03-2013, 05:41 PM   #17
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I Leave my trailer plugged in all the time when home. You should monitor the voltage to not cook your battery and check the water level.
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Old 04-03-2013, 08:30 PM   #18
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RV electricity is fairly complicated. I will replace the breaker and hopefully the converter is not going bad as well.
It's not as bad as it may seem at first. Once you get the basics down, it's fairly straightforward. Here is a flow chart taken from RV Electrical Systems that may help you understand the cycle better. This chart even shows the optional surge guard (which is such a good idea to have, if you don't already)
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Old 04-04-2013, 10:08 AM   #19
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If your battery is old, it may also have several cells that are out and they may be overloading the converter, hence popping the breaker. So you might want to check the battery and see how it is doing.
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Old 04-05-2013, 02:03 PM   #20
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Thanks for the helpful responses. WM Tire, the web link you provided was very informative and useful.

Hopefully this is my final question on this topic: How do I replace the circuit breaker? It seems as if it just pops out somehow, but I don't want to force anything and cause damage. I looked for a youtube of a replacement but could not find one. Thanks.
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