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Old 08-02-2011, 08:43 PM   #1
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How should I run power to my camper.

I've been reading a lot of threads here about how the wiring in my camper should look and I'm a little more confused than when I started.

I've got a 69 Avion truck camper. It's got a single breaker box with a hard wired 20ft cord with a standard 3prong plug on the end. I have been powering the camper from my workshop while I work on it through a standard outlet with 25 amp breaker.

The breaker in the camper would pop after a while when running my brand new Coleman Mach 3 ac unit. I replaced the camper breaker with a 30 amp which is all I could find. No issues since then but from reading here I am now worried I could damage my AC unit by running it from a regular power outlet. Thoughts on this?

Since I plan on running everything in the camper on AC when I'm done I know I need to upgrade the breaker box to a more modern configuration. Anyone have links to a good diagram or how-to on a good breaker setup for something like this. Thanks.
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Old 08-02-2011, 09:08 PM   #2
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This set up is wrong on several levels.

First, you should never just replace a smaller (what was the original amp rating, anyway?) breaker with a 30 amp just because it trips.

Second, I'm guessing the 25a breaker you are using is from an old air conditioner box. You shouldn't adapt it to a new purpose without checking that the breaker matches the wire size. Some A/C units use smaller wire gauge than allowed for general use.

You don't say what gauge wire you are using for the 20 ft cord with the standard (?) plug, but I would guess it's anything from 16 gause to 12 gauge. That's too small for this application.

You should get a licenced electrician to re-qualify your whole set up.
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Old 08-02-2011, 10:31 PM   #3
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We hired an electrician to add a dedicated 30-amp line just for the Bambi. I'd recommend having a pro set i up for you ... then you'll know it's good to go. It didn't cost us that much and I don't have to worry whether it's done right.
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Old 08-03-2011, 06:08 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markdoane View Post
This set up is wrong on several levels.

First, you should never just replace a smaller (what was the original amp rating, anyway?) breaker with a 30 amp just because it trips.

Second, I'm guessing the 25a breaker you are using is from an old air conditioner box. You shouldn't adapt it to a new purpose without checking that the breaker matches the wire size. Some A/C units use smaller wire gauge than allowed for general use.

You don't say what gauge wire you are using for the 20 ft cord with the standard (?) plug, but I would guess it's anything from 16 gause to 12 gauge. That's too small for this application.

You should get a licenced electrician to re-qualify your whole set up.
Understood, that's why I posted.

The camper came that way and I never had a reason to question it until I started reading here. The original breaker in the camper was, I believe, worn out and it was a 25 amp. I could not find another 25 amp in the same configuration and reading here I saw that most ran the AC on 30 amp and I wondered if that is what should have been there anyway.

I do not know the guage of the chord coming out of the camper. What should it be. Just looking for information and diagrams and things that can give me an idea of how far I need to go with this.

What should the service in my workshop that I run the camper on look like? 30 amp service from what I read here but I'd like more info.

What should the circuit breaker setup in my camper look like by modern standards. 30 amp main and then a 25 for the AC and another 15 for everything else. Are there any good posts or diagrams around showing how to do it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by TBRich View Post
We hired an electrician to add a dedicated 30-amp line just for the Bambi. I'd recommend having a pro set i up for you ... then you'll know it's good to go. It didn't cost us that much and I don't have to worry whether it's done right.
I may very well end up with having an electrician do all the work but I am a curious person and like to learn how stuff works so that even when I have to have someone else do it I can make sure it is done right and to my satisfaction.

Thank you all for your help!
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Old 08-03-2011, 07:59 AM   #5
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30 amp breaker is used for 10 gauge wire minimum. 20 amp breaker is used for 12 gauge wire minimum. 15 amp breaker is used for 14 gauge wire minimum. With your current set up, the first question it ask is what gauge wire? Both in your workshop and in the shore power cord to the camper, plus the wiring inside the camper. The breakers are there to protect your wiring from overheating. Installing a larger breaker than the wiring is rated for (for example, using a 30 amp breaker on 12 gauge wire) is setting up the wire to overheat, melt the insulation on it, and start a fire. Just because it now works doesn't mean its safe, but I think you're understanding that now.

A modern trailer with 30 amp service will have a 10 gauge shore power cord with a RV "Y" type plug on it. Looks like a 220 VAC plug for an electric dryer, but it's not. It's a 30 amp 110 VAC RV plug. The 30 amp main breaker in the rv will then feed power to the rest of the circuit breakers. In general, the air conditioner will have a 20 amp breaker and 12 gauge wiring. After that, it varies, where other breakers may be 20 amp or 15 amp, depending on who set it all up.

In our 72 Sovereign, I rewired all the 110 VAC circuits with 12 gauge wiring, so I installed 20 amp breakers after the 30 amp main. I could have used 15 amp breakers on the circuits not feeding the a/c, but I choose to use 20 amp breakers. For 12 gauge wiring, you can use a 15 amp or a 20 amp breaker, but never ever, a 30 amp breaker.

I plug into a 30 amp rv outlet that I installed. It's fed with 10 gauge wire. If you want to run your a/c without any issues from your workshop, you should provide your camper with a 30 amp circuit, wired with at least 10 gauge wire. Same for the shore power cord.

Chris
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Old 08-03-2011, 08:57 AM   #6
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Avion,

You mentioned that you have a new AC unit. Since the original breaker was a 25 amp, I am assuming that your original AC would run on that. If the new AC trips the breaker, you might have a problem with the new AC.

Now, here is another issue. If you connect your camper to your shop with a long extension cord of small gauge wire you are introducing a lot of resistance which can, and often does, trip breakers. Folks here are giving you some great advice.

In the short term, find a large gauge extension cord, say 10 or 12 that is "just long enough" to service the camper. I learned this lesson years ago when painting my house. I was using my air compressor and the breaker would trip when I connected it to the house with a long cord. I found a larger gauge cord which was also shorter and did not have any trouble since.

I would search for a 25 amp replacement circuit breaker. Have you checked with the manufacturer yet?
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Old 08-03-2011, 11:06 AM   #7
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while you are at it.........

I had about a hundred foot run to my camper, so I used 8 gauge underground cable, and used a pvc conduit( Just below frost line) While I was at it , I also ran a switched 12 gauge wire for a motion detector light and an outlet for whatever. I mounted it all on an old telephone pole.
Figure out how far the run is from your power panel to your camper.
There is a formula for voltage drop that you can find online. ( I think I saw it on the forum as well.) Too low of voltage will soon wreck your air conditioner, as well as heat up the cable.
Another option is to put a dedicated 30 outlet on the side of your house and run a REALLY heavy duty extension cable from the house to the trailer.
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Old 08-03-2011, 12:18 PM   #8
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The Avion truck campers were wired from the factory for 20 amp service.

20 amp service is sufficient for running the air conditioning. It is likely that the old breaker was failing and prone to nuisance trips.

You should replace the 30 amp breaker with one the same size as the original.

There's nothing wrong with running air conditioning on 20A service as long as the wire size is sufficient for the length of the run. I run my 15,000 BTU air conditioner on 20 amp service for 8 weeks of the year because I am at a campsite where that's all that's available. It works fine.
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Old 08-03-2011, 05:07 PM   #9
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Great info people! Thank you for taking the time to post.

I will run through all this stuff in my camper this weekend and see where I stand. I will find the correct CB for the camper before then so at least I can continue to run the AC while I restore the camper and before I get to the wiring job.

I plan on running everything from AC/DC so I will definitely upgrade the setup in the breaker area.

I will keep you all posted.
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