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Old 03-29-2018, 01:40 PM   #1
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callmedave's Avatar

2013 28' Flying Cloud
Cohasset , Massachusetts
Join Date: Jun 2013
Posts: 56
Images: 14
Why bother?

Before I go and spend several hundred dollars to replace the factory-installed Parallax charger/converter and add surge protection, I’d like to hear from folks who have actually cooked their batteries because of the Parallax device(which, as I understand it, are single-stage).

I’d also like hear from those who have had their trailer electronics cooked due to “bad” service at campgrounds, or from lightening strikes.
Or alternatively, actually know someone who did.

Do these things really happen or are they speculation and rumor? Aren’t such events rare? Are the stories one hears and reads about merely anecdotal?

The discussions on the forums I’ve seen seem to be about solutions for problems that rarely occur. There’s a rationale about how bad events could be so we might as well drop the $$$ now.
However, Airstream seems “content” with the Parallax units, suggesting they’ve not faced many, or any, claims.

Adding surge protection and upgrading the charger/converter could quickly get to $500, even more if you have to pay someone to do the work.

A number of friends we camp with have never done either of these things.

If these events rarely happen, why not make an insurance claim, if or when?
We have to have insurance anyway…
What am I missing?

Thanks in advance

Wallace: 2013 GMC Sierra 2500 D-Max
Gromit: 2013 Flying Cloud 28
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Old 03-29-2018, 01:50 PM   #2
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2000 25' Safari
1999 34' Excella
Davidson County , North Carolina
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 3,858
Whether your battery gets cooked or not depends on you. If you maintain a proper electrolyte level in your trailer's batteries, then they will not boil dry and die. The constant ~13.6 volt charge does not harm the battery as long as the water does not evaporate.

I did not change the Parallax in my Safari until the voltage started going too high. Before that, when I plugged in full time while at home, I would occasionally use a timer where the converter plugs in. This was to limit charge to about one hour per day while in storage.

In my Excella I got a power surge (I assume lightning) that burned out the AC/Heat pump, the converter, several lights, and two batteries. Yes, it happens.

I've seen reverse polarity at a few campgrounds. Maintenance people are not always electricians.

ps: When these issues happen, it is hard to prove the cause to the insurance company. And, in my case, the deductible was more than the cost of the damage.

2014 Silverado 1500 Crew Cab 5.3L maximum trailering package
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Old 03-29-2018, 01:51 PM   #3
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SeaLevel's Avatar
2016 25' Flying Cloud
Jupiter , Florida
Join Date: Nov 2015
Posts: 921
Originally Posted by callmedave View Post
If these events rarely happen, why not make an insurance claim, if or when?
We have to have insurance anyway…
What am I missing?

Thanks in advance
It doesn't sound like you're missing much. I think some of it depends on how you camp and where you camp, and as mentioned, how well you maintain your batteries. We've only had our AS for a little over two years, but we've never run into bad power. Just lucky?

On the insurance thing, I'd rather not have the trailer or appliances be damaged by bad power or lightning, and be without the trailer while waiting for repairs.
"A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving." - Lao Tzu
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Old 03-29-2018, 02:38 PM   #4

2003 25' Classic
Zanadude Nebula , Milky Way
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Question I rationalize.....

....Airstream=$$$$$, TV=$$$$$, Stuff=$$$$$

Why scrimp on the small stuff?
We went 5 Seasons before a brownout, the EMS PT-30c shut down the line, how much $$$$ did it save, who knows, it did what it was designed to do.

I got rid of the P-Lax after it took a dump and ruined the second set of Iinterstates. (first set damaged on the dealers lot, 24/7 plugged in)

IOTA DLS 30a IQ4 and 2 100ah Lifeline AGM's, 11yrs & counting.

"We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for I don't know."
W. H. Auden

"The hardest thing about Airstreaming, clearing your head and accepting how others feel it’s supposed to be done"…..

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Old 03-29-2018, 02:42 PM   #5
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2007 22' International CCD
Corona , California
Join Date: Jul 2013
Posts: 7,148
Surge protection/voltage monitoring devices protect you from situations that can, in the extreme, result in total destruction of your AS electrical system and 110 volt appliances. At minimum, some of these systems detect and block under and over voltages.

Miswired/defective power connections are not that uncommon. Surges are easily generated in the vicinity of lightning, bad grounds, and sloppy RV park wiring.

Yeah, insurance may rebuild/replace, but personally, I'd rather stop the problem before the damage occurs, and I'm out MONTHS getting the insurance to pay and replace the damaged bits.

We managed to damage an Air Conditioner compressor beyond repair because of low campground voltage for an extended period. Yeah, the insurance finally replaced the unit, but it took quite some time to get the claim accepted, and out here in the heat, the AS was useless until the A/C was replaced. A decent EMS/surge protector would have shut the system down before it could be damaged by low voltage. They also prevent high voltage event damage, like plugging in to a miswired connection that gives 220 volt to a 110 volt connection. Last time that happened, the victim spent about 10 grand to fix the resultant mess.

I can also address the cheapo Parallax converter issue. Our OEM (POS single output voltage) convertor has fried our batteries twice because of undetected overcharging. The replacement converter will cost me less than the two sets of batteries that needed replacing, and will extend their life. I'm spending the money to do it right. Airstream has apparently seen the light on this issue, and upgraded their OEM converters on recent models.

Your choice--you can prevent an issue at the front end, or pay with lots MORE $$ and time in the aftermath...
Rich, KE4GNK/AE, Overkill Engineering Dept.
'The Silver HamShack' ('07 International 22FB CCD 75th Anniversary)
Multiple Yaesu Ham Radios inside and many antennae sprouting from roof, ProPride hitch, Prodigy P2 controller.
2012 shortbed CrewMax 4x4 Toyota Tacoma TV with more antennae on it.
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Old 03-29-2018, 02:58 PM   #6
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2018 27' Globetrotter
Apollo Beach , Florida
Join Date: Feb 2017
Posts: 880
SeaLevel is right that "it depends". But here is my story. Were my batteries cooked?

Even though we tried to maintain our original batteries, they bit the dust after only 10 months. Miles never sat for more than 30 days without being plugged in for multiple days and the batteries were less than 1 month old when we purchased Miles. The store switch was always used intelligently. Miles was used nearly 100 out of his first 300 days. Sitting around with dying batteries was not the cause of the problem. The battery water level was checked frequently and the plates were never exposed. We believe the cause was due to having low-amp-hour batteries with a low-cost power converter.

At 10 months, I could not store my Airstream (Miles) for over two weeks (in "store" mode) without the batteries dropping into the mid-11V range. At two weeks, it had barely enough charge left to operate the tongue jack. After charging the batteries for a full 24 hours, a hydrometer indicated nearly all dead cells. I decided to use my "under warranty" 10-month old batteries for the core charge on new set of EGC12 Golf Cart batteries. I also installed a blade cut-off switch and replaced my converter. I believe these changes will improve my battery situation.

There are two reasons for replacing my converter. First, I do believe it damaged my original batteries as it constantly operated at 13.6V and second to get the ability to charge my battery quickly with my generator with a 14.4V Boost mode.

So again, was my battery cooked? I don't know but I replaced it. Was my converter the cause? I don't know but I replaced it. I also use a surge protector when hooked up to shore power. It has tripped a few times and I've also experienced reverse polarity at a campground on the 30 amp connection and therefore used the 50 amp connector. I use a tester on every post before I hook up in addition to using a surge protector.

Here is a picture of my replacement batteries, blade switch and modified battery box to work with this setup. This link also describes the solar addition I will get this summer for boondocking.

Again, the battery system you need depends how you use your Airstream. Those who always stay connected will have different requirements that those who boondock, charge with solar or a generator, or have storage without power. Your experience my be different than mine but I thought I'd share my story.
2018 Globetrotter 27Q, 7 nights 2,550 miles, 600W Solar on Prewire, ProPride 1400, 16" Michelin's, Champion 3400W Dual-Fuel Generator, 2019 F250 Diesel 4x4
Sold: 2017 Flying Cloud 25FB, 316 nights 40,150 miles
Sold: 2013 Casita SD17 89 nights 16,200 miles
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Old 03-29-2018, 03:35 PM   #7
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2015 23' FB Flying Cloud
Walnut Creek , California
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What kills batteries is running them down below 50% charge (12.2 volts).

The boiling issue is valid, but unlikely if you have a constant load on the converter while charging and do not charge for an extended period of time. It is key to check water level weekly. We used a similar system on a boat with little difficulty, but care is required.

Having said all that - we replaced the converter. It's an improvement over the unit that was installed by AS. Not expensive if you do it yourself.

A battery monitor is a good idea and worth the investment. It is not mandatory, but really nice to have.

A battery disconnect is very important if you store your trailer for extended periods and do not have the capability to periodically charge the bank.

Spend some time with the search function. Lots of good information. Not difficult to understand, but lots of confusion. Best to not be confused. Pat
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Old 03-29-2018, 03:40 PM   #8
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2015 23' FB Flying Cloud
Walnut Creek , California
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The surge protector is a different story. My service tech said he would appreciate it if I purchased one so he would not have to repair the electronics. We have never experienced a surge, so maybe a false expenditure. However, I have always used one. It just seems prudent. Probably also a good idea to unplug the coach from shore power in a lightening storm. Pat
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Old 03-29-2018, 03:42 PM   #9
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2011 22' Sport
Portland , Oregon
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Posts: 590
Worst case electrical wiring is a hot ground, which is rare...but does happen when well intended people take on electrical wiring that they know nothing about. Even a reverse polarity is dangerous, however a hot ground could be absolutely fatal as your entire shiny shell is now electrified looking for a path to ground...which is you when you grab the door latch or the handle on your way in. Will insurance cover that? Do you care when you aren't here to see if they do?

While hot ground is pretty rare, I have seen it (not in RV parks, but in office buildings and residential wiring)...but in an RV park an "open ground" and reverse polarity can quickly become a hot ground with a badly wired neighbor plugging in, or someone using a "generator adapter" dog bone that connects neutral to ground.
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Old 03-29-2018, 04:28 PM   #10
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2014 23' International
Dadeville , Alabama
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I cooked one of my two interstate batteries while on a trip. Forced to disconnect one of the 12volt batteries and run on on till I could get new ones.
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Old 03-29-2018, 04:49 PM   #11
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1981 31' Excella II
New Market , Alabama
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More like $100 and you can use your old one as a spare. You don't have to buy these things from the dealer.

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Old 03-29-2018, 05:27 PM   #12

2003 25' Classic
Zanadude Nebula , Milky Way
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100 bucks, sure we ain't spending too much?

"We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for I don't know."
W. H. Auden

"The hardest thing about Airstreaming, clearing your head and accepting how others feel it’s supposed to be done"…..

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Old 03-29-2018, 06:23 PM   #13
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1974 27' Overlander
Baltimore , Maryland
Join Date: Mar 2016
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My EMS routinely shuts off our power before we trip the breaker at my in-laws. We're plugged in to a 15A outlet and run a small space heater when visiting in the Winter. If MIL uses the hair dryer when the space heater is on, EMS senses the voltage drop and switches us off. Saves me having to go reset the breaker.

Doesn't need to save you from a catastrophic event to be useful.
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Old 03-30-2018, 04:57 AM   #14
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2014 27' Flying Cloud
Bushnell , Florida
Join Date: Nov 2013
Posts: 401

I say yes to both upgrades, as I both ruined batteries with the 1-stage converter, and have experienced (twice) cooking electronics and stuff without an EMS/surge suppressor.

Our first set of batteries was "cooked/low voltaged to death/whatever" within about 18 months on our 27fb. Our pole barn has a 30 amp RV plug, and so I leave our "Pete" plugged in 24x7, as I have 3 previous RVs over 18+ years. I thought I would be "smart" and remember to turn on/off the battery disconnect switch inside the entry door regularly, thereby turning off the constant charge voltage.......... Yeah, that didn't work, I forgot to turn it back on too many times, and killed the batteries anyway. So, I swapped out the power center insert with a 3 stage from Best Converters, and done. The 2nd set of batteries is still going strong, almost 3 years later. So yes, do this one. Airstream finally listened, and apparently now put multi-stage chargers in the new coaches.

One the EMS/surge protector, yeah, do this too. I plugged our motorhome into a mis-wired "30 amp RV plug" at our local fair grounds years ago in a hurry to setup for an event, and cooked pretty much every 12v control board-both A/Cs, fridge, water heater, fried both TVs, the $3000 3000 watt inverter using 6 6-volt batteries, and a bunch of other stuff. Cost a mint to repair. For the 2nd go-round, 2 years into Airstream ownership, I took a nasty lightning strike near the buried power cable to the pole barn, and fried nearly the same stuff in the Airstream. Oh, and the "plug-in" EMS for Pete was conveniently stored in the compartment instead of being plugged in. (I documented this event on AF somewhere....) So, yes do this one too.

I now have a 30 Amp Hardwired Surge Guard installed in Pete, so I can't forget. Experienced both, glad to have upgraded both, and could have saved money if I had done both first. Oh well.

Hope this helps.

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