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Old 06-16-2009, 11:50 PM   #1
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1976 31' Sovereign
Dallas , Texas
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 33
Trouble shooting 120V breaker box

I've had my 76 Sovereign for many years.
I mostly used it for weekends at a ranch and had it hooked up to 120V residential ground power for 6 years. I think the electrician made some electric connection modifications when he hooked up the 120 V Electric water heater.
I few things have transpired since I started making efforts to start using it on the road.
I installed a 12 Gallon 120V water heater to replace a failed LP unit. It worked great for 6 years.
Now that I'm trying to get road worthy portable I'm experiencing some problems.
#1) the phase indicator light on the side above the water heater door doesn't give any indications (even when I swap the Black and Neutral wires at the 120v receptacle I'm plugged into.
#2) The A/C is the original Armstrong unit but is out of Freon, the blower works on all speeds. I plan to have the original Armstrong Unit serviced soon.
#3) hereís the problem.......... I'm not sure which is the main breaker that goes to the univolt.
What position on the breaker box does the main breaker occupy when it's hooked up properly? What position does the A/C breaker occupy when it's in the right location?
#4) I can plug in two of the breakers and get the A/C blower working, is the main breaker the breaker on the flexible multi stranded cable? (All other breakers removed)
#5) As I start plugging other 120V breakers the A/C blower slows down, a test lamp in the mid ships area goes half dim, and a 120V box fan up front reduces speed. (Sometimes there is a one minute or less power delay, is this the Uni-Volt resetting itself?)
The questions are:
a) Can a weak breaker cause current drops?
b) Should I have the electric water heater on a separate power source other than the OEM Airstream box? I'm seriously considering this as a safety factor to save the Cal Rod unit in the Heater.
c) I don't have a wiring schematic of the fuse box; I sure could use a good digital pic of a properly wired box to help me along.
d) Is it normal for the A/C to rob power from all other 120V receptacles when it's turned on?
e) Where is the Uni-Volt reset button?

Personal E-mail wilden1@gmail.com
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Old 06-17-2009, 12:52 AM   #2
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1978 31' Sovereign
Scottsdale , Arizona
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On two of your questions - A weak breaker will pop at a lower current load,but will not cause a voltage drop. Disconnect the electric water heater and try everything again to see if that is at the bottom of your issues. Also, be sure that you are connected to a good land source that is able to supply sufficient current, and that you are not using a small gage extension cord to supply the Airstream.
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Old 06-17-2009, 07:05 AM   #3
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1976 31' Sovereign
Dallas , Texas
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I plan on replacing the 30 AMP "Main" breaker this AM and taking the Water heater to it's own 120v power supply.

Thanks
Stan Wilder
Dallas, TX
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Old 06-17-2009, 08:19 AM   #4
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one volt meter is worth 1000 posts!
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Old 06-18-2009, 08:29 AM   #5
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1976 31' Sovereign
Dallas , Texas
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I worked out nearly all the electrical problems.
The one thing that remains a problem is that the two 120V wall plug assemblies in the mid section over the wheels have less than 120V and barley make a standard incandescent bulb glow. Could this be a weak circuit in the uni-volt?
What I did to get the system up and working and useable: Replaced the 30 AMP breaker. Properly grounded the box re-installed each breaker individually and tested its function.
The culprit all along was the old Armstrong A/C unit. It drew down all the electric from the Uni-Volt system and caused about a 20 second to 1 minute delay for the ancillary power plugs to once again have full power making it appear that there was a problem at the breaker panel.
I started my testing on this unit using a multi meter to discover if power was active on various wall plugs and what the voltage was at that location, I tested power from the 120v power source, investigate the grounding of the 25AMP power panel.
Moved the power for the 120V water heater to another power source. (I always suspected that the Uni-volt couldn’t carry an additional 15 to 20 AMPS consistently to supply the water heater).
With a 32 year old travel trailer I could suspect many opportunities for potential problems .... Because it had an accessory 220V A/C plug installed for a PO to use a standard window unit A/C in the front window, it has an accessory 120V power source installed in the cupboard across from the sink to run a Microwave Oven.
The low current on the two mid-ships wall receptacles will continue to intrigue me but it doesn’t impair my use of the Airstream and I’ll just put it on my priority three list to handle at a later date.
I'm going ahead and replacing the A/C unit with a new unit next week since the dependability factor is pretty thin on a 32 year old A/C unit.
Thanks to all for your assistance.
I’m sure I’ll be back again for more help on other problems that might arise.

Stan Wilder
1976 31 Foot Sovereign
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Old 06-18-2009, 11:44 AM   #6
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1975 31' Sovereign
Houston , Texas
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 494
Arrow Armstrong A/C a keeper most of the time

Stan I cannot help you with any of your electrical questions.
What I want to say is regards your Armstrong AC.
1st you might take time to read some of the many posts on this forum regards to that device.
In many cases they are worth keeping. Nearly all can still be repaired and most parts (electical) are still available.
2nd the shroud (cover) is an expensive replacement piece. If yours is in even fair to decent shape, you should keep it and list it here.
Same with the interior cowling (which is no longer available).
3rd Do not let the a/c replacer person (or yourself) just toss the old unit to the ground. It too may be very valuable to someone. Ask them to remove it for saving. Even if you give it away to a fellow airstream owner you would be doing a great deed.
4th Be sure to make sure who does the new install. There are issues with drain pans, drain hose, and the fitting to the contour of the Airstream that don't just happen easily to the uninformed installers.

If you can at all wait I think you might save yourself 800-1100 dollars by exploring the old Armstrong being repaired. In many many opinions it is far better and more reliable and longer lived than anything new on the market.

Lastly I would consult with Inland Andy at Inland as to what units are best replacements. I think Carrier will be his choice, but he can tell you why if that is correct..

If you plan to replace after all give me first option on the old Armstrong and shroud.
Just PM me.

Oh to find the model of the Armstrong, the data plate is found by removing the shroud. Not exactly easy to just run out and check it. The complete manual on the late models (which you prob have) is available here on the forum. Let me know if you cannot find it. You may also be able to ID your model by going to Inland RV site and comparing it to the shroud types they sell as replacements.
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Old 06-18-2009, 12:02 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stanwilder View Post
I worked out nearly all the electrical problems.
The one thing that remains a problem is that the two 120V wall plug assemblies in the mid section over the wheels have less than 120V and barley make a standard incandescent bulb glow. Could this be a weak circuit in the uni-volt?
What I did to get the system up and working and useable: Replaced the 30 AMP breaker. Properly grounded the box re-installed each breaker individually and tested its function.
The culprit all along was the old Armstrong A/C unit. It drew down all the electric from the Uni-Volt system and caused about a 20 second to 1 minute delay for the ancillary power plugs to once again have full power making it appear that there was a problem at the breaker panel.
I started my testing on this unit using a multi meter to discover if power was active on various wall plugs and what the voltage was at that location, I tested power from the 120v power source, investigate the grounding of the 25AMP power panel.
Moved the power for the 120V water heater to another power source. (I always suspected that the Uni-volt couldnít carry an additional 15 to 20 AMPS consistently to supply the water heater).
With a 32 year old travel trailer I could suspect many opportunities for potential problems .... Because it had an accessory 220V A/C plug installed for a PO to use a standard window unit A/C in the front window, it has an accessory 120V power source installed in the cupboard across from the sink to run a Microwave Oven.
The low current on the two mid-ships wall receptacles will continue to intrigue me but it doesnít impair my use of the Airstream and Iíll just put it on my priority three list to handle at a later date.
I'm going ahead and replacing the A/C unit with a new unit next week since the dependability factor is pretty thin on a 32 year old A/C unit.
Thanks to all for your assistance.
Iím sure Iíll be back again for more help on other problems that might arise.

Stan Wilder
1976 31 Foot Sovereign
The univolt has nothing to do with any electrical circuit, other than it's own.

The outlets and all the appliances are not even wired into the univolt.

I would keep on looking until you had "proof positive."

Andy
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Old 06-18-2009, 12:10 PM   #8
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AC's

The Carrier low profile 15,000 BTU AC with a heat strip is our recomendation.

It has some features no other brand of AC has.

It has an "air shower" and vanes that slowly move up and down, for great circulation.

No drain pan is required.

Some ask about the "heat pump" model. The compressor always runs, be it on cool or heat, costing more to operate. Also the compressor cooling life will be shortened, when it's run on heat as well.

The compressor does not run, when you ask the unit for heat, when the AC is equipped with a heat strip.

Andy
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Old 06-18-2009, 12:58 PM   #9
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Arvada , Colorado
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If you are only checking out the 120vac the Univolt should not cone into play here unless it is failing. I would unplug the Univolt and take that out of the picture while troubleshooting the 120vac. The Univolt only converts 120vac to 12vdc for the dc powered circuts while plugged into external 120vac and battery charging. Next you should check out the recepticals that are weak, you could have corroded lugs here and have high resistance which could be turned into heat and beyound. Learning how to properly use a multimeter can save a lot of headaches and potential hazards.

Kip
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Old 06-18-2009, 09:34 PM   #10
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1976 31' Sovereign
Dallas , Texas
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To open a new area of discussion.
The power panel.
There are positions for eight breakers.
Position one closest to the main line in would be the main 30 AMP breaker.
The diagram inside the cover indicates positions for seven other breakers.
All the other breakers are 20 AMP in my breaker box.
When I test with my multi meter I get 120 V across the line in (Black) and some of the locking pins on the circuit board.
However I can use my meter and read back to the neutral (white) from some of the other locking pins on the circuit board and still get 120V but I CAN NOT get a reading from the same pin when I go to the Black line in lead.
What I've got is Ground Wires from the individual romax on the grounding block back side on the far left in the box, on the front of that grounding block that seems to float in insulators I have the individual neutral wires connected to that bar, next to that to the immediate right I have the incoming ground (green in my case) that’s the smaller of three slotted head locking screws, next to that again on the right I have the neutral (white) incoming lead it’s one of the two larger locking screws and to the right from that I have the Black incoming line source in the other of the large locking screws.
I guess you might need to be here to see the configuration unless you’ve had many hours working with trading wires around in the hopes of reaching full power to all 120v system plugs and appliances.
I think I’ll take a picture tomorrow and see if there are any peculiarities to my breaker panel that might cause this “Reverse Polarity” anomaly.

About the only other possibility I can think of is that I'm 25 feet from my 30 AMP breaker that supplies the parked Airstream with power and that wire is a three solid strand #10 wire. But I just don't see how that could give me some of the events I've experienced when the A/C is off and there aren't any (KNOWN) 120V drains on the source.

As I mentioned the 120v Electric Water heater is completely removed from the Airstream Electrical System.

Stan Wilder
Dallas TX
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Old 06-19-2009, 03:08 AM   #11
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1977 31' Excella 500
Ringgold , Georgia
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It may not help but I was having issues this week with my AC shutting off, fan everything. My problem ended up being the AC 20 amp breaker. It had "spread" and was not making a good connection. New breaker and all is fine. If your breaker feels "loose" you may have same problem causing your low voltage readings. I also checked and replaced others that had "spread"
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