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Old 04-06-2024, 08:02 AM   #1
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Autoformers - do I need one?

Another post has intrigued my interest in Autoformers. As explained in that post, autoformers boost power to the trailer from the post in low-voltage situations to avoid damaging your Trailer. I went on line to look at them - some are box- shaped and sit on the ground; others look like a surge protector. They're pricey but I'm interested because I have been in campgrounds (usually older, 'mom and pop' ones) that could not consistently deliver steady power. An auto former would seem to alleviate my concerns.

Can those on Air Forum that use them, tell me more? One article on line said they 'steal' power in order to keep your 30 amp load steady. Which makes me wonder if campground owners might get 'upset' for forbid their use?
Thank you.
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Old 04-06-2024, 08:22 AM   #2
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Another post has intrigued my interest in Autoformers. As explained in that post, autoformers boost power to the trailer from the post in low-voltage situations to avoid damaging your Trailer. I went on line to look at them - some are box- shaped and sit on the ground; others look like a surge protector. They're pricey but I'm interested because I have been in campgrounds (usually older, 'mom and pop' ones) that could not consistently deliver steady power. An auto former would seem to alleviate my concerns.

Can those on Air Forum that use them, tell me more? One article on line said they 'steal' power in order to keep your 30 amp load steady. Which makes me wonder if campground owners might get 'upset' for forbid their use?
Thank you.
Well the part about them stealing power is flat out BS. You might use slightly more power with one due to a small amount of inefficiency (guessing under 1% haven't seen it listed) in the transformer, that is the only difference. They still draw power through the same breaker. It is about the same watts in and out, with the same watts going in at a lower voltage it is higher amps and going out higher volts it is lower amps, the higher incoming amps still have to go through the campground breaker without tripping it.

Well, I guess you could use a little more power with a 30 amp trailer plugged into a 50 amp outlet, not compared to a 50 amp trailer though.
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Old 04-06-2024, 08:39 AM   #3
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This has been an ongoing debate on other discussions. The way I see it, you are getting more watts when you use the autoformer. There is no such thing as free power, it doesn't come out of thin air, so in order for the autoformer to give you more watts it has to take a little more from the system to make those watts, so the way I see it you are not stealing power in the sense that you are getting it for free, but more in the sense that you are taking more power from the system than your neighbors who don't have autoformers with the end result being that you are making voltage drop even worse for others.

There is also this to consider: https://www.lonestarscoutsrv.com/Tip...Autoformer.pdf
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Old 04-06-2024, 02:01 PM   #4
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I’ve used a 30 amp Autoformer for over 10 years. They work as advertised; a little spendy but they definitely bump your volts.

I will be buying a 50 amp version to complement my new coach. The campground has to have REALLY bad power for the Autoformer not to make it right.
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Old 04-07-2024, 07:52 AM   #5
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ITSN - your inclusion of the article in your response certainly added another dimension to this discussion i.e. "The updated National Electrical Code (NEC) of 2020 has declared that any voltage boosting transformer is in violation of the NFPA1192 code, allowing campgrounds to force you to disconnect the device or force you to leave their campground. Most states, counties, and cities have adopted the NEC/NFPA code in their local jurisdictions as law." It seems to me, then, that if I bought an auto former,I should get the one that looks like a surge protector versus the box, in order to avoid being thrown out of campgrounds?
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Old 04-08-2024, 06:33 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by PatLee View Post
ITSN - your inclusion of the article in your response certainly added another dimension to this discussion i.e. "The updated National Electrical Code (NEC) of 2020 has declared that any voltage boosting transformer is in violation of the NFPA1192 code, allowing campgrounds to force you to disconnect the device or force you to leave their campground. Most states, counties, and cities have adopted the NEC/NFPA code in their local jurisdictions as law." It seems to me, then, that if I bought an auto former,I should get the one that looks like a surge protector versus the box, in order to avoid being thrown out of campgrounds?
Unfortunately that article is confusing. First it says "any voltage boosting transformer is in violation" then it says "the newer Autoformer now also includes a Surge Protector. ---these are the devices that are now prohibited--".

Also since that code was too confusing for the experts it was revised in 2023. I haven't found what it actually says now.
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Old 04-14-2024, 09:35 AM   #7
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Hi

Ok, backing up a bit .....

An autotransformer (note the slightly different spelling) is a device that boosts or cuts the voltage. Like any transformer, watts into the transformer equals watts out of the transformer. They can't / don't create power. Yes they do dissipate a small bit of energy while doing their job, so really it's watts in equals 101 or 102% of watts out.

These are nothing new or crazy. They have been around for at least a century at this point. The key issues are the voltage range they will handle and their power rating. The more power they will handle, the heavier they are going to be. The wider the voltage range they will manage, the heavier they are going to be.

Since these autotransformers are "old school" devices, you play with this or that to get the voltage right. You turn a switch and look at a meter. When you have your 120V out, you stop turning the switch. Welcome to 1903 .

Time marches on and it now is possible to automate that switch and replace it with relays (or maybe even triacs ....). The guts of the device are still the same and have the same limits. The only thing that is different from 1903 is the added automation. The voltage is still changed the same old way.

Huges has a brand name for the automated version. They decided on Autoformer. There are multiple models with various options included. They also make surge only devices. They talk about a 10% boost factor on the voltage adjust models. If the campground sends you 95V, your RV gets 105V ....

Bob
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Old 04-14-2024, 10:43 AM   #8
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Ive used a 30 amp Autoformer for over 10 years. They work as advertised; a little spendy but they definitely bump your volts.

I will be buying a 50 amp version to complement my new coach. The campground has to have REALLY bad power for the Autoformer not to make it right.
How much does it weigh?
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Old 04-14-2024, 12:02 PM   #9
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How much does it weigh?
According to Amazon the box and packing included ring in at 38 pounds.

I already had the stand from my previous 30 amp Autoformer (the stand works with both). I transport putting the stand in a milk crate and the Autoformer on the stand. Keeps things nice and steady while underway. The milk crate goes in the truck.
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Old 04-14-2024, 01:04 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by S1njin View Post
According to Amazon the box and packing included ring in at 38 pounds.

I already had the stand from my previous 30 amp Autoformer (the stand works with both). I transport putting the stand in a milk crate and the Autoformer on the stand. Keeps things nice and steady while underway. The milk crate goes in the truck.
Curating my upgrade list. Do you know how often this came into play? I'd think either really bad power or a hot day and everyone running the A/C.
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Old 04-14-2024, 04:51 PM   #11
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if one is wanting to protect against under voltage, why not just get a good
EMS like the Progressive?
Mine has saved my bacon (or my AC's bacon ) on one occasion where there was not a good connection at the 50A plug. Initially it indicated the correct voltage, but when the AC kicked in, the current draw caused a large voltage drop across the plug connection, causing the EMS to trip on under voltage.
A good EMS is not as heavy as an autotransformer.

Maybe someone can help me understand why I'd want an autotransformer instead of or in addition to a capable EMS.
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Old 04-14-2024, 06:20 PM   #12
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I actually talked to Hughes about this. As part of my electrical redo/upgrade I added a Hughes Power Watchdog before the Victron MultiPlus II. The Power Watchdog is a hardwired EMS and will shut off the power if it isn't happy with what's coming in. At that point the MultiPlus II will automatically switch over to inverter mode. Since I don't see any difference when that happens, I'm thinking that, when we are running air conditioners, I ought to have it set for charge only. That way, if power drops out for any reason I'll know it and can turn the air conditioners off before switching back to inverter mode.
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Old 04-14-2024, 06:45 PM   #13
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if one is wanting to protect against under voltage, why not just get a good
EMS like the Progressive?
Mine has saved my bacon (or my AC's bacon ) on one occasion where there was not a good connection at the 50A plug. Initially it indicated the correct voltage, but when the AC kicked in, the current draw caused a large voltage drop across the plug connection, causing the EMS to trip on under voltage.
A good EMS is not as heavy as an autotransformer.

Maybe someone can help me understand why I'd want an autotransformer instead of or in addition to a capable EMS.
The EMS will shut down your power when there is low voltage, and restore power when the minimum acceptable voltage presents itself.

The Autoformer CORRECTS low voltage, within limits, to bring voltage that your EMS would have shut you down to acceptable levels to run.

For instance, if your EMS shuts your coach off at 103 volts, plug in the Autoformer and that 103 volts goes to 103 * 1.10 =113.3. Perfectly fine to keep chugging along when others are either shut down or running their equipment damagingly hot.
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Old 04-14-2024, 06:46 PM   #14
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Curating my upgrade list. Do you know how often this came into play? I'd think either really bad power or a hot day and everyone running the A/C.
Ive generally used it (because I invested in it) in any park that was baking hot and hot lots of people spinning a lot of AC. I view it as an insurance policy to make sure I can enjoy my trip the way it was intended to be enjoyed.
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Old 04-15-2024, 07:51 AM   #15
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Thanks for weighing in, Bob. It seems this is old technology made new. Given the weight of the auto former (38 pounds) - and that I've been doing fine with what I've got - I think I'll take a pass.
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Old 04-15-2024, 07:58 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by KK4YZ View Post
if one is wanting to protect against under voltage, why not just get a good
EMS like the Progressive?
Mine has saved my bacon (or my AC's bacon ) on one occasion where there was not a good connection at the 50A plug. Initially it indicated the correct voltage, but when the AC kicked in, the current draw caused a large voltage drop across the plug connection, causing the EMS to trip on under voltage.
A good EMS is not as heavy as an autotransformer.

Maybe someone can help me understand why I'd want an autotransformer instead of or in addition to a capable EMS.
Hi

A lot of campgrounds are "way out there" in terms of the power grid. Some are off grid. Either way, the feed to the campground may well be challenged to deliver the power required. The cabling inside the campground may well be less than ideal.

Combine all that with a park full of folks running A/C in the summer, or heat pumps in colder weather. You have a pretty heavy load. Voltage slumps. When it does your A/C becomes unhappy. ( = you really can wear out the compressor faster).

If the campground is wobbling between (say) 104V and 108V, your "EMS" gizmo will likely cut out and cut in again and again. This also is not good for that compressor. An autotransformer based solution that boosts 10% would get the 104V up to 114V. The A/C would be happy with that. Drop down to 95V on the campground power and you would need a bigger autotransformer (they do exist).

How often do you camp at places running big diesel generators? Maybe not very often, or maybe quite a lot. It depends on just where you happen to like to go. How often do you hit campgrounds with cabling or grid issues? Probably more often than the generator category.

With any of these devices the "next layer" becomes: how happy am I leaving this out in the rain and mud?

Like it or not, water and electricity are not a good combination. Having a power connector (or even part of the box) sitting in a puddle is a *really* bad idea. Even if it's all arranged "right" when set up, there's the risk of somebody bumping this or that and then it's "not right".

Power posts can range from 5' up in the air to 6" (yikes !!!!) off the ground. They might be out in the open or in the middle of a bunch of vegetation (yikes !!). I have yet to run into one in the middle of a pond, but I have run into the other two sets of issues pretty often. Coming up with a "universal" way to handle the "out in the rain" issue is a challenge.

Fun

Bob
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Old 04-15-2024, 08:30 AM   #17
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I typically put my Autoformer stand on a couple of lego levelers to get it up off the ground. I then cover it w/ the rain cover, but I'm debating cutting a bucket such that the cords can get out from the Autoformer but the bucket will still lay over it.

I've had monsoon rains hit my Autoformer thus set up, it's never tripped or failed for water. I'd imagine running it uncovered with a garden hose hitting it full blast would be ill-advised.
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Old 04-15-2024, 09:36 AM   #18
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Gee...after streaming now for 18 years....never had an issue with my AS's power, just using my Surge Protector. Am I alone here, or what are we missing by not using an "Autoformer"? I mean, other than this post, have not seen this to be an issue here nor have I seen this as a recommended necessity?
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Old 04-15-2024, 10:05 AM   #19
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Gee...after streaming now for 18 years....never had an issue with my AS's power, just using my Surge Protector. Am I alone here, or what are we missing by not using an "Autoformer"? I mean, other than this post, have not seen this to be an issue here nor have I seen this as a recommended necessity?
Youre not alone here. For me a 38 lb autoformer is not in my future. If my EMS interrupts the AC momentarily my Multiplus and batteries will fill the gap.
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Old 04-15-2024, 10:39 AM   #20
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If a campgrounds power is bad enough to give 105 volts they might not object to me running my generator. We had a auto step up transformer in a lab I worked in in the 80's. Not a piece of equipment I would want to lug in a trailer. I expect there are people who need an autoformer and I expect they know well what they need. But I am not going to carry one.
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