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Old 12-03-2006, 08:21 AM   #1
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Plugged in 24/7

This topic comes from the tragic loss of a member's Airstream to a fire which was possibly caused by an electrical problem. They had their trailer plugged in, at home, and vowed not to do that again. Several of the responders agreed this was not a good practice. I am curious why this is not a good practice? I have Chummy plugged in most of the time and will be installing a new electrical service so he will be plugged in all the time. We will camp in one spot for over a month at a time while I am camp hosting, why is this any different? There are people who live in their Airstreams parked in long term campgrounds and plugged in all the time. Am I missing something here?
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Old 12-03-2006, 08:36 AM   #2
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Plugged in 24/7

Greetings Chaplain Kent!

In theory, there should be limited exposure to risk, but there are still two risks that come to mind when a coach is left plugged-in for extended periods of time:
  1. If the refrigerator is left in operation and an amonia leak should develop and go unnoticed, a fire could be the end result.
  2. If the coach happens to have a power converter that boils the electrolyte in the battery, the battery could be a source of fire if the the converter is left plugged-in and the battery is boiled dry.
Another potential is a "critter" invasion where a rodent may munch on wiring causing a short and pose a fire risk.

I have left my rig (Argosy with modern Univolt installed by Airstream dealer in 2005) pugged-in for extended periods with minimal trouble. Even with twice-monthly monitoring the battery boiled dry once -- I now try to remember to unplug the Univolt if I am going to leave the coach plugged in. Fortunately, the coach is parked in a side-driveway next to my father's home so it receives at least three walk-arounds every day as he walks his Chihuahua.

Kevin
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Old 12-03-2006, 08:43 AM   #3
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I agree with Kevin. When ours is parked for extended periods, all appliances are off, LP turned off and it's plugged in to keep the batteries topped off. Though the current converter most likely cooked our batteries, I do plan on putting a different converter in if I don't trade the unit in the spring. I think for the most part having an Airstream, or an RV in general in this state is perfectly safe. Insurance is what you get for the unexpected events in life. Of course taking every possible precaution.
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Old 12-03-2006, 08:46 AM   #4
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My home, garage, trailer, office, boat, are plugged in 24/7 and I have a F-150 in the driveway which do I disconnect or move first. Maintain your equipment in good shape, and inspect your equipment. Yes @X!! happens.

I operated main propulsion in a marine environment for years and dealt with large facility's for years and had very few problems but ^&% dose happen.

Jim
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Old 12-03-2006, 08:46 AM   #5
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Fire is always a potential issue when something is plugged in. If you want to avoid any possibility of fire go live in a cave and eat roots I suspect the vintage units that have not been thoroughly gone thru may be more at risk than a newer unit, however given some of the things I have seen on the quality control threads I wouldn't want to bet on it. Everything that Kevin mentioned is true and bears checking out. I have left RV's on shore power for months on end with no bad results. Currently with the known issues of the elderly univolts, I typically leave my univolt unplugged and only plug it up every now and again to top the battery up. I do leave a 120 line plugged up to the trailer all the time to keep a small solid state heater on it to keep the moisture levels down. The oil filled radiator is a good choice for this. I kind of look at like having power on at my house, I don't switch the main power panel off every time I leave... However by being in motion and subjected to excessive vibration the Airstream may be a bit more at risk. All we can do is proper preventive maintenance, inspections and keep the insurance paid up.

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Old 12-03-2006, 08:52 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Clark
My home, garage, trailer, office, boat, are plugged in 24/7 and I have a F-150 in the driveway
Hopefully with the Ford cruise control fix in place....or you'll be able to roast your smores by it.
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Old 12-03-2006, 09:20 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silvertwinkie
Hopefully with the Ford cruise control fix in place....or you'll be able to roast your smores by it.
Living on the edge.

Jim
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Old 12-03-2006, 09:30 AM   #8
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Like I said there, ours has been plugged in 24x7 since we bought it over 4 years ago. We upgraded the 13.8V-forever factory converter to an Intellipower with 3-stage Charge Wizard, which has the appropriate 13.2V float charge, and went with no-maintenance AGM batteries. It will certainly be plugged in 24x7 if we full-time in it. My view is if you can't trust it to do that without burning up, why would you trust it to sleep in it?
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Old 12-03-2006, 10:12 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Clark
Living on the edge.

Jim


It's a free fix at the local Ford shop when you're up to it.

Moe has a great point....
"if you can't trust it to do that without burning up, why would you trust it to sleep in it?"
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Old 12-03-2006, 10:26 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chaplain Kent
This topic comes from the tragic loss of a member's Airstream to a fire which was possibly caused by an electrical problem. They had their trailer plugged in, at home, and vowed not to do that again. Several of the responders agreed this was not a good practice. I am curious why this is not a good practice? I have Chummy plugged in most of the time and will be installing a new electrical service so he will be plugged in all the time. We will camp in one spot for over a month at a time while I am camp hosting, why is this any different? There are people who live in their Airstreams parked in long term campgrounds and plugged in all the time. Am I missing something here?
Good morning Chaplain Kent

This is an area where people seem to feel strongly one way or the other. Personally I leave mine plugged in, appliances off, and for longer storage I remove the battery although it could just as easily be simply unhooked from the system (mine goes onto a shelf with other batteries for easy winter trickle charging, etc). I have two things plugged in being an electric ceramic Sears heater (now the fan is noisy and will be replaced with an oil filled heater I bought yesterday ), and a radio I listen to (oldies station of course) when I am sitting or working in it. Everything else is shut off and where possible unplugged. As others have mentioned it is no different in my mind than the house or the shop (where the trailer is stored) having power full time and we leave the computer, TV, radios etc all plugged in at home. As with those appliances I do have a high quality surge suppressor on the trailer when it is parked at home and I don't know if it's necessary but I do that for comfort sake.

Should a problem with the electrical happen and a fire occurs I'd much rather it happen while we are not sleeping in it even if that means it goes unnoticed and the damage is worse. The trailer can be replaced and so can the vehicles it's stored with. We enjoy our Airstream very much and I would hate to think that it could come to an abrupt ending, but my logic is if it can happen in the shop it can also happen in a campground when we are far from home and actually living in it.

Take care,
Barry
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Old 12-03-2006, 10:35 AM   #11
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The manual on my 1988 Moho says to keep it on shore power at all times if possible. I do that in the winter and keep a small ceramic heater set at about 45 degrees.

I do switch the batteries off for the most part, but do switch them on from time to time to keep them charged. Works for me......

--------Bob---------
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Old 12-03-2006, 11:26 AM   #12
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Prudent

I think the bottom line is that - whatever your choice - take all the safety precautions you can. And, &%$H does happen sometimes in spite of all we do.

People sharing their experiences - good and bad - is ONE of the main reasons I hang around this site. One, it is nice to know, I am not the only dummie/rookie and two, it is nice to know that for MOST things, there is someone who can help and a reasonable solution.

THANKS EVERYONE!

Jer
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Old 12-03-2006, 12:13 PM   #13
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Barry- congratulations on becoming a rivet master. Your insightful and helpful posts have been a welcome addition to these forums.

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Old 12-03-2006, 12:39 PM   #14
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Thank you Chaplain Kent - it snuck up on me.

I have learned so much from this group and feel very much like we are part of an extended family of good people. It's like being in a virtual campground of really nice people you enjoy learning from and are comfortable adding what little knowledge you can to the dynamic. For all it's challenges this electronic world has opened a world of knowledge sharing, creativity, good will, and friendships I am very grateful for.

Take care,
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Old 12-03-2006, 12:44 PM   #15
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Even if it's not plugged in, there's still an active 12 volt system in the camper that could also cause a fire if there's a short somewhere or something similar. I don't think that you significantly increase the risk by leaving it plugged in.

Besides, if it's going to short out and catch fire, I'd much rather have it happen in my driveway then when I'm SLEEPING in it.
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Old 12-03-2006, 01:24 PM   #16
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turn on, tune in and juice up...

thanks for asking the question ck...

it seems to be an important issue and,

like many things here, there is more to the issue, than just yes or no...

not my area of expertise so i hope the 'powerful' will sort out the wires and charges and grounding....

1. plugged in to what?
2. plugged in with what?
3. plugged in where?
4. plugged in how far away?
5. plugged in with who else?
6. plugged in for what purpose?
7. plugged in for how long?
8. plugged in for who?
9. plugged in 2 power what?

1. plugged in to what....
new properly wired junction box with current gfci?, 50 amp, 30 amp, 20 amp or 3 amp?
rv park, rv storage lot, your neighbors 100 ft extension cord,
a professionally installed home outlet, 2 wires in a tree with keys hanging from them...
a wire found in the ground while digging....

2. plugged in with what...
a power booster, a surge suppressor, a charge monitor,
a new 10ft, 30 amp rv cord, a 15 year old rv cord with the plugs replaced how many times?
3 adapters and some duct tape using old lamp cord?
what year was the converter invented?

3. plugged in where......
a new rv village, a state park, mixed use industrial park, the local power company parking lot, your back yard,
an rv storage lot, the local football field

4. plugged in how far away...
living in the trailer? your garage, next to the house, storage lot 3 hours away, your vaction property 3 time zones removed....

5. plugged in with who else....
just you, a full rv park, only trailer in the rv park,
a bunch of 50 amp 5th wheelers each using 4 aircondtioners, 3 other trailers on trickle charge,
10 others in the rv storage lot all using space heaters 24/7,
the local construction crew but they are only using 4 jack hammers today,
one other guy running a meth lab...

6. plugged in for what purpose...
full time living, keeping batteries topped off, to keep the beer cold, to keep the pipes thawed,
to keep the insulin safe, i've sublet'd to a guy making something,
i'm using the solar panels to 'give energy back' to the environment...
there is water in the batteries...who'd have thunk it...

7. plugged in for how long....
over night, till the batteries are topped off, a week, till the next trip, all season,
till h3ll freezes over,
till a democrat is elected president...

8. plugged in for who.........
you; between camping trips, so the grandkids can watch tv/play or video games, for guests, for the inlaws,
till the wife says it's ok 2 come back in the house,
for the homeless of the world...

9. plugged in 2 power what......
just the converter,
+ the fridge, + the furnace, + 3 space heaters, + the water heater, + the home a/c, + all the xmas lights...in the neighborhood,
+ the local hospital icu...

so i think chaplain, as you will agree, it's pretty simple. the answer is...

who's paying for the juice....

cheers
2air'
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Old 12-03-2006, 05:27 PM   #17
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I'm currently plugged in to competent shore power - but, aside from keeping the batteries charged, the electronic pest control requires 110 volts. Laugh if you must - but I've never had a mouse problem with the AS! In its' new parking spot the AS is sitting on plastic pads on an asphalt apron. The separation from the adjacent grass area is such that it provides a good "killing field" (---via birds) for any mouse that ventures forth! That said, I am considering the use of a solar panel to keep the batteries up - at which time the shore power will get disconnected. I just don't like taking the batteries out of the AS to store them indoors using a trickle charger.
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Old 12-03-2006, 10:26 PM   #18
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Hi, folks,

My Excella and my Argosy stay plugged in 24/7.

The Univolt (a replacement Parallax) in the Argosy is unplugged, and all that's running in the trailer -- on AC -- is the fridge. I personally think that the best way to avoid problems with an ammonia cycle fridge is to keep them circulating all the time. That one has been running since 1992 without problems. I stuck my nose in it yesterday, and it's still making cold.

The Excella is my never-ending work in progress. I'm sitting in it now on a cold night typing this on my laptop with a wireless card. This trailer still has the old Univolt, and I service the batteries weekly.

I did have an electrical issue in the Argosy a couple of years ago. I was living in it at a campground near Jacksonville, FL, and I was having low voltage problems. Then something in the (rear-bath-mounted) utility closet smoked. It was the reverse-polarity warning light. It had shorted out and skinned some wires. Of course, this was after I had pulled and inspected every outlet in the trailer and replaced several of them with no effect.

In my opinion, the risk of leaving them plugged in is not great.

That said, I've had both trailers a long time, and I've been in the electrical boxes in both of them. I've repaired or replaced the main power cords on both, and I know fairly well what I'm dealing with.

I'm also the second owner of one and the third owner of the other. Age says my trailers are vintage, but I don't think of them that way. (To do so would be to admit that I am vintage, too. Hell, I remember the trouble I was getting into the year each of these trailers was assembled - paradise by the dashboard light, yeah, right! I wish.)

I guess the point is that I know the wiring practices that were used in my trailers, and I trust that they are not only safe, but also protected by harm because of the way they were constructed. So little of the system is exposed in the way of connections, and they are all outside of the skin or just under the outlet covers.

But then again, I only know about Airstreams of the seventies. If I had an even older model, or a newer one with all the circuit boards and parasitic drains, I'd have to peer at the system and make some decisions the same way I have with what I have now.

Lamar
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Old 12-03-2006, 11:23 PM   #19
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Everything that could go wrong, could happen the first night.
Not really a big differeance between 1 day or many
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Old 12-04-2006, 08:01 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by klattu
Everything that could go wrong, could happen the first night.
Not really a big differeance between 1 day or many

Though that does make sense, my take is that this is a moving house. Though designed as such, the electrical, plumbing, structure, etc are subject to movements that a static house just doesn't see. With those variables in mind, I wouldn't fully subscribe to the statement above, considering Murphy and his set of laws.....and well owning two Airstreams so far with mindboggling issues that have come up along the way......

To add, the recent post that may have spurred this conversation was a early 70s coach that went up if I recall correctly....about 36 years from day 1.

http://www.airforums.com/forum...lost+airstream
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