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Old 07-13-2018, 04:34 PM   #1
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Portable AC won't work in a 30 amp Winnie

I bought a 10,000 btu Hisense portable AC unit that was rated at 10 amp. I was hoping to just cool the front or the bedroom of my Itasca while hooked to a friends household 20 amp outdoor receptacle. 1 melted gfi outlet later I'm a little wiser and warmer. Don't make my $400.mistake. I was also hoping to take some of the work off of the basement air when hooked to 30 amp. Oh, well. an expen$ive lesson.
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Old 07-13-2018, 04:41 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Idiotasca View Post
I bought a 10,000 btu Hisense portable AC unit that was rated at 10 amp. I was hoping to just cool the front or the bedroom of my Itasca while hooked to a friends household 20 amp outdoor receptacle. 1 melted gfi outlet later I'm a little wiser and warmer. Don't make my $400.mistake. I was also hoping to take some of the work off of the basement air when hooked to 30 amp. Oh, well. an expen$ive lesson.
As long as all the connections from the house c/b through the outdoor receptacle into the RV are in good shape and the wiring is the correct size to handle the current and length of wire, the 10,000 btu A/C should work just fine. Of course there can't be anything else in the RV operating on 120V AC. Basement air, microwave, water heater operating on elect, etc.
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Old 07-13-2018, 05:59 PM   #3
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Unhappy Portable AC

I made sure everything was turned off except for the refrigerator and a small fan,water heater was turned off, no microwave use. AC unit ran for about five minutes and then melted the outlet I don't know what else I can do except learn from it.
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Old 07-13-2018, 06:12 PM   #4
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The National Electric Code says that there should not be more than a 5 % drop between zero load and full load at any outlet, so for a 15 Amp Outlet that's 6 volts. If there is more than this than there is a bad connection somewhere that can overheat and destroy something. Like what happened to you, like what happens to people who report destroyed breakers, destroyed wire ends, and destroyed transfer switches due to bad connections.

For reference a properly made and maintained RV with no loose AC connections like my Winnebago Vista 27N will never see a voltage drop over 3 volts between no load and 15 amp load on any outlet.

You can self-test to see if an outlet can handle a heavy load so you can get a bad connection fixed before any damage is done ...

Get a Kill-A-Watt power monitor / analyzer, Menards sells them for $ 22. You can use this to confirm that any outlet in your RV and all of it's wiring feeding up to that outlet can handle a heavy load as follows:

1. Turn off other loads as possible. If another heavy load in the RV like AC changes from on/off or from off/on during your testing it will invalidate the result.

1. Plug the Kill-A-Watt into the outlet you want to validate.

2. Display and note the no-load AC volts.

3. Plug in your load, and turn it on

5. Display and note the load AC volts.

6. Display and note the load AC amps.

7. Turn off the load.

First of all the change in voltage should be well under 5 % or under 6 volts. In a RV we really want it to be 3 volts or less given the distances and number of devices in series.

The amount of loss turning into heat is the formula:
(No load AC volts - Load AC volts) * AC Amps.

For example if you are using a 10 amp load and voltage drops 3 volts, there is 30 watts of power turning into heat. That heat is distributed everywhere along the AC current path.

You can try this same test with the same load on all your different breaker fed circuits and different outlets, and if any have a much higher voltage drop than that's a red flag that there is a bad connection.

You can use a "gun" type infrared thermometer to find the bad connection that is heating but its a balancing act for how long to leave the load on to generate the heat so you can see it with the gun vs. leaving it on too long and damage occurs.

I use a Soleus Air 8,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner in my Vista 27N, and it also happens to be plugged into an outlet that is fed thru another GFCI outlet and it works great, with nothing overheating. So it can be and is being done.
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Old 07-14-2018, 03:58 AM   #5
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Be sure to use a 12 gauge extension cord. Most cords sold are not heavy enough. That will help with the voltage drop.
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Old 07-14-2018, 07:25 AM   #6
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Our old trailer had a 9K wall unit A/C and I ran it from a 15A circuit at home for a number of years. I did use a 12 ga extension cord. If the fridge was on electric that could have overloaded the circuit but a breaker should have popped for the 20A outlet. I would run the fridge on gas when hooked to the smaller circuit. Sounds like there is an electrical problem with the circuit you plugged into.


One other thing comes to mind and that pertains to the GFCI outlet. I had one fry due to a nearby lighting ground strike. I couldn't tell until I went to use it one day. It was stuck between on and tripped and started smoking due to the partial trip. I unplugged very quickly and killed the breaker until I could get a new outlet. My guess is it could have melted if I wasn't there see it happening.
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Old 07-15-2018, 05:27 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Idiotasca View Post
I made sure everything was turned off except for the refrigerator and a small fan,water heater was turned off, no microwave use. AC unit ran for about five minutes and then melted the outlet I don't know what else I can do except learn from it.
Something had a poor or bad connection in or at the outlet that melted. If all connections at the outlet were truly in good condition, then there was some other significant 120V load left on in the RV.

I doubt there is any way to examine the melted outlet to see what the cause was.

To test, install a new outlet, clean up or replace the connector on the end of the cord that was plugged into the outlet and test again.

Bottom line, a 10-12 amp load on 15 or 20 amp outlet will not cause a problem. It is just that simple.

It is common practice for people in houses or RV's to plug a small 1500 watt space heater into 15amp outlets all the time without causing a problem. Other than momentary starting current for the air conditioner compressor the A/C doesn't pull any more current than the small space heater.
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Old 07-15-2018, 05:52 AM   #8
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I agree with the others. Anything that will work plugged in to a sticks and bricks house will also work plugged in to an RV - it's the same electricity, it has to work.
So there was some other issue preventing that from working in your RV. Some other heavy draw appliance else was running, a bad power cord, a bad connection - something.
Rather than giving up on the portable AC as a bad idea find what the problem is and correct it.
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Old 07-15-2018, 08:07 AM   #9
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If it was excess power draw from the RV it should have tripped a circuit breaker in the house electrical box. Something was wrong with that circuit. As it is an outdoor outlet I wouldn't be surprised that they used a GFCI breaker in the electrical box and that it was bad.
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Old 07-21-2018, 04:13 PM   #10
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Prior to about 1993 the bathrooms plugs were wired with single 15 amp circuit where a GFCI was placed in the panel or in the first bath, then the garage plug and the outside plugs were wired downstream of that, all on the same 15 amp circuit. I can't tell you how many we have come across where the breaker was changed to a 20 without upsizing any of the wire, even seen a couple on 30's.
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Old 07-21-2018, 05:10 PM   #11
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Kill-A-Watt vs A/C

The gentleman that stated to use a Kill_A-Watt ( about $20 - 25 everywhere) as an essential RV piece of gear is correct! This unit has among other buttons - Volts, Amps and Watts. If you plug this KAW into an outlet ( say your A/C unit rated at 10A) and then plug the A/C into the KAW and turn on the A/C you should see 10A when the compressor is running. More important is that the Voltage and it should be in the range of 117VAC - 122VAC. The Watts will be approximately A times VAC. The voltage will tell you a lot about the power you are plugged into and the condition of your RV wiring.


In the north FL winter last year we ran one 1500W and one 900W electric heaters plus we set the gas furnace to 62F. If it got cold enough then the furnace came on. I would wake up and go check the heaters for voltage drop. One of our outlets would be 114VAC and the other nearly line voltage so I made sure the low load 900W was on that outlet and the other on the good outlet. The KAW unit will tell you all this.


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Old 07-21-2018, 07:14 PM   #12
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I forgot to mention that the GFI outlet that started melting was not the one I was plugged into, nothing was plugged into that outlet but it was on the same circuit. It melted on the white wire line receptacle and not the load or hot wire.
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Old 07-21-2018, 09:03 PM   #13
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I forgot to mention that the GFI outlet that started melting was not the one I was plugged into, nothing was plugged into that outlet but it was on the same circuit. It melted on the white wire line receptacle and not the load or hot wire.

This was sort of a key piece of info in the story!!!!

Your problem was at the GFI.
You either had a defective GFI or the wires were not terminated properly at the GFI.
You make mention of $400???

If you paid $400 to fix this, that person should have told you what the problem was.


ALSO I am getting OLD, so everything sounds too darn expensive.
IMO $400 even $200 is awfully high to replace a GFI.
I guess if you are miles from town, maybe $50/$75 for a service call
And another $50/$75 for the repair? But like I said, I have lost track of what stuff costs now days. Well I forgot the $$ of the GFI


Was the GFI in the RV or in the house.
Is the portable running off an extension cord to the house, or plugged into the RV.
How many 115/120v connections do you have feeding the RV & portable.

You say take some load off the basement AC.
Are you running the basement AC and the portable at the same time
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Old 07-21-2018, 09:14 PM   #14
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This will only work if nothing else but the RV was plugged into that circuit in the Friends House and there was no brownout taking place. Very few outlets in a home are the only outlet on a circuit except for the refrigerator, microwave, stove, dishwasher, water heater and clothes dryer. Even if the outlet was rated for 20 amps that in itself is no guarantee that the circuit that it is wired to is rated for 20 amps. Many builders only buy 20 amp outlets and put them on both the 15 and 20 amp circuits so they don't have to keep track of which receptacle to install at each location.


You also seem to indicate that the outlet that burned was a slave on a string of receptacles coming off of a single GFI. That adds to the probability that there were other loads on the circuit and adds the chance that the person who strung them used the quick connects which are notorious for developing a bad connection and not the more secure screw terminals when wiring them.


I have run 2 roll-a-bout AC units (an 8,000 and 10,000 btu) at the same time in my 2001 Adventurer 35U when waiting for new starter capacitors for the basement air unit and had no problems however I did make sure I had each plugged into different circuits in the Motor Home.

One other mistake many make is plugging an item such as a portable AC unit or space heater into the same circuit as the Battery Converter/Charger which when on High Boost, such as is the case the first few hours after plugging in, is going to draw a lot of power and potentially overload the circuit even though the breaker doesn't trip.

When you are on a 20 Amp plug to power the whole RV chances are you will overload a 20 Amp feed from a House when the Converter/Charger is running in High Boost mode anyway.

Its also very important to go to your Power Plus Panel and manually set it in 20 amp mode as it won't detect the difference between 30 and 20 amps and default to the higher 30 amp mode.

You should run your RV's power cord right to the outlet in the home and not use a standard household extension cord as most household extension cords are only rated for 12 to 15 amps and may overheat with only that 10,000 btu Air Conditioner plugged into them especially if they are over 25 feet long. The gauge of any extension cord used even on a 20 amp feed should be the same as an RV 30 amp extension to prevent line loss if the RV's main power cord is too short.
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