Aug 012009

Living on limited electric power seems to be a major concern for many RVers, and I have never understood why.

Time and time again I have had people ask when registering for our Gypsy Gathering rallies if we will have 50 amp power available. When I tell them that (depending on the location) we will only have 30 amps, or maybe even 15 amp power, they freak out. We have had more than one RVer cancel a rally reservation when they learned we don’t have 50 amp power. What has amazed me more than once is that they canceled on our Arizona Gypsy Gathering rally, after spending a week or two (or more) dry camping at Quartzsite! After that, even 15 amps is pure luxury to us!

Living on limited power is no problem if you understand how to manage your power consumption properly. We just spent a week parked in a relative’s driveway in Traverse City, Michigan plugged into 15 amp power. Actually, with the multiple cords we had to run to reach an outlet, I’m sure there was quite a power loss between the power outlet and our bus conversion. But we had no problems. We have a house style refrigerator that was plugged in all of the time, Terry made coffee every morning, and we used our computers, CradlePoint wireless router, and laser printer with ease. Terry even did a load or two of laundry and used our 110 volt apartment size electric dryer!

Of course, we did not use everything at once. When not needed, we turned the laser printer off to conserve power, and when she had the dryer running, we were careful not to use any more power than needed during the drying cycle. We never tripped a breaker and never felt like we were living on the edge.

One thing we always do when hooking up to a limited power source is to turn the battery charge rate on our Magnum Energy inverter/charger down to 10%. We don’t need any more than that, and the batteries charge up just fine while we sleep. Of course, we also have 540 watts of solar panels on the roof, and that helps too. But we got by just fine even before we had the panels. We also switch our gas/electric water heater to just gas to lessen our power needs. If we had an RV style refrigerator, we’d switch it to gas only to save power.

We have been to many different RV rallies where there were so many rigs hooked into the same circuit that we had 10 amps of power at best, and unless somebody insisted on making coffee in the morning, or fired up their curling iron, everybody survived. Of course, if somebody turned on one of the aforementioned appliances, there were circuit breakers popping all over the rally grounds!

At an Escapees Fun Days rally once, the fellow next to us insisted on turning on his air conditioner, which of course blacked out our whole line of RVs. He just couldn’t seem to grasp the concept of “roughing it” and earned himself some pretty bad karma from his neighbors by the time the rally ended.

Even if you always stay at RV parks and never plan on going to an RV rally or plugging into an electrical outlet on the side of some friend or relative’s garage, you should still practice living on limited power, just in case. You never know when some unexpected breakdown will find you parked at a repair shop overnight or for the weekend and all they have is a 15 amp receptacle you can use. 

I’m always amazed at the folks with big coaches who insist they cannot survive on less than 50 amp power. A couple of years ago, at the Verde Valley Thousand Trails preserve in Camp Verde, Arizona, a rather obnoxious and overbearing “gentleman” was giving the poor girl at the ranger station grief because he insisted on being assigned a site with 50 amp electric. She explained to him over and over that there were no 50 amp sites in the campground, only 30 amps, but he was just not having any of that. 

Finally I interrupted and asked him why he felt he must have 50 amps. He looked down at me like I was the village idiot, put his hands on his hips and said, in a very condescending tone of voice, “Because, my good man, I have a 50 amp coach!” (By the way, if someone tells you he has a “coach” instead of an RV, there’s a good bet he’s going to be a jerk!)

I tried to explain to him that with a 30 amp dog bone adapter, he could plug in to the campground’s 30 amp power, and since the weather was very pleasant, he wouldn’t need his air conditioners. I even went so far as to tell him that the campground store had the 30 amp adapters if he didn’t own one.

He looked down at me again and said “Why, thank you, sir! Obviously I’m not as smart as I thought I was!”

Well, you know that Bad Nick wasn’t going to let that one pass, so he replied with a big grin “No, but you’re just as smart as I thought you were!” 

Thought For The Day – I do not intend to tiptoe through life only to arrive safely at death.

Register Now For Our Ohio Gypsy Gathering Rally

Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  9 Responses to “More Power To You”

  1. Let me guess what plaque he had on the back of his “coach”. g

  2. Just a slight correction. A curling iron shouldn’t cause problems with low power . . . mine uses only 85watts. But a hair dryer definitely can cause problems, because they’re usually 1500 plus watts. I make sure every other electric “hog” is turned off for the five minutes I use the hair dryer.

    By the way, my husband sometimes calls our motorhome the “coach.” I’ve told him that I don’t like it, because it sounds pretentious. He’s not pretentious, but it’s a Country Coach and I think he’s sometimes too lazy to say both words. I call it the motorhome.

  3. A good list to tape in the kitchen cupboard for reference.

    Air Conditioner…………………………..12.5 amps
    Converter (with nothing in use)…..….1.5 amps
    Electric Water Heater (6 Gals.)……….12.5 amps
    Electric Refrigerator…………………… ..4.0 amps
    Microwave Oven………………………….12.5 amps
    Electric Coffee Pot…………………… …..9.0 amps
    Toaster………………………………..…….10.0 amps
    Hair Dryer……………………………..……10.0 amps
    TV . .. .. .. …. .. . . ………………….. … …2.0 amps
    Dirt Devil Hand Vacuum…………………2.0 amps
    Electric Fry Pan……………………..…….10.0 amps
    Iron……………………………………….…..10.0 amps
    Food Processor………………………..…. .6.0 amps
    Crock Pot………..……………………………1.5 amps

  4. If they want more amps why not just unplug and turn on the generator? Then they can run anything they want. Just my humble opinion.

  5. If you want 50 amps and Thousand Trails doesn’t have it, leave, go to or one of the commercial parks in Camp Verde or Cottonwood. Just leave us TTN members in peace! Take you “coach” and go!

  6. We don’t have a lot of issues with power right now, but we might in the future. Although I’m sure my husband understands the subject pretty well, I can always use some more help.

    About all I really know about power in our fifth wheel, if we are hooked up to 30 amps or less, is to take care to run the microwave, air conditioner and blow dryer separately, by themselves. So I have plenty of room to learn much more!

    I saved the Palms’ list. Thank you, Jim and Cathy, for providing it.

  7. I have a 50 amp motorhome but it comes with an energy management system that will allow me to run pretty well on 30 amps. It will turn off the air conditioner, the electric water heater or the electric refrigerator if needed to keep within the 30 amp limit. Many RVs have this. I know that I can get by for a period of time on even less amps and I think that is the point of your story today. However I will admit that I like the freedom of 50 amps and will pay extra for it when necessary. I could be sleeping in a tent and cooking over a campfire but I have been there, done that. I would rather be able to use the appliances that I have than have to scrimp. Otherwise, why have them?

  8. Nick —

    In defense of those of us who like to call our motor homes a coach, what really matters is how we relate to others and not what we drive down the road. We will be as comfortable at a pot luck dinner as we will be at a restaurant that put linens on the table. And like so many other RVers, we will know we had a good time and some good food and saved some big bucks when we go to the pot luck.

    We drive and live in a 40 foot coach.

    George & Sandy Stoltz

  9. We drive a 40′ fully loaded Class A whatchamacallit. Since we’re campers from way back (tent, pop-up, Class C…) I still call it the “camper.” Oh, horror of horrors! Everyone laughs. Nothing pretentious about me!

    As for power… 50s nice, 30 works, 15 is sometime luxury, especially after we’ve been boondocking for days and days. Doesn’t his “coach” have a generator. Oh, there’s probably no remote for it and he can’t find the button!

    Happy boondocking everyone.

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