Phantom Power

 Posted by at 12:51 am  Nick's Blog
Jun 242017

Most of you probably know about phantom electrical loads in an RV. They are those parasitic things like the memory and instant-on feature for your television, satellite TV boxes, various alarms and such that make miniscule draws on your battery bank. As long as your batteries are in good shape, these are not a real issue when you are dry camping for a night or two, or staying in someone’s driveway and plugged into a 20 amp electrical circuit in their garage. But if you are putting the rig in dry storage, they can kill your battery bank over time.

But I seem to have just the opposite issue. As crazy as it sounds, our Winnebago seems to have some kind of phantom power thing going on. When I parked it in the storage lot the other day I hit the battery disconnect switch, but the electric step still worked when I closed the door. That was strange, but since the battery disconnect is only for the house battery bank, I thought maybe the step is connected to the starting batteries.

Since I don’t know when we are going to be starting the motorhome again, I decided to unhook the positive and negative cables to the starting batteries, then I had Terry check inside, and while the two digital voltmeters inside the coach both showed zero for the starting batteries, the house battery bank still showed 13.8 volts. Apparently the battery disconnect switch didn’t do it’s job. So I then disconnected both the positive and negative cables to the front most of the three batteries in the house battery bank, thinking since they are all connected together that would do the trick. And we were still showing power inside! By then it was getting pretty hot and I was getting pretty frustrated, so I decided to leave it for a day or so.

I called my buddy Greg White, who said that even though I had disconnected the cables from the front battery, maybe there was a positive hooked to one of the other two batteries in the bank. Greg suggested I disconnect all three negative cables from the house battery bank, which should kill power to everything.

So yesterday we went back to the storage lot and I unhooked all three negative cables, just as Greg directed me to do. Then Terry went inside the motorhome, and the digital voltmeter above my desk was bouncing between 4 volts and 13.5 volts, while the one on the control panel in the rear was showing all kinds of odd numbers. None of which makes sense because with all the negative cables off, there shouldn’t be any power going out. But just to be sure, I unhooked the positive cables, too. So there are no connections between the batteries and the coach. And guess what? The meter on the control panel still shows power going to it!

There are a lot of things I don’t know much about, but thanks to an excellent shop teacher in high school, I’ve got a pretty good grasp of electrical theory. I designed and installed both the 12 volt and 120 volt systems in our MCI bus conversion, I can swap out breakers in a house or install a new electrical line with no problems, but this has me mystified. Where the heck is this phantom power coming from? Greg asked me if our Onan diesel generator has its own battery, and said maybe that’s where the meter was showing power from. I don’t think it does but I will check it out today. Greg also said maybe it’s just my electrifying personality. What the heck? I guess that’s as good an explanation as anything.

Have you entered our latest Free Drawing yet? If not, you really need to do so. This week’s prize is a one year subscription to This is a great resource for RVers, listing well over 13,000 free places where you can park overnight. It’s a $24.95 value and it could be yours free if you’re our lucky winner. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Speaking of books, a couple of my author friends have some freebies going on right now that you should take advantage of. Popular romance writer Mona Ingram has just brought out the first two books in her new Second Chances series about the small town of Chance, California, which is losing businesses and residents at an alarming rate. Can five women who suffered recent heartbreak put their energies into stopping the town’s decline? Check out the first book, a prequel that is free on Amazon at this link.

And my buddy George Wier is offering After the Fire, the ninth book in his excellent Bill Travis mystery series, free this weekend on Amazon. George also just released the audiobook version of the tenth book in the series, Ghost of the Karankawa. It’s another great story.

Thought For The Day – You can’t turn back the clock, but you can wind it up again.

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Nick Russell

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

  7 Responses to “Phantom Power”

  1. Solar charger slipping some voltage in?

  2. One word of caution. When you disconnect the batteries from the engine, it also removes all your preset driving habits that have been calculated and averaged into your engine computer. It will take driving it possibly 10 or more times for the engine to correctly adjust itself again to your altitude, fuel mixture, etc. This happened on our Coachman motorhome. When we were in for some other diagnostic testing, the mechanic noticed how many times the engine had been forced to reset itself, (due to our disconnecting the driving batteries). He said do NOT cut the power to the driving batteries — you’re better off to use a trickle charge maintainer and keep the driving batteries connected. Especially if you are trying to sell your motorhome, the last thing you want is for it to drive rough and sluggish for the first five to ten times starting it. Not a good first impression….

  3. Do you have solar panels? If so you may be getting power from those.

  4. Seeing as how you have your house batteries disconnected check them with your om/volt meter then check the reading at your inverter inside the coach
    your house batteries run the inverter when your wired up for your refrigerator
    Did they inadvertently attach it to the generator side .
    see if you have power at the inverter before and after you disconnect your generator
    Do you have a security system their runs off of a very small back up 12 V micro battery

  5. I’m thinking like a couple of others you probably have a small trickle solar panel on your roof.

  6. Hey Guys, doesn’t a solar panel get wired to a solar controller and then from the controller to the batteries. I don’t believe it should ever be wired directly to the coach. The purpose is solely to put juice into the battery so the inverter can use it.

  7. On my class C Winnebago advantage, the step works loft the engine battery. There are other phantom power drains off thet battery as well. I’m a weekend warrior and I finally put my own cutoff switches on the engine battery and between the two house batteries. The cutoff switch that Winnebago installed doesn’t cut power to the propane center.

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