What Is 120 Volt Plug

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Troubleshooting Power Converters

Replacing a Converter


The power converter is an essential component in an RV’s electrical system.

Typically, coaches have two essentially separate electrical systems; one that provides 120 volts AC to high-power consumption, high-wattage appliances such as coffee makers, microwave ovens, hair dryers, air conditioners, etc.

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The other, low-voltage part of the electrical system provides 12 volts DC to lights and other items which don’t have high current draws, and are sometimes powered by onboard batteries (which provide power when you’re not hooked up to an outside power source or generator).

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When you are connected to campground power or running off a generator, the power converter changes the 120 volt AC power to 12 volts DC, which is compatible with the low-voltage electrical system and batteries.

This electricity supplied by the converter can take the place of the power from the batteries, and can also recharge them. Many basic single-stage converters, typically found in older and lower-priced coaches, are still in use.

They don’t have the sophisticated internal circuitry to properly charge and condition batteries. Some converter models supply only a fixed voltage of around 13.2 volts, which prevents batteries from reaching full charge and also shortens their service life.

Modern multi-stage charging circuits typically include four operation modes: boost, normal, equalization and storage (or float). Related article:RV Battery Basics: A Beginner’s Guide. Batteries have become quite expensive, and faulty charging by the converter can be both inconvenient due to loss of power, and costly in terms of ruining batteries.

It’s likely that the majority of RV batteries succumb to sulfation, rather than actually being worn out, or dying of old age. Sulfation occurs when lead sulfate forms on the internal plates and reduces or even halts the battery’s ability to accept and hold a charge.

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When batteries are stored in a partially charged or discharged condition, and/or are improperly charged, sulfation occurs. Batteries are sensitive to charging voltages and require multiple charging stages to get a full, proper charge.

Multi-stage power converter/chargers that have an equalization stage are needed for effective battery charging.

One of the best things you can do for the life of your battery/ies is to familiarize yourself with the type of power converter you have in your coach.

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