Category Archives: Product Reviews

This series will discuss various products available on the market to enhance your RV experience.

Line Splitter to go with Clamp-On Meter

Last time, I forgot to mention one thing you’ll want to have to go with the clamp-on meter–a line splitter for plugging in to standard 15-amp outlets.

What does this do?  It breaks out the line wire to where you can clamp around it by itself.  Without getting too far into the details, the clamp-on ammeter is going to show you net current through the clamp-.  If you just clamp it around a power cord, it will read zero–the black line lead and the white neutral lead complete a circuit, and current travels in opposite directions on those two wires.  To measure what you’re really after, you want just one of those leads in the clamp.

A line splitter makes getting just one lead in the clamp a plug-in operation. It also has one loop that is multiplied 10 times–which can be useful when you’re trying to measure smaller currents.  Another $15 gets you one of these to keep with your meter.

My New Favorite Multimeter, and Measuring Inverter and Charging Efficiency

A little while back, I posted a short writeup on a plug-in ammeter I’ve used to measure current on circuits with standard ATO blade-style fuses.  When running through trying to find out which circuits have loads on them, it’s still as easy as it gets, especially when you don’t have good access to the wiring.

Before I go any further, let me point out that I have a degree in electrical engineering.  If you’ve done any reading at all on here, you know that I mess with electrical stuff more than any sane person should.  My “needs” in the tool department are more extensive than most, but I’m going to talk today about a tool that’s affordable and useful enough that every RVer should carry one.

Continue reading My New Favorite Multimeter, and Measuring Inverter and Charging Efficiency

Measuring Current on DC Circuits

On most RVs, there isn’t a nice wiring diagram with fusing, grounding and splice locations, wire colors, and printed circuit identifiers like we expect on a car.  When something isn’t working, it’s often not obvious what circuit it’s on; when a fuse blows, we often don’t know what’s on the circuit that might have caused it.

It’s also pretty common for fuses to be oversized, not so much for the wiring, but such that if a problem were to occur, a fuse isn’t going to be very quick to blow.  It’s not easy to work with a standard multimeter to connect inline, and measure the current with the load turned on.

Here’s what I use:

EXTECH Automotive 30A Current Tester

 

This is one of my favorite automotive electrical diagnostic tools beyond a multimeter.  It’s a really simple current meter that plugs in where the fuse goes, and the fuse plugs in to the side of the connector.  I can see that my water pump peaks at just under 5A, and the furnace at 10A.  Same thing for lighting circuits, the refrigerator, etc.  This also allows you to put together an estimate of what you need in terms of batteries, solar, generator runtime, etc. if you were to run something for a particular amount of time.

It’s not quite as sophisticated as the Kill-A-Watt meters used for 110V power, but does it’s job quite well.

Going to the dentist? Where’s the compressor?

I stumbled across the idea of using a dental air compressor while looking at pictures of a garage build, and finally pulled the trigger on one this past week (after going to the dentist, and confirming that there really was an air compressor in one of the cabinets in the office).  It turns out they aren’t as expensive as you might think: cost delivered was $180 on Amazon for a 1-hp, 1.6-gallon model that will fit into the storage bay vacated by the old lead acid batteries.

Of course, when it showed up, I pulled it out of the box and turned it on.  Eventually, I found a package with the instructions, and a muffler and short piece of tubing, which made it a lot quieter.  I still haven’t read the instructions…keeps life interesting!

Here’s a video put out by the manufacturer:

And here’s my video showing just how much of a difference the muffler makes:

It’s not silent, but sitting in the kitchen of the RV the noise is comparable to the rooftop air conditioner.  Far, far, quieter than anything you can pick up at the local home improvement stores.  While it doesn’t always happen, Amazon had just about the cheapest price I could find, and with Prime, it was here in a couple of days.

It’s already been used for a number of routine (for me anyway) tasks, from airing up tires to running an impact wrench and air ratchet.

Cooking with Gas!

Ok, so I could cook with gas before.  But now it’s a much more pleasant experience.  The original RV oven went to a new home, along with the oven’s pilot light, too-small broiler compartment, and manual ignition stove top.

I wanted to replace it with a fairly inexpensive, but good looking gas range.  I wanted a waist-high broiler, so that anything I could fit in the oven could be broiled.  I wanted electronic ignition, so there were no pilot lights to mess with.  I wanted sealed burners to make cleaning easy.  And since it would be free-standing, I wanted a storage drawer to make up for some of what I’d be losing in terms of storage. Oh, and since I have LP, not natural gas on board, it would need to be able to run on LP.

Then we came to the question of 20″ or 24″ width.  Some of that ended up dictated by clearances and the space available.  Between the water heater and refrigerator cabinet, there was just enough room to squeeze in the dishwasher, range, and spice rack if a 20″ range was used.  A 24″ range would mean giving up the pull-out spice rack, and while there were more 24″ models to choose from, they were much more expensive (albeit from more well-known brands).

Avanti GR2013CSS 20″ Gas Range

What I ended up with was an Avanti GR2013CSS 20″ range, in stainless with a black glass door with window.  The link above is to Amazon, but at the time AJ Madison had a better price (more on that later).  It’s narrower than the range that came out, but also fills the full cabinet depth.  The oven cavity is a lot more usable–a 9×13″ pan fits with room to spare, with the long dimension running front to back.

It was easy enough to swap out the orifices on each burner (6 of them including the two in the oven), and installation was straightforward.  I did have to space it out from the wall just a little though, in order to clear the drain line running from the kitchen sink.  Overall, it’s a much better feel in terms of quality than the old range, particularly when it comes to the oven door.  It’s a properly sprung and sealed glass door, like what you’d expect at home.

I do wish the burners had a little wider range–there are three burner sizes (1 large, 2 medium, and 1 small), but I often find myself moving a pan from the large burner to the small one when going from a boil to simmer.

I definitely like not having to mess with the pilot light, and both the stove top and oven are much more usable.  One thing I did though, to make the covered workspace more functional, was to raise the countertop height just a bit from the standard 36″, so that the rim around the grating was at the same height as the bottom of the countertop, and the cover was routed out to surround the grating.  The weight from the cover keeps the grating from rattling, and the grating keeps the cover from sliding around.

Interior of oven, with light on.

I don’t often use it, but it is kind of nice having a light in the oven.  I suppose I’ve grown accustomed to opening the door to take a look after years without a window.  It’s an incandescent bulb, but assuming it won’t be on for long periods of time that shouldn’t be a big deal for energy management.  Notice that there are two racks in the oven as well, and both are usable with casserole dishes or cookie sheets.

I paid $488 delivered last January from AJMadison. Amazon shows it at $642 as I write this–so quite the savings from AJMadison, though it did take a little while to get them delivered (part of that due to a couple of winter storms).

After a year using it, I’m still pretty happy.  One of the igniters has been a little flaky once or twice, but other than that it’s as good as new.  Bouncing down the road, nothing has picked up wear marks, and the drawer hasn’t opened at all in travel.

Next up is the over-the-range microwave/convection oven.

Easy way to a freshwater hose reel

Do you ever get frustrated rolling up a damp hose that’s collected all kinds of dirt and grass clippings? I know I did—especially in the humid south, when leaving in the morning, everything would be damp. Sometimes I’d think ahead, and remember to grab a paper towel to clean the hose when unhooking, but that didn’t always keep pant legs and shoes clean.

There are a number of made-for-an-RV hose reels which command a hefty price—some motorized, and most are open frames. Is there something better? Maybe. Using a garden hose reel with a drinking water hose sounded like a good idea. More than 2 years later, it’s still working great, with the hose up off the ground when I’m close to the hydrant. That includes using it through 2 winters where it saw either single-digit or below zero temperatures.

Here’s how to do it…

Continue reading Easy way to a freshwater hose reel