Electrical for special needs

Discussion in 'Camping for the Medically/Physically Challenged' started by Coloradocamper74, Aug 19, 2016.

  1. Coloradocamper74

    Coloradocamper74 New Member

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    After our 1 year old daughter was diagnosed with a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy (SMA type 1) we took a couple of years to build the confidence to even try our pup again. I'll cut to the chase here- last weekend we spent one night camping at a state park nearby to see if we could pull it off. My daughter needs some medical equipment through the night- the biggest item is the bipap machine (same one used for sleep apnea) but there is also a pulse-O2 meter and suction machine, not to mention the pump that runs food throughout the night. My understanding of the electrical system on our '97 Viking Pup is very limited.
    When we plugged the 30 amp plug in at the camp site, we didn't have any power to outlets or the dome light in the pup. We ran an extension cord directly from the campsite hookups to a power strip and plugged in the medical equipment there. There was a pretty powerful lightening storm right after we put the kids down and we were nervous that we were at a greater risk because of all the medical equipment.

    Overall we had a blast and we want to go for a full weekend of camping in a couple of weeks.
    Here are my questions:
    1. The battery on the tounge of the pup is no doubt dead- could that be why the pup didn't get power from the 30 amp plug in? I'd love t have the electrical system up and running for a full weekend trip. Could a new battery fix it?
    2. Is it safe to use the extension cord/power-strip approach?
    Any thoughts are much appreciated. We just want to get back into our pup and create some special camping memories for the kids.
     
  2. Chef Ron

    Chef Ron Member

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    I'd be careful with the power-strip, unless the power strip has a GFCI feature which your outlets on the PUP should have which is much safer especially in situations where there may be moisture..

    Likely the battery is not the issue, probably there is a switch on the inverter to select whether you are using Battery or the 100V hookup. While on battery likely the 110 outlets will not work (they do not on ours).

    just to be 100% sure I would bring a small generator or an inverter that lets you run the medical equipment from your car's 12v (or the tongue battery) as the power at many sites may not be very reliable.

    I'd definitely continue with a little research and encourage you to create those special memories safely and with least worries.
     
  3. jmkay1

    jmkay1 2004 Fleetwood/Coleman Utah

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    I doubt the battery has anything to do with your no power issue especially with the trailer plugged in. Check to make sure to see if you need to flip a switch from 12v to 120v on the converter. If there is no switch see if there is a reset button type thing that could have tripped. then check any fuses on the converter. After that I'm not sure. Once you get everything figured out there, I suggest to get a Serge protector for the RV. As an extra precaution for protection for you pup and it's electrical system. Otherwise I see no reason to not being able to run the machine. However if it pulls a lot of juice you may be limited to what else you can plug in on the same circuit. Have fun, and make memories.
     
  4. Customer

    Customer Well-Known Member

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    1. Replacing the battery should be done but will not fix your electrical issue. Was the campground breaker on? Did you check the breakers in your power center/converter?

    2. The power strip is fine, you were probably plugged into a GFCI at the campground pedestal. Even if not, it isn't all that critical unless you are using the power strip in the shower!
     
  5. kitphantom

    kitphantom Well-Known Member

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    I second the suggestions to check out possible switches, fuses, and possible a built-in GCFI outlet (those do go bad from time to time). I doubt that the dead battery itself is the problem with the outlets (and no, outlets do not work on the battery, unless you have an inverter, which is pretty inefficient).
    Running your daughter's equipment from a separate extension of suitable size is not a bad idea, although probably a bit more work. That way it's on its own circuit, once it leaves the power column.
    To protect the equipment, and be a way to check that the power at the campsite is the correct volts, etc., I suggest an EMS (Electrical Management System). This is a bit more elaborate than a surge protector, but it does that job too. We never had one in our pup, since we had few power items. We bought one as soon as we bought a TT, since we now have things that could be more readily damaged by too-high or too-low voltage, which I assume the controllers for your daughter's machine might be. While we usually dry camp, we do camp with power from time to time (several times a year now) and we've seen a wide range of power column styles and maintenance. We prefer to provide as least some level of protection for ourselves and the camper equipment.
    There are in-line ones that can be wired in. We bought the plug-in one from Progressive. [http://www.progressiveindustries.net/#!ems-pt50c/c1ma0] None of the local dealers had it in stock, but I found it on Amazon. A surge protector is not as expensive, but we wanted the extra protection. (A couple of weeks ago, we were glad we had it, since our power at home went out, the type of outage where it may not come back on evenly. We turned off motors in the house, since we don't have an EMS for that, and hung out in the camper until power was back one.) Surge Guard is the brand I see in more stores: http://www.campingworld.com/search/index.cfm?Ntt=surge&N=0&Ntx=mode+matchallpartial&Ntk=primary&Nty=1&Ntpc=1
     
  6. sawdusty

    sawdusty San Antonio

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    First and foremost, I commend you for being willing to tackle the obstacles in order to make some memories and allow yourself some well deserved pleasure time.

    Would like to clarify a couple of things. #1 you stated that you had no power to plugs or dome light. The receptacles are 110V while the ceiling lights are 12V. Also, you will have a converter not an inverter in your pup. The converter "convert" 110V to 12V. The converter will need to be switched to the correct power source you are using at the time (110 or battery).

    You have a kill switch or fuse somewhere which isn't letting you get 110V from the post at the campground. Check all fuses, any GFCI's, and don't forget to give the wiring a really good inspection. When you add a battery be sure you get a deep cycle battery not a car battery. Be sure to hook it up correctly as the wires are white (-) and black (+) and there needs to be a fuse on the black wire.

    Regarding the Bipap machine, it probably is 12 volt. It is powered by a 110V cable to the adapter which than has a 12 V output to the machine. Look at all the information on the machine and that adapter box. Contact the manufacture and talk with a rep about a 12V electrical cord. You would not be able to run the humidifier while on 12V, but this would be an excellent way to have battery backup for the most essential equipment. The feeding pump is probably the most flexible regarding when it runs as that can be stopped when power is lost and restarted when power is back on. I'm not familiar with running suction other than 12V, but I'm sure the is a solution.

    I think at this point if you have any further questions about the medical equipment feel free to send a message. Medical diagnoses, equipment, and solutions are all different and I don't want to cause anyone confusion which might compromise the care and treatment of their loved one.
     
  7. Coloradocamper74

    Coloradocamper74 New Member

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    Thank you all for the help. I'm hoping to work on this tomorrow afternoon.

    I'm going to start with the converter, and then look at getting a new battery.

    Thanks again.
     
  8. R00

    R00 Active Member

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    You need to figure out your total amp hour usage before you plan your electrical setup. Not doing so will (often) make you spend a lot of time and money on a setup that won't work for you. Then you spend more time and money making it work for you when you could have done it correctly in the first place.

    It sounds like you want to run 2-3 medical devices from a deep cycle battery, with the others running on 120v. I could have misread, but they all need dedicated circuits, fuses, and good wiring and connections to be considered remotely reliable. To do otherwise risks the patient's health, nay, your entire family's life (badly wired high draw devices can cause fires)
     
  9. sawdusty

    sawdusty San Antonio

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    Roo I was afraid that there would be some confusion. I knew that you experts on the electrical systems would address the issues with the 110V. I wanted to address options for battery backup in case they were ever in a situation where they lost the 110V power.
     
  10. Novarich

    Novarich Active Member

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    The battery only powers interior lights and the fan on your furnace and your fridge if your not using your 120v. Ac. I would sort out your electrical issues but continue to use the dedicated extension and power strip as long as it is of high enough capacity. If you have an emergency issue it's simpler to sort out and repair a simple set-up. I would definitely look into renting an inverter generator for the weekend if you feel that there is any possibility of a power outage.
     
  11. WeRJuliIan

    WeRJuliIan If it's "Aluminum", why not "Sodum" and "Uranum"?

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    Just a quick note... don't be tempted to use your car battery for backup power, except in an emergency.
    Unless you leave the engine running, you may drain the battery beyond the point where it will start the car.
    (car batteries are not designed for deep-cycle discharge .. that is to to say, to draw current over a long period with recharge)

    Please keep us posted on how you work things out... I'm impressed with your approach to the challenge, and I wish you many happy camping hours ahead
     
  12. Coloradocamper74

    Coloradocamper74 New Member

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    So I'm looking at the converter- a Centurion 3000 and don't see a switch for a quick switch between 12 and 120... The fuses all look to be in tact - but I have a question about the one 10 amp that is there. It looks like the sticker next to it calls for only 15 amp fuses.

    Any thoughts are much appreciated.
     

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  13. tombiasi

    tombiasi Well-Known Member

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    The fuses you are showing are foe the 12 Volts. If the 10A fuse is labeled for 15 Amps perhaps someone put in there what they had. If it's not blowing no harm is done but you may go to a 30 A if indeed it is specified to take one.
    The AC side is protected by circuit breakers, the same kind as in your home. Turn them all off and then back on just to be sure one is not tripped. The outlets most likely will have one that is a GFI. This one has a reset button on it. With power applied push the reset button. Let us know.
     
  14. Coloradocamper74

    Coloradocamper74 New Member

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    Good news- the first pic is of my voltage detector
    Lighting up. I switched the breakers off and back on and that seems to have done the trick.

    The secon pic ha me a bit concerned- it's a pic of the same voltage detector lighting up on the outside of the box connecting electrical to the heater. Should I be concerned about this?

    Thank you very much for the help.
     

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  15. MileHigh

    MileHigh Active Member

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    The outlet for the heater should be 110volts. I would replace the broken cover plate though.
     
  16. tombiasi

    tombiasi Well-Known Member

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    The unit you are using detects the electric field. The box is a non-metalic one and the sensor is "seeing" the field through the box.
    As MileHigh said, replace the cover.
     
  17. Coloradocamper74

    Coloradocamper74 New Member

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    Ok- so with power to the pup I'm now going to get a new battery and look into surge protection.

    Another question.

    The campground were going to has 50, 30 and 20 amp hookups at all sites. Can I hook the pup to the 30 - use it for a couple of machines and also run an extension cord from the 20amp outlet into the pup with a surge protecting power strip for other machines?

    Oh- and one more- what about thunderstorms and lightening? We get some big storms here in Colorado. If we find ourselves in a big one, are we better off getting the family out of the pup and into the truck?

    Can't thank all of you enough for the help!
     
  18. MileHigh

    MileHigh Active Member

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    You should be able to hook the PUP to the 30 amp hookup and also use an extension cord on another outlet at the site. Use a high quality extension cord though.

    We've ridden out many storms in our PUP but have occasionally gone inside our 4runner just in case. Usually, it has to be pretty bad for this to happen. Now with a lot of electronics in use, you may want to unplug things like you would at home.
     
  19. SueH8

    SueH8 New Member

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    I am so new to PUP camping, having tent camped for 40-ish years, but have worked with families of children with special needs for over 30 years. My first suggestion would be to contact your DME provider - they will know the specs for each piece of equipment. What do you have in place for home power outages? Back up for suction and continuous feed pump? How have you managed potential power outage in the past?
     
  20. Gunz

    Gunz Member

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    Long story... My 17yo has Down syndrome and also has severe sleep apnea, heart defects, hypertonia, and an intolerance to prolonged high temps- all considerations that drove us to forgo tent camping and get a popup. Once we bought our used pup, I gutted the entire camper, rearranged cabinets and seats, installed a Porto potty, removed everything related to propane, installed two 'dorm' refeers, and most relevantly, rewired the entire camper. These mods have enabled the three of us to camp for weeks at a time and to enjoy the great outdoors.

    Regarding the electrical system, I put the AC and two dedicated receptacles for dual ceramic heaters on a single 30A circuit (with the thought that we'd never run the AC and heaters at the same time). For our 20A service circuit, I replaced the existing convenience receptacles with new receptacles that have integrated USB chargers. I also installed a 12VDC outlet that is our emergency power source for his CPAP (using a 12V power cord specified for his machine) that is supplied by a deep cycle battery mounted on the tongue. (BTW, the 12VDC adapter is our emergency back up at home in case of a prolonged power outage.) Additionally, I also put in a hanging shelf for his bunk, giving us a dedicated shelf to hold his DME and provide him the most maneuverability when he sleeps.

    [CP]Good luck, and if there's anything you'd like me to expound on, just ask.
    -Mark
     

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