Powering vintage travel trailer with 220v outlet

Reply

  #1  
Old 11-10-12, 09:04 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 8
Exclamation Powering vintage travel trailer with 220v outlet

Hello, I'm hoping someone has the time to help me figure out a problem. I have a 1966 travel trailer with original wiring in it. It has one circuit in the panel- which is 15 amps. There is a place on the outside of the trailer to plug in a regular 3 prong extension cord, which I've done in the past.

Right under the plug-in spot is little sign attached to the trailer which says only use 110v.

Using an extension cord plugged into a regular household outlet allows me to run my lights, a laptop, the small fridge, a space heater and a teeny tiny microwave.

Recently, I was going to plug into the electrical at someone's house, but all they have outside are 220v outlets - each with its own breakers - two of them at 50 amps each.

Would there be any safe way to use one of these outlets?
So far I've been told:
  • Get an adapter plug
  • Get a 220v to 110v converter like someone would use to travel in Europe
  • Change out one of the 220s to make it a 110
  • Change the wiring in the trailer
  • There is no safe way because the wiring is from 1966 and it's too risky
  • There's no way to do it

But nobody that I've talked to really knows anything - everyone is just guessing.

Can anyone clarify for me? I know amps and volts are important and something about garden hoses. That's my electrical knowledge. And that it electricity is dangerous.

Thank you for reading.
 
Sponsored Links
  #2  
Old 11-10-12, 09:10 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 8
One thing I forgot is that there is a place to hook up a battery - perhaps like a car battery - to the trailer's electrical system. Not sure if that would power the fridge and computer, etc.

Also, if I can do that, the only way I'd have of charging the battery would be through the 220v outlet. Not sure if that is possible, either.

To be clear - I have not tried to plug the trailer into the 220 outlet using an adapter or anything and I have no intention to do so unless 100% sure it was safe. I don't know how good the wiring is, for one thing, and I have no idea what I'm doing, and I don't want to do anything dangerous.
 
  #3  
Old 11-10-12, 10:13 PM
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Wet side of Washington state.
Posts: 18,399
First of all, the standard voltages for at least the last fifty years have been 120 and 240, not 110 and 220.

Second, your trailer is designed to accept 120 volts at 15 amperes maximum. Trying to connect it to any other power source is dangerous to extremely dangerous. No way is connecting it to a 240 volt 50 ampere source going to be remotely acceptable.

I have no idea of how the battery connection is wired. Some travel trailers had separate low-voltage (6 or 12 volt) lights for use when there was no 120 volt source available. Some might have even had a low-voltage DC refrigerator. You might have a battery charger that would be powered from the AC power inlet or you might not.
 
  #4  
Old 11-10-12, 10:40 PM
ray2047's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 33,044
You could make a temporary power distribution panel. You would need a 2 space 60 amp sub panel, 6-4 service cable and 14-50(or 60) plug (or twist lock equivalent). You would mount the subpanel and a 15 amp 120 volt receptacle to a piece of plywood. The 15 amp receptacle would be connected to a 15 amp 120 volt breaker in the subpanel.
 
  #5  
Old 11-11-12, 12:35 AM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 8
Thank you very much, both of you. I really appreciate your time and knowledge.

As I suspected - there is a way to do it but not a simple way. I keep being told to just get an adapter and that seems wrong to me but I have no idea why. Your posts give me some more info for my side.

Thanks for the correction on 110/220. I didn't know that! Although in my defense, the little plate on the trailer says

Connection is for

110 12.5 Voltage
AC Service
Do not connect to higher voltage


So, that sort of excuses me a little bit? Maybe?

Thanks again.
 
  #6  
Old 11-11-12, 01:01 AM
PJmax's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Northern NJ - USA
Posts: 46,105
You are excused

The adaptor will work 100% fine but that circuit is protected at 50 amps. Any short in your trailer or if you overload the wire and Not a pretty sight.
 
  #7  
Old 11-11-12, 01:19 AM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 8
Uh oh. Now I'm lost again.

If it has two breakers that say 50, does that mean it's protected at 50 or 100?

And what could cause a short in the trailer? Wiring from 1966 that hasn't been updated?

And what would be ugly? Smoke? Fire?

Name:  DSCF1503.jpg
Views: 4512
Size:  27.1 KB
 
Attached Images   
  #8  
Old 11-11-12, 02:28 AM
ray2047's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 33,044
If it has two breakers that say 50, does that mean it's protected at 50 or 100?
It means 50a. Fifty for each pole.

The danger lies in the wiring from the inlet of trailer. If it shorts there is a good chance it would burn before the 50 amp double pole 50 amp breaker tripped.

The breaker box in your picture is actually the same as you would use in the temp power distribution panel but with one big difference. Note I said the cord from the temp panel to the 50 amp plug would be #6. The wiring from your trailer inlet to the 15 amp subpanel in the trailer is probably only #14. Thats roughly five times smaller. That is why you need the temp power panel with a 15 amp breaker. Hope I didn't confuse you more with my explanation.
 
  #9  
Old 11-11-12, 04:18 AM
chandler's Avatar
Banned. Rule And/Or Policy Violation
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: USA
Posts: 39,968
That looks to be a disconnect for a hot tub. In addition what are the two wires in the bottom photo for? Where do they come from and where do they go?
 
  #10  
Old 11-11-12, 06:11 AM
GregH's Avatar
Super Moderator
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Manitoba
Posts: 9,750
First question I would ask would be have you carefully inspected the condition of all the 1966 wiring, especially the wire from the trailer receptacle to the breaker?
This I think would be your first step no matter what you do.

Non-fused adapters are very common and successfully used for RV's but they are not approved.
Funny thing is I did a quick check and could not find a fused adapter online.
As said, the risk is if your cord, the receptacle on the trailer or wiring before the breaker fails you could have a fire.

IMO if the breaker, the wire connecting the trailer receptacle and the receptacle were in good condition the risk would be minimal.
The connecting wire between the adapter should be under normal circumstance on the ground and would pose minimal risk as well.

Is that two pole breaker panel connected to an RV plug or is it for something like a hot tub as suggested.
Is there not a 15 amp, 120 volt receptacle somewhere at your family's home?

If you take some clear closeup pics of the the cord, trailer connector and wiring we may be able to offer more info.

Click image


Image courtesy of rvupgradestoredotcom
 
  #11  
Old 11-11-12, 01:31 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 8
Wink

Ok, I think I'm starting to understand, although I'm still confused why some people say it can be done with an adaptor, some say add a temporary power distribution panel, some say change out the outlet at the house and some say don't do it! I understand the terms a bit more, but I'm still basically where I started, in a sense, with a variety of opinions. Is that just life? There is not one right answer?

Also, nobody has mentioned a step-down converter - is that something that would help? Or does that not address the issue?

To clarify - the house has 3 of these double pole breaker panels. Picture of the outlet below. They were installed for food carts. The electricity inside the house is apparently so overloaded that it is always blowing circuits so we've been told that we can't plug anything inside the house.

The wiring in the trailer has NOT been inspected. We've owned it for a year. The receptacle goes into the trailer - into that messy bundle of wires in the murky photo I posted, into the wall and up and across through the wall, about three feet, to the 15 amp breaker with the (probably) 14 wire going to it. I am not at the trailer right now so can't get clearer pictures at the moment. Name:  DSCF1493.jpg
Views: 14049
Size:  35.7 KB

It sounds to me, from what you are all saying, that this is where the weakness would be - from the outside plug to the 15 amp panel inside the trailer. That is where there could be danger of a short. (Although it's not clear to me whether a short while this 240v double pole 50amp power source would make a short more dangerous than while using a 120v 15a source).

Also, perhaps, there is danger of short from the extension cord going from the trailer, across a dirt path which is the main entrance to the house for 4 people, and up to the outlet - about 5 feet total.

Basically, the whole story is that my best friend and bandmate was going to live in our trailer at this other house. We didn't know that these were the only electrical outlets available to us until we moved the trailer and paid $500.

The person he rented the space from told him to get an adaptor and figure it out himself. We're afraid it's not safe, and imagine him falling asleep with the space heater on, and waking up in a smokey crisis. Or not waking up.

We don't have any money to hire someone to change the wiring or inspect it, or anything, really. We don't have DIY electrical experience, and we are both prone to worrying.

We'd like to just get our money back and move the trailer elsewhere- he hasn't stayed there at all since he doesn't have electricty. He's been staying on my couch. But she says there is electricity there and it's our responsibility to figure it out. She has said there will be absolutely no changes made to the electrical supply from the house at all.

We're trying to figure out what we could do - reasonably and safely, on a budget of basically zero.

Name:  DSCF1491.jpg
Views: 6044
Size:  34.0 KB

Name:  DSCF1489.jpg
Views: 3274
Size:  30.7 KB
 
  #12  
Old 11-11-12, 01:35 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 8
Forgot to answer about the two wires in the bottom photo of the first photos I posted - we don't know where any of those wires go. There's a panel on the outside of the trailer- and when you open it, that's what you see- all those wires looking old and messy and scary (to us). It's right above the receptacle that we plug into on the outside of the trailer.
 
  #13  
Old 11-11-12, 01:46 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 8
Closer shot of the wire going into the top of the trailer's 15amp breaker panel.

And slightly clearer shot of the bundle of wires that we see when we open the little door in the outside of the trailer, right near the receptacle we plug into.Name:  DSCF1513.jpg
Views: 4909
Size:  30.7 KB
 
Attached Images  
  #14  
Old 11-11-12, 01:49 PM
ray2047's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 33,044
Also, nobody has mentioned a step-down converter - is that something that would help? Or does that not address the issue?
Not needed. You already have 120 volts at the 50 amp receptacle but the 50 amp breaker is too large for your trailer wiring.

that this is where the weakness would be - from the outside plug to the 15 amp panel inside the trailer.
That is correct.

Although it's not clear to me whether a short while this 240v double pole 50amp power source would make a short more dangerous than while using a 120v 15a source
It would because the wiring would likely catch fire before the 50 amp breaker tripped.

Also, perhaps, there is danger of short from the extension cord going from the trailer, across a dirt path which is the main entrance to the house for 4 people, and up to the outlet - about 5 feet total.
Yes.

It would probably cost less then $40 dollars to build the temp panel and it is the only safe way of doing it short of partially rewiring the trailer.

To partially rewire the trailer you would need to disconnect the trailer wiring from trailer inlet to the trailer breaker box. Then connect a 6-3 SOW cable directly to the breaker panel in place of the old wiring to the inlet. and put a 14-50(or what ever matches the receptacle) plug on the other end. If you do this there are other instructions we will need to give you.

Second solution above assumes trailer breaker box is rated for 60 amps.
 
  #15  
Old 11-12-12, 06:03 AM
Member
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 6,444
Trailer Power

Post a photo of the trailer cord plug. We need to know if the trailer requires 30 amps or 50 amps. The plug will tell us. Most likely yours is 30 amp. Does the trailer have one or two air conditioners?
 
  #16  
Old 11-12-12, 06:36 AM
GregH's Avatar
Super Moderator
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Manitoba
Posts: 9,750
Ok, I now have a clear picture of what you are trying to do.

First off, the power adapter I was recommending was under the mistaken assumption that you were going to hook up to a standard RV receptacle.
The receptacle in the picture appears to be a standard range plug.
You are getting a confusing array of suggestions but I think that the best one you listed above was "don't do it" .

An RV adapter is for a temporary connection and what you are doing is not temporary.
You are also trying to use the camper for something it wasn't intended for and that is as a residence.

IMO for this to be safe you would need to be able to plug into a receptacle that is protected by a 15 amp breaker which would also involve rewiring the receptacle or installing a temporary electrical panel which has already been suggested.

Also, space heaters are not meant as a permanent heating source and in the weather you folks get I am sure it will be running continuously and likely not raising the temp enough to be comfortable.

It really sounds like this is a disaster waiting to happen.

The idea to help a band mate is more than generous but things will be a lot simpler and safer if he stayed on your couch or got a part time job that allowed him to get his own place!
 
  #17  
Old 11-12-12, 07:36 AM
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Hamilton County, Ohio
Posts: 4,292
Is it my imagination or, in Post #13, is some of that wiring done with zip cord? If so, that can't be good.
 
  #18  
Old 11-12-12, 08:08 AM
GregH's Avatar
Super Moderator
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Manitoba
Posts: 9,750
Oh ya.
The picture of the wiring appears to be a mix of 120 volt and 12 volt dc power.
There likely is a 120ac to 12 volt DC converter there somewhere...........I hope!
 
  #19  
Old 11-12-12, 08:48 AM
ray2047's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 33,044
We're afraid it's not safe, and imagine him falling asleep with the space heater on, and waking up in a smokey crisis. Or not waking up.
There is absolutely NO way an electric heater could be used in this situation and a propane heater would introduce just as many if not more safety issues. I missed the heater question before. Had I seen it I would have stopped right there giving answers.

I agree with Greg this just can't be done safely.
 
  #20  
Old 11-14-12, 04:19 AM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 8
Thank you all so much. I'm touched that so many people take the time to put thought into this safety issue and give warnings. Gives me hope in humanity - which I don't have much of anymore!

Anyway, I will take all the advice to heart and give it all to my bandmate. I've learned a lot from your answers.

He's getting his money back, and moving the trailer away from those 240v outlets for good. Not sure if he'll keep living in the trailer elsewhere, but maybe I better get life insurance on him if he does .
 
  #21  
Old 11-14-12, 06:51 AM
ray2047's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 33,044
The real problem here is constraints on how the trailer was wired and original purpose. You could rewire the trailer in a safe way to be more suitable for full time habitation but that would cost I suspect more money then you can afford at this time.
 
Reply

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Display Modes