RV Mod – Installing Our Winter RVing Secret Weapon

TheRVgeeks Electrical, Updates & Upgrades, Winter RVing 56 Comments

In our previous post, we talked about why some RVers, including full-timers, sometimes stay North in the winter. Today we’ll show you exactly how we installed a special mod to make winter RVing better than ever!

If you saw our last video, we talked about planning a new secret weapon for staying warm while wintering on a 30-amp campsite without propane readily available. Now we’ll show you the step-by step DIY tutorial of us installing one of the best mods we’ve ever done. It’s a simple way to increase the available power in our RV, allowing us to keep warm without burning through our propane, and without juggling electrical loads.

If you’re a competent DIY RVer, but a little skittish about handling electricity, you’ll like this project. Even though it involves working with 110-volt household power lines, there is basically zero risk of getting shocked. You don’t even have to turn off the power while doing the entire job, and it’s perfectly safe to touch all the wires!

Are you wondering how such a thing is possible? Watch the video to find out how! (hint: you can’t get shocked when your electrical project isn’t connected to anything). wink


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We're handy RVers, not professional technicians. We're happy with the techniques and products we use, but be sure to confirm that all methods and materials you use are compatible with your equipment and abilities. Regardless of what we recommend, consult a professional if you're unsure about working on your RV. Any task you perform or product you purchase based on any information we provide is strictly at your own risk.

We sometimes receive products for evaluation at no cost, and The RVgeeks are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. But our opinions are our own, you won’t pay an extra penny, and we only link to products we personally use, love and can recommend to friends with complete confidence.


Comments 56

  1. Really love your diy’s. Planning on doing this to my motorhome but I have one question about the project. Why did you use the Leviton 5478-CWP-20 amp 250 volt instead of the Leviton 15378-CWP-20 amp 125 volt since the 20 amp outlet is 125 volts? The reason I ask is I know you went heavy on the wire so was this just a decision to go heavy on the outlet? Looking forward to your next video, always good stuff.

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      Hi Richard! Holy cow! We DIDN’T use a 250-volt inlet, but we just checked, and the listing for the 250-volt inlet on Amazon has the wrong photo, showing a picture of a 125-volt inlet instead of a 250-volt inlet, which made us think it’s the 125! We missed that! We just went in and changed the link in the post, on our favorite gear page, and in the YouTube video description. If you look at the link we’re using now ( http://amzn.to/2EGuHEB ), you’ll see that it now goes to the correct 125-volt inlet, which is indeed the one we used. If you look at Amazon’s listing for the 250-volt inlet ( http://amzn.to/2DMc1oB ), you can see that the pin arrangement is NEMA 5-20P, which is the wrong photo for that product! That’s the 125-volt model. Thanks so much for catching that, Richard. You are a lifesaver!

  2. This is possible only if the park wiring is sized to provide 50 amps to your pedestal. In many parks you can connect to one or the other but not both. The pedestal supply line is connected to a circuit breaker at the distribution box that will only allow the maximum current draw of 30 amps to protect this supply line. For this reason, many park are not going to like your modification.

  3. Enjoyed your Video But I have one suggestion for you when installing the outlet it is a good practice to put black electrical tape around the out screws in case you have to pull the outlet out in case there is power still there. I know in this situation you would not need it because you could just disconnect the incoming power extension cord but for further references you might suggest this to your viewers. I have been an Electrician for 40 years and this is all about Safety.

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  4. I really like that you spent just a little extra $$ to boost the safety factor, by going with 20A service ALL the way. Most people don’t understand electricity and, are also unwilling either to learn OR pay to have a COMPETENT electrician do the work (and many “household” electricians, when it comes to the peculiarities of RV electric, really are not competent).

    I took Trade Electric 1 & 2 ~ 1999. I was the ONLY homeowner in the class (all the other members were electrical apprentices). We started with ~ 16 students and, at the end of the class, only EIGHT were left (and each class cost ~ $500! Most of the apprentices had dropped out and, they did NOT receive a refund!). The author of course manual stated he expected the next release of the NEC (National Electric Code) would REQUIRE the GROUND prong to be at 12 o’clock (or 9 o’clock for horizontal installations) as having the ground there was slightly safer. Obviously, that requirement was NOT included as today, most 15A (and 20A) outlets, have their ground prong installed at the 6 o’clock or 3 o’clock position). You’ll note that on HIGH AMP outlets (30A & 50A), the GROUND prong IS at 12 o’clock.

    Thank you for your GREAT videos! I regularly recommend them to other RVers (especially NEW RVers). My only disappointment is that I didn’t win anything in the last big give-a-way :(

    Again, THANK YOU!
    Regards,
    John Koenig

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  5. Thanks for another great idea with a video to make it easier to follow. We don’t do cold weather so we have no need for an extra heaters but we do have a similar system as yours for the fridge when we are on a 30 amp supply. We are not looking for “more power” but on lots of occasions the water heater or something will come on while the boss is doing come cooking and trip the 30 amp supply which is no problem when we are there but if we are out and we loose the 30 amp supply we also loose the refrigerator so I now connect the fridge to the separate 15 or 20 amp supply so that if the 30 amp trips the fridge will still keep working.

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  6. A way that outlet wiring is identified here in Missouri is to remember “black to brass.” I work in the electrical department at a local Lowe’s, and it’s all many people can do to flip a light switch on and off. I have customers that are terrified to replace a receptacle for fear of mis-wiring it. Usually giving them the b to b analogy is something that inspires a bit of confidence for them. Great video, by the way.

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  7. Hi Guys! Another great project I plan on installing in our ‘05 45’ HR Navigator. My question is – do you use any additional window insulation such as the silver bubble sheets? We’ve been in Indiana when the temps have dropped into the negative ranges and found this product dramatically improved our ability to warm our coach. We are additionally blessed with our Aqua-Hot heating system. It is an older model and can at times throw out a diesel exhaust smell, but well worth that small inconvenience. With 150 gallons of diesel on board we can park for a long period without the worry of refueling. Stay warm and enjoy 2018! Looking forward to your next project.

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      Hey Dan… thanks! And we hope your install goes smoothly! As for insulation, we’ve heard lots of good things about using the reflective bubble sheets in windows to keep both cold AND heat out, but we’ve never used it ourselves. We do our best to avoid too extreme of temperatures (fifteen years of winter snowbirding have made us soft)… so while we’re wintering north this year, the temps in southern British Columbia don’t reach the lows that you’re getting in Indiana! When it gets around 25ºF (-4ºC), we’ll at least close the light-filtering blinds to add an extra layer of insulation… and if it’s REALLY cold, we’ll pull the room darkening shade for even more. But being this far north, we’re generally loathe to block out too much light, since we get so little of it this time of year. The sun barely makes it up off the horizon before it starts setting again, LOL!

      1. We are actually Okies with kids in Indiana. Fun Fact, we spent 3 weeks broke down in Williams Lake, BC. Met some wonderful folks we are still in touch and hope to see later this summer. Any plans on an Alaska trip? Quite the challenge.

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          1. If you do decide to head north. Get in touch with us -or even stay at our house (30A). We can give you directions to sites you would miss if you just motored through.

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  8. Love your videos always informative and professional. My question is about the heater. Could you provide me with more information about it?

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      Hey Chris,

      Thanks! Glad you liked it! That Delonghi heater is a convection unit, so it works by creating a column of heated air that, as it rises, pulls cool air from the floor in and heats it. It’s been very effective at keeping our entire living area (living/dining/kitchen) comfortably warm (without drafts or cold spots) with outside temperatures in the upper 20s. You can see more detail about it on Amazon or on Delonghi’s website directly.

      Hope this helps… but let us know if there’s something more specific you want to know about our experience with it so far.

  9. This is another step by step video designed with the DIYER in mind. It is an excellent step by that gives all the tools and such to make it simple. I bet there will be a bunch of folks who will now attempt a DIY project that they have put off due to the challenge of working with electrical hookups and such.The subject brought me back to an early (th grade shop class project. It’s always to view a refresher project and now I guess the bride will see this and say…” well Mr. are you still going to put that outlet project off longer ” and with that I’ll say ” I’ll do it tomorrow …babe” and she’ll say ” why tomorrow …you not doing anything today” with that I’ll say but I’m not finished with yesterday and it carried over to today and that is when the fight started !” Ha!!! A fantastic start for 2018!!

    < FISH <

    y so why tomorrow

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      LOL! Sorry to hear that our video caused a domestic squabble, Mike! Hope the Mrs. finds it in her heart to forgive you when she sees what a good job you do on the project! 😉

  10. I’ve been working with electricity for over 50 years. I love your workmanship and cleanliness.. Doesn’t cost any more to do it right & you do it right.

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      Thank you so much James. We always work hard to learn the correct nuances of tasks that aren’t within our purview (neither one of us is an electrician). So your comment totally just made our day.

  11. did you do the work yourselves or hire an electrician? I noticed little things that only an electrician would know. I have watched my son do electrical work and he does stuff like you did in your video. one would ask what things, LOL I will let you know someday. Oh those things are nothing to do with the right way or wrong way but little things that have to do with detail

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      Thanks very much Pius. We did all of the work ourselves. Whenever we take on a task that people usually call a pro for (electrical or plumbing typically), we watch YouTube videos from pros to learn the right way to do it. We don’t always get it all right, but we do try to avoid some of the obvious mistakes that we see out there. And the attention to detail mostly comes from a little OCD. LOL

  12. How are you keeping your water lines from freezing? Last year we had all our plumbing lines freeze and had to replace all of our motorhomes plumbing lines. We live in the State of Washington and were traveling to the Oregon Coast to spend the Winter. We should have traveled completely blown out until we reached the coast, but we thought the heat inside the motorhome would keep the lines warm enough. We put trouble lights in the hold where the pump and lines come in at, and did not fill the hot water tank at all. The pump froze before we reached our first destination. You have to travel in a blown out state, no water in tanks, clean, gray or black. What a disaster…. We spend over a week in a hotel while new water lines, pumps, faucets and seals were installed at a pretty hefty price. Expensive lesson learned. Don’t think I would chance what you guys are doing considering what we have been though, but I do like the heaters, because we don’t go all the way south for the Winter and hate going for propane all the time. Need safe and economical electric heat sources for the Oregon Coast. That’s where we love to spend our Winter.

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      Sorry to hear about what an ordeal you went through, Jenny & Mike. When we’re parked in a campsite and the temps get down near or below freezing, we keep a 60-watt incandescent trouble light bulb on in the water compartment, just as you mentioned, and we’ve never had a problem, even with temps down into the low 20’s and even into the teens a few times. In our very first video about winter RVing many years ago, we also showed how we keep the outdoor remote sending module from our indoor/outdoor thermometer in the water bay as well, allowing us to monitor the temperature in there at all times. We’re wondering what the R-rating your basement is listed as. Ours is supposedly R-4, which doesn’t seem all that high, but again, we’ve never had a problem. A couple of questions…. what is the year, make & model of your RV, how cold did it get on your trip (if you know), how long was the trip, and are you certain that the light bulbs in the water bay were still working when you arrived at your destination?

      1. From even my boating days a 60 watt bulb does wonders in all but VERY extreme weather. That compartment is small. Couple that with the propane furnace heat. JMHO

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          It really is amazing how much heat those old 60-watt incandescent bulbs put out! In our very first video about winter RVing many years ago, we also showed how we keep the outdoor remote sending module from our indoor/outdoor thermometer in the water bay as well, allowing us to monitor the temperature in there at all times. When it gets REALLY cold, the furnace gets turned on to make sure nothing will freeze.

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      Sorry about that… but it IS a pretty fun & easy project that’s well worth it if you spend any time in cold weather (or for running a super-powerful blender for margaritas if you’re in the sun & warmth, LOL!)! ;)

      1. Harry :. Nice article and meticulous as usual . I do have one question though . I’m not sure if you have a surge protection for your main 50 amp hook up or not . I’d figured that you do . It appears this circuit doesn’t have any surge protection. Did I miss something ? I really do like this idea and will add it to my list of projects .

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          Thanks Harry! Glad you like our mod. We’re really happy with it so far, and it’s been in the low 30s and upper 20s quite a lot. So far so good. As far as surge protection, we do indeed have whole-house surge/spike protection on our 50-amp cord, so you’re correct…. there is no surge protection on this new line. But since the only thing we’ll be using on that circuit is a single heater, we’d be reticent to spend the money on a surge protector for it, since that would literally cost more than the heater. And we’ve actually never experienced a power surge in all the time we’ve been full-timing (coming up on 15 years), so even though we know it can happen, we figure that it’s so unusual we’re not too worried about it.

  13. Certainly a more elegant (and safer) alternative to my running a heavy extension cord through a cracked window! It accomplishes the same thing but leaves a cord to trip over and draft where I can’t seal the window, Need to see of I have real estate over the wet bay to do this. Great video—as always from you.

    1. BTW, this is not for just when you only have 30 amp service. Sure we have plenty of amps with 50 but it is the internal circuitry distribution. On my 40X there are 2 circuits. We have two electric heaters so they need to be on different branches. Turn on the coffee pot, hair dryer, etc and a breaker trip is coming. With this solution (and my bad extension cord idea) the one heater can rock on no matter what is on.

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        Excellent point! It would be nice if the RV manufacturers put a little more thought into the distribution of loads on the 50-amp legs. Seems like they all have an issue where everything you want to run… is all on one leg! LOL! Having an extra outlet that’s not on either will definitely come in handy for more than just a heater!

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      Thanks, Steve! And we know what you mean about running the heavy-duty extension cord. We tried the through-the-window trick early on, with the same issues. That’s when we discovered there was a path through our slideout that we could use. But, again, it was a PITA. Any time you wanted to retract the slide, you had to remove the extension cord. We’re definitely loving the simplicity of having an extra “shore power” cord that plugs/unplugs easily!

  14. For folks staying for length at a site with 30-amp service this is a very smart install. In winter having the stand-alone heater would be as comfortable as having a second fan in summer when the 30 amps is needed for fridge and AC.

    A couple of comments – at 35 seconds in you are plugging your 30-amp plug into the park pedestal. The plug does not fully seat because of the circular lip on the inlet box. I have come across this many times and keep a pair of sturdy pliers (like the ones in the video) in my electrical bay and snip off a small section of the lower lip. I like my plug to be fully seated.

    On the interior installation did you consider gluing a 1×2 strip of wood to the back of the wall on the other side of the electrical box? That would stiffen the box up so that pulling the plug would not put all the pressure on the one stud.

    On the electrical bay installation did you check to see what’s on the other side of the wall before pounding in those staples? I have lines going/coming from the Oasis Hot water system at about the places you put those staples.

    Thanks for another excellent DIY project and video. Long time since you did a ‘hand and voice only’ video.

    Happy and Healthy New Years to you and your families.

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      Hi John! Thanks for the great questions. While the plug doesn’t seat 100%, we’ve never had a problem with it, and we don’t clip off the lower lip to avoid the potential for making the outlet no longer weather tight when the lid is closed. We had a back-up plan to re-enforce the wall if needed, but apparently Newmar uses some pretty sturdy material, as it’s solid as a rock, with virtually no flexing, so we didn’t bother. And that’s a great tip about being aware of what’s behind the wall before driving hammer staples (or screws for that matter), but that’s a very thick piece of plywood, and the screws from the transfer switch (which we replaced a couple of years ago) are longer than the staples. Go Newmar! ;-)

  15. In a stix and brix home , natural gas beats electric 99.99%of the time ;both cost and distribution of heat . How do the factors of degree/days, and propane /electric costs , compare.? Capital costs negligible. Nice job BTW. We have a 40 ft DP.

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      Thanks Bruce! Great points. Similar to natural gas, propane is better in both cost and BTUs than electricity. The problem we’re solving here is really one of access/availability, since propane isn’t readily available where we’re staying, and 30 amps is all we’ve got. Normally, we’d heat with propane, but this time, having the ability to use more electricity is our only viable option. Of course we’ll pay the price when the electric bill arrives, but at least we’re comfortable. :)

  16. You guys always amaze! We have no intention of being in snow, but we did get snowed on a year ago September, in Lake Tahoe. I’m pretty sure this could come in handy for other appliances, if you are stuck with only 30 amp service. Thanks…

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      Thanks Rich! We figure that when it’s super hot out in the summer, we’ll need more cooling than the a/c units can supply on 30-amp service, so maybe we’ll use our new outlet to power a giant turbo-charged blender for margaritas. LOL

  17. Good to know. But if you are not using the propane forced air system, then how are you keeping the storage compartments warm and the water lines that run in that space from freezing?

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      Great question, Gerry! When the temps get down near or below freezing, we keep a 60-watt incandescent light bulb on in the water compartment. We showed that in the planning video here, and also in our very first video about winter RVing many years ago. Works like a charm. :)

  18. Great job on a nice install! Since we last spoke, Kathy and I have finally replaced the motorhome with our new downsized…extremely downsized….travel trailer. The new Rockwood Mini Lite 2504s is a big change from the Super-C and this is a mod that I can see might be worth pursuing. Of course lacking basements now makes it a different challenge, but I do believe I’ll be looking into this soon. I think the only thing is going to be installing the 20-amp inlet on the exterior wall like the 30-amp inlet is done. Should be doable…. Kathy should love me drilling a hole in the side of her new trailer and we haven’t even picked it up from the dealer yet :-)))))))) Maybe I should put the drone up to video the excitement :-)

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