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Old 12-24-2012, 07:56 AM   #1
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Five electrical outlets- inverter/120v shore stopped working-HELP

We are on the road in our 03 Alpine Coach, miles from a repair shop, & have an unexpected electrical situation & need direction how to repair, please. None of the electrical recepticals in the kitchen (3), basement (1), or bath sink (1) has power.

The GFIC at the bath sink has kicked out from time to time as we use the vacuum cleaner for extended periods since we have owned the coach. Recently, it kicked out while on shore power and I reset it. Later in the day, it had kicked out again without vacuum cleaner use. This time it did not reset & I assumed the GFIC was bad. (We depend on this circuit to power a low amp C110 Dometic freezer-refrigerator in the basement since 2010, the vacuum cleaner, and random kitchen appliances).

A trip to a Home Depot I replaced the old GFIC with a new 20 amp GFIC and the green light on the new GFIC showing power on the uphill side from the breaker. It still did not reset reflecting a problem in the circuit. I opened all outlets to check for a loose/problem wire and checked each time if the GFIC would reset when I had each open. All outlets seemed in OK. Later the green light on the GFIC went out reflecting loss of power to the GFIC from the breaker. I've reset the breaker several times with no luck! The inverter powers the microwave OK when disconnected from shore power on a seperate circuit.

Removing the cover on the Cuttler-Hammer breaker box, I observe white insulation on the neutral wires going into the block shows these wires have heated up and only at the block. All the screws securing wires are tight in the breaker box.

Would appreciate hearing from anyone that has resolved this problem or has suggestions what steps should be taken to resolve this electrical problem!!
Thank You!!
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Old 12-24-2012, 08:05 AM   #2
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Check all AC connections for tightness all the way to gen and shore power pedestal. To me it sounds like a loose neutral that could be anywhere in your system........most likely in the AC panel or before it. Transfer switch connections are subject to getting loose. Hope this helps. Good luck and Merry Christmas
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Old 12-24-2012, 08:18 AM   #3
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The list of outlets you cited are often INVERTER powered, you also stated the inverter is not working.

MANY inverters have one or two curcuit breakers, often post type (PUSH HARD to reset) and sometimes they mount them so the breakers are hard to find (Hidden on the back for example).

Of course that is "Best case" worst case is ... More expensive.
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Old 12-24-2012, 08:25 AM   #4
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KIX,
Thank you for your suggestions. I see you are from Florida and we are many miles from home in Key West. We return to the Miami area on the 28th.

I have previously tightened all connections in the AC breaker box, and checked all connections in the breaker box the inverter sends power when not on shore power. Where are the Transfer Switch Connections you indicate are subject to loosen. I can go through a process of checking all connections you suggested.
Thanks again!!
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Old 12-24-2012, 08:52 AM   #5
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A few years back I lost my power on the circuit to the GFCI in the bath. I found an issue between it and the circuit breaker. I never found the exact problem, but I ran a new romex wire between the two. It was not the hardest job, but it did take some body twisting to accomplish.

I think another issue I found was the power outlet that the vac uses and probably the one you have plugged your refrigerator into in the basement. I found a slightly loose connection.

Good luck and hopefully it is a simple fix for you.
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Old 12-24-2012, 09:18 AM   #6
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While you are checking all connections (and I assume you are disconnected from shore/genset/inverter), try this:

Instead of tightening, note the position of the screw slot, loosen the connection 1/2 turn, and re-tighten. Note the screw position to see if it was possible to get it tighter. Sometimes a loose connection can cause enough heat to make the screw seize ... that makes it feel tight when it is still slightly loose.

Also, if not already done, pick up an outlet tester (like this) and check each outlet.

GCFI Receptacle Tester-RT200 at The Home Depot
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Old 12-24-2012, 09:31 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KIX View Post
Transfer switch connections are subject to getting loose.
I'll go along with that. Neutral went open on ours costing our insurance company some money like microwave/convection oven, central vac, TV, ice maker, the transfer switch and some smaller stuff.

rbguinn The transfer switch will likely be in the electrical bay where your power cord is. At least ours is. It will be a box of some kind with leads from the shore power cord, the generator and the load side to the RV. Be sure to unplug and turn off the inverter if you have one before putting your hands in there. It might have a terminal strip with screw downs or hex heads or wire nuts depending on manufacturer and age.
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Old 12-24-2012, 09:49 AM   #8
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Inverter

Check the front of your inverter sometimes a reset is hidden behind one of the big cables.
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Old 12-24-2012, 10:05 AM   #9
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Are there any other outlets supplied from the inverter that work? does the microwave work when on shore power or only inverted ? trying isolate if your problem is inverter or gfi circuit, also, did you try running on generator? you may have a neutral ground imbalance on incoming shore power
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Old 12-24-2012, 10:46 AM   #10
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Thanks

Thank you to all of you that have responded with suggestions and any others that have any additional suggestions!!

Bruceisla you wrote, "Instead of tightening, note the position of the screw slot, loosen the connection 1/2 turn, and re-tighten. Note the screw position to see if it was possible to get it tighter. Sometimes a loose connection can cause enough heat to make the screw seize ... that makes it feel tight when it is still slightly loose." I like this tip & will remember it from this point on.... thanks!

Jim Bragg, I've looked at the front of the Inverter and did not see a reset button. Will look again. The inverter, at least a part of it, works for the microwave. Thanks Jim!

Rich & Cork, I hope it does not require routing a new romex to the bath outlet. This would be an almost impossible task as the electrical is on the opposite side of the coach. Will have to be creative if it comes to this solution!! Thanks!

Frutza, The microwave works great on shore power and does not go through a GFCI. We hardly ever use it on the inverter as it makes a funny sound.

We have experienced the same problem with our system at two differnet parks. I'm hopeful we don't have a neutral ground imbalance on incoming shore power. We always check out the shore power with a bone and meters to insure it is a good source and send it though a surge protector before we are fully connected. I assume the surge protector would kick the system off if there is any problem from a neutral ground imbalance. Will check out what you suggest with the microwave. Thanks for your suggestions!
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Old 12-24-2012, 08:38 PM   #11
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Verify power to the GFI is good by disconnecting "load" side wires. If reset works(green light comes on) problem is downstream from GFI. You didn't mention model coach, but generally there is also an outlet at a curbside dinette. and to make tracing more difficult there are also some junction boxes in the circuit downstrean from the GFI. And finally be sure all junction and outlets boxes are dry..moisture will trip the GFI in our coaches. (It would cause me too much pain to explain why I know that.) Good luck, Matt
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Old 12-25-2012, 01:25 AM   #12
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GFI receptacles are confusing to wire especially when there are trailing receptacles. If you just copied what was there originally, dig out the instruction sheet that came with the GFI and inspect the wiring again. Look for a reversal of the connections between the supply and trailing plug wiring.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rbguinn View Post

. . .

Removing the cover on the Cuttler-Hammer breaker box, I observe white insulation on the neutral wires going into the block shows these wires have heated up and only at the block. All the screws securing wires are tight in the breaker box.

. . .
This is a big clue. Another poster mentions a neutral fault.

Disconnect all appliances and see if the problem remains. Connect one device at a time until problem re-occurs.

If the problem remains with all the circuits disconnected. Disconnect the electrical service and then replace the associated Cuttler-Hammer circuit breaker--it's a quick easy inexpensive check.

Next: You may have an incorrectly wired circuit. It may have been miss-wired all along or wires may have moved due to vibrations.

Disconnect the electrical service. Then open each box on the troubled circuit. Then look to see:
--there are no cooked wires or black arc spots in each box;
--check the wire nuts to see they are tight on all wires entering each nut;
--check that the colors of the wires are matched at all circuit joints;
--check that the white wires go to the proper side of the receptacle--white, neutral, goes to silver screw (wide socket blade) black, hot, goes to gold screw (narrow socket blade). Buying a polarity checker (a gizmo that plugs into a receptacle with three colored lights on the top) at a hardware store can help with this check.
--Also while you have the boxes open, check that all ground wires (bare and/or and green wires) are separated from the white, black, or red wires and do not connect to anything but ground points (green screws on receptacles are a legitimate ground connection).
--Insure that when you smash the receptacle back into the box the ground does not inadvertently contact a hot wire or neutral wire. Or that any wire touches something it is not already connected to.
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Old 12-25-2012, 05:48 AM   #13
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What model inverter do you have?
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Old 12-25-2012, 07:39 AM   #14
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How many breakers are in the Cuttler hammer box? is the gfi feed with a 20 amp breaker? if theres 2 breakers, try switching the wires with another circuit, to see if the problem stays on that circuit or changes, you may also want to check the breaker connection, the clip on the back side that holds it to the buss bar, they can get as hot as the neutral connection and not be seen, do you also have another 110v breaker box?
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