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Old 08-11-2010, 06:10 AM   #1
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Hughes autoformer versus buck and boost

I was wondering if there are any electricians out there that has built their own buck and boost transformer instead of buying a unit such as the Hughes Autoformer. I was talking to an electrician today and he said he was going to build his own. From what I understand the transformers are already wired per your specs. Example 120 volts 50 amps and +/- 10%. Am I wrong?
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Old 08-11-2010, 06:48 AM   #2
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I thought about it myself when repairing my unit. The advantage to the auto units is the fact that they track the voltage drop in real time and apply the proper boost according to the need at the time. In my experience the voltage varies over the course of the day as the demand changes and i did not want to have to manually keep up with it or just apply a boost all the time and risk have an over voltage condition.
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Old 08-11-2010, 07:33 AM   #3
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If you listen to the sales people there are more things than voltage (high/low) problems the Hughes and others handle with their units. My Hughes checks polarity when you plug it in. Others do more than that. So, if voltage problems are the only thing you are concerned about, you could build your own. I wouldn't recommend it.

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Old 08-11-2010, 11:22 AM   #4
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Check the patents (uspto.gov search). I took a look through the one for Frank's autoformer and found it an interesting description but I am still wondering about why some things were done the way they were. It has me doing a bit of learning about transformers.

The RV autoformers are typically just boost devices. The Hughs is a one step at 10% and the Franks a 2 step at about 8% each step. They typically have a voltage sensor that will shut down on over and under voltage and switch in the autoformer over the low voltage range. Relays are used for the switching. Despite marketing claims, I haven't see much as far as surge and spike protections or other such things. There are other devices that have a focus on power quality that should be used if that is important.

See Park Voltage Compensators (autoformers) for some links to several manufacturers and some other information

The transformers used are fairly common and sometimes used for 12v (1:10 windings) step down service for yard devices. They often have four windings that can be configured in a number of ways, including a 10% step up autoformer. RV autoformers aren't really that complicated and any EE with a good understanding of transformers and voltage comparators should be able to build his own. From the market, it appears a few have and built a sideline business at it.

Since the price is about $400, an autoformer is really something to add to the RV supplies only if you spend a lot of time in parks running the AC and find voltages often drop below 110v at your preferred places.
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Old 08-11-2010, 12:06 PM   #5
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First if you are going to do a 50 amp rig you need TWO transformers and you have to pay attention to phasing.. (Don't mix the wires up)

That said the auto former kicks in when needed, a "home brew" unless you design a control board.. Will have to be engaged manually

Beyond that.. I have built such devices on a much smaller level.. (like 1 amp) never on the 50 amp level.
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Old 08-11-2010, 12:43 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by paintman607 View Post
I was wondering if there are any electricians out there that has built their own buck and boost transformer instead of buying a unit such as the Hughes Autoformer. I was talking to an electrician today and he said he was going to build his own. From what I understand the transformers are already wired per your specs. Example 120 volts 50 amps and +/- 10%. Am I wrong?
You will never need an autoformer on a 50 amp service. Parks that advertise 50 amp service have updated their electrical system and is not prone to voltage problems unless they originate somewhere out on the distribution circuit that feeds the RV park. If you do encounter a problem, it will be on a 30 amp service. There are some parks that prohibit the use of autoformers because of the negative effects they have on their system. My advice to you would be to invest in a good surge protector with a high joule rating.

The information on the referred to web page is pure garbage that is full of technical inaccuracies and misstatements. The golden rule of the internet is don't believe everything you read on the internet and believe nothing that's written unless the author's name is on it.
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Old 08-11-2010, 12:58 PM   #7
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re: "The information on the referred to web page is pure garbage that is full of technical inaccuracies and misstatements. The golden rule of the internet is don't believe everything you read on the internet and believe nothing that's written unless the author's name is on it."

Good advice but what web page are you referring to and what do you consider to be the "technical inaccuracies and misstatements" ?

The caveat about web sites applies very specifically to discussion forums (like this) as well, especially with folks who offer unsupported blanket assertions without any rationale to back up the conclusions that can be evaluated for integrity.
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Old 08-11-2010, 05:58 PM   #8
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I suspect it is the PARK VOLTAGE COMPENSATORS link listed above.. I did go to that page and yes there are some errors there. I will let the person who first said that explain them.

The errors I found were not critical.. But I did not read in depth.

To the person who said "You don't need it on 50 amps"

The first time I needed mine. was on a 50 amp park that was all but empty.. The area power company was putting out low voltage (Not the park's fault)
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Old 08-11-2010, 06:55 PM   #9
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I'd be really interested to know what errors you see. It seems to me to be rather irresponsible to be casting aspersions with no basis given.

If there are errors made in web pages or forum discussions, I think we have a responsibility to everyone to make it clear what it is we think is in error and why. That way, corrections can be made, perceptions clarified, and everyone can learn something.

Of course, we might also find that the person claiming that there are errors might be in error himself or might have misunderstood something, or taken something out of context. That happens, too.

I can tell the author to make corrections if need be but I don't see anything that needs correcting so I am curious as to what I am missing as well. I'd hate to think the comments here about errors were really some sort of bogus hate campaign driven by inflated egos or something.
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Old 08-11-2010, 07:30 PM   #10
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The first time I needed mine. was on a 50 amp park that was all but empty.. The area power company was putting out low voltage (Not the park's fault)

I guess we really shouldn't gloss over the fact that the RVer probably doesn't give a damn whether a power issue actually originates from the power company, OR the park - he simply wants it HANDLED, PERIOD!

I remember voltage stabilizing autotransformers from many years back - then, they were large, bulky, and heavy. In addition, their size was in direct proportion to the wattage they could handle - and one for a modern MH would be the size of a large microwave oven, and weigh several hundred pounds.

Guess things have changed a lot in the last 50 years...
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Old 08-11-2010, 07:45 PM   #11
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The only place that my surge guard dropped out was on a freshly wired 50 Amp camp site. Shut down to low voltage. Serveral A/C compressors got smoked that day. So IMO some one should review their statement and present some hard verified facts.
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Old 08-11-2010, 08:25 PM   #12
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I'd be really interested to know what errors you see. It seems to me to be rather irresponsible to be casting aspersions with no basis given.
Well.. One error is they referred to power line conditioners.. A power line conditioner capable of either a 30 or 50 amp rig is several thousands of dollars worth of converter/battery/inverter.. Power is brought into the converter, converted to some voltage DC which is fed to the batteries and then fed to a True Sine Wave inverter which in turn delivers power to the loads.

What they meant to say was Power Guard.. This is a device that monitors voltage and/or frequency and/or waveform and cuts off all power if the power is not "Within Spec" It often contains some MOV spike supressors as well. It is what some folks call a surge guard.. And.. It is a surge guard because in a SURGE the voltage will go outside of spec long enough to cause it to trip off.

Surge guard strips (the kind with six outlets) are spike supressors. (If you get a surge they sound like July-4 at the park.. IF you need to ask how I know that.. .... Well.. Been there, Heard that)
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Old 08-11-2010, 10:14 PM   #13
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An autoformer is like insurance some people carry more than others. If you feel the need to have one on your RV that's fine. The OP said he wanted to build one and I pointed out their putfalls. He would be better served by installing a good quality surge protector, as I'm sure you will all agree, which the OP never mentioned. As one of the posters mentioned, he was at at park that had low voltage where a few people suffered damage but his surge protector saved him, not an autoformer. If autoformers were so useful don't you think more RV'ers would have them and coach builders would either include them as, at least, an option? I suppose the real high end coaches have them. It just seems odd to me that some people live their entire life in a stick and brick house, subjected to the same low voltage condition as an RV park as mentioned, and never think about an autoformer; but they get into an RV and it becomes a necessary item. If you were to take a survey of the people on this forum of who has autoformers I don't think the percentage that do will get out of the single digits.
Now if you talk about surge protection I'm with you. I just thing the low voltage cutoff point is set too low but in all the time I've been Rving I've only had the device operate once, just lucky I guess.
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Old 08-11-2010, 11:04 PM   #14
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re: "Well.. One error is they referred to power line conditioners." -- yeah that's where trouble often comes. To call that an error is, I think, extreme. It is taking things out of context, which is the typical RV user and not a technical discussion by a bunch of power engineers. It makes me think someone was looking to find fault and not looking to understand what was being said as using a more proper technical term would change nothing.

re: "It just seems odd to me that some people live their entire life in a stick and brick house, subjected to the same low voltage condition as an RV park as mentioned, and never think about an autoformer." -- I have a Variac on my oven because the gas valves in it won't work when all the neighbors turn on their coolers and the voltage drops. But an RV park is not your home and you don't know what might need repair. Consider Sean's experience at Just missing the heat wave as an example. Most of the time you'll get good power when you can plug in, but every now and then you can find wiring or other problems
that might make it worthwhile. Your call depending upon where you go and what you have at stake.
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