How to Camp With Electricity Hook-Ups
The camping scene has started having an increasingly important feature called electric hook-ups (EHU).
The whole idea for many campers is to get away from daily life. But even when they’re vacationing in tents or parked in their campers, some want to have their home comforts and electricity at hand.
What are the Choices?
Few, if any, reputable camping parks permit on-site generators, partially because of the noise but also because of the danger of discharging carbon monoxide and other gases around tents, which could be fatal.
Leisure batteries may provide lighting or other low-power applications with a small amount of energy. Still, they are heavy to move around, and you’ll always need some electrical supply to recharge them once they’re drained. And, particularly on appliances with higher power requirements, they won’t last long.
In a vehicle, either off the battery terminals or via the lighter socket, there are different methods of drawing 12-volt direct current (DC) from car batteries, or you can get power inverters that convert the 12-volt DC supply to 240-volt alternating current (AC) close to the domestic supply.
An EHU is simply a way for your tent or camper to be linked to the main-line electricity. But it’s not as easy as simply plugging your computer into a socket on the wall at home.
You will need an electric hook-up cable first. Camper owners are likely to have one shipped with their vehicles, and if not, they would have to consult with the suppliers to decide the correct form for them. Many consist of a plug at one end for the EHU socket and a socket that plugs into the camper. Before connecting, make sure all electrical services inside the camper are isolated and ensure that any spare cable is not left in a coil, as this may cause the cable to get hot.
Switch on the supply after you’re all plugged in. If the trip switch throws at some point during this phase, make sure that all the camper utilities have been switched off, but if it still throws, it will need more expert investigation. The wire, the wiring in the camper, or the EHU itself may be at fault.
The supply for a tent is similar to that mentioned above. EHU cables for tents have a male end to plug into the EHU socket instead of providing a “male end” and a “female end.” Preferably, a specialized camping user unit with its own residual current devices (RCD) for your protection will be at the other end.
At 240 volts (the same as domestic supply), most EHUs can supply electricity, but that’s only half the problem. The current they supply (the amps) is limited for safety reasons, usually to 10 amps, but some provide 12 or 16 amp supplies. This number needs to be understood because if the current drawn from the EHU reaches the limit, you can throw the trip and cut off the electrical supply. This could be irritating for you, but you could also throw other trips further up the line that will be annoying for anyone else—and not conducive to making friends with the other campers!
It would be best if you made sure that all your equipment— wires, plugs, and everything you’re going to control—is safe and in good working order to avoid blacking out your camper and those around you. Portable Appliance Tests (PAT) on their package, including the EHU socket, will be carried out by the camping park. So, for your protection and peace of mind, it’s something you would want to do before you leave home with your kit. You must at least ensure that any equipment you want to use is secure and in good working order.
For each piece of the electrical equipment you want to use, you’ll also need to know the power specifications. It’s important to know when you live off of an EHU.
The power drawn by an electrical appliance is the product of the voltage of the supply and the current it uses. Since the supply from the EHU is known to us— 240 volts—and the power requirement of most appliances is written on a label on the back of the base, it is pretty easy to calculate the number of amps the appliance would draw.
Power (watts) = current (amps) x voltage
Many experienced EHU campers use tools to boil water, like gas or portable stoves, or they invest in special electric “camping kettles” that need less electricity.
Kettles are, for their size, strength, and current, energy-hungry beasts. To raise the temperature of a liter of water to the boiling point takes a large amount of energy, and the only way an electric kettle gets that energy is through the electric wire. Heaters may be hungry in equal measure.
That’s why it’s beneficial to think carefully about what electrical equipment you’re going to take camping before you leave and match it to the supply you’ll receive from the EHU. You could turn everything on at once; you won’t need to limit yourself to just those items that your supply would support. But you need to think about which things you can run simultaneously and which ones you just can’t. And don’t forget, some appliances have electric current demand spikes that can surpass what they attract the rest of the time.
All this can seem like a bit of a hassle (although this is a beautiful job for the kids, as long as you check their math!). But if you feel like you can’t camp without them, it’s a small price to pay for those little electric luxuries (or necessities). After all, no power or a dead battery is the alternative. An EHU is a real luxury compared to that—in the middle of a camping area in particular!
If you are disappointed because the supply of the EHU is not enough to power any electrical household and leisure you would like to bring with you, don’t forget that your household supply draws ten times or more current than the EHU. And though it’s not quite the same thing, you wouldn’t expect the Massive Hadron Collider to fire up your household supplies. So, why would you need a supply to fuel a fridge, kettle, TV, DVD player, electric heater, and Aunty Nellie’s iron lung for a tent or camper?
It’s all about finding out what’s available today and how much you like. Just in case you or your neighbors get it wrong, make sure you still have a flashlight nearby!
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