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When My RV Is Plugged Into a GFCI Outlet The Power Converter Is Tripping The GFCI

by Steven Beam
(Indiana)

The converter in my 2005 Keystone Challenger 5th wheel causes the GFI to trip everytime I plug in to it. The GFI is 20 amps and the converter circuit breaker is 15 amps. When plugging into a non GFI circuit, everything seems to be OK.

When testing the circuit breaker out to try and identify the problem, no other circuit caused the GFI to trip. When all the circuit breakers were turned off, and the CONV breaker was left on, the GFI again tripped. As long as the CONV is in the off position on the circuit breaker, the GFI does not trip.

Incidently, I tried other GFI outlets to see what would happen, thinking that the one I had been using might be faulty. Every GFI I tried had the same results. So, I can assume that the problem must be at the converter.

I just bought the unit and at the dealers it was hooked up to their power source. No problems were noticed until I got the unit home and attempted to hook up to my garage lines.

The converter now in the unit is new. The old converter burned out due to a power surge. Could it be that the new converter has not been wired up properly and that it is pulling more than the 20 amps on the GFI? Or, could there be some other explanation.

Any ideas?

ANSWER: Hi Steven thanks for submitting your question on our Ask An RV Question Page.

Based on the information you have provided me I can tell you that what you are experiencing is a common issue with certain RV Power Converters and GFCI (Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter also know as GFI) Outlets. The first thing you have to understand is that a GFCI Outlet is a completely different animal from a fuse or circuit breaker.

Fuses and circuit breakers are designed to prevent fires. If you try to pull 20 AMPS on a circuit that is designed for 15 AMPS a circuit breaker will trigger or fuse will burn out and shut off the power to the circuit because too many AMPS are being used which heats up the wiring in the circuit causing the breaker or fuse to trigger.

GFCI Outlets or GFCI Breakers are designed to protect people from getting shocked. That is why you commonly find GFCI outlets in kitchens and bathrooms where electrical appliances could come in contact with water.

A GFCI Outlet or GFCI circuit breaker monitors the difference in the current between the circuit’s ungrounded (hot) and grounded (neutral) wires. If the difference of the current leaving the GFCI device and returning to the GFCI device varies by more then 5 Milliamps (1000 milliamps = 1 amp) the GFCI device will shut down the power to that circuit. These types of currents are also known as leakage currents.

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So if you are using an electric drill in the kitchen and it is plugged into a GFCI protected circuit and you drop that drill into a sink full of water and instinctively stick your hand in the water to retrieve the drill you should not get shocked as the GFCI device can react as quickly as one-thirtieth of a second. Please do not try to test this theory by purposely dropping a drill in a sink full of water and then trying to pull it out.

OK so what does all of this mumbo jumbo have to do with the problem you are experiencing with your RV? Because GFCI devices trigger at current leakages above 5 milliamps they can cause problem for RVers that have switching type Power Converters in their RV's. These switching type power converters usually have built in input RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) suppression filters to keep high frequency energy off of incoming wiring. During normal operation of the power converter these RFI filters will exceed 5 milliamps of current leakage causing GFCI Devices to trip.

Bottom Line: As long as you are positive that the Power Converter has been installed properly and it is the type I described above; you will always have to plug your RV into a non GFCI protected circuit.

Sorry that I could not be the bearer of better news for you.

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Happy RVing

RVing Al

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