Thursday, July 12, 2007

Just missing the heat wave

We are at Goose Lake State Park, in Oregon, a stone's throw from the California line (map). And when I say "stone's throw" here, I mean it literally.

This is a small park (48 spaces) in a very remote area near lightly-traveled US395. The spaces have water and electricity, and I noticed when we drove in that the pedestals are identical to the ones at our last stop. I'm guessing they were wired by the same "electrician" (and I use that word generously). Having been once burned (somewhat literally), I decided to open up the pedestal here before plugging in.

Good thing I did, because this outlet was also a problem waiting to happen. Once again, a 20-amp service was fitted with a 15-amp receptacle, and, as with the last place, it was a standard residential-type 5-15R such as you might buy at Home Depot for about a dollar (as opposed, for example, to a commercial-grade outlet which will stand up to much harder use). These outlets have "quickwire" terminals on them: in addition to normal screw terminals, there are little holes into which one can just push the ends of the wires. As any real electrician (or code inspector) will tell you, these push-in terminals can only be used with 14-gauge solid wire (many safety experts will tell you not to use them at all).

Just as at the last park, the short hot wire from the breaker was a #14 stranded wire. Nevertheless, it had been pushed in to a quickwire hole. It looks to have been twisted and soldered first -- I would guess that all 48 hot jumpers had been prepared this way in advance. Twisting and soldering the end will allow it to slide into the quickwire hole, and will appear to give a tight fit. But over time, heating of the wire will cause the solder to flow, and the diameter of the wire end to collapse, and the pressure of the quickwire terminal to relax, resulting in yet more ohmic heating. This wire was already loose in its quickwire slot.

The neutral wire on this pedestal looked to be a #10 stranded. What they did here was to separate just enough strands to fit into the quickwire hole, twist them, and insert them (strands on #10 are themselves thicker, and will push in to the terminal without first being soldered). Several of the remaining strands were clipped, and two strands were tucked under one of the screws.

I ended up completely removing this receptacle from the box, clipping the soldered end off the hot, and re-terminating both wires under properly torqued terminal screws. I also tightened the clamp screw on the breaker. At least I got to do all this in the daylight (the downside being snide comments from the neighbors). We've been pulling a constant 16 amps through it since we arrived, and the whole shebang has stayed cool to the touch.

Yesterday we had a great drive down a new route for us, Oregon 31, AKA The Oregon Outback Scenic Byway. This very lightly traveled two-lane follows a series of valleys through rolling hills and past several lakes, winding its way from US97 just south of La Pine, to US395 north of Lakeview. And, while the forecast for Lakeview had called for temperatures in the 90s, it was overcast most of the day and the mercury did not climb past the 80s. It was very pleasant when we arrived here at the park, and we've not needed any air conditioning at all.

Today we will continue down familiar US395 to Susanville, where we will need to make a decision about proceeding on the shorter but hotter route through Reno, or the longer and more strenuous, but likely cooler, route through Truckee. I am hoping that, in either case, our good fortune with respect to temperatures will continue.

1 comment:

  1. I have so enjoyed reading your blog and viewing your videos. Hubby and I are just beginning to plan for fulltiming. You give us inspiration! Question: You mention your hot tub several times. What is it? How do you carry it with you? Thanks!


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