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Old 12-04-2016, 07:17 PM   #1
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Plugging in heat tape and heat pads

Okay, need help from the forum since my electrical guru is out of the country.

We got 50' of heat tape wrapped around the exposed pipes, plus the heat pads on the water tanks. The heat tape is 12V with 3.5 watts per foot. Heck if I know what the heat pads draw.

I have the trailer hooked up to our house power, using the 30 to 15 amp plug adapter the ETI gave us. Right now I have a heater plugged in inside the trailer and that's about the only thing on that outlet. The heater has the following info on the back: 120VAC, 60Hz, 1500 watts. I can run it at various temperatures, but usually have it at 75 degrees. It also has an Eco setting - heck if I know what that does.

The trailer is not winterized right now, as I thought I could just plug in the heat tape and pads if it got cold. It's supposed to get down to 29 and 25 the next few nights, as well as 34 on Wednesday (and tonight, so I should still be safe - correct?).

I'm assuming I should have them plugged in for those temperatures. I'm really clueless about this electrical stuff. Do I just flip them both on and they'll run off the electrical plug in power? Or do I need to run the inverter? If so, how the heck do I use that?

I thought Dirk would be back before we got the trailer, so I wasn't worried about figuring this out. And now, looking at the upcoming weather, I'm starting to freak out here.

Oh, there is water in the fresh water tank as well as some in the black water tank.

A HUGE advance thanks in helping me to figure this out.
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Old 12-04-2016, 07:31 PM   #2
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At those temps not much ice is going to develop. I can't speak to heat pads whether you have to turn them on or if they will automatically turn on with the trailer connected to shore power.

For piece of mind and good nights sleep you can turn on the furnace at lowest temp above freezing and plug in your heat tape system.

50 feet of heat tape much have cost a bundle!
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Old 12-04-2016, 07:40 PM   #3
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I don't use water in the trailer when it gets cold so I can't help much, but for anyone that is going to try and help etrailer.com shows an 18.5"x12" heat pad at 4.8A. To me it sounds like if you were to turn on all your heaters you'd pop the house 15A circuit, which is what it sounds like you are plugged into?
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Old 12-04-2016, 07:45 PM   #4
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Do you know how to drain the fresh water tank? There is a valve under the trailer that drains it.

If the black and gray water tanks just have water in the drain them too.

Does the water heater have water in it?

You should be able to keep the trailer warm by running your heater on low and that should keep you from tripping a breaker.

Can you run your furnace? If so set it at about 60 and you should be ok if you get the other things drained.
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Old 12-04-2016, 07:50 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by NW Cat Owner View Post
We got 50' of heat tape wrapped around the exposed pipes, plus the heat pads on the water tanks. The heat tape is 12V with 3.5 watts per foot. Heck if I know what the heat pads draw.
So, 175 watts of tape. The pads will probably take less than that much tape.

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Originally Posted by NW Cat Owner View Post
The heater has the following info on the back: 120VAC, 60Hz, 1500 watts. I can run it at various temperatures, but usually have it at 75 degrees. It also has an Eco setting - heck if I know what that does.
Whatever the temperature setting, most electric heaters only run at one power (1500 watts in this case), and cycle on and off like a basic furnace to maintain approximately the desired temperature. That means you should plan on having enough capacity to run the heater at 1500 watts at the same time as other loads (such as the heat tape and tank heaters). That means that when the heater cycles on, you'll be close to maxing out that 15-amp household outlet.

"Eco" probably means a lower heat output setting, but that's only a guess. If it does mean a lower-than-1500W setting, then I suggest using that to avoid intermittent overloads. It won't save any energy; it will just smooth out the power demand (more time running, but at lower power).

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Originally Posted by NW Cat Owner View Post
The trailer is not winterized right now, as I thought I could just plug in the heat tape and pads if it got cold. It's supposed to get down to 29 and 25 the next few nights, as well as 34 on Wednesday (and tonight, so I should still be safe - correct?).

I'm assuming I should have them plugged in for those temperatures.
I would, because the interior being sort-of-warm doesn't do much for the tanks and essentially nothing for piping exposed under the floor. Even piping in cabinets can get pretty cold (with no circulation of warm air), but I don't know what you had heat-traced.

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Originally Posted by NW Cat Owner View Post
Do I just flip them both on and they'll run off the electrical plug in power? Or do I need to run the inverter?
The heat tape is 12V, and I assume that the tank heaters are as well. 12-volt stuff runs from the battery, but with the trailer plugged in the converter will supply 12-volt power so your battery won't get run down. The converter is essentially plugged in (to a hidden outlet), so yes... anything 12-volt is essentially (but indirectly) running off the power to the plugs. There's no purpose for the inverter when the trailer is plugged into 120-volt AC power from your house.
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Old 12-04-2016, 07:57 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by padlin View Post
... but for anyone that is going to try and help etrailer.com shows an 18.5"x12" heat pad at 4.8A. To me it sounds like if you were to turn on all your heaters you'd pop the house 15A circuit, which is what it sounds like you are plugged into?
This one?
18-1/4" x 12" Holding Tank Heater Pad for RVs Therma Heat RV Plumbing 277-000164

That's 4.8 amps at 13.5 volts - only 65 watts, or half of one amp of 120V AC power into the converter.

Add two of those to the 50 feet of heating cable, and that's a total of 305 watts, or less than 3 amps of 120V AC power. Not a problem... until you add it to 12.5 amps for a 1500 watt heater.
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Old 12-04-2016, 08:02 PM   #7
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The Eco setting probably (guessing here) is a 1,000 watt setting rather than 1,500 watts. To prevent freezing, you don't need 72 degrees inside. I would put it on the Eco setting and open the bathroom door and any other cabinets through which water lines run. And while you are using a 15 amp adapter, it may be plugged into a 20 amp circuit giving you a bit more margin. I would tell you to turn it all on and see if you trip the breaker. If it does trip, turn on the furnace low as has been suggested, turn off the electric heater, and turn on the tape/pads. And get stuff drained as soon as possible so you don't have to worry about it any more.
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Old 12-04-2016, 08:39 PM   #8
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Yes, lower that setting to like 50 degrees and leave it on "eco", drain the fresh water tank, your pads are thermostatically controlled, turn on your water heater and let it run, turn off, it should keep warm all night.
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Old 12-04-2016, 08:48 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by cpaharley2008 View Post
turn on your water heater and let it run, turn off, it should keep warm all night.
Only if it has water in it.

Have you open the bypass valves when you hooked up water?
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Old 12-04-2016, 08:53 PM   #10
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True, I assume everything has water, otherwise no need for the concern....
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Old 12-04-2016, 09:19 PM   #11
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... turn on your water heater and let it run, turn off, it should keep warm all night.
Ah, good catch.
Assuming the water heater is full, it can be left on propane, or it can be heated up on electricity then shut off... for a while. The electric element takes too much power to be on at the same time as the electric space heater.
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Old 12-04-2016, 10:38 PM   #12
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Okay, I've turned the electrical heater to 65 and turned on both the heat tape and heat pads.

Knock wood, haven't blown a fuse.

I left open the bathroom door, one of the cabinets for the under sink area as well as the cover to the access for the heat switches (driver's side dinette area).

I did not read about the hot water tank until now. Do I need to heat that water or will what I've already done take care of it?

I'm so confused on all this stuff.

And, for everyone's enjoyment - I've attached a photo of what I did with the electrical plug. I'm using the removable one I got with the trailer, plugged into an orange extension cord. (Dirk plans to put in a pedestal electrical thingie at some point - once we figure out exactly where the trailer will be stashed.) I didn't know if it could lay on the ground where it's connected (the 30 to 15 amp adapter is also being used), so I raised it up on some wheel blocks. And then I stuck a pot over it as I didn't know if water could hit it from above. I don't want everything to short out.

I don't know if I need to do all this, but just to be safe, I did.

And if you did laugh over it and it's not needed, please be kind and try to remember being in a situation where you're completely clueless and trying to figure it out without any knowledge of the subject (electrical stuff).

Thanks!
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File Type: jpg DSC04914.jpg (353.9 KB, 18 views)
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Old 12-04-2016, 11:12 PM   #13
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They can laugh at me, too, if they do, as I did the same thing recently. I know some cords are okay with outdoor connections but I'm never sure and it seems like sitting in a puddle of water would be a bad idea.
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Old 12-04-2016, 11:25 PM   #14
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They can laugh at me, too, if they do, as I did the same thing recently. I know some cords are okay with outdoor connections but I'm never sure and it seems like sitting in a puddle of water would be a bad idea.


Now to see if it holds up long under the curious paws of the 3 juvenile raccoons that live in our area.
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Old 12-05-2016, 08:00 AM   #15
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Does the water heater have water in it?
Have you opened the bypass valves on it?

If your 100% sure it has water in it then you should heat the water up.
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Old 12-05-2016, 08:47 AM   #16
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Your cover looks interesting, I suggest however you eliminate any metal outside around electric connections, cover with plastic, perhaps a tupperware with holes on the end and a snap on cover?
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Old 12-05-2016, 09:13 AM   #17
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Your cover looks interesting, I suggest however you eliminate any metal outside around electric connections, cover with plastic, perhaps a tupperware with holes on the end and a snap on cover?
I find the quickest and easiest way to protect this type of electrical connection is to stuff the fittings into a ziplock bag large enough to hold the fittings, twist the opening of the bag tightly around the cord(s), and then wrap with electrical tape to secure the bag on the cord. A zip tie also works.
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