First determine: Is the park voltage over 118 Volts?
Check the park power. The unit is in by-pass over 115+1v volts. It will boost when the park power drops below 116 volts. Your Hughes Autoformer gets its instructions to boost or by-pass from the park power only. It does not read or recognize the reading in your RV. If the park power is inferior (reading below 95), the Autoformer will not have enough power to work and will go into by-pass mode (and will not boost). In this case, your unit may have absorbed an electrical surge or spike. The Autoformer is designed to absorb the damage in order to save your other appliances. If this is the problem, please return it to us for service. (Remember, freight charges will apply.) Electrical surges or spikes can occur at any time and are rarely noticed by the human eye. The cause of a spike or surge could be a power outage in a shopping center miles away. Sundays are typically day for surges/spikes to occur because campers are unplugging their RV’s to leave the park. Please check the cord for damage and also check for a bad (loose) park receptacle if the prongs are red.
Q. THE UNIT BOOSTS ALL THE TIME.
Is the RV Park voltage under 116 Volts? Check the park power. The unit boosts at 116 volts and will go to by-pass at 118 volts. If the Autoformer is boosting when the park voltage is over 118 volts, return it to us for service. (Freight charges will apply.)
Q. WHAT DOES THE CLICKING SOUND MEAN?
The Autoformer is switching, or preparing to switch, to boost or by-pass. This is a normal occurrence.
Q. WHY IS THE VOLTAGE IN MY RV LOWER THAN THE VOLTAGE MEASURED AT THE POWER POLE?
In most RV’s, the voltage to an outlet (plug) will depend on the load (number of items plugged in), and the length of wire from the panel to the plug (line loss). If you measure the voltage in the coach on the same circuit that a heater or coffee pot is plugged into, you will get a lower reading due to voltage loss in the wire. The reading will not be the voltage to the RV, rather, it will be the reading of the circuit your meter is plugged into.
Q. WILL A COFFEE POT OR HEATER PULL DOWN THE PARK VOLTAGE?
Yes, but your RV will drop more than the park. The park may drop one or two volts while the voltage inside the RV at the meter may drop several volts if the meter is on the same line as the heater or appliance. This may or may not drop the park enough to cause boost.
Q. WHAT DO THE LIGHTS ON MY AUTOFORMER INDICATE?
Amber light: This light will turn on when you plug the Autoformer into the park power only if the park power is safe to use. If the amber light does not stay on, do not plug your rig’s service cord into the Autoformer. Instead, use a different park power pole and report the questionable power pole to the park manager.
Red light: The 30AMP model has one red light. The 50AMP model has two; one for each power lead. Each time the Autoformer is powered up, there will be a three to five second delay while the average incoming voltage is evaluated. Then, if the park voltage is low, the red light(s) will illuminate indicating the unit is boosting.
Q. I Can’t Connect My Power Watchdog to the Mobile App
Back in 2020, we had a shipment of Power Watchdog products go out with a QR code link to the incorrect mobile app. If you are having trouble connecting, it is possible you have downloaded the wrong version of the app as there is one for the standard Power Watchdog surge protectors and another for the Power Watchdog Surge Protectors with the Emergency Power Off (EPO) feature.
If you have the standard Power Watchdog Surge Protector here are the links to the correct app: iOS Android
If you have the EPO Power Watchdog Surge Protector here are the links to the correct app: iOS Android
Q. Can I Use Adapters?
We often get asked, “Can I use a dogbone adapter or power adapter if I have a 50 amp coach and there are only 30 amp pedestals at the campground I’m visiting?”
The answer is “Yes.” You can use an adapter with any of our equipment, whether it’s the Autoformer or the Power Watchdog to successfully connect to the park pole that’s available.
If you have a 30 amp coach and 50 amp pole, there is one thing you do want to watch out for: you want to make sure that your main breaker is functioning properly. The main breaker is the only thing that’s going to limit your coach to receiving 30 amps. The pole could supply you 50 amps and if your coach is rated for 30, your main breaker is your only source of protection in that regard.
If you have a 50 amp coach and all there is available is a 30 amp pole, dogbone adapters are not a problem; you just are limited to 30 amps max, and the breaker on the pole will pop at 30 amps.
Q. How Does the Surge Protection Get Used Up?
We often get asked, “If I have my surge protector plugged in all the time, am I using up my surge protection module?”
The answer is “No.” If you’re not experiencing any surges or spikes, then you’re not actually using up the module. There are a number of metal oxide varistors that take the surge or spike, protecting your coach. If you are running on clean power – either on a generator or no issues with the park power – then the varistors are not being used up.
If you do have issues and use up your surge protection module, it is easy to replace, simply removing the old module, plugging in the new module with a few wire clips, and sealing the two halves of the Power Watchdog back together.
You can purchase or request a replacement surge protection module using the following links:
Replacing the surge module in the Power Watchdog is very simple and can be done anywhere – at home, on the road, or at your campsite. Watch the following video to see how easy it is to do:
Q. Is WiFi Monitoring Available?
The Power Watchdog line has exclusive Bluetooth technology with the phone app. We also have a WiFi option available.
We have partnered with a company called RV Whisper®. They make a monitor station that reads our Bluetooth signal. Once the monitor station reads the Power Watchdog data, it is transmitted to the cloud via WiFi. Once in the cloud, you can access it almost anywhere, get alerts, email, text messages, or even check in on the power status of your coach from miles away.
One question that we get asked is “What are common power pedestal issues?”
There can be several.
Low Voltage – The most common issue that you’re going to get at an RV park would be low voltage. It’s just something that can happen at a busy park. Let’s say it’s the middle of a hot summer. The park is supplying 120 volts, but there are multiple units running cooling equipment, so the voltage drops. You could also be at the end of the line, farther away from the original power source. The inherent resistance in the power line itself could mean that, if you are, say, 1000 feet away, your voltage could drop from the 120 volts provided at the source.
Bad Wiring – Some common wiring issues include: bridged hot wires on a 50 amp source, mistakenly sending 240 volts through your coach; open ground or open neutral which are dangerous conditions increasing risk for electric shock. Having an EPO unit or something that has the auto-shutoff can help protect you and/or your coach.
The Power Watchdog with Auto Shutoff can be on guard for these dangerous conditions and automatically shut off to prevent dangerous electrical conditions from entering your coach.
Q. What Causes Melted Prongs and Plugs?
A big question many RVers ask is “What causes prongs or plugs (or sockets or the receptacle) to melt?”
Typically, the two most common causes of a melted plug or socket are a loose connection or low voltage. As long as you have a good, full connection at proper voltage, there should never be any issues.
Improper/loose connection: When you have electricity flowing through wires, it is like electrons moving down an eight-lane freeway. If there is a loose or bad connection, there is a point of high resistance – it’s bottlenecking. It’s like that eight-lane freeway going down to two lanes. Electrons will be bumping into each other at this point. This will generate heat, which causes the melting. Heat in itself is resistive to the flow of electrons; this causes more heat – which is more resistive – and so on, until that point melts or burns out.
Low voltage: Low voltage can also be a cause. This is because with inductive loads, the lower the voltage, the higher the amp draw to compensate. For example, your AC unit that is usually only 12 amps now requires 16 amps at a lower voltage. Amps are the flow or volume of electrons going through the wires. So if you increase your amps to compensate for low voltage, the wire will heat up. Again, heat is resistive to the flow of electrons, so it causes higher resistance that requires more amps and so on.
Q. What is a Surge or Spike?
A quest we get asked is “What causes a surge or spike?”
Essentially when you’re at an RV park and everybody is plugged in, you have electricity running through the wires from the park pole into your Watchdog or surge protector, into your Autoformer or whatever, going into your coach. Everybody is plugged in, they have a lot of draw or load on the line – their AC units, water heaters or microwaves working – there’s electricity flowing through the wires into that coach. If somebody doesn’t shut down or unplug from the pole properly, you can have a surge or a spike.
Picture electricity like water flowing through a pipe. If somebody goes to the pole and just yanks their shore cord out of the pole, that electricity – that water flowing through the pipe – hits a wall and has to go back through the powerline and can easily have an effect on anybody that’s still connected around that RV. So, a surge can be caused by your neighbors.
Obviously, if there’s a distant lightning strike hitting the ground or power lines, you can have a surge or spike that way. If it’s windy and you have power lines that are arcing, you can have a surge or spike. Even just simply turning on and off large equipment – washing machines, electric dryers, or devices with a high amp load – they can cause surges when they kick on and turn off. You’re essentially changing the flow of electricity. It’s this sudden change that causes that surge or spike. It can either go into your RV or somebody else that is near you if they’re still connected and you’re sharing some wires.
So essentially, you do want a surge protector. It is something that is necessary to prevent damaging surges or spikes.
Q. What is EPO?
One question we get asked is “What is EPO?”
We have two models of our Power Watchdog line. We have the base model model which is PWD30 for the 30-amp and PWD50 for the 50-amp. Then we have the upper end models which have emergency power off (EPO). Essentially it’s a surge protector that has a computer that analyzes the incoming power and a switch or contactor that either allows power to go into your coach or it shuts it off. So when you hear EPO, it’s the same thing as EMS (electrical management system), which means it has an auto shutoff function.
For example, normally you would have around 120 volts coming in from the park, which is good. If the volts drop below 104, then the unit sees that as too low and will cut power to your coach, sparing your coach from damaging low voltage. The Power Watchdog units with EPO will also look for reverse polarity, open ground, open neutral, high voltage, low voltage and too many amps, as well as open neutral from the coach end. If any of those faults are detected, the Power Watchdog’s face turns red, displays the error code on the faceplate, and if you have the unit paired to your phone, you will get an alert letting you know it’s detected a problem. On the app it will let you know what the error is, why it’s potentially bad, what you may be able to do and more information on that particular error.
We often get asked “What is the range of the Bluetooth?”
The Bluetooth we use in the Power Watchdog units is Bluetooth 4.2. Essentially it is the same Bluetooth that you have in the iPhone X. Optimal range (not from the phone or the unit, but in a dry, empty field) is about 100 feet. In reality, with the case around the Power Watchdog unit and any kind of phone covers on your phone, you’re going to get about a 30-50 foot range. Because it uses Bluetooth and has a free app available for iOS and Android, there’s nothing that you need to buy, no subscription fees, and no need for cellular data. Your phone just needs to be in range of the Power Watchdog unit.
Q. What is the Hookup Order?
The proper hookup order with an Autoformer and a Power Watchdog depends on which Power Watchdog unit you have.
If you have a base model Power Watchdog unit, it’s just a surge protector and has no auto-shutoff, so that can come before or after the Autoformer.
If you have the Power Watchdog + EPO (emergency power off), that means it has the auto-shutoff function.In this case, it is important to have the Power Watchdog after the Autoformer. What you’re going to have is the pole/shore power going into the Autoformer, then going into the Power Watchdog + EPO. If the park is giving you 113 volts or less, the Autoformer boosts that 10%, then it’s going to go into the EPO unit, then into your coach. If the Autoformer boosts the voltage and it’s still too low – or too high – then you have the EPO auto-shutoff unit to protect your coach and prevent anything from going into your coach. If you have the EPO first, you may shut off the power to the Autoformer before it has a chance to boost.
Q. Why Choose Hughes Autoformers?
Here is a great question: “Why choose Hughes Autoformers when there are many other brands out there?”
Robert Hughes was an avid RVer who knew about damaging low voltage and other park power issues. He created and patented the Autoformer in 1995. There are more than 100,000 happy customers over the years. The patent-pending Power Watchdog brand of surge protectors won 2nd place for RVIA’s aftermarket product of the year in 2019. We are the only company that has a Bluetooth app that’s connected straight to your device. With the app, you can see your volts, amps and watts in real time, as well as if there is any power issue. We’re also the only company that features a replaceable surge module. If the surge module gets used up, you replace this part rather than the whole unit becoming trash. Essentially, it’s the last surge protector you’ll ever need.
Q. Will My Surge Protector Protect Me from Lightning?
Question: “Will my surge protector protect me from lightning?”
The simple answer is “No.” Unfortunately, lightning is just too strong. The 50-amp Power Watchdog units have 4800 joules of protection – which is industry-leading – while the 30-amp units have 2400 joules. With all of our units, the surge module is replaceable, so if you do have a surge or spike that takes out the module part, you just replace that part, put a new one back in, seal it back up and you’re back in business.
Typical lightning is about 1-10 billion joules, so nothing man-made is going to be protecting you from a direct lightning strike. At the same time, a surge protector is something you should have because it is protecting against surges or spikes coming from your neighbors, arcing power lines, or if it’s a distant lightning strike that’s far enough away.
Q. Am I Protected from High Voltage?
A common question that we get asked is “I have a surge protector. Am I protected from high voltage?”
The answer is “No.” Not unless you have an automatic shutoff surge protector. The base, non-EPO Power Watchdog unit does not have auto-shutoff. If you have the Bluetooth app with alerts set up, it will alert you if you’re over the set voltage, but it can’t do anything about it. It’s up to you to unplug, turn on a generator, or go to a different pole.
The Power Watchdog with EPO unit is a little bit bigger and has the dog’s face that lights up white or red if there’s an issue. If the voltage does go too high, then the unit will turn off and the dog’s face will turn red. If the voltage drops back down to an acceptable range, then 90 seconds later, it will turn back on.
So to be protected from high voltage, you need the EPO unit, not just the surge protector.
Q. What to Do if You Can’t Connect Your Power Watchdog to the Mobile App
One of the common issues we get is people have one of our Power Watchdogs – whether they have the EPO (emergency power off) unit with the dog’s face that lights up white or red, or they have the base model that has the green LED lights – and they download the wrong app. Because we have two different versions, we have two different apps. They are not compatible with each other.
If you do have the EPO unit you will need to download the app with the black dog’s face with the red accents in the icon.
If you have the base model unit you will need to download the app with the red dog’s face on a white background.
All plug-in analog meters are only accurate within 2 to 4 volts while digital multi-meters are much more accurate. For this reason, we recommend to not rely on a plug-in meter!
Why do I need an Autoformer?
Hughes Autoformers are designed to increase voltage to your RV and help eliminate low voltage damage to your appliances. Unlike a boost transformer, the 'sense circuit' in the Autoformer will adjust the output based on the load demand. For this reason you can run additional appliances on a 30-amp input. For example, a coffee pot and microwave each draw 1200 watts. Add wattage for the converter and/or a refrigerator - about 800 additional watts – and now you have 3200 watt demand.