First, the NFPA 2020 proposal is not law, it is not a regulation, it has no legal authority! The NFPA is a civilian-run organization that publishes suggested safety regulations, which may or may not be adopted at some point by governmental agencies.
So, who’s is trying to ban a product that has saved RVers literally millions of dollars? Who wants to eliminate a product that has made RVing safer and more enjoyable? Who’s trying to tell over 150,000 Hughes users and the American RVer they can’t protect themselves?
The latest effort to ban ‘autotransformers’ is being pushed by a few board members of the NFPA. It seems people are out to serve their own interests rather than those of the American RV’er.
Technically the NFPA has been recommending ‘autotransformers’ be banned since 1971, so this latest publicity stunt is nothing new. Fortunately, the NFPA board is only an advisory committee and up till now, no one has taken their advice.
First thing, the Hughes Autoformer is not an ‘autotransformer’, (more on this later). But for simplicity’s sake, we are appealing this recommendation anyway and it will probably be repealed once and for all. Science and logic will prevail.
Secondly, their claim is false on its face. These NFPA board members say autotransformers cause, “…severe additional stress to surrounding electrical infrastructure not accounted for in the load calculations…”
Now, to science. Let’s say a park owner “calculated” for ten campsites, for ten 50 amp coaches, for ten 50 amp breakers, how can the Hughes Autoformer place “severe additional stress” when no site can draw more than the “calculated” 50 amps because there’s a 50 amp breaker? You get 10% more power on whatever resistive load is running (Ohm’s law). However, on a modern RV 90% or more of the loads are inductive (air conditioning motors, microwaves, pumps). If the RV’er is using 8,000 watts and 10% is resistive, that’s 800 resistive watts, the Autoformer boosts that 10%, that’s 80 watts extra out of an 8,000-watt draw, only 1% more! Hardly “severe additional stress”. If only one of the above mentioned 10 RVs had an Autoformer, that’s .001% more than his neighbors in the park. And again, ultimately no one can get more than the park owners “calculated” because of the park breakers.
The simple fact is, park owners don’t want to talk about low voltage or explain to their customers why the guy with the Hughes Autoformer still is burning bright and has AC running cool when everyone else is suffering a brownout. All voltages sag when the RVers have their ACs and other necessities running. Things start getting damaged at 108 volts and lower. Most surge protectors shut down at 104 volts. Meanwhile, the Hughes Autoformer is changing unusable high amps-low volts into usable high volts-low amps, thus saving equipment and blowing at least 25% more AC airflow. Rather than having to explain why some RVs are still working, the park owner would rather everyone suffer equally and most importantly, suffer in silence. Woodall’s Campground Management magazine mentions the proposed rule this way, “This action helps RV park owners prohibit their use (autotransformers) by having a code article to point to”. By the way, by providing unusable power, a park owner can save thousands of dollars a year.
Autoformers can actually save power in the park. With the Hughes Autoformer, everything runs more efficiently. AC units pump out at least 25% more air flow with a 10% voltage boost (search amp curves vs motors). This extra airflow allows the AC units to cycle on and off more often than their low voltage neighbors. Because the Hughes user’s AC is off more often, they may be using the least amount of power in the park.
The NFPA is a safety committee. RVers are far safer when their appliances and cables are not overheating due to low volts and excessive amperage.
The final kicker, the NFPA recommends banning autotransformers, the Hughes Autoformer is not even an autotransformer It’s called the Hughes “Autoformer”, not the Hughes autotransformer. It’s a transformer that “automatically” boosts your voltage when needed, thus the combination of the words auto and transformer. An autotransformer has a single winding inside and the Hughes product has four windings, a different technology entirely.
So, if someone looks at your grey box and says autotransformers are banned, tell them no, some board members recommend they not be connected. Secondly, you have a Hughes Autoformer which is not banned because it’s not an autotransformer.