I just received this email from one of my readers who happens to be a Progressive Industries Surge Protector owner. I’ll explain why this situation is so dangerous after his email.
Yesterday we arrived at a Corps of Engineers campground in Florida and after connecting our 50-amp power cable with a Progressive Industries Surge Protector, we had the power to the coach shut off. I checked the Progressive unit and it was indicating an error code PE2 — Open Ground. I immediately informed the office at the campground, by phone, of the problem. A short while later I walked to the office and spoke with the desk personnel there about the problem and briefly described the potential for RV hot skin, fire and/or electrocution that can be a result of an open ground. The individual seemed to have knowledge of these issues but told me that an electrician would not be coming to troubleshoot the pedestal until the next day. She also said that the people in the RV that had just left the site had not reported a problem.
When I described the warnings on our Progressive, she asked what it was. Soon thereafter a maintenance man showed up at our coach and I described the problem to him. Once again, he did not understand the problem. He even stated that he did not understand how this could potentially cause a shock hazard and also said that the electrician would be coming the next day. He asked if the Progressive Unit actually would show us what the problem was (open ground). Unwilling to risk any damages to mechanics, electric systems or people, we made a decision to leave the park and stay elsewhere. As we were leaving, we said goodbye to the people in the RV next to us, and they indicated that they were having problems with power surges.
Today I am going to contact the park and ask for a refund — we will see how that goes, given the lack of concern for an immediate fix for the problem. In ten years of full-timing, this is the second time we have discovered an open ground. The first time we got the same response from the campground folks; however, it was on a military installation and when I told them that I would go to the CO of the base, they sent an electrician quickly and it took him several hours to actually replace the pedestal and correct the problem. —Max
Thanks for your detailed email. And you did exactly the right thing.
The takeaway for your email is, never accept an open ground on a campsite power pedestal. While it might not be dangerous this time, you can never be sure that your RV won’t have developed a dangerous amount of leakage current inside its electrical system. For instance, the microwave oven can develop a leaky power transformer over time. Or the water heater element can have a pinhole leak due to corrosion. Or an extension cord can be hanging over a sharp piece of metal and cut through the insulation. Without a proper electrical safety ground from the campground pedestal through your pedestal power cable, the chassis and skin of your RV could then be electrified with a dangerous amount of fault current at 120 volts.
Any of the above (and similar scenarios) would be rendered harmless by a properly grounded pedestal connected to your RV’s chassis. But any of these same situations could become lethal without a ground in your shore power connection. Then all it would take is for you to be standing on the wet earth while you touch the door handle or steps of your RV. That’s when you could suffer a severe shock or even electrocution.
That’s why products like the Progressive Industries EMS Surge Protectors are so important to the safety of you and your family. Every time you plug your RV into a new pedestal you’ve created a new electrical system. And that system should always be tested for electrical safety.
Let’s play safe out there… Mike Sokol
Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 40 years in the industry. Visit NoShockZone.org for more electrical safety tips. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.