Issue 10 • August 26, 2018
MIKE SOKOL, editor
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Welcome to RV Electricity Issue #10 (or should I say 10,000?)!
That’s right – Thanks to you this newsletter now has more than 10,000 opted-in subscribers (10,176 as of last evening), which is fantastic! So Happy Anniversary, or Birthday, or X-day, or whatever to the RV Electricity newsletter. If only my hero Nikola Tesla could be here for the celebration. Yes, I would even power up my musical Tesla coil for him. Of course I have a Tesla coil that plays music through the electrical arcs themselves … really I do!
Here’s a comment from my post on “RV Electricity – Pedestal power has changed in recent years”
Mike, thanks for this article and procedure for testing a pedestal. I have joined the Stray Voltage Patrol because the owner of a trusted RV campground shared how a camper pulled into one of their sites and discovered a hot pedestal. While the owner immediately fixed it, he reminded me that even with normal maintenance procedures things break. When I mentioned the SVP he was very supportive and said he likes the idea of people working together to solve problems rather than just having people complain. —Joe W.
Joe, thanks very much for your comment, which leads us into my next announcement…
The Stray Voltage Patrol now has 140+ members signed up, and we’re ready to start taking reports. We’re beginning this all manually until the integrated database is installed shortly. But for the next week or so all of your reports will go into a basic spreadsheet which I’ll post a link to the following week. Once we get our sea legs under us, we’ll then post a database search page so you can begin to find campground reports on how their electricity is working.
Please bear with us as we get this up and running. Our IT experts, Jess and Kim, are hot on it and know how important this topic is to all of you. We want to do this correctly without any big mistakes. You can make your report at SVP-Report if you’ve previously signed up to be an SVP member. If you still haven’t signed up to be a member of the Stray Voltage Patrol, go to SVP Sign-Up first before making a report.
I’ll be assigning each of you a badge number based on your emails by the time you read this newsletter on Sunday, so please use that badge number with each report so we can begin tracking. In a few weeks we should have an automated login/password system installed and the database integration completed.
If you have any questions or comments on the Stray Voltage Patrol, or if you’re a campground that would like to participate, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and use SVP in the subject line. Thanks for your interest and support with this important safety project.
P.S. And just a quick note that this newsletter is made possible by the voluntary pledges of the readers of RVtravel.com. We could not bring this to you without their support. If you deem what we provide to you here and at RVtravel.com to be of special value and would like to be a part of our effort, please consider pledging a voluntary subscription. See the many options here. We will include you in special emails, articles and videos exclusively for our supporters.
Save your propane! Easily convert to electric heat!
SAVE $$$! Until now, the standard for heating recreation vehicles of all types has been to use bottled propane (LPG). With the CheapHeat™ system there’s a better option. Now you have a choice to change the central heating system between gas and electric with the flip of a switch. When you choose to run on electric heat rather than gas, your coach will be heated by the electricity provided by the RV park. Learn more.
Pedestal Power Issues
I’ve just presented several of my No~Shock~Zone electrical safety seminars in Goshen, IN, and Winston-Salem, NC, and saw what I consider to be a number of poorly maintained campsite pedestals and RV shore power cords. All I can say is, WOW!
Some of the pedestals looked very old and didn’t have any identified circuit breaker in the vicinity, plus there were signs of visible arcing and wear on the outlets. I also found a number of RV cordsets with the jacket insulation pulled out of the strain relief clamp of the plug. I can’t believe the RV owners weren’t aware of the beat-up condition of their RV cordset plugs and the campground pedestal outlets. I know that new outlets and plugs cost money, but I believe that safety should be our primary concern.
I really don’t think you can trust shore power pedestals, especially after I saw one knocked over by a big coach backing up into the campsite. The next day they had propped it back up into position but not powered it up yet, so I couldn’t test before I had to leave. This is one more very good reason to get an advanced/EMS surge protector for your RV. See my previous article on how basic and advanced surge protectors work HERE.
Email me at mike (at) rvtravel.com with your questions.
Your RV is generally your second largest physical asset. Protect it!
Home Electrical Box: 50-30-20 amp surface mount box • Breakers & receptacles included • Outdoor rated • UL listed • Pedestals also available. 30 & 50 Amp Surge Protector & Reverse Polarity: Continuously monitors & displays voltage & amp draw (RMS). Tests for & indicates: Reverse polarity • Exclusive open neutral inside the RV • Miswired pedestal • High neutral currents • Surge protector. Contact us at 800-500-2320 or RVpowerOutlet.com.
SmartPlug has released the names of several new RV up-fitters and builders who are offering SmartPlug shore power inlets as an upgrade to the standard 30-amp RV twist-lock shore power plug and inlet. This RV power connector fits in a standard shore power inlet opening on your RV, doesn’t require a twisting action or locking ring to secure it, and is manufactured with marine grade components. See it in action at my next No~Shock~Zone seminar in Hershey, PA, this Sept. 12-16, where it will be available for purchase at the TechnoRV booth. Read more at SmartPlug. Following are some RV up-fitters and builders offering SmartPlug shore power inlets:
- ARI Legacy Sleepers
- SVO Group Inc.
- Florida Coach Inc.
- Nomad Vanz / Canada
- Standard Design Van / Canada
- XPCamper, LLC
- Advanced RV
- Coach House Motor Home
- Lazy Daze Motorhomes
- Renegade RV / REV Group
What kind of batteries are you using for your RV house power?
Feel free to leave your battery amp-hour capacity in the comments.
Last month’s survey results:
Have you ever encountered a campsite pedestal outlet without a way to disconnect power before plugging in?
As you can see from the survey, 1 out of 8 of you (12%) have found multiple instances of shore power pedestals that don’t have a disconnect breaker so you don’t have to “hot plug” into live power. That’s not only a violation of the latest electrical code, it’s a bad idea because plugging a shore power cordset in under load will cause arcing and pitting of your power plugs, and it also does the same thing inside of the pedestal outlet. So campground power outlets WITHOUT a disconnect will be more worn than their properly switched counterparts, simply due to circumstance.
While you can’t fix the previous damage the pedestals have sustained, you can help prevent arc damage to your own shore power plugs and extension cords by turning off the main circuit breakers inside of your RV before plugging in, and before disconnecting. However, be aware that a pedestal outlet with a lot of arc damage has reduced contact area and increased oxidation, both of which can contribute to overheating.
It’s always best to watch for signs of shore power plug overheating, especially if you’re using an air conditioner or any type of electric heater. If you lay your hand on the shore power plug and it feels too hot to hold your hand on it for at least a 3-count, it’s probably getting too hot to be safe. You need to find another place to plug into shore power or reduce your load (turn off the air conditioner).
This is a great application for an infrared thermometer such as the Southwire 30010S, which you can find in Lowe’s or from Amazon.com.
I’m just giving you a SWAG (Scientific Wild A** Guess) here, but I’m estimating that any shore power plug (or extension cord) with a temp over 135 degrees F is highly suspicious and needs to be evaluated further. I’ll confirm the max temp readings you should see under load with a few of my engineering colleagues, but that’s a reasonable starting point. Infrared thermometers are great for other things like looking for dragging brakes on your RV, worn wheel bearings, overheating tires, and other things I haven’t even thought about yet. I’ll do a full article on Infrared thermometers in a future article since it’s such a useful tool.
Tools and Other Devices
If you need to crawl inside and underneath dark places, it would be great to keep both of your hands free. So instead of using a flashlight consider getting a headlight. Yes, these look a little funny, but once you use one you’ll never go back to a hand torch (that’s what the Brits call them). I like this one from Klein since it’s rechargeable and can be set to turn off automatically after 3 minutes. Find it at many big box stores or on Amazon.com.
Last Month’s RVtravel.com Posts
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Q&A’s from Forums
I spend a lot of time on dozens of other RV forums answering questions about electricity. Here are two of them:
From the No~Shock~Zone
Q: Mike, we have a 50-amp RV and purchased a 50-amp surge protector (yup, we are listening to you). We frequently stay at 30-amp-only campgrounds and want to keep electrically safe. Right now we connect a 30/50 dog-bone adapter to the pedestal, then the 50-amp surge protector, and finally our RV’s 50-amp power cord. Is this the best way to hook everything up to protect our RV from electrical problems? Thanks. —Joni and Roger Weed
A. Joni and Roger,
Yes, I’ve discussed this with Surge Guard engineering, and the consensus is that the surge protector should match the shore power cord (and amperage) of the RV itself. So if you have a 50-amp shore power cord on your RV, you should get a 50-amp surge protector. If you have a 30-amp shore power cord on your RV, you should get a 30-amp surge protector. If you need to hook into a pedestal or house power that doesn’t match your surge protector plug, use whatever adapter is needed to connect your surge protector to the power outlet.
From the Forest River Forum:
My wife and I loved your Stray-Voltage presentation at the FROG Rally in Goshen last week, and wonder when you’ll be back in the area? —Willie P.
Thanks very much. As a matter of fact, I’ll be back in Goshen this October 3 and 4 for the Thor Diesel Pusher Club Rally, but you have to be a member of the Thor Diesel Club to attend. However, I will also be at the Hershey RV Show for all five days in a few weeks, and that’s open to everyone. See below for my seminar dates and times.
Sept. 12-16, 2018, Hershey RV Show in Harrisburg, PA
Wed.-Sun., 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. in the Champions Club. Combined seminars every day presenting Surge Protectors and Hot-Skin/Stray-Voltage testing. See the full show seminar list HERE.
Oct. 1-4, 2018, Thor Diesel Club Rally in Goshen, IN
Wed., Oct. 3, [2:15]-[3:15] – Surge Protectors, and Thurs., Oct, 4, [11:15]-[12:15] – Hot-Skin/Stray-Voltage. Open only to TDC members. Go HERE for more information or to join the Thor Diesel Club.
Email mike (at) noshockzone.org with your questions.
The best book on RV electricity, hands down!
RV Travel contributor Mike Sokol is America’s leading expert on RV electricity. Mike has taken his 40+ years of experience to write this book about RV electricity that nearly anyone can understand. Covers the basics of Voltage, Amperage, Wattage and Grounding, with additional chapters on RV Hot-Skin testing, GFCI operation, portable generator hookups and troubleshooting RV electrical systems. This should be essential reading for all RVers. Learn more or order
Videos by Mike about RV Electricity
New & interesting finds on Amazon!
See what really cool stuff Amazon is featuring today. It’s a whole lot of fun just browsing through all these great items. The selection changes every day, so check back often. You never know what you will find, which is part of the fun of visiting here. Check it out.
By Mike Sokol
Once again, school is starting where I’m an adjunct professor teaching live-sound mixing one day a week. My task is to take a bunch of highly talented musicians and singers, and teach them how to mix music that will make lots of listeners happy. The only problem is, their playing is so perfect from years of regimented practice that their music often sounds boring. It really does. Read more
Copyright 2018 by Mike Sokol
RVtravel.com editor Chuck Woodbury and I are looking for additional RV manufacturers to support this RV Electricity newsletter as well as my No~Shock~Zone seminars and videos. Please contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss sponsorship opportunities.
Editor: Mike Sokol. RVtravel.com publisher: Chuck Woodbury. Managing editor: Diane McGovern.
Everything in this newsletter is true to the best of our knowledge. But we may occasionally get something wrong. So always double check with your own technician, electrician or other professional first before undertaking projects that could involve danger if not done properly. Tips and/or comments in this newsletter are those of the authors and may not reflect the views of RVtravel.com..
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