Last week’s article about RV parks installing Smart Pedestals to meter power sure struck a nerve. While 60% of you who took the survey said that metering power was okay as long as it would guarantee stable electricity, there were many caveats added in the comments. Let’s review a few of the most common comments and how I responded.
Please Don’t Shoot the Piano Player (He’s doing the best he can…)
Now, before you get all riled up and think that I have anything to do with this, remember that I’m only an engineer/scientist with an independent lab. I run a lot of tests for various manufacturers mostly to verify performance numbers and confirm feature set implementation. But I have ZERO power over what the industry does or does not do.
Some of my studies are under a strict NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement), so I can’t even talk about the fact that I’m working on a particular product. But many of them are open-source that I fund on my own, so I’m free to write about them on public forums and websites. This is part of my soft-retirement gig where I’m giving up doing large-scale concert sound and concentrating on teaching about electrical usage and safety to the public. And I think that campground power is a major issue that needs discussion.
Last week’s survey
Here’s what you all voted on in the survey last week. Note that 67% of you said you would pay for metered electricity at campgrounds as along as it gave you better power. That means that you would have the full 30 amps or 50 amps (actually 100 amps at 120 volts) that your shore power cord-set can use.
And 1/3 of you (33%) stated that you didn’t want to pay for metered power at all. The general feeling was that campgrounds charge too much already, and the price of the electricity should be bundled into the day-rate you already pay.
Note that the NEC calculations for campground power usage are all based on ONE 50-amp (at 240 volts) or 30-amp (at 120 volts) service per pedestal (depending on the type of pedestal you’re connecting to). The NEC does not require that the campgrounds provide enough electrical service to be able to power the 50-amp, 30-amp and 20-amp receptacles simultaneously.
What about existing campgrounds?
And you should know that existing campgrounds are grandfathered in and don’t need to comply with the latest code. Nor do they (or even a brand-new campground) need to supply a full 120 volts at all times. In fact, except for a few things like emergency water pumps, there’s no minimum voltage requirement.
However, if a new campground follows all the conductor size and service requirements, they should be able to maintain at least 110 volts, even under full load of every pedestal being used at maximum (12kVa or 12kW) usage. Read about the voltage-drop language in the NEC code book below. You can read the full article on NEC voltage drop calculations HERE if you want to take a deep dive.
Contrary to common belief, the NEC generally doesn’t require you to size conductors to accommodate voltage drop. It merely suggests in the Fine Print Notes to 210.19(A), 215.2(A)(4), 230.31(C), and 310.15(A)(1) that you adjust for voltage drop when sizing conductors. It’s important for you to remember that Fine Print Notes are recommendations, not requirements [90.5(C)].
The NEC recommends that the maximum combined voltage drop for both the feeder and branch circuit shouldn’t exceed 5%, and the maximum on the feeder or branch circuit shouldn’t exceed 3% (Fig. 1). This recommendation is a performance issue, not a safety issue.
Let’s take a few questions from the room…
Reader: I am with the group that says do it, but adjust the daily charge. Right now we are weekend campers.
Sokol: That seems to be the majority opinion. I never said this would be on top of the existing daily rate. So, somehow a campground needs to parse out their current electric bill to the power company, and calculate how much it costs them to supply the average pedestal (either 50 or 30 amp) with power. Then subtract that from the existing day-rate to create a new campsite rate. Then they can add the metered rate back on to each camper’s bill. So, if they average maybe $5 per day per 30-amp pedestal and $15 per day per 50-amp pedestal, they could subtract the $5 or $15 from your day-rate, but charge you for your actual kWh usage. Does that seem fair?
Reader: All costs must inevitably be passed on to customers. Increasing numbers of people traveling with EVs will make this inevitable. All things considered, I just assume that EV owners pick up the full tab for the power they’re using instead of me.
Sokol: I agree with the concept, but right now some EV owners are using the 50-amp outlet to charge their EV toad, while also using the 30-amp outlet to power their RV. That was never built into the code requirements for campground power, so you’re essentially stealing power from the campgrounds. However, I think there’s a trend in new campgrounds to install a separate EV charger at select campsites that can provide Class-2 (12kW) charging power. That would certainly be metered separately.
Reader: This is just another way for the campground to charge us more. I’ve hit these places in south Texas and Florida. They charged me at least 25 cents per kilowatt when they were paying around 10 cents.
Sokol: Actually, campgrounds are not legally able to mark up the cost of electricity they supply to you. That puts them in the category of becoming a power company and they would need to comply with licensing and other state guidelines. So any campground marking up the kWh they supply to you should be reported to your local AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction, which is typically your State or County Inspector) for clarification.
Reader: Over-nite or for a few days should have electricity included in nightly fee. If for weekly, monthly or yearly, then meter them. One thing not mentioned is washers and dryers in rigs and even dishwashers. Doesn’t matter if older or newer rig, we see people putting up cubby doors and doing laundry. People doing Podcasts for hours, etc.
Sokol: Electric clothes dryers are a huge energy draw, but not so much for washing machines themselves. However, washers do require a lot of hot water which can take a significant amount of electric power for the water heater. On the other hand, things like computers, smartphone podcasting, and watching streamed movies on a television set requires surprisingly little power. But many of those devices are real data hogs, so a solid WiFi or cellular connection to the internet is required.
Got more questions?
If you have more comments or questions about the possibility of metered power in campgrounds, plus comment below.
Let’s play safe out there….
Send your questions to me at my new RVelectricity forum here.
Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 50+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.
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