RV Electricity – Can I add a second surge protector?

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Dear Mike,
Thanks for your No Shock Zone articles! I am a big fan. I have a technical question based on an issue raised by a fellow camper. I have a Progressive Industries Surge Protector (EMS-HW50C Portable Electrical Management System) on my 50A diesel pusher, and I also use a Camco Dogbone RV Circuit Analyzer with integrated surge protection and fault indication (125/250V 50M/50F Amp) for use at the pedestals.

I got the Camco circuit analyzer primarily as a way to monitor the quality and safety of the power of the pedestal, but the unit also provides surge protection. I’ve had a fellow camper suggest that putting a second surge protector on the pedestal is a bad idea, since I already have a surge protector on the rig. Is putting a second surge protector at the pedestal okay, or a bad idea? —Michael C.
 
Dear Michael,
Actually, it’s a very GOOD idea. You’re adding additional joules of surge protection at the pedestal, which will also help keep lightning spikes out of the inside of your RV. Plus you can use the portable surge protector to do a preliminary check of the campground power BEFORE you accept the campsite….
 
However, for any of you who don’t have an intelligent/EMS surge protector like your EMS-HW50C which checks for high and low voltage as well as open grounds, let me suggest that instead of something like a basic Camco circuit analyzer, you get an intelligent surge protector for the pedestal such as the Surge Guard 34950 (50-amp) or 34930 (30-amp) unit. This will not only increase the joules of spike protection due to the extra MOV devices, it will add downstream open-neutral testing and shutdown on the 50-amp version. 
 
As a power precheck before-making-camp procedure (before you pull in your RV, level it and connect up the water, etc.), I’m recommending that everyone first use a NCVT (Non Contact Voltage Tester) such as  the Southwire 40116N to check the campsite pedestal to make sure the box itself doesn’t have a stray voltage. (Yes, I’ve had several emails in the last month with this really dangerous condition.)
 
If the pedestal does have a stray voltage, DO NOT accept the campsite and move on. If it’s OK (shows no voltage on the outside of the pedestal box), then plug in your intelligent surge protector and check the outlet for open ground, reversed polarity and reasonable voltages (102 to 132 is considered acceptable, but I think a range of 105 to 128 is safer). If the voltage is a little low you might be OK using this pedestal as long as you don’t run hot plates and air conditioners. And if the polarity is reversed you’re still probably safe, but the campground should be notified and repair the problem quickly.
 
However, if the outlet ground is open, then DO NOT accept the campsite and ask to move to another one after notifying the campground of the problem. Bypassing your surge protector on a pedestal that has an open or hot ground is putting your life and the lives of anyone else touching your RV in danger, so please take this seriously. 
 
Next week I’m going to post a cleaning procedure for any campground pedestals that were in the flood path of Hurricane Florence. No, you can’t just wait for the outlet to dry out and plug in. Any pedestal that’s been underwater needs to be properly cleaned and tested before being put back into service. 

Let’s play safe out there….

 

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.

##RVT864

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Cee
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Cee

I have a Progressive EMS-PT30X which I plug into the pedestal before I plug my shore line. Is there a 2nd surge protector (per Ernie Russell’s msg) that I am supposed to use? I purchased my first MH this last June and have been reading as much as I can to properly maintain my 2016 Leprechaun and do things safely. At times I am out of my element so I know I won’t be able to take care of all repairs and upgrades myself. Wiring and electrical systems are areas best left to the pros in my case. I’m loving… Read more »

Mike Sokol
Editor

You should be safe with just the Progressive EMS-PT30X, but it’s best to throughly test the pedestal using both a NCVT (Non Contact Voltage Tester) and an Intelligent/EMS surge protector (your EMS-PT30X) BEFORE you plug your RV into shore power. Better to be safe than sorry….

Cee
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Cee

I do have a Klein NCVT-3 which I use and from now on I will wait to plug the MH into the surge protector. Thanks!

Ernie Russell
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Ernie Russell

Mike, your recent article on adding a second surge protector made me think of my trip a few weeks ago. We pulled into rural Maine late one evening. As an aside, we started RV ing in 2011 with a 30 amp trailer. For this I bought thought was a state of the art SurgeGuard 34830. In 2015 we moved to a 50 amp trailer for which I bought what I thought was a state of the art SurgeGuard 34850. Back to Maine. After the usual mix ups at the CG, we ended up in a 30A site so I plugged… Read more »

Mike Sokol
Editor

I did send an email to WFCO a few weeks ago asking about how reversed polarity could damage their products, but still no answer. I do have the latest 30 and 50 amp Surge Guard products, so I’ll do a test in a few weeks and see how they actually respond to reversed polarity.

steve roland
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steve roland

I asked you a while back about having more than one ground rod at a residence and you were going to address it. I think I missed your assessment. Could you direct me to your response? I can give more details of my specific setup if it helps.

Mike Sokol
Editor

I’m going to move these specific electrical questions over to the forum. Are you signed up for it already? If not, it only takes a minute and the signup/login process seems to be working well.

J anne
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J anne

I have had damage to electronic equipment from reverse polarity so I don’t think the probably be okay statement is wise in your article.yes fine for many trailers etc but not for all! I learned the hard way!

Mike Sokol
Editor

Any PROPERLY wired RV electrical system won’t care about reversed polarity on the incoming AC power. Of course, reverse polarity of the 12 volt DC power will result in catastrophic failure of nearly every 12 volt system and connection. So I’m curious about what happened to your electronic equipment. Can you elaborate with more information on the failure? Email me at mike@rvtravel.com with more information, please.

John Snell
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John Snell

The youtube videos regarding checking pedestals doesn’t use a non touch stray voltage checker, which I have. Do you check the outside of the pedestal before you plug in as you would the outside of your rv after you plug in.?

Mike Sokol
Editor

Yes, check the outside of the pedestal first. I’ve had several reports lately of the pedestal box itself not being properly “grounded” and they have 120 volts on them. So touching the pedestal box while standing on wet ground could be deadly. Just turn on your NCVT and make sure its battery is good with the indicator light blinking (or whatever). Then bring the NCVT up to the outside of the box until you make contact with it. If the box itself has a stray voltage your NCVT should light up from inches or even a foot away.

Kirk Locus, Canandaigua, NY
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Kirk Locus, Canandaigua, NY

Another great article Mike. Thank you for all of these!