Stray Voltage Patrol
While many campgrounds seem to be doing the right thing and performing maintenance on their pedestals, some of them are waiting until something goes wrong to fix it or, worse, ignoring the problem. Let’s look at the example of Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground I wrote about two weeks ago on RVtravel.
Since I’m too far away for a quick day-trip, and Disney corporate won’t respond to my emails, I really don’t know if anything has been fixed. Read my article about it HERE.
Or how about this pedestal on the right? While this picture didn’t come from a Stray Voltage Patrol member, it’s just one more terrifying example of how bad some campground wiring is. And no, this one isn’t about a lack of maintenance, or even wear and tear. It’s about really poor installation practices that I can’t believe ANY inspector would have passed. And yes, that’s a water pipe running right through the middle of the electrical box!
So where to begin with fixing this sort of problem? For whatever reason, many of these campgrounds don’t seem to treat electrical safety as important. While it is true that yearly maintenance would cost a few dollars, certainly it would be worthwhile to test all their pedestals every year and perform even basic contact cleaning and tightening all circuit breaker and bus screws, especially for the neutral.
Remember that an open neutral on your 50-amp shore power cord can cause a dangerous over-voltage (up to 200 volts) to occur on half of your RV’s electrical system. And yes, I’m pretty sure it will be the expensive half. Why do you think I keep preaching about getting (and using) an intelligent/ems surge protector on your RV?
Just basic contact cleaning and screw tightening would extend the life of the campground pedestals by perhaps another 5 to 10 years. But to do nothing is to guarantee there will be catastrophic problems that will require replacing an entire pedestal or compensating an RV owner for electrical damage to the camping vehicle.
I have to believe that many of these failures are largely due to a lack of information on the campground’s part. I don’t think they even know what the word “maintenance” means. That is, they seem to assume that campground power is like house power, where once it’s been installed there’s very little maintenance or testing that needs to be performed. But campgrounds are certainly not built like houses, since your own house probably doesn’t have circuit breaker panels outside in the weather, with outlets being plugged into every day by complete strangers who really don’t care if they break something.
Of course, some campgrounds seem to disregard all logic when it comes to electrical safety, so I have to believe they just don’t care about the safety of their customers. For heaven’s sake, who could possibly think this pedestal on the left is safe to plug ANYTHING into, let alone your RV?
And to top it off, I’ve been getting emails and pictures from campgrounds where large RVs have cut a corner too sharply and ran into or backed over a campground pedestal. While many of these campgrounds do indeed have too narrow access roads for large RVs, it’s still up to the driver to know how to avoid obstacles and not hit anything. I’m pretty sure a cop at the scene of an accident isn’t going to accept the excuse that your RV was too wide for the turn or too tall to fit under the bridge. No, the pilot (you) is always the captain of the ship, and ultimately responsible for not hitting anything.
And I think that you (the responsible RV owner) should always speak out at any campground with obviously dangerous electrical hookups. Not to do so is simply kicking the can down the road for the next hapless victim to encounter. Be aware that simply by reading this article (and my other RV Electricity articles) you are WAY more informed about RV electrical safety than perhaps 99% of the rest of the RVing public.
So please forward these RVtravel and RVelectricity articles to everyone you know with an RV, and have them subscribe to these newsletters. And if the campground you’re staying in has an electrical problem, please speak out. Best of all, if they want more training on how to test and maintain their campground pedestals properly, then put them in touch with me. That’s why I’m here.
Email me at mike (at) noshockzone.org with your questions.
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.