RV Electricity – Just how bad are the campground pedestals?

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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.

 

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Jill
Jill

Maybe you could write some informational pamphlets for RV park owners on how they can save money by doing minor maintenance on pedestals also explaining that death to patrons can be emotional as well as costly. Best to avoid that as well. Thanks for the info!

Mike Sokol
Mike Sokol

I’ve pitched this exact thing to a number of the larger campground franchises over the last few years, but still no traction. That doesn’t stop me from trying, and with all my new testing and seminars in 2019, perhaps they’ll begin to take me seriously. Time will tell.

JTorsrud
JTorsrud

I’m part of the Patrol myself and have seen and reported several bad pedestals. The bottom line with all these BAD Pedestals is all about MONEY! Park owners that don’t want to invest and spend the money to bring their parks up to code. There is NO WAY I would consider plugging my RV into any one of these pictured Pedestals. I would report the very unsafe situation and ask for another Site. And lastly, request a refund, and pack up and leave. My Wife’s Life and My Life are Not worth risking hooking up to such a dangerous situation.… Read more »

Gary Bogart
Gary Bogart

Why don’t you just call the inspector with jurisdiction if Disney won’t respond?

Mike Sokol
Mike Sokol

Gary, because I already spend dozens of hours each week writing articles and answering emails about RV electricity, and I still have a regular day job that needs 40 hours a week from me. If I tried to fix every problem like this that I see, I would double or triple my workload, and there’s just not enough hours in the day. Also, I have no legal standing in Florida, and any AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) is going to want to know why I’m poking my nose into his territory. And since this is Disney, I’m sure the local inspectors… Read more »

Doug Dickinson
Doug Dickinson

Disney has their own governmental entity (actually several) that they control and operate. It is called the Reedy Creek Improvement District. You can call them and – while it is Disney controlled – they will take it seiously I am sure. Disney is not one to differ maintenance that is a safety matter. Be specific to lot number, etc. The “front desk” [eople won’t be bothered by your comment, but the District likely will. Their main number is: (407) 828–2241

Tgolden
Tgolden

If the park is within the jurisdiction of a city limits I would urge you to report your concerns of dangerous or possible dangerous electrical power problems. Ask to speak to the electrical inspector or the Building Offical for the municipality. Take their name and jot a few notes of what was discussed. Ask if you can send pictures. This will put them on notice this is a serious complaint. However if the park is not within an area where a permit and inspections are required then the installation may have never met the electrical code at time of installation.… Read more »

Brett Nicholas
Brett Nicholas

Having worked as a sub-contractor at Disneyworld I can tell you that what’s in Disney stays at Disney and they don’t fall under anyones jurisdiction but their own. They even have their own inspectors. Disney is its own city and plays by its own rules.

Thomas Becher
Thomas Becher

It’s metered so they’ll get paid, even if its dangerous. I’ve always said,give a person a piece of wire and all of a sudden they’re electricians. The H%%L with the National Code. ( I guess that’s for people that can read.)

Mike Sokol
Mike Sokol

I may have to write a book on very basic National Electrical Code for RV wiring. The complete NFPA 70 is 850 pages of very small print, and way too complicated for casual or even intermediate users to understand. That’s because it needs to cover ALL wiring situations, including 3-phase motor power, and every kind of topic having to do with large power distribution for factories and homes. It also covers fiber optics, communications wiring, backup generators for hospitals, and tons more. Perhaps only 5% of the National Electrical Code is relevant to RV campground wiring, but it’s a VERY… Read more »

Bob
Bob

Mike, I own my own RV lot so that pedestal is my responsibility. Any chance you will do a checklist of what specifically I need to be checking and how every year? Right now I do not feel competent to even open the panel.

Mike Sokol
Mike Sokol

That’s a really good idea which I’ll put on my to-do list. I’ll be installing my own 50/30-20-amp pedestal at my house this spring so I won’t have to keep running to a campground for pictures and measurements, so I’ll document my installation as well as create a maintenance checklist at the same time.

TGolden
TGolden

Mike I think it would be a great idea to video a pedestal installed according to the National Electrical Code. Yes there is a lot to the NEC but building a RV pedestal isn’t that complicated. If the pedestal is a stand alone service that is metered by a power company a few things will change including possible requirements by the power company called service standards. A check list should be relatively easy to compose and would be helpful for owners/maintenance staff to follow. I look forward to your good work on this project. I would suggest using copper wire… Read more »

Bob
Bob

That would be great. My pedestal is a Midwest which seem common in campgrounds but getting a replacement plug is not easy (I did finally find an on line supply house and I am not going to the big box and buy something off the shelf and jury rig it), Those Midwest plugs have a specific way to fit in their own housing. In the meantime, would spraying the detox you recommended onto the prongs and into the plug each time I plug it in be a good practice?