The procedure at the top of the Pedestal Power article is great. But for newbies (or those of us who are just forgetful), a checklist we could print and keep with our surge protector and non contact voltage detector would be an awesome way to always have this info handy. —Carissa
All you have to do is ask and I’m there for you. (Cue – Just Call My Name and I’ll Be There for my favorite version.)
Here’s my basic Pedestal Power Checklist below, as well as in PDF form so you can easily print it out for future reference. We call this an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure), which should always work as long as you follow the steps in order. Think of it as a muffin recipe that you don’t deviate from until you’re a master chef. In any case, feel free to print out extra copies for your RVing friends or to hand out to campground staff. Here’s the checklist below in PDF form for easy printing and sharing: Pedestal Power Checklist
And while you’re at it, sign up to the Stray Voltage Patrol HERE so you can report back to the group any problematic pedestals you find. We should have the SVP database up and running in a few weeks so you can make entries then, but for now we just need you to sign up so we can gauge the scale of the Patrol.
Pedestal Power Checklist (by Mike Sokol)
Do this BEFORE pulling your RV into the campsite and begin setting up. It will save time if you don’t have safe power and need to move to another spot. This procedure adds only a few minutes to your setup time, and should guarantee safe power hookup under nearly all circumstances. And if anything changes while you’re there, your Intelligent EMS/Surge Protector should disconnect your RV from power.
- Before you pull into your camping spot, take out your NCVT (Non Contact Voltage Tester) for a quick check of the pedestal for hot-skin/stray-voltage.
- Turn on your NCVT and make sure the batteries are OK by checking the indicator light and listen for a beep. Read the manual for your NCVT for proper operation.
- Touch the exterior of the pedestal box with the tip of the NCVT. If it lights up and beeps, DO NOT touch the box with your hands. Show the campground manager what you’ve found and refuse to camp there. If it tests OK without a beep, go to step #4.
- If you have a portable Intelligent/EMS Surge Protector, take it to the pedestal, plug it in, and flip the circuit breaker on. If it DOESN’T test OK, report it to the campground manager and don’t hook up to power until the problem has been resolved. If OK, then go to step #6.
- If you don’t have an Intelligent/EMS surge protector, use your Digital Multimeter to check the outlet for proper voltage and polarity. Go to step #6.
- If your tests show very low voltage, high voltage, reversed polarity, or an open ground, don’t pull into the campsite or connect to shore power. Get the manager and show them what you’ve found. Don’t accept this campsite.
- If the above tests check out OK, then you turn off the pedestal circuit breakers and proceed to drive your RV onto the pad to get set up.
- Once your RV is in position and you’ve confirmed the pedestal circuit breakers are off, plug your shore power cord into the outlet, then flip the pedestal circuit breakers on.
- Use your NCVT again and touch it to the bumper, hitch or wheels of your RV to confirm that your RV doesn’t have a hot-skin/stray-voltage due to a break in the ground wire in your own shore power cord or adapters.
- If your NCVT doesn’t beep, then you can proceed making camp.
- If your NCVT beeps, then there’s something wrong in your shore power cordset or adapter. Disconnect your RV from shore power until you can determine the cause of the hot-skin/stray-voltage.
FYI: My TV appearance on Wednesday was rained out due to lightning and high winds, so I’ll try it again next week.
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.
Mike, I recently installed a Progressive EMS-HW30C. My recent trip was through six states, staying at State Parks and private RV Parks. The monitor for the EMS-HW30C indicated close to 131 volts at three of my sites. It would occasionally have a E03 code of high voltage. To get power back I had to turn off monitoring. I did not have a volt meter to verify the voltage. Is this normal or should I have reported it to the management. My next trip I will bring a voltmeter.
Well, that’s not normal and probably indicates the campground installed an undersized neutral bus somewhere feeding the 30-amp outlets. If that neutral opens up, then the voltage on your 30-amp/120-volt outlet could be quickly heading towards 240 volts, with 180 volts or so being common for an open neutral on a 2-pole/single-phase AC distro system (like common on all US homes and campgrounds).
You really need a voltmeter since many of the really expensive appliances in your RV won’t like much over 130 volts. I don’t have much information on the exact voltage that will destroy your RV air conditioner or microwave since this is destructive testing and I have zero budget to do my own over-voltage experiments. So I get a little queasy with anything much over 130 volts. My advice is that bypassing your Surge Protector is a bad idea, so do so at your own risk.
Casual observation on my part of the SVP reports coming in indicate that State Campgrounds have way more electrical problems than private campgrounds. But I should have some real data to crunch by early spring. Lots to do…
Hello Mike. I have been casually checking electrical pedestals for a few years but only recently got serious about incorporating it into every set up SOP. And sure enough I discovered a questionable outlet. We checked into a campground in Vermont and first thing checked the pedestal. My Klein Tools NCVT indicated all was safe. I then plugged my Commercial Electric Outlet Tester into the 30amp outlet and it indicated a bad ground. I checked the 50amp outlet and got the same failure. I then checked the 20amp outlet it showing all ok. I contacted the manager and he checked the outlets with a voltage meter. Here is where the dilemma begins. He probed the hot and neutral sides of the outlet did not probe the ground and told me we had 120 volts. He then probed the opposing hot leads of the 50 amp outlet telling me there was 240 volts again never probing the ground and this time did not check the individual hot legs. He told me there was nothing wrong with the wiring. He explained that I need to apply a load to the circuit for it to test property and that the real problem was my test equipment. I requested to be moved to a different site. The new site tested fine including available voltage. The manager came to visit reiterating there was nothing wrong with the wiring and the problem was with my $5 gadget. Upon arriving home I used all the same equipment to test my 30 amp RV outlet and all proved good. I would enjoy your opinion. Thank you.
Ugh!!! So he never checked the ground wire for a connection, which is really the key test to determine if a hot-skin/stray-voltage will occur when you plug in an RV. His test would determine if the voltage was within limits and not damage the RV. However, the ground test is needed to determine if there’s a safety issue that could damage (or electrocute) YOU. I’ll file this under the “Ignorance is Bliss” category. If a particular test can’t determine a dangerous failure mode, then you don’t know that failure mode is occurring. I’m working on a campground technician test procedure that would utilize a dynamic load tester (specifically an Ideal SureTest Analyzer which includes a Ground Loop Impedance Test) in addition to a NCVT. As I detailed in my RVtravel article last Saturday, this gear is a bit too expensive for most consumer RVers, however an entire test kit with appropriate 30- and 50-amp adapters would only cost around $4oo, which should be within reach of any campground, I would hope.
I believe you were going to publish your approved list of NCVTs. Perhaps I missed it. Please direct me to it and provide names of bricks ‘n mortar vendors.
Non contct voltage tester.
Still working on it. So many NCVTs, so little time.
Thanks, Mike. I had written my own procedure checklist compiled from several of your articles, but I had complicated it too much. I like this one! I printed it out and will laminate it so I can literally check it off as I go until I’m completely comfortable.
Sherry, you’re most welcome. If all of you like this format, I’ll begin writing up more of my test procedures in the same way.
It may be best to check voltage under load before plugging in.
Don, that’s a great idea but beyond most casual RVers. There’s at least two ways to do this kind of load test, both of which are cumbersome and/or expensive. First you can use a static load, which could be something like a 1200 watt space heater or hair dryer. I did this for years and it can tell you a lot, but most of you don’t have the background to interpret this test. So I’ll save it for the advanced education area in RVelectricy.
What I currently use for static load testing a 10KW 120/240-volt load bank which is switchable in 500 or 1,000 watt increments up to 10,000 watts. It has a fan array that sounds like a swarm of angry bees and a big contactor relay to apply the load. Price on a load bank like this is around $4,000 to $5,000, so only someone doing power diagnostics like I do would ever own one.
The second option is an impulse load test using a Ground Loop Impedance Tester such as the SureTest Analyzer or Amprobe INSP-3. These work by applying a single cycle 5 to 15 amp load, which will predict voltage drop at 15 or 20 amp loads. You can then extrapolate these results to calculated voltage drop with 30 or 50 amp loads. Cost of a Ground Loop Tester is $200 to $300, which is more than most casual users will spend, and these devices are complicated to use. I’ll include Ground Loop Impedance Testing in the Intermediate area of RVelectricity very soon. Lots to do…
In step 5, you mention about using a multimeter for checking the voltage and polarity of the outlet.
Could you provide a link to the an article and diagrams showing the proper way to do this for the different amp rated outlets?
I watched one of your videos yesterday discussing the use of a bonding plug to get around the issue of open ground generators and the Progessive surge protector. You mentioned back then when the video was produced that Progressive was selling the plug you designed. I called Progressive and was told ownership changed a couple of years ago and they no longer sell or have the plug. Could you provide information to another source for the plug?
I’m working on a checklist for using a Digital Multimeter very soon, perhaps next week. So many articles, so little time. In the meantime, here’s a video I did on how to meter a pedestal. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5pLlZm8O84 Not as straightforward as a checklist, but should get you started.
Also, Southwire will soon be selling my G-N Bonding plug. I’ll ask my contact there about when it will be available for retail sale.
Nice checklist, but I do not think you are clear at step 8 that the RV should have already been attached to the shore power wire end PRIOR to turning on the circuit breaker. Just my 2 cents as I don’t think it is a good idea to plug in a “hot” wire into the RV.
Wes, I just checked, and here’s what I posted below. In step 7 I tell you to turn off the pedestal breaker and get the RV into position. In step 8 I tell you to confirm the pedestal breakers are off, then plug into shore power, and then turn on the circuit breakers. How are you interpreting it?
7. If the above tests check out OK, then you turn off the pedestal circuit breakers and proceed to drive your RV onto the pad to get set up.
8. Once your RV is in position and you’ve confirmed the pedestal circuit breakers are off, plug your shore power cord into the outlet, then flip the pedestal circuit breakers on.
My unit has a 30 amp power cable that must be plugged into both the RV outlet and the post outlet. Maybe my unit is unique in that with other RVs the power cable may already be hard wired to the RV. My procedures are: After verifying that the power source is correct, I plug my wire into my RV, then plug it into the surge suppressor and then turn on the post circuit breaker. I hope I didn’t cause others confusion.
It is clear to me.
When I find a hotskin pedestal, i post a “car giveaway”-type sign:
“Contest! The last politician with their hand on the trailer wins my vote!”
Thanks for that checklist!
I am going to keep it with my portable surge protector so when I go to hook it up, the checklist is right there.
TP, Great idea….
If we had a sponsor Chuck and I would print and laminate a few 100,000 of these and distribute them at campgrounds and rallies around the country. Slow going, but we’re looking for support.