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RVelectricity – Spring has sprung, along with campground pedestal dangers

By Mike Sokol
Dear Readers,
I can tell that spring has nearly sprung because I’m getting a lot of chatter on my various groups and forums about campground pedestals that are shutting off RV Advanced/EMS surge protectors.

Many of you know that these Advanced Surge Protectors are only doing their job and protecting your RV from incorrect pedestal wiring and voltage. But they’re also there to protect you and your family from open grounds that can lead to dangerous hot-skin voltage. Here’s a quick review of what can go wrong with pedestal power, and why I believe that an Advanced/EMS Surge Protector should be used by everyone, every time.

Get thyself a digital multimeter

In addition to an Intelligent/EMS Surge Protector that I’ll detail below, a $20 digital multimeter is a great troubleshooting aid for all kinds of additional electrical problems that can occur inside of your RV’s 120-volt AC and 12-volt DC systems. So get one now, and you’ll thank me later…

I really like this $30 kit from Southwire that includes a manual digital multimeter, a 3-light outlet tester, and a Non-Contact Voltage Tester.

I use this same kit in my RVelectricity seminars because it does a lot of measurements and it is easy to operate. You can find it at Lowe’s or online at Amazon HERE. But more on how to use these meters in a future article. Right now, just get one before your first road trip this spring.

Campground pedestal voltages

I’ve written about this dozens of times already, so here’s a graphic and a links to previous articles about what voltages you should measure at a campground pedestal. Now, in most cases if you’re already using an Advanced/EMS Surge Protector you don’t have to worry about specific pedestal measurements. However, these digital meters are extremely useful for troubleshooting HOW a pedestal or your generator transfer switch has failed. And it’s the only way that the moderator and admins on my RVelectricity Facebook group can really help you. For more specific information on what voltages to expect at campground pedestals, please read my previous article on Power Principles HERE.

Basic surge protectors

Entry level (basic) surge protectors like this Surge Guard 44260 are good for showing basic wiring issues (like reversed hot/neutral or an open ground) but they can’t tell you the actual voltage of the pedestal. Nor will they disconnect your RV from a pedestal with a too-high or too-low voltage. That’s the job of an advanced/EMS surge protector (see below).

An entry level surge protector that costs under $100 is a good first line of defense against a nearby lightning strike. Adding one at the pedestal in addition to a full protection/EMS surge protector that’s installed in your RV is a great idea. I’ll also note here that you should select the surge protector size (30- or 50-amp) to match whatever your RV shore power cord is. Then add a dogbone adapter ahead of the surge protector if you need to plug into a different pedestal outlet (be it a 20-, 30- or 50-amp service). More on that in a future article.

Advanced / total protection / EMS surge protectors

Okay, here’s what I’m going to recommend that you all get before your first camping trip this spring. Get some kind of advanced/total protection/EMS surge protector and use it every time you plug into anything, even your home power. Any of the big three companies make a good product. IMO, the engineering of the Southwire/Surge Guard Total Protection Surge Protector (30-amp or 50-amp) is superior to the other manufacturers.

To watch my video explanation of the differences between an Entry Level Surge Protector, and an Advanced / EMS / Total Protection Surge Protector, go HERE.

However, you’re still well protected whether you have a Progressive EMS, Hughes Watchdog or Southwire Total Protection unit. Expect to pay around $300 to $400 for one of these, depending on if you need a 30- or 50-amp version, as well as a remote control panel for the permanently mounted model from each manufacturer.

Don’t disconnect your safety devices

The takeaway is that if your advanced/EMS surge protector tells you there’s a voltage problem at the campground pedestal, it’s not a good idea to bypass it. That’s the time to get out your meter to verify what the voltages actually are. Click on the picture of the pedestal or HERE to watch a video of me testing pedestal voltages with a basic digital meter.

And it’s best to run on generator power until the campground repairs the problem. If you don’t, then you risk damage to your RV and the safety of yourself and your family. So please take this seriously.

More light reading…

Here’s a great article I had some input on last year for TechnoRV covering surge protectors in-depth. I helped vet this, so it’s full of accurate information. Read it here.

Ask the Expert webcast on SmartPlug

Join me on Tuesday, March 16 at 8pm Eastern Time for my next Ask the Expert live stream interview with Will Russell from SmartPlug. You’ll be able to text your questions to us in real time, and Will will do his best to answer them for you. Make sure you click on the picture to sign up for a YouTube reminder.

Spring has sprung, but let’s remember to play safe out there….

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.

For information on how to support RVelectricity and No~Shock~Zone articles, seminars and videos, please click the I Like Mike Campaign.

##RVT991

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John
7 months ago

Mike, thinking of the Southwire 30 Amp for my RV. Do you recommend 34930 or 34931, I have an opportunity to purchase the 34931 at a discount today. $227 with free shipping and that includes tax.

Mike Sokol
7 months ago
Reply to  John

That’s a good deal on the 34931, and it does include wireless Bluetooth communication, even though Southwire hasn’t released the iPhone app yet. But you can get the remote interface you can mount inside of your RV to directly view voltage, current, etc… So get the 34931 at that price and be happy….

John
6 months ago
Reply to  Mike Sokol

Thanks, this is Camping World, only good til midnight today. Members get 15% off and free shipping. Just placed my order.

Joe
7 months ago

Mike, I cringe every time I see a photo or someone using a meter to test voltage without using insulated rubber gloves. The rubber gloves and a pair of leather protectors are cheap compared to life. A quick search came up with a pair of Novak class O gloves good to a 1,000 volts for $58.00 and a pair of Salisbury for $38.00
(that’s what I use). Combine them with a pair of light leather gloves and a bag to protect them and then you’re a lot safer. Remember 110 volts kills more people in the US then any other voltage. I think it’s great that you’re teaching people how to test the pedestal power but let’s be safe and teach how to inspect the meter leads before use and wear some protection. All too many times the power is next to the hose bib or it just rained creating an extremely dangerous situation.

Dr4Film
7 months ago

For those that are electrically challenged or choose not to build your own tester, I custom make a Power/Pedestal Tester that comes with a 50 amp Camco Plug. It will test ALL aspects of the power coming from any pedestal such as open ground or neutral, reverse polarity etc When used with a 30-50 amp dogbone you can also test a 30 amp socket plus a 20 amp socket if you wanted to. Most importantly it also tests for a Fake 50 Amp pedestal alerting you to a 50 amp pedestal that isn’t wired correctly to deliver 50 amps on each of the two 120 VAC Legs. If interested and/or would like to purchase one, my contact is dr4film at g mail dot com.

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