By Mike Sokol
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 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.
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