RV Electricity – Stray Voltage Patrol finds neutral problem on pedestal

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Dear Readers, 
Even though it’s winter and not the regular camping season, there are many of you full-timing or snowbirding who still need electric power. (Don’t we all?) Here’s a recent Stray Voltage Patrol Report I just received that shows that the SVP is working, along with a happy ending from a campground manager interested in doing the right thing. A round of applause for SVP Badge #131 and Mike, the campground manager of the Twin Oaks RV Park in Elko, GA.


STRAY VOLTAGE PATROL REPORT:  SVP Badge #131

stray voltage patrolName of campground: Twin Oaks RV Park
Campground owner name: Mike “Park Manager”
Campground Email: [email protected]
Campground address: 305 Ga-26 E, Elko, Ga 31025

Describe what you discovered:
At our site (40) I did all the tests before setting up and everything checked good, including the condition of the older pedestal. After setup and making lunch with the heat pump, electric H.W. tank and the microwave on, we had a bump to our power. I thought it might have been a really nasty little camper that had just pulled in, but looked at our 50 amp intelligent surge protector and saw that it was clearing from a voltage fluctuation. After it reset I had DW turn everything back on, one thing at a time.


What I discovered was as the load increased the voltage went from 123/124 to about 128/112. When I notified the office, they said someone would be over to make sure I hooked up everything properly. I explained that there was a bad neutral somewhere. They said “sure” our guy can fix it. After seeing the problem and my explanation that I spent 20 years in a job repairing that kind of problem, the work camper said if it happened again the campground manager would look at it the next day, and of course it did.

Mike (the campground manager) was found and we talked, and he and I both knew that the other knew what we were talking about. We played with loading up the different legs to see the voltage changes and Mike said, “I ran a new service to a lot two spaces down. How about you move down there and I will close this site until I can figure out how to put in a new service!”

Nice to see a camp manager that knows what he is doing, not just doing what they are told to do, so there are parks that are doing their best to keep things safe and up to snuff…. AMEN!


Campground response to your report:
I told Mike (the park manager) about the SVP program, and he said it sounded good to him and that he would be happy to have this problem reported. He was going to start planning repairs as soon as possible to get the site reopened as they have a good crowd during the winter months. As soon as he could get the trencher rented he would replace the service (in conduit) and upgrade the pedestal that is already on hand.


Hey, it’s Mike Sokol again for the wrap-up

RV Electricity – Stray Voltage Patrol finds neutral problem on pedestalSVP Member #131 did exactly the right thing, and he diagnosed the problem correctly. In a 50-amp power service there are two 120-volt legs that add together to make a nominal 240-volts from leg to leg. As I’ve written before, the neutral wire is there to divide the 240-volts into 120/120-volts. If there’s a loose, corroded or undersized neutral, any difference in circuit loading between the two legs will cause the voltage to divide unevenly.

The change of 123/124 volts unloaded to 128/112 volts under load wasn’t immediately dangerous, but it hints that something is seriously wrong with the power to the pedestal, and that compromised neutral connection could easily let go without warning. If that occurred, then the incoming 240 volts could divide to something really crazy, like 200/40 volts. And any of your appliances on the 200-volt leg would fry in seconds, while the appliances on the other 40-volt leg wouldn’t even come on. So your daughter turning on her 1,800 watt hair dryer could cause your refrigerator electronics on the other leg to fry.

And the camp manager, Mike, is doing the right thing by planning to trench in conduit and wiring runs to a new pedestal. I think that all campgrounds should work on upgrading their oldest wiring and pedestals every year, and after 5 years or so most would be up to 100% operation.

But to do nothing is to invite disaster since electrical problems won’t simply go away by wishing or waiting. Nope, the problems keep piling up and adding together until the entire campground power distribution system is unusable and then requires many hundreds of thousands of dollars for a massive rewiring job. RV Electricity – Stray Voltage Patrol finds neutral problem on pedestal

So good job, Mike at Twin Oaks RV Park. And to SVP Member#131: Keep on testing those pedestals – good job!

Let’s play safe out there….

RV Electricity – Stray Voltage Patrol finds neutral problem on pedestal

 

RV Electricity – Stray Voltage Patrol finds neutral problem on pedestal

Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 40+ 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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Greg Colby

I must confess in over six years of camping (two Class As) at over 70 RV parks I have never checked the shore power pedestal prior to plugging in. Have I been lucky or just fallen asleep thinking my super-duper power surge protector would protect my electrical system in my coach? All these articles are scaring me. Why can’t someone develop a simply plug-in apparatus to plug in to the 50-amp female receptacle at the pedestal that would simply register the amount of voltage in each leg? Am I missing something here?

Roger Ghering

Why do the lights go dim and my 12volt tv go off if the refrigerator comes on we are at an rv park pluged into 30 amp service with a surge protector told owners they changed the 30 amp breaker but it still happens do I need to do something to the house batteries

Mike Sokol

As soon as it gets warm outside I’m going to set up how to do this load test at a local campground and video it for an article. Load testing is best way to determine the health of the wiring in a power distribution system. Yes, a megger test is also important because it shows if the insulation is breaking down, but sub-sized wiring and corroded connections will easily show up with a load test using a few hair dryers.