Dear SVP member,
Following is the basic checklist protocol I would like you to follow when gathering data for your Stray Voltage Patrol form. This is a work in progress, so please let me know your thoughts on any additions or sequence changes. DO NOT do anything you’re uncomfortable with. I know that many of you measure your pedestals all the time, and this Protocol is intended for you. This is not a primer on pedestal testing, which will come later. Again, if you don’t do regular testing of your pedestals with a meter or intelligent surge protector, then please don’t get in trouble by doing something you’re not sure of. But first, here’s a legal disclaimer.
This series of articles is provided as a helpful educational assist in your RV travels, and is not intended to have you circumvent an electrician. The author and RVtravel.com or RVelectricity.com will not be held liable or responsible for any injury resulting from reader error or misuse of the information contained in these articles. If you feel you have a dangerous electrical condition in your RV or at a campground, make sure to contact a qualified, licensed electrician.
Scope of Test
Right now you’re only authorized to test your own pedestal, and the pedestal next to you if you’re searching for proper electrical power. If the campground owner asks you to assist with measuring other pedestals, you can comply. But do not attack or threaten any campground owner with a code violation. We’re gathering information right now. In the future we’ll have a way to report this to the local AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction), but not just yet.
The minimum equipment requirement is a Non Contact Voltage Tester and a basic surge protector with lights that indicate proper polarity, open ground, etc… Better yet, if you have a voltmeter and/or an intelligent/EMS surge protector you can report on high or low voltage.
If you’re not completely comfortable measuring something you see, DO NOT proceed. If you feel a tingle of any kind, DO NOT proceed. If it’s raining or you’re standing in a puddle of water, DO NOT proceed. In short, be safe. Also, any time you meter something it’s best not to be touching anything meter (such as the pedestal) with one hand and the meter leads with the other hand. Train yourself to use one hand at a time.
Stray Voltage Test
The first thing to do is turn on your NCVT (Non Contact Voltage Tester) and make sure its indicator light is blinking. That to be sure your batteries aren’t dead. Test the outside of the pedestal with the NCVT to see if you read any stray voltage. If you do, then exercise extreme caution because simply touching the pedestal with a wet hand could electrocute you. Contact the campground manager immediately and refuse to plug into shore power. Note this on your report form.
Polarity and Ground Test
Use a portable Intelligent/EMS surge protector to confirm the receptacle polarity and ground is correct. If the polarity is reversed, it’s likely that the outlet is still safe to use, but the campground should repair it quickly. However, if the pedestal outlet fails the ground test, it is definitely NOT safe to use. So contact the campground manager and refuse to plug into shore power. Note this on your report form.
Line Voltage Test
Measure Hot to Neutral and Hot to Hot voltage with a meter, or better yet a portable Intelligent/EMS Surge Protector. If it measures below 104 volts or above 130 volts, then mark it down on the report form. This might be safe to plug into, but anything out of voltage could stress your air conditioner, refrigerator, and any other electronics. So plug in at your own risk.
Get as much information as you can about the campground. Pedestal Number you’re testing, name of the owner, campground address, email, phone number, etc… Put it all in the report. We don’t have a way to upload pictures to the report section just yet, but that should be happening soon. So please take pictures of what you’re finding and catalog them for a future upload.
Thanks for gathering this important information.
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.