This Old Campsite
This Old Campsite
How to Protect Your RV From Electricity
That might seem like a strange title. After all don’t we need electricity when we are traveling and camping in our RV? We certainly do, but there are some things to consider when hooking up to the pedestal at an RV park. If you are a tent camper, this article doesn’t apply to you now, but it could in the future if you decide to come in from the cold and travel in a RV.
There is a difference between the way that we look at electricity for our home as compared to the way we look at electricity in a RV park. At home, we assume that the electricity coming from the power company will be a pretty constant 120 volts and 60 hertz. We don’t have to worry about the house being miss wired. After all, we have been living in it for a long time without any problems and we don‘t continuously connect and disconnect the power from the house as we do when we travel from RV park to RV park. The only thing that we might worry about is surge protection for our TVs and computers.
The same can not be said for the RV park where we plug into a pedestal to get our electricity for our RV. Theoretically, we could assume that every campground will be the same with adequate wiring. After all, a qualified electrical contractor laid the lines, installed the correct circuit breakers and transformers and any other equipment necessary to provide power to the campground. However, things like age, use and weather can cause problems with the electrical system. I have seen pedestals sitting at less than a 90 degree angle to the earth. The probable cause could be from someone bumping into it. On a resent trip I witnessed a camper running into a pedestal and knocking it over. The sparks did fly! Was it put back correctly? I would hope so.
There are three areas of concern when we plug into a pedestal at a campground, especially if it is a campground that has been around for a long time. There is no way of knowing the condition of the wiring or the circuit breakers on the pedestal. The pedestal could have reverse polarity, no ground wire or no neutral connection. Any of these conditions could cause severe damage to the electrical components in your RV.
Another concern is high and low voltage. All 120 volt appliances are designed to operate at a range of 102 to 132 volts. Anything outside that range will be problematic. Either one of the conditions can cause permanent damage to your electrical appliances. The most common of the two conditions is low voltage. This can be caused by aging equipment, weather conditions, faulty wiring and undersized or deteriorating electrical connections. Probably the most common cause of low voltage is a crowded campground with everyone running their air conditioners during the hottest part of the day.
The third concern that we face is power surges or voltage drops. These power surges and subsequent voltage drops can cause damage to sensitive electrical components. We see power surges even in our homes as well as at campgrounds. Probably the most damaging form of a power surge is caused by lightning strikes. A quality surge protector can help prevent damage from lightning strikes around your camper. However, because of the tremendous destructive power of a lightning strike no electrical appliance can be guaranteed against one.
There are products on the market that will protect your RV from most, if not all, of the problems stated above. Surge Guard ® and Progressive Dynamics both make a family of electrical safety products for the RV industry. Whether your RV has 30 amp only or 30/50 amp capability, each manufacture provides a devise to fit your needs.
These units come in both portable or hardwired models. The portable units simply plug into the pedestal and then the RV power cord plugs into the devise. The hardwired units fit between the power cord and the RV. The hardwired units are more suited for motorhomes but could be put in a travel trailer. Both manufacturers provide a way to lock the portable units so that someone who decides that they need the unit more than you, will have a hard time making off with it.
These protection devises will protect your RV from reverse polarity, lost neutral, no ground wire, voltage on the ground wire, over voltage, under voltage, and power surges. For a complete description of the features and the various types of units, I suggest that you visit their respective web sites.
The units with all of the features are not inexpensive but well worth the one time cost that you will pay. The cost of replacing a couple of Tvs , stereos, DVD player, microwave, etc will be much greater than the cost of an electrical safety devise. In extreme cases, it is possible for a fire to ensue from an electrical problem.
I had a low voltage situation at a campground that could have been disastrous had I not been just setting up. I did not have an electrical protection unit at the time. By the time I became aware of the problem and got outside to disconnect the power, the plug was starting to melt. We had a low voltage problem causing a high current draw. I know a fellow Rver who had a problem at the pedestal and most of his electrical devises were ruined. Warren Petkovsek wrote an article, “RV Related Stuff That I Like”. At the end of the article, he spoke of the need for having a surge/power protector for the RV. If you go to the article, you will see a Surge Guard that did it’s job of protecting someone’s RV. The Surge Guard paid the ultimate price but the RV’s electrical system was saved.
I personally purchased the Progressive Dynamics EMS PT50C. I feel confident that when I plug into any RV park pedestal that my RV will be protected from any electrical problem that might exist at the pedestal. The unit will not provide power until if has run the necessary checks on the power quality at the pedestal. When the tests are successful, a relay will engage and power will then be supplied to the rig. If there is subsequently a problem, the relay will trip and power will be removed from the rig until the problem is solved.
Purchasing one of these units is like making a one time insurance premium payment. Insurance is one of those necessary evils that we have to endure.