EDITOR’S NOTE: Please pass this article along to the owners of RV parks where you stay or park owners you know
By Mike Sokol
I believe that every campground operator should get the proper test gear to check each pedestal for correct AC power BEFORE you pull your RV in and hook up. It’s a simple two-step process that should only take a minute or two to verify the power is okay. Then you can pull your rig into the spot, plug in and feel secure that you are safe from a potentially dangerous RV hot skin condition (watch video to learn what this is).
I still recommend you get your own advanced surge protector in case something happens to the power AFTER you hook up. But the PPC (Pedestal Power Check) should catch 99-plus percent of all electrical problems.
Use an NCVT (Non Contact Voltage Tester) to confirm the pedestal box itself isn’t electrically hot. The Southwire 40130N is a great unit for this. Turn on the NCVT and verify the battery isn’t dead by looking for the indicator light in the tip, then touch the tip of the tester to the pedestal box itself. If it beeps near the metal box, then turn around and walk away from the pedestal, and immediately call the electrician. The pedestal box has lost its ground and is now electrified with up to 120 volts. If the NCVT doesn’t beep, the box passes this initial test.
Now turn on the pedestal circuit breakers and test the hot slots on the 30- or 50-amp outlets just to confirm that your NCVT is still working. On a 30-amp outlet with the ground at the top this will be the left contact. On a 50-amp outlet it will be both the right and left sides. If the NCVT beeps on the hot side of the outlet but still doesn’t beep on the ground hole in the outlet and the outside of the metal box, then basic grounding is okay and proceed to Step #2.
Use a 30- or 50-amp advanced surge protector such as the Surge Guard 34930 (30 amp) or 34950 (50 amp) to test the appropriate pedestal outlet for proper voltage and polarity. While you could possibly use a series of dog-bone adapters and only a single surge protector for both outlets, it’s really the best to use a 30-amp surge protector on the 30-amp outlet, and a 50-amp surge protector on the 50-amp outlet. Yes, I know this is a lot more expensive than a regular meter, but some of the COE campgrounds won’t allow anyone to plug meter probes in a pedestal, and I’ve heard that this may also be happening at state run campgrounds. But an advanced surge protector is OK for this use and much quicker especially with non-technical personnel.
The best and safest procedure is to turn off the pedestal circuit breaker(s) and plug in the advanced surge protector. Then turn on the circuit breaker and watch the 10-second countdown on the Surge Guard. It should then give you appropriate lights that tell you the pedestal outlet is okay, as well as indicate the measured voltage. If it’s less than 102 volts or more than 132 volts, or the lights indicate a wiring problem such as a lost ground, then something isn’t right with the power going to the pedestal, and you should mark it “out of service” until an electrician can find and correct the problem. If it passes this test, then all is well and you can proceed to pull into the campsite and plug your RV into shore power.
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