RV Electricity – Campground power upgrade – expensive but necessary

Dear Readers,

I’ve had this discussion both online and offline many times, but here’s the first time I’ve seen what it actually costs to upgrade old and failing power pedestals to modern electrical code in an existing campground.

I do harp on campgrounds with failing pedestals due to safety concerns for both you and your RV, and they certainly should be addressed. But we also need to understand that it will often take hundreds of thousands of dollars to completely upgrade many campground electrical systems. Read the story below as summarized in Woodall’s Campground Management regarding the scope of these upgrades.

But in the meantime, there’s lots that campgrounds can do with routine maintenance that will cost maybe a few thousand dollars a year, and which will help prolong the life of their existing power distribution wiring and pedestals. But like death and taxes, pedestal upgrades are inevitable and will eventually need to happen. And somebody has to pay for them. Yes, that somebody will eventually be you… 

City Will Spend $634k On Park’s Electrical System

Owen Sound, Ontario, will spend nearly $634,000 – about three times more than budgeted – to replace the “failing and inadequate” electrical and water systems in the Harrison Park Campground, according to The Owen Sound Sun Times.

Matthew Adam/For The Owen Sound Sun Times/Postmedia Network

City council voted 6-2 Monday (Oct. 1) to retain Bluewater Landscaping, which submitted the lowest of two bids received by city hall to do the work.

“Both systems are at the end of their projected life cycle, so they are breaking and we’re having to put more into them in maintenance costs,” Parks Manager Adam Parsons said in an interview.

He said the construction work will begin late this month and wrap up before the campground reopens for the Victoria Day long weekend in May.

Council had set aside $230,000 in its 2018 capital budget for the project. Both city staff and the community services committee recommended that Owen Sound undertake the entire project this fall, rather than reissuing the tender in 2019 in hopes of securing a lower bid or upgrading the underground power lines now and water pipes later.

“If we don’t proceed with this work, we’re probably going to have to shut down certain campsites because, quite simply, the electrical isn’t up to modern standards. So those sites would no longer take trailers, campers or RVs, it would just be tent camping, which would affect the revenue that we take in the park,” said Council Member Jim McManaman, the committee’s chair.

Parsons, in a staff report, said the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) issued an order against the city after discovering four deficiencies with the campground’s electrical system. Those issues must be resolved before the power supply at the campsites can be used again.

The ESA has agreed to stay the order pending completion of the system upgrades in 2018, he said.

To read more on this story from The Owen Sound Sun Times click here.

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.



6 Thoughts to “RV Electricity – Campground power upgrade – expensive but necessary”

  1. William Bulkley

    Stayed at a rest stop on the Ohio turnpike. It had RV spots with electric. The spots were wide enough to put the slides out and was allowed to put the stabilizer down. I paid the $20.00 for the electric for the night. 50 amps was available. Site was not level .

  2. John Rakoci

    Get it done and increase the site rental costs. Look for payback in 5 – 10 years as more upgrades of systems will be needed. We want to play and must pay!

  3. Wolfe

    Do you have info on how many sites / how spread out for that 634K figure?

    I don’t doubt the incredible cost quoted for a moment, but I do wonder (being a DIY mindset) if private campground owners could do their own work per code and just get it inspected at the proper time(s) in the install??? “Back of envelope” figures seem to say it should be a several hundred per site if you’re your own ditcher operator. One “tight packed” campground I stayed at said they were budgeting 50K to completely replace (runs, and pedestals) power to about 100 sites.

    1. It’s more than the cost of pedestals and wiring in the ground. Remember, you also have to pay the power company to bring in new larger transformers and feeder lines for any power upgrade, and could cost $50K or more alone. Certainly those are things you can’t DIY.

      And I know how much work it is to run a trencher since I did that for my dad a few weeks ago. Cutting an 18″ deep trench through shale with a medium size Ditch-Witch took about 1 minute per foot of ru. So my 125 foot trench took about 2 hours of run time to cut. Very impressive compared to shovels, but still weeks worth of labor to run new trenches for even a medium size campground.

      I think an interesting number would be to find out just out how many campsite days are booked every year as a percentage of total campsites. Get a quote for the electrical upgrade and multiply the total booking days by a factor of 10. That will show you how much extra per day every camper would need to pay, not including the interest on the 10 year loan. I don’t know what that extra cost would be, but it’s an interesting calculation.

      I’ll snoop around and see if I can find anyone who can do the spreadsheet on this cost. Like I said, SOMEBODY needs to pay for power, and that will eventually be you, either by taxes or direct rate increases. TANSTAAFL (There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch) to quote Larry Niven.

      1. Here’s a little more info from the full story. This is an upgrade of both water and electrical for 100 camping spots, plus 11 outbuildings. See below:

        The three-phase project began in 2007 after the city was forced to acquire the power system in the park from Hydro One, which deemed it as being on private property.

        The first two phases, completed from 2014 to 2016, upgraded the system from the transformer and switch at the park’s entrance to transformers in the campground.

        Phase 3 will involve replacing the underground power services to each of the campground’s 100 sites – upgrading them from 15 or 30 amps of service to 30 or 50 amps – and to 11 park buildings.

        The city budgeted $200,000 for the electrical upgrades in 2018 and $30,000 for replacing the water lines.

        The city is planning to debenture the project’s cost over 10 years, with annual payments expected to be about $78,000.

        Owen Sound set new rates for the Harrison Park campground in 2017, with the expectation that upgrades would be needed to its aging infrastructure.

        Nightly camping fees will be $44.50 plus HST in 2019 and $50.83 in 2020, while weekly rates will jump from $197.78 next year to $206 in 2020.

        The campground generated about $208,000 in fee revenue this year and that amount is expected to rise to $254,500 in 2019 and $310,000 in 2020 due to the rate increases.

  4. Willie

    I bought a four-plex apartment building not long ago. It had 30-amp, screw-in fuse electrical service. If tenants turned on a hair dryer and the kitchen’s microwave at the same time, the fuse would pop. As part of my upgrade plan, I converted the electrical system to 60-amp and had the electrician add a modern circuit breaker panel. Cost? $4,000 per unit. And that didn’t include any 220v work. So yes, I can see how upgrading an RV park’s electrical system would be very expensive, but necessary, too.

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