Dear Mike & Chuck,
My wife and I love reading your newsletter – keep up the good work! I just finished reading the post regarding the note you received from Stephen Wickland and the hot-skin condition found at an RV park pedestal.
I have been plugging into pedestals to support everything from pop-up trailers to a travel trailer to our current fiver for over 25 years now. I have always had a surge protector plugged in, as well, to protect our investment. The surge protector seemed to do its job and I never really had any problems that I was aware of.
It wasn’t until a few months ago when I read Mike’s article about the additional benefits of using an Electrical Management System (EMS) with Surge protection that I took the step and bought a portable EMS for my fiver. In our first trip (VA to CO and back) we stopped for the night at an RV park outside of Memphis. We set up and initial readings on the EMS showed everything was within tolerances and working fine.
After 15 minutes or so of power being on, the EMS opened its breaker with an “open ground” indication on the readout. I found no additional problems, reset everything and plugged back in. Initial readouts again said everything was fine. Then about five minutes after reset, the EMS opened its breaker again with the “open ground” readout. Probably a ground wire was loose in the pedestal or somewhere in the loop.
I wasn’t going to troubleshoot the RV park’s electrical system so I went up to the office, told them of the issue and was provided a new RV site for our stay. The office personnel did not seem surprised by the problem nor was there any urgency to address the issue from what I could tell. We had no further problems over the next couple of days at our new site.
A camping neighbor there at the park told me that the park often floods since it is on the banks of the Mississippi River and electrical problems are common. I can’t tell if the management did anything to fix the issue but I do know that a motorhome was in the spot a day later. Hopefully the park had a qualified electrician look at and resolve the issue.
So, many thanks for the articles on RV electrical issues. I think the EMS paid for itself during its first trip and I may have never known I had an issue without it. And I wouldn’t have purchased the EMS without the article in your newsletter.
Many thanks. —Charlie Behrle
Thank you very much for your email. Chuck and I feel good every time we hear a story like yours, and we’re happy to help educate RV owners and campgrounds on the best practices of RV electrical safety.
It’s likely that your intermittent ground was actually something I call a reflected hot-skin/stray voltage. I’ve written about this condition before and you can read more about it here. But your email points to the fact that our mission of creating a Stray Voltage Patrol is badly needed out there. So be assured that Chuck and I are utilizing every possible resource to start our Stray Voltage Patrol and create a nationwide database of campground pedestal conditions. But it will be several weeks before we can even announce the details of how this might work.
In the meantime there are a few things you and the rest of our readers can do to help. In addition to RV owners, we’re really interested in getting campground owners involved. So please take the survey below so we can get an approximation of the scale of this. We’ve had a few dozen comments and emails since our informal announcement last week, which is fantastic. But perhaps there are dozens or hundreds of you who might sign up.
I’m looking for three different levels of Stray Voltage Patrol (SVP) membership: Basic, Intermediate and Advanced. If you want to be a member of the RVelectricity/RVtravel Stray Voltage Patrol, what level do you believe you qualify for? Please answer the following survey based on the descriptions below:
• Basic level – For those of you who plug in with an advanced surge protector with a voltage readout or EMS system, and only feel comfortable testing your own pedestal. You can also add a Non-Contact Voltage Test (NCVT) for your own RV or maybe your neighbor’s RV (with their permission).
• Intermediate level – For those of you also using a digital meter on your own pedestal and maybe the empty pedestals around you (with the campground owner’s permission) and are comfortable taking measurements. Of course, I also recommend a NCVT check since it only takes a few seconds extra and can catch additional wiring problems that a standard meter test can’t detect.
• Advanced level – For those of you who are currently electricians, technicians or engineers. (I know you’re out there because I’ve been getting emails all this week to the effect of, “Put me in, coach.”) I’ll expect even more detailed measurements from you, perhaps including load and impedance tests, and you’ll have the option (with the campground owner’s permission) of testing other pedestals in the campground for correct voltage and wiring.
• Campground – For campground owners who would like to know how you can help facilitate SVP testing in your campground. This is not an admission that anything is wrong, but that you want to learn more about keeping your customers safe from electrical problems.
• Individual – Not Interested – For those of you who think this is unnecessary and a waste of time.
• Campground – Not interested – For those campground owners whose pedestals are all fully tested regularly and believe there is no need for further testing.
Remember, NOBODY is sanctioned to measure occupied campground pedestals for proper voltage without the campground and RV owner’s permission. We’re not starting a witch hunt – just trying to determine trends. We’ll also have a way to follow up on any problem pedestals to make sure the problems are corrected.
After that you’ll accumulate SVP Points and could receive an SVP T-shirt, coffee mug, and big prizes from our sponsors such as an advanced Surge Guard protector, Smart Plug shore power cordset, or maybe even a pedestal outlet for your home base shore power. No promises yet, but the more of you that sign up, the more our potential sponsors will be interested in supporting this program.
Finally, we also want to know when you plug into a properly wired pedestal with correct voltage. That’s the only way we’re going to be able to determine the percentage of problem pedestals. So you’ll just have to log into the RVelectricity.com/SVP page (not up and running just yet), enter your SVP membership number and password, then enter your data.
We’re going to make this anonymous so your ID number will be the only detail about you displayed. Only I and the inner sanctum at RVtravel.com will know your true identity. Think of yourself as sort of like Charlie’s Angels (or maybe Chuck’s Angels) and you’ll help to save lives and prevent electrical damage to your own RV and others. I know a Stray Voltage Patrol T-shirt isn’t going to make all of us look pretty, but it can’t hurt.
Feel free to email any questions or comments directly to email@example.com with the letters SVP in the Subject line, especially if you’re a campground owner or electrical engineer/technician who wants to get involved.
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.