Some RVers have learned the hard way when do-it-yourself electricians “plumb in” new RV electrical hookups at a campground. What happens sometimes is the campground will wire in 220 volts, when it should only be 120 volts, which results in high-voltage problems such as smoked wiring and burnt-out electronics. On the other hand, low voltage in your RV from a electrical system at a RV park can be another problem, which can also lead to unexpected damage and expensive repairs.
Be sure you don’t have Low Voltage in Your RV
As more and more RVs hit the road, packed campgrounds are common. Some older RV parks may have ancient electrical systems that may not provide efficient power for newer RVs. Fill up the campground with modern units all demanding their share of the juice can lead to low voltage in your RV and all the problems that come with this.
An A/C unit is one of the systems that are affected by low voltage in your RV. It requires a set amount of power to operate. If the voltage is low, the unit will still function, but it will operate hot. This puts a huge strain on the compressor motor. If given enough trouble, something’s going to break, and it won’t be cheap.
Live by the Code: Practice Power Safety
What constitutes an unsafe, low-voltage situation? The National Electrical Code (NEC) indicates that 114 volts is the lowest acceptable operating voltage. That’s an excellent standard to reach for. But in the real world, 108 volts may be the lowest operating voltage that can squeak you past potential damage. If it’s any lower than that, your compressor motor can give up the ghost. This can be very expensive to repair. Other equipment (particularly anything with a motor in it) can likewise cause damage by low voltage. Plus, low voltage in your RV can take a toll on sensitive electronic gear, thus bringing on a premature death.
Happily, there’s more than one way to protect your RV. At the low end of the price range, buy, install, and use a power line monitor. This simple, plug-in device shows the system voltage and some models can indicate whether the campground outlet is wired safely.
To use the device at a campground, simply plug the monitor into the site’s electrical outlet (you may need to use one or more adapters to connect to the power). Verify that the power monitor shows “good” wiring — no reverse polarity, no “no ground” situations. Any of these indicators can lead to safety issues. Once hooked up, the monitor can be plugged into an outlet inside the RV, allowing you to keep an eye on the campground line voltage at any time.
More Systems to Consider…
Also available are automated monitoring systems or surge protectors. These electrical devices plug in between the campground electrical supply and your RV. It constantly watches the voltage level. If voltage drops below a safe level, it automatically shuts down the power to the RV until it returns to a safe level. There are also other units that provide protection against power surges and spikes. However, expect to spend more than $300 to equip your rig with this kind of protection.
You can pump $350 to $450 or more into a system that not only monitors your power but automatically boosts it to safe levels without cutting power off to your RV. With the potential of expensive damage, protecting against low-voltage should be a high priority for all RVers.