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Electrical Pedestal Power


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Electrical Pedestal wiring has been talked about but the source is not often is talked about.

 

I camp often in one Illinois State Park. Labor Day I found that when 50 amp receptacles were added at some locations by only changing the box. I was on one of those circuits. The source consisted of a 60 amp 2 pole breaker feeding 4 pedestals. One pedestal (mine) was 50 service where the remaining three were 30 amps. Of course it was hot and humid so additional loads (mostly fans) were connected to the 120 volt pedestal receptacle.

The voltage was running about 110 and 103 volts on each leg. After the first trip of the 60 amp source, I switched my Refrig and Water heater to Gas, I turned my A/C running on the 103v leg OFF and turned my bedroom A/C ON (110v leg). I talked to the park ranger after the second trip realizing the real problem.

 

Another time a retired electrician without any meters contacted the host about voltage/breaker problem at his camp site. The host came with his little electrical receptacle tester (the $5 model at the Big Box Store), NO problem here, its your RV. He moved to another site with no problems.

 

My Classic is the time the power failed at 2:30 AM. I woke up when my CPAP machine wasn't working. I dressed and starting walking in the moon light to the host site. I saw this flash light coming behind me so I stopped. I recognized the fellow camper and he responded, "I HAVE EVERYTHING UNDER CONTROL AS I CALLED Company X AND REPORTED THE OUTAGE. I knew that Company X was his electrical system provider which didn't serve within 30 miles of the RV park. The host provided information what to expect about 30 minutes before Company X responded that they serve that area.

 

Clay

Retired

 

 

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Our first volunteer position was camp hosts at an Illinois State Park. Not being an electrician my advice to those who had problems with the power at the pedestals was to move to another site if available. My problem was with tenters that setup in the 50amp sites that were clearly marked for RV's only.

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Being an EE, a subject near and dear to my heart - low CG voltage and other pedestal issues...

 

The NEC is woefully behind in considering all the 50 amp RVs nowadays and the increased use of AC units. The first thing to know is that the current NEC only requires 20% of an RV park to have 50 amp receptacles in pedestals and the rest 30 amps In the 2002 NEC, only 5% of pedestals had to be 50 amps! Unless an old CG/RV park has been upgraded, you won't find any 50 amps. During the camping season, competition for 50 amp pedestals can be fierce. RV manufacturers are all flogging 50 amp services so that you can run 2 AC units but they NEVER tell you about the shortage of 50 amp pedestals. I've seen a few very expensive MHs with an extension cord running out a window to the 15/20 amp receptacle in a pedestal (at 30A pedestals) to get more power.

 

The next thing to know is that the NEC specifies demand factors for pedestals and a CG which determines min feeder wire size. The NEC also has minimum conductor (wire) sizing depending on the number of pedestals connected on a feeder. For ex., 7 - 9 sites on a feeder run has a demand factor of 55%. The 2014 & 2002 codes are the same on this. If everyone ran full tilt (30 amps) on a feeder with 7 sites, the "main" breaker (probably 200 amps in this case) supplying this feeder back at the RV park main service location, would trip. And if everyone had loads plugged that are close to 100% of the feeder rating (probably 200 amps), you will have significant voltage drop, and that is ONLY on that feeder run. The voltage back at the source may be low before power is even run around a CG, but depends on the CG size and if they have transformers spread around a CG.

 

So before you even worry about what the voltage will be like at a CG before you get there, you are already at a disadvantage due to the NEC. It is NOT because anyone "cheaped out" during construction as some think. The more sites that are being used in a CG, the lower the voltage will be meaning summer will be worst, esp. with lots of AC units running.

 

Nowadays, pedestals are usually loop-fed from one to the next with a large (say 200 or 300 amp wiring) so you can get much better voltage. In the olden days, they ran a large feeder to a panels around a CG, and then 30 amp wires to pedestals. That's a recipe for voltage problems when many users have their RVs running a lot of loads.

 

Then, with AC units, their current draw goes up as voltage goes down. (For a motor only, current goes down). So if many RVs are using AC units the current goes up more than it would with other loads and appliances.

 

As voltage goes down, the output of appliances (coffee maker, toaster, hair dryer, etc.) goes down as the square of the voltage (with AC units only, it goes up). So say at a low 106 volts, your appliance is putting out only about 3/4 of it's rated wattage. That can create lukewarm coffee...

 

Low voltage is the #1 problem, but there can also be open grounds, open neutrals and even a mis-wired recept. if a non-licenced person has been working on a pedestal. Receptacles in older CGs can have well-used receptacles, mostly 30 amps because they're the most common. When plugging into a pedestal you should always turn the power off first, then turn breaker on otherwise you will cause pitting on the plug blades which leads to poor contact resistance and overheating as well as it contributes to voltage drop. Below is a pedestal we encountered at a CG in Wa. They were all like that so couldn't move. Had to prop up the plug with a stick so it wouldn't fall out of the recept. Kept loads as low as possible. We have an 18" 30 to 30 amp Camco extender adapter to use in circumstances like this so in case of a meltdown, we'd only lose the extender. Note that one conduit is not connected - may have been for a ground wire and this was before we had an EMS.

 

When deciding on a CG to stay at, try and choose one that is newer or has been upgraded sothat there should be more 50 amp recepts. and heavier wiring. When deciding on a site in a CG, find a 50 amp pedestal instead of 30 amps, find a site close to a pad-mounted transformer or one that is close to the main office (if a small CG). If you measure voltage at a pedestal before deciding to use the site, if the voltage is much below 120, once you turn on loads inside, the voltage can plummet in an older CG.

 

We were in a Thousand Trails CG a couple of weeks ago. (They have a reputation for being old and poorly maintained) Got there in the evening and after setting up, plugged into shore power (30 amp pedestal) and the EMS kept tripping out. Nothing turned on except for a few LED lights. The LED display on our wall (that I installed) was showing 106 volts!! CG was may 2/3 full and nobody was using AC units because it was too cold out. Could not keep power on at 106 volts because as soon as the EMS turned on again, the converter was trying to recharge the battery and was drawing 10 amps (on 120 volt side) just long enough to cause the voltage to drop below 104(the EMS cut-out limit). Kept cycling on and off. On top of that, our EMS was also showing an open ground... Called maintenance guy (an all-purpose worker) who got his voltmeter out and declared the pedestal okay. He said he just replaced it too! I tried to explain to him about the low voltage and explained how serious an open ground is, and all he could say repeatedly was "but I just replaced the pedestal". We had driven a long distance on some pretty twisty roads and I was too tired to pack up and move to another site so dry camped overnight. First time ever camping without power... :angry:

 

Got up the next morning and of course, could not even make coffee. A site across the road showed 111 volts at the pedestal so I thought it would work - if just barely. Back into the site (without caffeine, grrr ) and plugged into shore power. Same thing, EMS kept tripping out and resetting. Called the maintenance dude again and after trying harder to explain the issue, he said to try and get a site over in a section that had been upgraded to all 50 amps. I knew all of the wiring had to be heavier and would have been done to a newer NEC. So we moved to site #3 and it was fine(using adapter) and the voltage was pretty solid the whole time at around 118V.

 

But if the bad voltage issue wasn't enough, we woke up on the last day and there was no water! Apparently somebody broke a faucet clear off at a pedestal and they had to shut the entire CG supply down. No water at the dump station either. What bothered me the most was the open ground and the maintenance guy's lack of knowledge. I also talked to manager in the office and no help either except to say try writing to head office. She also said that when they were working on pedestals, they just direct buried individual wires. If that is true, that is not good. I may write to the state chief electrical inspector.

 

We will probably end up getting a small generator one of these days.

 

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Myredracer, Thanks for the update on the National Electric Code.

I have never seem a pedestal box as bad as you pictured but I did see something similar after repair from a person pulling away without dis-connecting the power cable .

I also believe that each RV'er should have there own personal EMS help identify the the problems that could hurt. I chose the Progressive Industries, hard wired with Remote. Another Pet Peeve of mine people saying the voltage is XXXX as measured with $14.95 multi meter. I believe the True RMS meter still remains the industry standard..

Clay

Retired

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You may want to consider one of these: http://hughesautoformers.com/

 

Besides saving aggravation, might save damage to appliances. No personal experience with it, but seen many positive reviews on it.

Yes, an autoformer is another solution. Downside is some CGs won't allow them and are hard to disguise outside. Other RV-ers can suffer by causing their voltage to drop. If a lot of people used them in a CG, theoretically you could knock out a section of a CG or the entire place, but have never heard of it. Heavy suckers too. However, it's kinda like survival of the fittest out there! There's also the Franks unit.

 

An EMS is worth every penny!!! The overall specs on the Progressive Industries ones are better than the competitor plus they're US made and have a lifetime warranty. I had a heck of a time convincing DW, a bean-counting accountant, to approve expenditure on one. :( Now she's glad we did.

 

Funny - you can read lots of accounts of folks having encounters with really low voltage and think you'll never run into it. But it is out there and if you get around enough, sooner or later you will be a "victim". Nearly dying from not being able to use your AC units is one thing, but getting up in the morning and not being able to make a simple cup of coffee in the morning? Unacceptable... Never thought I'd find an open ground anywhere but we did after less than 2 seasons with the EMS.

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Yes, an autoformer is another solution. Downside is some CGs won't allow them and are hard to disguise outside. Other RV-ers can suffer by causing their voltage to drop. If a lot of people used them in a CG, theoretically you could knock out a section of a CG or the entire place, but have never heard of it.

 

 

Wrong ...

 

This :

 

"

How Does It Work?

At first we are tempted to say very ‘well’. But this may not be the answer you are looking for!

Autoformers are used in industries to stabilize voltage and lower the operating cost of equipment. The Autoformer has 5 windings: 2 primary and 3 secondary. All models have surge and spike protection. When the unit is in Automatic and the park or input voltage is 116 volts or below, the output is 10% over the input. When the input is over 118 volts, the output is 2% over the input.

The Autoformer DOES NOT take power from the park.

It does not affect the park or input voltage, or make electricity.

What it is doing is changing the voltage – amperage relationship, lowering the amperage and raising the voltage. Since appliances run better on higher voltage, lower amperage, less overall power is used from the park, and better service is enjoyed from your RV

An Autoformer running at full output (50amps) will use 1 amp, but will cause appliances to cycle more often and run cooler. This will use less total power from the park.

Enjoy Your Autoformer Knowing You Are Doing Your Part For The Environment.

From :

http://hughesautoformers.com/autoformer-university/how-does-it-work/

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Downside is some CGs won't allow them and are hard to disguise outside. Other RV-ers can suffer by causing their voltage to drop.

As Pete said, that is mythology, but sadly some RV parks do believe that and make rules to exclude them. Remember that each RV pedestal has it's own circuit breaker that limits that outlet to a maximum of 30A, independent of voltage. That device is basically a transformer which simply increases the voltage out of it by drawing a bit more current in, from whatever voltage is available. The effect on the rest of the campground is no different than it would be when using the maximum current the circuit breaker allows, even without the boost transformer. Park owners just like to blame someone else for their problems.

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Yes, an autoformer is another solution. Downside is some CGs won't allow them and are hard to disguise outside. Other RV-ers can suffer by causing their voltage to drop. If a lot of people used them in a CG, theoretically you could knock out a section of a CG or the entire place, but have never heard of it. Heavy suckers too. However, it's kinda like survival of the fittest out there! There's also the Franks unit.

 

An EMS is worth every penny!!! The overall specs on the Progressive Industries ones are better than the competitor plus they're US made and have a lifetime warranty. I had a heck of a time convincing DW, a bean-counting accountant, to approve expenditure on one. :( Now she's glad we did.

 

 

For the benefit of those who may be looking into them, RVGeeks has a nice video on the Hughes Autoformer here. Also I asked them directly about the comments above and they replied that in 12 years full timing, they've never come across a campground with any signage or policies prohibiting the use of an Autoformer. Those who think it's use is going to suck all the electricity or "knock out a section of a CG or the entire place" probably don't really understand how they work and may benefit from reading this info. And more info here. Some would think that just shy of $600 is too much, but replace a burned out coil on a fridge or other electrical repairs necessitated by low voltage and it'll become a money saver pretty fast. You might lose an amp or two in the process of pumping up the voltage but ensuring your electronics has a decent voltage to run on is something a basic EMS guard can't help remedy, they can only warn you about it.

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Also I asked them directly about the comments above and they replied that in 12 years full timing, they've never come across a campground with any signage or policies prohibiting the use of an Autoformer......

While they may have never come across that prohibition, I have and so have others on these forums. It does seem to be getting better as people become more aware of how they work, but I'd be surprised if there are not still a few who do so. You are absolutely correct that the Autoformer or the competition never take any power from other users.

 

Some would think that just shy of $600 is too much, but replace a burned out coil on a fridge or other electrical repairs necessitated by low voltage and it'll become a money saver pretty fast.

While I agree with much of what you are saying, RV (absorption) type refrigerators are not damaged from under voltage. If powered by AC they will become inefficient due to low heat supply from the under voltage but all controls operate on 12V-dc in all modes. The primary things damaged by low AC voltage is anything with an AC motor such as the RV air conditioners and if you have one, a household type of refrigerator. If it is bad enough for long enough, it can damage other things like a TV or other electronic equipment but the first things damaged are AC motors because, unlike most electrical devices which get less current(amperes) from low voltage, an AC motor draws more and more current as the voltage goes down.

You might lose an amp or two in the process of pumping up the voltage but ensuring your electronics has a decent voltage to run on is something a basic EMS guard can't help remedy, they can only warn you about it.

The last part about an EMS is incorrect. Both major brands, Progressive and Surge Guard provide low voltage protection very effectively in that they will remove power if voltage goes below the set threshold, usually 108V. While the Autoformer will boost low voltage, unless they have changed they do not shut down when voltage falls below 95V, where the EMS devices both do so at 108. Both of them also provide protection from high voltages and surge protection, while the Autoformer, the the manufacturer's words, "provides some surge protection."

 

For best protection either of the major brand power monitor devices do the job well, but they do not provide a boost to allow you to safely use voltages between the low end of designed voltage (108V, AC) and the lower limit of the boost cabability(95V, AC). The very best answer to both issues would be to use one of the first two devices, and with it either the Autoformer, or one of the competitor devices such as from TRC or others. Like most things in life, there are no easy answers that solve everything. We have chosen to use the line monitor devices and to live with an occasional interruption of power from low voltages in order to get the best protection and save a few bucks. Doing so has served us well for nearly 12 years as fulltime RV folks as well as part time since then. We RVed from many years without any of those devices but today would not be without one, mostly because we are much more dependent upon electronic devices today and they have become more sensitive to some of the power problems that the so called "EMS" devices protect from. In the years since we have only a very few times had power losses that lasted more than a few minutes, but I also use a quality meter before I connect and I just don't stay in a park that has poor electrical power.

 

Just so you know, it isn't that I do not understand electrical service or principles as I made my living in that work for 40 years. If you would like to read a more in depth discussion of AC power issues and what to do about them, there is an article previously published in Escapee's Magazine located on my website that discusses the problems and the ways to avoid them.

 

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In my 23 years of having a MH and 16 years of them Full Time. I have never been asked or given a Rules paper in any Campground that said anything about a Autoformer use not permitted.

But I will say I haven't stayed at all of the campgrounds out there. So they could possibly be some that have that rule on Autoformer's. I just haven't seen those "some"

 

 

And there has been a Autoformer used 24/7 365 in my MH. It is mounted inside a compartment unseen right beside the EMS with the over/under protection.

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In my 23 years of having a MH and 16 years of them Full Time. I have never been asked or given a Rules paper in any Campground that said anything about a Autoformer use not permitted.

Have you told each park that you are using one? It has long been an "out of sight, out of mind" thing in most cases. At least in some cases, the issue arises when a park employee sees one connected. I doubt that anyone would even know you have one since it doesn't show and that also supports the fact that they do not harm anybody's power supply. :P

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We've only been full time for four+ years and have never really hidden our Hughes . I'll set it next to the pedestal .

 

Anyway , we've never been told it wasn't allowed . We have been asked what that grey box thing is , way more than I care to count , by both fellow campers and park employees .

Most folks guess that it's an EMS type gadget . Of course , I try to educate them . So , it makes for a nice 'ice breaker' , as if we really needed one . ;)

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While they may have never come across that prohibition, I have and so have others on these forums. It does seem to be getting better as people become more aware of how they work, but I'd be surprised if there are not still a few who do so. You are absolutely correct that the Autoformer or the competition never take any power from other users.

While I agree with much of what you are saying, RV (absorption) type refrigerators are not damaged from under voltage. If powered by AC they will become inefficient due to low heat supply from the under voltage but all controls operate on 12V-dc in all modes. The primary things damaged by low AC voltage is anything with an AC motor such as the RV air conditioners and if you have one, a household type of refrigerator. If it is bad enough for long enough, it can damage other things like a TV or other electronic equipment but the first things damaged are AC motors because, unlike most electrical devices which get less current(amperes) from low voltage, an AC motor draws more and more current as the voltage goes down.

The last part about an EMS is incorrect. Both major brands, Progressive and Surge Guard provide low voltage protection very effectively in that they will remove power if voltage goes below the set threshold, usually 108V. While the Autoformer will boost low voltage, unless they have changed they do not shut down when voltage falls below 95V, where the EMS devices both do so at 108. Both of them also provide protection from high voltages and surge protection, while the Autoformer, the the manufacturer's words, "provides some surge protection."

 

For best protection either of the major brand power monitor devices do the job well, but they do not provide a boost to allow you to safely use voltages between the low end of designed voltage (108V, AC) and the lower limit of the boost cabability(95V, AC). The very best answer to both issues would be to use one of the first two devices, and with it either the Autoformer, or one of the competitor devices such as from TRC or others. Like most things in life, there are no easy answers that solve everything. We have chosen to use the line monitor devices and to live with an occasional interruption of power from low voltages in order to get the best protection and save a few bucks. Doing so has served us well for nearly 12 years as fulltime RV folks as well as part time since then. We RVed from many years without any of those devices but today would not be without one, mostly because we are much more dependent upon electronic devices today and they have become more sensitive to some of the power problems that the so called "EMS" devices protect from. In the years since we have only a very few times had power losses that lasted more than a few minutes, but I also use a quality meter before I connect and I just don't stay in a park that has poor electrical power.

 

Just so you know, it isn't that I do not understand electrical service or principles as I made my living in that work for 40 years. If you would like to read a more in depth discussion of AC power issues and what to do about them, there is an article previously published in Escapee's Magazine located on my website that discusses the problems and the ways to avoid them.

 

Kirk,

 

I didn't think I was disputing anything you had said prior so not sure why you seem to think I'd be questioning your electrical knowledge. I hold an Extra class Ham license as well as a fair amount of industrial electrical training myself. As far as my statement about EMS I merely implied that shutting something down isn't a remedy in my book, but maybe having things shut off when you need them is a remedy of sorts for you. I will grant you that would help protect them. I just would hesitate to call it a remedy.

 

As far as something like a refridge, that's fine for the old 12vdc/gas ones but many of the modern coaches are going all electric with residential AC appliances that may not tolerate the low voltages as well. I just met someone this summer who had just spent $1200 repairing their fridge from prolonged low voltage damage. It actually came up in a discussion of extended warranty coverage.

 

At any rate, I was merely trying to put out some info to help folks make a more informed decision about safeguarding against low voltages. Lesson learned! I won't do it again. Sorry.

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I didn't think I was disputing anything you had said prior so not sure why you seem to think I'd be questioning your electrical knowledge.

 

they can only warn you about it.

All I was disputing was your statement that the EMS device doesn't protect the RV from power problems, only warns them. But I was also agreeing with your statement that an Autoformer does not steal anybody's power, as I thought that I clearly stated. For anyone who often camps in places where voltage is low, or that has frequent voltage sag issues, it, or one of the of other manufacturers similar products are a very good choice. We mostly agree on the subject and I think that what I stated supports most of what you posted. That was my intent.

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All I was disputing was your statement that the EMS device doesn't protect the RV from power problems, only warns them. But I was also agreeing with your statement that an Autoformer does not steal anybody's power, as I thought that I clearly stated. For anyone who often camps in places where voltage is low, or that has frequent voltage sag issues, it, or one of the of other manufacturers similar products are a very good choice. We mostly agree on the subject and I think that what I stated supports most of what you posted. That was my intent.

 

And to be clear, that's NOT what I said: "ensuring your electronics has a decent voltage to run on is something a basic EMS guard can't help remedy, they can only warn you about it. " Doesn't protect it were your words, not mine.

 

I did not say they didn't protect. I said they didn't ensure they had a decent (safe) voltage to run on, which is what the Autoformer will typically do when operating within it's range. It will protect it by removing voltage but is not eliminating the problem. Personally, I'd rather eliminate the problem (if possible) than just identify it and shut things down.

 

I guess it's all in how you want to interpret it.

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There is a not uncommon situation where the autoformer will increase your rig's power use over what it would be without one but the maximum use is still set by the park's breaker.

 

If you are using resistance type heating it will draw more power with an autoformer than without one. These devices use power based on the voltage so more volts equals more power use.

 

This is something we saw a few times in Arizona in the winter when folks were running their space heaters, fridge and water heating all on electric.

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The NEC is primarily about safety, not optimizing power for a campground. In my opinion, they should not dictate how many or what types of power the campground should supply (30 amp vs. 50 amp). That should be left to the campground owner and the marketplace. However, they SHOULD get the power issues related to safety correct for the power supplied.

 

The demand factors in the NEC for campgrounds are the minimum they "think" should be supplied. I never, ever use those demand factors when designing power layouts for campgrounds. Personally, I use a much higher factor, knowing how much power rigs tend to consume these days. "Guessing" how much power to supply is tricky.....you have to balance cost with performance, and it does depend somewhat on the application. In the now distant past I set up the power for a two stage bluegrass festival.....with vendor area. That was all temporary stuff, and the quad 200 amp service panels supplying the loads were pretty much maxed out. Most people would not think that a few musical instruments could consume that type of power.....but, of course, there is more to it....

 

There are starting to be some parks that actually supply more than the 100 amps that a 50 amp service supports. Some rigs can use it.

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The demand factors in the NEC for campgrounds are the minimum they "think" should be supplied.

Aren't rules specific to RV parks, something pretty new to the NEC? I'm not a licensed electrician and have never made an effort to be very expert on the current version, but I seem to recall that there were few or no RV park specific rules "back in the day." In searching, I did find some reference to such in 1971.

 

There is little doubt that many commercial parks and even more public ones desperately need improvement.

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There is a not uncommon situation where the autoformer will increase your rig's power use over what it would be without one but the maximum use is still set by the park's breaker.

 

 

Yes, an autoformer is another solution. Other RV-ers can suffer by causing their voltage to drop. If a lot of people used them in a CG, theoretically you could knock out a section of a CG or the entire place, but have never heard of it. Heavy suckers too. However, it's kinda like survival of the fittest out there!

 

The key key words "will increase your rigs power use" or ALLOW your rig to use more power is what compounds the camp ground electrical distribution system to be become more overloaded. A properly designed system will protect itself, tripping breakers or blowing fuses before melting wire or having transformers fail. BUT the Campgrounds are getting older and the demands are growing. Equipment is aging.

In less than 50 years my RV'ing has went from using ice box, gas lights and a 15 amp electrical service if needed to 50 amp service with permissive gas backup..

 

My Progressive Industries EMS trips at 103 volts at the RV circuit box not the pesdestal

 

Clay

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