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Important - check this every time you set up

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techntrek View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote techntrek Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Important - check this every time you set up
    Posted: 21 May 2014 at 11:12am
I meant to post this info last year.  Recently it came up in another thread and now I'm finally putting it where it belongs - in its own thread, pinned at the top of the sub-forum where everyone will see it.
 
Out of all the technical assistance I have posted over the years on this forum, out of all the posts made by anyone on this forum, this is the most important one.  It is literally a matter of life and death.
 
You must check for a proper ground connection every time you plug in your pod, and just using a voltmeter or plug-in tester won't detect every wiring fault.
 
I've known since I was a kid why ground connections are important, but as with most people, it wasn't until something affected me personally that I finally paid attention.  Last summer I set our pod up in our backyard so I could clean the roof and the A/C coils (easy access from my raised deck).  I've never needed my 30 amp extension cord to reach the 30 amp outlet in my garage, usually the pod is close enough.  I needed to run the A/C, so this time I did.  I had my kids get in their bathing suits to wash the rest of the pod, water went everywhere, the ground was soaked, and they had some summer fun while they worked.
 
Long after they were done, I had to get into the pod, so I did what all of us have done hundreds of times - I grabbed the door handle while I stood on the wet ground.  I received a noticeable shock, and with my electronics/electric hobby background I immediately knew something wasn't wired right.  Worse, I knew that the entire time my kids were washing our pod they could have been killed.  They were far more conductive than I was; I was wearing rubber-soled shoes and my hand was dry, they were soaked all over, deep into their skin, and were in bare feet.  I don't know how, but only by extreme luck did a nice summer day in the backyard not turn into an awful day at the morgue.  I tracked my problem down to a bent ground pin on my 30 amp extension cord.
 
Hopefully you understand now that a shock isn't something you can ignore.  It is just a lucky warning that a deadly problem exists and you need to get it fixed.  Next time it could be an electrocution.  Slightly different conditions and you are dead.  Saltier water (think beach trip) is more conductive, slightly higher voltage at campground A vs. campground B (amps kill you, but higher voltage makes it more likely), or you get the shock through both arms and not both legs (amps through your heart is what usually kills you).  My shock was across my heart (1 arm and 2 legs) so I was just as lucky that day as my kids.  I'm sure because the measured voltage on that fault was only around 60 volts and not the full 120.  That probably saved all of us.
 
Check out these links, especially the article at the first link, which explains the right way to test for ground issues.  The 2nd link explains how voltmeters, plug- in testers, and intelligent surge protectors can report on some faults - but not all.  I haven't purchased the Non Contact Voltage Tester he describes, which detects if your camper is currently lethal, but it is on my list.  Keep it in your pod and check every time you plug your pod in.



Doug ~ '10 171 (2009-2015) ~ 2008 Salem ~ Pod instruction manual
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Post Options Post Options   Quote techntrek Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 May 2014 at 11:50am

I have now ordered one of the testers.  This is the model you want to order, be careful not to order the "low voltage" (LAC) model.

Doug ~ '10 171 (2009-2015) ~ 2008 Salem ~ Pod instruction manual
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Seanl Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 May 2014 at 1:06pm
Thanks for the post Doug. I knew most of this and check it regularly there were a couple of things I did not know. 
Sean, 2011 Rpod RP-173,2009 Jeep Liberty Rocky Mountain Edition
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Post Options Post Options   Quote techntrek Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 May 2014 at 1:39pm
They sell 5-packs of the testers much cheaper than a single (the 5th is basically free), so bulk purchases could be arranged for those attending rallies/roundups/get-togethers in the near future.  I would arrange a bulk purchase for the entire forum, but I think the savings would be wiped out by the cost to re-ship.  Distribution at rallies would solve this problem.
 
If there is enough interest I could look into negotiating a much cheaper price, possibly cheap enough to make the re-ship costs a non-issue.
Doug ~ '10 171 (2009-2015) ~ 2008 Salem ~ Pod instruction manual
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Post Options Post Options   Quote jmsokol Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 May 2014 at 6:01pm
Thanks for posting my No~Shock~Zone articles here. And yes, you had a very narrow escape. As you noted in your post, any shock can be dangerous and life threatening. And certainly standing on wet/soggy ground in your bare feet is the worst possible condition.

As far as NCVT (Non Contact Voltage Testers) there are a few alternatives to the Fluke tester shown in my article that are a little less expensive and more available at Home Depot or Lowes. For instance, the Klein NCVT-1 has similar sensitivity to the Fluke VoltAlert and is perhaps $10 cheaper. Klein also makes a dual-range NCVT-2 that will test for really low voltages as well, but it may be a little too complicated for a casual user. So please shoot me a message if you're looking at any other brands before you buy them. I try out all my test gear on a calibrated voltage/distance tester, and not all Voltage testers work exactly the same. I know the Fluke VoltAlert works great, and the Klein NCVT-1 works just as well. And I have a handful of others that also work. But it's best not to go cheap on test gear, especially when lives are at stake.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Keith-N-Dar Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 May 2014 at 8:43pm
Is this really a problem?  I think it is like the exploding gas pumps caused by cell phones.  I have checked the outlets with my multimeter at all camp sites since I have been camping and never has one wired wrong.  Further one of the most scary articles about this I read said that the "skin on the RV becomes charged and causes electrocution."  It also discussed polarity on an AC circuit.  Fiberglass is non-conductive and AC has no polarity.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote techntrek Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 May 2014 at 9:13pm
Thanks Mike for the update!  I posted this info on another forum and will copy the info on the other tester options.

Keith, I assure you this issue is not BS.  As I posted above, it happened to me.  Mike Sokol has heard from many people who have had the same experience.  The door frame - including the latch assembly - is attached to the pod's frame, and the pod's frame is attached to the ground pin of the electrical hookup (or it is supposed to).  The fiberglass exterior is a non-issue.  AC doesn't have polarity, but one of the two conductors is grounded, as well as the ground itself.  If the frame isn't grounded properly any one of a thousand problems can electrify that frame, and you can die.
Doug ~ '10 171 (2009-2015) ~ 2008 Salem ~ Pod instruction manual
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Post Options Post Options   Quote jmsokol Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 May 2014 at 10:36pm
Two years ago in Muncie Indiana, a family had parked their RV in the back yard and plugged their RV into a garage power outlet. They were feeling shocks all week which they "fixed" by wrapping electrical tape around the door handle of the RV. In the middle of the night their 18-year old barefooted son stepped from the wet grass to the metal step of the RV and died from electrocution. The really sad thing is that I was teaching a No~Shock~Zone seminar in Harrisburg, PA just 12-hours before this boy was killed. I still think the easiest test to make sure your RV doesn't have a hot-skin voltage is a basic NCVT such as the Fluke VoltAlert or Klein NCVT-1. The cost is only $20 to $30 and the test takes only seconds. But I have hundreds of RV shock incidents cataloged from readers around the country, so this isn't a rare thing. It might not ever happen to you if you always plug into modern campgrounds. But never trust a garage outlet, and never use a damaged or ungrounded extension cord to power your RV.  
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Post Options Post Options   Quote LizKev Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 May 2014 at 11:43pm
Would your safety chains left on the ground complete the circuit? Would this help at all?
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Post Options Post Options   Quote jmsokol Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 May 2014 at 12:21am
Originally posted by LizKev

Would your safety chains left on the ground complete the circuit? Would this help at all?


No, safety chains would do nothing at all to ground your RV. Nor will putting jacks down on the dirt help stop a hot-skin conditions. There's no substitute for a solid safety ground connection (Equipment Ground Connection or EGC in the National Electric Code) from the frame of your RV through your shore power cord and back to the service panel's G-N-E bonding point.
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