Electrical Safety in Caravan Parks
Yes this is one of those dreadfully boring subjects, but all newbies need to understand how the electrical safety equipment fitted to your motorhome actually works. All motorhomes by law must have a 15 amp plug/socket to connect to the 240 volt mains. This is a special plug with a wider than normal earth pin. It will not for instance fit into any normal 10 amp power point you have at home. The photograph below clearly shows the different sized earth pins - the one on the left is the 15 amp plug (in pieces!) All caravan parks ONLY provide 15 amp outlets. You will however come across Scout Camps, Education Centres, showgrounds where only 10 amp outlets are used. This is where some of the problems start as many "amateur" electricians make up totally illegal converter plugs and sockets. YOU CANNOT LEGALLY BUY ONE OF THESE.
THERE IS NO LEGAL WAY TO GO FROM 10 AMP TO 15 AMP
IS NO SUCH THING AS A 15 AMP DOUBLE ADAPTOR
What happens here is the wires can get mixed up BUT the setup will still work leading the motorhomer to believe that everything is still OK. It may not be! To guard against this type of problem caravan parks and motorhomes protect you electrically by using double pole (both active and neutral are switched) ELCB's and overloads. These are also called earth leakage detectors and more recently Residual Current Devices - RCD. Fuses seem to be a thing of the past thank heavens. The modern units also have overload protection built in as well. Without these devices a faulty lead could easily make the entire frame of your motorhome "live". This of course can be fatal.
|Why do you Need 15 Amps?
So why is 15 amp a legal requirement? Mainly because you are inside a metal box that is a fantastic conductor of electricity. It is indeed a very unsafe environment. If for some reason it became live, you need the extra protection the larger earth pin provides. Most modern motorhomes are fitted with a double pole earth leakage detector, but it can't trip if the earth is faulty. (ELCB/RCD)
LEAKAGE DETECTORS WONT SAVE YOU IF THERE IS NO EARTH
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Please buy one of these!
Either of the gadgets pictured above could easily save your life as they test your lead, your motorhome and the caravan park supply for potentially lethal faults. The very cheap testing device (above right) is available from Dick Smith Electronics. ($10.00) You simply plug it into the caravan park pole BEFORE plugging in your motorhome. No lights means the pole is not on - it is not readily obvious on some poles just how to turn in on either particularly the mushroom type. One light DO NOT USE THIS POLE. Two lights on - OK. There are many different types of these on the market, but this one is the most "idiot proof", for non-electrical folk like most of us and the instructions are clearly printed on the top as you can see by looking at the photo. Coles and Woolies sell a grey version with three lights. This is just too hard to understand, too easy to make a mistake when relying on memory, as it covers too many eventualities, HOWEVER it will tell you EXACTLY what is wrong if you have the knowledge to understand this. After checking the pole we then connect up and pop the tester in any motorhome power point and check again - particularly important if you are using someone else's extension lead. Make it a golden rule no matter what, to use it whenever you use someone else's lead. This can happen at get togethers if someone decides to "daisy chain" vans using the outside power point. The tester makes a great night light if you leave it plugged in! Also stops it getting lost and it is also easier to find quickly. The picture below shows the complicated type indicating a VERY SERIOUS fault. In this case one half of the parks power pole was wrongly wired. The park owner sensibly had it corrected within an hour. We would point out though, that if we had an older unit without an RCD we wouldn't be reporting this!
It is extremely good practice to trip your ELCB or RCD in your motorhome at least once a month. To do this connect power and simply press the TEST button. If it is working properly you should hear a loud clunk and the power INSIDE the van should go off. NOTE: If you do this in some caravan parks you may cause their pole ELCB to trip off as well as the internal one in your motorhome. Just switch it back on at the pole. This is actually a good sign. If you are at a rally and in a "daisy chain" situation you may trip every motorhome in the chain plus the pole!
The moral of this page is not to mess with the safety of your family and friends. The laws in this case are there to protect us all, so please do the right thing!