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Old 06-25-2012, 08:54 AM   #1
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Exclamation A 'Shocking' mistake!

Well I learned a lesson the hard way...but it could have been worse I guess!
We took the camper out for really the first time this year - I know, it's the end of June and we're just getting it out!!
Thursday we set up for the first time, connected the city water and I had my wife run the hot water in the kitchen to fill up the water heater. While she was doing that I continued my outside setup routine. I then came back to the heater and flipped the switch for the electric heat to start warming up the water (You see where this is going!) Apparently during my de-winterization process I forgot to switch the by-pass valve for the water heater. Of course I instantly burned up the electric element. After realizing that we didn't have hot water I began the investigative process and that is when I realized my error. No big deal I thought, just open the water and we'll heat it with gas. Again another mistake...I forgot to turn the electric back OFF. As the tank began to fill with water, and I was playing around the heater, I began to fill a little buzz. Oh no, I thought, we hooked up to a miswired pedestal. A quick check of my receptacle tester showed that I had a hot/neutral issue. I unplugged from the pedestal and off to the park office I went. They came out and checked the box and sure enough there was a problem that they quickly fixed. Plugged back in and buzzzzzzz, testers still going off that the box was hot even though they did fix the problem of old and badly burned circuit breakers. Unplug and the buzzing quit. Crap...now it's an issue with a short in my trailer.
As I am sure many of you have already gathered, when I turned on the electric water heater element with no water in the tank it quickly shorted out. Then, when I filled the tank with water it completed the shorted circuit putting energy back through the neutral and every time I touched metal on the camper, or even worse, the pedestal box, I got a little jolt of electricity running through my veins!!
I have since replaced the electric heating element and everything is back to normal (with the exception of my hair standing on end because of all of the electricity still in my body). This was one of those 'life lessons' that I have learned from and I am sure I will not repeat.
I just wanted to post my mistake so that others can learn without the shocking results!!
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Old 06-25-2012, 09:02 AM   #2
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Excellent post and a reality check of things that can go wrong. Glad you didn't get a full charge out of the situation.
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Old 06-25-2012, 09:19 AM   #3
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Thanks Larry. A lesson to everyone.

A surprise that the burst element did not pass enough current to trip the circuit breaker or GFCI...
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Old 06-25-2012, 09:27 AM   #4
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Lou, I haven't found any campground 30 amp services that are GFCI protected. Some of the 20s are protected, but not the 30s. I think it should be mandatory that all electric pedestals should have GFCI circuits. But at ~$70 per 30 amp circuit, and who knows how much for a 50 amp, I don't think we will ever see that day come.
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Old 06-25-2012, 09:41 AM   #5
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If you had an in line surge protector it would pick up the ground and shut down.
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Old 06-25-2012, 11:27 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by caper View Post
If you had an in line surge protector it would pick up the ground and shut down.
I keep thinking that I should get one, but they are expensive so I keep talking myself out of it. This may have me re-evaluating the cost/benefit ratio!

Lou: I was kind of surprised that it didn't trip the breaker for the water heater as well. Touching the metal on the camper wasn't bad, just of a little bit - enough to let me know something wasn't right. Touching the campground pedestal was much worse. For some reason it amplified the current by the time it got back to the box (probably because the pedestal was more grounded than the camper was).

In any event, I learned a lesson that I doubt I forget anytime soon!
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Old 06-25-2012, 12:39 PM   #7
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Get the EMS, surge protector, now! My 50 amp cost about $380 with shipping and the 30 amp is a lot less but they are really required. My better half balked at the price until I convinced her that they are a must.
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Old 06-25-2012, 01:16 PM   #8
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Surge protectors are expensive but well worth the investment. The price tag might be scary but what you just experienced is scarier.
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