Precautions when plugging in to mains electricity (1 Viewer)

popotla

Free Member
Jun 5, 2018
153
103
Germany
Funster No
54,247
MH
3.5t on Ford Ranger
Exp
Come to Germany! It's great for motorhoming/van life.
I feel a bit dumb about this but here goes ................

For many years we (wife and I) travelled in our Land Rover Defender but now have our first motorhome. We have never used electrical plug-in for on-site electricity and although we have one of these

https://kalledaskabel.de/CEE-Verlaengerung-KALLE-Blue-SIGNAL-25mm-Winkel-25-Meter

don't know something key - super-important, I believe - about plugging it in. It's necessary, isn't it, in order to protect the vehicle electrical system, to first switch something in the vehicle OFF before plugging into the mains?

What are the precautions to be aware of? We expect to be using sites in Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, Scandinavia.
 

DBK

LIFE MEMBER
Jan 9, 2013
18,083
48,401
Plympton, Devon
Funster No
24,219
MH
PVC, Murvi Morocco
Exp
2013
I would always turn off the heating if we had it on the electric setting before uncoupling the EHU. Ditto the fridge. This would prevent any arcing at the pins which over time will degrade them. But otherwise I wouldn't bother on the initial connection. The mains charger will connect automatically whatever you do, or at least it does on ours.

The only thing I can think of you might be referring to is the vehicle mounted RCD but I would never turn that off before connecting the EHU and I've never seen this recommended. :)
 
Upvote 0

RogerThat

LIFE MEMBER
May 20, 2016
1,128
991
North West
Funster No
43,198
MH
PVC
I've never switched power off on any of my vans.

My only safety tip would be to plug the van end in first, then connect the mains end to the bollard.

I often see people connecting to the bollard first, then unwinding the now-live mains cable out towards their van, by hand.

If that cable has a nick in it from their last trip, it may have got snagged on a fence, a field mouse may have taken a fancy to it, anything really - but they may find out their cable is damaged the hard way.... :(
 
Upvote 0
Aug 18, 2014
23,961
135,786
Lorca,Murcia,Spain
Funster No
32,898
MH
Transit PVC
Exp
16 years since restarting
I've never switched power off on any of my vans.

My only safety tip would be to plug the van end in first, then connect the mains end to the bollard.

I often see people connecting to the bollard first, then unwinding the now-live mains cable out towards their van, by hand.

If that cable has a nick in it from their last trip, it may have got snagged on a fence, a field mouse may have taken a fancy to it, anything really - but they may find out their cable is damaged the hard way.... :(
But it does give them an instant health & heart strength check for free(y)

Subscribers  do not see these advertisements

 
Upvote 0
Feb 11, 2017
1,057
1,012
Cumbria
Funster No
47,264
MH
Pilote P740FC
Exp
2008
Upvote 0

Jaws

LIFE MEMBER
Sep 26, 2008
23,854
73,086
Thetford Norfolk
Funster No
4,189
MH
C class, Chieftain
Exp
since 2006 ( I think ! )
I feel a bit dumb about this but here goes ................

For many years we (wife and I) travelled in our Land Rover Defender but now have our first motorhome. We have never used electrical plug-in for on-site electricity and although we have one of these

https://kalledaskabel.de/CEE-Verlaengerung-KALLE-Blue-SIGNAL-25mm-Winkel-25-Meter

don't know something key - super-important, I believe - about plugging it in. It's necessary, isn't it, in order to protect the vehicle electrical system, to first switch something in the vehicle OFF before plugging into the mains?

What are the precautions to be aware of? We expect to be using sites in Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, Scandinavia.
To some extent it depends on the motorhome you have.
We have an Autotrail with a Sargent system fitted.
In the owners manual it does say the Sargent unit must be switched off before using hook up.By switching it off, it turns the whole 240v system off, so no worries about checking the heating etc.
Knowing how flaky the Sargent box's can be I have always followed the instructions
Other vans will have a different procedure, but basically try to make sure things are off before plugging in
 
Upvote 0

TheBig1

LIFE MEMBER
Nov 27, 2011
17,669
43,563
Dorset
Funster No
19,048
MH
A class
Exp
many many years! since I was a kid
ALWAYS check your lead before use. Plug into the van first and always fully unwind the cable. Then plug into the bollard and remember some bollards require you put the plug in and turn it to switch on the electricity
 
Upvote 0
Dec 10, 2013
3,427
12,530
South Staffs
Funster No
29,333
MH
Pilote P740GJ
Exp
Since 2013
And beware of reversed polarity.... Live and neutral wired the wrong way round.

Harmless, but always runs to page after page of pointless forum posts to keep the masses entertained.
Almost as entertaining and pointless as Gassing threads
Are you fishing @pappajohn :reel:

Subscribers  do not see these advertisements

 
Upvote 0

two

Aug 4, 2011
4,911
4,582
West Midlands
Funster No
17,624
MH
A-Class Fiat
You are right to be cautious, especially with mains electricity. Heed the advice given above, but it may not be that critical. There will be many who are ignorant of such advice but there seems to be little evidence of there being many accidents as a result.
 
Upvote 0
OP
OP
popotla

popotla

Free Member
Jun 5, 2018
153
103
Germany
Funster No
54,247
MH
3.5t on Ford Ranger
Exp
Come to Germany! It's great for motorhoming/van life.
(Jaws) To some extent it depends on the motorhome you have.

Our motorhome is a Burow Oman, as shown in the photo below. It's a new vehicle but there is no owners' handbook. I don't know why.

We have an 80 Ah AGM starter batter, two Lithium-Ion 100 Ah on-board batteries and 2 x 110 W solar. These are linked together via a Votronic Power Control unit.

The Caravan and Motorhome Club guidelines recommend that the Isolating Switch is at "OFF"; it was this that I was getting at in my original post. "Isolating Switch"? I don't know that there is one in the Oman. In our Land Rover there were two isolating switches in the circuitry, manual ones (twist one way or twist the other).

(pappajohn) beware of reversed polarity.... Live and neutral wired the wrong way round ...... [but it's] harmless.

According to https://caravanchronicles.com/guides/understanding-reverse-polarity/

...... 99% of the time, this (RP) is not a problem…. until that is, someone decides to put their fingers into the toaster for what ever reason…. they can touch a live element. So the toaster doesn’t even need to have a fault with it. It can still be potentially dangerous.

The same site also says (their emphasis):

If it (a socket tester) indicates anything that is not “normal”, switch off your van’s master switch and unplug from the bollard.
 

Attachments

  • cache_11391836.jpg
    cache_11391836.jpg
    189 KB · Views: 74
Upvote 0
Jan 17, 2014
1,271
2,404
Wellington, Telford, Shropshire
Funster No
29,731
MH
Van Conversion
Exp
Since 1977
I always consider it as important if not more so to check the full length of the cable for damage when I disconnect it. To do this I always run the cable through a wipe in the middle of my hand thus detecting any cuts, snags etc. and have it clean for stowing.

I'm reminded of the morning that I found a squirrel 'nibble' in a cable, not easily noticeable but potentially dangerous!

As for isolating the interior, I never do but there again I only have very simple consumers on board.
 
Upvote 0
Aug 26, 2008
4,790
25,450
B&NES
Funster No
3,823
MH
Van Conversion
Exp
since 2007
If your MH is an import that still has 230v 2 pin continental sockets inside, my lazy solution for reverse polarity was to turn the 2 pin to UK 3 pin adapter upside down so that the UK 230v polarity became the right way round. Having said that, there might still be a risk due to a missing earth connection but I'm not sure.

I also made up a short length of EHU cable with a reverse wired blue socket that could be inserted between the long EHU cable and the bollard, to correct reverse polarity. That DIY fix was based on an article in a MH magazine a while back.

Subscribers  do not see these advertisements

 
Upvote 0
Apr 27, 2016
6,939
8,103
Manchester
Funster No
42,762
MH
A class Hymer
Exp
Since the 80s
No need to take any precautions, just plug in. I always plug into the EHU post first, then unwind the cable so that the excess is under the MH. Not recommended according to some, but I can't see the problem.

There is an RCD in the EHU post that will trip to prevent electric shock in the very unlikely event of a problem. For nearly all problems it will trip as soon as you plug it in.

On some of the aires and more remote camp sites in southern Europe I wouldn't be quite so cavalier, having seen their more creative approach to electrical installation. Especially if it's raining and everything is wet. Best to plug in the MH end first, then plug in the EHU post.

If you have a fan heater, make sure that's off, or turned in a safe direction, as it could have moved while travelling. And make sure it has an automatic cutoff if it falls over. Other than that, I don't bother switching anything off.
 
Upvote 0
Apr 22, 2018
6,853
12,635
Herts.
Funster No
53,503
MH
Adria Coral lowline
I make sure my boiler is off when I plug in, or unplug, and when unplugging, I turn the boiler off and give it a few minutes to settle before pulling the plug out of the van.

The point of connecting to the van then going to ehu point is that you at not handling a live cable, that could potentially be damaged.
 
Upvote 0

Khizzie

Free Member
Jul 26, 2014
3,794
5,695
Le Repaire,Thiviers,France
Funster No
32,561
MH
Autocriuse stargazer
Exp
since 2002
Yep, just plug it in - van first then bollard
The amount of seasoned caravanners and motorhomers that totally disregard this is amazing. I was on a site at Devizes recently and every caravan that pulled in on my side plugged onto the mains first and also 2motorhomes opposite me did the same And these were not newbies
 
Upvote 0
Apr 27, 2016
6,939
8,103
Manchester
Funster No
42,762
MH
A class Hymer
Exp
Since the 80s
The Caravan and Motorhome Club guidelines recommend that the Isolating Switch is at "OFF"; it was this that I was getting at in my original post. "Isolating Switch"? I don't know that there is one in the Oman.
If it's wired to comply with the regulations, there will be a Residual Current Device (RCD) controlling all the mains input, near where it comes into the MH. An RCD is an automatic trip switch with a 'test button', and you're supposed to test it every few months to check it's still working. Therefore it should have been positioned where you can access it easily. You need to find this switch, because if it trips unexpectedly as they occasionally do, you will need to know how to reset it.

Subscribers  do not see these advertisements

 
Upvote 0
Apr 27, 2016
6,939
8,103
Manchester
Funster No
42,762
MH
A class Hymer
Exp
Since the 80s
And beware of reversed polarity.... Live and neutral wired the wrong way round.

Harmless, but always runs to page after page of pointless forum posts to keep the masses entertained.
Almost as entertaining and pointless as Gassing threads
Those with nice modern motorhomes wired by knowledgeable manufacturers can afford to ridicule concerns about older British motorhomes on Continental trips.

Reverse polarity would be a problem in a British house, because circuit breakers (MCBs) are on the live conductor, many socket switches turn off only the live conductor, and anyway all appliances have a fuse in the live conductor. Reversing the polarity means that a fault that trips the circuit breaker or blows a fuse still leaves one of the wires connected. That wire is normally the neutral, which is safe to touch, but in the reverse polarity scenario is becomes the live wire. British electricians take great care to connect houses and campsite EHU posts with the correct polarity.

In contrast, in a European house, all the circuit breakers and switches are double-pole, and no appliances are fused. When the circuit breaker trips, both wires are isolated. Reverse polarity is not a problem, so they are less careful about wiring with correct polarity. German/Spanish domestic plugs are reversible, so it's 50/50 which polarity you get even with a correctly wired socket.

The problem comes when a British motorhome, wired like a British house, is plugged into a European socket. It's quite likely to be wired with reverse polarity.

If the motorhome has an RCD, that will protect against shock even when polarity is reversed. Any MH from 2008 will have an RCD, and double pole circuit breakers as well. Many earlier ones also have them. Before 2008 it's worth checking - some have RCDs, many don't. Some DIY conversions by converters not conversant with the regs may fit single-pole MCBs. But anyway, the fact that appliances have a fuse in the plug means they are susceptible to hazard due to reverse polarity.

So in summary, if you have an older British MH or a DIY conversion, its worth checking to see if there's an RCD fitted. If not, get one fitted, it's usually quite easy. It's easier than buying a tester and reverse polarity adapter, and using it every time you plug in.

How to tell if you have an RCD? It's the one with a 'test button'. MCBs don't have a test button.

There is a device called an RCBO, which combines the function of an RCD and MCB. It also has a test button. Last time I looked, they were more expensive than a separate RCD and MCB. But they are useful, especially in a motorhome, where often there is only one MCB. In a house there's usually one or two RCDs and a dozen or more MCBs.
 
Last edited:
Upvote 0

pappajohn

LIFE MEMBER
Aug 26, 2007
43,435
50,312
Dark side of the moon
Funster No
172
Exp
Since 2005
99% of the time, this (RP) is not a problem…. until that is, someone decides to put their fingers into the toaster for what ever reason…. they can touch a live element. So the toaster doesn’t even need to have a fault with it. It can still be potentially dangerous.
You're referring to lack of a suitable earth, or the fools at caravanchronicals are.
A heating element (toaster etc) has a live wire connected to one end of an element and a neutral wire connected to the other.
It makes no difference which end either wire is connected to the element is still live and will still give you a shock at least.
Reverse polarity is only swapping the live and neutral at source and the element will be live regardless.
 
Upvote 0

pappajohn

LIFE MEMBER
Aug 26, 2007
43,435
50,312
Dark side of the moon
Funster No
172
Exp
Since 2005
And beware of reversed polarity.... Live and neutral wired the wrong way round.

Harmless, but always runs to page after page of pointless forum posts to keep the masses entertained.
Almost as entertaining and pointless as Gassing threads

See what I mean...... This may run to dozens of posts now. :LOL:
 
Upvote 0
Apr 27, 2016
6,939
8,103
Manchester
Funster No
42,762
MH
A class Hymer
Exp
Since the 80s
See what I mean...... This may run to dozens of posts now. :LOL:
I could start off a similar argument by suggesting seat belts are a waste of time, or you could increase your payload by ditching your fire extinguisher. Some responsible person would feel compelled to reply in case flippant comments were taken on board and acted upon by newbies. Congratulations, @pappajohn
 
Upvote 0

thebriars

Free Member
Oct 20, 2018
1,149
2,182
Teesside
Funster No
56,835
MH
C Class
Exp
Since 1990
Reverse polarity would be a problem in a British house, because circuit breakers (MCBs) are on the live conductor, many socket switches turn off only the live conductor, and anyway all appliances have a fuse in the live conductor.

I bet if you checked a dozen British houses you would find at least one reversed polarity socket which has been in use constantly and nobody has ever been the wiser, or electrocuted. Frankly it doesn't matter where a fuse is in a circuit, it will work just the same.

Subscribers  do not see these advertisements

 
Upvote 0
Apr 27, 2016
6,939
8,103
Manchester
Funster No
42,762
MH
A class Hymer
Exp
Since the 80s
I bet if you checked a dozen British houses you would find at least one reversed polarity socket which has been in use constantly and nobody has ever been the wiser, or electrocuted. Frankly it doesn't matter where a fuse is in a circuit, it will work just the same.
If you checked a dozen British motorhomes you'd probably find no-one that's ever used a fire extinguisher in anger or had their life saved by a seatbelt.

Reverse polarity is a safety issue, not a functionality issue. Like when the wire gets trapped in the metal frame of a folding table which cuts through the insulation. The wire contacts the metal frame, the fuse blows, and if the polarity is reversed the metal frame stays live.

If there's an RCD somewhere - in the EHU post or the motorhome - it will trip. Otherwise it stays live.
 
Upvote 0
Mar 18, 2015
367
930
Burrough on the Hill, Leicestershire
Funster No
35,485
MH
Rapido 886f
Exp
Since 2014
Reversed polarity will leave the supply to an appliance live when you operate the switch. Only an issue for UK devices as we use single pole switches whereas Europeans use double pole switches i.e we only switch (break) the live wire, Europeans switch both the live and neutral wires. Unlikely to kill you but you might require fresh underpants.

Back to the OP - I like the plug on that cable. Very useful cable lies flat against the van and you get a useable outdoor socket.
 
Upvote 0

two

Aug 4, 2011
4,911
4,582
West Midlands
Funster No
17,624
MH
A-Class Fiat
I always stand on only one leg when connecting up,
It works for me.
Never known anyone being electrocuted like that!
 
Upvote 0

Join us or log in to post a reply.

To join in you must be a member of MotorhomeFun

Join MotorhomeFun

Join us, it quick and easy!

Log in

Already a member? Log in here.

Latest journal entries

Funsters who are viewing this thread

Back
Top