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Old 08-20-2014, 03:45 AM   #1
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GFCI Plugs in RVs

OSHA and The National Electrical Code has specific requirements for dwelling units including mobil homes and the RV Industry.
Ground-fault circuit-interrupters are designed to save lives and are to be used in wet and damp locations in and around the home.

It is my understanding that GFCIs are basically useless in RVs because RVs are not grounded as stick and brick buildings are. RVs do not have a copper wire running from its fuse box to a copper rod in the ground. RVs rest on rubber tires insulated from the ground. This is evident when RVs have a grounding problem and a shock or tingling is felt when one standing on the earth grabs the door or touches the metal skin of a RV plugged into shore power. If RVs were grounded we would not be urged to disconnect our RVs from campground electricty/shore power during electrical storms or have RV Elec Surge Protection. And one can not rely on shore power being without its' problems.

What say you.....
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Old 08-20-2014, 04:38 AM   #2
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Restudy electrical wiring 101 and the NEC. GFCI circuits do work in the RV industry when the unit and source it is plugged into are wired correctly. I have helped many folks find bad heating elements in their ref. and water heaters that will trip GFCI circuits. Hot skin is a separate issue but again is a result of bad wiring.
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Old 08-20-2014, 08:35 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doggy Daddy View Post
It is my understanding that GFCIs are basically useless in RVs because RVs are not grounded as stick and brick buildings are. RVs do not have a copper wire running from its fuse box to a copper rod in the ground.
The simple answer is your understanding is faulty.. RV's (When on shore power) DO indeed have a copper wire running to a rod in the ground... In many parks you can see this rod, right next to the power pedestal.. In others it is at the park's power distribution panel.. but it is there. ALWAYS.
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Old 08-20-2014, 09:36 AM   #4
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A GFI monitors the amount of current flowing from hot to neutral. If there is any imbalance, it trips the circuit. It is able to sense a mismatch as small as 4 or 5 milliamps, and it can react as quickly as one-thirtieth of a second. A GFI isn't looking at the ground and can even be used on a non-grounded circuit as long as its labeled as such.
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Old 08-20-2014, 11:41 AM   #5
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Faulty understanding on two counts:
(1) A GFCI has nothing to do with a ground wire and does not require one to operate. It measures amps on the hot vs the neutral.
(2) An RV does have a ground system whenever 120v power is in use. Shore power, generator and even the inverter all provide a ground path for safety.
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Old 08-20-2014, 12:41 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doggy Daddy View Post
...If RVs were grounded we would not be urged to disconnect our RVs from campground electricty/shore power during electrical storms or have RV Elec Surge Protection. And one can not rely on shore power being without its' problems.

What say you.....
Unplugging from a pedestal during a storm reduces the chance that a strike to the power grid will feed down into your RV. It has nothing to do with being grounded or not. A surge protector will also help protect from power spikes, but they usually self destruct in the process, requiring replacement. A properly wired shore cord and pedestal provides a ground path for your RV. When you are unplugged, you are NOT grounded, but the rubber tires do little to protect you. A bolt of lightning that has just passed through thousands of feet of air looking for a path to ground, isn't going to be stopped by a few inches of rubber! A vehicle can be a shelter if it has a metal shell that gives electricity a less resistant path to ground.

If you feel you can not rely of shore power, try living off the grid!
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Old 08-20-2014, 12:48 PM   #7
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You can install a 3 prong GFI outlet in a stick house with 2 wire system. Just have to place a sticker on the receptical that says " No equipment ground".
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Old 08-21-2014, 10:55 AM   #8
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You can install a 3 prong GFI outlet in a stick house with 2 wire system. Just have to place a sticker on the receptical that says " No equipment ground".
Yeap, and it's still GFCI-protected even though there is no safety ground. However, the chances of ever actually getting a "ground fault" is quite slim when there is no ground wire in the circuit. It would only occur if the hot wire shorted to some other circuit path, e.g. another neutral wire in the same junction box.
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Old 08-21-2014, 12:10 PM   #9
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In my house my wife rinsed down a wall with a GFCI in it (Back when I had both wife and stick & Brick) plunging the room into instant darkness since that outlet also powered the light and fan.

There is ALWAYS an alternative path to ground.. The 3rd wire ground is not the only alternative path.. However it was added before GFCIs became popular, here is how it works.

You are holding a metal encased tool, say a power drill, or better yet a SKILL hand grinder (you will see later why)

A short puts voltage on the case even in intermittnent short..

With the 3rd wire ground the breaker trips and you are protected, OH you will likely get a bit of a shock, but the breaker should trip before you are killed.

With the GFCI,,, you won't even feel it, it will trip that fast.

How do I know this (And why did I specify a SKILL hand grinder)

Well.......... Experience (this thing is an industral "Dremel" type tool.. NOTE, I fixed it with a low end Dremel, plastic case, lasted me on the job till I left and 20 years more.
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Old 08-23-2014, 11:32 AM   #10
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There is ALWAYS an alternative path to ground..
Good point! The purpose of a ground wire is to provide a safe alternate path so that your body doesn't provide it instead. The purpose of the GFCI is to turn power off as soon as the short occurs, regardless of the path.
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Old 08-23-2014, 12:05 PM   #11
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GFCI's also provide protection for devices such as hair dryers or space heaters that often aren't wired for 3-wire operation. It's been said that a GFCI will protect someone in a bathtub faster than they can be electrocuted by a hair dryer falling into it. However, I've never found anyone willing to subject this claim to a test!
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Old 08-23-2014, 01:28 PM   #12
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A GFI detects the slightest imbalance of electric flow between hot and neutral. It then shuts down the power faster than a circuit breaker could do. Whether the circuit is grounded or not, if the GFI detects an imbalance, perhaps some electricity is 'leaking' into your body and taking an alternative path to the dirt beneath your feet, the GFI shuts down.

I'd think a GFI would be MORE important in an RV, especially if it's not properly grounded thru a properly wired shore cord and pedestal.
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Old 08-23-2014, 10:44 PM   #13
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Safety ground is only required when the device has metal parts that could be energized if something shorts.

Double insulated tools do not nave need for the ground.

Gfi does not look at the ground as it only looks at hot and return to see that they are the same.

If one is different for any reason it trips the circuit.

Any path from hot to anywhere but return is why they trip.
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Old 08-24-2014, 12:54 PM   #14
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This link will cover pretty much what is in discussion with diagrams in some links of RV power systems.
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