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Does an RV Need to be Grounded

An RV can support as many appliances as a small home, limited only by its battery capacity.

This complexity requires a sophisticated electrical setup that combines power with the needed safety measures.

So, does an RV need to be grounded?

The answer is yes, as long as you are connected to shore power or the local electricity grid.

Without grounding, the electricity running through your RV and into your appliance would electrocute you anytime you touched something.

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How is an RV Electrical System Grounded

The idea of “grounding” an RV may feel counterintuitive, as we often take “grounded” to mean anchored to the floor somehow.

In reality, grounding means providing a low-resistant conductor that allows any electricity in your RV to travel through the ground.

By its nature, electricity always travels back to Earth and chooses the least resistant path.

All a grounding system needs to do is to ensure this “path” never goes through you.

When you are hooked into a standard electrical outlet (the kind they have at most campsites), grounding is taken care of almost automatically.

As long as you are using a three-prong plug, you will be properly grounded.

You should also ensure that the main feed cable is in good condition and that the most extended prong in the plug is not bent or damaged.

When connected to the primary electrical grid, grounding is done through a large rod, which will enter the Earth by at least 8 feet.

In reality, this rod is usually just the most visible part of a complex EGC or Equipment Grounding Conductor.

The EGC is then connected (or “bonded”) to the primary grid’s neutral or “earth” point.

This connection will provide an easy route for electricity to dissipate.

Without it, it would accumulate around your chassis or battery packs.

What is Frame Grounding

For electricians, the term “frame grounding” refers to the grounding system that connects the main frame or piece of equipment, its main metal parts, and the main grounding wire.

As we mentioned before, on an ungrounded RV, energy tends to accumulate around the chassis.

If this happens, this could be lethal.

Because of this, the National Electrical Code requires RVs to have a separate system to drain out their energy from an RV’s chassis.

Do I Need an Electrician to Ground It

Whenever you dock into a campsite and connect your RV to shore power, you will need to ground it.

This means that your grounding system needs to be safe and simple enough so that you can connect it by yourself, with little room for error.

You should not need an electrician at every port of call during your road trip!

On the other hand, the initial setup of your RV’s electrical system is something best handled by a qualified electrician.

Nowadays, many people with basic knowledge about electrical systems venture into making home repairs by themselves.

As long as you don’t make any critical error at this stage, this is often easy enough: a home has a permanent ground connection that is difficult to destroy.

RVs don’t offer the same leeway for error, and creating “hot skin” can be lethal.

Because of this, it’s best to rely on a licensed electrician to set up your grounding system.

Then, you should be able to plug and play” everywhere you go!

What Can Happen if Your RV is Not Grounded

Not grounding your RV when you are connected to the main electrical grid is very dangerous.

The electricity coming into your RV will naturally seek the easiest path to the ground.

This will cause the electricity to leave your wiring connections, and the current will begin running through any exposed metal parts in your RV.

This can affect any of its walls, but it will be particularly strong around the chassis.

This phenomenon is known as “hot skin.”

Whenever you touch an RV with hot skin, you will feel the shock on your skin.

In mild cases – for example, if your shore power cable is slightly damaged – you will be able to feel this as small shocks or very strong static.

On the other hand, hot skin on an RV connected to the main grid will be lethal.

Plus, even a small amount of accumulated energy could harm you if your hands are wet or you are barefoot.

Also, remember that the electrical charge can linger even after you disconnect from the power supply.

This is especially true for RVs, as the chassis and hull usually do not touch the ground directly.

At the same time, rubber wheels will insulate the RV from the ground.

If you detect an RV is developing hot skin, you should disconnect it immediately.

Then, it would be best if you waited for at least an hour before touching anything else.

In the meantime, you should contact an electrician.

Do RV Solar Panels Need to be Grounded

Any power source capable of conducting electricity should have a clear path to the ground.

Usually, RV solar panels come with a small “grounding lug” near their base. This connects the RV solar panels to the chassis or frame ground system.

When you are first installing solar panels in your RV, you should check with an electrician to make sure the grounding lug is installed correctly.

You should also check them routinely to make sure they are not damaged.

Otherwise, you may get a nasty shock next time you clean or remove debris from the panels.

Continue reading: How Much Solar Power Do I Need to Power an RV


Does an RV need to be grounded?

The answer is unequivocally yes.

You should have a grounding system in place whenever connected to any power supply.

When you are hooked to a campsite’s electrical outlet, simply make sure that you are using a three-prong plug and that the longer (or “earth plug”) is in good condition.

If you stay put for a while and connect to the main grid, you will need a more sophisticated Equipment Grounding Conductor with an 8-foot grounding pole.