As campers bring more and more electronics with them — whether in tents or in RVs — and as RV designs allow campers to bring more of the comforts of home to campgrounds, the need for reliable electrical service today has grown into a business imperative.
“I’m of the belief that having your park with a solid infrastructure can differentiate you from your competitor,” Wade Elliott, president of Kingston, Wash.-based Utility Supply Group, told Woodall’s Campground Management. “You know, it’s like going to a hotel without Wi-Fi and HBO. You may not notice it when it’s there, but you certainly know it if it’s not and you won’t go back. It’s not a big positive, but it’s certainly a big negative if you don’t have it,” Elliott said.
And many RV park operators are upping their game.
Anyone in the campground sector for much time knows that 50-amp service at sites is the new standard, eclipsing the old 30-amp service and the once-upon-a-time 20-amp service.
At the top end of the spectrum, one California RV resort, the Springs at Borrego, put in top-tier 50-amp electrical pedestals on both sides of each RV site, allowing owners flexibility to pull either way into the pull-through sites.
“That park,” Elliott explained, “is a top-tier park that’s catering to people that are looking for a top-tier park. It’s certainly a resort, and they’re looking for amenities.”
While that’s a drastic example, it’s not uncommon for parks owners to perform upgrades in order to keep on top of maintenance and stay at the forefront of guest demands. After all, as any small business owner knows, that’s the key to staying in business.
“Given the energy consumption of the much larger RVs today, the importance of a power outlet and a pedestal is just a necessary item in today’s RV park management,” said Lisa Senior, general manager of Hialeah Meter Co. in Hialeah, Fla.
And of course, that increase in power consumption by RVs has led to another trend in RV park pedestals: More and more metering of electricity use at sites.
All of the experts consulted by Woodall’s Campground Management said metering continues to grow, with up to three-fourths of pedestal purchases being for metered pedestals — not to mention the purchases of kits to retrofit meters onto non-metered pedestals.
More and more meters are solid-state meters, with a digital display. Yet for those who prefer the older technology, Senior said Hiahleah still has refurbished electro-mechanical meters — the kind with the spinning disc and the physical displays. “We’re going to stand by the accuracy of the refurbished meters used for the installation of the pedestals and the installation kits,” she explained, “and as long as we have a source for them they will be offered along with the power outlets and pedestals and parts necessary to repair an existing power outlet and pedestal.”
Not all pedestals are the same, either. There are a variety of options, for the common gray boxes as well as unusual designs.
For instance, HyPower of Claremore, Okla., brings their marine aesthetic and their PowerSnap panels to their RV park offerings, said Eric Farley, director of sales. “Our PowerSnap panels allow for greater versatility, flexibility and a lot less expensive maintenance. With four screws you pop the panel off and all the electrical, the breakers are right there.”
It’s a heavier unit with heavier wire, which is rated up to 200- or 400-amp service, depending on the chosen options, which makes upgrades easy. “With 30-amp service you can then step in and just change the panel out and put in 50-amp. You don’t have to rewire it,” Farley said.
While metering and 50-amp service have been around for a while, the latest trend on the upswing in electricity for campsites is lighting — especially the use of energy-efficient LED lighting. “One thing that’s new and big is LED panel lighting,” said Maggie Linnell, owner of Your Electrical Solutions in Lake Orion, Mich. “People have been asking for that. Milbank listened and they just introduced that,” she said in April. In fact, within the first few weeks that feature proved popular for Linnell’s company, which distributes pedestals from a variety of manufacturers, including Milbank.
Jamestown Advanced of Jamestown, N.Y., also has LED-lit pedestals, said Liz Caldwell, marketing manager for the company. “In the last few years, we have been seeing an upswing in the number of requests for lighted units and units with pagoda lights,” she told WCM. All their pedestals have meter and pagoda-light options, which place an always-on light on top of the pedestal. “On the other hand,” she continued, “our lighted unites contain a photocell with an LED light and viewing window, which illuminates the breakers and receptacles inside the box and provides a clear site marker from dusk to dawn.”
About a year ago, Jamestown Advanced introduced a customized option which allows campgrounds to get their logos cut into the access door on the pedestal. “We have had great feedback from our customers,” Caldwell said. “Our customers love to see their name in lights.”
One discernible trend that’s on the horizon is a push to make meter reading easier for campgrounds. Utility Supply Group is working on affordable remote-read metering systems, Elliott said.
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