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A few years ago while visiting our friends at Advanced-RV, we learned about a new type of shore power connection they were putting on their rigs, The SmartPlug. (We like visiting Advanced-RV because they’re always pushing the envelope with cool new stuff.) The SmartPlug had a few unique features, like easy locking and weather proofing, but what really captured my interest was the claim of reduced connection temperatures and improved safety through increased contact area.
Ever since then, I had been wanting to get a SmartPlug on our own rig. I finally did, and decided to put the “safer connection” claims to the test. The result is this video:
Here’s the deal. On their website, SmartPlug includes an infrared photo that plainly shows the SmartPlug operating at a cooler temperature than a “regular” 30 amp connection. But I had questions about this. Was the load going through the two plugs the same? Were both plugs installed properly? And most importantly, was the regular 30 amp connection plugged in securely and correctly? Basically, I wanted to know if the SmartPlug marketing department had rigged the test and used a “faulty” connection as its comparison.
The setup for this test was pretty straight forward. First, I took an infrared reading of the empty and un-used plug. Then, I simply plugged in the regular connection – making sure to do it properly and make full contact. After that I ran a load of 24 amps (at 120 volts) through the connection for one hour. At the end of the hour, I duplicated the SmartPlug infrared photography and took a temperature.
Then, it was time to install the SmartPlug. I made sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the install. SmartPlug even provides torque specifications for all of its electrical connections, and you’ll see my small torque wrench in the video. Once I had both the socket and plug parts of the SmartPlug installed, I repeated the 24-amps-for-one-hour test, and took another infrared video.
While I couldn’t control for outside temperatures, I did run the test on a cloudy day, and out of direct sunlight. The temperatures I recorded were:
- Empty Connection: 22 degrees Celsius / ~72 degrees Fahrenheit
- Standard RV Connection: 43 degrees Celsius / ~109 degrees Fahrenheit
- SmartPlug Connection: 28 degrees Celsius / ~82 degrees Fahrenheit
So good news! The SmartPlug did indeed result in cooler connection temperatures. At least in this test.
Now, I do want to point out that I DON’T think my regular RV connection was faulty, or in any way unsafe. The temperature of the plug was not dangerous or painful to touch at all, and there was no danger to our rig throughout the test. But… I knew that my shore power connection was installed properly and with tight contacts. It’s not too hard to find pictures of burned and blackened shore power connections online. If you had a compromised shore power connection, the temperature could easily get to an unsafe level.
There are other features of the SmartPlug that, while I didn’t test, I do like. The plug has locking tabs on each side that are far easier to use than the threaded connection on my old plug – and they simply can’t be cross-threaded. The SmartPlug also has weather-proofing in several areas that should provide increased confidence in wet environments. (They also market marine connections, so this makes perfect sense.)
All in all – I can recommend the SmartPlug. It does seem to provide – at least based on my test – an increased level of safety against connection overheating for your RV shore power. I’m certainly keeping ours.
Now, if I could just do something about the pedestal end of the connection…