If you’ve been to many recreational campgrounds, you’ve probably seen some shoddy connectors on the power poles of some parks. To knowingly put your equipment and your coach at risk is a chance some people are likely to take, but let me assure you, RVs need surge protection.
It’s a costly risk to not be protected. When utilizing the shore power at an RV park, consider that other vehicles in the area are powered in as well. That means high-end power consumption from the park’s supply which can create transient power situations and that could spell disaster for those not protected.
When we talk about surge protection on your RV, what we’re speaking of mainly is protecting the coach from over/underages. Surge protection, in the traditional sense, suppresses line surges. That’s not exactly prominent from inside the cabin like it is in the home.
In the case of RVs, yes, there is traditional surge protection where the device will cut power when it detects transients on the power line, but another feature that should be included is power monitoring on the shore.
This will detect high and low conditions on the line and enable the device to turn off until the danger clears and then reset itself, or at least require a manual reset.
These over/under voltage conditions happen when power dips below 90 volts or jumps over normal ranges at 150 volts or more. Normal ranges fall between 104 volts and 130 on a standard 120 volt line.
The low range can be hard on high-powered appliances that require a lot of juice to get going. On the other end, surges can damage smaller equipment like electronics and anything with digital components.
As an example of what kind of trouble you’re looking at if unprotected is your refrigerator. You’re looking at hundreds of dollars to replace the control panel on your fridge should it get damaged. That’s one of but many items at risk from one surge.
More Reasons To Use Surge Protection For Your RV
You have other dangers at the pole than just dips and surges.
Reverse polarity, for starters. By definition, current flows in one direction: from the power source to your coach. Reverse polarity is a condition is which the power is connected backward and running freely along the neutral line.
Killing power at the breaker does nothing as the neutral line remains hot. Do I need to spell out the dangers here? Even if the breaker trips the line, the current continues to flow through because it disconnects the circuit at the ground, not the live line.
Now you have a fire hazard and a shock hazard. Many RVs are grounded to the chassis, so you are essentially every piece of metal on the rig is a live connection.
Another feature provided on more of the quality RV surge protectors is a polarity tester. Do not overlook this feature. You never know who wired the pedestal at the campground. Never assume you are safe.
Other issues include REDS or Receptacle Early Death Syndrome. This is a problem at several older campgrounds. Connectors get warped, cracked and generally damaged over time from misuse and excessive heat.
The resulting connection is poor output and this leads to even more heat as it tries to compensate, which in the end can melt your housing or corrode the plug blades. Keeping your plug rust free will help control the problem.
Types of RV Surge Protectors
The most commonly used amperage in coaches is either thirty or fifty amp service, therefore 30- and 50-amp surge protectors are the norm.
Typically a good protector will run you around two to three hundred dollars. When you compare that to the expense of having to replace a microwave or other appliance several times a year due to an excessive or underage amount of electrical current it easily adds up to a good deal.
There are three main types of surge protectors for an RV: portable with ground, a standard portable, and a hardwired model; all of which act as whole house surge protectors that cover your entire rig and all the electrical appliances inside.
As the names suggest, the portable models can be used with any coach with any shore power of the appropriate amperage of the device. A hardwired model is installed as a permanent fixture in one RV.
Installing hardwired protection for RVs can be a job for a skilled do-it-yourself-er or you may want to enlist the help of a professional. The concept is simple: mount the unit at the vehicle’s output terminals using electric cord cut from the converter.
As for amperage needed, that is determined by your coach. If you have a 50-amp rig, then you need a 50-amp surge protector. It’s up to you whether to use a portable of hardwired model.
Higher amp vehicles have dual wiring systems. It runs two 120 volt lines instead of one, as with the 30-amp system. You’ll know right away what the difference is by looking at the plug. 50 amp models have three prongs plus a ground prong. 30-amp models are standard two-pronged plus ground.
Campgrounds generally have three receptacles: 20-amp, 30-amp and 50-amp. Chances are you will never use the 20-amp connector. This is an antiquated receptacle and is found mostly in older campgrounds.
On the converse, newer campgrounds are only installing 50-amp receptacles. If you have a 30-amp surge protector and find yourself in this situation, you will need an adapter. The key to not damaging your rig in this situation is to not go over your rated amperage. Even though 50 amps are available, your circuits can only handle 30. Anything over that will cause the breaker to trip.
Likewise, a 50-amp camper plugging into 30-amp shore power may find that only one a/c unit will work. You only have amps available at the lowest rated end, be it your coach or the pedestal.
In the end, one of the best selling points for a quality RV surge protector is that you will have peace of mind on the road that your equipment will not be damaged. With that one device protecting your equipment you will be able to relax and enjoy your journey on the open road.
Think of it as one-off insurance.