Jumping in your RV is the ultimate definition of freedom. It means for a short period of time, living life without plans and deadlines. Leaving all of your worries and stress behind you. Before you turn the keys in the engine, think about it: have I done everything to avoid unnecessary stress on my holidays? Add another question: Do I need a surge protector for my RV?
Yes, we are talking about a surge protector. An invaluable part of your RV’s equipment. Before we start going into more detail, let’s look at what could go wrong without a surge protector.
What are the advantages of using a Surge Protector?
A power surge is an excess amount of electrical power. It runs through the wires and hits our appliances. This can happen to our homes or our RV’s. The standard power supply is 120v.
Anything over this can instantly break your RV motor and/or appliances. Small power surges might also cause damage to your RV over time. This can shorten the lifespan of your motor and appliances. A surge protector will block any extra power that comes through a cable, redirecting it to the ground.
While many of you are experts in your RV electrical system, some readers are just starting out in this awesome hobby. Any type of power surge is going to affect your entire RV electrical system.
We’re talking about the vehicle’s batteries, water pump, lights, fans, air-con, solar panels, and microwave and other appliances. Can you imagine the cost of replacing any of these parts?
What exactly causes a power surge?
Here are the top causes of a power surge:
- Lightning – In 2018, the US experienced 17.8 million lightning strikes (Souce: Earth.com).
- Damaged wires – There are many reasons for the wires in your RV to be damaged. The probability rises if you have bought it second hand.
- Incorrect power supply – When you go to a campsite you will use one of their hook-ups to charge your RV. You have to trust that the power supply they advertise is the actual power supplied. You also have to assume there are no faulty wires.
- Blackouts – In 2017, 36.7 million people were affected by 3526 blackouts across the US (Source: ECmag.com).
- Overloading a power supply – This is quite a common occurrence in the evenings. Everybody is around and probably cooking at the same time.
But I have taken out insurance, isn’t this protection?
Each insurance policy is going to be different, as is its cost. There is also various additional coverage you can take out. A comprehensive cover will probably cover you in case of a fire.
But your RV might not be covered if the fire was caused by a power surge. We recommend that you check with your insurance broker about the exact coverage you get. Specifically, ask about power surges.
Be aware that many companies will take into consideration the depreciated value of your damaged item. If your 2-year old TV is damaged by a power surge, an insurance company won’t pay out the amount you bought the TV for.
They will pay out how much the TV is worth at the time of the power surge. Either way, it is difficult to imagine an insurance policy costing less than a good quality surge protector.
A true story
I found an unfortunate testimonial at FMAC.com forums. An RV owner was staying at a campsite in Alabama. The whole park was hit by a huge lightning storm. It melted the 50amp power line and it burnt out the 12v DC and the 110v wiring. At the same time, it caused permanent damage to all the appliances.
The insurance company stalled the process and the RV was at the mechanic for well over a month. No information was available until the insides had been completely opened up. The insurance company had to determine exactly what was damaged.
This is just one case of lightning. Now imagine all the accidents that happen because of the other possible causes of a power surge. The cost of this damage could run into the thousands. After looking at some of the statistics, we can’t assume it will never happen to us.
How does a surge protector work?
There are two types of surge protectors, portable and hardwired. A portable surge protector is plugged into a Hookup before you plug in your trailer outlet. A hardwired surge protector is installed inside your trailer.
Both types of surge protectors have their advantages and disadvantages. Which one you choose is often based on personal preference.
You can find more information about the pros and cons of portable and hardwired surge protectors in our article Surge Protector for Travel Trailers Buying Guide. This article explains more about the specific features of a surge protector.
As well, you can find advice on how to choose the right surge protector for your travel trailer and an idea of the price range. In the article, you will also be able to learn more about Electrical Management Systems (EMS) that come with some surge protectors.
What is a surge protector going to protect against?
First of all, it is going to protect your RV and its appliances from spikes in the power supply. But they also add a number of other safety features.
Most will detect several issues with the actual power supply. You will be able to see what is actually wrong with the power supply from a series of LED lights.
The LED lights will indicate a number of issues:
- open neutral;
- open ground;
- reverse polarity.
Let’s understand what they are:
What is open neutral?
Open neutral means electricity can’t pass through the white wire and has to travel through the hot wire. This is more often than not an issue with the power outlet.
What is open ground?
This shows if there is a break in the wires from the surge protector to the ground. This is an important wire because it is how the excess power is redirected from your RV out to the earth.
What is reverse polarity?
In this case, the hot and neutral wires are reversed. This means you have 120v on the neutral wire and 0v on the hot wire. It can cause a short circuit, electric shock or fire.
Is it the same with an EMS?
An EMS shows information in a different way. Usually, it has an LCD which will show the number of volts at a campsite Hookup.
It will also show you error codes depending on what the problem is. An index of codes will also be present so you can match the code to the problem.
There are many other features that will help protect your RV. In our already mentioned buying guide, you will find all the features of surge protectors.
What are some of the leading brands in surge protectors?
Progressive industries were founded in 1998. They are proud of the fact that they are RV owners so they know what they are talking about. This helps them design and make surge protectors and EMSs based on experience.
They have a large range of surge protectors both portable and hardwired. Sometimes their products are a little pricey. But they are well built with quality materials. There is also a lifetime warranty on all of their products.
Surge Guard is another well-established brand. It is part of the company Southwire. It started off with just one enthusiastic electrician. Now produces half of the copper rod wire around the world.
They have a similar selection of surge protectors as Progressive Industries but generally cheaper.
Camco is not as well known as the previous two companies. Nevertheless, it does provide excellent products at very sensible prices.
The design and color of their surge protectors are unique. Some models also come with more features than more expensive surge protectors.
For more information about specific models of surge protectors, you can read the articles we’ll suggest at the end of this article.
They will have more information on surge protectors, EMSs, portable and hardwired from various companies. You will find specific details like their size, exact diagnostic abilities and value for money.
Each surge protector has a handy pros and cons list to summarize the model.
What is the difference between a 30AMP RV and a 50AMP RV?
We are going to assume the average reader is once again not an electrical or seasoned RVer. A 30amp has one single line that supplies a total of 30amps of 120volts. 30amps are usually pop-ups, smaller trailers, and motor homes. They don’t need as much power.
A 50amp RV is needed for larger RV’s. Instead of one line, it has two lines. Each line provides 50amps, so a total of 100 amps. This is necessary if you want to use two high consuming appliances at the same time. You know how annoying it is when you can’t use the air conditioner and the microwave at the same time!
So many things could go wrong in terms of electrical accidents. Ok, you might not get hit by lightning but you do have to put a lot of trust in a campsite owner when using their Hookups. They might be displaying the wrong voltage or they could have damaged or faulty wires.
When you plug your RV in and there is an issue, it’s amazing how quickly people wash their hands of the responsibility while you are left to foot the bill. Besides the costs, it’s also a very unpleasant experience to go through and fix what was damaged.
Most people will have some type of insurance but the cause of the issue might not be covered. You have to be very specific with your policy and ask exactly what is covered (if anything) in case of a power surge. Even then you can expect some delays while the company is investigating the damage.
A surge protector is a simple yet highly effective way to protect your travel trailer. It will block additional power and send it straight out to the ground. It will also be able to detect many other wiring issues. Most surge protectors are cheaper than the cost of an insurance policy.
Don’t forget there are a number of different brands and models. Most have similar diagnostic abilities.
But there are plenty of other things you would want to take into consideration before buying one:
- Does it have locks?
- Does it meet safety requirements?
- Is there any type of warranty
More articles about Surge Protector for Travel Trailers
For more information and product reviews, check out our other articles on surge protectors for RVs:
- Best Surge Protectors for Travel Trailers (Buying Guide)
- 50 amp RV Best Surge Protector
- Best 30 amps RV Surge Protectors
And also, take a look at our other reviews on Surge Protectors
I hope we have been able to clear up any doubts you had. Next time you hit the road, make sure you have your surge protector with you. This way you know that you can relax with the most amount of safety for you and your RV and you can enjoy your vacation without an unfortunate interruption, all the way till the end.