How to protect your RV’s electrical system

How to protect your RV’s electrical system

By Chris Dougherty
Certified RV technician

A reader wrote in recently who had heard about RVs getting fried by bad wiring in campgrounds, and asked if I would recommend purchasing a surge protector for an RV to help prevent this.

I highly recommend surge protectors. I have worked on numerous RVs over the years that suffered electrical problems caused by outside sources. It’s more common than you might think.

To be fair to RV parks and campgrounds, many of them have upgraded their electrical systems in the last 15 years. But when I first started doing this professionally, hot summer weekends often led to air conditioner start kits having to be replaced because of brownouts. On hot summer weekends in RV parks, many if not all the RVs are running their air conditioners plus other appliances. This is a considerable amp draw on the system and if it’s not designed for it, the voltage can drop off — which wreaks havoc with electrical devices and motors.

The most problems I’ve seen are from lightning strikes in or near an RV park. Some of the damage I repaired could have been prevented with a surge protector, some not. One coach I recall had the lightning surge come through the cable connection, which took out all the systems and appliances in the coach. Coming through the cable connection, the surge jumped to the 12-V DC system through the antenna booster, and the 120-V AC system through the TV and the converter.

RV surge protectors seem like an extravagance — until you need them. There are a number of various models on the market from companies like Progressive Industries and Technology Research. There are entry-level units with basic mis-wired pedestal indication and with protection to 2,100 joules and spikes to 6,500 amps — to units that protect over and under voltage, open neutrals, reverse polarity, ground current protection and higher surge suppression protection.

You can install a permanently wired unit with a remote display, or you can use a weather-resistant plug-in model with a locking hasp, which is easier to move from one RV to the next.

These units are on sale at Amazon.com and your favorite RV retailer; they start at $68 and go up to about $350.

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