RV Electricity – Discussion of surge protector survey results

RV Electricity – Discussion of surge protector survey results

By Mike Sokol

Last week RVtravel.com ran a survey asking which brand of surge protector you used, or if you used any surge protector at all. In a moment the results of that survey, but first I’ll write about a few comments you posted. (To read the survey click here.)

First, Steve noted that even though he had a Surge Guard that plugs into the pedestal, he had a failure in the new shore power cable that was supplied with his RV. Most likely his appliances were damaged by an open neutral which allowed an over-voltage condition to occur on one leg of his 50-amp feed.


As I’ve noted in other posts, any kind of surge device can only protect your RV from electrical problems that occur  upstream of itself. So a pedestal-mounted surge protector will protect you from power problems coming in from the pedestal, but it can’t do anything about a failure in the wiring AFTER itself. That’s why I think that hard-wired surge protectors offer superior protection compared to portable units that plug into the campsite pedestal outlet.

The next comment was about an EMS surge protector finding a grounding problem in the new RV owners’ home wiring.

Many homeowners don’t realize that their own power outlets have grounding issues, which can create a dangerous hot-skin condition if you plug your RV’s shore power into it. So always use a NCVT (non-contact voltage tester) to double-check after plugging your RV into ANY receptacle.

Lightning is always a threat to RV electrical systems. All surge protectors will help prevent lightning damage from a nearby strike. They are way less expensive than the deductible on your insurance.


The primary function of any surge protector is to prevent voltage “spikes” from entering your RV’s electronics. These spikes can be upwards of 1,000 volts and will instantly destroy any electronics. Even if you don’t opt for a higher priced “smart” surge protector that can disconnect you from low and high AC voltages, a MOV-based (metal oxide varistor) surge device will help isolate your RV from nearby lightning strikes and other high-voltage events. 

Finally, here are the results from our survey:

It looks like there’s nearly a 2-to-1 ratio of Progressive Industries users compared to Surge Guard users. And only 22% of you responded that you don’t use any kind of surge protection at all. I’m finding that 22% result of no surge protector hard to believe just based on anecdotal observation. So please add a comment below and answer Yea or Nay about if you use a surge protector on your RV. 

Let’s play safe out there….

Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 40 years in the industry. Visit NoShockZone.org for more electrical safety tips. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.

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18 thoughts on “RV Electricity – Discussion of surge protector survey results

  1. Steve Barnes, Kamloops, BC

    You’ve answered 2 of my comments in 1 column. This is so very informative and helpful. Thank you so much. Great column!

  2. Steve Barnes, Kamloops, BC

    With SurgeGuard 50 amp hooked through reducer adaptor to 30 amp pole, when I drew too much from heaters and elec hot water, shore breaker blew, or so I mistakenly thought. SurgeGuard started again after programmed 128 seconds, before I could get to pole to see read out on SurgeGuard. Disconnected a heater and it worked fine. Happened few times over days at that park. Was this correct or a fault?

    1. Mike Sokol

      Most likely your space heater added so much current draw from the pedestal that the voltage sagged to below the SurgeGuard’s low-voltage threshold, which I believe is 104 volts. That suggests that the campground pedestal was wired with too small or too long of conductors (or both), accounting for the excessive voltage drop even though you didn’t trip the 30-amp circuit breaker. I’ve proposed a yearly ground and load test on ALL campground pedestals, but the campground industry isn’t interested in anything that will cost them money to fix or makes them look bad to the consumer. But I really believe it should be done.

  3. Bob R

    Yes, a progressive hardware 50amp, Over the years I have bought three (one for every new RV I bought) I’ve been in places where pedestal power was off, glad I had it.

  4. Birdie

    Yes. Progressive 30 portable.

  5. David

    I would never plug up my coach to shore power without my Progressive Industries EMS. It has saved us more than once.

  6. Jay French

    Count me as 1 of the 22% without but will be ordering 1 today.

  7. Fred

    I use an Intermatic IG Series hard wired surge suppressor.

  8. Ron Schmitz

    Your survey on if you use power protection did not have onboard built in surge protector. I checked used one from another company, but that does not give you information about onboard or pedistal surge protector.

  9. Pete G

    I recently acquired a Progressive Industries portable 50 Amp EMS. Within a matter of a couple of months I arrived at a campground and within 15 minutes of hooking up the rig lost power, I checked the EMS and an error code indicated Line 1 High – like 136 VAC. Very glad I had the EMS, I’m sure things would have fried without it. Incidentally, as I was in the office reporting the problem another RVer came in and reported the same problem. Seems like the local power company had a problem but resolved it in about 20 minutes.

    1. Mike Sokol

      It’s entirely possible for the power company to have a lost connection on the neutral line feeding the service panel coming into the campground or even your house. When that occurs the incoming 240 volts, which is normally divided in half to 120/120 volts, will divide up at different ratios depending on load balance. So your voltage can change to 100/140 volts, or 80/160 volts, or 40/240 volts. Whatever appliances are on the “high” leg will be subject to an over-voltage condition. If these appliances have a universal power supply rated for 90 to 250 volts, then they won’t care. However, many expensive appliances such as your microwave, refrigerator, converter/inverter, etc. won’t have a universal power supply and will be damaged or destroyed by a few seconds of over-voltage. And because of where this incoming lost neutral is in the circuit, even if you have a 30-amp/120-volt shore power connection your RV electronics will be subject to the same over-voltage condition. That’s why a “smart” surge protector that can disconnect your RV from shore power with a relay is so important. It’s cheap insurance.

      1. Bill

        Is there any value to having a portable surge protector at the pole in addition to a hard-wired one in your RV?

  10. Chuck D

    Lightning hit a tree within a hundred feet of my RV at a campground in Southern Oregon. My Surge Guard exploded. Really blew apart. There were burn marks on the post and the grass and my power cord. Nothing happened in the RV. This is why I don’t want a wired unit inside my coach. BTW, I contacted the company and they replaced the unit if they could have the pieces of the old one..

  11. Roy Christensen

    I have an EMS surge protector hardwired into my motorhome. Recently I plugged the Motorhome into the outlet on the outside of my garage. The EMS indicated a faulty ground. After checking everything (extension cord, outlet, etc) I found that the 30 amp to 15 amp adapter was at fault. I replaced the adapter with a better one that was more heavy duty. I would not have known about the faulty ground without the Progressive Industries surge protector.

    1. Mike Sokol

      Don’t go for cheap when you’re purchasing extension cords and adapters for your shore power. As you discovered, your power chain is only as strong as its weakest link. The vast majority of emails I receive about lost grounds are due to failed 30 to 15 amp adapters. Perhaps I’ll do a review of the various models and manufacturers of adapters in my new RV Electricity Newsletter starting later this month.

      1. Darrel

        Please do review adapters. I’ve had problems with 30/15 amp myself. I’ve found that some of those made in China even have a strange rubber odor new unused. I’d love to find the best product available.

        1. Mike Sokol

          I’ve already contacted a few RV distributors about such a review, but it will probably be a while before they’ll send me products for testing. I refuse to review or recommend anything that I don’t have in my own hands and have tested myself. I simply don’t believe press releases from marketing departments.

  12. Ed

    I keep hoping the electronics fry, give me a reason to upgrade to something not built in 1995. I find it hard to replace anything if it still works and so far everything still work. Personal issue I know, I have suffered from it all my life.

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