Protect your RV’s electrical system

Protect your RV’s electrical system

By Chris Dougherty
Chris Dougherty is a certified RV technician. Here is an article he prepared while he was serving as RVtravel.com’s technical editor.

A reader wrote in 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 miswired 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.

##RVT804

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5 thoughts on “Protect your RV’s electrical system

  1. Jose C

    My RV came with a hard wired surge protector

    I bought a second surge protector that plugs in.

    Is this too much, will using both protectors provide additional protection?

  2. Ronald cardwell

    Well I had Hurd so much bout this after we bought the new to us Winniebago 35u I went a bought the Progressive hard wired for it. Not went put in it yet to any parks Ronnie

  3. Paul

    I agree, we recently obtained a surge protector after many years of camping. The very first night we were using it, the power suddenly went off in our camper. I initially thought there was a problem with the surge protector. Turns out it had done it’s job. The error code showed the voltage had suddenly dropped to below 104 volts so the device did what it was supposed to do and shut the power down. Then it did not turn the power back on until the proper voltage returned, luckily only a few minutes. The exact same thing happened the following night. In talking to the campground owners it turns out there was a problem that they had to have fixed the next day on their end by the local utility company. Luckily the surge protector had done it’s job and protected our camper.

  4. Sherry Dawson

    I’ll be traveling temporarily in a 15 amp VW Vanagon camper. Except for office grade surge protectors, the only ones I can find online are 30 amp or 50 amp. What do I use?

    1. Ron Vanderhoof

      With the right adapters the 30 amp surge protector will work. Most RV’s are either 30 or 50 amps which means that is the maximum power they are designed to use. You can plug the 30 amp surge protector into the 30 amp outlet (or with an adapter into the 15 amp outlet) and then with an adapter plug your VW Vanagon into the surge protector. An outlet does not push power out. The power rating of an outlet means that is what it is capable of providing (or having drawn from it).
      Here are some more comments on the subject: http://www.rvforum.net/SMF_forum/index.php?topic=100979.0

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