Is a Surge Protector Necessary for an RV?

RV surge protectors are crucial devices that divert unexpected electrical spikes away from a recreational vehicle’s sensitive appliances and electronics. Without these inline guardians, remote campsites’ unpredictable power sources frequently generate brief bursts reaching thousands of volts—enough to utterly devastate unprotected circuitry. 

Quality protectors thus buffer complete electrical systems, monitoring inputs down to individual nanoseconds to shunt dangerous surges. This prevents destroyed gadgets that could cripple RVs deep off-grid. 

Consider protectors inexpensive insurance enabling enthusiasts to safely sustain interior systems wherever adventures may lead—their reassurance allows genuinely enjoying majestic yet remote locales far from electrical infrastructure, not worrying over potential devastation from an unseen power spike.

Is a Surge Protector Necessary for an RV?

Why You Need a Surge Protector for Your RV?

Using a surge protector is highly recommended for RVs. RVs are especially vulnerable to power surges because most models rely heavily on electronics and appliances while off the grid. Damage from surges can be costly and inconvenient when you are traveling on the road. 

Key reasons to use a surge protector include –

Prevent Damage to Electronics

As mentioned, surges can fry televisions, computers, and other electronics in an instant if not properly protected. Replacing these items with new models can be expensive and time-consuming.

Avoid Electrical System Issues 

Too much electricity flowing back through circuit breakers and fuses can cause RV electrical systems to short-circuit or spark fires. Surge protectors regulate electricity to prevent this.

Extend Appliance Lifespans

Microwaves, coffee makers, and AC units have to work harder during surges. This strains motors and internal parts. Surge protectors take the brunt so appliances last longer.

Improve Safety

Exposed wires, malfunctioning electrical equipment, and unexpected fires are all potential hazards surges can cause within the confined space of an RV. Proper regulation of electricity dramatically improves safety.

So in short, investing in a quality surge protector provides essential, affordable protection for your RV investment and personal safety. The minor upfront costs vastly outweigh the expenses and headaches caused by electrical damage down the road.

What Does an RV Surge Protector Do?

The basic function of an RV surge protector is to monitor the flow of electricity from either shore power or a generator and clamp down on power spikes. Here is a more technical overview –

Monitor Current – Advanced circuitry constantly tracks electrical output to detect surges faster than breakers and fuses alone. Most can detect and react to surges in less than one nanosecond.

Divert Excess Electricity – When a surge happens, the protector reroutes excess electricity away from RV equipment and safely into the grounding wire. This prevents overloaded electrical systems.

Regulate Power Flow – In addition to diverting spikes, protectors ensure electricity flowing into an RV remains within safe parameters for optimal performance of delicate electronics and appliances.

Provide Peace of Mind – Having advanced regulation of electrical systems means you can plug in and use devices without worrying about unexpected power issues damaging your valuables.

Quality surge protectors offer notifications when protection circuits are triggered, giving you a heads-up to potential wiring issues in outlets or damaged extension cords leading to your RV.

How to Choose the Right Surge Protector for Your RV?

With many types and models of surge protectors available from various manufacturers, it helps to understand terminology and features when selecting the best choice to safeguard your RV investment.

Surge Protector Types and Ratings

Portable Protectors – Designed for travel, these feature rotating plug ends, convenient portable sizes, weatherproof covers, and carrying handles. Look for UL1449 listed models.

Hardwire Protectors – Permanently installed between your RV breaker box and shore power outlet for automatic whole RV protection. Ensure the voltage and amperage match your RV’s electrical system.

Progressive Protection – Found in better quality models, this starts by diverting smaller surges without kicking breakers while large surges prompt full shut down of electricity to prevent damage.

Response Time – This indicates how fast protection circuits activate, with most quality models responding to dangers in less than a nanosecond. Quick response times mean better protection.

UL 1449 – These Underwriters Laboratories rated models meet stringent standards for things like durability, heat resistance, and clamping voltage for safety and effectiveness.

Surge Protector Brands

Top manufacturers of quality UL1449-rated surge protectors recommended for RVs include –

  • Progressive Industries (Specialize in RV electrical equipment including the popular EMS hardwire models and portable protectors)
  • Hughes Autoformers (Another respected brand, they offer automatic hardwire models and 50amp portable protectors)
  • Surge Guard (Key supplier of whole-RV hardwire protection equipment with models to match any amp/voltage system)

How to Choose the Right Model

Choosing comes down to electrical setup, budget, and desired portability –

For RVs plugging into 50-amp service, a hardwire protector like the Surge Guard 50AMP or Progressive Industries 5050 works nicely for automatic whole-RV protection.

Smaller travel trailers using 30-amp or 20-amp systems can utilize portable protectors like the Hughes Autoformer 30310 when convenient. Just plug it in whenever hooking up.

Larger portable models rated at 50 amps offer flexibility for Class A motorhome owners not wishing to hardwire units but still requiring sufficient wattage for all connected appliances and devices during surges.

NOTE: Quality surge protectors are available at most RV dealerships, camping outlets, and through online retailers like Amazon. Be sure to verify the required specs like amperage before purchasing. Professional installation may be necessary for some hardwire models.

How to Use an RV Surge Protector?

Using surge protectors properly ensures you get optimal protection from damaging electrical spikes. You just need to –

a) For portable models, simply plug the protector into the campsite power outlet first, then connect your RV power cord to the protector rather than directly into the campsite outlet.

b) When powered on, check that indicator lights cycle properly to verify the functioning of internal breakers and protection circuits. Warning lights, if present, should not activate under normal conditions.

c) Avoid daisy-chaining multiple portable protectors or power strips together as this degrades effectiveness. Run devices directly off the primary surge protector instead.

d) Hardwire models don’t require interaction under normal use, however intermittent testing by manually triggering internal breakers is recommended. This verifies they actuate properly when dangers occur.

e) Rotate the blocking plates of portable protector power plugs to keep external contacts shielded from moisture when not hooked up to outlets. This prevents corrosion buildup.

f) Remember, protectors only work properly when equipment ground wires are correctly installed to safely divert surges. Use ground fault interrupter outlets when available as an additional precaution.

g) Replacing fuses or circuit breakers with higher-rated models than appliance nameplates recommends degrading surge protector performance. Always adhere to manufacturer specifications.

How to Securely Lock a Portable Surge Protector?

Traveling with a portable surge protector for your RV necessitates securing it from theft when parked. Here are some methods to deter would-be grab-and-go criminals:

Use a padlock with a cable to securely fasten the protector to items like picnic tables, signposts, or brackets on external RV walls that can’t be quickly removed. This deters smash-and-run thefts of the entire unit.

Protectors featuring a locking hole in the power head, such as the Camco PowerGrip, permit the use of a small padlock to secure the rotating power plug end in place. This low-profile method prevents unplugging.

Attach adhesive warning alarms that loudly activate when the protector is moved or unplugged without disabling the alarm first via a hidden switch. These alert you to potential theft attempts.

Secure through storage compartments using steel cabling or a high tensile strength bike lock to protectively enclose the surge protector out of sight and deter tampering when not monitoring the RV exterior.

Always check that protections like alarms or locks engage correctly before leaving portable surge protectors unattended for any length of time. Take the protector with you rather than chancing theft if uncomfortable with site security.

Are EMS and Surge Protectors the Same?

The terms Electrical Management System (EMS) and surge protector tend to be used interchangeably in the RV industry. However, these are actually different devices.

Surge Protectors focus solely on protecting RVs from external power surges. They monitor electricity from shore power or generators and quickly clamp down on sudden voltage spikes.

EMS systems provide additional monitoring of campsite voltages to prevent damage to appliances and electronics from sustained under/over voltage, open neutral, and incorrect shoreline polarity. They proactively shut power off during such abnormal supply conditions.

So in summary – surge protection is an element of overall Electrical Management Systems, however, EMS provides more extensive monitoring and automatic shutoff capabilities from multiple types of potentially hazardous power issues.

Many RV owners opt to install both systems for comprehensive protection. Hardwire EMS models like the Progressive Industries SSP30X already have quality surge suppression built-in. Portable surge protectors then supplement by offering travel flexibility.

Is a Surge Protector Necessary If Your RV Has an EMS?

If your RV is outfitted with a hardwire EMS system, additional surge protection is generally not necessary during stationary camping. Quality EMS models already provide ample surge suppression themselves in addition to wider electrical monitoring.

However, many RV owners still invest in separate portable surge protectors to carry tow vehicles while traveling. This allows protecting electronics that may be used outside the RV such as medical devices, CPAP machines, or portable satellite dishes.

Supplemental portable surge protectors also prove useful when –

a) Visiting parks with older electrical systems prone to under/over voltage conditions an EMS would shut off. Surge protectors aren’t as sensitive so may regulate enough for temporary use.

b) Stopping roadside or in secondary locations like storage facilities with non-EMS-equipped power outlets. The portable protector ensures against surges in these scenarios.

So the bottom line – having a portable surge protector handy while traveling augments installed EMS systems nicely to handle more scenarios off-grid. They make an inexpensive supplement to further safeguard your gear.

Can I Use a 50 Amp Surge Protector on a 30 Amp RV?

This is actually perfectly fine provided you use appropriate adapter plugs to connect the 50amp surge protector to the 30amp outlet on your RV. There are also 50-amp to 30-amp “dog bone” style adapter cords available. No issues will occur since a protector simply monitors incoming power without directly supplying or limiting electricity to your RV. 

The 50 amp rating just indicates the maximum current the surge protector is designed to handle. Your RV will still only draw the normal 30 amps it requires. The key advantage is having extra protection capacity in the protector to absorb larger surges. Do verify all connections are properly polarized and grounded for safety, however. Never try plugging a 30-amp RV directly into a 50-amp outlet without a reducer since overvoltage damage will occur.

End Note

Investing in quality surge protection is a wise safeguard all RV owners should consider. Both portable and permanently installed models provide affordable insurance against the expenses, inconveniences, and potential hazards associated with electrical spikes damaging gear or causing system failures. By following the sizing, usage, and security tips covered, you can take advantage of the latest suppression technologies to keep appliances, sensitive electronics and most importantly – yourself protected even in far off-grid locations. Safe travels!

Relevant Questions

Do surge protectors drain power from an RV?

No. Reputable surge protectors are designed to simply monitor electricity flow and divert surges. They do not actively draw supplemental power or discharge RV batteries themselves during normal operation. There is no performance penalty for efficiency.

Where is the best place to install a hardwired surge protector?

Ideally install the protector as close to shore power inlets as possible, such as directly beside external hookup locations. This provides optimal response times to clamp surges the moment they enter lines. Also, be sure to connect ground wires properly.

Do surge protectors wear out over time?

Yes. Internal components and circuits wear down after suppressing a certain number of voltage spikes or extended use spans of 3-7 years typically in RVs. Review diagnostics features on models like Progressive Industries’ to identify when replacements are advised. Always replace if damaged rather than attempting DIY repairs for safety.

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