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Surge protection

In the words of forum staffer Gary Brinck, surge protection is like insurance; you only need it if something goes wrong. This articles discusses the need for surge protection for RVs and how to go about achieving it. This is a compilation of inputs from RV Forum members and staff

Odds are you will never have a serious problem, though you may experience an inexplicable failure of a VCR or other piece of electronics and forever wonder if it may have been a surge (and it MAY have been). The risk is that a really messed up power situation can cause major and expensive damage to your rig's electrical systems and equipment.

Newer RVs are equipped with increasingly sophisticated (and expensive) electronics that deserve more protection.

Surge protectors come in two varieties:

  • One that plugs into the power pole at the campsite. You then plug your power cord into the surge protector. Although they do not require installation or electrical knowledge, they are relatively easy for thieves to walk away with, even if they are locked to the power pole with a chain and lock.
  • One that is hard wired inside the electrical bay of an RV. Being inside a locked bay, they are less likely to be stolen. However, they require some degree of installation and electrical knowledge to install. Depending on the space available in your power bay, they may be relatively easy or difficult (time consuming) to install. One forum staffer reports having to remove the drum and recoil mechanism for the power cord in order to gain access and space to install a surge protector.

The energy that a surge protector protects against is very short duration, high voltage spikes. The voltage in itself is not the destroyer of electronics, it's the total energy associated with it. Surge protectors are often rated in joules. A Joule is a measure of energy that they surge protector can absorb (rather than it being absorbed by your electronics). So, the higher the number the better.

For around $300 for a 50A version (2007) you get more than surge protection - it will also be a power line monitor and shut down if the voltage goes too high or too low or if the park outlet is improperly wired (e.g. an open ground).

Not yet convinced of the need for surge protection? Read this story from a forum member:

"The fellow who bought my plug-in surge guard showed me a box of freshly fried electronic gear and extension cord surge suppressors. He experienced a lightning bolt through the power pedestal at a CG."