Just like in your regular home, surge protectors can be very helpful in stopping electrical issues from becoming burned out appliance issues. The difference is that the surge protector that protects your home entertainment system isn’t quite the same as the surge protector for an RV.
An RV surge protector has many upsides and downsides for the average RV traveler. The box that plugs into shore power or a generator can do many things well, but can also be a target and cause small problems in itself.
But first, a word on wording. In the world of RVs, you are more likely to buy an energy management system than a surge protector. They don’t do quite the same thing – a surge protector only protects against high voltage. An energy management system does many things and protects against frequency problems and ground issues.
We are going to review the pros and cons of using a surge protector for your RV. Among pros are helping your internal electronics from power surges. Amongst negatives are thieves and costs.
The Pros of having an RV Surge Protector
Protection from surges
Your RV is more vulnerable to power surges than your home power. Your home power is generally supplied by the electric company and might fail rarely. The actual chances of a lightning strike are also pretty low, and these are the two main dangers facing your electronics.
RV’s take in power from shore power, a generator, a battery, and solar. With this potential mixture for power, you have a higher chance of a power producer either not producing enough power, or producing too much.
A generator, for example, can start to underperform or even work too hard as it ages. A lack of current is dangerous for hard working appliances too – as as lack of electricity can cause burnout.
The purpose of the surge protector is to cut off the power supply before any of the above happens. A surge protector actively looks for the right wattage and voltage and allows it through, only if it’s right.
Protection for faulty wiring
Surges are not the only thing to worry bout, and RV parks aren’t perfect. Some surge protectors know the wiring within shore power is faulty. What do we mean by faulty? Amongst issues you could have included having ungrounded power, meaning that any extra electricity keeps going and isn’t pushed out of the RV. Ungrounded power can lead to higher electrical shock and fire risks.
Most home and RV outlets have grounded outlets, which have three-prong inserts.
Ungrounded outlets are common in older homes too.
Note that having an ungrounded power source doesn’t mean your RV surge protector will shut off. It will just help regulate the power.
Also note that some RV campgrounds use ungrounded power, and mistakes and problems do pop up.
While these aren’t explicitly reasons to not buy a surge protector, they are more reasons to be cautious and ways to protect the device itself.
A good RV surge protector is not especially cheap, especially when compared to the surge protector you buy for a home outlet. A home surge protector can be found for $20, but it doesn’t do the same thing.
A good energy management system can cost $200 to $300 depending on the features you want and your RV’s amperage – 50 amp usually costs more than 30.
These are indeed an investment, but worth it to protect the sensitive electrical system, appliances, and the RV itself. Replacing electric based appliances would likely cost thousands.
Installing a good energy management system is not for the average do it yourselfer – in fact, we aren’t going to explain how to install a system that is designed for your electrical box.
Installing an energy management system is best left to an electrician, so that adds to the cost of the management system.
Also, if you sell your RV or trade it, removing it might not be worth the time and cost to get it uninstalled.
A portable energy management system or surge protector is a target for thieves. They are generally worth over $100, can be easily sold, and if you aren’t paying attention to your RV or aren’t home, they are easy to steal.
The good news is that it’s relatively easy to secure your surge protector using a bike lock or a chain lock. You can also get a lockbox for your surge protector.
So theft is possible but certainly preventable.
In some cases, once a surge protector or energy management absorbs a big surge of electricity, it’s no longer useful. They also do wear out over time, but may have done so by deflecting large amounts of energy that could have otherwise harmed your RV and it’s electronics.
Like a smoke detector, your surge protector won’t last forever.
The good news is that most good energy management systems and surge protectors can tell you they’ve had enough by just not working or giving you a warning. If it stops working, you can trace the source of the problem to the surge protector itself.
Portable – Leaving it behind
Some people live in a hurry or when they are tired. It’s possible to accidentally leave a portable surge protector behind by just not unplugging it and driving away. It’s also a good way of accidentally donating your surge protector to the next person.
Thankfully, they aren’t that expensive and are worth it to just get a new one, or call the RV park and see if it’s still there.
There are positives and negatives to come from getting a surge protector or energy management system. For those with appliances in their RV or just wanting the peace of mind that a device is able to detect and block surges, we certainly suggest getting one to have the safety RV experience possible.
Many of the negatives represent small problems and issues related to investing much of anything into equipment.