A surge protector was one of the first things I purchased for our travel trailer. It is just as important as your sewer hose or your refrigerator. Read below to find the reasons why investing in a surge protector is a good idea.
Do I need a Surge Protector for my RV? Yes, you will need a surge protector for your travel trailer, fifth wheel, camper, or RV to protect your trailer as well as the devices you plug into your trailer. Power can vary wildly at campgrounds especially with old outdated wiring or many trailers pulling inconstant electrical loads.
A simple surge protector will also tell you if the electric pedestal at your campground is wired incorrectly or has no ground. If the incoming power is wired incorrectly this can severely damage your trailer.
Electrical components can easily be damaged if the supply source is not within an acceptable range. The electrical components within your travel trailer, camper, fifth wheel, or RV can become very costly if they need to get replaced. Not only can a power surge damage your electrical systems in your trailer, but it can damage the devices you have plugged into your travel trailer such as your costly iPhone, laptop, or tv.
The cost to repair electrical damage can range from several hundred dollars if you can do this yourself to several thousand dollars if you need to have multiple systems and attached devices replaced. The cost of a good surge protector is a fraction of the cost of the damage not having one can create.
A surge protector should also be used on your travel trailer if you are plugged into a generator or even to the shore power of your house. It is cheap insurance and good practice to always use your surge protector on your travel trailer. Learn more about which surge protector and Energy Management System we recommend by visiting our page on the Best RV Surge Protectors.
The electrical systems in your trailer are very complicated as you have both 120 volt and 12-volt systems which run very differently. When plugged into 120-volt power, your 12v items still run off of your battery, but your battery is being charged by the internal charger. These are complicated to repair and here is how to stay safe and keep your electrical components in your travel trailer in top working condition.
Surge Protector Ultimate Guide
What is a Travel Trailer Surge Protector?
A surge protector is a system that protects your electrical systems from surges or increases in voltage above the normal range of power that is acceptable for electronic devices. This surge protector will protect your travel trailer power distribution panel, your on board charger, and other items directly wired into your RV. It is still a good idea to use a household surge protector as well with expensive items such as laptops, phones, cameras, etc.
A good surge protector will have indicator lights to tell you if the incoming power is wired correctly. This could let you know if you have a bad ground, wrong natural, etc… These can be very bad for your trailer electronics as well as anyone in the trailer as it can pose an electrocution problem, especially if the pedestal improperly grounded in wet weather.
How do I use a Travel Trailer Surge Protector?
To use a surge protector, first plug your surge protector into the source power. Turn on the breaker for the source power, and check to see if your power is wired correctly. Most surge protectors will have indicator lights to tell you if the pedestal is wired correctly, and if not, tell you what is wrong with the source power. If the source power is good to go, turn the breaker back off. Next plug your extension cord from the surge protector to your trailer and flip the breaker back on. You should now be ready to use your 110-volt items in your trailer.
What is an electrical management system (EMS)?
An electrical management system (EMS) will do the same as a surge protector by protecting your trailer from surges and incorrect wiring. An EMS will also tell you the voltage that is coming out of the power post. It will notify and protect your trailer if there is too high of voltage or too low of voltage entering your trailer.
Voltage that is too high or too low can cause the failure of electrical components. Voltages too low can cause motors or electronics to run hotter causing premature irreversible damage and failure. Too high of voltage can cause motors and electronics to have too much power and fail.
An EMS plugs into the power post and is about the same size as a surge protector. There is also the option of buying and installing a hardwire EMS so it is always installed in the trailer and you cannot forget it at a campsite. Function wise, a hardwire will perform just as well as a portable unit.
What is a power surge?
A power surge is a spike in electrical current. Power surges can be very short, but can still damage your trailer, wiring, and devices plugged in. Power surges occur when an electrical current is interrupted and then restarted again. These can happen from a lightning storm, be caused by your electrical utility company during grid switching, or be caused when many items are added or subtracted from an electrical line. An example at a trailer park is if 50 trailers in your 200-unit trailer park were all turned off or on at once, this could send a surge to the remainder of the trailers in the park.
Do I need a hardwire surge protector or portable plug in?
Hardwire surge protectors or energy management systems accomplish the same task as plug and play units. A hardwire unit is installed prior to power entering your distribution center and give you a remote display to check voltage, power quality, etc. Hardwire units need to be installed by a professional or someone who knows about 110v electricity Hardwire units have less of a chance of being stolen and you cannot forget to use them.
Do I need an Energy Management System for my RV?
It is a good idea to get an energy management system (EMS) for your travel trailer or RV as an EMS add another layer of protection, not only are you protected for surges and incorrect wiring, but you are protected from under powering or over powering your trailer. Underpowering and overpowering your trailer can damage your trailer just as much as a power surge can.
Should you use a surge protector with a generator?
You should use a surge protector with a generator as generator power can vary just as much as grid power. Generator power can be very “dirty” with your generator running at different loads trying to catch up, or if you overload and the power on your generator resets. Our 2,000-watt generator really has to work sometimes when we are running lots of items and turn the microwave. When the generator has to catch up to provide ample power, this could be providing less voltage or spike causing damage. Read our article to learn about our favorite generators.
What is the cost to repair travel trailer electrical damage?
The cost to repair electrical damage due to an incorrectly wired power post, power surge, or underpowering can vary. If you are handy, you can fix your trailer systems yourself, a repair can start at $200 for a new distribution panel. If it is more than your panel damaged, you could spend hours and thousands of dollars chasing down burnt-out items in your travel trailer. Should you have your $800 iPhone, $500 camera, $350 TV, and $200 microwave plugged in and they all get damaged, just your accessories plugged into your trailer will cost over $1,850 plus the damage to your trailer. Buying a surge protector is really a small fraction of the damage a surge can cause.
Do I need a 30 or 50 amp surge protector?
If your trailer is wired for 30 amp, you will need a 30-amp surge protector. If your trailer is a 50 amp trailer you likely have 2 a/c units on the roof and will require a 50-amp surge protector.
Is a hardwired surge protector better than a portable unit?
No, a hardwire and portable surge protector accomplish the same task. The only difference is you will have to pay to install the hardwired unit, and they cannot easily be transferred to a new rig if you sell yours. A portable unit does not have to be professionally installed, but you can run the risk of it getting stolen if it is not locked up. Learn about protecting your surge protector investment. A portable unit may be easier to test poles within the campground if there is a problem with the power pole you are parked at. Portable units can also be easily transferred if you sell your RV and get a new one.
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