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Do I Need a Surge Protector for My RV

Hitting the road for weeks on end in an RV combines freedom, mobility, and a degree of comfort that regular camping doesn’t provide.

However, the electricals in your RV need to be maintained to continue enjoying these perks.

This is why you may be wondering, “Do I need a surge protector for my RV?”

The answer is yes, you need a surge protector for your RV, almost as much as you need car insurance.

A surge protector will help you keep the control panels on all your electrical appliances in working order and will protect your RV electrical system itself.

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What Do Surge Protectors Do

A surge protector adds a layer of protection between your electrical appliances and any abrupt changes in electrical power or surges.

It does it by sending any excess electrical energy into the grounding path.

Most electrical installations in the United States are designed to take electricity up to 120 volts.

If this changes abruptly, and you don’t have a surge protector, it may damage anything connected to the main lines.

The internal wiring of your RV or a circuit board on an appliance control panel can overheat, spark, or burn.

Why Can a Surge Happen During a Road Trip

The most common causes for electrical surges are:

  • Lightning strikes
  • Area malfunctions that send more power through your shore hookup
  • Poor wiring installations at your RV campsite
  • Abrupt changes in nearby electrical consumption
  • Environmental disasters that affect the local electrical grid

How Many Surge Protectors Do I Need for My RV

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If the prospect of losing all your appliances at once sounds scary enough, then the question may turn from “Do I need a surge protector for my RV?” to “How many surge protectors do you need to be safe?”

The answer is straightforward: just one.

When you are parked at an RV campsite, hook the surge protector to your assigned shore power outlet.

Then, connect the RV’s 30 or 50-amp main plug to the surge protector.

Here, it will act as a barrier that will shield the RV itself and any other appliances plugged in inside.

Depending on the type of surge protector you get, this may be a one-time purchase that will last you forever – or it will simply add an extra life to your electrical systems.

This is because powerful surges (the kind that would have smoke coming out of your TV or AC control panel) can potentially damage your surge protector.

In this case, you will need to replace it.

Do RVs Have a Built-in Surge Protector

No, RVs do not come with a built-in surge protector.

At most, your RV itself can help shield any electronic devices hooked inside your RV in the event of a minor surge.

If this happens, you will probably keep your laptop, hot plate, or electric kettle intact.

However, it will mean sacrificing the wiring on your RV. Overall, this seems to be a risky gamble.

Do Surge Protectors Come in Different Sizes

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“Size” may not be the proper term here, but yes – there are different models of surge protection for your RV.

Roughly, they all fall into three different categories:

Portable surge protectors

Portable surge protectors are the cheapest and smallest option, but they are also generally the least resilient.

They are about the size of a car battery.

You need only carry them to your shore power outlet and plug them in.

Portable units can be efficient, especially if you are not very handy with electrical repairs. They are the RV equivalent of “plug and play.”

When shopping around for a portable surge protector, look out for two major features:

  • It should be weather-resistant and waterproof. Most RV-oriented models are, but you don’t want to risk damaging your surge protector and being left unprotected during a rainy day.
  • It should come with an anti-theft system. This can be as simple as a chain and padlock – but the smaller and lighter something is, the easier it will be for someone to carry it away.

Hard wired units

Hard wired surge protectors are often mounted inside your RV and close to your cord.

Usually, they are protected by a small case similar to that of a breaker panel.

The initial installation will have to be handled or inspected by a qualified electrician.

They are more expensive than portable units, and you will also have to account for installation costs.

However, they won’t require you to tamper with them while you are on the road.

They are also more resilient, so consider investing in one if you will be traveling in a storm-prone or very rural area.

Electrical Management Systems

An electrical management system (EMS) is a more sophisticated version of a hard-wired surge protector unit.

Rather than divert any excess energy toward the ground, they can help you stabilize the incoming power. This means:

  • They will protect you from low voltage as well as high voltage
  • If electricity returns, they will cut off the power until electricity normalizes, prolonging the life of your small appliances
  • They will protect you from mis-wired or ungrounded connections in the area
  • If you have several appliances plugged in at once, an EMS can help you manage the energy consumption of each appliance
  • High-end models will also have a small LED display, which can alert you from ongoing voltage problems

Reading recommendation: Does an RV Need to be Grounded

What Size Surge Protector Do I Need for My RV

As a general rule, you should always try to get the smallest surge protector that still meets all your needs.

This is because space and weight are both precious and limited resources inside an RV.

The critical question then is to determine which surge protector model can provide the protection you need.

Your type of RV will determine the answer here.

Most RV surge protectors come in amperages (shortened as “amps”) of 30 or 50 amps.

The surge protector should match the amperage that was already installed in your RV or camper.

Conclusion

If you are getting ready to hit the road on a camper, motorhome, or RV, you may be wondering, “do I need a surge protector for my RV?”

The answer here is pretty simple: a surge protector is essential to protect your RV and belongings.

In the event of a lightning strike or an electrical malfunction, it will prevent much costlier and dangerous mishaps.

Fortunately, you only need one surge protector.

There are a few models and sizes you can choose from.

Make sure the amperage matches that of your RV, and get ready for a light trip!

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