Posted by: Mark Polk | 6:30 am

What are you plugging into at the RV campground?

When you plug your RV into the power pedestal at the campground you have no idea what you are plugging in to.  The potential for problems is high since it’s quite common for your RV to be exposed to faulty wiring like an open neutral, open ground or reverse polarity. If expensive appliances and sensitive electronic equipment in your RV like inverters, microwaves, entertainment centers and refrigerators are exposed to improper wiring or faulty electrical power, even for a few seconds, they can be damaged beyond repair.

Another problem is, even with proper wiring,  your RV’s electrical system is exposed to other dangers at the campground. The quality of electrical service at RV campgrounds changes based on numerous factors, like old electrical connections, how many RVs are using the campground power and the load they are putting on it, faulty wiring and bad weather. Any of these conditions can result in exposing your RV to voltage sags, surges and spikes.

The operating ranges for 120-volt appliances in your RV are 103 volts to 132 volts. If you operate appliances above or below these ranges there is extreme heat build-up. Electric motors, circuit boards and electronics cannot withstand this kind of heat. The bottom line is your RV is equipped with highly sophisticated electronics and expensive appliances that need to be protected against all of these potential threats. Now that we understand what the threats are let’s see what can we do about it?

I highly recommend using a surge protector designed to identify and help protect the RV’s entire electrical system from the potential dangers I just discussed. You just plug the surge protector into the campground’s electrical supply, check for any faults indicated, and plug the RV power cord into the opposite end and you are done. But you need the right surge protector for the job. I personally use Surge Guard products.

Before we talk about the right product for the job I want to briefly explain what the term Joules means. When there is a voltage spike or faulty power supply the surge protector absorbs and dissipates the excess energy. The Joule rating measures the maximum amount of energy the surge guard product can absorb or dissipate. The higher the rating, the more protection it provides.

For the sake of an example let’s say you have a travel trailer with a 30 amp electrical system. A very affordable Surge Guard product that provides lots of features would be Model 44280. It is 120-volts, 30 amps with a 2100 Joule rating.

This particular model identifies faulty park power while providing surge protection. It features an easy to read LED fault chart. Note: If the display on the face indicates a faulty or improperly wired pedestal when you plug the Surge Guard into the campground pedestal do not plug the RV into the Surge Guard unit. Notify the campground office and have it checked.



The Model 44280 tests for and indicates:

  1. Open neutral
  2. Open ground
  3. Reverse polarity
  4. Open circuit/no power
  5. Surge protection status
  6. and overheating plug/receptacle

That’s a lot of bang for the buck! There is an entire family of Surge Guard products available for any size or type of RV. You can choose a portable model or hard-wire a unit into the RVs electrical system. There are numerous features available depending on the model Surge Guard you choose, and there are full protection models available too. Our motorhome has a 50 amp electrical system and I personally use Model 34850 Surge Guard. It is a full protection model that provides all the protection I need for my RV.

I think you would agree that some type of surge protection makes a lot of sense. Depending on the RV there can be thousands of dollars worth of appliances and sensitive electronic equipment that can be damaged in a short time after plugging in at the campground. There are different brands and different types of surge protection available, but the most important thing is that you have and use one that can do the job based on your specific needs.

Happy RV Learning,
Mark Polk

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