Monday, September 14, 2015

Surge Protection for your RV

Keep in mind that we don't have our RV yet (Update: We got it in late 2015; see below for additional info), so what I offer in this blog is basically the results of research that I've done to get us out the door and on the road!  For advice on how something works over the long haul, we have to rely on people who have experienced a lot of RV travel.  I try to take advantage of that experience by reading a lot and asking questions in forums and whenever I get a chance to sit with someone.

As I have scoured forums, blogs and RV sites, I've read a lot about getting power to the RV.  There are some great articles out there about 12V and 110V systems and how to maintain everything from your batteries to the wiring.  I'll list some links at the bottom of this post.

Learn the basics of RV electrical systems in 14 minutes

A lot of people have reported that they can't rely on campgrounds to provide "clean" power.  My electrical knowledge is slightly above novice (I can install light switches), so I don't even pretend to understand all of nuances.  All I know is that sometimes the campground power is either not enough, it's too much, it's improperly grounded, or it isn't wired correctly.

If you plug your RV into a campground's power outlet and the outlet has one of the above problems, that nasty stuff can travel right into your coach and literally destroy appliances, lights, and electrical equipment.

Surge suppressors are devices that fit inline between the campground's power grid and your coach.  Portable ones plug into the campground outlet and then you plug your RV power cable into the suppressor.  Built-in suppressors are inside of your coach's power bay, between the interior end of your RV power cable and everything else in the rig.  The better surge suppressors not only shut down the power if there's something wrong with it, they will tell you what's wrong with the campground power or power outlet.

My research, as you would expect, came up with several types of suppressors that are good to use with RVs.  But one manufacturer's name kept coming up whenever recommendations were made:  Progressive Industries.

The coach we are buying will require 50-amp service to power everything in our RV  - including the three air conditioners.  A lot of coaches only need 30-amp service.  When you get a surge suppressor, you need to get one that matches your rig's highest capable requirement.  So I needed a 50-amp surge suppressor.

The one I'm planning to get is the Progressive Industries EMS-HW50C. It's a 50-amp built-in energy management system that sells for a little more than $400. I like that it has a lifetime warranty and also has a lot of features.

I'm hoping that there will be some time between when the coach has completed manufacturing  and when we pick it up so that we can have the factory service center install it for us before we arrive.  If we can do this, it's one of several things we'll buy when they start construction and we'll ship it to factory service for the installation.

Here are a few links that pertain to this topic:

Update (10/15/2016):  We've had our RV for almost a year now and have been using the EMS-HW50C.  It works great.  There's a 128 second delay after you turn on the campground power while the EMS checks it out to make sure that your RV isn't going to get the bad stuff (I'm not an electrician!), then it kicks in and seems to work okay.  The LED display shows voltage on both of the 50 amp legs and there are status lights.  So far, we've had no issues and are glad we bought it.  We've also seen quite a lot of other RVers using this same surge protector.


  1. Hi Mike,
    This summer my wife and I did a 6000+ mile trip from Oregon to Indiana and Michigan and back. We stayed at 30 different campgrounds during our adventures. We have a 2011 Ventana and I had it equipped with the Progressive Industries unit that you talked of. I wouldn't have any RV without this great piece of equipment.
    Two of the thirty campgrounds had problems with their electrical. First we had a low voltage problem and the second had reverse polarity. Both cases the CG told us it was a problem with our equipment and that we should bypass or turn it off. Nope, not going to do that. The first CG they had a maintenance person come out and tried to work on it and it got a little better but still would kick off due to low voltage on one side. We already had plans to move to a different spot in their park the next day and behold it worked properly.
    A little different situation in the other CG with the problem. It showed reverse polarity on our spot. Again they blamed our equipment as defective. The camper next to us had problems hooking up their 30amp service due to blowing breakers so they used a dog bone to hook into the 50amp to make theirs work. We moved to an open spot on the other side of them and had the same problem. I called Progressive Industries on a Sunday evening and they were great. He talked me through testing our unit with a volt/ohm meter and proved it had no problems. We then checked the power pedestals and confirmed that they both had issues. Now the host said that both of our pieces of equipment are bad. They claimed that they had people in those locations previous nights with no problems. We ended up moving two spaces over from the campers that had the 30amp issues and had a good connection. The day that we were getting ready to leave the park they had their electrician come out and test the posts. Everything tested out good now but the camper had left that had the 30amp problems. The only this we could gather was that the problem was in his internal wiring that was causing it to bleed over onto the adjoining sites.
    Sorry so long winded here but I would never go without a surge protector. Keep in mind you have no electricity when there is a problem. Plan on hearing that it's your equipment that is faulty and not theirs. Best of luck with your new coach. We are interested in a DS4041 and in the future will put in an order for one unless something else looks better for us.

    1. Thanks for all of the great info, Rick! I feel good about the choice we've made. The only real "decision point" was whether or not to get one built-in or portable (with a lock). After considering pros and cons, I think we'll stick with the built-in.

  2. After we got our RV last November, I opted to get the portable version because it saved us from having to pay someone to build-in the other unit. We also bought the guard that keeps it from being stolen. It's worked great so far and I love having the LCD information display on it so I can go outside and see what's going on with the campground power supply. Very nice and highly recommended!

  3. I never really thought about it, but surge protection for the RV makes perfect sense. All my expensive toys are in my RV, my laptop, LCD TV, and even our gaming system. Now I can relax knowing that no matter where we travel that all our electrical devices will not be subject to damage from a fast approaching storm coming in.

  4. You're so right, Neville. I think that's especially true for full-timers, who DO have practically everything they own in their rig. We've only been "out" about a dozen times so far (full-timing this May!!), and I'll bet it's saved us at least twice so far.

  5. Very good information for who is new in this industry or to those who are frustrated from surges and transients. There are many surge protection devices available for different specific application such as AC appliances, Telecom, Networks, Signal and oil & gas industry.

  6. A very helpful blog on surge protection device, I am having this device at my home and also at my office. It is efficiently running since 3 years. No problems as previous was.