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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Are Surge Protectors Needed in RVs?

We loved your seminars at the Seattle RV show! I have a diesel Winnebago motorhome. A friend told me about how his 120-volt appliances in his RV fried at a campground in AK. He said a surge protector probably would have prevented a huge bill to replace what was destroyed. I have been looking at them, specifically the portable 30-amp model from TRC. Portable because I can take it with me when I sell the motorhome at some later date. Is it a good idea to have a surge protector and is the TRC a good one? 

Also what are your thoughts on extended service plans? I have been looking at the Good Sam Gold extended service plan. My coach is fairly new but with no extended warranty and if I had major repairs done on the drive train or systems it could be a very big expense. Are there plans by other providers that I can make comparisons with before I commit? Jim G. (Seattle, WA) 

Jim, thanks for attending the seminars at the Seattle Show! Good to have you there! I indeed, heartily recommend a surge protector for RVs. I tend to the favor those that are hard-wired into the AC system, but that’s just a personal preference. Certainly the portable, in-line type is just as effective. I’ve not personally tested the TRC unit but have heard good things about it. My hope is to A/B a few different models and publish the results when I can find the time! 

Surge protectors act like an electrical sponge of sorts, absorbing excess voltage, thereby protecting the coach. RV surge protection should include the ability to completely shut off the incoming power before damaging transients can reach sensitive equipment. Additionally, they should have the capability to monitor and detect high and low voltage conditions and to interrupt the incoming power until the system has returned to safer levels over a period of time.

Most surge protectors utilize MOVs, (Metal Oxide Varistors) to protect against transients voltages. The quality devices usually have a minimum of three MOVs in the circuitry. More sophisticated protectors, such that might be used in the computer industry, have what is called sine wave tracking which actually tracks the incoming AC signal and literally cuts off the top portion of the wave. It provides better protection for highly sensitive equipment. The key to this technology is determined by the “clamping voltage rating” also called the “let-through voltage rating.” The lower the rating, the better the protection. Sine wave tracking protectors have a remarkably tight clamping voltage surrounding the incoming power line sine wave.

Some companies extol the Joule Rating of their surge protection device. A “joule” is a measurement of energy that indicates the amount of energy that a device is capable of absorbing. The joule rating is primarily determined by the total number of MOVs in the device. Unfortunately, there is no standard for measuring the joule rating of surge suppressors that I am aware of, but generally those with a higher rating are considered better. It is felt by many in the surge protection business that the joule rating of a surge suppressor is less important than the “let-through voltage” rating. Underwriters Laboratories, (UL), has, however, developed a minimum standard for spike suppressors. The surge protector you choose to install in your RV should meet or exceed the requirements of UL 1449.

As for extended service plans....I really have no idea. I wish I had the time to look into such plans, but unfortunately, do not. But I've heard it's best to try and look past the marketing hype and determine just exactly what is, and what is not, covered. I know the wording in the contract can be tricky. Probably best to focus on what is NOT covered and see if it will work for you.
Perhaps some of our readers will chime in with info on extended service contracts they've had success with; if so, I'll forward them on to you. 

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