Protecting your Electronic Equipment

RVs contain a ton of electronic equipment, though some of it is tucked away where you never see it. Of course there's your TV and maybe a music system, the microwave, and the electronic control board that works your refrigerator. It's likely, though, that you also have expensive electronics in your water heater, furnace, battery control center, converter, transfer switch, electric steps, and electronic control center.

A lightening strike, even at some distance, can fry all of that in an instant. It's not unusual for the damage to run to several thousand dollars. If there's a power failure (and they're fairly common in RV parks), there may also be a damaging surge that occurs when the power is restored.

High and low voltage can also cause serious damage. One cold day in Louisiana, I once noticed smoke coming from my electric toothbrush charger. The charger was destroyed, and when I checked the park voltage, it was 137 volts. The park manager told me that they like to keep it high so it will still be good when everyone turns on their air conditioners.

At another park, mine was one of five rigs sharing one 30-amp circuit. The typical voltage was around 105 volts and when someone turned on a microwave, toaster, or coffee maker, it would drop below 100 volts for all of us. Low voltage won't hurt electronics with heating elements, but it's hell on electric motors. You don't want the compressor on your air-conditioner, for example, to be running on anything less than 110 volts.

 

No surge protector will protect you completely if a lighting strike hits very close to your rig — they're just not fast enough. Luckily, the odds of that happening are extremely small.

 

I like the Progressive Industries protectors. The better ones protect against high and low voltage as well as surges. They also protect you from improperly wired power posts. It doesn't happen very often, but sometimes the park's power isn't properly grounded (putting you at risk of electrocution) or they've attached both supply lines to a single leg, giving everything on that leg 220 volts that will fry everything on that side in a few seconds and possibly start a fire. These protectors aren't inexpensive, but if you ever need them, they'll save you a ton of money.

Progressive makes two kinds of deluxe protectors, hard-wired and stand-alone. The standalone ones are easy to use since you just plug them in on either end of your power cord. They're also easy to move to another rig. The one on the left is the 30-amp model. The second one is for 50-amp rigs.


 

The problem with the standalone models is that they sometimes grow legs. You can protect them with a thin cable lock, but that isn't always enough. The alternative is a hard-wired model. It's more difficult to install, but you can put it where it's much more difficult to would-be thieves to get at. I use the 50-amp version below. The remote display is really nice to have. It shows the amps used and voltage on each leg, the frequency (hopefully 60hz), and any error codes. The one on the left is the 30-amp model. The second one is for 50-amp rigs.



 

If you're thinking of installing one of the hard-wired models inside your rig, be aware that they can produce an annoying 60-cycle hum. I first installed mine behind the breaker box in my rig's bedroom. The cabinet was made of very thin plywood that acted like the body of a guitar. Even though I used closed-cell foam to isolate the unit from the wall and added some soundproofing material to the cabinet, the hum still resonated and was just barely loud enough to keep me awake at night. It wouldn't wake me up, but it made it harder to get to sleep. Most people probably wouldn't have been bothered by it, but I eventually moved the unit into a compartment below the rig.

 

 

 

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  —  Bob Ray