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How To Avoid Power Surges

Although I love camping without hookups as much as possible, pretty much everyone has to plug in once in a while. Here are some tips to make your hookup a safer experience for yourself, your equipment and others.


If you are having any electrical problems, don't plug into an electric hookup until problems are checked and fixed. Who knows what kind of damage could occur if you plug in without knowing what the problem is that you are having.

Surges are not really surges in most cases. They rarely are in fact a huge surge or power off the power lines. Most problems are actually caused by ourselves or those around us. These are now quite common. We notice more of what we call surges because our equipment is getting more and more sensitive. We have many items with circuit boards in them, all of which are more easily damaged by power fluctuations.

Low voltage

Low voltage is actually more common than high voltage. This is the most common cause of damage as many electrical items can be damaged by low power. This can ruin computers, tvs, vcrs, dvd players and most anything with a circuit board. The fan may run too slowly and not cool the board. Water heaters with an ignition also have circuit boards. Relays can fail that kill the circuit board in fridges. Fluorescent lamps may fail early due to over cycling of the circuit board and ballast.

Always unplug certain items when not in use. Heating items, automatic coffee makers and toasters all can cause a disaster when off and plugged in.Years ago, my neighbor burned an entire condo down just by leaving his toaster plugged in.

High voltage

High voltage may not necessarily be a surge. It is voltage of more than 130VAC for longer periods of time. This can kill lights, heating elements in fridges, and sensitive electronics. Yes, modern electronics are killed by both low and high voltage.


Hooking up

Before even getting all parked and leveled in your space, check out the conditions of the hookup. Use your voltage meter, check the polarity and the voltage. First flip off the breaker at the campground pole. This allows you to avoid sparks and find out if the fit is good for your plug. Plug in your RV electric cord. Flip the breaker on.

What else can you do

Plug in a simple voltage monitor to one of your outlets.

Make sure you know what you are doing if you do any handy work in the RV. AC wires are wired differently in an RV than in the house. So even though someone knows how to add an outlet in their home, they may not know how to do it in an RV. The manual covering your load center should cover this.

You are always the safest when you are unplugged and control your own environment. Whenever you plug in, you take on risks with other people and the local power grid. When you are plugged in, anything you do can hurt others. Anything others do can hurt you. Get a good surge protector. Don't buy the cheapest or the most commonly found one. Consider how much you have invested in your RV and step up to a better model. The other issue is that these are often stolen in RV parks. You can buy a lock for them. Or you can install a more expensive type that is wired inside your RV.

It is best to unplug your rig during a storm or whenever the power goes out at the campground. I have also unplugged when a unkempt RV parked next to me and plugged in. I just didn't like the look of it and it's better to be safe.

NEVER run a generator without disconnecting from the power grid. Do not trust any automatic switches to protect yourself or others.


Install a good solar electric system so you won't need to plug in as often. Many people can't afford this or think it's not necessary. If you spend tens of thousands of dollars on an RV, a couple thousand dollars on solar isn't that much. Make sure to add up the cost of some of your generator fuel, electric hookup fees and even camping fees when you may have been able to choose a more remote boondocking location. Solar may be paid for in fast order if you really think about all the little fees over time. That doesn't even include the peace of mind of having your own power grid with you all the time. The power goes out at home? You could have a self contained powered living space in your driveway.

Stay safe and happy travels.

Adam | Jan 25, 2009 | Category: RV Tips

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