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Damage to your RV electrical systems can be totally disabling. This is why I strongly recommend using a surge protector to protect your RV. So, you might wonder, are RV surge protectors worth it or hard to maintain? What happens if they get wet? I have camped in a lot of nasty weather so I’m prepared to equip you with all you need to know about surge protectors.
Can RV surge protectors get wet?
Most new RV surge protectors can get wet. The manufacturer will state if the unit is weather-resistant, meaning that it can withstand some rain and wind. However, the surge protector should be protected and must not be submerged in water.
If your RV surge protector really gets doused or submerged, it can short out. This can lead to blown fuses or breakers.
Even if your surge protector is designed to be able to withstand some moisture, water and electricity don’t mix well. There is always the possibility that a wet surge protector can short circuit, emitting sparks that can cause an electrical fire.
Of course, manufacturers are aware of these issues. Therefore, many surge protectors have a plastic cover over the connection points. If yours does not come with a cover, you can find many affordable types (and different sizes) online.
Here are some other articles about the electrical components of your RV that may be helpful for you:
- RV Keeps Tripping The Breaker? Here’s What to Do!
- What You Need to Know About RVs and Catalytic Converters
- Can RV AC Run All Day?
What Does a Surge Protector Do For an RV?
RV surge protectors are designed to safeguard your RV electrical systems and devices against power surges and spikes (such as lightning) that may cause damage. They should be plugged in between the power source and the power connection on the RV.
Understanding what power surges are will help you better understand how surge protectors function. A power surge occurs when the quantity of electric current through electrical equipment surpasses 120 volts. High-powered gadgets, poor wiring, or a malfunction from your equipment can all cause a surge.
Related reading: RV Electric Setup Basics (RV Plugs and Voltages)
Surge protectors are intended to prevent potential damage caused by power surges. They operate by sending power from one outlet to any devices connected to the surge protector. An MOV (metal oxide varistor) on the protector diverts any excess voltage to keep equipment at a steady power level.
Now that you’re more familiar with why you should have a surge protector for your RV, you may wonder if they’re designed for your kind of travel – and the forecasted weather.
Are RV Surge Protectors Necessary?
An RV surge protector is necessary to keep your RV systems and electrical devices safe from damage. The power supply may be interrupted by a sudden power surge such as a lightning strike. Without a surge protector, the systems and appliances in your RV can malfunction and break.
Let’s compare the cost of surge protectors with the cost of damaged electrical systems.
Is a Surge Protector For My RV Worth the Cost?
Surge protectors can cost between $100 to $300, depending on if they are portable or hard-wired. Damage to the electrical system of an RV may cost from $500 to $4,000.
Even worse, the electrician may tell you they can’t fix what they can’t see. Since the wiring is inside of the walls, the damage may not be apparent. In that case, your RV may be worse off than it looks; or, not able to be salvaged at all.
With that logic in mind, $250 for a surge protector may feel like a strain on your budget. However, it could repay itself several times over in the long run.
Think of it as added insurance on all your RV equipment. A surge protector is a one-time cost to protect your investment in your RV and all of your devices.
Types of RV Surge Protectors
Types of Outdoor Surge Protectors (Outdoor Rated Surge Protectors)
There are two main types of outdoor-rated surge protectors that you can use for your RV: Portable or Hard-Wired. Both have their pros and cons. So you will need to assess your specific situation before choosing one. To learn more about each kind, keep reading.
Portable RV Surge Protectors
The most convenient type of RV surge protector you can buy is a portable power surge protector like this one from Amazon. These can be easily connected to the shore power pole at the RV park.
Portable surge protectors sit between the power pole and your plugin. This means if a surge or spike does occur, it happens outside your RV.
For example, if lightning strikes, you may really want that barrier outside the wall of the RV.
Keep in mind that you may also want an anti-theft device if you want to use this type to prevent it from being stolen.
Portable surge protectors are easier to use than hard-wired ones, and generally cheaper. They are also simple to replace and require no wiring installation.
Hard-Wired RV Surge Protectors
Hard-wired surge protectors provide built-in surge protection from inconsistent power at campsites. The unit is placed behind the power connection on the RV and connected to the wiring bundle.
If you want to have a hard-wired surge protector installed on your RV, we highly encourage getting a professional to install it.
The hard-wired surge protector has pros and cons. The benefits are that it is permanently installed in your RV, and the chances of it getting stolen are minimal. You also don’t have to stress over remembering to plug it in.
On the other hand, a hard-wired protector will require professional installation. Also, it sits on the inside of the camper, which some RVers are uncomfortable with.
Are RV Surge Protectors Waterproof?
Most newer RV surge protectors are rated by the manufacturer as water-resistant, meaning that they can withstand some rain and wind. However, surge protectors are not completely waterproof and must never be submerged in water.
The RV surge protector manufacturer will define the product’s weather resistance capabilities. To put it another way, different surge protector types and manufacturers will offer different waterproofing capabilities.
Most of the RV surge protectors sold in the market are built to have water resistance to ensure the long-term usage of your surge protector. For example, see this 50-amp surge protector that comes with a waterproof cover for good measure.
Can a Surge Protector Be in the Rain?
Most new portable surge protectors can be in the rain, at least for a short time. They are designed to withstand the elements when plugged into the power pole. However, you should ensure they are not lying on the ground in an area that can fill with rainwater and submerge them. There should be complete drainage of water from around them.
What To Do if Surge Protector Gets Wet
If your surge protector gets wet, unplug it as soon as possible. Then let it dry. Before you plug it back in to check if it is still working, make sure that it is completely dry.
As an extra precaution, you should test it outside of your rig for everyone’s safety.
If it was completely submerged or damaged, you will need to replace the surge protector with a new one.
How Do I Keep My RV Surge Protector Dry?
You should always try to keep your surge protector dry. Many have covers already on them, or you can cover it with a clear thick plastic bag. You can also use an extension cord like this and keep it in a dry, covered area.
If making a DIY cover, be sure to cut a hole at the lower part where you’ll need to insert the protector’s neck, then tape it shut. Now, the bottom is vented, and the surge protector will stay dry.
Another option is to get a cheap waterproof cover like this one from Amazon.
Importance of Surge Protector Covers
It’s clear that surge protectors are necessary to keep your RV – and yourself – safe. But what about keeping your surge protector itself safe?
Do I need a cover for my surge protector?
Consider getting a surge protector cover if yours does not have one built-in. You can find many different options online, such as this weatherproof one from Amazon.
While most newer surge protectors are built to withstand some amount of moisture, it’s still best to keep them as dry and protected as possible. In addition, a good cover will prevent rodents from chewing on the wires or toddler hands from playing with the device.
Keeping your surge protector safely covered and protected is another added step of insurance for the protection of your rig and your family.
How Do I Choose an RV Surge Protector?
Choosing the right RV surge protector is important to keep you and your travel trailer safe. Your surge protector should have the ability to cut off the power going to the RV if the incoming voltage surges or drops too low. Before purchasing a surge protector, make sure to follow the guidelines below to help choose the correct one for your RV.
There are many different options when it comes to choosing the best surge protector for your RV. Consider the following features before deciding on what type of surge protector to buy.
You can buy a good RV surge protector for $100-$300.
There are a variety of quality options that are priced around $100. Cheaper models may lack some of the bonus features of more expensive ones, but you should be most concerned with its performance. Read reviews and do your research before shopping on a budget for a surge protector.
Surge protectors for RVs can come in 30- or 50-amps. You will want to make sure to get a surge protector that matches the amperage of your RV.
If you have a surge protector but are unsure of its amperage, it should be stated on the front of it. Using the correct amperage for your rig reduces the chance of combustion, excessive heat buildup, and various electrical issues.
You should also look at the joule protection rating of various RV surge protectors. A joule is a unit of measurement that tells you how much energy is built up.
When your RV experiences a power surge, the surge protector will absorb the extra energy and dissipate this as heat. This protects your RV and prevents electronic devices from short-circuiting. You want to choose a surge protector that will properly absorb energy and disperse it as heat. The higher the joule rating of your surge protector, the more energy it can absorb.
When considering joule ratings of surge protectors, you will need to consider the type of RV you have as well as how much protection you think you’ll need.
Some RV surge protectors have digital screens on the top. However, these screens can be hard to read at night-time or in poorly-lit conditions. If choosing a surge protector with a digital display, invest in a model with a good LED display for your convenience.
Most RV surge protectors have a circuit analyzer or panel of indicator lights. These let you know if the various protective components are working. After numerous power surges, these lights – including the highest-quality RV surge protectors – may burn out. If they do, the surge protector may still be functioning but you won’t be able to tell for sure. Opt for higher-quality models that may last longer, or you may find that you’re having to replace your surge protector more often.
Will an RV Surge Protector Make Noise?
Some models of RV surge protectors may make noise, such as a humming sound, when they’re turned on. While this generally doesn’t mean anything is wrong with it, it can be annoying.
This will be even more noticeable if your RV is situated in a quiet, calm, area with little other noise around. We encourage you to pick a good model that emits less sound than others.
Is the Watchdog Surge Protector Waterproof?
One of the most popular surge protectors on the market is the Watchdog model. This is considered one of the best surge protectors you can buy. So many people ask specifically if the watchdog surge protector is waterproof. Here is what we found:
The portable Power Watchdog surge protector units are IP65 rated, which means it is weather resistant against rain and snow. The Watchdog is not fully waterproof and can not be submerged in water.
The Hughes Autoformers PWD50-EPO Power Watchdog actually has Bluetooth and the EPO (Emergency Power Off) feature. This hard-wired RV surge protector is the one of the best-rated options you’ll find on Amazon.
Can You Plug an Extension Cord Into a Surge Protector?
It is not advised to plug an extension cord into a surge protector. While some sources say that this is acceptable for short amounts of time – as long as both components can withstand the same power load – this is a serious fire hazard.
Surge protector plugs often have prongs that can fit into extension cable sockets. While there may not be any physical obstacles in the way of plugging these together, it is against the safety rules of the National Electrical Code and the Occupational Safety Administration.
Plugging extension cords and surge protectors together – often called “daisy chaining” – is against these Safety Rules as it is not only a fire hazard but also puts you at risk of electrocution.
The safest alternative to “daisy chaining” is to buy a surge protector extension cord combo. This offers the advantage of a surge protector with one or more outlets and a longer power cord.
These combos come in varying lengths, from 5 to 25 feet, and even up to 50 feet long like this one.
How Long Do Surge Protectors Last?
When your surge protector is nearing its end, it will provide you with an alarm or light indicator. However, these are not always reliable. You should expect to replace your surge protector every two years.
After two years, your surge protector has a higher chance of deteriorating. While you may want to save a few hundred dollars and try to squeeze one or two more years of life out of it, re-read the section above where we compared costs. Buying a new surge protector every few years to protect your RV and electrical devices will always be worth the cost.
Final Thoughts About Surge Protectors
Surge protectors are necessary to keep you and your RV safe from power surges or low power drops. The manufacturer will state whether the unit is water-resistant in the weather. Most new surge protectors will be safe to leave outside in the rain, but it’s still a good idea to invest in a durable, weatherproof cover just to be safe.
If you want more information about electrical systems in an RV you will enjoy our other articles:
- RV Electric Setup Basics (RV Plugs and Voltages)
- Do RV Outlets Work On Battery?
- Do You Need the Battery if the RV is Plugged In? (Will it Still Work?)
Hi, I’m Shauna – Welcome to Family Travel Fever. We are a large family, that was bitten by the travel bug! I take the kids by myself because I don’t mind flying or driving solo with my crew to discover the coolest places.
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