Skip to content

Feel the Power! Do I Need a Surge Protector?

By Jenn

This post was updated on April 14, 2018, to be more clear about the role of an EMS versus a surge protector and to add information pertaining to RV Hot Skin.

WP_20150108_18_51_10_RawThey aren’t cute, they don’t come in different color choices, and probably aren’t something you would run out and show your friends, but surge protectors might be the most important accessory you purchase for your T@b, or any RV, for that matter.

When I started researching T@bs, I saw owners discussing surge protectors, so I started to do a little research on them. I thought, “Do I really need to plunk down more money for yet another accessory?” I then read a few stories of RV owners who tried to get by without them. I am sure that there are thousand of RV owners who do not have a surge protector and get by just fine. However, I read stories of owners frying their electric systems and even of fires. The prevailing advice seemed to be that a surge protector was cheap insurance.

 

Surge Protector or EMS?

Most of us are familiar surge protectors. The double as power strips for over-stressed outlets in our homes and offices and designed to withstand a surge from the power supply to our home or office. An Electrical Monitoring System (EMS) does more than that. A good EMS will have a few seconds of delay between the time you plug into the campground pedestal and your trailer in order to test and protect you from:

  • Over/under voltage situations
  • Open ground, open neutral and reverse polarity wiring situations
  • Miswired pedestals
  • Surge failures

RV Hot Skin

Note: If you are here because your trailer has caused a tingling sensation or because you have been told you have Hot Skin, please be aware that you have a potentially life-threatening situation and seek professional help with your trailer, immediately.

In addition to preventing damage to your T@b’s electrical system and components, Poor wiring situations can also put you at risk to shock. “RV Hot Skin” is a situation where the trailer and earth around it are not at the same voltage. In most cases, this is the result of a bad wiring at the pedestal or outlet but can also happen if you damage a part of your electrical system or components, including fridges, air conditioners, hot water heaters and heating units, in your T@b. Worn wires can also create RV hot Skin. People often are completely ignorant of the fact that they have an RV Hot Skin situation until they get a tingling sensation after touching the trailer. But, RV hot skin can and has led to death for those unfortunate enough to touch the trailer in the wrong conditions.

It should be noted that those skilled enough can also test the pedestal and the trailer with a multimeter and that less skilled people can utilize a non-contact tester and that even if you have an EMS, the EMS should be tested periodically for safety. Additionally, although testing before you connect to a pedestal, it will not protect you from changes to the power supply that happen after you connect. Storms, over-taxed grids and other issues that go completely undetected can arise while you are camping and present a danger to you and your family, as well as your T@b.

Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

My next thought was, “Could I get away with the cheap one that I see discounted with my Good Sams coupons?” Could I? Maybe. But, the stories I had read about the Progressive Industries surge protectors and their customer service were pretty impressive. No matter what RV forum I visited, the consensus was the same. You couldn’t go wrong with a Progressive Industries 30HWC. In addition to a power surge, the Progressive Industries unit protects from reversed polarity, high and low voltage, and fluctuations in voltage.

Portable or Permanent

So, after settling on an EMS, and deciding that I would fork over the cash for a Progressive Industries unit, I needed to decide between one that I plugged in when I connected to the pedestal or one that was permanently installed. The ones that you plug into between the pedestal and the 30 amp outlet on the T@b were much cheaper, which was appealing, but I knew that it would be one more thing to install. I was also a little concerned about someone walking off with it. The latter is an often expressed concern, but I have never actually hear of anyone having their EMS stolen, so the concern might be a little unfounded. Additionally, you can lock the EMS, if equipped with a bracket, like the Progressive models are. Ultimately, being free of worrying about forgetting to install it one time and having something go wrong and saving a step during campsite set-up and tear down were enough to motivate me to go with the permanent installation.

If you are having trouble deciding between a portable and permanent installation, Progressive has a nice decision tree and product comparison, here.

Installation

Originally, I planned to install it myself. There are a lot of videos showing people doing the DIY install. I probably could have done it, but it made sense to me to let the dealer install it because I was sure they would be faster and probably do a cleaner install.

Richard Lewis, one of the original owners of the Dutchman made T@bs, the forerunners to our NuCamp T@bs, has a video of his installation. There is little to no differences between installing an EMS in Dutchman versus a NuCamp T@b. If you are not experienced in working with electrical connections and power I recommend leaving it to the dealer.

A Personal Testimonial

One great feature of the Progressive Industries unit is that it prevents your trailer from connecting to a power pedestal that will hurt your trailer. After only owning my T@b for 5 months, I camped at a campground with reversed polarity at my site and got an easy to diagnose error message on my display.  I do know that the results could have been damage to my AC power system or even a shock injury. I was really thankful to have the protection.

Unexpected Benefit: No Blown Fuses

There has been one unexpected benefit to installing the Progressive EMS: I don’t blow fuses. Blown fuses, especially in the Alde hot water heater and furnace and  Norcold fridge, seems to happen frequently, especially if people forget to turn off the Alde before they pack up to leave the campground. I am sure that there is a good technical explanation for this, but I attribute it to the delay when I plug into the pedestal.

Last Thoughts

Why would you want to risk your investment to chance when you can protect it? I think it is unwise to use no form of surge protection. Brand choice as well as permanent versus portable is more of a matter of preference, but I trust the consensus of the larger RV community. The bonus? Progressive Industries has a lifetime guarantee! What is even more convincing is that I read several accounts where Progressive came through for customers and not one where they did not come through.

References:

The following references helped inform my understanding of the value of an EMS and RV Hot Skin:

  • https://yourfulltimervliving.com/rv-hot-skin-condition-causes-death-of-a-young-boy
  • http://noshockzone.org/rv-electrical-safety-part-iv-–-hot-skin/
  • http://blog.goodsam.com/rv-doctor-rv-hot-skin-test-how-to
  • http://www.rvdoctor.com/2009/10/hot-hot-hot.html

Your purchases through my Amazon affilaite links help me offset my costs. Thanks for your support.