Why Your RV Surge Protector Isn't Stopping 80% Of Surges

Why Your RV Surge Protector Isn't Stopping 80% Of Surges

Aug 4th 2020

The fact that you’ve reached this post reveals that you are at least aware of your need for an RV surge protector. This is a big step. Many still operate under the mistaken belief that surge damage will never happen to them. I often tell people that there are only two types of people in this world – those who have already had surge damage, and those who will.

Campgrounds (and marinas) have notoriously poor power quality. But, before you put all the blame on the campground, realize that newly constructed campgrounds which are compliant with the newest construction codes still have surge issues. Why? Because while there are too many components out of their control.  First Defense Plug In Surge Protector

A tree falling over a power line miles down the road causes the power company to re-route power around the downed line. The act of re-routing itself will cause electrical transients as the power is transferred from one substation to another. A car accident involving a utility pole, a suicidal squirrel, normal power company maintenance which requires their machinery to temporarily go offline, power company equipment failure, a lightning strike (maybe even miles away), and many more.

But while there is an almost endless supply of possibilities outside the campground for surges to occur, there are also many causes within the park’s electrical system which are not under the control of the maintenance staff. In reality, about eighty percent of surges are internally generated, and not the result of lightning strikes or grid switching, but are caused by internal factors. 

Internal factors include the normal operation of motors switching on and off. When motors jolt on and off it creates very fast, low energy transients within the system. Air conditioning units are a major cause of transient activity.

Why is most of the emphasis on lightning and grid switching rather than the internally generated surges which comprise the eighty percent of surges? Lightning strikes are phenomenal events, internally generated transients are not.

Let’s assume you purchased a brand new Cadillac and took it to the grocery store. While you are shopping, a brand new driver in a raised up 4x4 with huge tires backs up over the front of your new car. That would be an exciting event that would get your attention. There’d certainly be damage to your new car and everyone in the grocery store parking lot would know about it. You’d have a many thousands of dollars of damage to your new car! This is what a lightning strike is like.

Now, let’s imaging you purchased the same brand new Cadillac, which you drove to work, the grocery store, to the kids (or grandkids) soccer games. Everything seemed to be going great, but one day your vehicle just stopped dead in the road. It wouldn’t start, it wouldn’t budge. You’re perplexed as to why your vehicle won’t run, after all, it’s not even out of warranty.

When the mechanic slowly shook his head as he approached you, your heart began to sink. After all, the car only has 30,000 miles on it. Isn’t it still under warranty? Unfortunately, your car’s engine was destroyed because you had never changed the oil. It still looked shiny and new, but day after day, heat began to build up in the engine and the oil started to break down. Slowly at first, but the damage continued month after month. Finally, seemingly out of nowhere, the engine seized up. The repair bill will be many thousands of dollars. This is an iconic example of what low-level transient voltages will do to your electrical system over time. Larger surges cause immediate damage; small, low voltage transients cause cumulative damage

Everyone who owns an RV has had surge damage; however, most of it will be blamed on other factors rather than the true cause, low-level transient voltages.

First Defense offers RV surge protectors with standard EMI/RFI filtering, which provides the first level of protection against low-level transient voltages. In addition, those needing more protection should order their RV surge protectors with the optional Surge Eraser Technology™. What do you get for the extra cost? An additional level of filtering to remove damaging transients that get past EMI/RFI filtering. Is it worth the additional cost?

It depends. You may be fine with standard EMI/RFI filtering. I recently spoke with a customer who wanted to purchase a surge protector for his travel trailer. The trailer was used approximately 4 weeks per year. Although he often used his laptop computer while on vacation, the additional costs for the Frequency Responsive Circuitry could not be justified. Since low-level transients cause cumulative damage, his limited vacation time did not warrant the extra protection for the small number of microprocessor based devices he used. In addition, his laptop power cord provided an additional measure of protection of his computer’s delicate microprocessor, since it presumably charged the battery which in turn powered his computer. Our standard First Defense 250 Series 30 Amp RV Surge Protector was a great choice for him.

With minor changes to the story above, Surge Eraser Technology™ would be the prudent choice. For those who spend a substantial amount of time each year in their RV, it makes sense to spend a few extra dollars for the added protection against cumulative damage. Those with expensive electronics and equipment, or those with “smart” RV’s with all the latest conveniences should consider this important option. You should choose the level of protection you are most comfortable with.

We've been making surge protective devices for over 30 years. While we are a new entrant to the RV and consumer Marine markets, we are not new to surge protection. Our customer list includes the US Navy, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, NASA, The Federal Aviation Administration, Verizon Wireless, AT&T Wireless and many more.

We make RV surge protectors for 30 amp and 50 amp connections. They are available in either as portable models or as hardwired, panel mounted units.