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Old 04-27-2015, 04:10 PM   #1
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Surge Protector Levitron

One of the frustrating decisions which must be made for a newbie to the RV'ing world is surge protection devices.

RV parks are notorious for renegade electrical service and the RV stores all sell Surge Protectors to plug into the CG pedestal, then accept the power-cord from the RV. These are expensive, in the several hundred dollar range for the better ones, and the cheaper ones are $100 or so and do not provide any meaningful indications they are doing their jobs.

Plus, they are susceptible to theft while the owner is away from the coach.

The hard-wired, installed units are better from the theft side of things, but they still cost hundred$.

I have an electrical engineer BIL who assured me that the better solution is to use a "whole house" surge protector intended for the residence. A company which makes it is a well known U.S. company ...LEVITON.

I bought this unit at Home Depot for $50.

51110-SRG > Surge Protection > Power & Surge Protection > Connected Home > Products from Leviton Electrical and Electronic Products

It's easy to install. It can be installed anywhere you can access the input power cord to your converter. It protects against much larger surge-jolts than typical RV types. It has four leads.
One goes to neutral, one goes to ground, one goes to a 120 volt leg, and the last goes to another 120 volt leg. (Being made for the residential market, it presumes 240 volt service entrance. The typical RV only uses ONE of the circuits...which gives you a FREE SPARE should the unit ever fail.)

There are two indicator lamps which show the unit is working, and if extinguished, that the unit has failed. (You can now use the other lead.)
Be certain to insulate the unused lead.

Best of all.... it carries equipment loss insurance for any onboard equipment damaged by surges the unit did not catch (up to $5,000 worth.)

And the thieves will have to steal the entire trailer to get it, which will be covered by your RV insurance!

What a deal!
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Old 04-28-2015, 01:49 PM   #2
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Typically these units are protected by MOV's, Metal Oxide Varistors. They only protect from high rise time spikes ( e.g. lightning spikes). They do not protect from low voltage sags or high voltage surges, just spikes. You can usually tell by the price point. If you want true protection your unit must be able to perform these functions.
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Old 04-28-2015, 02:14 PM   #3
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Old 04-28-2015, 03:07 PM   #4
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Can anyone testify to personally, actually experiencing a low-voltage "sag" at a CG? (And, HOW did you notice or HOW did it manifest itself so as to allow you to notice?)
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Old 04-28-2015, 03:46 PM   #5
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I use Progressive Industries EMS PT 30 C.
Cost for the portable unit $310. Link below (I hope)
Progressive Industries RV Surge and Electrical Protection industry lea
The 50 amp ones cost more.
Interestingly the Hard Wire ones are a little less expensive.
But then you have to install it.

Not sure I would trust a $50 unit.
The surge protector has detected high and low voltage situations, and in one campground reverse polarity. The CG maintenance guy took the pedestal apart and confirmed that one wire was't where it was suppose to be. He fixed it all without turning off the electric - I watched hoping nothing bad happened. Nothing did.
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Old 04-28-2015, 03:46 PM   #6
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Yes, quite a few times. I have a "surge protector" (which is a generic term and a misnomer) and have it for voltage fluctuations more than surge protection. The most noticeable thing I saw before I had one is the A/C compressor really struggling to start. Instead of a thump or "hit" when it turns on, you get a slow growl and a slow ramp up to full speed. This KILLS compressors. I have also heard odd sounds out of a converter. (cheap single stage in my prior SOB).

Typically you won't see dimming lights if you have healthy batteries that are fully charged, because the batts hide the line variation.

This was a reply to Boxite
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Old 04-28-2015, 04:58 PM   #7
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I have experienced low voltage several times at cg's. I could tell by my AC unit struggling. With my surge guard unit it just kicks off line protecting my electronics. Also found one leg of the 50 amp circuit to be 90v with the other leg 112 so I never hooked up. A surge only protector will not detect or protect you from these low voltage problems. In my experience low voltage accounts for the vast majority of ac problems at cg's. YMMV.
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Old 04-28-2015, 05:02 PM   #8
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I have a meter and watch the voltage. I've stayed at a couple of campgrounds where the voltage dropped to an unacceptable degree in hot weather.

I disagree that the problem is bad enough to be worth the considerable cost of an autotransformer-type surge protector. As noted upthread, these are heavy, expensive, easily stolen, and a nuisance to use. They also tend to alert to conditions that don't pose an actual problem, and the input voltage range isn't wide enough to solve anything.

I've run the A/C in my trailer down to 100 volts or so, and have plugged in where the voltage is as high as 130. At some point, yes, lower voltage might shorten the life of the compressor, but not to the extent that is widely believed.
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Old 04-28-2015, 05:35 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boxite View Post
RV parks are notorious for renegade electrical service and the RV stores all sell Surge Protectors to plug into the CG pedestal, then accept the power-cord from the RV.
Do you say that RV parks "are notorious for renegade electric service" from your own experience, or are you just listening to the folks selling the expensive surge protection devices?

We have been RVing for 12 years and have never felt the need for one. My trusty line voltage meter sometimes indicates the line voltage is a little on the low side, but we have never experienced any problems as a result. (In the interest of full disclosure I will note that we almost never run our air conditioner. But I am of the opinion that practically all appliances manufactured within the last 20 years or so are designed to handle brownouts without damage.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Boxite View Post
I have an electrical engineer BIL who assured me that the better solution is to use a "whole house" surge protector intended for the residence. A company which makes it is a well known U.S. company ...LEVITON.

I bought this unit at Home Depot for $50.

51110-SRG > Surge Protection > Power & Surge Protection > Connected Home > Products from Leviton Electrical and Electronic Products
Being an electrical engineer myself, I agree with your brother in law. Surge protectors like the one you have purchased provide valuable protection against short, very high voltage transients such as caused by nearby lightning strikes. For full protection the energy rating of the surge protector has to be high enough to trip the breaker upstream, which will shut off your power but avoid damage to stuff in your trailer.

As others have pointed out, all that the electronic power line monitors can do is shut off your power when it goes out of voltage spec, which may or may not be to your advantage.
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Old 04-28-2015, 10:46 PM   #10
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We have experienced both voltage sags and what we believe was a wiring-induced voltage spike. The TRC Surge Guard protects us from both. In the case of sags, it cuts out power until the voltage climbs and stays high enough to be safe for consumption. With the spike, it shut off the power before any harm could be done.

If we suffer from a cut-off due to a voltage sag, we get out our TRC Voltage Regulator and add that to the circuit between the post and the surge protector. It transforms voltages as low as 95 VAC to a normal voltage so we can safely keep drawing power, even if voltage would otherwise be too low.
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Old 04-30-2015, 03:49 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nuvite-F View Post
Do you say that RV parks "are notorious for renegade electric service" from your own experience, or are you just listening to the folks selling the expensive surge protection devices?

We have been RVing for 12 years and have never felt the need for one. My trusty line voltage meter sometimes indicates the line voltage is a little on the low side, but we have never experienced any problems as a result. (In the interest of full disclosure I will note that we almost never run our air conditioner. But I am of the opinion that practically all appliances manufactured within the last 20 years or so are designed to handle brownouts without damage.)



Being an electrical engineer myself, I agree with your brother in law. Surge protectors like the one you have purchased provide valuable protection against short, very high voltage transients such as caused by nearby lightning strikes. For full protection the energy rating of the surge protector has to be high enough to trip the breaker upstream, which will shut off your power but avoid damage to stuff in your trailer.

As others have pointed out, all that the electronic power line monitors can do is shut off your power when it goes out of voltage spec, which may or may not be to your advantage.
To be truthful, I have only repeated what I've read about CG elect's and presumed the rumor to be valid because so many campers appear to have subscribed to it. I am a newcomer to trailering, but every one of my personal friends who are into this pastime heartily endorse the use of the devices.
I also did not ask my BIL about the relative quality of CG elect's, ... I only asked him about the use of surge protectors because I've lost several personal computers at our rural home during/after storms. BIL replied that CGs with "overhead wires" might be at risk to lightning and that a surge protector would be a good idea in such situation.

THANK YOU, Nuvite-F for subtly teaching me HOW the dang thing works. I didn't occur to me that it merely creates a "short" to trip the upstream breaker as I derive from your comment. (I had "ass-oomed" it had some sort of "equalizing" or shock-absorbing function. Now I'm wondering if it would trip the 200 Amp 4-CB gangbar at the service entrance of my house, where I installed it....and further, I'm wondering if any of the RV surge protectors would trip the CG's supply CB...if existing...or perhaps they only have an internal, re-setting CB within themselves....hmmmnnn)

I installed the Leviton at my home for the aforementioned reason, and was still searching for the best answer for my "new to me" AS which we plan to take on this year's summer vacation. My reason for beginning this thread was for exactly the developing purpose of getting at the truth of this matter as to whether it's truly necessary (or not) and if so, which unit to buy. Thanks again, Nuvite-F for your comments, and to the others who've related their CG experience.

(Wondering if a start capacitor on the AC might be a better defense...)
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Old 04-30-2015, 05:03 AM   #12
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Surge protection/Monitoring shore line

I suspect a lot of the desire for surge protection is the OCD aspect of some of us who own Airstreams.....

However, a couple years ago I had my moho hooked up to a shore line which had line voltages in the 100-105v range and this apparently burned up a transformer in the inverter/charger. Had I taken this to a dealer for repair it would have been over $2,000 as they would have replaced the unit. Fortunately I had help getting this to a Magnum factory service center, the cost being about $600.

So, I have a desire to see what I am getting for the money I might be spending in an RV Campground, and if there are problems with the shoreline, can request a change in site, or other consideration.

A lot of this is maybe overly cautious, rather like the replacement of the factory 15" wheels with new 16" for the added carrying capacity, extra margin of safety.

Or, it could be my ego needs to be fed by more of everything....
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Old 04-30-2015, 06:21 AM   #13
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Pretty impressive replies! You 'guys' are getting to know your stuff!

Just a couple of points from 'the field'.

*I have never heard of a theft of a plug-in type surge protector. I'm sure it happens, but there are large hasps devices available that even though are plastic, will give a potential thief pause when they see it and probably cause them to look for easier prey elsewhere.

I suggest the plug-in type for a couple of reasons: If you experience a really bad pedestal at an RV park and the surge protector blows out (it's intended purpose), then you can simply move to another space and connect the bare plug and continue camping.......then buy a replacement If you hard-wire the unit and the same happens, you either re-wire the trailer feed inside for a direct connection or go home.

I have been involved in 3 episodes of extreme electrical damage to RVs from a bad power........2 with no surge or line protection. The first had a bad neutral in the post and sent 240VAC into the rig (50 amp service) rather than 2 individual 120VAC circuits. That one fried the inverter, microwave, 2 TVs, 2 roof A/C units and his residential fridge....which were all on and working.

The next was human error, but the owner failed to properly and completely insert the 50 amp plug into the pedestal, leaving the bottom blade for the neutral not making contact with the receptacle. Again, this caused 240VAC on one line to enter the breaker box and fried the microwave, TV and a roof A/C, along with a couple of small appliances and clocks, radios, etc.

The third incident was pretty serious, as a very loose neutral line entering a TRC hardwired surgeguard created so much heat that it actually started a small fire in the surge guard box and totally melted it. Luckily, it eventually tripped the main breaker at the pedestal, but the entire coach could have easily been lost.

Just as a side note, since I do a lot of replacements of breaker boxes when I install new inverter systems, I have found many instances where retaining screws in the bus bars for neutral, ground and even individual breakers have been loose. Nothing creates heat and potential fire damage like a loose electrical connection.

It would not be a bad idea to either check these connections yourself (ONLY IF you are electrical savvy and all of the power sources are removed) or have a dealer check these for you. Better safe than sorry!!!
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Old 04-30-2015, 06:37 AM   #14
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I installed this unit....

EMS-HW30C 30 Amp Hardwired EMS with Remote Display

very nice, remote display shows Volts, Hertz and amps being used through line....
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