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Old 03-07-2004, 01:23 PM   #1
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Surge Protectors and Such....

Made my first trip to CW today (fortunately, very close to home)!! OOH, AAAH.... Such nice things to help make my soon to be made new Bambi home. Got out pretty cheap because I left the Honda 2000 generator there today. Not sure if the $999 price is good?

Wandering through the electrical isle I noted the surge protectors. Haven't seen any threads on them. Seemed kinda pricey, but like the idea. Any thoughts?

Also, showing my ignorance/inexperience, I still don't understand what I am looking for in volt meter/tester, what'u callem'. I saw the little plug-in meters to check the voltage from the RV park line. Some were cheap, some weren't. Any advice? What else do I need? Please be specific! I received a lot of good advice on this site and the AS site, but am still not confident in my understanding....

Thanks!
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Old 03-07-2004, 02:41 PM   #2
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Surge Protectors and Such . . . . . . . . . .

Greetings Luckydc!

Quote:
Wandering through the electrical isle I noted the surge protectors. Haven't seen any threads on them. Seemed kinda pricey, but like the idea. Any thoughts?
While I am not totally convinced that it is a good buy, I did purchase a surge protector to use with my coaches primarily to give a little additional protection to my laptop computer and the circuitboards on the modern replacement appliances in my '64 Overlander. The unit that I purchased is a Technology Research Corporation (5250 140th Avenue North, Clearwater, FL 34620-9940). It is rated for 120-Volts, 30 AMPS, 3600 WATTS, Energy Dissipation 475 Joules, Maximum Continuous AC Voltage <301 Vac, Maximum Spike Current 6500A per MOV, Trip Time < 25mS, Trip Current 4-6mA, Voltage Range 120V-132V, Trip Time 8 second Over/Under Voltage, and Power Restore Time 2 min. 15 sec. So far, I have been pleased with the suppressor, but can't say that it is absolutely necessary.

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What else do I need?
If you are focusing on electrical, you will likely find the need for an assortment of adapters that will allow your to convert from your coach's 30 AMP plug to the type of outlet available at the campsite. Typically, you may find that two 15-AMP adapters will be useful - - one that is simply a round disck that fits between your plug and the outlet and the second on a "pig-tail" that will allow for a standard 15-AMP plug with a short cord that allows the massive 30-AMP plug to find its way out of confilict at the outlet (this type is quite useful if you intend to attend a WBCCI International rally where four coaches often share a pair of duplex outlets mounted in a contractor's box). You also might want a 30-AMP to 50-AMP converter for those instances where you might be a new park that has only 50-AMP service (I don't carry one of these, but have read of at least one person who has encountered a situation where one would be needed). If you plan on doing much Caravanning or Rallying, 25' to 50' of heavy duty RV extension cords can be an advantage as well - - 50' came in handy quite often on several caravans that I have been on (didn't try to run my Air Conditioner, but was able to keep all other systems functional while camped in a beautiful wooded setting).

Beyond electrical, the new RV owner packs that most RV dealers supply don't come with some of the Rallying supplies that you might need such as "Free-Flowing, non-valved" hose "Y", 50' of 5/8" potable water hose (I switched to fabric hose on a reel last year and carry two 50' reels - - so far I really like the product, but have only one season's use thus far). I also carry a short length of HD potable water hose to connect my coach to the "Y" that also has a shut-off valve so that I can cut-off the water flow to my coach without affecting the flow to others on the shared line. Leveling blocks (I use LYNX Levelers), and wheel chocks are also among those necessary items that often are not included in the dealer's new owner's package. Something that often is not thought about is the tire guage - - the one for my car didn't register high enough for the trailer tires - - I now have one designed for trucks that registers up to 120 p.s.i.

Good luck with your new coach!

Kevin
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Old 03-07-2004, 03:11 PM   #3
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Surge Protectors

Hello luckydc

Surge Protectors are sort of pricy. But if you need one they do a good job. I personally don't use one. I have found that it is better to monitor what is happening to the 12 volt system and the 110 volt system. I use a 110 volt meter that plugs into a outlet and a 12 volt meter that plugs into one of your 12 volt plugs. With the 12 volt meter I can see what my converter is doing and that my battery is up to snuff. With the 110 volt meter I can make sure that the voltage is not to high or to low. I have found that most times there is a problem with 110 it is with low voltage not with surges in power at most camp grounds.
If it is low start shutting thing off and call the campground staff and let them know they have a problem. Camping World sells a combo pack with a meter for each system it will save you about $5.00 over buying the individually.

Hope this helps



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Old 03-07-2004, 03:27 PM   #4
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I went even further than a surge protector. I bought an APC six-outlet battery backup. Not necessary for a portable computer, but I have my G4 tower in my trailer and want to shut down gracefully in case of a power outage.

You may not need that much protection, but I recommend you never plug a computer directly into any wall outlet. The power surges (ever notice your lights flickering in your house?) can cause havoc, including losing data or damaging your computer.
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Old 03-07-2004, 04:00 PM   #5
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Lightbulb A timely thread...

Quote:
Originally posted by Photobitstream
I went even further than a surge protector. I bought an APC six-outlet battery backup. Not necessary for a portable computer, but I have my G4 tower in my trailer and want to shut down gracefully in case of a power outage.

You may not need that much protection, but I recommend you never plug a computer directly into any wall outlet. The power surges (ever notice your lights flickering in your house?) can cause havoc, including losing data or damaging your computer.
Just yesterday, after years of procrastinating, I went to Sams and bought an APC six-outlet UPS with Power-Chute plus for the house. I had a motherboard die two weeks ago after being in service less than a year. It took 10 days to get the old one RMA'd and a new one shipped plus an evening to reassemble the box and load the new drivers, etc. I'm reasonably sure that it died from being hammered with dirty power as my machine is an always-on device, even though it has always been on a surge protector. Fortunately, it didn't take any other components with it, but when you do all your bookkeeping on the machine, 10 days is a long time to be down. Fortunately, we had ordered a brand-new laptop that arrived the week the tower died so we were able to restore backups and rebuild files. Particularly now, as we head into the spring thunderstorm season I decided it was time to protect my hardware at home.

I do carry a good quality surge protector in the trailer as well.

It's both amazing to me and frightening how this inherently unreliable computer technology has become so integrated into our everyday lives!

Roger
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Old 03-07-2004, 05:48 PM   #6
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Thanks for the advice. While camping, I won't have a computer with me, so I'm thinking the surge protector is not a must have. I will plan on picking up the 110 and 12 volt meters. Didn't see the combo pack at CW. Will check thier website.

Thanks.
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Old 05-14-2004, 07:59 AM   #7
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Surge Protectors

Aside from protecting more sensitive gear, such as computers, what is the effect of low voltage on refrigerators and air conditioners? I worry about what happens when I'm either away from the trailer for the day - or retired for the evening. It's great to be able to visually monitor the 110 v and 12 v circuits but the electrical load in a "marginal" environment can change dramatically as more campers arrive in the evening - or depart in the morning. Additionally, that $239 multi-purpose surge protector that CW offers sure would be a tempting "quick grab" for someone knowlegeable about its' value! I normally don't spend a lot of time worrying about theft - but some things are just too opportunistic!
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Old 05-14-2004, 08:28 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cracker
......, what is the effect of low voltage on refrigerators and air conditioners? ......
Effect on the reefer is minimal, since the heating element is a pure resistance load (most modern units installed in trailers use the 12 volt circuits for logic and control).

The AC, however, is another story......I had to replace my forward unit last year, and I'm 99% convinced that low voltage hurried it's demise.

For less than 20 bucks, get a 120 volt analog meter that plugs into a wall socket. The best, cheapest, quick indicator you can get......of course, it won't do you much good if you aren't there to look at it.

I would be concerned about any voltage to the AC less than 110 volts.

I camped at my brothers place last week WAY back in the Ozark hills in Missouri. I had tied into one of his outbuildings for power. when my plug-in meter started indicating marginal voltage we started working backward to find the line loss......found the primary culprit was low voltage coming from the power company's transformer.
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Old 05-14-2004, 05:18 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 87MH
For less than 20 bucks, get a 120 volt analog meter that plugs into a wall socket. The best, cheapest, quick indicator you can get......of course, it won't do you much good if you aren't there to look at it.
You might not see it all the time, but it could be very useful when you first hook-up and before you start firing appliances up.
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Old 05-14-2004, 07:46 PM   #10
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want a linemans perspective?

save your money!

every single distrubution transformer in the united states has a lightning arrestor connected to it. (see the pic below) they are the auto valve type with movs built in. most likely there will be another within 3 spans of your transformer if your power company cares about outages and system reliability.

this is the time of year this subject seems to come up again! just this very morning i changed out a blown up transformer from an errant lightning strike. an underground transformer at that! the lightning was powerful enough to punch a hole in the insulating bushings. the customer saw had no damage to thier equipment!

i do not use one on my trailer. don't see any need. save your money and buy a good quality volt/ohm meter instead. it will cost less and aid in diagnosing electrial troubles for both 120 and 12 volt.

btw, bobby the most important reading you can take on your system is while it is running, not just before you hook up. an open neutral in a 120 volt system will show good voltage but not pass useable current. take the reading 5 or 10 min. after you fire up the ac. then you will know if you have adequate service. the national standard is + or - 5 percent. once you get things running and you see less than that, disconnect your ac!

as for battery backups and dirty power, use one if you have critical data. i don't!

john
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Old 05-14-2004, 09:29 PM   #11
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One other point, most of you already have a UPS. By connecting an inverter to the house batteries, you have just created a UPS. The UNIVOLT or other converter is the other part of the equation. The only real difference is that on a APC type UPS, you run AC directly from the utility until a sensing circuit detects either a spike or drop in voltage outside of the preset parameters, then it very quickly switches over to an internal inverter to convert 12 or 24 vDC into 110 vAC. When the utility returns, a converter similar to the UNIVOLT recharges the battery until it's replenished and keeps it topped off. Ready and waiting for the next incident.

From what little I know about the utility portion of the issue. It seems that the power fluctuations are less likely caused by the utility company, but rather caused by inadequate distribution of the power within the campground. While water and electricity don't mix, they share many of the same principles. If the plumbing is too small, not enough gets to the other end.
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Old 05-14-2004, 10:42 PM   #12
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You guys are barking up my alley with this topic so I'm going to go ahead and chime in on this one! Something that seems to have been missed here I'll point out: a surge protector WILL NOT protect your computer from catastrophic damage. I should actually say you are not likely to have a surge through your power lines. A surge protector WILL however protect your phone lines. I buy those $4.95 ones from Walmart that have one plug outlet and a set of phone jacks. I carry it with my laptop. You can save your modem with a surge protector and that is where you are most likely to get a surge. But I repeat YOU CANNOT COUNT ON A SURGE PROTECTOR ALONE TO PROTECT YOUR COMPUTER FROM CATASTROPHIC DAMAGE.

What is most likely to damage a computer is "brown out" or low voltage. When the voltage goes down the current goes up and this causes "runaway current" in the computer's circuitry which is catastrophic. This is quite a common occurrence.Campgrounds are the most notorious for this. They have voltages that fluctuate violently throughout the day as people run their A/Cs, heaters and microwaves. If you use a computer it would be wise to invest in a UPS. A UPS is about far more than simply keeping your computer running when the power goes out. A UPS acts as a line conditioner. For the most part it gives you clean stable power at all times. As the voltage drops down to levels that are unsafe for your computer's circuitry the UPS will quickly go over to battery power and back.

There's more to it than just a UPS though. You need to have a decent power supply in your computer. Desktops have notoriously cheap CRAPPY power supplies in them. A good power supply can actually protect your computer from being damaged even WITHOUT using a UPS. PC Power and Cooling sells the best power supplies ever made. They aren't cheap but they will shut down if your voltage goes to dangerous levels and they will not work again until you reset them.

Your voltage can drop to destructive levels even through a UPS under certain conditions. The most common situation is when your battery fails. When this happens the UPS will not switch over to battery power when the voltage drops and damage can be done just as if it were not even plugged into a UPS. The alarm on your UPS you will find goes off and on almost constantly when you are at certain campgrounds. I lived in a park for 4 years and it was so bad I HAD to disable the alarm. Of course I wasn't able to tell when the battery failed and once ended up losing a computer. That was when I went to a PC Power and Cooling power supply. In contrast a friend in the same park lost their computer after only ONE WEEK'S USE without a UPS and not aftermarket power supply.

I'm still waiting to find out exactly how a converter works in another thread. But I can say this much now--if you are running on battery power alone and you plug your laptop into a 12V socket you will have safe stable power without a UPS. If you do it this way all you need for a laptop is one of those small 75W 12V to 120V converters that you can buy for $20 at Walmart. The beauty part about those things is you can also use your laptop (as a passenger) while driving down the road. If, when you are plugged into shore power, and you plug into a 12V outlet but the power is diverted from the batteries and comes straight from your 120V shore power you had better be plugged into a UPS. A surge protector alone is just not enough except in the case of phone lines.

Let me explain about the phone line. During an electrical storm you FREQUENTLY get spikes through the phone line that can fry your phone or modem and possibly go even further. If you use a surge protector the spike will blow out the surge protector and not reach your computer. You will then need to replace the phone line surge protector part of your surge protector. That's why I buy the cheapo $4.95 jobs from Walmart. When the phone surge protector blows out I put an "X" mark on it so I know it's blown. The electrical surge protector is still good. Also be aware the surge protectors don't have to be plugged in for the phone surge protector to work. I have one of those ones with the "X" on just about every outlet in the house. If you can you need to simply disconnect your phone lines when a storm is coming. When you leave for extended periods you should unplug all phones but the one your answering machine is connected so you don't lose $20 worth of $5 surge protectors in one storm.

Remember that it is only under the most rare and extreme circumstances that you will have a surge through your power outlet. On the contrary it is quite common to have a phone line surge that can destroy your modem at a minimum. You primarily depend on a surge protector to protect your phone, answering machine and modem. To protect your TV, computer, DVD, VCR and any other sensitve electronics your first and best line of defense is a UPS because it acts as a line conditioner giving you stable power. If your UPS is constantly beeping and you are using a desktop computer you might consider getting a PC Power and Cooling power supply.

Laptops are somewhat unique. For all intents and purposes they have a UPS built in because when the power goes out they will instantly switch over to battery power. But a laptop does not have a built in line conditioner that I know of. They are not necessarily safe when the voltage goes down to dangerous levels but where the laptop doesn't switch over to battery power. That CAN happen. So you should also keep your laptop plugged into a UPS if you are not running off battery power. There may be some sort of resetable device available laptops that will cut the power supply when dangerous voltages occur. This would need to be plugged in between the UPS and the laptop power supply. I've not seen anything like that but then again I never thought to look for one until just now! I'll be checking out the PC Power and Cooling site after I post this to see what is available to protect laptop power supplies. If ANYONE has something like that it would be them.

Well I'm sure someone has already pointed all this out by now. But when I first started writing this post no one had!

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Old 05-14-2004, 11:04 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by troubleskeep
The only real difference is that on a APC type UPS, you run AC directly from the utility until a sensing circuit detects either a spike or drop in voltage outside of the preset parameters, then it very quickly switches over to an internal inverter to convert 12 or 24 vDC into 110 vAC.
The difference mentioned in the quote could be greater than it may appear. I'm no expert on converters in RVs. But I do know a UPS is specially designed to provide line conditioning specific to electronics. The voltage at which power is switched over to battery power and the amount of time in which the switch is made is specifically calibrated for sensitive electronics. I'm not certain if converters in RVs can match this. A converter most likely can switch over quickly enough to battery power. But they may not switch over to battery power at a high enough voltage. In other words they may keep running on 120V power when the voltage has dropped down to levels that can fry a computer. Newer RVs have so much sensitive equipment in them nowadays they are probably safe. But I personally don't know for sure one way or the other.

Something that makes me doubt that converters in RVs are safe for sensitive electronics is what Honda says about their generators:

"The Honda Inverter Technology makes this generator ideally suited for use with sensitive electronics (e.g., computer, printer, and other sensitive electronic equipment) because the generator produces a clean sine wave of energy that prevents surging."

That tells me either of two things: they are either saying an RV converter will not protect your computer or they are selling you something you don't actually need.
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Old 05-16-2004, 07:01 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joossens
The difference mentioned in the quote could be greater than it may appear. I'm no expert on converters in RVs. But I do know a UPS is specially designed to provide line conditioning specific to electronics. The voltage at which power is switched over to battery power and the amount of time in which the switch is made is specifically calibrated for sensitive electronics.
Actually, my point would be better made by mentioning that by running an inverter attached to the house batteries, you are ALWAYS running batteries. Line conditioning isn't an issue because you're not really connected to line voltage. The batteries might be connected to line power, but they don't have to be. Any line noise, sags, brownouts, or surges would all be buffered by the battery. The converter, or in this discussion the charger, just provides power to charge the battery, it's not supplying power directly to the inverter. This way, you can have nice clean AC power, without having to spend $200.00 for a fancy UPS.

You're correct that the UPS has a 'specifically calibrated' switch, but that calibration is speed. It has to switch fast enough that the computer, or other sensitive equipment, never notices the loss of power. But running the inverter full time off the house battery, it never has to switch. And since almost every prime component of an RV is 12vDC, this is just a great way to get your computer, whatever to run essentially on 12v.
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