Portable and hardwired products designed to prevent damage to electrical components in RVs
Most of our favorite RV parks have one thing in common: great location. They were built in the remote corners of our continent. For the rare older RV park that hasn’t been upgraded, electrical anomalies can occur. Add to this the wear and tear from storms, maintenance work in the park and the sometimes quirky nature of the power grid in remote areas, and you have a recipe for some serious voltage and shock problems. Damage to your motorhome is likely from power surges and from over-voltage and under-voltage conditions. Other electrical issues, such as a hot-skin condition where electrical current is flowing through the body and chassis, can pose some real dangers to you and anyone touching your motorhome.
These conditions are why a dedicated segment of the RV aftermarket has devoted its energies to protecting motorhome owners from a variety of power-supply problems, with both hard-wired and portable surge protectors, and electrical management systems.
The problems that cause these conditions are numerous, and include “damaged wiring, damaged receptacles, miswired systems, insufficient grid capacity or plugging into [240 volts AC],” according to Bobby Raatz, national sales manager for Southwire Co., a manufacturer of wire and cable used in the distribution and transmission of electricity.
Joe Casale of Progressive Industries said, “Surges and high voltage, low voltage, as well as some simple electrical conditions — open ground, open neutral and reverse polarity,” add to the list.
These dangers are why these companies make products designed to handle a lot more than just power surges. The products come in two basic configurations — portable and hard-wired — with functions ranging from simple surge protection to sophisticated analysis and power cutoff for a wide variety of conditions. Some even make the process seamless with automatic reset on power restoration.
Portable units plug in at the pedestal or power source and usually provide warnings about anomalies even before you plug your motorhome into the protective device. Portables have the advantage of not needing installation and can be used, or not, as you see fit. On the downside, they can be awkward to deploy and store. Portables are exposed to the elements and therefore may be targeted for theft so features should take these factors into account.
Hard-wired units are mounted permanently onboard your motorhome and are in operation each time you plug in. They are protected from weather and theft but they are not as easy to service or replace. Some hard-wired protectors include a digital display that can be wall-mounted inside your motorhome for easy monitoring.
Power-protection devices are not designed to be daisy chained or used in conjunction with other power-protection devices (including power-cord adapters). Most are offered in 50-amp or 30-amp models, so get the amperage level appropriate for your motorhome.
Watch for features that address various electrical problems, including over or under voltage, open ground, open neutral, reverse polarity and accidental connection to a 240-volt AC power source. Also, note the distinction between “detection” and “protection.” A device may have the capability to detect a power problem but not the capacity to protect (interrupt the power) while the problem exists. When a device does interrupt power, does it take manual input to resume or does it automatically resume connection when the power problem is resolved?
For portable devices, also look for features that make it easier to operate (auto reset and easy-pull handles) that protect from weather (seals, guards or covers) and that protect from theft (locking brackets and available accessories). All units that are designed to act as surge protectors will have a joule rating. A joule is a unit of energy, and for simplicity purposes, the higher the joule rating, the more energy the unit can absorb from a surge event. It is usually higher for 50-amp devices, because there are more conductors in the incoming cable, and the conductors are larger, thus allowing for a higher spike to occur.
Camco’s Power Defender Voltage Protector helps protect a motorhome from damaging low- or high-voltage levels, power spikes and surges. The voltage protector (available in 30-amp and 50-amp versions) monitors incoming power and automatically disconnects when dangerous voltage levels are detected. It also automatically reconnects when levels stabilize between 102-132 volts AC. Camco’s products include a reconnect delay to protect sensitive equipment from rapidly cycling power, and display faults for reverse polarity, open neutral and other power-pedestal wiring issues. MSRP: $299 (30-amp); $399 (50-amp).
The water-resistant unit incorporates integrated multilevel surge protection and diagnostic lights for visual indication of faults. Its integrated surge protection has a 2,450-joule power rating for 30 amps and a 3,850-joule power rating for 50 amps.
Camco’s Power Defender Voltage Analyzer is a 30-amp circuit analyzer featuring diagnostic lights to indicate electrical wiring faults before you connect the electrical cord. The compact, weather-resistant unit also includes integrated surge protection. MSRP: $69.
Camco’s PowerGrip Dogbone Circuit Analyzers (available in 30-amp and 50-amp versions) are weather-resistant and are designed to protect electrical equipment from improperly wired electrical boxes. Diagnostic lights indicate faults before you connect the electrical cord. This unit provides surge protection up to 2,100 joules for the 30-amp version and up to 4,200 joules for the 50-amp model. The PowerGrip handles make plugging and unplugging safer and easier. MSRP: $104.99 (30-amp); $139.99 (50-amp).
Camco Manufacturing Inc.
EMS-LCHW50 and EMS-LCHW30 Hardwired Electrical Management Systems provide full motorhome surge and electrical protection against all adverse power conditions. Functions include detection and protection for over/under voltage, open ground, open neutral, reverse polarity and accidental 240-volt AC protection. The systems protect against high and low voltage and frequency, indicate a miswired pedestal, protect against surges and current issues, and display a previous error code. They also feature an adjustable time delay. Each unit has a built-in scrolling digital display and is thermally protected, field-serviceable, UL Listed and UL Listed to Canadian safety standards. Made in the USA, these 30- and 50-amp units have a lifetime warranty and the company provides technical support seven days a week. MSRP: $258 (30-amp); $349 (50-amp).
EMS-HW30C and EMS-HW50C Hardwired Electrical Management Systems include a digital display, which scrolls continuously through the power source information. A state-of-the-art microprocessor provides full motorhome surge and electrical protection against all adverse power conditions. Functions include detection and protection for over/under voltage, open ground, open neutral, reverse polarity and accidental 240-volt AC protection. It protects against high and low voltage and frequency, indicates a miswired pedestal, protects against surges and current issues, and displays the previous error code. They also feature an adjustable time delay. Each unit has a built-in scrolling digital display and is thermally protected, is field serviceable, UL Listed and UL Listed to Canadian safety standards. Made in the USA, these 30- and 50-amp units have a lifetime warranty and the company provides technical support seven days a week. MSRP: $299 (30-amp); $410 (50-amp).
Portable EMS-PT30X and EMS-PT50X with Surge Protection feature detection and protection for over/under voltage, open ground, open neutral, reverse polarity, accidental 240-volt AC connection and AC frequency anomalies. The protectors are designed for outdoor use and feature an All Weather Shield Assembly and tough Lexan housing. They also include an amperage meter display, previous error code, thermal protection, locking bracket and rugged pull handle. Lifetime warranty excludes the All Weather Shield Assembly. Made in the USA. MSRP: $326 (30-amp); $453 (50-amp).
Portable SSP-50XL and SSP-30XL Smart Surge Protectors feature detection for a miswired pedestal, over/under voltage, open ground, open neutral and reverse polarity. The units provide surge and thermal protection. The protectors are designed for outdoor use and feature an All Weather Shield Assembly and tough Lexan housing. They also include a locking bracket and rugged pull handle. UL Listed and UL Listed to Canadian safety standards. Lifetime warranty excludes the All Weather Shield Assembly. Made in the USA. MSRP: $116.65 (30-amp); $151.85 (50-amp).
Southwire/Technology Research LLC
Surge Guard Portable Models 34830 and 34850 provide full electrical protection for 30- or 50-amp systems, respectively, with an easy-to-read LCD display that shows textual information that does not require code interpretation. Real-time voltage and amp draw are continuously displayed on the LCD screen. Power is automatically disconnected when the following conditions are present: under/over voltage, open ground, open neutral, reverse polarity and overheating in the plug. Continuous monitoring allows the Surge Guard unit to automatically reconnect the power when acceptable power resumes. LED lights indicate if the device’s surge protection has been activated due to a large surge or multiple small surges. Surge Guard 34830 provides 2,450 joules of surge protection, while the 34850 provides 3,850 joules of protection. Available at Camping World, $219.97 (30-amp); $299.97 (50-amp).
Technology Research LLC, a division of Southwire