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Don't Make This Costly Mistake with Your RV

Updated: Jun 1, 2023

Imagine making one of the biggest purchases of your life. You researched, you haggled, and you bought the RV of your dreams. As soon as you get your RV home, you plug it into the receptacle and BOOM! Suddenly your microwave won’t turn on. Your refrigerator won’t cool down. And the electrical system doesn’t work at all.

As RV Technicians, we see this problem pretty often. The repairs are costly and, depending on which components someone fried during this power surge, it might take a while to get all the parts in. On the plus side, this problem is completely preventable and doesn’t have to happen to you.

What Causes the Power Surge

An RV that runs on 30 amps requires 120 volts of AC power. However, a residential 30-amp outlet is wired to 240 volts AC. When you plug in your RV, the residential outlet sends power down the wrong side (the neutral side) of the electrical framework, causing damage to the RV’s electrical system. The neutral side of your electrical system is not designed to have power running through it. If power runs down the neutral leg, it will cause a surge that has the potential to fry your RV’s electrical system and the appliances it powers.

An RV 30-amp plug has 120 volts in one leg, a neutral leg, and a ground. A residential 30-amp outlet, however, has 120 volts in one leg, 120 volts in another leg, a neutral leg, and a ground. As you can see, these two things are not compatible.

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What Your Electrician Needs to Know

Before you call an electrician out to install a 30-amp home outlet – which is not compatible with your RV – you’ll want to understand exactly what type of receptacle to ask for. Instead of asking the electrician to put in a 30-amp outlet, tell them you need a 120v, 30-amp RV outlet. This way, both your RV plug and the outlet you’re plugging it into will be compatible.

More Protection for Your RV Electrical System

On two occasions, we’ve had customers experience power surges when they plugged their RV into their home because they didn’t have an Emergency Management System Surge Protector between their RV and their home. In both cases, the owners had the EMS system, but forgot to plug it in. The device would have saved them time and money had they remembered to use it.

Whether you’re at your home or a campground, the EMS Surge Protector will protect your RV from potentially damaging electrical surges. Just remember that a 50-amp RV will have a 50-amp EMS Surge Protector and a 30-amp RV will have a 30-amp RV Surge Protector. We have used the Progressive Industries EMS Surge Protector on both our fifth wheel and travel trailer and loved it. It also saved a family member’s Class A from a surge, so can’t recommend them enough.

Now You Know

Now that you understand what type of outlet you need for your RV, and what other ways you can protect it, you can plug in with confidence.

There’s so much more to know about caring for your RV. Check out these 3 Money Saving Tips from an RV Tech and 5 Things You Need to Maintain Annually on Your RV!

Have you ever had a power surge in your RV or know someone who has? Do you have a favorite surge protector or EMS system for your camper? Leave a comment below. We'd love to hear from you!


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