3 Ways to Avoid RV Electrical Problems

3 Ways to Avoid RV Electrical Problems

When it comes to your RV, it’s important to understand how the electrical system works, especially considering all the appliances you’re probably running on a regular basis.

As long as you stay within your available wattage (overall power) then things should run smoothly. If your voltage is too low or too high, then you’ll have problems like a power surge, which could seriously damage your RV, ruin your appliances, or even cause an electrical fire.

These three simple steps will help you avoid a serious electrical issue:

1. Know Your RV’s Capacity

Protecting your RV means buying one with adequate power for your needs. RV veteran Rob Lily suggests leaning towards a 50-amp RV if you plan to run a lot of amp consuming appliances. “You need at least 50 amps, which have two legs, giving you 100 amps’ total,” he says. “Considering that the average RV’er spends at least 30.8 amps on their A/C unit alone, a 30-amp RV may not give you enough power over time.”

If you have a 30-amp RV you may experience some electrical woes, especially if you want to run a lot of electrical devices like a microwave, A/C, fridge, hot water tank, and lights.

2. Monitor Your Power Usage

Even if you have a 50-amp RV, you’ll still need to monitor your power usage. “You should get a meter that will plug into a 110 outlet in your coach, it will tell you how much power you’re really using,” Lily advises. You’ll also need to be aware of how much power the appliances you’re using are drawing from your RV and ensure you don’t exceed your RV’s capacity.

Most of your appliances come with manuals that detail the required power (in watts or amps) needed to run it, but you can also find general outlines on the Internet for the most common appliances and electronics that RV’ers commonly use, like this list:

  • Coffee maker – 8.3 amps
  • Converter – 8 amps
  • Hair dryer – 9 to 12 amps
  • Microwave – 13 amps
  • Refrigerator – 2.8 amps
  • Roof A/C 13.5 amps
  • TV – 1.5 amps
  • Toaster – 8 to 10 amps
  • VCR – 2 amps
  • Electric skillet- 6 to 12 amps

You may be surprised by some of the items on this list – would you think that your electric skillet uses more power than your fridge? That your hairdryer uses more than your TV? If you’re not aware of how much power each electronic device uses, then you run the risk of operating too many things at once, which could cause an electrical issue.

3. Use a Surge Protector

A surge can fry your microwave, electrical oven, or even your battery. Surges aren’t always caused by using too much power. The campground could lose a neutral in the ground or lose part of a hot line, which can cause a surge. With a surge protector, as soon as that excess power, loss of power, or excessive power drain is noticed the protector will kick in and shut everything off, to protect your appliances and electrical components from damage.

That’s why it’s so important to always use a surge protector. “I would never run my RV without a surge protector,” Lily says. “The first reason is safety. It’s just not safe to run your RV without one. I’ve seen lots of RV electrical fires, and a surge protector should shield you from that. The second reason is to protect your coach from damage. The cost of a surge protector is small in comparison to the cost of replacing a damaged microwave or A/C unit,” he says.

Troubleshooting Problems

“If the surge protector picks up any problems, it will shut everything off and give you a code to tell you what has happened,” Lily explains. “You should get used to checking the surge protector and your meter every day,” he says.

Surge protectors are portable units, or you can get one hardwired into your RV. Both types do the trick and can be found at your local RV store. In addition to protecting your RV from a power surge, your surge protector will show you how much voltage you’re getting from the RV park. “With 6-8 RV’s hooked up on to the same box the person who is closest to the box generally has the best source of power,” Lily says. In other words, if you’re furthest from the box you may not be getting as much power as your neighbors.

If you’re having problems with your power, go to your park’s maintenance manager and have them check the box to see if there is a problem. Ensure that the maintenance manager also goes into your RV and turns off the main appliances and then checks the box again, Lily advises. “It’s important to see if there is a problem when the RV is underloaded, not just when it’s running at full capacity,” he says.

High voltage and low voltage are both problematic for your RV. Anything outside the range of your RV’s capacity (usually between 108-132 currents) can cause problems. To protect yourself, your family, and your RV, it’s important to understand and respect your RV’s power capacity, to monitor your power usage, and to protect your RV from electrical issues with a surge protector.

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