RV Electricity

RV Electricity

Understanding the basics of RV electrical systems is important to every RV owner. The electrical system of a motorhome can be quite complex, involving 12 volt DC battery power as well as 120 volt AC power. It’s unavoidable that issues will occur from time to time but many of these can easily be corrected by the RV owner with a basic understanding of electricity. Without this knowledge it can be a daunting task to track down and correct any electrical issues but knowledge is power (pun intended) so this tutorial will help you to better understand how your motorhome functions by teaching you the basics of electricity and how to apply that to your motorhome. 

AC vs. DC in RV’s

It’s important to know the difference between AC and DC power when working with your RV electrical system. AC, alternating current, and DC, direct current, both work together to power your RV. While the AC system is powered by an AC power source, the DC system runs off one or several battery systems installed in your RV. The AC system powers appliances like microwaves, air conditioning, and any power outlets, whereas the DC system powers your water, fans, lights, and TV. Generally, the AC system can generate more power than the DC system because of the RV battery limitations. 

RV Split Phase

Most larger motorhomes now come with a 50 amp service while older motorhomes came with 30 amp services, as do many of the smaller towable RVs. Over the years a lot of amenities have been added to motorhomes. As washer-dryers, multiple air conditioners, larger refrigerators and other large accessories are added the power requirements also increase. But not every RV park has upgraded their electric supply to accommodate today’s electrical demands. Sometimes certain areas are set aside with 50 amp service while others still have 30 while some parks have upgraded their power grid properly. Because there needs to be compatibility with all RVs a multi-outlet pedestal is usually installed that will supply a 50 amp service, a 30 amp service, and even a 20 amp duplex receptacle for the smallest power requirements. A cutaway image of a typical power pedestal is shown below.

Power Pedestal

Power Pedestal

In the above pedestal image we can see three separate outlets. From left to right they are 50 amp, 30 amp, and 20 amp. Each receptacle has its own dedicated breaker sized for that particular outlet. This gives the RV owner the choice of choosing whichever outlet they need to best match their RV’s electrical service. 

Split-Phase Service

But, before we delve into the available services we first need to understand what a split-phase service is. 

120/240 Volt Split Phase service wiring diagram

When you create electrical power there is always a pair of windings in the generator that power is taken from. This is true whether it’s a small portable generator, a large diesel powered RV generator, or a huge megawatt generator at your local power utility. These two windings are connected together in series and a tap is run into their common center connection. 

In the above diagram we can see that the ends of these windings are identified as L1 and L2. The common center tap of these two windings is identified as N while L1 and L2 are the hot leads brought into your breaker panel at home and each is generally referred to as a “phase”. The N is the Neutral wire that goes to the neutral buss connection in your breaker panel. This is exactly the same way that your RV’s breaker panel is configured. If you put a voltmeter across lines L1 and L2 you’ll see 240 volts. But if you test L1 to N or L2 to N you’ll see 120 volts. Your breaker panel at home is wired so that every other slot is on a different phase and most RV breaker panels are wired the same way. 

The hot lead runs to whatever device you have on that circuit and the white neutral wire returns back to your panel’s neutral buss bar so that you have a completed 120 volt circuit. If you put a two pole breaker in you’ll be grabbing one of each phase so that 240 volts is sent to and from that device. 240 volt devices don’t require a neutral wire because the power runs from L1 to L2. So just how does this power flow? 

Earlier we talked about how AC power just shuttles back and forth. Well, all of the power in this panel leaves one phase and returns to the other. This is easy to understand if it’s a 240 volt load because the power leaves L1 and goes to L2 but it’s not as readily apparent when on 120 volts because the neutral can be misleading. With 120 volt circuits the power leaves one breaker, for example the L1 pole, and travels to the load. It returns via the white neutral wire to the neutral buss bar. If this is the only thing running in that panel the current will then get drained back to the power utility via the service’s neutral wire. But, if there are loads running that reside on the other side of the breaker panel, then this is not true. 

Electricity always follows the path of least resistance. In the case of an electrical service it always tries to go between L1 and L2 whenever possible. If you have a 20 amp load on a 120 volt L1 breaker and a 15 amp load on a 120 volt breaker on L2, 15 amps of power will shuttle back and forth between them, using the Neutral buss bar as a connector between them. They will be in balance and your ammeter will read 20 amps when testing on L1. When you test on L2 you’ll see 15 amps showing on your meter. If you were to clamp your meter onto the neutral wire you would see 5 amps displayed because the neutral wire only carries the imbalance between L1 and L2. If you had 20 amps running on each phase you would see zero amps on the neutral line. That’s because the AC power tries to shuttle back and forth between L1 and L2. That is what is called a balanced load. You try to achieve this when arranging your breakers in the panel because it minimizes the current flowing through the power company’s electric meter but that’s not always possible. If everything was on one side you’d be pulling 40 amps on one phase, zero on the other, 40 amps on the neutral, and 40 amps on the electric meter so you try to balance things as much as possible. 

Now that we know how the breaker panels are normally set up and how the power company sends its power, we need to figure out how this relates to our RV. RV’s rarely have any 240 volt items in them. Many of the larger RVs have 50 amp services, which are a 120/240 volt split phase system. But before we look at the 50 amp service let’s first look at the 30 amp service. 

30 Amp Service:

A 30 amp RV service is really just a glorified 120 volt single pole outlet. Electrical outlets are labeled with a NEMA code designation and the 30 amp outlet used in RV pedestals is designated a NEMA TT-30R and the plug is a TT-30P. The TT stands for Travel Trailer and is an RV specific receptacle so you won’t be finding this outlet in any residential environment. The P and R stand for Plug and Receptacle respectively. This is a 3 prong plug that consists of a 120 volt hot wire, a neutral wire, and a safety ground wire. The 30 amp RV receptacles do not use GFCI protection. If you have an older or smaller RV you most likely have a single pole 30 amp breaker panel where everything is on one phase. There’s no need to split breakers on a 30 amp panel because there is only L1 and 120 volts present. If you need to plug in at a location where there is no 30 amp RV style outlet you can buy a 15-to-30 plug adaptor at any RV dealer that will adapt your 30 amp RV plug to a standard 15 or 20 amp duplex receptacle. This is the way that RVs were made for many years but with today’s modern amenities it has become necessary to increase the power supply to the newer coaches. Keep in mind that 30 amps times 120 volts equals 3,600 watts and that is how much “stuff” you can operate until you run out of power. 

50 Amp Service: 

To facilitate the larger loads placed upon the newer RVs the 50 amp service was brought to the RV world. Whereas the 30 amp service was a 120 volt service yielding 3,600 watts of power, the 50 amp service is a 120/240 split phase service. The split phase service means you have two 120 volt 50 amp poles, which gives you a total of 12,000 watts. So the perceived increase from 30 to 50 doesn’t sound like very much but the real increase from 3,600 to 12,000 puts it into a more realistic perspective. Keep in mind that this assumes that you can utilize both of the two 50 amp poles effectively by balancing your load. If all of your loads are on one side of the panel you’ll only be using one 50 amp pole, which means that you can only get 6,000 watts. So, it is important to split your loads and balance them between both phases on the breaker panel in order to get maximum capacity. 

Very rarely will an RV have any 240 volt loads. Some RVs may have 240 volt stackable clothes driers or an electric heating element of some sort but it’s rare. Still, the ability to split the load among two poles means that each pole can handle 50 amps. If all of the circuits were placed on a single phase, as in the 30 amp service, then you would need a 100 amp service to provide that same amount of power. That would require some massive wiring to the pedestal and also some very fat and heavy power cords to the RV. A 50 amp split-phase system lets you get that higher wattage with a smaller #6 gauge wire. But what happens when you have an RV with a 50 amp power cord but the campground only has a 30 amp service at the pedestal?

30-to-50 dogbone adaptor

30-to-50 Dogbone Adaptor

At times it becomes necessary to power an RV with a 50 amp service when there is no 50 amp NEMA 1450R receptacle available. Unlike the 30 amp NEMA TT-30R, the 50 amp outlet isn’t an RV-only receptacle so it can be found in residential and industrial applications as well and has a 4 prong outlet that has two hot wires – L1 and L2, as well as a neutral and ground wire. Any RV dealer or RV accessory store will offer an adaptor that is commonly referred to as a 30-to-50 dogbone adaptor, which is illustrated above. This adaptor will let you adapt your 50 amp plug to a 30 amp so that you can plug your 50 amp RV into a 30 amp RV receptacle if that’s all that is available. When you do this you’ll be limited to 30 amps of power though. The dogbone adaptor will connect the single 120 volt hot pole to both the L1 and L2 inputs of your RV’s 50 amp breaker panel. When you do this you will have the same phase across L1 and L2 so there will be no 240 volts available. But, seeing as how 99.9% of the RVs made don’t use anything with 240 volts, that’s volts that’s not a problem. 

In this situation all of the power will be going down the neutral wire. But, you are only sending 30 amps to the panel and your neutral wire is rated to handle 50 amps so you’ll be fine. You will have to be careful to manage your loads when running on 30 amps. If you fire up all of your air conditioners and water heater you are going to trip that 30 amp pedestal breaker real quick so you have to watch what you turn on. You can also add a second adaptor to change the 30 amp down to a 20 amp plug if you have to but then all you’re going to be able to do is keep the batteries charged and maybe run a few lights.

2023 Grech RV Strada-ion RV Tour with Angie Morell

2023 Grech RV Strada-ion

Looking to experience luxury Class B travel at its finest? Look no further than Grech RV. From top-of-the-line amenities to exceptional craftsmanship, Grech RV has implemented the highest of standards into the motorhome market for nearly 40 years. This is no more apparent than in the brand new 2023 Strada-ion, Grech RV’s flagship Sprinter motorhome. 

At 24 ft. long, the Strada-ion is built upon the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 3500 chassis, an extremely durable foundation that features dual-rear wheels and automatic rear air suspension which makes for an incredibly smooth ride. Its 6-cylinder diesel engine offers ample power and is capable of towing an additional vehicle or toy with its 5,000 lb. hitch. A lithium-ion battery energy storage system provides clean and quiet energy, while the 280-amp alternator charges the batteries at idle, ensuring sustained power for your adventures. 

Grech Class B RV

Thoughtfully designed, meticulously crafted and steeped in luxury right down to the smallest detail, Grech RV manufactures the highest quality Class B camper vans on the market. Recently, NIRVC’s own Angie Morell toured Grech’s facilities to see what sets these motorhomes apart. Have a look as Angie details the Strada-ion, below. 

For an experience commensurate with Grech’s quality, NIRVC is the only Grech RV dealer built to deliver these high-end, high-quality motorhomes. Browse our Grech RV inventory today. 

Grech Factory Tour With Angie Morell

Grech RV is known for their extremely sophisticated and luxurious Class B RVs – and with good reason. The company, manufacturing since 1983, brings impeccable craftsmanship to their vehicles and are deeply committed to excellence in all phases of production. 

Their RVs are built exclusively upon the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis, a leader in the industry. From there, it’s all Grech, through and through, that make these the special vehicles they are.

The vans are built with meticulous attention to detail along every step of the process. From their exclusive stainless steel utility center to the exceptional design – both inside and out – Grech RV motorhomes employ the highest standards in its class. 

Recently, our own Angie Morell toured the 165,000 sq. ft. Grech RV factory, offering insight into care and consideration that goes into each vehicle. Take a look at the tour below, then be sure to browse our Grech RV inventory!

Full-Time RV? 12-Step Transition From Sticks & Bricks To Life On The Road

sticks & bricks definition:

A regular house, condo, apartment, or dwelling on some type of permanent foundation that does not have wheels. Sticks & bricks have a physical address. Sticks & bricks are always located at the same place on the map.

If you are already the happy owner of a fabulous motorhome… or if you are a soon-to-be new owner, planning on it, or just dreaming about it…

Have you ever thought about giving up your sticks & bricks and going full-time RV?

That’s exactly what we did, two years ago, in our new-to-us 2016 Entegra Aspire. We named her Charlie-The-Unicorn RV.

People have so many questions about living, working, and traveling full time in an RV! We did, too. We had no idea how or what we were doing – the logistics of it all – when we made the decision to go full time. We figured it out, mostly in the 60 days before we took off on this exciting and unknown adventure.

And, of course, we’re still learning.

So if you are thinking, planning, dreaming, or just wondering about the logistics and transition to full-time RVing from full-time sticks & bricks, keep reading… If we can survive this adventure, you can, too! I’ll do my best to share our experience and answer those burning FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions).

✅ 1 – Do you own an RV?

If so, and you feel confident you could live comfortably in your RV full time, proceed to Step 2!

If not, or if you want to consider other options for full-time RV living:

  • Go visit, or get in touch with, a Lifestyle Specialist at any of the six NIRVC locations across the country. They can help you find the perfect starter or upgrade RV for your transition to full-time RV life.
  • Purchase your full-time RV while you’re still at your sticks & bricks address, especially if you are financing any part of your purchase. 
  • Arrange storage and recreational-use (part-time) RV insurance while you’re in transition, but it’s all much easier at this stage than later. (You’ll change to full-time RV insurance coverage later, when you’re ready to go!) 
  • Start your research! Search term: “Full Time RV Lifestyle”. Google, YouTube, IRV2.com, and Facebook Groups can be your best resources, from when you’re first getting started to living full time in your RV.

We weren’t thinking about full-time RVing when we purchased our 2016 Entegra Aspire in 2020. It was a part-time escape plan for us at the time, which worked out great during the pandemic. And then…

✅ 2 – Getting out of your sticks & bricks

Decisions, decisions:

  • Sell or rent your home
  • Give notice on your lease, if renting
  • Set your launch date!

Everyone’s situation will be different, whether you own your home or rent and how long you’ve been there. I imagine every year in place might take at least a month longer to prepare, especially if there’s family history or grown & flown children.

We had about 60 days.

Our situation was easier than most. In 2021, after 25 years building our careers and raising three children in Atlanta, GA, we had packed our almost-empty nest up in 2019, to move ‘back home’ to Seattle, WA, to take care of my mom.

We had already gone through a big move, re-organized and gotten rid of a lot of stuff. We had leased a two-bedroom condo in downtown Seattle for two years to be near my husband’s new office and to figure out where we wanted to re-settle. Half our stuff was already in storage, at that point.

Two years later (2021)… well, everything changed during the pandemic:

  • We were both working from our small condo 24/7/365.
  • Our college kid, who had come back home during the pandemic, was able to return to school.
  • My mother passed away in January 2021.

The lease came up in May 2021, and we realized, with both of us working from home, an empty nest, and a 40’ luxury RV in storage north of Seattle… home could be anywhere. We set our full-time RV living launch date for Memorial Day: May 2021.

✅ 3 – What to do with all your stuff?

In the end, there are only three options with stuff:

  • Take it with you: find a place for it in your RV.
  • Store it somewhere: with family or a storage facility. 
  • Get rid of it: SELL – DONATE – TRASH

Even though we’d just done all of the above two years before, we had to go through it all again – this time, going from a 1,000 sq. ft. two-bedroom/two-bath condo with many shelves, cabinets and closets to our 400 sq.ft. mobile living space with very few storage spaces, sharing one RV closet and one dresser…

Pro Tip: Start early and be ruthless! 

  • Take inventory, create lists and spreadsheets (whatever works best for you).
  • Tag everything with sticky notes: RV – STORE – SELL – DONATE – TRASH
  • Start disposing immediately, whether it’s to sell, donate, or trash.
  • Start living in smaller space: downsize kitchen, bedrooms, and bathrooms in your sticks & bricks to use the same number and size of cabinets and drawers in the RV. Start using those cabinets and drawers for the things you want to take with you.
  • Figure out what to do with the rest: STORE – SELL – DONATE – TRASH.

FAQ: What did you do with all your stuff?

Honestly, I lived 30+ years of my adult life believing if you had to pay to store stuff, you really didn’t need the stuff – seriously!

But there I was, in Seattle, WA, after the Big Move in 2019, with ONE (1) 5×10 storage unit already full of the things we couldn’t leave behind in Atlanta, knowing we’d be buying a house again, but couldn’t fit in the condo:

Excerpts from Sherri’s Countdown Journal:


We are going to pay for storage this first year, and probably for the rest of our lives. Or at least until our kids turn 40 and make the pilgrimage to the storage facility to reclaim the treasures and relics of their youth. Just like we did. An “Adulting 101” rite of passage. Too much stuff.

In fact, that’s where I’m headed today: our storage unit! I’m going to spend the morning with our existing storage, inventorying and organizing, hopefully pulling out some things we haven’t missed in two years and getting rid of it. To have room for more stuff we won’t see for the next two years…


We are now the proud renters of TWO (2) 5×10 storage units in Seattle, WA


Move to Seattle – Storage Unit #1

Storage Unit #2

✅ 4 – RV Living Space


The floorplan of our 2016 Entegra Aspire 40P

FAQ: What can you take with you when you live full time in an RV?

Well, that’s a puzzle, and puzzles can be fun:

  • Get a floorplan schematic of your RV, if you can. You might be able to find one online. Or make your own.
  • Measure your RV living spaces, especially drawers and cabinets and closets. Diagram where things might go.
  • Remember to measure vertical space and walls. It’s amazing how much extra storage space you can create with Command™ strips and hooks. 
  • Make room in your RV for things from home you’ll appreciate on the road: artwork and photo frames you can put on the walls (with Command™ strips); throw pillows & blankets; small decorative touches (preferably unbreakables). 
  • Visit and take your RV out every chance you get before your launch date – take stuff up, bring stuff back. (It’s an endless cycle, even after you launch.)


We went up to the RV (at the storage facility) yesterday to spend some time on maintenance, planning, and organizing our very small space for full-time living & working. (I managed to find space to take a dozen books with me: 12 books!)


✅ 5 – RV Kitchen Essentials

FAQ: How do you outfit the kitchen for full-time RV living?


Trade-offs will be necessary:

  • RV dishes: You won’t need or want 16 place settings of heirloom china and crystal in your rolling earthquake of an RV. You need a nice, simple set of durable dishes that will stack well and not take up too much space. For two adults, we bought a 4 place setting kit of Corelle dinnerware. I love it!*
  • Silverware: Again, you won’t need or want your entire utensil drawer from home. You need enough, but not too much. We brought eight of each: knives, forks, soup spoons, teaspoons, and a couple of servers, which all fit nicely in the wooden organizer tray that fits in the drawer space available.
  • Same goes for all those kitchen appliances, gadgets, cooking utensils, mixing bowls and serving dishes: Bring all your unbreakable favorites to the RV, find secure space for as much as you can. Take the rest back home to SELL – DONATE – TRASH.
  • Paper Plates, Plastic Utensils & Red Solo Cups (I prefer clear, but hey, you do you) for casual outdoor dining and boondocking.

Our favorites for RV kitchen & full time living: New set of nested pots & pans for induction stovetop! – Collapsible colanders! – Nested, colorful melamine bowls for food prep and serving! –  Standard-sized MEAL PREP (brand: goodcook) rectangle storage containers with lids for storing or serving anything and everything!


*You might notice, in the pictures above, that I’ve bent and broken a few of my own suggestions. I do love my Corelle dishes, but I also missed the big stoneware bowls we use for pasta, salads, and bowl meals. So I went back to storage and brought four stoneware bowls with us. And four of our favorite coffee mugs. So far, so good.

✅ 6 – Domicile & Permanent Address 

Domicile (Merriam-Webster)
Legal: a person’s fixed, permanent, and principal home for legal purposes

FAQ: How do you get mail when you’re RVing full time?

Choosing and establishing your domicile and permanent address can be one of the trickiest steps in the transition from sticks & bricks to full-time RV living. You can only have one primary address at a time, for legal reasons, which include:

    • Vehicle Registrations & Driver’s Licenses
    • Insurance & Financial Accounts
    • Voter Registration
    • Taxes: Federal, State & Local
    • School, Employment & Health Insurance, if applicable

There are many reasons full-time RVers might choose to change their domicile state and permanent address when they sell or leave their sticks & bricks. Some states are more favorable for full-time RV living, for legal and tax purposes.

This is a topic you definitely need to research and make decisions to fit your own situation, with professional legal and/or tax advice as needed. 

We kept things simple and kept our domicile in Washington State. We have a lease agreement with a trusted family member and use their address for domicile and mail delivery. We’re there at least once a year, when we’re in Washington. They receive our mail and send a packet with mail, or whatever we need, whenever we’re in a place long enough to receive a package.

It was a relatively simple process for us to establish domicile and do all the things:

✔️ Mail forwarding & permanent change of address with U.S.P.S.

✔️ Vehicle registrations (RV and automobiles)

✔️ Driver’s Licenses

✔️ Voter Registrations

✔️ New Library Card! 🤓 (Did you know you can borrow ebooks and audiobooks online from your local library, anywhere you are?)



I still have moments (lots of moments) when I can’t believe we’re actually doing this…

✅ 7 – RV Financial

Related to domicile and permanent address considerations, financial organization is very important as you prepare for full-time RV living. Whether you are sharing a mailbox with family or using a mail forwarding service, you’ll want to move online as much as possible to cut down on paper mail: 

  • Manage all banking and financial transactions online.
  • Sign up for email billing and statements.
  • Arrange automatic payments for recurring expenses.
  • Review credit reports, close accounts, stop mail as much as possible. 
  • Cancel memberships, subscriptions and auto-shipments (i.e. Amazon Subscribe & Save).

→ Keep physical copies of current vehicle registrations and insurance documents with you, easily accessible in case of emergency.

→ Organize and keep your financial information and important documents up-to-date and easily accessible online in a secure folder or directory you can access from any computer. 

→ Your family or designated legal representative needs to know how to access information, if something happens to you. If you have a safe deposit box or rented storage units, make sure you leave keys and access information with someone you trust.

✅ 8 – Staying Connected: RV Internet

Unfortunately, Hubs and I are not retired or independently wealthy. The pandemic offered us a unique opportunity to work from home. And then we realized, with a big Class A Motorhome, “home” could be anywhere with good internets!

FAQ: What do you do for Internet? 

(This was our #1 Most Frequently Asked Question, in the beginning.)

Hubs works for a large technology company. He is online full-time, all day, every weekday, Zoom conferencing with his team and clients all over the world. Reliable internet access is critical for his job and our continuing ability to live and travel full time in our motorhome.

Again, the situation and requirements will be different for everyone on the road. We needed redundant data plan coverage from the Big Three cellular networks, along with equipment to network it all together and automatically switch back and forth according to the strongest cell signal wherever we happen to be across the country.


Last summer, while we were in Washington, we added Starlink RV, with the Starlink “Dishy” (satellite dish) set up outside the RV, leading to the current #1 Most Frequently Asked Question:

FAQ: How do you like Starlink RV?

Answer: We like it just fine for regular household internet, streaming services, and back-up when there is good satellite visibility. Turns out, it’s not so great for Zoom. Starlink service sometimes drops in and out as the satellites go by. You normally wouldn’t notice, but it can cause the dreaded freeze frame on Zoom, which is definitely not great for online video conferencing.

—> If you’re trying to figure out your internets for full-time RV living, check out Internet on the Go, one of NIRVC’s trusted RV Aftermarket Partners for added safety, protection, and convenience.

✅ 9 – Medical & Health Insurance

There are many things we are still learning about full-time medical and health insurance. As far as prep for full time RV living:

  • Health Insurance should be part of your domicile decision, depending on employment, Medicare eligibility, or private insurance/state program requirements. 
  • Schedule annual medical and dental appointments with plenty of time before your launch date, to allow for follow-ups.
  • Most full-time RV people we’ve met schedule time to be back home for annual appointments with their regular doctors. (Including us: We have reservations in June in a campground close to our medical center in Seattle to be nearby for  already-scheduled appointments.)
  • It is always a good idea to know where the local emergency services and urgent care clinics are located, wherever you are staying. Many campgrounds include that information in their campground guide. Keep those handy for reference, and to have your current address available, in case of emergency. (And for mailing address and package delivery. But that’s beside the point here. 😉)

✅ 10 – RV Prep: Maintenance, Service & Safety

Just like your physical health and safety, your RV needs to be ready to go full time, too:

  • Schedule full RV service and maintenance for all systems before you go. The more you can take care of before you go, and keep up with annual service appointments, the better. Of course, things will always happen along the way…
  • Learn as much as you can about basic RV maintenance and routine services you can take care of yourself. Some excellent resources for this include:

NIRVC Angie’s RV 101 Video Series on YouTube

AIM Club Collected Resources To Make Your RV Ownership More Enjoyable

  • Assemble an emergency road kit from your chassis manufacturer to have spare filters, fuses, belts, and liquids that you might need in the event of a breakdown on the road. Remember to carry necessary tools and safety equipment for emergency repairs.
  • Finally, just as you would in your sticks & bricks, make sure you have adequate safety features in place to protect your home and lives: smoke detectors, fire suppression, and security systems.

✅ 11 – Leaving Family

Getting ready to go, I struggled with the concept of Home Base. Of not being Home Base for our family while living and traveling in our RV. The worry of not being there for my kids, with no place for them to visit, or to stay, if needed.

We have three grown and nearly-grown kids: ages 28, 25 & 22. And, truth be told, they’re all over the U.S. right now, too, in their careers, and relationships, and school: Hawaii, Missouri, and Washington State.

No grandbabies yet (and that might change everything, right?). This is a time in our lives when our kids don’t need us, or necessarily want us around full time, for a few years, especially after the two years of close living with our college student.

It was hard to prepare for this. I cried a lot in those last 60 days, saying goodbye to family and friends in Washington, during the pandemic, when we couldn’t even get together, anyway.

But I learned some things in the last two years on the road, and I’m reassured to discover we’re closer, in some ways, by traveling the country full time in our big RV:

  • We’ve actually seen our loved ones — our kids, extended family, and friends — more now than we would have at home in Seattle. Even the Hawaii kid, who came and stayed with us for a week for a wedding in Atlanta! (We rented an AirBnB, while Charlie-the-RV was in for service at NIRVC – Atlanta.)
  • With everybody’s busy lives and schedules, and the difficulties of air travel recently, it’s easier for us to travel in the RV and stop in to see our people all over the country. We stay at a campground nearby and it works out great! 
  • Thank goodness for technology and the good old-fashioned telephone, er, cellphone, for connection.
  • We’ve enjoyed Zoom holidays, check-ins, and fun family game nights from four different time zones.
  • Every Sunday, I text a proof of life picture to our kids and let them know where we’re staying.

The kids are all okay. And we are, too.


✅ 12 – Finding places to stay

Finding campgrounds and places to park our 40-foot RV was one of my biggest worries from the beginning. This literally kept me up at night, months before making the leap to full-time. It can still be a challenge. I’m not, by nature, a long-term planner.

We’ve managed to stay at least 60 days ahead of our schedule. Some full-time RV people plan and reserve a year or more in advance, which you have to do in more popular areas and seasons. 

→ We tend to travel where and when people aren’t, to avoid the crowds.

FAQ: Have you ever stayed in a WalMart parking lot?

We have never stayed overnight on a WalMart parking lot, but we would, if we had to!

We have always found a place to stay, even if it was a Cracker Barrel parking lot in Mississippi one night early in our adventure … and a BJ’s parking lot in Florida one night, when we were caravan-ing with friends and had a breakdown.

In general, we stay at quirky, private campgrounds and nice resorts across the country, for a week or two at a time. We have an RV property we stay at in Florida for a month or two during the winter and a membership campground in Washington where we stay a month or two during the summer.


One of our quirky, wonderful campgrounds – White Sulphur Springs, Montana

FAQ: How much does it cost to live in an RV full time?

We’re still figuring that out, after two years on the road. One of the biggest expenses, traveling full time in the RV, is campground and resort fees. 

We have paid from $0 to $180 per night, for different types of campgrounds. A sampling of rental fees from different categories:

  • Most expensive (so far): “Oceanfront” “Resort” in Oceanside, CA – $180 per night 😳 
  • Luxury Motor Coach Resorts – so far, less than $100 per night, but these super-nice ownership/rental resorts can get pricey. 
  • Luxury RV Resorts: Sun Resorts & upscale KOA Resorts – $75 – $150 per night.
  • “Holiday Inns” of campgrounds: KOA Journey/Holiday, Good Sams – $50 – $90 per night. Clean, usually smaller, fewer amenities.
  • Quirky, privately-owned campgrounds: Our Favorites! $20 – $50 per night.
  • RPI (Encore/Thousand Trails)/Coast2Coast Membership Campgrounds – $10* per night. *But we do pay annual membership for these programs, about $150/year each.
  • Home Membership Park – $0 per night – 2 weeks in / 1 week out (to RPIs nearby). We purchased lifetime membership for about $4,000 in 2021, which included cross country RPI and Coast2Coast memberships. Our home park was bought out the very next day by Sun Resorts. We pay annual renewal of about $500 for privileges at that one location (Blaine, WA).

I have learned there is always a place to stay. Somehow it all works out.


TODAY is the day! Hubs & I are moving into the RV FULL TIME!!! I am excited. Still a little… 🤪🤪🤪

So here we go.


May 2021: Full Time RV! Leaving our storage facility for the last time!

National Indoor RV Centers blogger Sherri Caldwell profile image

Sherri Caldwell is the founder of BooksAndTravelUSA.com – Full-time RV Travel Blog & Book Club/U.S. Literacy Project. With her husband, Russ, she is currently living, working, and traveling full-time in their 2016 Entegra Aspire: Charlie-The-Unicorn RV.

Class B RV Comparison

I have spent the majority of the last three years living in various Winnebago Class B & Class C vans. Being able to try out different vans for long periods of time brought me a wealth of insights into what I was looking for when I purchased a van of my own. I had the opportunity to live in each of these vans for various lengths of time, some for a few months, some for a year, and was able to compare and contrast their features, strengths, and weaknesses. In this post, I will share my experiences living in each of these vans and provide some tips for those who are considering a similar van life adventure.

The first van I lived in was the Winnebago Boldt KL, built on the 170 Mercedes Sprinter chassis. This van is designed for luxury and comfort while also having off-grid capabilities. One of the most important features of the Winnebago Boldt is the Pure 3 Lithium System by Volta. This advanced energy system is made up of three 48V lithium-ion batteries providing 12,800 watt hours of energy, a high-performance alternator, and a power management system that optimizes energy usage. The Boldt’s system capabilities allowed me to explore remote locations for days on end without worrying about my battery levels (why wasn’t Starlink around when I had this much power?!). The Boldt’s interior was homey, high-quality and functional, with a good sized kitchen and two twin beds that could be converted into a queen. The layout of the van worked great for my pup and I with separate beds and an open concept floor plan where we could open up the backdoors and have a straight view of the ocean while cooking dinner.  The dual-pane acrylic windows offered an extra layer of insulation as well as a good source of airflow.

What I didn’t love: not having a dedicated workspace.  I would have preferred the layout of the Boldt BL with a dedicated space to work, eat and extra seating for transporting friends. I also didn’t love the length. 170 Sprinters are fantastic if you need the space, but it felt a little too large for me as I’m a solo traveler and made it more difficult to navigate tight trails. 

National Indoor RV Centers blog Merrisa Class B Winnebago Boldt Idaho

Merrisa in Idaho with her Winnebago Boldt KL

The second van I lived in was the Winnebago Solis PX, built on the 159 Promaster chassis. I spent a year living in this van and enjoyed every minute of it. The layout was perfect, giving me a dedicated space to work and eat as well as a good sized kitchen, wet bath and full-size bed. I also had the luxury of being able to have friends stay with me without having to share my bed. The pop-top offered a second sleeping space all while giving them a cool “vanlife” experience. Not only did the pop-top provide an extra sleeping space, but it was also nice to have open for the extra airflow and natural lighting. The Solis PX offered an AGM battery system with a Cummins Onan 2800i gas generator. I loved the reliability of the generator as it ran off of my fuel tank. So as long as I had gas, I had power. I felt comfortable leaving my dog in the A/C with the generator on for a few hours without having to worry about running out of power.

National Indoor RV Centers blog Merrisa Class B Winnebago Solis salt flats

Merrisa in the Bonneville Salt Flats in northwestern Utah

However, the Solis was not ideal for off-road adventures, and it was challenging to navigate narrow roads and tight turns with the combination of length and 2WD. Overall, the Solis is an excellent choice for those who prioritize comfort and convenience over off-road capabilities. 

National Indoor RV Centers blog Merrisa Class B Winnebago Solis Red Rocks Amphitheater Morrison, CO

Merrisa at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, CO in her Winnebago Solis pop-top

The third “van” I lived in was the Winnebago EKKO, built on the AWD Ford Transit chassis and coming in at a little over twenty-three feet long. This RV was the largest rig that I have lived in and it was pure luxury having so much storage space. This versatile and rugged Class C motorhome is designed to take you off the beaten path and allow you to explore the great outdoors in comfort and style. The interior of the Winnebago EKKO is modern and stylish, with high-quality materials and finishes throughout. My favorite part is the genius European design of the pivoting bathroom wall to save space and keep the bathroom dry when not showering. There are two twin beds in the rear that convert into a queen and are the most comfortable van beds that I have ever slept on. The kitchen is fully equipped with a refrigerator, a freezer big enough for ice cream (!!), a microwave, cooktop, and a sink. 

The biggest benefit of the EKKO is its size. It is not much bigger than a van and you get an insane amount of storage; both interior and exterior. Another benefit is the fifty gallons of fresh water capacity. Water is always my biggest drawback when staying off-grid for long periods of time and with the EKKO, I was able to stay in the middle of the desert for weeks on end (of course, this will depend on personal water usage). 

One of the most surprising features of the Winnebago EKKO is its off-road capabilities. The all-wheel drive makes this vehicle built to handle some of the more challenging driving conditions and I definitely put it to the test with some of the gnarly off-road roads we went down. This was also the only vehicle that I have never gotten stuck in.

National Indoor RV Centers blog Merrisa Class B Winnebago Ekko boondocking

Merrisa having fun with her Winnebago EKKO

The fourth van I have lived in is the Winnebago Solis Pocket, built on the 136 Promaster chassis.  This is the van I ended up purchasing after spending time learning what I did and didn’t need in the other vans. The Solis Pocket is a great combination of most of the things I loved about the other vans. It has a dedicated work space, a second bed for friends, plenty of storage, a decent sized kitchen, and a full bed. I can’t take it off-roading per say, but the short length makes it easier to get to places that a longer van may have trouble accessing. I can also whip a u-turn without having to do a three point turn and that was important to me ;). After spending time in the other vans, I decided that a bathroom wasn’t as important to me as I once thought it was. This van is perfect for me as a solo traveler because of its size and surprising amount of storage.

National Indoor RV Centers blog Merrisa Class B Winnebago Pocket working

Merrisa working from her Winnebago Pocket

Living in these four different Winnebago Class B vans provided a wealth of insights into the vanlife lifestyle. Each had its unique strengths and weaknesses, and it was essential to consider my priorities and needs when choosing a van. Some essential considerations include the van’s size, storage space, fuel efficiency, off-road capabilities, and comfort features. If you are considering a vanlife adventure, take the time to research different van models and consider your priorities and needs carefully. With the right van, vanlife can be a rewarding and freeing experience.

But, living in a van isn’t just about the vehicle itself – it’s also about the lifestyle it enables. When you’re traveling in a van, you have the freedom to go wherever you want, whenever you want. You can camp in remote locations, explore national parks, and get up close and personal with nature in a way that’s simply not possible when you’re staying in a hotel or traditional RV park. 

Merrisa Blog Bio

Having worked in the RV industry since 2017, Merrisa Petersen has been living and working on the road in her Winnebago Solis Pocket full-time since 2020. Her aim is to empower other women to seek adventure in order to instill confidence in their capabilities. Her travel companion is her dog, Jessa, and together they are committed to a sustainable lifestyle and leaving nature better than they found it.  

NIRVC’s RV Paint & Body Standards

Did you know at NIRVC, we do more RV collision and Paint & Body repair than anyone else in the country? As experts, we have set Paint & Body standards, so our work will be consistent across all of our locations. Our standards take into consideration four different factors: how far away from the coach we are standing, what kind of lighting we have, what angle are we looking at and what zones are we keying in on. 

Our multi-point inspection criteria ensures every motorhome leaving our facility meets or exceeds our customer’s expectations. 

We offer Full Paint & Body Service which means you have the convenience of having your work done on-site by technicians who know your coach and know you expect the work to be done right, on time and at a reasonable cost. 

RV Paint & Body/Collision Services Offered at NIRVC:  

    • Collision Repair and Restoration
    • Paint Cracking and Chipping Repair
    • Paint Oxidation and Fading Restoration 
    • Roof Damage Repair and Roof Sealant 
    • Ceramic Coating

We proudly offer Paint and Body at our Atlanta, Dallas, Las Vegas, Nashville and Phoenix locations. Contact us today to learn more! 

Solar Panels for RVs

Solar Panels in RVs 

Solar panels are widely misunderstood. The most common question posed is “How many solar panels do I need to run my RV?” But, the fact of the matter is that solar panels don’t run anything. It’s your batteries that will provide enough amp-hrs to power your electrical devices. Solar panels don’t output enough amp-hrs to run a device but they will continue to provide that slow and steady output over a fairly long time frame so in effect, solar panels are strictly battery chargers. Your electrical devices will draw amps from your batteries but solar panels will put some amps back into those batteries. Unless you have a massive solar panel array or are a real miser with your power consumption, you’ll never be able to keep your batteries from running down. Eventually you will need to run your generator to recharge those batteries and bring them up to a full charge. However, solar panels can add enough extra amps to extend the timeframe between generator runs so that it occurs at a time that’s more convenient for you.

solar panel array featuring four 120-watt panels on a 40’ coach

A solar panel array featuring four 120-watt panels on a 40’ coach

Limitations of Solar Panels in RVs

One of the biggest limitations of solar panels is that you need enough of them to make a difference. If you think that slapping a 50 watt panel on the roof is going to do something, then you are wasting your money. Unfortunately, panels take up some room and not every RV roof has an overabundance of that. The image above shows an array of four 120 watt panels on a 40′ coach. It was possible to place two on each side and still be able to walk down the center of the roof for service access on the gray non-skid surface. 

Solar panel with tilt mounts

Solar panels with tilt mounts align the panel to the sun for better performance

How to Maximize Power from Solar Panels

Solar panels create the most power when they are getting direct sunlight and lots of it. They can be ordered with flat mounts or tilt-up mounts. Tilt up mounts have the advantage of being able to be aimed at a southern exposure so that the solar panel can receive more light throughout the day. You do have to park the RV so that the panels are facing south though and that’s not always an option. Also, if you forget to put them down and lock them before driving away you’ll be buying new panels and patching some holes in the roof where they used to be mounted to. Overall, flat panels are the safe bet for a motorhome. The benefits of an adjustable mount just aren’t that much that it pays to put up with the hassles they bring unless you are staying in one place for a long time. 

Solar panels vary in output but it’s proportional to their size. You won’t find a panel that has significantly higher output than another in the same physical size. The biggest difference in panels is their ability to produce power under less than optimal conditions. Unfortunately, there is no rating method or specs that will tell you this so you’ll have to rely on information from other owners or a sales rep that you can trust. Some panels will put out their maximum rated output when it’s nice and bright but fall off sharply when the light is dimmer later in the day, early in the morning, or when it’s overcast. Some panels continue to produce respectable light output under less than optimal conditions. Those are the ones you want to have because it’s all about the total amp-hrs output during the day, not just what’s happening at high noon.

You’ll need to determine just how many amp-hrs you’ll be using during a 24 hour period. Take the wattage of any 12 volt items, such as lights, fans and blower motors, and divide by 12 to find the amps. Then multiply that number times the numbers or hours (or portion of an hour) that each item will be run during that day. Make a note of that number. Then do the same for all of your 120 volt loads except divide those wattage amounts by 10 instead of 12 to find out how many 12 volt amps will be needed to feed the inverter. This will allow for a 20% inverter efficiency loss, which is more than adequate for planning purposes. Add everything up and that’ll tell you how many amp-hrs you’ll need to run everything during a 24 hour period. 

Go look at your battery bank size. A typical four battery bank of 6 volt golf cart style batteries should be around 440 amp-hrs in size at 12 volts. You don’t want to run these batteries below approximately 50% charge level so you should limit their use to 220 amp-hrs before recharging them. If your above calculations show that you are consuming more than that, you won’t make it through the day. Calculate the difference between what you need and what you have and that’s your shortage. If you can install solar panels to exactly supplement that amount you’ll be able to make it 24 hours before recharging via the generator.

If you are an avid boondocker chances are you’ve figured out ways to minimize your power consumption. By doing the above math you may find that it’s possible to camp for a number of days before needing to run the generator. Solar panels can help extend that as well. Remember that we said earlier that solar panels don’t run anything. What they do is provide “free” amp-hrs of battery charging power that can help extend your recharge times to where it is more convenient for you. One other option is to just add more batteries. Extra batteries will cost you far less than solar panels so if all you are looking for is a few extra hours between charge cycles I’d look at adding batteries. If you do decide that solar panels are a good fit for your RV style then you still may want to add additional batteries. If you use AGM batteries rather than flooded batteries you’ll also get more runtime. This was discussed earlier in the Batteries chapter. Another way to maximize your solar panel output is with a good charge controller.

30-amp MPPT solar charge controller
water pump controller

A 30-amp MPPT solar charge controller

Typical water pump controller

RV Energy Management

RV Energy Management

Energy Management is simple – you just need to make sure that you don’t use any more power than is available. Battery power is finite. Eventually it’ll run out. By minimizing how many lights are on and the time they are on, battery life can be extended. Eventually you’ll need to recharge them, either by driving the coach or by running the generator. Adding extra batteries can extend that runtime as can the addition of solar panels. If you are plugged into shore power this isn’t an issue because your converter or inverter/charger will keep them charged while you use them.

AC power is a bit different. Unlike battery power, there is no reserve to draw from. You are limited to the total current capacity of your shore power pedestal or your generator’s capacity. Generators are generally sized for that particular coach so you should be able to run whatever loads you need to operate without exceeding the generator’s capacity. Of course there are exceptions where an undersized generator was specified in that particular coach rather than choosing the optional generator but those are the exception, not the rule.

Shore power pedestals vary in size. If you are running a small 20 amp cord to your RV from someone’s home you’ll be very limited as to what you can run. Battery chargers vary in current draw as to how many battery amps they are outputting. A battery charger that is outputting a full 100 amp bulk charge at 12 volts will be drawing 10 amps of 120 volt AC power. That can take up one half of your 20 amp circuit, which doesn’t leave a whole lot left. Many inverter/chargers have a setting on the remote control panel to define the shore power service. If you define the shore power at a lower level, say 20 amps, then it will limit the 120 volt power that the battery charger uses so that you can have more left to run other 120 volt items. You will need to manually set this once you are plugged into a smaller shore power pedestal.

Power Pedestal

A typical RV pedestal with multiple 50-30-20-amp receptacles

In the above image we can see three receptacles. This is a typical 50 amp pedestal which features a 50 amp, 30 amp, and 20 amp outlets. This pedestal allows virtually any type of RV to be serviced with power. The 50 amp outlet is a 120/240 volt split-phase outlet, capable of 12,000 watts of total power. If you have an RV with 50 amp service you should have no problems powering your RV’s electrical appliances when plugged into a 50 amp outlet. Older pedestals may only be configured with a 30 amp outlet however. This is a single pole 120 volt feed, capable of 3,600 watts of total power. You can adapt your 50 amp coach to this 30 amp outlet via a dogbone adaptor but you will be severely limited in just how much you can run in your RV. If the battery charger is pulling 5 amps and your two air conditioners are pulling 12 amps each you’ll be drawing a total of 29 amps. All it takes is for the electric water heater element to kick in or someone turning on the microwave and you’ll trip the pedestal breaker and you’ll be making a trip out to the pedestal to reset it, which of course always happens when it’s raining.

Manual Energy Management

Manual energy management entails turning off some loads so that you can turn on others. If you really need to get hot water it would be best to use the propane burner instead of electric if it’s hot out. If you need to use the microwave for a bit then you’ll have to shut down one of the air conditioners so that amperage can be used by the microwave temporarily. Eventually this gets to be tiring and you’ll either find places to stay at that only have a 50 amp service or you’ll wish you had an automatic energy system.

RV Automatic Energy Management Systems

An Energy Management System (EMS) automatically performs the circuit switching procedures for you. Do not confuse a true EMS system with surge protection. Some name brand surge protectors use the term EMS in their models and descriptions. In a way, this is true because they do more than stop surges. They also protect from low or high voltage but they are still part of the surge protectors category. True EMS systems do not consider voltage levels. They only monitor the amperage draw and perform shedding of various circuits to keep the total power consumption beneath the pedestal breaker rating.

remote display panel from the Intellitec Energy Management System

The remote display panel from the Intellitec Energy Management System

Let’s assume that you want to run two air conditioners (at 12 amps each), the electric water heater (at 10 amps), and your battery charger (4 amps in float mode). That’s a total of 38 amps, which won’t work on a 30 amp service. We’ve already switched the refrigerator over to propane so that’s out of the equation. The EMS will shed the first available load, which is the water heater so that everything else can run. You’ll then be drawing 28 amps. When the thermostat kicks out one air conditioner the load will be reduced to 16 amps so power to the hot water heater will now be restored and the new load will be 26 amps. If someone turns on the microwave and needs another 11 amps, the total draw would be 37 amps so the EMS will shed the next item on the list so now the water heater and one air conditioner will be shed. When the microwave is finished the next priority level circuit will be restored, which in this case is the air conditioner. By doing this the EMS prevents the pedestal breaker from tripping by limiting the total current.

A more recent entry into the energy management field is an EMS by Precision Circuits, Inc. This unit operates in similar fashion to the Intellitec system except it takes it one step farther. It actually interfaces with the inverter and will trigger the inverter so that it powers its output circuits rather than passing through shore power. This way when someone operates the microwave the inverter will power it rather than shedding a circuit. Should this continue for a long time the EMS will stop the inverter to prevent running the batteries too low and will shed circuits like a traditional EMS. This offers the benefit of not having to shut down your air conditioner on a hot day if other loads are going in and out. In order for this feature to function the PCI EMS must be connected to a Magnum inverter. A number of manufacturers are now using this more sophisticated system. An additional remote display panel is required – one for the inverter and one for the EMS.

Surge Suppression: Protect against low or high voltage

Technically, a surge protector protects against surges in electrical power. But surge protectors as used in RVs do far more. In addition to surge suppression, the most popular surge protectors also protect against low or high voltage levels. Low voltage can be a common occurrence in campgrounds that have added sites over the years but failed to upgrade their electrical grid to keep pace with the increased demand. Low voltage can cause quite a bit of damage so it’s important that you purchase a quality surge protector that includes over and under voltage protection as well. First let’s define just what an electrical surge is.

An electrical surge is where the incoming voltage rises to a point significantly higher than what it’s supposed to be. A voltage spike is similar but a spike is defined as lasting for one or two nanoseconds whereas a surge lasts three nanoseconds or longer. If the voltage is high enough it can damage your electrical devices. Earlier we talked about electrical voltage and how it is a measurement of pressure. If you get a sudden surge in water pressure you are apt to blow a hole in your fresh water supply hose but if you get a sudden surge in electrical pressure you are going to blow some electrical devices or sensitive electronics equipment. Surge protectors use metal oxide varistors, commonly called MOVs. An MOV does nothing at normal voltage levels but when the voltage rises to an unsafe level the MOV will short that power to ground to protect any downstream electrical equipment.

Importance of a Quality Surge Protector 

A quality surge protector designed for RV use will also have both over and under voltage protection. Overvoltage isn’t a real common problem in an RV park but it is a distinct possibility. Excess voltage will do the same damage as a surge except it’s generally not as high a peak voltage but it lasts for much longer. The most frequent condition is low voltage at the campground pedestal. You may arrive at your campsite early and check your pedestal voltage with a voltmeter and find it within tolerance. However, once other campers arrive and start to fire up their air conditioners the voltage is likely to drop. Without an automatic surge protector you would have no protection against low voltage damage to your coach unless you constantly monitor the incoming voltage. A good surge protector will disconnect power to the coach should either low voltage or high voltage conditions appear. At that time you would have the option of waiting it out, running your generator, or using an Autoformer to boost the incoming voltage – more on that later. Quality surge protectors for RVs are available from Surge Guard and Progressive Industries and are two well respected companies that offer their product through most major RV accessory sales outlets.

Surge Guard portable surge protector.
50-amp Surge Protector from Progressive Industries

A Surge Guard portable surge protector

A 50-amp portable surge protector from Progressive Industries

Benefits and Disadvantages of Portable Surge Protectors

In the images above, we can see two portable surge protectors. Portable units have the advantage of being able to be readily moved from one RV to another. This makes for a zero installation setup with no rewiring. Just plug it into the campground pedestal and plug the RV’s power cord into the surge protector. 

The disadvantages are that it is out in the weather and could get stolen or vandalized. There are locking kits available to lock them to the pedestal but then you are trading the convenience of not having the initial install versus connecting it and securing it to the pedestal every time you go camping. If the pedestal’s receptacle is very low to the ground it’s possible that the portable unit may not fit because of the right angle plug and the bulk of the unit that needs to hang down from the outlet.

One last caveat is that the hard wired units sometimes offer a remote display option so that you can monitor the incoming power from inside the coach. With a portable unit you won’t be able to utilize that option. The actual protection levels of the portable units are generally the same as their counterparts in the hard-wired segment so there’s no advantage or disadvantage there.

Surge Guard 50-amp hardwired surge protector
50-amp Surge Protector from Progressive Industries

Surge Guard 50-amp hardwired surge protector

A 50-amp Surge Protector from Progressive Industries

Surge Protector Installation

Hard-wired devices do take a bit of installation labor but it’s not that difficult. You simply mount the unit in the same electrical compartment that your RV’s cord is located in. Remove the power cord from the transfer switch and connect the cord to the surge protector’s input terminals. Then run a short whip cord from the surge protector’s output to the transfer switch and you’re all set. Some RV owners choose to just cut 2-3′ off the end of the power cord while some choose to buy another short chunk of cord from a home improvement store. If you have a power cord reel you’ll undoubtedly be buying a new whip. If your surge protector includes a remote display you will have to find a location for that display, mount it, and then connect it with a standard RJ11 modular phone cable. A cable is generally supplied but if you want to run a longer distance you may have to make a new, longer cable to reach the remote display panel.

The Best Energy Management System for Your RV

Surges are rated in Joules. The bigger the surge, the higher the number, so you want to get a surge protector with the highest possible rating. The popular Surge Guard 34560 is rated to handle up to 1,750 Joules of power surge. It will shut down power to the coach if the voltage falls below 102 Volts or is higher than 132 Volts. Various LEDs will inform you whether the receptacle is properly wired or has a bad ground, reversed polarity, or open neutral. If it shuts down the power due to low or high voltage or an open neutral wire it will reset itself once the power returns to within tolerances. There will be a two minute, 15 second delay before power is re-energized though to allow any air conditioner time to bleed off their head pressure. If you decide that you want to bypass the voltage cutouts feature and allow power through you can defeat the unit by turning a key switch. In this mode you will still have surge suppression, however. Surge Guard also makes automatic transfer switches with built in surge protection and low voltage protection. These transfer switches are becoming very popular in recent diesel pushers due to their ability to also communicate with a multiplexed network control panel.

The Progressive EMS-HW50C is the gold standard of surge protectors. It’s rated to handle up to 3,560 Joules of surge. Low voltage cutoff occurs at 104 Volts and high voltage cutoff occurs at 132 Volts. It comes with a remote LED display that is very easy to read. In addition to displaying the incoming voltage of both poles it will also display the amperage draw on each pole as well as the frequency in Hertz. If any pedestal mis-wiring is present or any shutdown has occurred the LED display will display a 2 digit trouble code that defines the problem according to the chart that is printed on the unit as well as in the owner’s manual. The remote display can be mounted inside the coach or in the basement compartment. In this way it’s handy to locate the EMS-HW50C near the back of the compartment where it’s easy to wire and still have the remote display located near the front of the compartment where it is easy to view. The bright LED is easy to read in bright sunlight and a bypass switch is located on the remote display to bypass the power shutdown function, just like in the Surge Guard above. You have the choice of selecting either a 15 second power-on delay or a 136 second delay. Most modern air conditioners have a built in two minute restart delay so 15 seconds is the normal selection. You can also buy a second remote display that allows you to mount one in the basement and one inside the coach if you desire.

While the EMS-HW50C is the old standard, Progressive Industries also make the EMS-LCHW50 surge protector. The “LC” stands for Liquid Crystal display. Instead of a remote LED display, the LC series uses an integral liquid crystal display that is located right in the cover of the unit. The protection level is the same as its big brother but, depending on where the unit is mounted, you may have more problems in viewing the display. LCD screens just aren’t as bright as LEDs and dark places and bright places are not their friends. Coupled with the fact that the remote LED display can be located anywhere and the LED holds a huge advantage. Still, the LC series does hold a $50 price advantage over its more costly brother.