What about that ‘Voltage Sag’?

We've held off purchasing outside cooking equipment so far for Lacey and we had run out of propane because we didn't check to see if the frig had turned over to electric when we plugged in. So many lessons we've learned even in our short time (as of this writing 8 days total) on the road.

SO, we couldn't use the stove but I wanted to cook breakfast and decided to use our microwave to cook us up a nice big breakfast while Laurie and Kelly sipped coffee on the picnic table. This pic is from the afternoon before 😉

On the menu; bacon, potatoes, eggs, toast, fruit. Taking a bowl lined with paper towels I positioned the bacon and popped it into the microwave for 5 minutes. When that was done I replaced the paper towels and put it on for another 5 minutes. Perfect! Set the bacon aside with a cover and popped the sliced potatoes into the microwave. On for 5 minutes. I checked them and decided 5 more minutes would do it. Tried to turn the microwave on again and nothing! Crap! The digital display and the light inside was on as normal but nothing else.

Laurie checked the electric pedestal outside and the breakers inside. All seemed fine.

Since it was check-out morning, we ate fruit, bacon (for the meateaters), el dente potatoes, toast and called it good. We packed up and headed home.

We parked Lacey in front of our home. The next morning we took up the challenge to figure it out. Laurie brought out an extension cord and we plugged in the microwave. It turned right on so we knew it was the power inside the RV that had turned off. We found the GFCI plug. It wouldn't reset. Next Laurie pulled out every fuse in the breaker box and they were all fine. Hum...

Max to the rescue! I messaged Max at the RV Dealer we bought Lacey from (Happy Camping RV Sales in Vermontville, NY). Within a couple of minutes Max called and he had their service guy with him. I don't have much experience with promptness of RV dealers, but, pretty sure this was an exceptional response! As we talked about the situation, we quickly learned WHY we could not reset the GFCI. Have you figured it out yet?

Right! We had not plugged in the trailer to electric at home! Once we did that, with the 30 amp adapter, the GFCI reset easily! SO, if I had just turned around and reset the GFCI when the microwave stopped we could have continued cooking breakfast.

However, the bigger concern was WHY it happened.  Max suggested it could be pedestal 'voltage sag' meaning a fluctuation of electricity to the camper. I learned through Mark Polk (RV Education 101) that, "If the campground does not have transformers to handle heavy usage, or the wiring was done many years ago when RVs did not have all the amenities they have today it can affect the electricity going into your RV. This happens frequently during the summer months when everybody is running their AC units. 120 volt AC electricity should not go below 105 volts or above 130.  If it does it can damage appliances and devices. This is something I like about some Surge Guard products; it will shut the voltage going to the camper off under these conditions and come back on after power is restored."

We feel fortunate to have 'dodged a bullet' in regards to the expensive electrical items inside Lacey. We needed a surge protector. But what kind?

Mark continues, "Several years ago I was introduced to the Surge Guard line of surge protectors, and a couple years ago we filmed a video for them. What I learned is there are entry level protectors that offer limited protection, and there are higher end protectors that offer lots of protection. Surge protection is basically protection against voltage spikes. One important factor in a surge protector is the Joule rating. This rating determines how much energy (voltage spike) the surge protector can absorb before it fails. The higher the rating the better the protection.

Lots of surge protectors only protect against voltage spikes. What I like about Surge Guard products is the higher end models also protect against over and under voltage input and open ground and open neutral protection. This is where the "you get what you pay for" comes into play.

Here is a link to a Surge Guard comparison chart that shows what features the various models offer.

And here is the video we produced for them awhile ago.

I do not have experience with other surge protectors products, but I have always been satisfied with the Surge Guard products."

Mark is like having a personal expert on hand. If you are newbies like we are, you really should check out RV Education 101. They also just started a great blog with easily absorbable information for we newbies!

We have decided on this particular Surge Guard protector. Our Lance 1575 is a small 30 amp travel trailer and the added benefit of the LCD panels we feel is a good choice. We also want to lock it up and are going to purchase this Surge Guard locking piece too.

Do you have stories to share about voltage 'Sag' or other electrical problems in your RVs? Post them here or on our Facebook page at Two Gals and a Dog.


2 Responses

  1. Avatar David Norton

    A GFI Outlet is a Ground Fault Interrupt, this will usually trip when the appliance plugged in has a fault in the wiring, has nothing to do with Surge Protection? My understanding, your talking about apples and oranges…

    • Hi David,

      Since it’s a brand new Lance unit, we don’t think it was a fault in the wiring. It was the RV Dealer who suggested the voltage sag might have happened. In either case, when asking about surge protectors on the very active FB Group, Living the RV Dream, 95% of the responses were about having the surge protectors and damage from not having one. We’ll err on the side of safety 😉