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Do You Need An RV Voltage Regulator?

Published on January 10th, 2022 by Lynne Fedorick

yellow southwire RV voltage regulator on white background

Do You Need An RV Voltage Regulator?

RVs use 120 volt AC for large power draws like the hot water heater, the refrigerator, or power outlets. If the line power enters the RV’s power system at below 114 volts, the electrical components of the RV can be permanently damaged. This is especially true for appliances with motors such as residential refrigerators and washing machines. Even smaller electronics can suffer from voltage drops.

Many RV parks have poor power quality. This means that voltage levels are either dangerously low or too high for your RV’s AC electrical system. This can be caused by a few factors, including too many big draws on the power grid.

An example could be on a hot day, when everyone is running an air conditioner at the same time. The age and design of the power grid can also factor into how many volts are available at the pedestal. Sometimes faulty wiring can also wreak havoc with the voltage level from the power pedestal.

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How a voltage regulator can save your RV’s electrical life

An RV voltage regulator guards electrical systems by continuously monitoring voltage conditions. It jumps into action when the incoming current drops below 114 volts. When this happens, the RV voltage regulator uses a special transformer to increase the voltage to an acceptable level. The RV voltage regulator doesn’t increase power consumption to do this. It simply uses already available amps to boost voltage by about 10 volts.

An RV voltage regulator is not a surge protector

An RV voltage regulator is not the same thing as an RV surge protector. A surge protector plugs into the electrical post and your RV power cable plugs into the surge protector. An RV surge protector will only protect your RV from high voltage electrical surges. High voltage surges can be caused by things like a faulty electrical outlet or a lightning strike.

Voltage booster

A voltage regulator is an essential component in your protection system for your RV’s electrical components, You need to protect your RV’s electrical system from both low voltage deficits and high voltage spikes.

In order to do this, you will need both an RV voltage regulator and a surge protector. Another option is the Hughes voltage booster, which combines the voltage-increasing functions of a voltage regulator in the case of low voltage, or surge protection in the case of surges. Click here to find out more about the Hughes voltage booster.

One of the best parts about RVing is engaging with the community of traveling enthusiasts. iRV2 forums allow folks to chat with other RVers online, and get other perspectives on everything RVing, including products, destinations, RV mods, and much more.

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7 thoughts on “Do You Need An RV Voltage Regulator?”

  1. One of the problems I am having is with non-inverter generators that will vary in RPM under sudden load, or not maintain constant speed when under low load. This causes variation in the Hz of the output, so that it is not steady at 60Hz. An autotransformer will not fix this. I am looking at AC to AC inverters in order to keep the AC frequency constant. I’ve not found one suitable for RVs yet. Do you have, or can you recommend anything?

  2. The best one if you can go to mexico is the ISB Sola 4000
    It corrects both high and low up to 20%. The Hughes only corrects low up to 10%. I run RV caravans in mexico where both high and low voltages are an issue. They cost about $250 US but you have to butcher a 30 amp extension to wire them up.

  3. Bought a 2004 Cougar new in 2004. Still is our 5th wheel. Any time we have plugged in we have had zero problems. No, no need for voltage regulators.

    • Uhmm. It has nothing to do with your RV, it’s the power coming in … you’re probably damaging RV since this principle was lost on you.

  4. While this article is somewhat “informative”, it is missing two very key facts. First, these devices are technically known as “autotransformers” and have two shortcomings. First per National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Section 70C (National electrical code/NEC), Article 551.20 PAR E.. “autotransformers” and I quote “shall not be used”. In essence they are not legal to use for RVs. (Yes, there are over eleven pages of “code” dedication to “Recreational Vehicles and Recreational Vehicle Parks”.

    Second issue beyond the regulatory part is the danger to further overload an under-build, and/or over utilized distribution system in the park. If the park voltage is already “low”, using an “autotransformer” to boost voltage places further strain on the park’s already inadequate electric facility. These devices trade amps for volts. If there is “low voltage” to begin with, drawing more amps becomes a cascading issue and volts will continue to decline as amp load increased to the point of damage to some part of the distribution system up to and including overloading the transformer feeding the park. A park with low voltage to start with, full of RVs, then add some with autotransformers and you can literally have a “melt down”…….I

    If you are in a park with low volts with your standard load for your rig, you need to inform the park and probably find another place to camp. The real problem we have today is most parks built more than 10 years ago were never built to have high occupancy with large RVs, with one, two, even three AC units in addition to the water heaters, washers and dryers, electric floor heat and more. The average Class A and 5th wheel today can easily use every amp of the 100 amp feed supplying the coach. And yes, a “50 amp” coach is actually two 50 amp feeds split to allow for all these “high draw” amenities. Most older park with build to “maybe” supply 40% of possible “pedestal load”. Even new parks cannot provide 100% of possible “pedestal load”…..but that’s where we are at today.

    Be prepared for more enforcement of the NFPA/NEC regulations as the use of “autotransformers” has been on the NEC governing committee’s radar during the last two update cycles (NEC is reviewed, updated and revised every three years). 2022 is a review year. The ultimate real solution is for parks to update their infrastructure to service the “new” style and density of RVers….

    • Thanks Bob R for your informative feedback. We have seen a small number of campgrounds prohibiting the use of autotransformers (and for good reason). In addition to our onboard surge protector, we use a portable Progressive Industries EMS with Surge Protection on the campground power post. The latest models PT30X and PT50X provide protection for high and low voltages (as well as open ground, reverse polarity and high/low frequency). And while it is inconvenient to lose shore power under these conditions, it is much safer, complies with regulations and doesn’t rob power from neighboring campers putting their equipment and safety at risk.

    • Great info. In my experience, unfortunately, most park owners are NOT going to upgrade their equipment. I have a unit that automatically shuts off our power and records the voltage when it is too low. Several times, I have gone to management and showed them the readings. Most just shrug and some admit that their systems were not designed for the newer rigs. BUT, they keep filling their parks up to capacity anyway. The buck is mightier than their customers safety. Until the park owners feel the pain, through lawsuits or stringent regulation. they will not change!


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