What Is an RV Surge Protector
Before we dive into what an RV surge protector is, we’ll talk about surge protectors in general. A surge protector is a device that is designed to protect electronic equipment from voltage surges and other electrical issues.
Why (We Think) Surge Protection is a Necessity
These surges, if they happen, occur within the power source (i.e. the power pedestal that you plug into for shore power). If your RV isn’t protected, these surges can cause significant electrical damage or even set your RV on fire.
How trusting are you that the camps power pedestal has been wired correctly or isn’t faulty by degrading over time? Can you afford to replace all your appliances if your RV electrical system suffers from a high voltage surge?
So what’s a Power Surge?
A surge, also called transient voltage, is when the voltage from the power source, which is supposed to be 120 volts, suddenly gets higher. This essentially puts too much pressure on the RV electrical lines and causes them to overheat, burn out, and possibly catch fire. Even though surges only last a split second, they can still create an unbelievable amount of damage.
You may hear the term spike. People use this term interchangeably with surge, but there is a slight difference. A surge lasts three nanoseconds or more, while a spike lasts two nanoseconds or less. Despite this minor difference, spikes are still dangerous also.
If you’re familiar with the surge protectors that people use in their homes, this gives you a good idea of what an RV surge protector is. It works the same, but it’s stronger and designed to fit an RV plug.
Protection from Other Power Source Issues
In addition to providing protection from power surges, quality surge protectors will provide a means to pretect your rig against other electrical issues such as power pedestal faulty wiring or if the park suffers a brown-out (low voltage).
How Does an RV Surge Protector Work?
You may be looking at that small RV surge protector while wondering how it’s going to protect your giant RV. It’s a pretty simple process.
On the inside of the surge protector are small components called metal oxide varistors (MOVs). They are connected to the power line as well as to the grounding wire (the third metal prong on the plug) by two semiconductors. When a surge occurs, these components divert the extra voltage from the power line to the ground wire, so all that extra voltage skips your RV.
Pro Tip: Always shut off the power completely at the camps power pedestal using the circuit breakers before plugging in your recreational vehicle.
We won’t dive into detail on how the MOVs know when to divert electricity and when to do nothing – we’ll save that for a more scientific article. For now, just know that a few little components will save you thousands of dollars’ worth of damage.
How to Choose the Right Surge Protector for your RV
Amps and Joules
Depending on your RV, you will need to decide on whether you need to buy a 30 amp or a 50 amp surge protector. If you don’t know if your RVs amperage, then simply look at the your campers plug.
If the plug for the camp pedestal has 3 prongs, then your RVs system is set up for 30 amps. If you’ve got four prongs on that bad boy, then you want to be looking for a 50 amp RV surge protector.
Surge protectors also have a rating called joules. Joules is a unit of energy and is very important in determining the performance of a surge protector. Think of this as the amount of protection you’ll get from the surge protector. When a surge occurs, your surge protector can only divert so much of it. The maximum it can divert is whatever it’s joule rating is, so the higher this number, the better it can protect your RV. Try not to go below 1500 joules for best results, but keep in mind that higher amounts of joules may also raise the price of the surge protector.
Portable Surge Protectors vs Hardwired Surge Protectors
Portable Surge Protectors
When shopping for an RV surge protector, the first thing you’ll want to consider is whether you want a portable RV surge protector or a hardwired surge protector. Although there are pros and cons to each one, both types will provide the same performance (not taking into account brand, quality, etc.). Here are some points for you to consider about each one.
- No installation required.
- Easy to use – plug n’ play.
- Easy to replace if it fails.
- Could easily be stolen without a cable and lock.
- Power Pedestals at some campsites are too low to the ground for a portable.
Hardwired Surge Protectors
- Can’t be stolen.
- Protected from the weather.
- Lasts longer than portables.
- Requires installation (not much).
- Takes more effort to replace if it fails.
Again, both will be equal in terms of performance, so it’s a matter of personal preference based on the points above.
Extra Features of RV Surge Protectors
Just like every other piece of technology on the market, you can choose a basic surge protector or one with advanced features. Do you need these features? No. However, they’re nice to have.
One such feature is an LCD display. When a surge protector has an LCD digital display, it tells you relevant information such as voltage, error codes, and more. This more than likely means that there is some type of computer chip inside the surge protector that is programmed to give you this information.
Another interesting feature is smart technology. This type of surge protector is usually Bluetooth-enabled so that you can communicate with it through a smart device. It can generally give you a lot of real-time data regarding voltage, joules, error codes, performance, and more. It may even have an automatic shut-off feature if it detects safety issues.
There are a few other features that you can consider as you come across RV surge protectors. Now that you know all about RV surge protectors, it’s time to check out some great models. We took the time to look at many different RV surge protectors and we put together a list of nine of the best ones in the next section. We’ll also tell you which one is the overall best RV surge protector and why.
RV Surge Protector 30 Amp Reviews
Southwire 30-Amp Portable Surge Protector with LCD Display Model 34930
If you only need a 30-amp, 2450-joule surge protector, the Southwire Black 34930 is a great, high-quality option that can outperform a lot of “premium” surge protectors out there. It’s designed extremely well and manufactured with precision. It has a sleek, modern, neat look that will fit in with the visual aesthetic of any modern RV.
One of the best features is the easy-pull T-handle for easy unplugging. It also has an LCD-display that gives you real-time updates of the amp draw and voltage. Three small indicator lights let you know when the system is on and operating correctly, or if there is a problem.
The one hiccup that we found with this RV 30 amp surge protector is that the product is designed for one-time system protection. This means that in the event of a surge, the device will sacrifice itself to save your RV, and then the lifetime warranty is void. However, the plus side is that it will save you thousands in damage to your RV, so it’s worth the sacrifice.
- Made from durable materials.
- Built-in locking ring.
- Commercial-grade brass receptacle.
- Alerts you to pedestal problems plugging in.
- Expensive for a 30-amp surge protector.
- One-and-done device.
Bottom-Line: Despite the one-and-done factor, this surge protector will fiercely protect your RV and pay for itself by saving you thousands in damage.
Surge Guard 44280 Portable Surge Protector
Best Budget Surge Protector
This 2100-joule surge protector looks like the Southwire 34930, but it is a more basic option with fewer features. You will still get superb performance from this product as expected with Southwire products. You’ll just save some money in the process.
This surge protector still has the handy T-handle for easy unplugging. It also has multiple features for protecting your RV. An easy to read LED display and a light-coding chart that is printed on the front of the surge protector makes it a cinch to diagnose issues with the power suply. We also appreciate that they still included a thick brass receptacle for added protection.
Although it’s a budget option, we would have liked a less confusing light indication system. You don’t have to understand rocket science to read the chart, but it’s an inconvenience that we could do without.
- Excellent quality for the price range.
- Lifetime warranty.
- Thicker brass receptacle reduces heat.
- Light indicator chart seems overly complicated.
- Materials not as durable as other Southwire surge protectors.
Bottom-Line: If you just need a 30-amp surge protector with no extras, or if you have a smaller budget, this one will give you the protection you need without breaking the bank.
Hughes Power Watchdog 30-Amp Portable Smart Surge Protector Model# PWD30 Bx4370
Best Value RV Surge Protector
The Hughes Power Watchdog is truly a great value, which is why we’ve named it as the best value product. You get protection, Bluetooth connectivity, and quality at an affordable price. It’s a 30-amp, 2400-joule smart surge protector with a three-year warranty. We would recommend this to anyone who needs an RV surge protector – budget or not.
The unit features two easy-grip handles with large loops to make it easy to plug and unplug. It’s constructed of a heavy-duty outer material that is designed to last a very long time. It’s weatherproof, water-resistant, and lightweight. The best feature is the mobile app that you can download to your phone to work with the surge protector. The app gives you advanced monitoring capabilities such as volts, amps, watts, pedestal diagnostics, and alerts sent to your smartphone.
The Bluetooth capability is impressive, but the device has a very short range. You would have to purchase a separate device to allow communication from miles away. We wish this was a built-in feature, but most monitoring would probably be from your RV or right outside of it anyway.
- You can easily monitor every bit of data from the pedestal and your RV.
- Has an IP65 waterproof rating.
- Free replacement if it burns out from a surge within two years.
- Short Bluetooth range.
- The app tends to have quite a few bugs.
Bottom-Line: You can’t go wrong with a durable surge protector with advanced monitoring, a high-quality construction, and a company that will send you a free replacement.
Southwire Surge Guard 30-Amp Hardwired Surge Protector Model# 35530
Best Hardwired Bargain
If you’re looking for a low-priced hardwired surge protector, the Southwire 30-amp surge protector is a great buy. You’ll get a top-quality product minus the bells and whistles. Easy installation, simple LED indicators system to protect your electrical appliances, 2450 joules, and total electrical protection is what you get with this unit.
The Surge Guard 35530 continuously monitors voltage and amp draw and automatically shuts off when there is danger to your RV. It also automatically resets when power is restored and has a 128-second delay. This paired with the five-mode surge protection is everything you need to protect your travel trailer.
For the price, we can’t ask for too much more, but it would be nice if this was water-resistant and would output a higher number of joules. However, the surge protector is still strong enough to protect your investment, and that’s what is essential.
- Automatic shut-off and reset.
- Simple LED diagnostic lights.
- Lifetime warranty.
- Warranty is void if not installed by a professional RV technician.
- Low joules (2450).
Bottom-Line: This is for someone who wants a hardwired surge protector on a budget and doesn’t mind missing some “premium” features.
Progressive Industries 30-Amp Hardwired Surge Protector Model EMS-HW30-C
Best RV Surge Protector 30 Amp
For 30-amp users, we had to add the 30-amp version of Progressive Industries’ EMS hardwired surge protector. While it has slightly fewer features than its 50-amp counterpart, it’s still the same high-quality product you expect from Progressive Industries.
This 30-amp version offers 1760 joules and can operate in extreme temperatures like the other Progressive Industries surge protectors. You get the display unit, remote control, and lifetime warranty also. We appreciate the continued high standard of quality, even if this model has fewer watts.
This one isn’t a smart device, so there is no Bluetooth connectivity or use of an app like the other Progressive Industries surge protectors. However, these features aren’t necessary for the surge protector to protect your RV.
- Accidental 240V protection.
- Made in the USA.
- Lifetime warranty.
- Remote controlled, comes standard.
- Low joules (1760) for hardwired surge protection.
Bottom-Line: While this surge protector is teetering on the minimum limit for joules that you would want in a surge protector, if you don’t have too many high-usage electronics running, this will provide you with ample protection.
RV Surge Protector 50 Amp Reviews
Progressive Industries 50-Amp Portable Smart Surge Protector Model SSP-50X
Toughest Surge Protector
Progressive Industries is known for making some of the most high-quality products, and this SSP-50X surge protector demonstrates that very well. This smart unit has everything you’d want or need in a portable surge protector – safety features, flawless performance, rugged body, and a built-in polarity tester to assure you that the lines are connected correctly. To top it all off, the SSP-50X has a lifetime warranty.
The surge protector is water-resistant. It can’t be submerged in water, but it will hold up to light rain. It’s also thermally protected and is excellent in extreme temperatures (hot or cold). The “smart” part of the equation comes in with the automatic detectors: open ground, open neutral, reverse polarity detection, miswired power pedestal indication, and a surge failure indicator. The surge protector alerts you using 3-color LED lights.
It would be perfect if you could interact with this surge protector through a Bluetooth connection, but it’s still great without this feature. Something you’ll also want to consider is that it has a low amount of joules (1650). This attributes to its low price, but make sure that this rating is suitable for you.
- Works in a temperature range of -40C to 105C.
- Lifetime warranty.
- Sturdy pull handle for easy unplugging.
- Built-in polarity tester.
- No Bluetooth for smart features.
- Low joules rating (1650).
Bottom-Line: This surge protector has everything you need in one, high-quality package, and with a lifetime warranty, it’s a safe bet as long as you don’t need a massive amount of joules.
Progressive Industries EMS Surge Protector Model# EMS-HW-50C – Hardwired 50-Amp
The Best Electrical Management System (EMS)
We’ve added one of Progressive Industries hardwired RV surge protectors onto the list. This hardwired surge protector is also an electrical management system (EMS) that provides even more features for the maximum amount of automatic control and protection for your RV. With five modes of surge protection, 3580 joules, and a lifetime warranty, this is one of the best-hardwired options you’ll find.
The EMS-HW-50C has so many great features that it’s would take a whole book to list them all out. One of the most important ones is the protection features. In addition to the regular features, it also includes A/C Frequency Protection, low-voltage protection and accidental 240-volt protection. Another feature to mention is the fact that it has a remote control and a scrolling digital display.
This is one product that we can honestly say isn’t lacking in anything. It’s the perfect hardwired option. We’d recommend this to anyone who doesn’t mind a little work for installation.
- Adjustable time delay up to 136 seconds.
- Operates in the temperature range of -40C to 105C.
- Also, Canadian approved.
- Lifetime warranty.
- Lifetime warranty void if you don’t use a professional RV installer.
Bottom-Line: If you’re looking for a hardwired surge protector, this one has more than enough protections and features to keep your RV safe.
Camco Circuit Analyzer Dogbone 50-Amp Surge Protector Model 55313
The Easiest to Use RV Surge Protector
If you aren’t really into a lot of technology and you’re looking for a product that’s not a “computer,” this is an excellent choice for you. We won’t go as far as saying it’s basic – it does have ample protection systems – but it’s as straightforward as you can get for this kind of unit.
At 4200 joules of power, it’s very powerful. It has nine monitoring systems to protect your RV, and it’s made of heavy-duty outer material, so it’s going to be a lasting investment. Another feature we like is the thick pull handle that makes it easy to unplug from the pedestal power supply.
There are a couple of areas we wish the manufacturer would revisit. Since it doesn’t protect against sustained low or high voltage, it would be nice to have an automatic shut-off feature. Another concern is that it’s only weather-resistant in the upright position. These aren’t deal-breakers, in our opinion, but it would be nice to have these areas addressed.
- Powerful, 4200 joules.
- Rugged handle for easy unplugging.
- Easy to use display.
- Only water-resistant in one position.
- No auto-shutoff in dangerous situations.
Bottom-Line: This surge protector might not have a ton of fancy features, but it will protect your RV from damage, and that’s basically what you need.
Hughes Power Watchdog 50-Amp Hardwired Smart Surge Protector Model PWD50-EPO-H
Best RV Surge Protector
There are many reasons why we’ve named the Hughes 50-amp hardwired surge protector as the best of the best. For one, it’s a potent 4800-joule device that offers superior protection and monitoring through the app. Another is that even though it’s a hardwired option, it’s plug n’ play with only a four-second power delay. You can’t get more direct than that.
Like the portable 30 amp Power Watchdog we have in the list, this one has a plethora of fantastic features. The Smart Circuit analyzer will shut down the unit if something dangerous occurs and send you an alert to your smart device. It automatically turns back on in 90 seconds if conditions go back to normal. You also have full, real-time monitoring of every bit of power information, including your KW/hr usage.
We tried very hard to find something wrong with this product and failed. It’s almost perfect, aside from the short Bluetooth range. It’s everything you need in a modern surge protector. Powerful, thorough, and efficient are three great words to describe this device.
- Automatic shut-off and restart.
- Free replacement if it burns out within two years.
- Plug n’ play.
- Powerful – 4800 joules of power.
- Bluetooth has a short-range.
- App has a lot of bugs.
Bottom-Line: You probably won’t find another surge protector this powerful with this many amazing features.
Last update on 2021-06-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API