How To Choose An RV Surge Protector: Complete Guide


Surge protectors keep your RV wiring and electronics safe from damaging spikes. They also protect from other campground power grid issues like low voltage or bad wiring. There are many portable and hard wired models to choose from and they all have different features that we explain in this article.

How do you choose the right RV surge protector? By purchasing a surge protector that:

  • Matches the amperage of your RV electrical system. 30A or 50A
  • Monitors high voltage and low voltage levels
  • Detects faulty wiring, open neutrals and open grounds
  • Has a Joule rating above 1000
  • Is rain and weather resistant (for external models)
  • Is from a reputable brand

Before you choose a surge protector, it’s important to know the differences between models and identify what your camper needs. This article will provide you with all the knowledge you need to choose the best surge protector for your RV.

If you’re short on time, here’s our top picks.

Best Portable Surge Protectors.

TOP PORTABLE 30A
Portable RV Surge Protector Portable EMS-PT30X RV Surge Protector , Black
TOP PORTABLE 50A
Progressive Industries 50 Amp Portable RV Electrical Management System Surge Protector (1 MIN),...
Portable RV Surge Protector Portable EMS-PT30X RV Surge Protector , Black
Progressive Industries 50 Amp Portable RV Electrical Management System Surge Protector (1 MIN),...
TOP PORTABLE 30A
Portable RV Surge Protector Portable EMS-PT30X RV Surge Protector , Black
Portable RV Surge Protector Portable EMS-PT30X RV Surge Protector , Black
TOP PORTABLE 50A
Progressive Industries 50 Amp Portable RV Electrical Management System Surge Protector (1 MIN),...
Progressive Industries 50 Amp Portable RV Electrical Management System Surge Protector (1 MIN),...

Best Hardwired Surge Protectors

TOP HARDWIRED 30A
Progressive Industries 30 Amp Hardwired RV Electrical Management System Surge Protector With Remote...
TOP HARDWIRED 50A
Progressive Industries HW50C Hardwired EMS Surge & Electrical Protection- 50 Amps
Progressive Industries 30 Amp Hardwired RV Electrical Management System Surge Protector With Remote...
Progressive Industries HW50C Hardwired EMS Surge & Electrical Protection- 50 Amps
TOP HARDWIRED 30A
Progressive Industries 30 Amp Hardwired RV Electrical Management System Surge Protector With Remote...
Progressive Industries 30 Amp Hardwired RV Electrical Management System Surge Protector With Remote...
TOP HARDWIRED 50A
Progressive Industries HW50C Hardwired EMS Surge & Electrical Protection- 50 Amps
Progressive Industries HW50C Hardwired EMS Surge & Electrical Protection- 50 Amps

What Is An RV Surge Protector?

An RV surge protector is an electronic device that stops voltage surges and spikes from your camp site power pedestal from damaging the electrical components and appliances in your RV.

A good quality surge protector will save you 1000’s of dollars in repair bills and protect against possible fire.

Think of surge protectors as insurance for your RV’s electrical system. Though the top end models can be expensive, they are still much cheaper than rewiring your camper or trailer.

If you have a smaller RV, you won’t need nearly as big or expensive of a surge protector as a supersized RV. Surge protectors are sized to your RV electrical system and the prices vary accordingly.

Some surge protectors also come with advanced features like protection against low voltage and faulty wiring from the power pedestal. Others provide power balancing and circuit protection to your RV’s internal wiring.

Why Do I Need an RV Surge Protector?

Surge protectors are designed to detect a large fast pulse of energy and redirect the surge to ground before it reaches your RV. If it doesn’t stop the surge, the power will destroy your electronics.

We’ve all heard about surge protectors for our outlets and how we should protect our TV’s, computers and other electronics with a surge protector. But RVs are much more expensive and can suffer the same fate if not properly protected.

Portable RV Surge Protectors

A portable surge protector plugs into the power pedestal, where you plug in your RV at the campground. The other end connects to your RV power cord. These tend to be the least expensive of the two types.

Many portable units help you make sure there is no faulty wiring from the campground or park. This is normally done through LED indicators on the front. The LED’s will alert you if there is any potential problems with the incoming electrical supply.

Hardwired RV Surge Protectors

Hardwired surge protector models, also known as Electrical Management Systems (EMS), are slightly more complicated. They are installed inside of the RV’s power compartment and protect the system at all times. The benefit of hardwired units is that they are always plugged in so you never have to think about connecting your surge protector at the campsite.

Hardwire surge protectors can protect against wiring problems, power surges, power balancing, high or low voltage and open grounds and neutrals. They display fault codes through LED indicators or a remote digital display.

Should I Choose Portable or Hardwired RV Surge Protection?

Both portable and hardwired protectors come in a range of prices, styles, sizes, and brands. The main trade-off is for convenience. Installing a hardwired model is more work and expense upfront but runs autonomously afterwards. A portable model is cheaper and easier to install initially but it needs to be done manually every time.

Occasional RVers will be fine with a portable model. If you’re an avid traveler and are constantly plugging your RV into different pedestals, protect yourself and your RV with a hardwired EMS model.

Do I Need A 30A or 50A Surge Protector?

When you’re looking at protectors, you’ll notice it says somewhere “30A” or “50A.” This refers to the amount of current required to power your RV’s electrical needs. The design of the plugs is different between the two.

  • 30 amp connectors have three prongs in a triangle shape and are the standard size of most small to medium RV’s and trailers.
  • 50 amp connectors have four prongs in total and are used for the largest RV’s that require more current to power all their onboard appliances and devices.

The protector you purchase should match the factory plug that comes with your RV. If your RV has a 50A plug then it requires 50 amps to power all your devices.

How Often Should I Replace My RV Surge Protector?

You should replace surge protector every three to five years. If it’s looking worn or the LEDs stop working, you may need to replace it sooner than that. Or, if it sustains any damages that expose wiring or any other internals of the protector, you should replace it.

The reason you regularly replace surge protectors is because the components that redirect and suppress any surges from reaching your electronics can wear down over the years. If you’re regularly plugging into various power pedestals your protector may have experienced hundreds of small surges that go undetected.

This isn’t to say your protector is ‘dead’ or useless. In fact, it will probably still work for a bit longer. However, after three to five years the protection wares down leaving you vulnerable to damages.

How To Connect Your RV Surge Protector To Power

There is a sequence to connecting your RV power through a dog bone or in-line of surge protector. Use the following steps to test the power pedestal before connecting to your RV electrical system.

  • Before plugging anything into the power pedestal ensure the pedestal circuit breakers are in the off position. There will be separate circuit breakers for 15, 30 and 50 amp outlets so make sure the outlet you are using is turned off.
  • Plug in your portable surge protector to the power pedestal and turn on the circuit breaker. Check for error codes on your surge protector display.
  • As long as there are no power issues recognized by the surge protector, Turn off the circuit breaker and plug your RV power cable in to the surge protector.
  • Turn on the circuit breaker and you’re good to go!

Price Range of RV Surge Protectors

The price tag of a surge protector can be as low as $50 on sale. But these won’t give you the protection you need. Plan to spend at least 100 bucks for a quality surge protector, an extra 50 of protection goes a long way.

  • A basic surge protector. Prices vary between $50-$150 for a basic, small surge protector. These are great for the people who like to make a few trips per year travelling in their RV.
  • The mid tier are higher quality protectors that will last a long time and protect your RV well. They sell within the $150-$300 price range. Though they’re more expensive, they usually come with more options, better internal components and are from a more reliable brand.
  • The top tier are usually $500 or more and rather than plug into the power pedestal directly they tend to be hardwired models. Theses types monitor many different facets of the incoming power to better protect the RV electrical system.

The Basic RV Surge Protectors

Power surges are the most common issue people encounter, and these will protect you against those. If you stay at newer RV parks and campgrounds you should have no issues with just a basic model.

These are all between $50-150. Any lower of a price and you’re not getting a good protector unless it’s on a special sale like Cyber Monday.

Southwire Company LLC 44380 Surge Guard 30A Portable
Progressive Industries 50 Amp Portable RV Electrical Management System Surge Protector (1 MIN),...
Southwire Company LLC 44380 Surge Guard 30A Portable
Progressive Industries 50 Amp Portable RV Electrical Management System Surge Protector (1 MIN),...
Southwire Company LLC 44380 Surge Guard 30A Portable
Southwire Company LLC 44380 Surge Guard 30A Portable
Progressive Industries 50 Amp Portable RV Electrical Management System Surge Protector (1 MIN),...
Progressive Industries 50 Amp Portable RV Electrical Management System Surge Protector (1 MIN),...
Surge protector

The CAMCO 55312 Circuit Analyzer

The CAMCO 55312 Analyzer is the 30A surge protector I use for protecting my RV. You can find it on Amazon or at most RV part stores like Camping World. This protector can detect reverse polarity, open neutrals and many other wiring issues. It is rated to withstand surges up to 2100 Joules of energy.

The 3 LED indication is easy to read and understand without having to reference a manual. Best of all the dog bone style is easy to connect and fully waterproof making it safe for outdoor use.

Installing the surge protector is extremely easy. It’s totally plug and play and can be connected in seconds. CAMCO is a well-known brand in RV surge protectors and the 55312 is the surge protector I see most around RV parks.

The CAMCO 55312 Analyzer typically sells in the $75 – $100 range and is a great product for the price point. It is consistently ranked in the top RV surge protectors list of various websites. There is also a 50A surge protector and analyzer available for larger RV’s

The 55312 Analyzer has worked flawlessly for me, the only drawback I’ve found is it’s overall length. It can reach the ground from a short pedestal leaving your plugs in areas with pooling water.

Southwire Company 44380 Surge Guard 30A

This small, portable, pendant style protector packs a lot of excellent features at a great price.

It’s weatherproof with a rain guard and certified by the UL. It checks for open ground, open neutral, correct polarity, and if there are any reversed wiring.

The Surge Guard also checks for high and low voltage and can protect from surges up to 2100 Joules.

Southwire Company LLC is a trusted name for RV surge protectors, much like Surge Guard and CAMCO. They stand behind everything up they sell with a product quality guarantee and return policy.

Hughes Autoformer PWD30 Bx4370 Power Watch Dog 30 Amp Surge Protector

The Power Watch Dog is a bluetooth enabled surge protector that lets you monitor your incoming power usage in real time and sends updates to your mobile app.

The Watch Dog alerts you to both high and low voltage. It’s rated to withstand up to 2400 Joules and the surge protection modules are replaceable if they blow while protecting your RV.

The unit also checks for correct polarity, open ground, open neutral, and has large enough loops that you can feed a lock through it to deter theft.

No products found.

Mid Tier RV Surge Protectors

These are going to give you higher quality than the previous list, but they are still within a realistic budget. They’re all between $100-$200, which is very affordable for a sturdy RV surge protector.

However, if you’re going to be living in your RV for an extended amount of time and either changing locations frequently or are worry about plugging into unknown pillars, you should invest a little more and go for the next level.

It’s better to spend a little bit more money for the peace of mind a better protector can offer you if you have any concerns.

PROGRESSIVE INDUSTRIES EMS-PT30X 30A Surge Protector with Cover

The EMS-PT30X is an easy to use plug and play portable Electrical Management System with some added bonuses.

It has a scrolling digital display making it easy to read incoming voltage, current and frequency. It will alert you to any damaged caused by power surges by flashing specific error codes.

While basic models only indicate high and low voltage, this unit actually cuts off power protecting your RV from damage. It’s rated to withstand surges of up to 1790 Joules and 44,000A of current. It also has a super fast response time of under 1 Nano second.

Once installed, the PT30X will also protect and alert you to problems with polarity, open neutrals and grounds, voltage issues and more.

Both the PT30X and the 50A version, The EMS-PT50X, have a sturdy Lexan cover providing protection from water and rain. The flip out handle makes them easy to remove when you’re ready to hit the road. And they’re backed by a lifetime warranty.

Progressive Industries 50 Amp Portable RV Electrical Management System Surge Protector (1 MIN),...
  • Surge Protection: 5-Mode / 3,580J / 88,000A. Ratings: 50A / 120V/240V / 12,000W. Operating Temperatures: -40C to +105C
  • Weather Resistant/designed for Outdoor Use
  • Security Locking Bracket

The Surge Guard 35530 Hardwired Surge Protector

The 35530 surge protector mounts inside the electrical compartment of your camper or trailer. Being hardwired, it’s always working to protect your RV from power problems.

Together with the optional LCD display 40300-10, the 35530 is so simple to use you’ll probably forget it’s even there. On the other hand you may get obsessive about checking your voltage, current and power consumption on the well laid out digital display.

Both the Surge Guard 35530 (30A) and the Surge Guard 35550 (50A) surge protectors will function with or without the optional LCD display. However, you won’t regret having an indication inside your RV when a power issue does arise.

Surge Guard 35530 Hardwire Model - 30 Amp
  • Automatic reset on power restoration
  • Multi-mode surge suppression
  • 128 second reset delay protects A/C compressor

Higher-End Surge Protectors

These are the top of the line for typical, home RV surge protectors. After this, you’re getting into the really big, heavyweight surge protectors intended for supersized RVs or long-term usage.

These typically run between $200-$300. Some are designed to be travel sized while others actually wire into your RV for convenience.

Camco 50 Amp RV Power Defender Voltage Protector/Monitor with Integrated Surge Protection, Designed with Easy to Use PowerGrip Handles

This is a tough cookie. It’s meant to go out into the wilderness and be rained on, bumped into, occasionally dropped. It’s built for durability, so you don’t have to worry about needing a replacement in the middle of your trip at any point.

It will protect your RV from both low voltage and high voltage surges. It has an automatic disconnect and reconnect when the voltage is too low or too high, and it immediately reconnects to the power once it’s safe again. This prevents you from worrying about your appliances.

It has a very high surge suppression rating, almost double what some others have. If you’re out in a storm and lighting happens to strike, you’ll always know you’re protected. It checks out the power pedestal for open grounds, open neutrals, and reversed polarities.

One issue people have with it is worries about it being stolen. There are no features on this unit to prevent anyone from taking it. If this is a concern for you, you’ll have to rig something up yourself, as the company doesn’t have any accessories for that either.

Sale
Camco 50 Amp RV Power Defender Voltage Protector/Monitor with Integrated Surge Protection, Designed...
  • RV Electrical Protection: Protects your RV from dangerous high (>132 VAC) and low (<102 VAC) voltage levels as well as power surges
  • Auto Connect/Disconnect Feature: Automatically disconnects from dangerous conditions and reconnects after normal operating conditions have...
  • Diagnostic LEDs: Provide indication of faults when you connect your electrical cord to the power pedestal.Time Delay for Reset: 140 seconds

Surge Guard 35550 Hardwire Model – 50 Amp

As the name implies, this one is hardwired into your rig. While this is an easier piece to install than the other hardwired models we looked at, you still should not attempt it unless you have an understanding of wiring.

It offers an automatic reset button, meaning when the protector detects too low of voltage, it shuts off, and then when it’s high enough again, the protector turns the power back on. It scans for open grounds, open neutrals, and reverse polarities.

It has a higher surge protection than most cheaper models, meaning it can withstand a massive amount of voltage and still protect your appliances. The only reason RV surge protectors melt is because they get hit with too high of a surge, and this almost completely ensures against that.

Some reviewers complain of the unit being larger than they expected. If you’re at all concerned about the size, make sure to check the dimensions of the unit, the space you want to place it in, and compare to see if they’ll mesh.

Surge Guard 35550 Hardwire Model - 50 Amp
  • Automatic reset on power restoration
  • Multi-mode surge suppression
  • 128 second reset delay protects A/C compressor

PROGRESSIVE INDUSTRIES HW30C 30 Amp Hardwired EMS-HW30C RV Surge & Electrical Protector

Something unique about this one is that it’s hardwired in, versus the majority of RV surge protectors. This means that while the unit isn’t waterproof, you really don’t need it to be, as you’ll have it mounted where it’s wired.

Of course, this means you most likely will need a professional to wire it in, unless you have wiring experience. This one is UL safety sealed, as well. It operates in -40 degrees Fahrenheit to 105 degrees Fahrenheit.

It comes with a remote-control display, so you can have it mounted wherever you like and don’t have to worry about getting into any tight spaces or encounter any exposed wires. It also immediately checks the power source for any open ground, open neutral, or reverse polarity.

If it catches any wiring issues, it will give you a warning that it isn’t a safe spot to plug in. It also will disconnect from power if it senses anything wrong with the input it’s receiving.

Progressive Industries 30 Amp Hardwired RV Electrical Management System Surge Protector With Remote...
  • Surge Protection: 3-Mode / 1,790J / 44,000A. Ratings: 30A / 120V / 3,600W. Operating Temperatures: -40C to +105C. Includes 14' Data Cable
  • Open Ground, Open Neutral and Reverse Polarity detection and protection, Over/Under voltage Protection, Accidental 240V Protection and A/C...
  • Miswired pedestal indication and surge failure indicator

Progressive Industries HW50C Hardwired EMS Surge & Electrical Protection- 50 Amps

This is the 50A version of the previous surge protector. Like with all the models available in 30A and 50A, the 50A is slightly more expensive. Other than that, they’re simply built to be compatible with different plugs. They’re the same otherwise.

Progressive Industries HW50C Hardwired EMS Surge & Electrical Protection- 50 Amps
  • Surge Protection: 5-Mode / 3,580J / 88,000A. Ratings: 50A / 120V/240V / 12,000W. Operating Temperatures: -40C to +105C. Includes 14' Data...
  • Open Ground, Open Neutral and Reverse Polarity detection and protection, Over/Under voltage Protection, Accidental 240V Protection and A/C...
  • Miswired pedestal indication and surge failure indicator

PROGRESSIVE INDUSTRIES EMS-PT50X Portable RV Surge Protector (50 A)

This one is still at 4.5 stars on Amazon, offering under voltage and over voltage protection. It also has great weather protection, power surges, and alerts, as well as protects you from any incorrect wiring in the power pedestal. It also comes with a locking bracket and is travel-size.

Most of the reviews are very positive, though a few make several complaints of the system failing. Various customers have posted pictures of melted wires and plugs, but it’s unclear whether it was the surge protector or user error.

Some reviewers were told they couldn’t get a refund because they self-installed the system versus having a ‘qualified RV dealer’ or assorted other refund complaints. However, a reviewer returned recently to announce the company has changed policies on this unit, and refunds are more flexible.

Be careful on application, as it’s a simple process, but does require carefully following instructions to remain safe. If you’re not comfortable with wiring, always hire a professional to handle it for you.

Progressive Industries 50 Amp Portable RV Electrical Management System Surge Protector (1 MIN),...
  • Surge Protection: 5-Mode / 3,580J / 88,000A. Ratings: 50A / 120V/240V / 12,000W. Operating Temperatures: -40C to +105C
  • Weather Resistant/designed for Outdoor Use
  • Security Locking Bracket

Portable RV Surge Protector Portable EMS-PT30X RV Surge Protector

This is another from our friends at Progressive Industries. It offers very hardy weather protection with not only Progressive Industries’ typical rain proofing, but also a Lexan all-weather case for it to live in. It’s promised to last from -40 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit.

It has protection against surges as well as low voltages, detects any open ground or neutral wires, as well as the correct polarity before you plug in, alerting you if it isn’t safe. It will automatically kill the power if it detects any faults occurring.

It isn’t wired in, so you can easily do it yourself at each place, leave it attached and secured, or pull it completely off and let a friend borrow it.

Sale
Portable RV Surge Protector Portable EMS-PT30X RV Surge Protector , Black
  • Surge Protection: 3-Mode / 1,790J / 44,000A. Ratings: 30A / 120V / 3,600W. Operating Temperatures: -40C to +105C
  • Weather Resistant/designed for Outdoor Use
  • Security Locking Bracket

Heavy-Duty RV Surge Protectors

If you’ve bought a mega-RV, this is the spot for you! With such a large RV, you have more appliances than a smaller RV. This means that when your surge protector isn’t there, you’re losing more money than anyone else by frying all those appliances.

Heavy-duty RV surge protectors are expensive. The lowest usually start around $500 and just climb from there. However, you are buying the guarantee it offers of high, long lasting protection.

Hughes Performance RV22050 Autoformer

This is great because it has an automatic boost of up to 10%. This means that if your RV isn’t receiving enough voltage from the power source, your RV surge protector can actually heighten the voltage to the point where your RV needs it to be.

This production is heavy-nearly 40 pounds compared to the mere 4 to 5 pounds of the others on the list. However, it offers everything the others do. It will check the wiring of the power, protect against surges and low voltage, and give you alerts to let you know what’s wrong.

Sale
Hughes Autoformers RV220-50-SP, Voltage Booster with Surge Protection, 50 Amp
  • 50 amp- 12,000 Watts Capacity, 4,800 Joules of Advanced Surge Protection Built-in with indicator light
  • Fully automatic 10 percentage voltage boost when needed, Boost indicator light when needed
  • Complete LED Park Power Diagnostics

Technology Research 10175 Surge Guard 50 Amp Voltage Regulator

This is another big guy. It’s over 41 pounds, so a bit heavier than the previous. Other than that, it’s very similar. It also has the 10% boost, the surge and low voltage protection, scans the wiring, and gives you all of the alerts.

This is great not for just protecting your RV and RV appliances, but also if you want something to stabilize the power levels. If your lights flicker a lot or your microwave causes your surge guard to kill the power, this may be your best bet.

Technology Research 10175 Surge Guard 50 Amp Voltage Regulator
  • Package Dimensions: 33.02 H x 62.230 L x 44.45 W (centimetres)
  • Country of Origin : China
  • Package Weight: 42.0 pounds

Beau

Beau is an electrical engineer with a knack for DIY repair and construction. When he's not tinkering with his projects he's on the road travelling and enjoying an exciting lifestyle with his young family.

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