Being able to plug in at a campsite and power your whole RV is a huge convenience. But sometimes, due to inclement weather or faulty wiring, things can go wrong, resulting in a power surge that causes lasting damage to your electronics (and RV)! This is where RV surge protectors come in. These handy devices work to protect your RV and the electronics inside it from damage due to changes in voltage.
Why Do You Need RV Surge Protectors?
An RV surge protector is a lot like a surge protector you would use inside your home. It goes between your electricity source and your devices and protects your products from spikes in voltage. These voltage spikes can damage sensitive electronics and, in a worst-case scenario, could even fry your RV’s entire electrical system.
In many cases, an RV “surge protector” is actually a full-on electrical management system or EMS. This means in addition to protecting from voltage spikes, they also protect from other potential hazards, such as drops in voltage and faulty wiring.
Are these issues all that common, though? Or can you simply try your luck and go without a surge protector for your RV?
In fact, these issues are quite common. Every thunderstorm presents a risk of voltage spikes. And if you find yourself out west during fire season, there’s a good chance you’ll experience brownouts.
It’s an unfortunate reality that many campgrounds have old, poorly maintained power pedestals. Faulty wiring, old breakers, and other issues with power pedestals can present a major risk to your electronics.
Because of this, it’s a good idea for any RVer to use a surge protector. With a relatively small investment (most RV surge protectors cost $350 or less), you can protect yourself from potentially thousands of dollars in damages to your sensitive electronics and your RV’s electrical system.
What to Consider when Buying RV Surge Protectors
There are a few things to consider when shopping for RV surge protectors.
Surge Protector VS. Ems
As mentioned, an RV surge protector will only protect against increases in voltage – aka power surges. On the other hand, an RV EMS provides much more extensive protection from all manner of electrical hazards.
A standard surge protector will be more affordable and still provide protection against the most typical electrical hazard you’ll face. But for more comprehensive protection, a full-on RV EMS is worth the extra money.
30 Amp vS. 50 Amp
Your RV’s electrical system will be either a 30 amp or a 50 amp system. Your surge protector must match up to the amperage of your RV’s electrical system, both for electrical reasons and because the two systems use differently shaped plugs.
Generally speaking, smaller RVs have 30 amp systems, and larger RVs have 50 amp systems.
Portable VS Hardwired
RV surge protectors will be either portable or hardwired. Portable protectors are much like a surge protector you’d use at home: you plug it into the power pedestal, then plug your RV’s electrical system into the surge protector. When you head out, simply unplug it all and store it away.
Hardwired surge protectors are installed at the other end of the system, directly in your RV. A hardwired surge protector is more work to install, requiring you to strip and run electrical wires, among other somewhat difficult tasks. The advantage is that once installed, you won’t have to worry about theft, forgetting the surge protector, or anything else of the sort.
4 Best RV Surge Protector Brands
Now that we know all about surge protectors for RVs let’s look at the best brands to buy.
1. Power Watchdog
Power Watchdog is a line of RV surge protectors from Hughes Autoformers. They’re one of the biggest names in the game, with multiple awards won for their products. These high-quality, powerful surge protectors include Bluetooth technology to let you monitor power conditions from your phone.
These surge protectors are complete electrical management systems that protect from all manner of hazards. When the surge protector gets worn out, instead of replacing the entire surge protector, you only need to replace the much cheaper surge module inside.
2. SoftStartUP RV
The SoftStartUP monitors your power similarly to the Power Watchdog, but it has the added benefit of having a SoftStartRV built into it that reduces the high Amp draw of inductive loads like your RV air conditioner. The SoftStartUP also allows you to monitor your power usage with a handy Bluetooth app.
Learn more on their official site.
3. Progressive Industries
Another one of the biggest names in surge protectors for RVs is Progressive Industries. They produce industrial strength surge protectors that can protect from big surges. Their most powerful surge protector can withstand up to 88,000 max amps!
All Progressive Industries surge protectors are full RV EMS systems that protect from a wide range of issues. Progressive Industries surge protectors feature a simple screen, or an indicator LED to help you diagnose issues. Plus, Progressive Industries offers a lifetime warranty on its products.
Progressive Industries sells portable RV electrical management systems and hardwired versions for 30 and 50-amp systems.
Camco is well known for making a wide variety of RV accessories that are affordable and high quality. If you’ve spent any time RVing, you’ve probably heard of Camco and may even own some of their products.
As a part of their line of RV accessories, Camco offers a portable surge protector. It has ergonomic handles so that you can plug and unplug it easily. A diagnostic LED on the device tells you if there are any issues with your power supply. In addition to the 30 amp version, there’s also a 50 amp version.
Protect Your Electronics with An RV Surge Protector
RV surge protectors keep your electronics safe from dangerous voltage surges. Whatever kind of surge protector you buy, they’re essential for any RVer. Once you have one, you can rest easy knowing that your electronics are safe, no matter where you’re plugged in.
Jennifer lives with her husband in a 29′ trailer in Mexico. She is one half of DashboardDrifters.com and the founder of RVSpotDrop, a web service for full-time RVers. Jennifer Jennings has been RVing for 2+ years and writing about the RV and Van Life for 2+ years. Jennifer specializes in topics such as Lifestyle, van life, campgrounds features, destination features, and product lists.