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Gear Review: You’re Gonna Love The New SoftStartUP RV

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The SoftStartUP Is an Rv Ac Soft Starter And Surge Protector

About two years ago, SoftStartUSA sent me one of their RV AC soft starter units. It required a little bit of rewiring things under the hood of my RV AC, but overall the unit works flawlessly. My AC startup is quieter, and I rarely trip a breaker in my rig when the AC kicks on. The company’s newest SoftStartUP device also helps start your RV AC when using smaller generators or plugged into 30A service, and it works as a power guard and surge protector, all in one. Plus, it’s plug-and-play!

Let’s Be Honest First

Now, full disclosure, SoftStartUSA sent me one of their new SoftStartUP units to try out in my rig, knowing that the review would appear on Camper Smarts. You also can’t miss the affiliate disclosure and “sponsored post” at the top of this article. I am always a bit skeptical about product reviews on sponsored posts, so if you are, too, I totally get it.

I have been fulltime RVing with my wife in a 26ft Class A motorhome for the past 8+ years. My wife and I have boondocked for months and stayed in long-term parks, RV resorts, and the driveways of family members when visiting. My rig has a 30A electrical system, so I’m all too familiar with being careful with what I run simultaneously to avoid tripping breakers.

I’ve also discovered some pretty hairy power pedestals in the hundreds of RV parks I’ve stayed at. From reversed polarity, and open grounds, to voltage drops below 100V when the slightest load was applied, I’ve learned to always check out the power before plugging in.

The SoftStartRV unit installed on my AC for the past two years has done a fantastic job of preventing breaker trips when the AC kicks on and reducing the startup noise. However, when I received the SoftStartUP, it had a tall order to fill. Giving this 5 out of 5 stars depended on the following criteria, tested in real-world conditions.

  1. Does it control other high current inductive loads at the power pedestal, as it claims?
  2. Is the app useful, or is it more of a novelty app?
  3. Does it protect the RV from damaging power situations?

So let’s dive into my findings after using SoftStartUP for a few months.

What Does the SoftStartUP Do?

The compressor is the most significant power demand of an AC unit, especially right when it turns on. Its job is to compress the refrigerant gas in the system and send it through the condenser. Anyone who’s ever pumped up a bike tire knows that compressing gas requires much effort. When the compressor turns on in an RV air conditioner, It’s set up to draw a considerable amount of power to get up to speed fast. It’s not unusual for some AC compressors to jump up to 50 or even 60 amps for a short time. If you are plugged into a 30 amp socket at a park or using a smaller generator, it may trip breakers at best or, at worst, be unusable in that power situation.

The SoftStartUP unit with the following labels:

-115 VAC, 30-amp connection
-Surge protection up to 2100 joules
-Compressor overload (Surge) Protection
-Commercial grade for heavy-duty use
-Circuitry delivers 50% inrush current reduction during appliance startups
-Continuously monitors electrical power usage, with option to reset at separate hookup locations
-No installation required
-Mobile app is bluetooth-enabled and compatible with iOS and Android devices
-Green LED indicates when outlet has power
Source: SoftStartUSA

The SoftStartUP’s main job is to monitor this current rush and control the motor ramp-up through voltage for the roughly one-second startup time. This allows the AC compressor to start up without the significant power spike at the beginning. In the video from Mike Sokol on RVelectricity below, you can see this happening in real time.

Is This Like a Hard Start Capacitor?

In short, no.

Acording to SoftStartUSA, “A hard start kit is simply a start capacitor and a thermal device that temporarily connects it to the compressor only for a short time during startup (a “PTCR”). During startup, the hard start diverts more current to the compressor’s start winding to help “boost” the torque to assist in starting. This actually results in more current be sent to the compressor, perhaps for a slightly shortened duration of time. A hard start therefore typically does not make a compressor that wouldn’t start on a particular generator suddenly start working, unless the generator and A/C combination were marginally close to working to begin with. These intelligent SoftStartUp units work on a different principle than a standard starting capacitor.”

Power Monitoring and Surge Protection

Table showing the advantages of the SoftStartUP
Source: SoftStartUSA

In addition to the circuitry that reportedly delivers a 50% inrush current reduction for inductive-load appliance startups, the SoftStartUP also comes with the following features:

  • Surge protection up to 2100 joules
  • Continuous monitoring of electrical power usage throughout RV
  • Power tracking
  • Auto shutdowns and restarts are activated after repeated alert events
    • under voltage
    • overvoltage
    • over current
    • Frequency Monitor
  • Bluetooth-enabled Mobile app for iOS and Android devices
  • Waterproof and UV-proof

My Experience With The SoftStartUP

As mentioned above, I already have a SoftStartRV installed in my rig’s AC unit. So my first question was can they work together? And according to SoftStart’s website, they work just fine when used simultaneously. In addition, some users report quieter AC startup with both units working. I personally couldn’t tell the difference, but I am hard of hearing and wear hearing aids in both ears. So someone with good hearing may be able to.

Setting It Up

The unit is about the size of a typical 30A RV surge protector. It looks well built (made in the USA) and surprisingly lighter than I thought it would be. It has nice large loops on the handle, allowing for easy unplugging. I also threaded a thin bicycle cable through the bottom loop, which I secured to the power pedestal to prevent theft (Call me paranoid).

SoftStart isn’t lying when they say it’s plug-and-play. It hooks up precisely like a dog bone adaptor or surge protector. I pulled it out of the box, plugged it into the power pedestal of the RV park, and waited for the built-in indicator light to turn green, telling me the socket was wired correctly and I had power. I then turned the breaker off at the pedestal, plugged my 30 amp RV plug into the female side of the unit, and flipped the breaker back on. That was it.

Now I just needed to test this puppy out and see if it was doing its thing. But I’d needed to install the app to see what was happening inside.

Installing and Using The SoftStartUP App

Downloading the app was super straightforward. The instructions come with a QR code, but I went to the App Store (well, the Google Play Store in my case) and searched for “SoftStart.” After downloading the app, I was ready to connect the unit to my phone.

Screenshot showing the setup of the SoftStartUP app.
I had the app connected to the SoftStartUP unit in about one minute.

I was pleasantly surprised by how easy the process was. After downloading and opening the app, I tapped on the connection tab, then tapped “Add Device.” A dialogue came up asking for the key. This is directly on the back of the SoftStartUP unit. After typing in the key and hitting enter, I was connected. The app gives you real-time stats on the following measurements.

The SoftStartUP app displaying current, voltage, frequency, power, total energy, and new loads.
  • Current (Amps)
  • AC Voltage
  • Frequency (important for generators)
  • Running Watts
  • Total kW/h used (resettable)
  • Total kW/h used overall
  • Internal Temperature
  • New Load Detected (number of times soft start has helped start a load since being plugged in at your current site)
  • There is also a bell icon showing any messages or errors at the top.

Is The App Useful?

I already have a display on my power center that tells me my voltage and running Amps. So before downloading it, I was skeptical that I would use it much. However, I was wrong. SoftStartUSA has made a straightforward yet helpful app. The numbers are displayed in a color-coded and easy-to-read large font.

Voltage Monitoring

I was staying at a park with old wiring in the height of one of the heat waves that hit Washington State in 2022. During the hottest part of the day, the park’s grid struggled to maintain 108 volts with the AC off. Running your AC or any modern alternating current run appliance with a motor is harmful below about 108 volts. If that dips below 100V, the compressor motor of an AC will most likely sustain some damage that will shorten its lifespan.

Because it connects wirelessly to the SoftStarUP using Bluetooth, I could monitor my voltage and decide whether to switch to running my AC off my generator in the heat of the day. On top of that, the SoftStartUP will automatically prevent your RV from trying to use 100V or less. It will also cut off power in the event of voltage that is too high, though low voltage is the more common problem.

Amperage Monitoring

Being able to pull my phone out of my pocket and check how many Amps my rig is using, as well as the running watts, is surprisingly convenient. This is especially true if you have a 50A RV plugged into a 30A plug. I’ve found myself pulling the app up before turning stuff on while the AC is running. Say, for example, the AC and the coffee pot are on. Can I turn the toaster on too? I could run a quick calculation in my head, but it’s easier to pull up the app, turn on the toaster and see how many Amps it pulls.

This is especially useful because the amperage isn’t consistent. Weather, voltage, and other factors will cause a device’s Amp draw to fluctuate. So while running a microwave and your AC together may draw 28A one day, it could draw over 30A another.

kW/h Tracking

Power usage tracking is an excellent feature for someone who frequently stays in RV parks every month. Many parks will charge you for power if you visit monthly, sometimes weekly. My wife and I have paid anywhere from $0.10 to $0.14 per kW/h. There is a meter on the pedestal that you can use to track your power usage, but estimating power costs is so much easier with the SoftStartUP app. You just have to multiply the total number of resettable kW/h on the app by the amount you are being charged.

The resettable energy usage stat is fantastic for tracking efficiency changes and experimenting with cost-saving measures. For example, in the winter, I can heat my rig with my heat pump one day, use portable heaters the next, and use a mixture of the two on a third to see which one will save me the most money by tracking my power usage for that day. One could do the same for other cold weather tips. Track your heating electrical power usage with and without insulation on your windows, for example.

Problem Reporting

In addition to being a soft starter, the SoftStartUP continually monitors the power coming into your RV for dangerous or damaging situations. For many of those situations, the SoftStartUP will temporarily cut power to the rig for 30 seconds to prevent harm to any systems. If the power is cut, the app will tell you the reason right in the app.

Over the past couple of months of owning the SoftStartUP and using it in the field, I have seen the app as a valuable and essential tool in my RV power management toolbox.

Soft Start Function

Since I’ve already tested SoftStartUSA’s soft start tech with their original device, I know their soft start feature works. I even started my RVs air conditioner with a Jackery Explorer 1500 portable power station with less power than a small Honda 2200i. So I have no doubt the tech works amazingly well. But, SoftStartUP claims to provide soft start technology to similar loads from other devices like residential refrigerator compressors and microwave ovens.

The app has a handy counter that tells you how many loads the unit has helped start since being plugged in. So to test the functionality, I opened the app and fired up my microwave. The “New Load Detect Count” went up by one, telling me that by plugging the SoftStartUP in, I am effectively adding a SoftStartRV to any high drawing inductive load in my rig.

My SoftStartUP Stress Tests

It’s not a review without a few stress tests, so I gave it a couple of worse-case scenarios in addition to putting the unit through continuous use for several months.

Inductive Load Starting With A Small Generator

I didn’t have a small gas-powered generator to try this on. But I did have something even smaller, a Jackery Explorer 1500 power station. Unlike a small 2200-watt inverter generator, the Jackery is only rated to put out 1800W continually. I ran my air conditioner successfully using the 15amp plug adapter that came with the SoftStartUP. I ran my microwave separately off the Explorer 1500 using the SoftStartUP with no issues.

Using The SoftStartUP With A Large Gas Generator

While I didn’t have a tiny generator, I decided to plug the SoftStartUP RV into my onboard generator and max it out. I turned on several high-powered devices at once to purposely overload the generator. To my surprise, once I reached the upper limit of my generator’s capability, it started to throttle up and down. I had never realized it before, but this resulted in the frequency being thrown off.

SoftStartUP app showing a frequency Unstable error.
After the SoftStartUP cut the power, the Error Log told me why.

In the United States, the standard frequency of AC power is 60Hz, while in Canada, it’s 50Hz (The SoftStartUP works with both). Frequency fluctuation happens when the generator cannot maintain the load it’s under. So what happened with the SoftStartUP? It cut off power to the RV to protect the system. About 30 seconds later, once the generator had stabilized, the power came back on, and after reducing the maxed-out load, the generator stopped fluctuating, and everything worked perfectly.

I was able to screenshot the error in the app, and this little experiment showed me that SoftStartUP was monitoring for dangerous or damaging power situations and preventing them from continuing.

Final Thoughts

So did the SoftStartUP RV pass the test:

  • Does it control other high current inductive loads at the power pedestal, as it claims?
    • Yes, the unit recognizes inductive loads and uses its soft starting circuitry to reduce the startup load based on tests using the app.
  • Was the app useful?
    • The app is practical and provides more information than I was anticipating, allowing you to monitor just about every aspect of the power coming into your RV. Over the last few months of use, it has become my favorite power monitoring device on my RV, and I have three.
  • Does it protect the RV from damaging power situations?
    • With its onboard circuit tester with easy-to-read LED lights, self-monitoring capabilities, automatic power cutoff ability (which I have seen in action), and surge protection capabilities, I feel much safer using the SoftStartUP than I ever did with my regular surge protector.

I tried to find one thing I could say bad about the SoftStartUP RV, but, at the end of the day, like the original SoftStartRV, it just works, with the added advantage of offering safety features, surge protection, and an excellent monitoring app. I can say that whenever my RV is plugged in, it will be plugged into the SoftStartUP RV.

Check out their official site to learn more!

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11 thoughts on “Gear Review: You’re Gonna Love The New SoftStartUP RV”

  1. What a terrific review and article. Very comprehensive and most helpful. I look forward to trying one of these on my 5th wheel soon.

  2. Good review however I’m still left a few questions:
    You say “The app has a handy counter that tells you how many loads the unit has helped start since being plugged in.” Why? Is that a metric that needs to be monitored? Does the unit have a limited number of start cycles and then it will no longer work?
    Is the “surge protection” feature more like a circuit breaker or like a fuse? In other words, once it protects from an electrical surge can it be reset or is it fried and no longer providing surge protection?
    And if it no longer provides surge protection will the SoftStartUp part still function?
    Lastly, why no mention of price? Was there a stipulation that you could not mention the cost in your review?
    After visiting the company’s website I see it has a list price of $899 and a buy it now price of $599. To me that seems like a lot of money for the convenience of having those two functions in one device and not knowing if one hit will render it unusable. Otherwise it seems like a good thing to have.

    • Hi Max,
      Like the original SoftStartRV, the unit has no limit on the number of loads it will start. The counter in the app is mostly there to let you know the unit is functioning and soft-starting inductive loads like microwaves, air conditioners, etc. The following answer comes directly from SoftStartUPs customer service regarding the surge protection function.

      “the surge protector is just that. Unlike a fuse, It will cut out as a breaker in the event of a surge. It’s designed to allow this three times, after which it will need resetting by simply unplugging the unit and then plugging it back in. Our surge protector is a ‘by the way’ type of added feature, in other words, it’s there for the convenience/safety of our customers and is not an integral part of the workings of the SoftstartUP unit which will work fine without it.”

      More Info FAQ – SoftStartUP

      Thanks for being a Camper Smarts reader.

  3. What you didn’t do, and what we all need to see to determine that it actually works properly, is to remove your softstart on your AC and see if this works as well as the installed softstart. It’s nice that using them together may reduce noise, etc. but does the Softstartup work as well as the softstart you had to install.

    So this is a great review of all the extra bells and whistles with the app (which, admittedly, is nice) and the fact that is monitors lots of things to protect the RV electrical system and appliances. But what the review doesn’t do is check that the softstartup actually lets your AC start with minimal power (since your AC already has the softstart installed.

    Uninstall the original and try to use this to see if it actually works as advertised!

    • You are correct, I didn’t. I determined the soft start capability was soft starting loads based on other inductive loads such as a microwave, etc. However, if you are looking for an example of just the SoftStartUP working on an AC on a 15 amp household plug, Honda 2200i generator, and a Jackery Explorer 2000 Pro. This video from Mike Sokol does just that.

      Hope that is able to answer your questions and thanks for being a Camper Smarts reader.

      • I did figure it probably work and the video you linked to probably shows that it does.

        I was just concerned that your review showed some advantages to this product, but didn’tr actually show it did the soft start.

        Now if it wasn’t so expensive… I already have a power protection product so this would replace that.

  4. The idea of the SoftStartUp device is fantastic, especially the “plug and play” aspect. I ordered a unit and after less than four a/c on/off cycles the SoftStartUp unit failed. Original unit was returned to the manufacturer and a second unit sent as a replacement. The second unit failed immediately. SoftStartUp customer service was very responsive and issued a full refund.

    • Hi Tom: Sorry you did not have any success in trying out our new product for your needs… SoftStartUp will start an A/C and maybe 2 depending on the power source and the size of the A/C units. Not sure what your configuration is.
      SoftStartUp provides a 50% power reduction during startup. So if you have a 30-amp power source and your 15K A/C needs 65 to 70-amps just to start (typical) then the SoftStartUp will reduce that startup need by about 50% or 30-amps. Then the A/C settle is to run at 12-13-amps. Now you have about 18-amps “left” from 30, to use for something else. We can offer you 2 SoftStartRVs if you have 2 A/C units, these reduce the startup needs by 70-75% and because they’re hard-wired they provide a greater reduction in startup current. Because of your situation, we will offer to pay you up to $150 off your install costs should you choose to have a third party install them for you. Drop me an email to: [email protected] for details. Stay safe, Brian

    • Hi Dave,
      Thanks for reading. In an effort to make the article relevant for a longer period, I didn’t include the price. As it stands now the MSRP of the SoftStartUP is $899. However, they are offering $300 off right now bringing the price to $599. They have not revealed how long this introductory sale will last, so the easiest way to stay up to date was to link to their site which will have the latest and most up-to-date price.

      Thanks for being a Camper Smarts reader.

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