Categories: RV Tech

What Is the Best RV Power Surge Protector?

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An RV surge protector is a must-have for all RVers. You may not hear people talk about it much, but it can save your electrical system. Keep reading to learn about these devices and why you need one for your RV. 

What Is an RV Surge Protector?

An RV surge protector connects your RV electrical system to a power pole with an added layer of protection. If you plug directly into the power pole (or shore power), electrical surges can damage your RV’s electronics. A surge protector helps eliminate this problem, saving you from expensive repairs. 

This is our RV surge protector setup adapted to a 30 amp plug

How Does It Work?

If a power surge happens, the surge protector detects electrical changes and mitigates damage. When using one, you’ll always connect the surge protector directly to the power source. Your extension cord will then plug into the surge protector (not the power pole). 

A power surge is usually a spike in voltage that can be caused by lightning, a grid problem, or even your neighbor doing something wrong. These voltage spikes are usually very short but very high, and can cause all kinds of damage.

A surge protector includes a special circuit that consists of resistors, capacitors and special diodes that react to high voltages. This circuit is designed to absorb or “shunt” the damaging power away very quickly. Sometimes however in very large surges the surge protection circuit can become damaged and fail. Better the surge protector than your electronics however.

Do You Really Need a Surge Protector for Your RV?

If you’re new to RVing, you might think an RV surge protector is just one more thing to buy. But do you really need it? If you ask us, the answer is a resounding YES! 

Without a surge protector, you could destroy your RV’s electrical system. It could also damage any electronics you have plugged in at the time of a power surge. So, for a few hundred dollars, you can avoid thousands of dollars of damage. 

Why You Need a Surge Protector for Your RV

Protection from power surges is the most obvious reason for owning a surge protector. Power surges might seem unlikely to happen, but it’s not a risk you should take. 

Some protectors can also detect shore power problems. These could be related to incorrect wiring or damage to a power pole. When you pull in at a new RV park, there’s no way to know if the power pole is working correctly until you plugin. If there is a problem, the RV surge protector should do its job and protect your electrical system. 

A surge protector also protects from an open ground. If you’re not familiar with the term, an open ground means there’s faulty wiring or connections in the power pedestal.

A ground is typically a wire connected to a power source that allows excess electricity to exit the system if there’s a wiring issue. In this situation, it’s possible for the RV’s frame to become electrified and the entire RV can become a shock hazard. If something’s wrong with the ground or an outdated power pole doesn’t have one some surge protectors can warn you of the issue.

Finally, many surge protectors protect from low voltage problems. Low voltage problems may arise from dirty or old connections or poorly insulated wiring. Low voltage might not seem like a big issue, but it can cause your appliances to overwork and melt components, potentially causing an electrical fire inside your RV. 

Best RV Power Surge Protector

Now that you understand why these devices are so vital, let’s take a look at the best RV surge protector. That way, you can worry less and vacation more! 

Top Pick: Hughes Watchdog Series with EPO

Our top pick for RV surge protectors is the Hughes Watchdog line. The surge protectors come in both 30 and 50 amp versions. They offer Bluetooth connectivity to easily read information about the circuit and errors on your phone. Another feature we love about the watchdog series is that the surge protection unit is replaceable. Yes, this means that if a big surge damages the circuit while protecting your RV, you do not have to throw the unit out and can fix it!

We highly recommend getting a watchdog unit with the EPO functionality as well. This stands for “Emergency Power Off” and will disconnect your RV automatically during any unsafe conditions.

Hughes Autoformers PWD50-EPO Power Watchdog Smart...
  • 4, 800 Joules of advanced surge protection
  • Smart Circuit Analyzer will shut down power to RV if a dangerous...
  • Plug-n-play – Only 4 second delay power on after plugging in...

We personally use this surge protector and Tom has given it his electrical engineer stamp of approval (Well he is an electrical engineer and really likes it at least). They come in both portable versions or versions that can be hardwired into the RV so you don’t need to mess with it at the pedestal.

Another great feature of the watchdog is that the dogs face on the front of the EPO units glows a bright white when all is well, but turns an angry red when something is wrong. An easy way to tell that their is an issues from a distance.

While these units sell on amazon we have even partnered with Hughes because we like them so much to offer you a discount from their site if you use the code Mortons.

If you want the best surge protector money can buy check out watchdog and get our exclusive discount!

We also recommend this surge protector when connecting a 30 amp RV to a 50 amp pedestal. Learn why in our article: Can You Hook a 30 Amp RV to 50 Amp Power?

Honorable Mention: Progressive Industries 30XL/50XL

If you don’t need the bells and whistles of the watchdog and want to save money we recommend the Progressive Industries XL options. Progressive Industries offers an RV surge protector for either 50 or 30-amp connections. Deciding which protector you need is simple: If your RV uses 50-amp power, you want the 50-amp surge protector. If you use 30-amp, you’ll need the 30-amp model. 

Progressive Industries 50 Amp Portable RV Smart...
  • Surge Protection: 5-Mode / 1650J / 45,000A. Ratings: 50A /...
  • Open Ground, Open Neutral & Reverse Polarity Detection, Miswired...
  • Designed for Outdoor Use, Weather Resistant, All Weather Shield...

Both Progressive Industries surge protectors react in less than one nanosecond. This means they mitigate electrical problems almost instantly after they happen. Additionally, they protect from power spikes of up to 44,000 amps. 

Progressive Industries 30 Amp Portable RV Smart...
  • Surge Protection: 3-Mode / 825J / 22,500A. Ratings: 30A / 120V /...
  • Open Ground, Open Neutral & Reverse Polarity Detection, Miswired...
  • Designed for Outdoor Use, Weather Resistant, All Weather Shield...

It’s also a solid choice for RVing because it’s weather-resistant and has a security lock. That way, you don’t have to worry about leaving it outside while you’re on the road. After all, it won’t do you any good if someone steals it! 

You can also rest easy with this purchase. That’s because the Progressive Industries surge protector comes with a lifetime warranty. 

How to Protect Your RV Surge Protector from Being Stolen

Leaving an expensive piece of equipment outside may seem like a recipe for disaster, but it doesn’t have to be. Our favorite surge protectors (mentioned above) comes with a built-in locking mechanism. 

If you choose to go with another product, you still have options. Some power pedestals have a cover over them that you can secure with a padlock. If that isn’t an option, you can use a strong bike lock and pass it through one of the holes on your surge protector before securing it to the power pole. 

Nulock Keyless Bluetooth Bike/Motorcycle/Gate Lock...
  • 🔒CONVENIENCE: keyless, no combos, apps compatible with both...
  • 🔊ALARM: Vibration, breakage, disassembly and cable clipping...
  • 🛡ROBUST: 7 braided steel (each is made of 19 braided steel)...

You can also purchase several security cables to make it more difficult to steal your surge protector. Sometimes all it takes to stop a crime of opportunity is a slight deterrent. 

Surge Protectors Offer Peace of Mind

It may seem painful to spend several hundred dollars on an RV surge protector, but power surges are far more damaging. Not only are problems from electrical surges expensive to fix, but they could also cause an electrical fire. Ultimately, we think a few hundred bucks is a small price to pay for the added protection and peace of mind! 

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Mortons on the Move

We are Tom & Caitlin Morton. We gave up the stationary life for one where we are constantly on the move. We live in a fifth wheel RV and travel with our two pups, Mocha and Bella. We enjoy hiking, biking, boondocking, videography, and upgrading our RV to suit our off-grid mobile lifestyle. Our goal is to share educational, entertaining, and inspiring content with our readers and viewers.

View Comments

  • Hello!
    I really enjoy your information provided in your emails. I’m new to all of this! I bought a Winnebago Solis last month and am exited to start using it.
    Would you recommend getting a surge protector that also has an electrical management system? I’ve read a few other RVers reviews on surge protectors and some recommended getting a combo surge protectors/EMS.

    Thanks!

    • Yes an EMS is just a term many manufacturers use but having auto shutdown is important in my opinion. The watchdog EPO has the full EMS functionality you are referring to. The progressive unit does have an option for the EMS as well, but I personally would recommend the watchdog with EPO because of its extra functionality and replaceable surge module.

  • Howdy Sweethearts. Thanks for that article. No need to display my comment, just wanted to let you guys know that the hyperlink to "Can You Hook a 30 Amp RV to 50 Amp Power?" is incorrect and also that when clicking on the "10% off code" image it doesn't open in a new tab but in the same tab, so it navigates away from your page. Sorry for the last nit-pick as my team creates a lot of web content and I do proof-reading all day long. Best Fabian

  • What are your thoughts on the Hughes Autoformer Voltage Booster? Is it worth the extra money?

    • I have mixed feelings on it, For your RV it will help a lot at many RV parks because they have such low voltage which is better for your appliances, so yes its a great thing to have. From the RV parks side, they are tough on the electrical system. As you boost your voltage you will draw more current and actually drag the RV park down even further. You are still limited to 30 or 50 amps (and you will get less current boosted) but they do help keep the RV happy. I call them screw your neighbor over devices. If everyone in an RV park had them, they would probably trip the main fuse. Its more an RV park problem than an RV problem however and if they were built to handle the full capacity of the park they wouldn't be needed anyway..... Long answer to a simple question. We don't run one and just limit our load to keep the voltage under control, but we also have an advanced system with hybrid inverters and large battery bank to modulate it. For a more cost-effective solution, the autoformer is a good option and worth the money, so yes. Also our discount code will work for the autoformers too! :)

  • Help!!! Your email regarding surge protectors came a day too late and now I'm fried. I have a 30 AMP coach (2013 Winnebago Aspect 27K), plugged it into a brand new 30 AMP outlet. Sizzle! Pop! Generator won't start. Microwave? Dead. House batteries randomly charge and discharge. Inverter is confused. House lights are bright one minute and dim the next. Air conditioner and furnace still work. Slides will not retract. I can't drive it... had to leave it at Orange Beach, AL and take the toad back to TN. I had an electrician look at the new 30 AMP plug. He shook his head, "The neutral wire wasn't connected." RV mechanic is booked until March 22. Tom, you're an electrical engineer. Can you take a minute and tell me what happened to my RV and what you think will be needed to fix it?

    • So sorry to hear that :( Hmm, weird scenario, sounds like your neutral may have been bonded to the ground in the RVs panel which is a no go. with an open neutral at the pedestal and a grounded neutral in the RV it's possible to get a huge ground loop and light up appliances ground with 120V. Not saying this is what happened, but it's an idea, I would check your electrical panel and make sure that the neutral is not bonded to the ground. Only an inverter or generator should do this when floating on the system, never a shore connection.

  • Are you sure you've recommended listed devices? RVers should only select surge protectors and other energy management systems (EMS) that are "listed", meaning the device has a UL, CSA, ETL, or similar certification. Hughes Watchdog Series does not mention being listed, but the Progressive Industries 30XL/50XL are UL listed. The RVIA and NFPA 1192, "Standard on Recreational Vehicles", require using only listed devices. The 2020 National Electric Code also added Article 551.40(D) that requires every RV have a visual or audible alarm when there's an ungrounded (black) conductor and grounded (white) conductor reversal. Hopefully a good listed EMS will be in every RV now coming off production lines.

    • You know I never actually chacked that, and now I am rethinking this, great point. I guess I'm happy ours is an external unit right now. As for the reverse polarity requirement its great to see this in code as its one of the largest hazards. I doubt the manufacturers will be installing high-quality EMS systems in rigs, but they should at least comply with the Code. I will get an article in our queue about this.

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