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RV Surge Protectors in 2024 - Protect Your Rig From Electrical Supply Issues

(Camp Addict does NOT accept payment from any company to review or endorse their products.)

If you want to learn about what is an RV surge protector or electrical management system (EMS), you just hit the information jackpot!

In this guide, you will learn everything you need to know about electrical management systems (EMS) and surge protectors.

In addition, you will also learn the difference between the two and who makes the best products of each. Find out if you even need protection for your RV and much more.

We also evaluated the top manufacturers of RV power protection devices and came up with the best RV surge protector reviews below the guide.

Wait, Surge Protector Or EMS?

Henceforth, when we use the term 'surge protector', we're often going to use it the same way people ask for a 'Kleenex®' when they want a tissue.

When using 'surge protector' in a manner meaning EITHER a surge protector or an electrical management system (EMS), we will use quotes.

When speaking literally of one, we will not use quotes.

Already know all about this subject? Just looking for the reviews? Click the button below to jump down to the product reviews.

Guide to RV 'Surge Protection'

Truly, RV surge protection can be a tricky subject.

Let's be honest, who REALLY paid attention to amps and volts and joules and all those other 'fancy' electrical terms in school?

Or, for that matter, who even took a class that taught this? Protecting your RV from shore power electrical issues doesn't have to be super complicated.

Now, let's find out what you need to know about RV surge protection.

Do You Really Need To Protect Your RV?

In a nutshell, if you are connected to an outside power source, the answer is ABSOLUTELY, YES.

Sure, you will read about people who claim they have camped for 30+ years without any type of 'surge protector' and never had a problem.

That's called luck, folks. It's also called playing with fire.

Then you have the unfortunate ones who plugged in without any protection and fried their entire rig on their first trip. It only takes ONE time to lose all of the wiring and electronics.

RV Power Pedestal

It's funny, even some campground owners will stare at you like you're a nut-job if you try to show them that they have an outlet with reverse polarity or whatnot.What do they care? Also, what do they know?  They are not electricians, they are campground owners.

Just because Bubba Joe offered the campground owner to do some electrical work in exchange for staying there doesn't mean it was done right.

Bubba's just a guy jonesing for a free stay. 'Thank god' he watched some YouTube videos and just became a 'qualified electrician' because of it.

In reality, this doesn't make him a good candidate to work on campground wiring. Still, these types of trades happen all the time.

Then, the next campers to come along to that site (you) unfortunately are the victim of Bubba's lack of knowledge.

Also, the campground owner won't be responsible if every electronic device in your rig fries. That said, good luck trying to sue the campground for damages.

Then, the next campers to come along to that site (you) unfortunately are the victim of Bubba's lack of knowledge.

Also, the campground owner won't be responsible if every electronic device in your rig fries. That said, good luck trying to sue the campground for damages.

Surge Protector Versus Electrical Management System

So, what's the difference between a surge protector and an EMS?

Watch the below video from Progressive Industries to learn about the striking differences you need to know.

Surge Protector Versus EMS

Potential Shore Power Problems

There are multiple ways your RV's electronics might fry while connected to power at a park or any type of plugged-in location.

You can have a power surge, you can have an incorrectly wired power pedestal, and you can also suffer major damage from low voltage.

If you don't have a surge protector for your RV, you may have damage one day. A LOT of damage. Let us explain.

Power Surges

When too much power comes through the wires to your RV, it can cause damage to your electronics and wiring.

The most commonly known type of power surge comes from lightning.

Lightning storm over city

This causes an extremely large voltage spike that will really test an RV 'surge protector'.

The best way here to avoid any potential damage, even if you have an RV 'surge protector', is to unplug until the threat has passed.

Still, an EMS will protect your RV.  A surge protector- not so much. (More about this later) However, your power protection device might end up fried, causing you to need to purchase a new one.

Incorrect Wiring

Yes, incorrect wiring does happen.

It could be that some wiring had just been modified, or something could have come loose or disintegrated. Electricity is very complicated.

All it takes is an electrician with just enough lack of knowledge to do the job incorrectly, and you're screwed.

We have heard stories from the wrong voltage being put in, to electricians thinking that your RV 30-amp plug is the same voltage as a dryer plug.

It's NOT.

The dryer uses 240 volts. Your RV runs on 120 volts. NEVER try to plug your 30-amp RV into a dryer outlet in a standard home.

It will guarantee you a hefty bill in replacing your electronics. This lack of knowledge about RVs on an electrician's part can set you back thousands of dollars in replacing everything electrical in your RV.

For instance, Kelly almost had a devastating situation when she hired an electrician to work on her house and RV:

Camp Addict Kelly


Camp Addict Co-Founder

After buying my RV, I spent a month parked in my driveway. I had an electrician come out to do some work on the house.

While he was there, I asked him to give me a dedicated plug from my outside breaker panel so I could plug in my 30-amp travel trailer.

He looked at the RV prongs and basically said, "Yeah, that's a dryer plug." (240-volts!) He was going to wire it for that.

I already knew that that wasn't right from what I had read online.  I was pretty sure it wasn't right, but he's the professional. Right?

slingshot trailer in florida

Still, I did not let him connect me to that outlet. Thank god I finally got through to him that we should NOT use a 240-volt outlet. 

He ran a wire directly from my circuit breaker panel outside.  A WIRE.  The wire ran, exposed, to a household outlet that just sat on the ground in my yard. 

Seriously? Yes. Bad as that was, now I know he still wired it wrong.

How? I remember feeling a 'tingling' sensation at times when I touched things like the frame of my RV (also knows as a hot skin condition).

I think I'm very lucky I wasn't electrocuted. Kelly's 'pro' tip - make sure your electrician has experience with RVs.

(Also, never put your awning arms out like mine are in the above picture. I did it because I was in Florida, no wind at all, and I was new. I didn't care they weren't supposed to be out like this. I just wanted to do it!)

Voltage is Too Low

Low voltage can cause the same damage that high voltage can. How does low voltage happen?

Let's look at a scenario:

You're having a very hot RV summer. You're in a full campground with tons of energy-sucking RV's all using big air conditioners. (How to keep an RV cool without AC.)

This can cause the power supply to drop. (Especially in older parks where the wiring has not been updated since the '70s or '80s.) This is called a brownout.

A huge power drop is called a brownout. It can be more damaging than a power surge.

If your RV doesn't get enough voltage (below 104 VAC), it can cause serious damage to your electric system. This is not an uncommon occurrence in overloaded parks.

Therefore, it's vital to your rig's health to get RV surge protection for RVs that shuts off power to your rig in such an event. Yes, you can check the voltage and the wiring before you plug-in. 

However, voltage is a constantly changing entity. It can drop or surge at any time.

This is what makes it so dangerous. Unless you have something monitoring it at all times such as an electrical management system, you are vulnerable to attack.

Before You Plug In Your 'Surge Protector'

Make sure the 30 or 50-amp circuit breaker is turned off at the power pedestal before plugging in your portable surge protection device or your camper power cord.

This prevents any electrical arcing between your cord and the pedestal.

A typical power pedestal is pictured here. See the circuit breakers near the top in the photo? Shut them off before ya plug-in.

RV Power Pedestal

'Insurance' For Your Electronics

So, what can go wrong with low voltage?

Well, you can lose your converter, your inverter, refrigerator, furnace, television, computer(s), propane detector, batteries, RV water pump 12v, simply ANYTHING connected via wires in your rig. 

That's going to add up to THOUSANDS of dollars. Why not protect it? It's like insurance.

You insure your car, you insure your house, you insure your RV, but does your plan cover power surges/low voltage? (Not likely.)

Even if it does, do you want the hassle of dealing with your insurance company and a dealer to get it all replaced?

Do you want to pay for a hotel if you are a full-timer, and wait weeks, but likely more like MONTHS, to have it all fixed? No way you're saying yes to that.

Honestly, just prevent it from damage in the first place.

Let's look at some things you need to know about to get a good surge protector, or EMS (Electrical Management System).

'Surge Protectors' For RVs - Things To Consider

Surge Protector or Electrical Management System?

    The RV electrical protection devices reviewed on this page come in two different flavors:

  • Surge protector
  • Electrical Management System

So, what's the difference? Let's lift the veil of confusion.

Lightning strike over clouds

Surge Protectors

A surge protector is something you are probably familiar with.

You might plug your computer, TV or other sensitive electronic device into a power strip at home.

This power strip might also be a surge protector. 

It comes into play if there is a large voltage spike (think lightning strike) that can cause catastrophic damage to the connected electronics.

A surge protector for RVs serves the same function. Its sole purpose in life is to ONLY protect from a severe over voltage-spike.

This is most commonly caused by a lightning strike. That's all it does! Nothing more.

However, an EMS will protect you from EVERY type of damaging power problem.

So, why would someone want to purchase it as 'surge protection' for RV? Because they are cheaper. Going the cheap route here doesn't pay off, guys. 

After all, a surge protector (unlike an EMS) does NOT guarantee to save your rig from damage. It WON'T protect you from low or high voltages.

Nor will it automatically protect you from open grounds, open neutrals, or reverse polarity - all common issues you can have, at an RV park power pedestal.

At best, they are better than nothing.

Using An EMS With An Inverter Generator

Most every inverter generator for RV use (the type of portable generators that many RVers use) have floating neutrals. This means an EMS will detect this as open ground and not let power 'flow' to your RV.

Watch the video below to learn what you can do about this.

Also read Mike's excellent blog post on this subject, including a workaround (there are a BUNCH of comments on Mike's post, so happy reading!)

The Progressive Industries neutral ground bonding plug that Mike references in the above video is no longer available. Southwire does offer one for sale.

Or, you can make one yourself per the instructions in Mike's blog post.

If you choose to make one yourself, BE SURE you know what you are doing and are comfortable with electricity and understand EXACTLY what he is talking about.

The basic surge protectors for RVs that we review will also indicate if there is an open ground, open neutral, or reverse polarity situation.

However, they WILL NOT prevent you from plugging your RV into a pedestal with said fault. In other words, they will ONLY indicate an issue but they will keep functioning.

It is up to you to look at the LED indicators and decide if you should plug your rig into the power source (pedestal).

Electrical Management System

The best RV surge protector you can get is an EMS. An Electrical Management System is a different beast. Quite frankly, it's what you should be using.

In addition to offering surge protection, an EMS offers protection against other potentially harmful electrical conditions.

The more features your electrical protection device has, the more potential disasters you can avoid.

Some features you can find in an EMS that are important are:

  • Reverse polarity
  • Open ground
  • High voltage (above 132 volts)
  • Low voltage (below 104 volts)
  • High and low-frequency protection (from a misbehaving generator)
  • Amperage usage readings
  • Current and previous error codes

The bottom line: Spend the extra money and purchase an Electrical Management System.

Camp Addict Kelly


Camp Addict Co-Founder

When I first started RVing, I didn't have a clue about RV surge protectors.

On an RVing forum, I read that I needed one so I went down to the local camping supply store and picked one up. I didn't want to spend much.

And so I got a basic surge protector, the TRC 44260 (current model is the Southwire Surge Guard 44280).

Kelly's surge protector

Now, after actually doing research, I understand that it wouldn't have done me much good in certain situations.

It would pretty much cover me for a surge, but no more than 2100 joules. Good thing I have been boondocking about 99.9% of the time during the last few years!

Also, somehow it died. I don't recall how.

30-Amp RV Surge Protector Or 50-Amp RV Surge Protector?

How do you know which one your rig uses? Easy... look at the plug of your rig's power cord.

It either has 4 prongs or 3 prongs.

  • Three prongs mean you have a 30-amp rig. 
  • Four prongs mean you have a 50-amp rig.

 Simply buy the corresponding surge protector. 

Also, make sure there is not an aftermarket adapter (or dogbone) attached to the end of your power cord giving you a false 'reading'!

30 amp male plug

30-Amp Plug - 3 Prongs

50 amp male plug

50-Amp Plug - 4 Prong

What Are Joules And Are They A True Indicator Of Product Quality?

Among the other specifications found in the above 'surge protectors' for RVs reviews, you will see the joule rating displayed.

You will notice that the Southwire 'surge protectors' have a higher joule rating than the Progressive Industries 'surge protectors'. But what does this mean and is it important?

What Is A Joule?

First, let's explain what a Joule is. I don't know about you, but my eyes bug out when I read Wikipedia's definition of Joule.

So, let's see if we can simplify what it is. A Joule in the context of RV 'surge protector' for RVs is the maximum amount of energy that a 'surge protector' can absorb and dissipate as heat.

This comes into play when there is a voltage spike or power surge in the power supply. So in theory, the higher the Joule rating the better.

Surge Protector Response Time

One of the MOST important factors when looking at surge protection for RVs is the response time.

In other words, how quickly the camper 'surge protector' will respond, for example, to a sudden voltage spike. You want this to be an incredibly small number so that the power supply issue doesn't have a chance to damage your RV.

The Progressive Industries 'surge protectors' for RVs have a response time of less than 1 nanosecond (one billionth of a second). That's a really small number, and thus a really fast response time.

So, while Progressive Industries might have a lower Joule rating than Southwire, it doesn't matter.

The Progressive Industries unit will have disconnected from the faulty power source before the excessive energy needs to be dissipated, thus protecting your RV.

This is one of the many reasons we picked Progressive Industries as having the best RV 'surge protectors'.

Portable Or Permanent Surge Protector?

Portable: These 'surge protectors' for RVs are the ones that you plug into the power pedestal.

They plug into the female outlet on the pedestal, then you connect your rig's shore power cord to the 'surge protector'.

Permanent (Hardwired): This type is wired permanently inside of your rig.

It is placed between the power pedestal and the electronics of your rig.

Portable RV Surge Protector Pros and Cons:
  • You can test the outlet before having to back into the spot
  • Easy to replace if the unit gets fried from doing its job saving your electronics
  • No installation
  • You might accidentally leave them behind on the pedestal
  • If the pedestal is low, your protector might be on the ground- not ideal in wet conditions
  • Easy to steal unless locked up (lock is a separate purchase)
  • Nasty to have to check if you have bad weather outside
Permanent RV Surge Protector Pros and Cons:
  • One install and done - One less step in setting up camp thereafter
  • Can have a digital readout inside your coach so you can see what exactly is going on with your EMS system
  • It's inside the RV so no worries about rain, and if checking it during rain, you stay dry (assuming you have a remote display)
  • They are typically smaller than the portable units. Important for an RV
  • They can't be stolen (well, unless your entire RV gets stolen)
  • Harder to keep with you if you sell your RV (not impossible though)
  • Must be installed
  • Must have experience to install, or you will have to hire someone to install it for you

The Best RV 'Surge Protector' Manufacturers

There are only two real companies one should consider in the 'surge protector' for the RV market 

  • Progressive Industries
  • Southwire

Why? Because they both produce surge protection and electrical management system devices to protect your recreational vehicle from electrical issues when you are plugged into shore power.

Note: Both Progressive Industries and what was previously known as Technology Research have been acquired by bigger companies in the past couple of years.

This has resulted in some changes (particularly with Progressive - see below). But, there are a few key differences.

We hate to see these types of changes, especially when there are only two major players in the RV 'surge protector' field.

Therefore, fingers crossed that the consumer doesn't suffer in the end. Let's look at some key components of each company.

Progressive Industries Overview

Progressive Industries is our top pick company.

This company was started in 1999 by a full-time RVer who saw a need to provide superior electrical protection to RVs with more sophisticated electronics.

They used to be based in North Carolina, but since being acquired by Power Products, LLC in late 2017, their headquarters has been moved to Wisconsin.

Producing a full line of RV 'surge protection' products, Progressive Industries used to stand out in a few very important ways.

They used to manufacture their products in the United States. They also used to offer 7 days a week technical support.

Unfortunately, since they were acquired by Power Products, LLC in late 2017, this has changed.


Progressive Changes

Since Progressive Industries was acquired, they have moved the production of their products to Juarez, Mexico.

They also have reduced the availability of their technical support to normal business hours, Monday through Friday. 

Not a move in the right direction, in our opinion. Progressive Industries continues to be the only company that JUST produces RV 'surge protector' products.  Their parent company does manufacture other products.

While Progressive Industries' line of RV 'surge protection' products are a bit more expensive than the competition (generally just a few dollars more), we think that the superior customer support and a few KEY better product features justify this increased cost.

Southwire Overview (Previously Know as Technology Research)

Technology Research (now owned by Southwire and rebranding under the Southwire name) has been around a while but doesn't specialize in RV only products.

In fact, they offer a whole multitude of both civilian and military electrical items.

While this doesn't mean their RV 'surge protection' products aren't any good, it does mean that the company isn't singularly focused, the way Progressive Industries is.

Technology Research is part of Southwire, a large wire and cable manufacturer.

Recently they have been transitioning the RV surge protector line of products over to the Southwire name, moving away from the Technology Research brand.

As a larger corporation, Southwire doesn't offer the level of product support that Progressive has been known for in the past.

Lifetime RV Surge Protector Warranties

Both Progressive and Southwire offer lifetime warranties for their RV surge protectors (the units themselves).

With the usual gotchas such as it has to be installed/used properly, can't be tampered with, Acts of God (such as direct lightning strike - go figure) aren't covered, etc.

Both companies have a fairly similar lifetime warranty in these regards.

The Downside Of Southwire's Warranty

What differs is that Southwire offers a 'Connected Equipment Warranty' (Progressive does not) that covers damages to, well, equipment connected to their surge protectors.

This sounds like a good deal until you read the fine print. Which there is plenty of. Plenty of 'outs' for sure.

It's at Southwire's sole discretion to determine if they honor this portion of their warranty. They reserve the right to not only inspect the equipment but also to inspect the site where the damage happened. 

And if you have an event, don't think about touching anything, or moving your coach before they say you can.

Also, if they don't want to come to look at things in person, they may ask you to ship the damaged goods back to them AT YOUR EXPENSE.

You have any idea how expensive it is to ship a big item like a refrigerator, especially when there is no guarantee that they will cover it?

So, yeah, while the Southwire Connected Equipment Warranty sounds good, it's got too many 'outs' for the company. It feels more like a marketing ploy they use to set themselves apart from the competition.

RV 'Surge Protector' Reviews

Our number one brand choice for your RV power protection is Progressive Industries. The very close runner-up is Southwire.

Below are the best RV surge protectors in descending order.

Both companies manufacture surge suppression and Electrical Management System (EMS) devices to protect your recreational vehicle from shore power electrical issues.

  • Are you just getting started with RVing? Find out what are some must-have camper accessories, so you take off on your first trip with the right equipment on board.

Best of the Best 'Surge Protectors' For RVs - Progressive

Below are three different lines of RV 'surge protectors' that Progressive offers.

Two electrical management systems (one that mounts permanently in your RV and one that is portable), and a Progressive portable RV surge protector that offers basic electrical protection.

While a basic surge protector is better than nothing, we highly recommend purchasing an electrical management system (EMS) over a surge protector.

And an EMS offers superior protection from electronics destruction for your rig.

Best Hardwired Electrical Management System (EMS)

Progressive Industries EMS-HW30C/50C

Progressive Industries EMS-HW50C


  • One install and done
  • Fully protected from all power issues
  • No worries about theft
  • Can usually get to it from inside. No going outside in bad weather to read monitor
  • Cheaper than the portable EMS by Progressive
  • Lifetime warranty


  • Will cost extra if you have to hire someone to install

The Progressive Industries EMS-HW30C and EMS-HW50C are Electrical Management Systems that offer complete electrical protection for any RV.

They offer the same great protection that the portable versions do (next review), but in a hardwired version. In other words, this is to be permanently mounted inside your RV.

30 amp EMS-HW30C

50 amp EMS-HW50C

The Progressive Industries EMS-HW30C (30 amp surge protector) and EMS-HW50C (50 amp surge protector) are Electrical Management Systems (EMS) that offers complete electrical protection for any RV that utilizes 30 or 50 amp electrical service. They offer the same great protection that the portable EMS-PT30X and EMS-PT50X do but in a hardwired version. In other words, the EMS-HW30C and EMS-HW50C are permanently mounted inside your RV.

Continue Reading Progressive Industries EMS-HW30C/50C Review

Best Portable Electrical Management System (EMS)

Progressive Industries EMS-PT30X/50X

Progressive Industries EMS-PT30X


  • Fully protected from all power issues
  • No installation required
  • Built-in locking bracket
  • Lifetime warranty


  • More expensive than a hardwired EMS
  • Easy to steal if you don't lock it
  • Use only in vertical orientation

These Progressive Industries portable systems are complete portable Electrical Management Systems that provides total electrical protection for any RV. 

In addition to providing great surge protection, these units will detect a wide variety of electrical issues and immediately shut off power to your RV.

30 amp EMS-PT30X

50 amp EMS-PT50X

Continue Reading Progressive Industries EMS-PT30X/50X Portable EMS Review

Best Surge Protector

Progressive Industries SSP-30XL/50XL

Progressive Industries SSP-30XL 30 amp RV surge protector


  • Portable/no installation
  • Protects against large and small power surges
  • Built-in locking bracket
  • Lifetime warranty


  • Surge protection only - still vulnerable to power source quality issues
  • Easy to steal if you don't lock it
  • Use only in vertical orientation

The Progressive Industries 30-amp surge protector or 50-amp surge protector for RVs are high quality portable units. They can be used with any rig. 

We like the Progressive surge protectors due to their superior products and fantastic customer support.

They have a lifetime warranty on their products. At one time, they were made in the USA, but after being sold recently (end of 2017?), products are now made in Mexico.

30 amp Surge Protector

50 amp Surge Protector

Continue Reading Progressive Industries Surge Protector SSP-30XL/50XL Review

Best Runner-Up 'Surge Protectors' - Southwire

Southwire's (formerly Technology Research) Surge Guard line of RV power protection is our runner-up company. They will provide your RV the protection you need.

Sometimes at a slightly lower price than what Progressive Industries offers. For the most part, they offer comparable products to what Progressive has.

Your RV needs excellent power protection and Southwire is a great choice when it comes to RV electrical system protection.

Southwire Protectors Explained

Best Hardwired Electrical Management System Runner-Up

Southwire Surge Guard EMS 35530/35550

Southwire Surge Guard 35530 RV EMS system


  • Set up once and done
  • Complete RV power coverage
  • Price
  • Lifetime warranty


  • Does not offer 24/7 customer support like Progressive does
  • Not made in the US

The Southwire Surge Guard EMS systems offer the same capability as the portable Southwire Surge Guard 34830 and 34850.

But, the 35530/35550 are permanently mounted (hardwired) inside an RV that utilizes 30 or 50-amp service.

30 amp 35530

50 amp 35550

Continue Reading Southwire Surge Guard 35530/35550 EMS Review

Best Portable Electrical Management System Runner-Up

Southwire Surge Guard 34930/34950

Southwire 34930 Surge Guard portable electrical management system 30 amp


  • No installation necessary
  • Gives full electrical protection
  • Lifetime warranty


  • Easily stolen without lock
  • Does not offer 24/7 customer support
  • On a low pedestal, this could be on the ground, which is not advised

The Southwire portable Electrical Management Systems provides surge protection.

It also automatically disconnects power to your RV if there is a problem detected with the source of electrical power.

30 amp 34930

50 amp 34950

Continue Reading Southwire Surge Guard 34930/34950 Portable EMS Review

Best Surge Protector Runner-Up

Southwire Surge Guard 44280/44290

Southwire Surge Guard 44280 30 amp surge protector


  • Protects from power surges
  • No installation required
  • Lifetime warranty


  • Surge protection only - still vulnerable to power supply quality issues
  • Easy to steal without lock
  • Must remember to plug it in at every campground
  • On a low pedestal, this could be on the ground, which is not advised.

The Southwire Surge Guards will offer only the most basic surge protection for your RV.

They only provide active protection against voltage spikes such as those caused by lightning strikes. These surge protectors will indicate a power supply issue. However, they will not stop power from reaching your RV under these conditions.

Southwire Product Review Update

These are new models of Southwire's basic surge protectors.

They replace the Surge Guard 44260 (30 amp) and 44270 (50 amp), which were were our best on a budget surge protector picks.

However, these new models no longer offer a price advantage over their Progressive Industries counterparts so they are no longer a 'best on budget' pick.

We still think the Progressive Industries surge protectors hold an advantage and those are what we recommend.

30 amp 44280

50 amp 44290

Continue Reading Southwire Surge Guard 44280/44290 RV Surge Protector Review


Here are your takeaways from this page:

  • Buy an electrical management systems (EMS), not a surge protector
  • Get Progressive Industries over Southwire if you can (though both brands do a great job at providing the electrical protection your RV needs)
  • SOME kind of protection is better than nothing

Now, get out there and use your stuff.

Also, if you have any questions, please review the comments first. We do not answer duplicate questions, it just takes up too much time.

If your question is not there, add it! We answer intelligent, reasonable questions as best we can.

Camp on, Addicts!

Kelly Headshot
Kelly Beasley

He-llllo. I'm the co-founder of Camp Addict, which my biz partner and I launched in 2017. I frigging love the RVing lifestyle but in December of 2020, I converted to part-time RV life. Heck, I lived in my travel trailer for over 5.5 years, STRICTLY boondocking for pretty much all of it. Boondocking is a GREAT way to live, but it's not easy. Anyway, I'm passionate about animals, can't stand campgrounds, I hardly ever cook, and I love a good dance party. Currently, I can be found plotting and scheming whether or not to start collecting farm animals (or plotting my next RV trip!) at my beautiful new 'ranch' named 'Hotel Kellyfornia', in Southern Arizona.

Marshall Headshot
Marshall Wendler

Camp Addict co-founder Marshall Wendler brings his technical expertise to help explain RV products in an easy to understand fashion. Full-time RVing from April 2014 - December 2020 (now RVing about 50% of the time), Marshall loves sharing his knowledge of the RV lifestyle. Marshall spends the majority of his RVing life boondocking. He is the part of Camp Addict that knows 'all the things'. He's good at sharing his technical knowledge so you can benefit. 

  • There is much ignorance of Transient Voltage Supression (aka ‘surges’), almost everywhere. As a retired engineer, I’ve had to deal with it inside factories where major equipment turning on and off caused some spikes that we had to suppress lest it travel to other equipment. I have also built electrical connectors for military aircraft that are designed to withstand the electromagnetic pulse of nuclear weapons detonations so actually have a good idea of how TVS is handled….all this and I poo-poohed it for my camper, being of the opinion that I’ve never had a problem with any equipment inside or connected to my grid-powered house. I reasoned that if my (truck) camper were plugged in, it would be just as safe…..I turned out to be wrong…..After being plugged in for several months (only providing power to the converter to keep the battery charged), I checked on my camper and it had no power. Power to the camper was fine but the transfer switch inside the Samlex EVO-4024 would not come on or switch. Long story short, removing the inverter-charger-transfer switch and doing some surgery, I discovered 4 separate locations on 3 separate circuit boards where components were either visibly burned or actually blasted to pieces/off the board. Samlex took care of repairing it under warranty but shipping the 68lb unit to Canada was a bit pricey. Afterward, I got a Hughes ‘Watchdog’ (cheapest power monitor available) and now also rarely plugin (almost never). We also had an event at home just a couple of months ago where power went off and back on again. Afterward, we had to replace no less than 7 wall warts or minor devices that died. I believe that the increased demand for electricity and grid management problems (especially in SoCal where I live) are creating more ‘surge’ events that do need to be considered. My reaction was to virtually never plug in but when I needed to, I was worried. Consider your risk if you live in your RV, especially if ‘plugged-in’ more often than not. The $100 or so I spent on the surge protector, I consider an investment in NOT spending $350 in shipping to send my inverter for repair (which is not out of warranty). OBTW, I intend to hardwire my surge protection. It can be opened for repair because the surge device inside is a replaceable component and it is easily hardwired rather than paying a premium for one specifically made to hardwire.

    • Great comment as usual Steve!

      Totally agree that buying a quality power protection device is definitely the smart way to go considering the potential consequences of not using one.

      The only time I plug in my rig is to run the AC every now and again to make sure it keeps working. And I use a power protection device when I do so, because you never know.

      We think that an EMS device is mandatory for every RV, especially those that spend more time than not plugged into shore power.

      Interesting that you are going to hardwire your portable unit. You have the skills to do so, whereas most of us are better off purchasing the “made to be hardwired” units.

      I like what I see with the Watchdog products. I’ll most likely be adding those to this page when I redo it soon(ish).

      Thanks again for the great comment!

  • Thank you for being technically correct. Too many believe a surge protector protects against over voltage. They are made with MOVs which mainly protect only against lightning (spike/surge) not over voltage, therefore is useless if you are using with your generator. I wonder why some surge protectors advertise protection against low voltage and have no technical specs for the LV-cutoff? I also see them claim that on a surge they ‘disconnect’ then later ‘reconnect’. They are just MOVs!!. So much bad advertising from businesses outside the US that give false info on seller’s sites, and don’t know the nominal V is 120.

  • FYI: had hard wired PROGRESSIVE in motorhome we bought in 2008 and it was worth it’s weight in gold! Customer service was Awesome. Sunday night late I called them and they were extremely helpful and told me what the unit was doing! Now that it’s sold, hope the quality is still good.
    Thanks for an excellent and informative website 👍

    • That’s great! Seeing as how customer support satisfaction in this country is at an all-time low, kudos to Progressive for keeping it up (assuming when you say Sunday, you meant this last Sunday)!

      We appreciate you keeping us informed!

      Thanks for the comment, and glad you had a great experience with them.

  • Two lovers just doing what they love and sharing it with the world. I love you so much Kelly and Marshal. You guys are so inspiring.

    • Hi Adventure,

      Well, thank you very much for the kudos! But for future reference, we are not lovers, lol! We are like an old married couple, though, from what everyone says of us!

      We were happy to share what we know about RVing with the world!

      • Alright that’s cool but what’s the difference? Old married couple and Lovers sound like the same thing to me. Well as long as you’re still together, married or not, you guys still rock.

        • Haha, we have a great friendship, but we also feel like family, so we just don’t know what to call it. It’s great though! It works for both of us.

          Thanks again for the kudos!

  • I have an opportunity to buy a used TRC Surge Guard 34730 portable EMS unit. The price is good but how can I be sure all the components in the unit are in good working condition? I don’t want to be sucked into buying a unit that may be defective.
    Thank you for all the helpful information that provided here.

    • Hey Ric,

      Thanks for checking out Camp Addict!

      Check out the owner’s manual and see how a properly operating unit should work. Note that in the FAQs it says that the unit isn’t field testable, though I’m not sure what exactly you’d be field testing (other than the obvious, does the sucker work).

      If after reading the manual and plugging the unit in and it seems to be operating normally (no errors, etc), then it may be worth purchasing.

  • Hi, great article. I seldom use a shore power box and mostly use solar and sometimes a generator with my small travel trailer. However last month preparing for a 10 day trip involving staying at commercial parks, I figured I should have some protection based on your article and the fact that my brother plugged into a box and got hit with 220 volts. Minimal damage reimbursed by the park.
    I bought the Progressive separate testor and surge protector set figuring that they fit my usage better. If the surge protector gets hit I’ll still have the tester. I’ll use the surge protector mostly with the generator and I surmise that is where it might get damaged. Low voltage? I’ll deal with it since I don’t expect to use shore boxes much.
    Lightning! Nothing stops it! The two tall trees across the street from my house got hit and the surge through the ground took out several things.
    Lesson learned: If there is lightning, UNPLUG EVERYTHING!
    My friend, at higher elevation than me suffered a lot of damage when a tree next to his house got hit and he had a surge through the ground. I was lucky!
    Surges most likely com from large appliances (like a well motor) starting up or less likely, a high voltage line dropping across an entry cable.
    Thanks for the blog,

    • Hi Kent,

      Thanks for the comment!

      Like you, we seldom plug-in to shore power. Use solar 99.9% of the time. In fact, I generally only plug into power to run my AC every now and again. Like maybe once or twice a year (yes, I know I should be doing it more, but I tend to forget and until recently didn’t have a place I could do it since I never was at a campground).

      Electricity is a funny beast. I agree that there are certain things you just can’t protect from and the real solution to the problem is never plug into shore power. But this isn’t realistic for most cases.

      For those that do plug in a lot, I still do recommend an EMS. It offers different protections from a straight surge protector, and you never know if those extras will end up saving you a big headache (and money) in the future.

      Thanks again for the comment and for checking out Camp Addict!

  • To make a long story short, I have a seasonal site at a campground but it’s only a 30a site. I would like to upgrade to a 50a camper, but the park wants a guarantee that we won’t blow their electric box. Would a portable ems prevent me from drawing too much power at the box? Thank you!

    • Hi Lori,

      No, a portable EMS will not limit the amount of current (amps) that your RV will be able to draw from the power pedestal. So if you are going to upgrade to a 50 amp rig, you will need to get a 50 amp power source. Or you’ll have to be very careful with your power usage and not draw more than 30 amps at a time. This can be done by limiting which major appliances you are using at the same time, but what fun is that? It sure would be nice to be able to use 50 amps of power if you have a 50 amp rig.

      There are products on the market that do allow you to limit the amount of energy that is being drawn from shore power. There are smart converter/chargers that allow you to ‘dial in’ the amount of power you are pulling, but this is beyond the scope of this page.

  • I am new to the RV world and we are looking at the 50 Amp Hughes Autoformer Power Watchdog Bluetooth Smart RV Surge Protector with Automatic Shut Off (Emergency Power Off). How would you compare this to the 2 that you have mentioned here?

    • Hey Kevin,

      I’ve only taken a cursory look at them, but on the surface they look like a great product. I’ll be doing a deep dive into them as soon as I wrap up the current project I’m working on for Camp Addict.

  • Based largely on your reviews, but also on some other websites we looked at, we got a Progressive Industries EMS-PT50X EMS for our new fifth wheel. We used it connected to the house 15A power when setting up for our first trip, and on our first outing, 4 days at a nearby campground. It was a typical pedestal, and tall enough that the EMS wasn’t laying on the ground. One day we had some light rain, not what I would call a strong rainstorm. We used it again at home when unloading and getting ready for storage. About a month later we got the trailer out of storage and connected it up at home to the 15 A power again, and it gave all kinds of error numbers, with voltage readings going crazy high. When I turned it on it’s side to see what the errors meant, the EMS started making a rapid loud clicking sound, sounding like a relay going on and off. I called the Progressive Industries support line, and they quickly concluded it had moisture inside the unit! They said even though it is “weatherproof”, it can still get moisture in it. They said they would replace it, but we had to fill out an online claim and then it would be 7-10 days before they could ship it! Since we were heading out for another short trip, we picked up a basic Southwire surge protecter at Camping World (not wanting to spend the $$$ for a second EMS); it looked more waterproof and we would be more comfortable having a spare should the EMS got out again. If I listen when I shake the EMS, I can hear water sloshing around! I can’t see anything that looks like an unintended entry point for water – no cracks or anything – and the fact that they diagnosed it so quickly, makes me wonder how common of a problem the is? I asked the tech support about anything I could do to reduce the chance of a repeat, and they really didn’t have anything beyond what you would expect (cover well closed, not too close to the ground where water can splash up into it).

    • By the way we love your site and have found it very useful as first timers! I’m wondering if there is something out there more waterproof than the PT50X. I have seen some that are have no displays (which I originally thought was a disadvantage) but have all displays via bluetooth; I wonder if those are possibly more water tight.

      • Hey Ray,

        Sorry to hear about the water intrusion issue you had with your Progressive Industries EMS! That’s disappointing, to say the least.

        Glad to hear that you find Camp Addict useful! Kelly and I love to hear that!

        I’m going to be taking a look at this page and making some updates after the new year. One of the newer units (most likely the one you mentioned with Bluetooth capability) that I’ll be taking a hard look at is the Hughes PWD50-EPO (50-amp portable EMS) that seems to be very promising upon initial look. You might want to consider this unit (I haven’t taken a hard look at it yet, so this is just a ‘first glance’ recommendation).

        The Hughes units have an IP rating of 65, which means they are dust tight and provide protection from low pressure water jets at all angles. This is a fancy way of saying they won’t be damaged if they are left out in the rain.

        They also appear to have an LED display that will show error codes on the unit themselves, so you don’t have to use the Bluetooth + app to check things out.

        I hope that helps!

        Thanks for checking out Camp Addict and happy camping!

  • Wow! This is exactly the information I’ve been looking for! I have been researching online through Youtube and Google for weeks and I finally came upon your website. So thankful. I couldn’t figure out the difference between the EMS and Surge Protector systems and why the cost is so extreme from one unit to another. I was actually about to go with a cheaper model until I read all of your information. Now I can justify to my husband why we need to spend more money and go with the EMS system. We’re about to go full time RVing and I just want to thank you so much for this extremely helpful information that is told in a way that this novice can understand!!! Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!

    • Hi Carol!

      Yes, girl, I feel your pain! I too have been in your position being confused about the difference between an EMS and a surge protector. I wanted to make sure that even I could understand our page on the horribly boring world (to me) of electronics, lol!

      If I can understand it, so can anyone else. So I’m very happy to hear that you ‘got it’ from us and finally ‘get it’. Making sure your RV fully protected is nothing to play around with.

      Get that EMS and make sure you don’t lose everything in your RV to a brownout or other!

      Most of all, thank you for taking the time out of your day to leave your comment here. It means the world to us, and helps your fellow readers. ????


  • Hi! You mentioned in the article to be aware of dogbone adapters to make sure it gets a correct reading. Im going from 50 amp rv into 30 amp post. If I get hardwired, will I get a correct reading?

    Is it better to get a 50a cord and 50a extension, then put the adaptor into the post? Or should I be getting an adaptor that twist locks into the rv, then use 30a cords connected to post? Thank you!

    • Hi Tracey,

      If you have a hardwired 50 amp surge protector, then you will have full protection if it’s plugged into a 30 amp outlet. The Progressive Industries hardwired surge protector manual says the following: “These devices are designed to be reduced down to 120V/15A and maintain full protection.” This means it can be plugged into a regular household outlet (15 amps) and still offers protection. So a 30amp circuit is covered as well.

      Use a 50 amp RV power cord and extension with a 50 amp to 30 amp adapter at the power pedestal. This way you’ll always have the right power cord rated for what your RV can handle no matter what amperage power pedestal you are plugging into.

  • I spend winter in Mexico and we have 1 extra issue and that is high voltage. Sola makes a unit that corrects voltage. I have seen as high as 139 volts. My current protector unit only shuts the power off until voltage corrects and then power comes back on for the unit. I have hear that there are better units on the market than Sola. I need to have a unit that corrects (Regulates) high and low voltage and provides surge protection, without shutting power to RV off. Any units you know of?

    • Hi Don,

      I’m sorry, but I’m of no help here. Not aware of any units that correct a high voltage situation.

      This isn’t something we ever run into since we are very, very, very rarely plugged into shore power, and when we are, it’s in The States where these types of voltage issues aren’t much of a problem.

      Best of luck finding the right product for you!

  • Out camper is wired for 50 AMP Service, but we frequently stay at campgrounds with 30AMP service—-Do I need both a 30 and 50, or just a 50??

    • Hi John,

      You only need a 50 amp protector.

      You will also need a 30 amp to 50 amp dogbone so you can plug your protector in at the 30 amp pedestals.

      Then you plug in the protector after that. Then your power cord after that. Make sense, I hope?

      That should cover you!

  • Hi Kelly and Marshall, I stumbled onto this site and spent half the night reading old posts, lol. My question is, I have a small camper that has no A/C, oven or microwave. Just the 12v appliances. Do Instill need the EMS to protect these smaller appliances? I boondock or camp with no hookups 95% of the time.

    • Hello Campingbliss,

      Sorry for keeping you up half the night!

      I wouldn’t bother with an EMS since you are never plugged in. I don’t have one, but Kelly just bought one as she is currently plugged in for a while because of world events, etc.

      The EMS would come in handy when you are plugged in, and would protect your entire electrical system (including the 12 volt side of things – which is all that you have).

      So it’s up to you to decide if having an EMS for the 5% of the time you are plugged in, and therefore protecting your camper from the chance of an electrical issue, is worth the cost of said EMS.

      The other bit you need to consider is where you plug into the 5% of the times you are plugged in. Is it a campground/RV park that might have a sketchy electrical system? Or is it someone’s house where the electrical system is most likely pretty solid/reliable?

      Hope that helps!

  • My travel trailer is pre wired for 50 amp service but i only need 30 amp as it currently only has one air conditioner. I want to use an adapter so i can get by with using the smaller power cord. Can I use a 30amp EMS unit? I want to use a hard wired unit

    • Hey Corey,

      We can’t recommend installing a hard-wired 30amp EMS on a rig that is wired for 50 amp service. I’m not an electrician so I have zero idea what the ramifications of doing so are.

      Install a 50 amp hard-wired EMS and then call it a day. You never have to worry about what if’s in the future.

    • Hi Judy,

      Progressive portable surge protectors and EMS units come with what they call a ‘secure locking bracket’ around the unit’s electrical cord. The idea is to use some sort of cable lock run through this bracket to secure the EMS/surge protector to an immovable object (typically the power pedestal).

      Keep in mind that this ‘secure locking bracket’ is just a piece of metal (aluminum I believe) and can be dispatched by a determined thief. It’s more of a deterrent than anything else. If someone wants to ‘borrow’ your Progressive unit, they will. Such is the case with anything you leave outside that isn’t permanently attached to your RV.

  • Thank you for all the work behind your review and information on surge protectors and EMS. You saved me days of research.

    • Thank you, Sharon! We are very happy we helped! There’s sooooo much to know! We are also still learning. : )

  • One issue you did not cover is the warrantee. Progressive only covers the cost of the EMS unit. Southwire covers (at their sole discression) the cost of damage to the RV electrical components.

    • Hey Erik,

      Yes, Progressive does offer what they call a “Connected Equipment Warranty”. I expanded the above guide to include a section on the differences (and similarities) between the warranties.

      In the comments below, Bill Wright (on 1 May 2019 – his reply is under another comment so you have to look for it) did a great job discussing the Connected Equipment Warranty, as well as other differences between the Progressive ad Southwire units.

      Bottom line is that due to the hoops one has to jump thru to even have Southwire consider reimbursement under the Connected Equipment Warranty, and the fact that if you have a properly operating RV surge protector in the first place you won’t need that warranty, we feel that it’s more of a marketing play then anything.

      Thanks for the comment and Camp On!

  • I’ve using a Camco 55306 50 Amp model ever since a power pedestal in South Dakota smoked my old progressive protector (not serviceble), so far after 2 years it seems to be ok, goes through a 2 minute delay for diagnostics (not sure what it does) any thoughts on this model. I purchased this because it was the only ine in stock at the time. Thanks

    • Hey Paul,

      The Camco will offer some protection for your rig so it’s not a bad unit (unfortunately Camco doesn’t make the specs readily available so it’s really hard to compare apples to apples).

      We like Progressive and Southwire for a couple of reasons. They offer a full line of RV surge protection (both ‘basic’ surge protectors and complete Electrical Management Systems). Their EMS units give you reading of what the voltage and amperage is doing. And they actually publish the specs of their units so you know what you are getting.

      The Camco unit is definitely better than plugging directly into a pedestal. You know first hand what ‘bad’ power pedestal will do.

      Thanks for the question and Camp On!

      • Thanks for the follow up!…I assumed they were pretty equal, oops. While on the power subject i noticed that a park had a sign that said “No Autoformers”, picture showed a grey electrical box, is this a form of a surge protector, or something else?

        • I think what you have falls into the good enough category. It’s a heck of a lot better than nothing at all!

          An autoformer boosts the available voltage thru some black magic (aka Ohm’s Law). Here is a good explanation from the Hughes Autoformer website.

          We haven’t touched on these on Camp Addict mainly because we rarely are plugged in so never need one of these. The downside of being boondockers (OK, it’s not a downside… ).

          Great question, Paul!

          • Thanks Marshall, Seems this Autoformer may be a good device for us long term, we can monitor both legs of power in our rig via a devices the factory installed currently, but can’t boost it if it get’s damaging low. In the mean time i saw Hughes offers a new dog bone style protector, Power Watchdog 50 Amp Smart Bluetooth Surge Protector, kinda like the ones you can get at CW and others, but wait there’s more…This looks to be good for folks who pay for park electricity as it also has a Bluetooth KW Meter so you can check your Instant draw and Totalized KW usage on your phone/app and verify what the park may be billing you, or just to know you’re a power hog…lol. It’s also got replaceable module so in case your park spikes you, (like what happened to us) you can swap it out for another module instead of throwing it away. Also has a auto disconnect then voltage is out of range. I’d love to get your official opinion on these, but from my novice eyes it looks interesting enough to try, vs my Camco model.

          • Hey Paul,

            First off, their website is horrible to use trying to figure out information on this product! Ugh! I don’t understand companies in this day and age. Make it easy for the consumer!

            They aren’t really forthcoming with specs on these units, and did you try looking at the pics they post? They use this silly magnification glass thingy where you cannot view the entire enlarged picture at one time. Things like this usually cause me to immediately click the back button, but I persevered because you asked. 🙂

            Their user guide isn’t all that helpful. Doesn’t give any specs, but does give this little ‘nugget’ of information on the unit. It has a replaceable surge module, as you mentioned. But did you notice this bit: “E9 [error code] Surge protection is used up… The Power Watchdog is sensing the surge absorption capacity has been used up. This is your only warning, the RV will operate with a used up surge board.”

            Um, that’s scary if I’m reading that right. “The RV will operate with a used up surge board.” So the surge protector will continue to pass power to your RV even though it’s lost its capacity (until you replace the board) to protect from electrical power surges?????

            Yikes! This isn’t a good ‘feature’ in my book.

            Another thing I’m not crazy about is how you have to ‘read’ the units. There is no display on the units themselves telling you things like line voltage, etc. This is only done via the smartphone app, which connects to the surge protectors via Bluetooth. So you have to take out your phone and hope that it will connect to your surge protector. Because, you know, nothing ever goes haywire with a Bluetooth connection.

            Seems like an interesting take on RV surge protection, but there are a few ‘gotchas’ that would make me think twice.

            Thanks for pointing these units out, Paul!

          • Any that’s why I asked you…lol You see things that I would not have seen. Thanks again.

            I was so ready to order one on Amazon…Looks like they need to refine a few things, the concept seems good, they will need to work on the execution! I’ll check back on V2


          • Marshall, I have this issue with my Southwire 50amp EMS unit. Surge protection has gone but unit still passing voltage to the coach. No reason for the failure such as camp ground surge or storm. Just gave up !
            Submitted unit for inspection and the “mov” had failed?
            No water inside and no replacement under warranty !

          • Hi Paul,

            Did Southwire give you any indication as to why the unit failed?

            How do you know there was no electrical cause for the failure from a campground pedestal?

  • You need get your facts straight on Surge Guard products, first the 44280/90’s have much much surge protection, 2100 vs 825 for progressive, secondly the 34930/50 models can detect elevated ground (hot skin) and the 34950 model detects high neutral current (loss of return neutral on either leg) and third, they also offer a connected equipment warranty which covers damage to equipment inside the RV should a Surge Guard unit malfunction. By far, Surge Guard is the better product.

    • Hey JD,

      Thanks for the comment.

      We cover the difference in joule ratings (and the importance of this) in the section of the above guide that discusses what are joules.

      We cover the ability of the 34930/50 to detect an open ground in the review of these units.

      Regarding the Southwire Connected Equipment Warranty, this is definitely one ‘feature’ that Progressive doesn’t offer. However, you need to read the fine print. You have to first submit coverage from your insurance provider. If this is a no-go, then you may be requested to submit the damaged items to Southwire (you pay the shipping). After they examine the damage (including the right to examine the site where the damage occurred), at their sole discretion, Southwire will determine if you are entitled to compensation.

      So, yeah, the Connected Equipment Warranty sounds great on paper (aka, marketing), but it may be a bit difficult to actually collect on it.

      Keep in mind that we say in the above guide and reviews that you cannot really go wrong with either Southwire or Progressive. We just have a slight preference to Progressive, as we explain in the guide and reviews above.

      Thanks again for the comment, and Camp On!

    • Not only does Progressive have a far superior, industry leading response time of >1 nanosecond (specifically a half a nanosecond or 0.5/1,000,000,000 of a second), but the max spike rating is exponentially higher than any of their competitors as well. The Progressive surge protectors carry up to 88,000 max amps for 50a and 44,000 maxx amps for 30a. The Progressive capacitors are “stacked diodes” as opposed to “avalanche chain diodes “. This means that our maximum resistance to surge events is more resilient to non-catastrophic surges and can potentially withstand multiple surge events AND can react to those events faster and in a more effective manner. The industry standard for response time is 7 seconds and up to 8-10 seconds. That includes TRC.

      Further more, Progressive does not offer an “interior equipment protection” policy, because frankly, a far faster response time negates the need for protection beyond the surge protector. Basically, TRC is saying that they may need to replace your electrical components in your coach because their surge protector may not do its job. And even more disturbing than that, if you wish to take advantage of the aforementioned interior protection plan, you have to give TRC the opportunity to come and investigate where the damage occured and dictate that the coach can not be moved until they have had an opportunity to do so unle