RV Surge Protectors for 2017 - Protect Your Rig From Electrical Supply Issues
Looking for the best RV surge protector or an electrical management system (EMS)? We can help! We evaluated the top manufacturers of RV power protection devices and came up with the best RV surge protector reviews, in order, below. You can learn more about 'surge protectors' below the reviews.
NOTE: When we use the term 'surge protector', we're using 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.
While a basic surge protector is better than nothing, we highly recommend purchasing an electrical management system (EMS) which offers superior protection from electronics destruction for your rig.
Progressive Industries and Technology Research Comparison Chart
When it comes to surge protection for RVs, there are only two manufacturers that one needs to consider - Progressive Industries and Technology Research. They both manufacture surge suppression and Electrical Management System (EMS) devices to protect your motorhome, travel trailer, 5th wheel or toy hauler from shore power electrical issues.
We feel that Progressive Industries is the best RV surge protector manufacturer. You can read why below.
When looking at the below chart directly comparing products from the two manufacturers, it's easy to see why we chose Progressive Industries as #1 over Technology Research (TRC).
(Scroll comparison chart to compare Progressive's products directly to TRC's.)
Best of the Best 'Surge Protectors' For RVs
Our number one brand choice for your RV power protection is Progressive Industries. The very close runner-up is Technology Research. Below are the best RV surge protectors in descending order.
Progressive Industries Comparison Chart
Below is an at-a-glance comparison of the above three products from Progressive Industries. Yes, they do cost slightly more than the competition (but not prohibitively so), but their excellent customer support, lifetime warranty, and fastest disconnect from power in dangerous electrical situations make them the best choice for your power protection needs.
Surge Protector Vs. Electrical Management System
Best 'on a Budget' and Runner-Up 'Surge Protectors'
Technology Research's Surge Guard line of RV power protection is our runner-up company. They will provide your RV the protection you need and at a slightly lower price than what Progressive Industries offers with a MUCH less attractive warranty. If money is the bottom line determining factor, then we would rather see you purchase a Technology Research unit than nothing at all. Your RV needs power protection!
Technology Research Comparison Chart
Here is a side-by-side comparison of the three products above by Technology Research.
Technology Research Surge Protectors Explained
Guide to RV Surge Protection
RV surge protection can be a tricky subject. 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 talked about this?
Protecting your RV from shore power electrical issues doesn't have to be all that complicated. Read on to learn what you really need to know about RV surge protection.
Do You Really Need To Protect Your RV?
You will read about people who claim they have camped for 30+ years without any type of 'surge protector' and never had a problem. Then you have those unfortunate few who plugged in without any protection and fried their entire rig. It only takes one time in a lifetime to lose all of the wiring and your electronics.
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? Just because Bubba Joe offered the campground owner to do some electrical work doesn't mean it was done right. Bubba's just a guy who is looking for a free night stay offered to 'fix' a power pedestal issue. That doesn't mean he truly knows what he is doing. Thank god he watched some YouTube videos and now thinks he's a qualified electrician. Hello- this doesn't make him a good candidate to work on campground wiring. Still, these types of trades happen all the time.
The next campers to come along to that site (possibly you) unfortunately are the victim of Bubba's lack of knowledge. Guess what? The campground owner won't be responsible if every electronic in your rig fries. Good luck trying to sue the campground for damages.
A better solution to this pending disaster is to protect yourself BEFORE it happens.
This is why we cannot stress enough how important it is to 'insure' yourself against the damages that can happen when you are connected to shore power by using a portable or hardwired EMS.
Potential Shore Power Problems
There are multiple ways that 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. Let us explain.
- Power Surges
When too much power comes through the wires to your RV, it can cause damage to some or all of your electronics and wiring. The most commonly known type of power surge comes from lightning. 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, a surge protector or EMS should protect your RV. However, your power protection device might end up fried, causing you to need to purchase a new one.
- Incorrect Wiring
Yes, this 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 pay for it.
We have heard stories from the wrong voltage being added, to electricians thinking that your RV 30 amp plug is the same wattage as a dryer plug. It's NOT. The dryer uses 240 volts, but 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 RV's on an electrician's part can set you back by thousands of dollars in replacing everything electrical in your RV. Kelly almost had a devastating situation when she hired an electrician to work on her house and RV:
Camp Addict Co-Founder
I spent a month parked in my driveway in my RV after I bought it. I had an electrician come out to do some work on the house and also to give me a dedicated plug from my outside breaker box to plug in my 30 amp travel trailer.
He looked at the RV prongs and basically said, "Yeah, that's a dryer plug". (240 volt!) He was going to wire it for that. I was pretty sure it wasn't right, but he's the professional, right?
He was going to run it on 240 volts the next day (30-amp RVs are 120-volt). That evening, I looked it up. Sure enough, had he done that, I would have LOST EVERYTHING in my RV!! Oh my god, thank god I double checked! I had to teach HIM about how RV's are different in that regard. Ugh!
Today, I know he still did something wrong, because I remember feeling a 'tingling' sensation at times when I touched things like the frame of my RV. Somehow, I don't think I was properly grounded. I think I am very lucky I was not electrocuted. 😳
Kelly's 'Pro' tip- Make sure your electrician has experience with RVs. (Also, never put your awning arms out like this. I did it because I was in Florida, no wind at all, and I was new, didn't care that they were not supposed to be out. 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 summer. You're in a full campground with tons of energy sucking RV's using big air conditioners. This can cause the power supply to become very thin. (Especially in older parks where the wiring has not been updated since the 70's or 80's.) This is called a brownout.
If your RV doensn'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. It's vital to your rig's health to get RV surge protection that shuts off power to your rig in such an event.
You can check the voltage and the wiring before you plug-in, sure. However, voltage is a constantly changing entity. It can drop or surge at any time, which is what makes it so dangerous. Unless you have something monitoring it at all times such as an electrical management system, you are still vulnerable to attack.
What can go wrong with low voltage? Well, you can lose your converter, your inverter, refrigerator, furnace, television, computer(s) propane detector, batteries, water pump, 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 really want the hassle of dealing with your insurance company and a dealer to get it all replaced? Do you really want to have to stay in 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. 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 (EMS)?
The RV electrical protection devices reviewed on this page come in two different flavors - surge protector and Electrical Management System (EMS). (Huh?) We understand. Let's lift the veil of confusion.
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 which 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, most commonly caused by a lightning strike. That's it! It does nothing more. An EMS will protect you from all of the other types of damaging power problems.
So why would someone want to purchase it as 'surge protection' for RV? It's because they are cheaper. But this isn't a time to be going the cheap route. 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 will find at an RV park power pedestal. They are better than nothing at best.
The basic RV surge protectors that we review will also indicate if there is an open ground, open neutral or reverse polarity situation, but 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 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).
The best RV surge protector you can get is an EMS. An Electrical Management System (EMS) is a totally different beast, and quite frankly, it's what you should be using. In addition to normal 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 portable generator)
- Amperage usage readings
- Current and previous error codes
The bottom line: Spend the extra money and purchase an Electrical Management System.
Camp Addict Co-Founder
When I was buying necessities for my RV, I looked at the RV surge protector aisle with crossed eyes. I bought this model at Camping World without doing any research.
Therefore, I picked this rather cheap model as it looked good enough to me: the TRC Surge Guard 44260.
Now, after actually doing research, I understand that it wouldn't do me much good in certain situations. It pretty much just covers me for a surge, but no more than 2100 joules. How does one control the amount of joules that will hit your RV? LOL!
Good thing I have been boondocking about 99.9% of the time in the last two years! 😬
- 30-Amp RV Surge Protector Or 50-Amp RV Surge Protector?
How do you know which your rig is? Easy... look at the plug of your rig's power cord. It either has 4 prongs or 3 prongs.
Three prongs means you have a 30-amp rig. Four prongs means you have a 50-amp rig. Please buy the corresponding surge protector. Also, make sure there is not an adapter attached to the end of your power cord giving you a false 'reading'!
- 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 Technology Research 'surge protectors' have a higher joule rating than the Progressive Industries 'surge protectors'. But what does this mean and is it important?
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 me see if we can simplify matters.
A Joule in the context of RV 'surge protectors' 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. But does this really matter?
One of the MOST important factors when looking at a surge protection device 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 Technology Research, it really 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 in one of the many reasons we picked Progressive Industries as having the best RV 'surge protector'.
Portable or Permanent?
- 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'.
- 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:
- 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.
Portable RV Surge Protector Cons:
- 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. (Separate purchase)
- Nasty to have to to check if you have bad weather outside.
Hard-Wired (Permanent Installation)
Hard-Wired RV 'Surge Protector' Pros:
- 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.)
Hard-Wired RV 'Surge Protector' Cons:
- 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. (Extra cost)
The Best RV 'Surge Protector' Manufacturer
There are really only two real players in the 'surge protector' for RVs market - Progressive Industries and Technology Research. They both produce surge protection and Electrical Management System devices to protect your motorhome, travel trailer, 5th wheel or camper from electrical issues when you are plugged into shore power. But there are a few key differences. Learn why Progressive Industries has the best RV 'surge protectors'.
Monday - Friday
Progressive Industries is a privately held company based in North Carolina. They were started in 1998 by a full-time RVer who saw a need to provide superior electrical protection to RVs that were now coming with more sophisticated electronics. To this day, Progressive is still privately held by the founder.
Producing a full line of RV 'surge protection' products, Progressive Industries stands out in a few very important ways:
- All products are designed and manufactured in the United States
- Lifetime warranty on all products
- 7 days a week, 365 days a year technical support
- Progressive ONLY produces RV 'surge protector' products and nothing else
While Progressive Industries line of RV 'surge protection' products are a bit more expensive than the competition (but not prohibitively so), we think that the superior warranty and customer support justify this increased cost. The fact that they are made in the US is just icing on the cake!
Technology Research 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, like Progressive Industries is.
Technology Research is part of a larger corporation and doesn't offer the level of product support that Progressive does. Here are some comparison points:
- Products are produced overseas
- They only offer a 1-year warranty
- Technical support is only available Monday thru Friday
Here are your takeaways from this page:
1. Get an electrical management systems (EMS), not a surge protector
2. Get Progressive Industries over Technology Research if you can.
3. SOME kind of protection is better than nothing.
Now get out there and use your stuff.
Camp on, Addicts!