RV Surge Protectors in 2021 - 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.
de 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.
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.
A better solution to this pending disaster is to protect yourself BEFORE it happens. This, among other reasons, is why we cannot stress enough how important it is to use a portable or hardwired EMS. Otherwise, eventually you're going to wish you had got one for your RV.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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?
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.
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 RV 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.
'Insurance' For Your Electronics
So, what can go wrong with low voltage?
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?
- Surge protector
- Electrical Management System
The RV electrical protection devices reviewed on this page come in two different flavors:
So, what's the difference? 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.
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 inverter generators (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:
The bottom line: Spend the extra money and purchase an Electrical Management System.
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).
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.
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:
Permanent RV Surge Protector Pros and Cons:
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
Why? Because they both produce surge protection and electrical management system devices to protect your motorhome, travel trailer, 5th wheel, van, or truck camper 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.
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 motorhome, travel trailer, 5th wheel, van, or toy hauler from shore power electrical issues.
The below chart directly compares products from the two manufacturers. However, you cannot go wrong with either manufacturer.
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.
(UPDATE 8/3/18- Progressive Industries has been sold to another company and that new company is basing manufacturing out of Mexico now, so Progressive is no longer made in the USA. They have also cut back tech support hours. We hope this doesn't greatly affect the product performance, quality and customer experience, but time will tell.)
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
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
Continue Reading Progressive Industries EMS-HW30C/50C Review
Best Portable Electrical Management System (EMS)
Progressive Industries EMS-PT30X/50X
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
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
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
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
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:
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!
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.
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.