Best 50amp RV Surge Protectors On The Market

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Manufacturer
Editor's Choice
Progressive Industries
Camco
Budget Pick
SurgeGuard
Progressive Industries
Progressive Industries
PROGRESSIVE INDUSTRIES SSP-50XL Surge Protector with Cover (50 Amp)
Camco 55313 Circuit Analyzer Dogbone 50 Amp
Surge Guard 44290 Portable Surge Protector - 120/240V, 50A
Progressive Industries HW50C Hardwired EMS Surge & Electrical Protection- 50 Amps
PROGRESSIVE INDUSTRIES SSP50X 50 Amps Surge Protector (240V/50A)
RVW's Score
9.7
9.5
9.2
9.7
9.3
Type
Portable
Portable
Portable
Hardwired EMS
Portable
220 Volt Shutdown
No
No
No
Yes
No
Surge (Joules)
1650
4,200
4200
3580
1650
Max Spike (Amps)
45,000
6,500
6,500
88,000
45,000
Warranty
Lifetime
1 year
1 Year
Lifetime
Lifetime
Designed for Outdoor Use
Yes
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
Display
Indicator Lights
Indicator Lights
Indicator Lights
Volts/Amps W/ Error Codes
Indicator Lights
MSRP
$115.39
$125.68
$109.85
$279.80
$108.73
Editor's Choice
Manufacturer
Progressive Industries
PROGRESSIVE INDUSTRIES SSP-50XL Surge Protector with Cover (50 Amp)
RVW's Score
9.7
Type
Portable
220 Volt Shutdown
No
Surge (Joules)
1650
Max Spike (Amps)
45,000
Warranty
Lifetime
Designed for Outdoor Use
Yes
Display
Indicator Lights
MSRP
$115.39
More Information
Manufacturer
Camco
Camco 55313 Circuit Analyzer Dogbone 50 Amp
RVW's Score
9.5
Type
Portable
220 Volt Shutdown
No
Surge (Joules)
4,200
Max Spike (Amps)
6,500
Warranty
1 year
Designed for Outdoor Use
Yes
Display
Indicator Lights
MSRP
$125.68
More Information
Budget Pick
Manufacturer
SurgeGuard
Surge Guard 44290 Portable Surge Protector - 120/240V, 50A
RVW's Score
9.2
Type
Portable
220 Volt Shutdown
No
Surge (Joules)
4200
Max Spike (Amps)
6,500
Warranty
1 Year
Designed for Outdoor Use
Yes
Display
Indicator Lights
MSRP
$109.85
More Information
Manufacturer
Progressive Industries
Progressive Industries HW50C Hardwired EMS Surge & Electrical Protection- 50 Amps
RVW's Score
9.7
Type
Hardwired EMS
220 Volt Shutdown
Yes
Surge (Joules)
3580
Max Spike (Amps)
88,000
Warranty
Lifetime
Designed for Outdoor Use
No
Display
Volts/Amps W/ Error Codes
MSRP
$279.80
More Information
Manufacturer
Progressive Industries
PROGRESSIVE INDUSTRIES SSP50X 50 Amps Surge Protector (240V/50A)
RVW's Score
9.3
Type
Portable
220 Volt Shutdown
No
Surge (Joules)
1650
Max Spike (Amps)
45,000
Warranty
Lifetime
Designed for Outdoor Use
Yes
Display
Indicator Lights
MSRP
$108.73
More Information

An RV surge protector is a relatively small thing and something that is usually not included when you buy an RV. It is, however, a rather crucial little gadget. Today’s RV’s are increasingly filled with all kinds of electrical devices and an RV surge protector is the best defense against accidental damage from power surges you can get.

But, if you are going to invest in an RV surge protector which one should you opt for. There are tons out there and if you are buying one for the first time the choice can be overwhelming. In this article we’re going to offer you a look at what are, in our opinion, the top five 50 amp RV surge protectors on the market right now and a little more information about RV surge protectors themselves and why they are so important.

So, without further ado let’s get started.

Best 50Amp Surge Protectors Reviews

#1

Progressive Industries SSP-50XL Portable Surge Protector w/ Weather Shield 

Best Overall

This offering from Progressive Industries – who are one of the leaders in the RV surge protector market – gets the top spot on our list because it offers so much and yet is also very affordable. The fact that it is offered by a manufacturer that is known to stand behind its products is another plus as well.

As the name would suggest, this portable RV surge protector is a little more advanced than some of the other choices available. Not only will it protect your electronics and electrical systems from power surges it can also detect when there is something wrong with the wiring in the shore power you happen to be connected to.

This is extremely useful as at many campgrounds older power systems are still used and they are not always that reliable or advanced. When the surge protector detects a problem of any kind, it will flash an LED light warning, immediately letting you know that something is wrong. This process is very fast – less than a nanosecond and faster than most models on the market. It offers a 5-mode surge protection of up to 1650 J/45,000A and can be locked up for security’s sake (yes, sometimes surge protectors go missing.)

The device itself is ‘plug and play’, so setting in place is easy and it is both weather resistant and thermally protected. The thermal protection ensures that the device does not overheat and the weather resistance means that you don’t have to panic if it starts raining.

Highlights

  • Excellent all around choice for most RVs
  • Easy to install, easy to use
  • Simple but effective LED warning system
  • Weatherproof and offers thermal protection
  • Has a protective cover to ward of any rain
  • Limited Lifetime Manufacturer Warranty (excludes All Weather Shield Assembly)
  • Made in the USA
#2

Camco 50 Amp Dogbone Circuit Analyzer

If you are looking for a 50 amp surge protector that is lightweight and easily portable but still offers great basic surge protection then the Camco 50 Male /50 Female Ampere Circuit Analyzer is a great choice.

Compared to some other models this is, physically, smaller but as it offers up to 4,200 joules of surge protection it is a powerful device condensed into a smaller package. The Camco name is not as well-known as Progressive Industries but it’s a reliable brand and the large number of positive reviews it gets from RV owners is a great indicator of quality.

This is a workhorse of a surge protector that is ideal for use in RVs that have a larger number of electrical appliances that need protection. Reviewers report not only does it handle surges from the power source very well but it offers protection when one too many appliances are on at the same time, something that can happen easily when families are travelling together!

One thing that does concern some is that it cannot be used with an RV surge protector lock, but as long as you trust your neighbors (and most RVers really are great people) that should not remove this option from your consideration.

Highlights

  • Easy, plug and play installation
  • Can detect problems in shore power wiring as well as offer surge protection
  • Very lightweight and easily portable
  • Manufacturer stands behind their products
  • Is rugged and weather resistant
#3

Surge Guard 44290 Portable Surge Protector 50A

Budget Pick

If you do not travel often, do not run many electrical appliances when you do or simply want to try out a surge protector without spending too much money then this is a model well worth considering, as it has the lowest price point on this list but still offers good protection from surges in voltage and will do a good job of protecting an electrical system that does not have too many devices drawing from it.

The unit does offer some additional diagnostic information as well. It can determine if polarities are reversed or if there is a short in the shore power wiring system. Although these faults are not commonly found if you are parked up at a campground that has a much older electrical system, and there are still lots of those around, then these diagnosis could be a trailer saver!

Highlights

  • Low price point
  • Lightweight and easy to install
  • Not complicated, easy for RV newbies to understand
  • Great construction makes it very durable
  • Manufacturer stands behind the product
#4

Progressive Industries EMS-HW50C Hardwired 50 Amp RV Surge Protector – W/Remote Display

As we will cover later, sometimes the term RV surge protector is used to describe a device that is actually a little different but offers surge protection as well, an RV electrical management system. This is a hardwired option, and as such is more expensive and harder to install, but if you are interested in purchasing one then this is the model we can highly recommend.

Again, this is a Progressive Industries offering and you will find that this is a brand that experienced RV enthusiasts will tend to recommend most often. An electrical management system provides full RV protection against all adverse power conditions. Aside from surge protection for your motor home  – which is the focus of our discussion here – it also monitors and protects a lot more besides.

This 50Amp hardwired RV surge protection device offers five levels of surge protection (3,580J / 88,000A – full surge protection L-N, L-G, L-L and N-G), can detect and alert you to miswirings, faulty connections, polarity issues and more. As it is hardwired into the RV itself once it is in you’ll never need to do anything with it again installation wise and its extremely weather resistant, able to withstand temperatures between -40F and 110F.

Another big plus is that the alerts and data provided on the warning screen are presented in a clear and easy to read manner, and even someone who is not very tech savvy’ can easily understand what is going on. This product comes with a remote digital display, cable and all hardware inside the RV Surge Protector unit.

One downside for some: cost. The device is priced considerably higher than others on this list and some people may need help installing it. However, if you travel in your RV a lot it is an investment that at some point is probably well worth making.

On the plus side, this hard wired 50amp surge protector will still protect you even if you are hooked up to a 30A post at a campground – a nice little security blanket for traveling RV’ers.

Highlights

  • Complete protection for your RVs electrical systems
  • As it is hardwired in it can't be stolen or tampered with
  • Easy to install
  • Extremely durable
  • Great weather resistance
  • Tough connection cable
  • Offered by a very well respected manufacturer in the USA
  • Limited Lifetime Manufacturer Warranty
#5

Progressive Industries SSP-50X Portable 50 Amp RV Smart Surge Protector

Rounding off our list of the top 5 50 amp RV surge protectors is this offering from – you guessed it – Progressive Industries. As the company was founded by an RV expert its products do tend to be the most travel friendly of all, probably because they were developed by those who had a first hand knowledge of the challenges that RV fans face on the road.

The Smart Surge is a great mid-range surge protector that is lightweight, portable and very durable. It offers up to 1650 joules of basic surge protection with a max spike of 45,000 Amps- which is more than adequate for many campers, RV’s or trailers- and has a simple LED warning light system that will trigger if problems arise. It is easy to use and perfect for outdoor use.

While this isn’t the most complex of the 50 amp surge protectors on our list if you are looking for one that does not come with a lot of more complicated bells and whistles yet still offers good surge protection this is a great choice. 

Highlights

  • Great mid-range offering
  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to use
  • Durable and weather resistant
  • Easily portable
  • Limited Lifetime Manufacturer Warranty
  • Made in the USA

50 Amp RV Surge Protector Buyer's Guide (With FAQs!)

The 50 amp RV surge protectors featured in our top five list are some of the best available right now and there is something suitable for most RVs – and most RVing styles – featured on it.

Do You Need A Surge Protector For Your RV or Motor Home?
Photo Credit: Truck Camper Magazine

How We Made Our Choices

You may be wondering how we choose five RV surge protectors for our list from among the many that are available. Good question. When making our choices we looked at a number of different things, everything from basic functionality to size and cost and drew upon our experience as long time RV enthusiasts.

We also took the opinions of others into account, tapping into the comments made on online marketplaces and retail websites as well as to the comments made in popular RV forums – on Facebook groups, RV notice boards and Reddit.

We do know however that when you begin shopping for the right surge protector for you and your vehicle you will encounter lots of other choices as well. Which one you eventually choose is up to you of course, but there are some basics you should keep in mind about RV surge protectors in general to help ensure you get the right one. These considerations – as well as some very important basic information and the answers to some frequently asked questions – are what we are going to cover next.

Why Do You Need an RV Surge Protector?

As you travel in your RV more extensively, and make stops at different campgrounds, you will meet a lot of fellow travelers. Which is a great thing, and one of the best things about RVing in general. Over the years we’ve met some amazing people who have not only helped us get more out of our hobby but have also passed on a lot of wisdom that has helped us out a lot.

What you will find however, is that opinion on certain common RV issues can often be quite divided. And this is true of opinions about RV surge protectors. You will find people who say they have camped for decades without one and nothing bad ever happened to their rig or its electrics. Our advice when dealing with those people? Smile, but still plan on getting an RV surge protector if you do not have one already.

Why? Because in very basic terms, if you ever connect to an outside power source while RVing you need a good RV surge protector. It really does only take one faulty wire, one electrical surge – or a series of ongoing smaller electrical spikes – and your wiring, your electrical devices and even your trailer itself could be seriously damaged. In the same way that faulty electrics can cause house fires they can cause RV fires as well.

So how does a surge protector work?

In the event of a power surge or a spike, an RV surge protector will basically block or short to ground the voltage, saving your RV electrical and appliance.

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons you really do need an RV surge protector – whatever anyone says – is that when you pull into a campground and get ready to hook up to shore power you can never be quite sure what you are going to be dealing with.

Some RV campgrounds have state of the art electrical systems that are maintained beautifully on a very regular basis. More however have systems that go months without a check (because they ‘seem’ to be ‘working fine’) and you’ll also find some that were never really installed correctly in the first place.

While the campground owner might not be too bothered about little faults – or too receptive to complaints about the ‘free’ electricity they are providing you with – you have to be concerned about anything that might affect your RV, its performance and even the safety of you and your traveling companions.

One more thing to keep in mind; who would pay for any damage caused by electrical surges, spikes or brownouts to your trailer or to your electrical stuff. The simple answer to that is you would. By using any campground’s shore power you are holding them not liable, if something goes wrong, that’s on you, even if their electrical systems were to blame. So if you can protect all your stuff – none of which is cheap – for an investment of between $100-$400, why wouldn’t you buy an RV surge protector?

RV Surge Protector vs. RV Electrical Management System

As we mentioned in our top five reviews, you will often hear the terms RV surge protector and RV electrical management system used interchangeably. While they do offer much of the same functionality there are some differences to be aware of before you shop. And who better to explain those differences than a rep from Progressive Industries, the name you have already heard so much about.

While this is a good basic description, we’ll go into this issue in more detail in just a little while.

Understanding the Dangers of Shore Power to Your RV

We have mentioned here – often – that power pedestals at RV campgrounds can be problematic. But what kind of problems should you – and your RV surge protector – be on the lookout for?

Here are some of the most common:

Power Surge

When too much power suddenly surges through the cable connecting your RV to the power pedestal it can cause serious damage to your wiring and any electronics that are connected to it. If you happen to be working on your very expensive laptop when a surge strikes, and you don’t have an RV surge protector in place? It’s quite possibly bye-bye laptop. Which is the last thing anyone wants.

Power Spikes

An increase in power that lasts for a second or more is considered a power surge. Shorter increases – we are talking nanoseconds – are called power spikes. Alone they are unlikely to do much damage, but if your RV’s electrical system is exposed to them often then over time they will wear the system out and shorten its useful life.

Brownouts

Brownouts are the opposite of surges and spikes. A brownout is one step before a blackout; the power level dips momentarily before returning to the proper level. You’ve probably experienced them in your home during a storm. The power does not quite go out but everything flickers and it becomes obvious that the supply is struggling.

The same thing can happen at a campground, and a drop in voltage can damage your electrics, wiring and electrical devices as well. Brownouts are in fact quite common in crowded campsites in the summer when everyone is running their A/C units at night. Brownouts can cause all the same kinds of damage that electrical surges and spikes can, so it really is important that you protect your RV against them as well.

Incorrect Wiring

Electrical systems are complicated things. There’s a reason professional electricians charge what some consider to be very high rates; it takes a long time and a lot of experience to really become a great electrician and it’s not something you can learn from a few videos on YouTube.

And that’s where these days especially problems can arise. There are hundreds of videos on the Internet that claim they can show you how to save time and money by working on various RV electrical installation, and even troubleshooting, projects yourself. And it’s tempting to follow them, as after all, who doesn’t like to save money where they can?

However, if you are not an electrician, the chances are good that you’ll get at least one or two small things wrong and end up with incorrect wiring. If that happens, your RV could be in a lot of trouble. An RV surge protector that can therefore detect such problems is therefore a big help (although we would suggest leaving any electrical work to the pros wherever possible anyway.)

It’s also possible that an incorrect wiring problem could exist in the power pedestal you plug into. Maybe the campsite manager has been watching YouTube videos to save money as well…you have no way of knowing.

Which RV Surge & Electrical Protection is Right for You?

The video we featured from Progressive Industries above does a great job of explaining the basic physical differences between an RV electrical management system and an RV surge protector. But it does not suggest which might be best for your specific RV.

We can’t do that definitively either, but we can offer some points that can help you make up your mind.

A surge protector is something that many of us already have in our homes. It’s often a part of the power strip we plug our expensive TVs, computers and games consoles into, as a surge of power can be ‘fatal’ for them’.

An RV surge protector is pretty much the same thing. It will protect your electronics if a surge occurs. That is, however, it’s function, it does not do too much else. That in itself can save your electrical systems and for many people making use of a simple RV surge protector serves them very well for years. They are most useful during storms when lightning is a factor and it is fair to say they do a good job.

An EMS is just what its name suggests – an electrical management system. It too will detect power surges, but it will do even more, if called upon to.

A good EMS – like our choice from Progressive Industries in our top five list – will also detect problems in your wiring, low voltage, and the much shorter electric spikes that can damage your wiring over time.

On the face of things then it seems like if you want the best possible protection from lots of possible power problems when plugging into a power pedestal at a camp ground you should choose an EMS RV surge protector over a standard RV surge protector. But that may not always be the case. If you do not use your RV that often, or you only head to a few trusted campsites, or you do not want to deal with the hassle of hardwiring – which in itself can cause problems if performed incorrectly – then an EMS may be right for you. Hopefully, by the time you have made it through this piece you will feel more confident about making the right choice.

Here’s a quick summary of Portable Surge Protectors vs. Hardwired EMS .

  • Basic $ -> Portable : limited protection, limited wiring indication, no install (plug-n-play). Best suited for Type B Motorhomes (30 & 50A), Travel Trailer with extendable ends (30 & 50A), Pop Up Trailers (30A) or Truck Camper (30A).
  • Advanced $$ -> Portable EMS:  comprehensive protection, full RV surge & electrical protection, no install (plug-n-play). Best suited for Type A, B & C Motorhomes (30 & 50A), Travel Trailers (30 & 50A), 5th Wheel TT (30 & 50A), Toy Hauler (30 & 50A),  Travel Trailer with extendable ends (30 & 50A), Pop Up Trailer (30A) and Truck Camper (30A).
  • Advanced $$ -> Hardwired EMS: comprehensive protection, full RV surge & electrical protection, ByPass feature, field serviceable, installation required. Best suited for Type A, B & C Motorhomes (30 & 50A),Travel Trailers (30 & 50A), 5th Wheel TT (30 & 50A), Toy Hauler (30 & 50A) and Truck Camper (30A).

Do You Need a 30 Amp or a 50 Amp RV Surge Protector?

Which Do You Need For Your RV 30 amp or 50 amp Surge Protection?

The first thing that you need to know for sure if you decide to start shopping for an RV surge protector is whether you need to purchase a 30 amp model or a 50 amp model. Unfortunately there is rarely a handy sticker somewhere when you purchase an RV that will tell you, you do have to do a little investigation yourself.

It is not hard though. All you need to do is take a look at your RV’s power cord. If it has three prongs you have a 30 amp rig and therefore need a 30 amp RV surge protector. If it has four prongs then you need a 50 amp surge protector because yours is a 50 amp rig. It’s hard to say whether one is more common than the other, as there are so many different RVs on the road, or even if one is better than the other, although most newer RVs are 50 amp rigs.

Understanding Joule Ratings

Do you know what a joule really is and why RV surge protector manufacturers often include a joule rating in their product descriptions? No, neither did we when we were very new to RVing because if it was ever explained in high school we forgot long ago. So allow us to share what we have since learned…

You probably DO know that a joule is a measurement of energy. A joule rating when referring to a surge protector is how many joules it can absorb and still function correctly itself.

You may have noticed that our Editors Pick – the Progressive Industries SSP-50XL Surge Protector with Cover – has a lower joule rating than our runner up. So did we get things wrong? Surely the higher the joule rating the better?

Not really. The speed at which a surge protector can detect a fault is more important, and the Progressive Industries unit outperforms others in that respect. Its joule rating is more than adequate – still one of the best on the market – but it’s the faster reaction time that really sets it apart.

Do You Need a Portable or Hardwired Surge Protector?

Yet another choice you will need to make – and possibly make before you do too much shopping – is whether you would prefer to make use of an RV surge protector that is hardwired to your vehicle or a portable model.

A hardwired surge protector or electrical management system becomes a permanent part of your rig’s electrical system. A portable surge protector is plugged into the power pedestal at a campsite and then run back to your RV.

As you might imagine there are pros and cons to be considered when making your choice. Here’s a look at some of them.

Portable RV Power Surge Protector

Pros

  • No installation is necessary and as most are ‘plug and play’ you get immediate surge protection. If you are not very technically inclined, or don’t camp often then this may be a real plus.
  • Should the surge protector fail it will be easy to replace.
  • If you are at a campground you can test that a particular power pedestal is working before you back up to it and park, saving yourself time and hassle.
  • RV surge protectors are usually the less expensive option.

Cons

  • If the power pedestals offered at the campground are low you may need to leave the device on the ground, something that is not an ideal situation.
  • It’s easy to forget it when you leave and the chances it will still be there when you do remember and go back for it are slim.
  • Unless you install a separate lock, a portable RV surge protector is easy to steal (and as we mentioned before, that does happen.) It can also be accidentally damaged (not everyone is great at handling their RV in tight spaces)
  • You’ll have to go outside to check it, which may not be too much fun if it is raining outside (or if it’s the middle of the night)

Hardwired RV Surge Protector

Pros

  • Once it is installed, you don’t need to bother with it again, making getting set up at your chosen campground quicker and easier.
  • Many hardwired RV surge protectors come with a mountable display that you can put someplace where it is easy to see, meaning no trips outside in the rain or the dark just to check it.
  • Weather isn’t an issue because the unit is installed inside.
  • Most hardwired RV surge protectors are smaller and weigh less than their portable counterparts.
  • Won’t get left behind or stolen (unless your RV is stolen)

Cons

  • Are usually more expensive than portable surge protectors.
  • Do have to be expertly installed, which often means you will need to hire an electrician to do so.
  • Are difficult to remove, so if it burns out, fails or if you want to remove it before selling your RV that may be difficult and/or expensive to do.

Other Buying Considerations

So now you know why you need an RV surge protector, the difference between a surge protector and an electrical management system, the pros and cons of portable and hardwired models and a little more in general about the risks your RV’s electrical system faces every time you pull up to a power pedestal.

By now you may have a type in mind, so now it will come down to making a choice between several different models, which, if you are just looking at them, either in person or online don’t look too different from one another. The following are some things that you should compare to help you make that correct final buying choice.

Joules Rating

The joules rating attached to an RV surge protector is important. The last thing you want is to spend time researching and comparison shopping only to end up with an RV surge protector that fails the first time lightning hits a power pedestal you happen to be hooked up to.

In terms of what a ‘good’ joules rating is, anything between 2,500 and 4,200 is usually more than adequate. And while yes, the higher the joules rating the more the device could withstand don’t forget that reaction time matters too, and if the difference is in the high end – 3,800 versus 4,200 in the case of our two top picks – speed should take precedence.

UL Certification

In the age of e-commerce, products are being sold that are made by manufacturers from all over the world. While an RV surge protector made somewhere other than the US is not a problem in itself – in fact it’s getting harder and harder to find one that does not have parts from several different countries – wherever it was made you do need to ensure that the RV surge protector you choose if UL certified.

UL certification means that one of the oldest electrical device regulators – Underwriters Laboratories – have examined the device and certified that it is safe for use in North America. An item may be UL listed but not certified. That means that it still meets their basic standards but the manufacturer does not meet the follow up standards the UL requires.

We recommend choosing UL certified RV surge protectors because you certainly do want a device sold by a company that stands behind its products.

Amp Ratings

This is the 30 or 50 question we discussed earlier. And if you are shopping online for your RV surge protector, which many do, unless you read the listing very carefully you can run into trouble. Many of the RV surge protectors available today are sold in both 30 amp and 50 amp models, and it’s all too easy to click to buy the wrong one, especially if they are all listed on the same page.

As getting the amp rating right is crucial to do a double check before you checkout that the amperage of the model you have chosen is the one you were looking for, otherwise you could be in for all kinds of hassles and delays you don’t need while you wait for a refund or product exchange.

Size

Size does matter when it comes to RV surge protectors, but it is more about ease of use than actual function. If you are opting for a portable RV charger it needs to be one that is not too heavy to move around and not too difficult to operate. Weight may matter more for a hardwired model, as you do not want to add too much weight to your RV on a permanent basis.

Installation

Are you up to a hardwired installation? While most hardwired RV surge protectors do come with full instructions it is a trickier procedure than you might think, even if you understand the basics. Here’s another video from Progressive Industries, this time outlining how one of its hardwired RV surge protectors are installed.

Looks a bit hard? If so you may either want to opt for a portable RV charger or allow for the extra expense of having a professional install a hardwired model for you.

Display

The way that information is displayed varies from surge protector to surge protector. Some have a simple LED warning light system, some have a full digital display. The one thing you do want to take into consideration is how easy it will be to read in bad weather, as that is when surges usually strike. For that reason an in vehicle mounted display is often the more convenient choice but if you are opting for a portable surge protector that has a display that will be outside the trailer at least make sure that the LEDs are large and bright enough to see in dark or rainy conditions.

Can it Be Locked?

Some RV fans, if they are choosing a portable RV surge protector prefer to choose one that can be used with an RV surge protector lock. These (as we mentioned earlier) are sold separately and are box like structures that can offer both theft protection and in some cases additional protection from the weather.

Whether you choose to make use of a lock or not is a personal decision. It can slow down the time it takes to get set up and later leave a campsite and theft is very rare. If you do choose to add a lock box into the mix make sure you check the measurements of the device you are protecting before you order one to ensure a good fit.

Cost

No one really wants to spend more money than they need to on anything, and the same is true for many when purchasing a 50 Amp RV surge protector. However, cost should not be the biggest of your concerns. The average RV contains a lot of rather expensive things that could be damaged by a power surge and most cost a lot more to replace than even the most expensive choices on our Top Five list.

RV Surge Protection Frequently Asked Questions

Surge Protection for Recreational Vehicles FAQS

I know a lot of RV owners who have never used a surge protector because they say they are a waste of money. Are they right?

In our opinion, no they are not. It is of course quite possible to travel for years in clear, sunny weather, to always hit the campsites with the well maintained power systems and to know that your rig is expertly wired and that wiring is beautifully maintained.

But those are ideal conditions that are quite rare in real life. Most RV owners at some point will experience life on the road in a storm and things – including wiring – do get older and begin to wear out. An RV surge protector offers protection for your electrical system, the electronic devices that feed off it and for your RV itself. So while you may never need to use it it offers protection that we would no more travel without than we would travel without basic vehicle insurance.

I only ever dry camp. Do I need an RV surge protector?

Dry camping – camping and never hooking up to an outside source of electricity – is something that many people enjoy. And no, if you never intend to hook up to an outside source of electricity you don’t need to worry about surges, any power you use will come from your batteries and that’s it.

While dry camping can be a great experience – and definitely a cheaper way to hit the road – even dry campers need to hook up to shore power occasionally, and so keeping an inexpensive portable surge protector with you in case of that eventuality would not be a bad idea at all.

Can I just disconnect from shore power when a storm is on the way?

You can unhook from shore power, and doing so will protect your RV and its electrical systems as much as it is possible to do so. However, even Al Roker can’t predict the weather with complete accuracy, and messing with anything electrical in a storm is dangerous, so it is usually much easier, safer and more reliable to simply keep your RV safe from electrical surge damage with a surge protector.

Can an RV surge protector go bad?

Like any other piece of electrical equipment, an RV surge protector is not totally fail proof and it may indeed ‘go bad’ under certain circumstances. If you are making use of a surge protector with a very low joules rating and a larger surge hits it, it will not be able to dissipate the charge as it should and it may overheat and/or allow your RV electrics to be damaged.

In addition, over time, if your surge protector is called into service often, it may lose effectiveness over time, as each time it has to ground a charge it is damaged a tiny little bit.

This is usually more of a problem in residential homes in stormy areas than in RVs however as most people don’t make a regular habit of camping through enough electrical storms to do enough harm to wear the surge protector down in this way. However, many people feel that if an RV surge protector takes several big hits and is an older model, it should probably be replaced.

Can you test an RV surge protector?

Unless you are a qualified electrician with access to a testing lab, no not really. But if something has gone wrong almost all RV surge protectors have some kind of warning system – LED lights or a digital display – that will alert you to that fact.

You should note that the useful lifespan of any RV surge protector – or any surge protector in general – is not measured in years. Instead it is measured in joules and every basic surge protector has a maximum number of them that it can provide surge protection for. If that limit is reached – which is not very common – the device will alert you to that fact and at that point replaced.

How do you reset an RV surge protector?

There was a big storm, and your surge protector was called into action. You know it will need to be reset, but how? This is something you should make sure you understand how to do before you ever use it, as the reset process is different from model to model.

Almost all RV surge protectors can be reset. Most have a button to do so, but you should know where that’s located. Your owner’s manual will tell you, so make sure that you read it when you first buy the device and that you then keep it in a drawer in your RV someplace so you can refer back to it if necessary.

Can a hardwired RV surge protector be replaced?

It can, but depending upon how complex the installation was in the first place, you will probably need some professional help to do so. This is one of the things that puts some people off making use of a hardwired surge protector, as they do not want to have to deal with the hassle and expense of removing it if something does go bad.

A full electrical management system, like the one featured in out Top Five review, is a little different. Because it is considerably more sophisticated than a basic surge protector it will usually last longer – much longer – and be able to handle more ‘hits’. This is not to say that they don’t malfunction or that they won’t eventually wear out, but it will take much longer?

How can I secure my portable RV charger?

Security is something that you may want to consider if you choose to make use of a portable RV surge protector. On the whole the North American RV crowd are a very friendly, helpful and especially honest bunch. Part of the fun of the hobby is becoming part of this community. But things do get stolen, especially if you choose to camp on a large, crowded campground.

The good news is that you can purchase locks that will secure most portable surge protectors. They are essentially lock boxes that you place your surge protector inside. They are usually sold separately and cost between $15 and $30.

As well as providing extra security these locks can also help protect your surge protector from accidental damage and the effects of very bad weather. Most good portable RV surge protectors are weather resistant but none of them are completely weatherproof and being placed inside the lock box mazy add an extra layer of protection.

The bad news is that all of this adds an extra step to your campsite set up and breakdown, and you will have to make sure that the lock you choose is big enough to accommodate your particular model.

The product information on some RV surge protectors state that it detects changes in voltage. Does that mean it protects against long term damage from that?

No. Small changes in voltage – spikes – and brownouts – periods of low voltage – are something many surge protectors can detect, but they will only issue a warning that a problem exists, they do not have a mechanism to protect against them. If you want to protect against these things, then an electrical management system is your only option.

So why do they warn you if they offer no protection?

So that you can decide whether or not to take action. If the voltage is low you may want to temporarily disconnect some of your electrical equipment. If the surge protector detects incorrect wiring you may want to switch to a different power pedestal or plan to have the wiring in your own RV checked out. These warnings can be very helpful if you pay attention to them and understand what you can do yourself to protect your RV.

I have 30 amp power in my RV but someone gave me a free 50 amp RV surge protector and I have an adapter. Can I use it?

Technically, yes you can. But there are some complications that mean that you really should not. The problem is that if any 30 amp rated electrical system or appliance plugged into it receives an excessive amount of voltage a 50 amp surge protector may not kick in to protect them as it has not been designed to do so at lower levels than it is intended for use for.

RV surge protectors are inexpensive enough that you really should not risk the electrical systems and electrical devices in your RV by using a model that was not designed for it. Some of the RV surge protectors on out Top Five list – a list of what we consider to be some of the best available today – cost less than $50, which is a pretty small price to pay for the right protection.

Is there such a thing as a portable electrical management system?

At this time, no. A full RV electrical management system will always need to be hardwired into your RV as its increased functionality calls for that.

What if I wanted to sell my RV, could a hardwired surge protector or hardwired RV EMS be removed before I do so?

In most cases, yes it could, although you may want to have a professional do it for you. If you are selling an RV it’s advisable that you have it checked out by an electrician anyway, to avoid misrepresenting its condition at sale.

It’s also worth considering that leaving the hardwired device in place may be something you can use as a selling point!

We hope that, after reading this article, you now have a better idea of how an RV surge protector works, why you need one and what to consider when choosing the right model for you. All that remains for us to do now is wish you happy trails when you head off on your next RV trip with your rig’s electrical systems not better protected thanks to your new RV surge protector! 

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