The 7 Best RV Surge Protectors – [2020 Reviews]

Enjoying the summer in your RV is one of the most relaxing pastimes we can think of.

When you’ve got money tied up in your nice rig, however, that nice time can turn sour if your electrical system takes a hit.

Whether it’s human error, lightning, or a surge from the power plant you don’t want that blowing up your RV. Considering the investment we make in our RV rigs, a good surge protector is a no-brainer for peace of mind.

Today we’ll go over what they are, how they work, and which ones you should take a look at today. If it’s your first time buying an RV surge protector, don’t worry – we’ll walk you through it all step by step.

Best RV Surge Protectors

 Hughes AutoformersCamco Adapter PowerDefenderPortable RV Surge Protector
editors choice
Style:EMS HardwiredCircuit Checker/Surge protectorEMS/Surge Protector
Amp:30 or 50 Available3030
Features:Bluetooth ConnectivityLED IndicatorsLED Readout
Max Surge:4,800 Joules1,050 Joules1,790 Joules

For more of my top RV recommendations, have a look through these popular Outside Pursuits guide links: RV Solar Panels & Kits, RV Deep Cycle Batteries, RV Generators.

Quick Answer: The 7 Best Rated RV Surge Protectors For 2020

  1. Hughes Autoformers PWD50-EPO-H
  2. Camco Adapter PowerDefender
  3. Portable RV Surge Protector Portable EMS-PT30X
  4. Southwire Surge Guard 44280
  5. Southwire Black 34950 Surge Guard 50A
  6. Progressive Industries HW30C
  7. Southwire Surge Guard 35530 Hardwire

Our reviews to the top rated RV Surge Protectors with our comparison table and buyers guide will help you choose the right one for you.


RV Surge Protector Reviews

Without a doubt the most technologically advanced unit on our list is the PWD50. It’s rugged and features smartphone connectivity which is a rarity!

Right out of the gate you’ll notice that this unit has the single highest max surge rating of any we’ve looked at.

On top of that, it also comes in hardwired or piggyback styles in both 30 or 50 amp so there’s something to fit your RV and your style. What I love the most about this unit is the bluetooth connection.

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If a problem is encountered the unit automatically shuts off, enters a self-check cycle with 90 second delay, and sends a smartphone notification.

With as much or more protection that any other device on our list and advanced modern features, I think the Hughes Autoformers lineup deserves a serious look.

It is one of the best 50 amp rv surge protectors that has modern wireless smartphone notifications that will work with most any RV amperage.

 

Hughes Autoformers PWD50-EPO-H at a Glance:

  • Style: EMS Hardwired
  • Amp: 30 or 50 Available
  • Features: Bluetooth Connectivity
  • Max Surge: 4,800 Joules

We’ll keep things simple (and affordable) to start with. This piggyback style surge protector is a basic model that gets the job done without breaking the bank.

At a price that’s a fraction of many EMS-style protectors this unit is a great starting point. It’s simple to use, like all piggyback style plugs.

Plug the surge protector into the pedestal and then plug the RV into that.

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One plugged in the surge protector uses a set of 3 LED lights that flash or remain solid in various configurations to represent statuses.

These statuses may indicate reverse polarity, open neutral, or other common wiring issues.

If you are looking the best camping surge protector and on a budget, the Camco is a good choice!

Camco Adapter PowerDefender at a Glance:

  • Style: Circuit Checker/Surge Protector
  • Amp: 30
  • Features: LED indicators
  • Max Surge: 1,050 Joules

Taking a big step up we’ll move into the world of EMS/surge protector combos. If you want the maximum protection at a reasonable price you’ll be looking in the right place here.

First off, note that this unit is also available in 50A rating so if you’ve got a bigger RV power draw check that out.

Now, for the details. This beast pulls down some serious ratings such as the 44,00 amp rating and the nearly 1,800 Joule surge rating.

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Although it is “weather resistant/designed for outdoor use” there is no IPX rating listed.

Progressive Industries does include a Lifetime Warranty on this product though I can’t say how good their customer service is.

You can lock it up with a padlock over the main cable, but there’s no built-in lock. Maybe the best RV surge protector with EMS at a reasonable price!

 

Portable RV Surge Protector Portable EMS-PT30X at a Glance:

  • Style: EMS/Surge protector
  • Amp: 30
  • Features: LED Readout
  • Max Surge: 1,790 Joules

If you like the corded style surge protector but want to stay on a tight budget, check this out.

It’s a simple LED-style circuit checker with a built-in surge protector at a price that will blow away dedicated EMS systems.

If your budget can’t support a dedicated EMS unit with digital circuitry, the simpler LED status lights of this piggyback plug make a good choice.

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With a max rating of 2,100 Joules it’s got more protection than many high end EMS units. That said, I don’t like the weatherproof plug cover as well as the one on the PT-30X.

For the price, however, this device can do a lot: check open ground, open neutral, polarity, etc.

Best for a middleground with tons of surge protection.

 

Southwire Surge Guard 44280 at a Glance:

  • Style: Circuit Checker/surge protector
  • Amp: 30
  • Features: LED lights
  • Max Surge: 2,100 Joules

Get ready to pull out all the stops (and open up your wallet) for full-featured protection. This digital 50-amp beast protects against virtually every electrical anomaly and is simple to use.

Right out of the gate the surge protection feature on the 34950 beats any others on our list. It’s double that of the 44280.

On top of that, the LCD display actually shows a readable status. No need to interpret blinking lights – it just says what’s happening.

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During the 10-second startup sequence this unit checks and analyzes everything about the circuit it’s plugged into.

Then, as it runs, it constantly rechecks and is ready to auto-shut off if a problem arises.

When it detects a problem this unit shuts down and goes into a 128 second reset cycle to protect the A/C compressor motor in your RV which can be damaged by frequent cycling.

Note: Security ring on the cord allows you to lock the unit. Best for total protection on big rigs with tons of power draw.

 

Southwire Black 34950 Surge Guard 50A at a Glance:

  • Style: EMS
  • Amp: 50
  • Features: LCD Display
  • Max Surge: 4,200 Joules

If you want better security and less things to have to plug into the pedestal, hardwired is the route to go!

Available in 30 or 50-amp models (HW50C) this hardwired RV surge protector does the job. With a price comparable to mid-range piggyback EMS units, this hardwired model packs most of the same features.

Protection from open ground/neutral, reverse polarity, voltage, and frequency detection. Upfront there is more work since you’ll have to wire it into your RV’s existing main power line.

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Bolt the unit securely to the inside of your panel in the RV and you’re good to go – no piggyback plugs needed.

If you’re not familiar with wiring be careful, however, as an error can be costly or dangerous. Once installed you’ll run the included remote display wire up to a visible location where you can see the digital status light readout.

It comes with 14’ of cable to run the wire so you can choose a location that’s easy to see.

Best for wiring in to your main power once so you can then have security and ease of use later. If you are looking the best 30 amp rv surge protector, it would be hard to find a better one!

 

Progressive Industries HW30C at a Glance:

  • Style: EMS Hardwired
  • Amp: 30 or 50 Available
  • Features: LCD Display
  • Max Surge: 1,790 Joules

If you’re looking for a second option on hardwired RV surge protection, check out this Southwire model. It’s a bit beefier on total protection but runs a bit more expensive than some comparable hardwired units.

With a max rating of nearly 2,500 Joules it’s a step up in total power protection compared to the Progressive Industries model we looked at earlier.

That said, however, it does use the simpler LED light readout to indicate statuses instead of the remote LCD display.

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If that’s not a problem for you, then you’ll probably love this unit.

Like other Southwire units it shuts down when detecting a problem and enters a 128-second cycle to automatically turn the power back on if it’s safe.

Like most units it protects from open ground, open neutral, low or high voltage, miswiring, or reverse polarity.

Note that it is available in 30 or 50-amp and there is a LCD display you can buy sold separate. Best for a hardwired unit with a great reputation.

 

Southwire Surge Guard 35530 Hardwire at a Glance:

  • Style: Surge protector hardwired
  • Amp: 30 or 50 Available
  • Features: LED lights
  • Max Surge: 2,450 Joules

RV Surge Protector Comparison Table

RV Surge Protectors StyleAmpFeaturesMax SurgeRating
Hughes Autoformers PWD50-EPO-HEMS hardwired30 or 50 availableBluetooth connectivity4,800 Joules4.9 / 5.0
Camco Adapter PowerDefenderCircuit checker/surge protector30LED indicators1,050 Joules4.6 / 5.0
Portable RV Surge ProtectorEMS/surge protector30LED readout1,790 Joules4.4 / 5.0
Southwire Surge Guard 44280Circuit Checker/surge protector30LED lights2,100 Joules4.5 / 5.0
Southwire Black 34950 Surge GuardEMS50LCD Display4,200 Joules4.7 / 5.0
Progressive Industries HW30CEMS hardwired30 or 50 availableLCD Display1,790 Joules4.6 / 5.0
Southwire Surge Guard 35530Surge protector hardwired30 or 50 availableLED lights2,450 Joules3.8 / 5.0

How to Choose the Best RV Surge Protector for You – Buyers Guide

best camping surge protector

RV Amperage Power Rating

In the world of portable living buses, there are essentially two amperage options. Almost all RVs operate on the standard North American 120-volt power.

Additionally, the vast majority of RVs here in the US operate on 30 amps of current. Amperage is a measure of the total amount of power all the devices in your RV can draw.

If you turn on too many power-hungry devices, they may exceed 30 amps in total. If that happens a surge protector or circuit breaker steps in to kill the power.

If you need more power, you’ll need an RV that can keep up. RV wiring is only as good as the weakest link.

Therefore it does you no good and, in fact, is very dangerous to plug a 30-amp rated RV into a higher amperage circuit.

The next step up is a 50-amp RV. These are less common and use a different plug altogether so you don’t get confused.

Note that when shopping for an RV surge protector you’ll need to know the amperage of your RV before buying as the two plugs will not fit the same receptacles.

Types of RV Surge Protectors

Surge Protector

Surge protectors, at their core, are relatively old technologies.

Usually, a basic surge protector uses some type of mechanical-electrical device to disconnect power if a surge is experienced.

They’re simple and relatively inflexible devices.

EMS (Electrical Management System)

An electrical management system, or EMS, is a more advanced digital device. These devices also protect from surges, but they go a step further.

Most EMS devices will also check the incoming power for proper wiring, detect low or high voltage/amperage, as well as automatically killing power and re-checking the circuitry until the power is restored properly.

Of course, with the advanced technology of EMS style protectors comes an elevated price. You’ll pay top dollar for top-tier protection.

Weatherproofness

Electrical devices in the outdoors tend to have a short lifespan. That’s because water and electronics just don’t mix – it’s like cats and dogs.

When you’re dropping top dollar on a nice surge protector for your RV, the last thing you want is a stormy day ruining your surge protector.

Probably the best way to ensure your surge protector is protected itself is to look for something called an IP rating.

IP stands for ingress protection, or protection against stuff getting inside. They look like this: IPXX where each “X” is a number.

The first number in the series is the intrusion protection rating. This is, more or less, a “dustproof” measurement.

The higher the number the better the rating with 0 being no protection and 6 being perfectly dustproof. Second up is the waterproofness rating.

This, too, is a number from 0-9. An IP rating of 4 is pretty good for the waterproof rating on a surge protector. 5 and above may not be necessary.

An ideal RV surge protector might be rated as IP64 or IP65. For more info on IP ratings and their details see this chart.

Why Surge Protectors Matter

Surge protectors and, even better, EMS style devices aren’t necessary all the time.

In a perfect world with perfect wiring, perfect transformers on the power lines, zero storms, and mice that don’t chew on wires an RV surge protector might not be necessary.

However, with many of today’s RV campground operating on aging electrical utilities, power surges and power drops do happen.

Maybe the guy who used the power pedestal before you messed it up. Whatever the case, a surge protector can save you from blowing out wiring, starting a fire, or damaging appliances in your RV.

Because surge protectors are more sensitive and, in the case of EMS units, “intelligent” than the breakers at the pedestal they can save you precious milliseconds when the power jumps.

Installation of RV Surge Protectors

In the world of RV surge protectors, there are basically two styles: onboard and piggyback. The cheapest and easiest to use is a piggyback surge protector.

Piggy Back

Like any piggyback plug, you plug the surge protector into the outlet and then plug the device (in this case the RV) into the surge protector.

This style of surge protector is relatively affordable and very easy to use. Unfortunately, however, their biggest downfall is that they’re very easy to steal.

It’s all too common for unsavory folk to snatch a piggyback plug right off the pedestal. Why? Because nice ones run in the hundreds of dollars.

Onboard / Hard-Wired

Another option is the onboard surge protector. These can be built into your RV when you buy it or added aftermarket.

Unless you’re very confident with your electrical skills I’d advise taking it to a certified dealer to have these installed as any small mistake can fry your RV.

While they’re harder to install initially, they come with lots of conveniences.

Once they’re installed all you have to do is plug your RV into the pedestal, no need to add a piggyback plug first.

Additionally, they’re usually installed inside the RV and bolted down so it’s very unlikely anyone would run off with your multi-hundred dollar surge protector or EMS.

Surge Protector Locks

Locking your surge protector will eventually become a priority. Thieves, for some reason, love to target surge protectors.

Probably because they’re relatively expensive and very easy to run off with. Whatever the reason, locking up your surge protector just makes sense.

Solutions range from a simple padlock around the cord clipped to a chain around the pedestal all the way to advanced cable lock systems for expensive models.

If your surge protector doesn’t have a built-in cable lock slot then try the padlock and chain.

On our list of the best RV surge protectors we’ll make sure to take a moment to note any surge protectors with anti-theft devices.

Response Time

With any surge protector there is going to be a tiny delay between the time the power surge is detected by the surge protector and the time it takes effect in blocking the power surge.

Naturally here we want the fastest time possible to protect your valuable electronics and electrical equipment. The response time is typically measured in nanoseconds and the better quality a protector is, the quicker the response time.

Max Surge Rating / Joules

Surge protectors should be rated for a max load. A Joule is a unit of energy, in the same way as a Calorie is.

In this case, most surge protectors will be listed in Joules as it’s the common unit of energy used for this measurement.

RV surge protectors can be rated for a wide range of max surge protections.

At a basic level, the higher the number of Joules a surge protector is rated for, the more energy it can handle without being overwhelmed.

If a surge protector is hit with an amount of energy greater than its max rating it may fail.

Commonly a max rating of 1,000 – 2,000 Joules may be found on a wide range of surge protectors for the home.

In RV surge protectors, ranges may go as high as 4,000 Joules or more in some cases.

Display Types

To let you know the status of your RV power every EMS or surge protector has some display type. These range from simple blinking lights to advanced smartphone connectivity.

LED Lights are often used on simpler units. These will flash or stay steady in some combination of colors to indicate the current status.

They’re easy to use and easy to manufacture so it keeps things straightforward.

LCD Screens are the next step up. These can be wired or wireless both remote or on the unit itself.

Most piggyback units have them wired to the unit itself while hardwired surge protectors often support running a cable to display the LCD screen somewhere in your RV where you can see it easily.

Bluetooth Wireless is a smartphone connectivity feature.

It allows units to connect to your phone wirelessly and send you status updates in real time about what’s happening with your RV power. These are great if you’re a techy type!

Certification

Don’t take a chance with an RV surge protector that is not certified by Underwriters Laboratory or (UL). This seal of approval by Underwriters Laboratory tells you the the surge protector passed rigorous testing so you can trust that it’s going to perform the way you expect. Your RV represents a large investment so be sure you are getting a quality surge protector!

FAQs About RV Surge Protectors

Q: What is an RV surge protector?

A: Any surge protector seeks to serve a basic function. A surge protector’s job is to cut off the power to a device if the incoming power spikes dangerously high.

For your RV, these plugs piggyback onto the main power plug and then are plugged into the service box. RV surge protectors are quite a bit more robust than your standard in-home surge protectors, however.

Due to the power demands of an RV, these beasts must be made from much larger components than in-home devices.

Because your RV uses a 30-amp 120-volt plug the main surge protector needs to be able to keep up. This is achieved with heavy-gauge wire and the standard 3-prong angled plug style found on your RV mainline.

Note that in some cases and with a good surge protector you can also be guarded against drops in power that can cause damage to appliances.

Q: Is my RV protected without a surge protector?

A: Somewhat, yes. Any properly designed power box at the RV park should have a dedicated 30-amp or 50-amp breaker.

These breakers are designed to prevent catastrophes but because of their design, they’re often not able to stop surges or fast changes in power.

To protect your RV from rapid and extreme changes in power you’ll want to use a surge protector. Inside your RV you’ll also want to make sure that any relevant plugs have a GFCI outlet.

As a note, some RVs do have a surge protector or electrical management system built-in. Check your owner’s manual or call your local RV dealer to find out if your RV has one.

Q: Can I lock my surge protector so it won’t get stolen?

A: If you’re worried about someone running off with your piggyback style surge protector, it might be worth spending the extra money on a lockable one.

Some models feature a sturdy padlock hole allowing you to add security.

If that’s still not enough, you might consider a hard-wired model. Some surge protectors can be wired straight into the electrical system on your RV so there’s no external plug-in device.

Of course, wiring the surge protector wrong means more problems than you started with, so contact a service department if you’re unsure.

Q: Can surge protectors detect flaws in wiring?

A: To some degree, you may find that high-end digital surge protectors can do this. It’s not unheard of (though rare) for RVers to find faulty wiring at the panels on their sites.

Of course, unless you’re an electrician you won’t have any idea if the panel you’re plugging into is safe or not.

If you want the ultimate peace of mind a good option is to fork over the dough and go with a high-end unit that not only protects from surges but also warns and protects against other wiring issues.

Q: Can I use my 50-amp RV on a 30-amp pedestal?

A: It is possible to use a higher-rated RV on a lower power service. Remember, however, that you won’t be able to use everything on your rig.

Try to limit your use of devices if you’re plugged into 30-amp service otherwise you’ll overload the circuit.

Heavy power use devices like electric stoves, electric heaters, and electric grills should be used sparingly.

If you draw too much power you may pop the circuit breaker or overload the circuit unknowingly. This can damage your rig over time or damage the power box.

Whenever possible always match 50 amp plugs to 50 amp pedestals. Using a surge protector designed for 30 amps may help alleviate some of this problem.

However, at the end of the day, the best bet for your rig and for the campground’s safety is to use 30-30 and 50-50. Match your rig to the service at the box unless you absolutely can’t avoid it.

Notice:

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Casey Fiedler

I am an avid outdoorsman with experience in naturalist education, outside adventure education, ski instruction, and writing. In addition to my outdoor hobbies, I’m a huge fan of punk rock. I have launched several start-ups. (or business ventures) When exploring the backcountry, I usually carry less than 10 pounds of gear. Years of experience have taught me to pack light. I enjoy sharing my experiences of backcountry education teaching and guiding through writing.

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