Top 7 RV Surge Protectors & Electrical Management System

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RV electrical systems are very sensitive. Costly damage can be done if these systems are exposed to surges, but there are a number of other electrical issues that a simple surge protector cannot defend against. That is why an electrical management system (EMS) is a better choice to protect your RV investment. 

Top 7 RV Surge Protectors and Electrical Management System (30 Amp & 50 Amp)

While surge protectors are designed to protect RVs from voltage spikes, electrical management systems are designed to protect the RV from voltage spikes and other electrical damage such as: low voltage, open ground, open neutral, reverse polarity, accidentally plugging into a 240 volt outlet.

Some of the different electrical scenarios that can cause damage to your RV

  • Power or voltage surge. This happens when the power grid experiences a disruption that causes an increase in voltage. It can be an increase of 1 volt to thousands if, for example, lightning strikes a power line. These surges can damage any electrical device that you have in the RV, including anything you have plugged into an outlet. Surges can also start electrical fires. 
  • Low voltage. Have you ever seen your lights dim when you turn something like the A/C? This is low voltage caused by your A/C briefly drawing a large amount of power away from other things like your lights. This can happen at RV parks, especially in the summer when everyone is running their A/C, but the low voltage can be persistent and not just momentary. This low voltage can damage sensitive electronics like your A/C, which will cause the unit to run much hotter and damage it. 
  • Open Ground. This happens when the power at the pedestal at a campground is not property grounded. This can be dangerous if you have some type of electrical “leak” inside your RV, such as a bad appliance or frayed wire. Since the power is not properly grounded, the chassis and skin of the RV can become electrified. 
  • Open Neutral. All power coming into to a system is 240 volts and the neutral wire at the pedestal allows it to split and become 120 volts. If the neutral is open, this means there is a break in the neutral wire somewhere in the system and you could potentially get high or low voltage coming into your RV which can damage electronics and be dangerous. 
  • Reverse polarity. This is a dangerous situation that is caused when the hot and neutral wires are reversed. This can be very dangerous because even when an appliance is turned off, the hot wire is still energized and if someone, for example, touches the metal inside a toaster trying to dig something out, they can complete the circuit and get electrocuted. 
  • 240 volt outlet. The shore power plug on your RV will fit in a household 240 volt plug that’s typically used for dryers and if you plugged into it you would damage the RV electrical system and possibly start a fire. We’ve been a few places where people told us they had the right size outlet for the RV but when I plugged in our RV electrical management system, it showed that the outlet was actually 240v rather than 120v and prevented the power from flowing into our RV. 

How do electrical management systems prevent electrical situations from damaging your RV and creating unsafe situations?

Very simply, the EMS will automatically cut power from the shore power pedestal (or anywhere you have your RV plugged into shore power) to your RV. For example, if the voltage in the RV parks drops, the EMS will sense that and after a predetermined amount of time, it will cut power to the RV to prevent any damage.

On most EMS units, once it senses that the power is back to a safe level, it will allow the power to begin flowing back into the RV. What’s nice is if you come back to find all of your clocks blinking and wonder why the power went out, most EMSs will have a readout to show you what fault occurred. 

Before buying an EMS or RV surge protector, here are a few things to consider

  • Do you want a portable or hard-wired unit?
  • Is your RV setup for 30 amp or 50 amp service?
  • Does your RV already have an electrical protection system built-in?

1. Southwire Surge Guard RV Power Protection – Portable

The latest Surge Guard product will protect the RV when there is high or low voltage, misfired pedestals, open ground, open neutral, reverse polarity, high neutral current, surges, overheating plug or receptacle. Read the operating and installation instruction for more details.

Features:

  • Limited lifetime warranty.
  • Will automatically shut off power to the RV when AC power falls below 102 volts, or is higher than 132 volts for more than 7 seconds.
  • LCD display indicates: power surge, open ground, reverse polarity, voltage >136 or <102, overheating plug, abnormal voltage on ground, open neutral
  • Time Delay for Reset: 128 seconds
  • Model 34931 is for RVs with 30 amp service. Total Joule rating of 2,450, 6,500A surge current, maximum watts 3,600.
  • Model 34951 is for RVs with 50 amp service. Total Joule rating of 4,200, 6,500A surge current, maximum watts 12,000.

Buy Surge Guard 30 amp unit from Amazon, TechnoRV or Walmart

Buy Surge Guard 50 amp unit from Amazon, TechnoRV or Walmart

2. Progressive Industries EMS – Portable

Progressive Industries makes one of the leading electrical management systems on the market. The portable EMS is easy to use, no installation required. We have the older version of this portable EMS.

The latest Progressive Industries EMS (PTX – PT30X and PT50X) has a few new features: weather shield to protect it from the elements, a pull handle to make it easier to disconnect the unit, a better bracket for securing the unit to the pedestal.

We have used the older unit since 2015 without any issues. Read our full review of Progressive Industries PT30C.

Features:

  • Limited lifetime warranty.
  • Will automatically shut off power to the RV when AC power falls below 104 volts, or is higher than 132 volts.
  • Will not allow power to the RV when there is reverse polarity, open neutral, open ground, or when 240 volts is detected.
  • Will shut down power if AC power frequency deviates +/- 9 hertz from 60 cycles per second.
  • Designed for outdoor use with a security locking bracket to prevent theft.
  • Time Delay for Reset: 136 seconds
  • EMS-PT30X is for RVs with 30 amp service. Total Joule rating of 1,790, 44,00A surge current.
  • EMS-PT50X is for RVs with 50 amp service. Total Joule rating of 3,580, 88,00A surge current.

Buy Progressive Industries 30 amp unit from Amazon or Walmart

Buy Progressive Industries 50 amp unit from Amazon or Walmart

3. Southwire Surge Guard RV Power Protection – Wired

Similar to the portable EMS, the hard-wired version is installed in your RV. It does not come with a built in display, but a separately sold display can be installed on the inside of the RV in order to monitor voltage and amp draw along with any power issues.

Features:

  • Limited lifetime warranty.
  • Will automatically shut off power to the RV when AC power falls below 102 volts, or is higher than 132 volts for more than 7 seconds.
  • LCD display indicates: power surge, open ground, reverse polarity, voltage >136 or <102, overheating plug, abnormal voltage on ground, open neutral.
  • Time Delay for Reset: 128 seconds
  • Model 35530 is for RVs with 30 amp service. Total Joule rating of 2,450, 6,500A surge current, maximum watts 3,600.
  • Model 35550 is for RVs with 50 amp service. Total Joule rating of 3,850, 6,500A surge current, maximum watts 12,000. 

Buy Surge Guard 30 amp hard wired unit from Amazon or Walmart

Buy Surge Guard 30 amp hared wired unit from Amazon or Walmart

4. Progressive Industries EMS Hard-Wired

Similar to the portable EMS, the hard-wired version by Progressive Industries comes with a display that can be installed on the inside of the RV.

Features:

  • Limited lifetime warranty.
  • Will automatically shut off power to the RV when AC power falls below 104 volts, or is higher than 132 volts.
  • Will not allow power to the RV when there is reverse polarity, open neutral, open ground, or when 240 volts is detected.
  • Will shut down power if AC power frequency deviates +/- 9 hertz from 60 cycles per second.
  • Remote digital display can be wired inside the RV to monitor status of the power source.
  • Time Delay for Reset: 136 seconds
  • EMS-HW30C is for RVs with 30 amp service. Total Joule rating of 1,790, 44,00A surge current.
  • EMS-HW50C is for RVs with 50 amp service. Total Joule rating of 3,580, 88,00A surge current.

Buy Progressive Industries 30 amp hard wired unit from Amazon or Walmart

Buy Progressive Industries 50 amp hard wired unit from Amazon or Walmart

5. Camco Power Defender Voltage Protector

Camco also makes a portable voltage protector that will shut off power to the RV when low or high voltage is detected. The display will show other electrical issues, but will not stop power from going to the RV.

Features:

  • One year limited warranty.
  • Will automatically shut off power to the RV when AC power falls below 102 volts, or is higher than 132 volts.
  • Shows faults for reverse polarity, open neutral, and other power pedestal wiring issues.
  • Time Delay for Reset: 140 seconds
  • 55301 is for RVs with 30 amp service. Total Joule rating of 2,450, 6,500A surge current.
  • 55306 is for RVs with 50 amp service. This unit has a total Joule rating of 3,850, 6,500A surge current.

Buy Camco Power Defender 30 amp unit from Amazon or Walmart

Buy Camco Power Defender 50 amp unit from Amazon or Walmart

6. Hughes Autoformer Power Booster with Surge Protection

The Hughes Autoformer is a power booster with built-in surge protection. When the input voltage is below 113 volts, the Autoformer will go into boost mode to increase the output by 10%. It does not draw power from the campground or any source the RV is plugged into.

Keep in mind the units are heavy. The 30 amp version is 21 pounds, the 50 amp version is 35 pounds. The company does offer an installation kit for outside storage compartments. They do not recommend hard-wiring the unit to the RV as that will void the warranty.

Note: we’ve stayed at campgrounds that do not allow products like this to be plugged into the pedestal.

Features:

  • Two year limited warranty.
  • Will automatically boost low voltage in the range of 95 to 115 volts.
  • Designed to absorb electrical surge or spike. If the Autoformer is damaged during a massive spike, the unit has to be sent in for service.
  • RV2130-SP is for RVs with 30 amp service. Total Joule rating of 2,400.
  • RV220-50-SP is for RVs with 50 amp service. Total Joule rating of 4,800.

Buy Hughes Autoformers 30 amp unit from Amazon or Walmart

Buy Hughes Autoformers 50 amp unit from Amazon or Walmart

7. Hughes Autoformer Power Watchdog

The newest product from Hughes Autoformer is the Power Watch Dog Surge Protection with EPO. Bluetooth connectivity allows you to monitor real time power conditions on your smartphone.

Features:

  • Two year limited warranty.
  • 4 second power-on delay after plugging in
  • 90 second power-on delay after a fault to protect AC unit
  • Receive alert on smartphone when a dangerous event occurs
  • Provides Open Neutral Protection, Open Ground Protection, Low or High Voltage Protection, Low or High Amperage Protection
  • PWD30-EPO is for RVs with 30 amp service. Total Joule rating of 2,400.
  • PWD50-EPO is for RVs with 50 amp service. Total Joule rating of 4,800.

Buy Hughes Autoformers 30 amp unit from Amazon or Walmart

Buy Hughes Autoformers 50 amp unit from Amazon or Walmart

As I mentioned earlier, a quality EMS is well worth the money spent and I consider it to be an insurance policy for protecting our RV. We’ve had a number of incidents over the years that our EMS protected our RV against.

Leave a Comment

17 thoughts on “Top 7 RV Surge Protectors & Electrical Management System”

  1. I found a nice location to park my RV, but a few days in and I noticed that the surge protector would often shut down and I won’t have power in my RV. I checked and it turns out the main supply falls to 105V, sometimes even to 103V in August because of the 104-degree temperature, and the surge protector alone couldn’t handle the under-voltage. I got this Hughes autoformer 30 amp as it matches my RV’s specifications and fortunately, I don’t have the same problem anymore. I understand it is also available in 50Amp, so that might be better for those with a bigger RV.

    Reply
  2. This is very useful. I am saving it for our RV remodel. We just bought an RV and have begun remodeling it.

    Reply
  3. Hughes autoformers does exactly what it says on the tin. The voltage at an RV park once dropped to 99V and sometimes didn’t go above 105V. after I first plugged this in I saw that it had a loose connection within the socket connector and also the voltage was already ramping up. The voltage before plugging within the amp was 103V but went up to 117V and 113V with the AC on. My air con motors are much happier in this manner.

    Reply
  4. After weighing all the important details, I conclude that the Hughes Performance RV22050 Autoformer is one of the best RV autoformers in the market. It really protects appliances from being damaged due to low electricity surge.

    Reply
  5. I have used this Hughes Performance RV22050 Autoformer to prolong the life of my RV appliances. There are so many things that I like about this 30 amp autoformer: It can withstand rapid changes in moisture and heat inside the RV. It can manage up to 10% voltage boost, which is very good for our appliances inside the RV. Specially, it has LED indicator lights for convenient monitoring.

    Reply
    • I don’t know which make/model you’re referring to but you should compare the features to the other brands in this list. Typically, you get what you pay for so I’d suggest asking yourself what it’s worth to protect the investment you have in your RV.

      Reply
  6. Just learning about this. Since the Hughes Autoformer has to be sent in for service in the event of a massive spike, what do you think about the option of plugging in a Progressive Industries EMS to the pedestal, then plugging a Hughes Autoformer into the Progressive EMS?
    Thanks!

    Reply
  7. We have a 2015 Forest River Blue Ridge 5th wheel and have a model 34750 Surge Guard protector that just went out. My question is we are thinking of downsizing our trl and don’t know if it will be 30 or 50 amp. If I purchase a new 50 amp surge protector now, can I use it if we get a 30 amp trl.
    Thanks Greg

    Reply
  8. I just bought an Aktiv 1.0, with Ecotreks, Voltstart, solar. i rather not buy anything unnecessarily. I’m thinking about just checking the CG power outlets with a simple outlet checking device. I have 130K miles on my older 2005 Airstream Westfalia with no mishaps. I will not connect if anything looks dubious. What do youn think?

    We may see you in VT. Currently hanging out on a Cayuga Lakeside friend’s home while I familiarize myself with the Aktiv. The Westy was so easy, the manual was well written and instructive. With the original German gel batteries I could boondock for 4-5 days easily before I installed a 2000W inverter.

    Juju

    Reply
    • Juju – considering how much you just spent on your new AKtiv (congrats!) I don’t think spending another few hundred on an EMS is unnecessary. Simply checking the outlets doesn’t protect you from surges, low voltage and a number of other issues that can crop up. Our EMS has protected us a number of times and I won’t plug in anywhere without it. That said, it’s only my opinion and I suggest doing more research and deciding if it’s something you need.

      Enjoy the Aktiv!

      Reply
    • The higher end surge protectors also protect against brown out conditions that can easily happen after you have hand checked your RV park power. Brown outs can do near as much electrical damage as a power surge.

      Reply
  9. Very informative, thank you for posting this. My wife and I are preparing to sell the house, buy a van, and hit the road. I’m an electrician and she does knowledge management. We stumbled across your YouTube account and have been enjoying all of your adventures. Aside from EMS what tools do you bring with you specifically for your van? I’ll be bringing my standard kit with me for work but don’t want to overdue an otherwise small space with unneeded tools specifically for the van.

    Thanks in advance,

    Patrick Cretan

    Reply
    • Hey Patrick

      That’s a question I get quite often. A small space like that is all about compromise. I’d suggest taking as little as possible. Look around the van and make sure you have the appropriate size/type screwdrivers and any tools needed to work on the interior. Beyond that, it’s a matter of what you have room for. I have a set of sockets (metric), screwdrivers long and short, large and small channel lock, a medium vice grip, allen wrenches, a volt meter (very handy), jumper cables. But my most used tool by far, this little guy: https://amzn.to/2thNdO9 I figure if I need anything else I can go buy it.

      Joe

      Reply

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