Every RV trip is an adventure. And as much as we want to spend time out in nature, disconnected from our constant reliance on screens, the fact of the matter is that you’re probably traveling with some pretty expensive electronics — if not your laptop and smart phone, then at least your onboard appliances and entertainment system.
For many RV campers, the ability to access these technological conveniences on the road is one of the main draws of this travel lifestyle. And if you want to protect your gadgets, an RV surge protector may just be the best way to do it.
RV surge protectors and electrical management systems (sometimes shortened to EMS) are your first line of defense against power surges and electrical mishaps that can wreak havoc on your rig’s wiring — and anything that’s connected to it. In this post, we’ll show you how to find the best surge protector for your RV, walk you through RV surge protector pros and cons, and ensure your rig is well-defended and ready to go.
What is an RV Surge Protector?
Let’s start from the top. What, exactly, is an RV power surge protector? How does it work?
Well, just like the surge protectors you might use to safely plug in your computer at home, an RV surge protector mediates the electrical current coming out of an outlet — in this case, the shore power hookup at your favorite campground.
RV surge protectors come in both 30 amp and 50 amp varieties, to match your RV’s power levels. They are also available both as portable and hardwired units, each of which have their own pros and cons. (In fact, in some ways, the very same attribute is both pro and con for the portable units: because they’re not hardwired into the rig, you can pick them up and move them from RV to RV easily. Of course, on the other hand, that same portability means they are vulnerable to being stolen.)
We’ll dive more into the details of these different surge protector types in a minute. But for now, let’s get right to the heart of the matter: which ones are the best on the market?
Best RV Surge Protector
Here are some of the best RV surge protectors currently available for campers with both 30- and 50-amp rigs.
One of the best-known names in camping for a reason, Camco offers its own line of RV surge protectors. They’re the portable variety, and available in both 30-amp and 50-amp varieties. Some of the protectors even come with included analytical tools to help you learn more about what’s going on with your power connection in real time. Furthermore, Camco’s line of surge protectors are on the less expensive end of the spectrum, so they’re useful for campers looking for budget-friendly devices.
Where Camco may have breadth, Progressive Industries has focus: this company primarily produces RV surge protectors, so they have a wide range of high-quality products suited to all camper needs.
For instance, they offer portable RV surge protectors in both 30-amp and 50-amp varieties, as well as a line of hardwired units to help keep your RV safe and secure without risk of theft. Although their hardware is a little bit more expensive than the competition’s, you can rely on their commitment to ensuring your RV’s electrical system stays safe and secure.
Types of RV Surge Protectors
Let’s talk more about the specifics of RV surge protectors. After all, although Camco and Progressive Industries may be the biggest names on the market, chances are other products will surface, especially as time goes on.
The basic distinction between the two types of RV surge protectors available so far (as of January 2020) is this: some are hardwired onto your RV, and others are portable, plugging into the shore power stand and therefore easy to move from RV to RV.
As you might imagine, these different options appeal to different campers. For instance, if you’re still primarily renting RVs to vacation in, the portable surge protector could sound like a better bet; after all, you aren’t constantly in the same RV day in and day out. On the other hand, if you do already own your own rig (and especially if you’re planning to list it on the RVshare rental market), a hardwired surge protector can help you rest assured that your device won’t be stolen and your RV will be protected from surges and other electrical mishaps every single time.
There is, however, a significant cost difference between these two items. The hardwired units are often a bit pricier than the portables, though even the portables can cost $100 or more. However, considering the cost of replacing your RV’s electrical system (or even just the gadgets attached to it), most campers agree that an RV surge protector is an affordable “insurance policy” against the potential damage wreaked by the power of electricity.
Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best RV Surge Protector
No matter which RV surge protector type or brand you’re looking at, it’s always important to consider all your options before making a final purchase decision. You’re probably going to be taking many factors into consideration during your search, including price as well as type and accessibility.
We recommend reading the RV surge protector reviews for whichever products you’re most serious about, as learning more about others’ experiences with an item is a great way to determine if the item will work well for your needs.
And if you’re concerned about the “cons” section of the RV surge protector pros & cons list — particularly the vulnerability of portable units to theft — we recommend utilizing a bike lock to secure the device to your shore power hookup station. (This video shows you how to do it at about three minutes in.)
RV Surge Protectors: FAQs
Let’s finish out this post on RV surge protectors with answers to some of your most frequently asked questions!
Do you really need a surge protector for your RV?
Considering the expense of an RV surge protector, some campers are tempted to forego the extra protection. After all, how often do you hear of rigs having their electrical systems decimated by a shore power hookup at a high-quality developed campground?
Well, the thing is, it only takes once to cause serious, expensive damage to both your RV and your belongings. And considering the cost of your technical gadgets alone, this is one place where it’s better to be safe than sorry.
In other words, no, you don’t really need a surge protector for your RV, at least, probably not… but you’ll definitely be thanking yourself if something does happen. Even the most expensive units are less than $300, which is probably less than a quarter of the cost of your laptop. Think about it!
Can you use a 50 amp surge protector on a 30 amp RV?
While you can use a 50 amp surge protector on a 30 amp RV in most cases, this practice is not recommended. Because the whole point of a surge protector is to mediate the electrical current if a surge causes it to supercede your RV’s needs — and in this case, the protector wouldn’t kick in at 30 amps, but at 50 amps of power. In other words, your electronics could still fry!
What is the safest RV surge protector?
There’s no one answer to this question! The safest RV surge protector is a high-quality one that works — and, importantly, one that you’re actually using. While some campers argue that hardwired surge protectors are more reliable, using any surge protector is a significant improvement on not using one at all.
How does an RV surge protector work?
An RV surge protector monitors and mediates the electrical current coming from an outlet, acting as a buffer between that outlet and your RV. This helps ensure you don’t suffer any damages to either your RV’s wiring system or the objects you have plugged into it as a result of a power surge, lightning storm, or even faulty wiring in the shore power connection.
Like so many other parts of RVing, investing in an RV surge protector is one small investment that can help keep you camping happily for years and years to come. Whether you’re a renter or you’ve already got your very own rig, think seriously about purchasing one of these useful devices — as we said, you’ll definitely be thanking yourself if you do turn out to need it!
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