Why an RV Surge Protector is Needed for RVs, Motorhomes, and Campers

No matter what size or type of RV, it’s imperative to protect its electrical system by using an RV surge protector. It’s one of the wisest investments that protects its electrical system, components and appliances. But also, a surge protection system will protect anything you plug into your motorhome or camper from minor damage to catastrophic failure or even fire. This includes all of your valuable electronic gadgets, computers, digital devices or anything else you plug into your electrical system.

What is an RV Surge Protector?

When you hear the words surge protector, you probably think of those electric bricks with multiple outlets on one end with a heavy duty plug on the other end that you use in your home. However, those are NOT RV surge protectors we’re going to talk about in this article.

An RV surge protector is an electrical system protection device that transfers power from an electrical source or power pedestal to your RV. It kind of works like a filter for your RV’s electrical system. 

There are several reasons why every RV should have a surge protector regardless if it’s a motorhome, fifth wheel, travel trailer, truck camper and even camper van. If you plug your RV electric cord into a power source, your RV needs one.


What exactly does an RV Surge Protector do?

A proper surge protector will protect not only your RV’s entire electrical system but also all of the components, appliances and electronic devices. It prevents unpredictable voltage spikes and power surges from entering your RV.

Not having a surge protector is taking a big risk. Without warning, your RV runs the risk of catastrophic failure, costly electrical system damage. Plus, you risk damage to everything that you plug into your RV’s outlets. Worse, without being hooked through a surge protector, your RV runs an even greater risk; FIRE!


What causes power surges or voltage spikes?

There are a few culprits that cause dangerous voltage spikes and power surges.

Firstly, if lightning strikes the power pedestal, your RV’s entire electrical system may get fried.

Secondly, a lot of campgrounds and RV parks have outdated power pedestals that have faulty wiring and/or old breakers.

Thirdly, a campground’s power grid may not be able to handle the electrical load due to larger RVs with extensive requirements (such as multiple AC’s, etc.).

And lastly, depending on where your campsite is located in relation to the campground’s power grid, your RV could be on the receiving end of dirty electricity. In other words, if your campsite is furthest from the campground’s electric supply, your camper has the potential of receiving voltage spikes, electrical surges and sudden drops. This is predominant during the summer when RVs use multiple air conditioners. All of which puts an incredible strain on the campground’s electrical supply.


Hard Wired EMS or Portable Surge Protector?

Once you get your RV, you’ll need to consider whether you want a hardwired or portable surge protector.

If you have a high-end motorhome or fifth wheel, you may not want to deal with constantly plugging into a portable surge protector at the pedestal. Then you’ll want to invest in a hardwired electrical management system or “EMS”. However, a custom EMS installation will run you a couple hundred dollars or more.

But, on the flip side, there’s some positives in hardwired EMS surge protection units. First, they typically provide more monitoring options including bluetooth technology. Second, permanent EMS surge protection units are not subject to theft as it’s secured inside your RV. Third, you’ll never have to worry about forgetting it when leaving your campsite. And last, EMS units aren’t exposed to the weather elements. You don’t have to go outdoors to plug, unplug or read error codes.

Once installation is complete, your RV EMS constantly monitors for errors constantly without interruption. All of that said, hardwired surge protection systems do come with a heftier price tag for the convenience.

But, there are more affordable portable surge protectors that will do the job just as well but with less bells and whistles. The advantage of portable RV surge protectors is they can be transferred from one RV to another. Should you be thinking of upgrading or downsizing RVs later, having a portable surge protector will save you money. And of course, portable surge protectors are less expensive than hardwired surge protectors.

Depending on the model will determine different protection features. Some higher-end portable surge protectors may offer bluetooth monitoring. You can pair it to your smartphone and see error codes on your phone rather than going outside. Also, some brands and models may offer a longer warranty period.


What is the difference between a 50 amp and 30amp RV Surge Protector?

RV surge protectors come in two amperages; 50 amp or 30 amp. 

Larger motorhomes and towable RVs that have larger 50amp electrical systems will require a 50amp RV surge protector. 50amp RVs use twice as much energy as 30amp RVs which makes it a no brainer to ‘go big or go home’ philosophy when buying surge protection for your RV.

Whereas, smaller motorhomes, camper vans, truck campers and travel trailers will only require a 30amp RV surge protector. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that because you have a smaller RV with less power demands that you should opt for cheaper surge protection. Keep in mind, quality is key. This is not the place to go cheap.

Important to know, a 50amp surge protector can be used on a 30amp RV only if the proper electrical adapter (also known as a ‘dog bone’) is used. And vice versa. Otherwise it won’t provide the proper electrical system protection.


What if my RV Surge Protector throws a code signifying a power surge or voltage spike?

First and foremost, know how your surge protection device works. Some operate differently than others. So, it’s imperative to read the manufacturer’s manual to know what each code means and how to rectify the electrical issue.


Do I need an RV surge protector if I boondock exclusively?

Personally, you should prepare for all circumstances. While you may boondock off grid, there may be times you’re forced into a campground or RV park. Or, if your RV is being serviced by a repair center or RV dealership. We recommend having some sort of surge guard protection just in case.


Is an RV surge protector needed if I use a generator?

A surge protector is not required for using a generator. However, it really depends on how comfortable you are with plugging in your RV’s electrical cord into your generator.

Comment 1

Walter Dean on

Good info. We travel a lot to Mexico and their power unpredictable. Besides surges we had lower and higher voltage. Two years ago we installed the Hughes Autoformer that will adjust voltage about 15 % up or down. Besides it has built in surge protection. Another plus a module that does the surge protection can be replaced in the field by you with a screw driver and they ship it free the first couple of years.
Their WatchDog model Surge protector has the same kind of replaceable module and Bluetooth.
You make an excellent point about plug in surge units moving to the next RV when you upgrade.
Every new RV like cars seem loaded with move and more electronics making surge protection extremely important besides safety it could save you a ton of money replacing a lt of electronics not just in the RV but, TV, Sat dish, refrig, microwave. You need to consider newer surge protector might have advancements to help with newer technology in and on the RV
I really appreciate all the tips and advice keep it coming. Wll written and appeciate hear from other in comments so we get addition advice from the field.
A plug for your company. I have done a lot of research on RV locks and yours is the best quality and value. However last year you did not have a combo electronic replacement for my RV door. I will be traveling for several months late December and will contact customer service to see if a electronic lock for my RV is now available

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