I didn’t think that not having a surge protector would be an issue until I melted my plug that I had my RV plugged into. A surge protector is highly recommended to protect the RV’s electrical system as a minimum in the event of improper wiring, power surge or the variation in volts that come from an external power source. Surge protectors come in 50 amp and 30 amps; they tell you if there is power, an open neutral, an open ground, or reversed wiring. RV Surge protectors last for 2 to 5 years depending on the use. A surge protector is the minimum protection for an RV’s electrical system. If you need to know more about how an RV’s electrical system work, read How Your RV Electrical System Works.
Where Does A Surge Protector Go For Your RV?
A surge protector or EMS is the firewall, that protects your camper from outside AC electricity and assures that the power coming into your RV is clean.
Pedestal > (Pedestal Breaker) > (Surge Protector) > RV Breaker Panel > RV Converter > 12V battery bank & other 120V appliances
Most RV Park service pedestals have breakers to help protect your RV from drawing too much power (+/-20% tolerance). This is really to protect the campground’s electrical from your RV. However, there are fluctuations caused by full campsites, or mis-wiring which could cause a surge in amps. There are really 2 types there are technically two (2) types:
- (1) The typical RV surge protectors – offers protection from high voltage like a lightning strike, or power fluctuations from the pedestal service. I use this one from Hughes, it’s a 30 amp, if you need a 50 amp they also have that size. If you get hit you can just replace the breaker in it rather than the whole device. This one has Bluetooth and you can monitor your power consumption.
- (2) RV electrical management system (EMS) – it’s more extensive (and expensive) but it protects from high and low voltage, reverse polarity, open ground, and other issues. The most popular of these is the Progressive Industries Installed systems. There is also an option that is external.
What’s The Difference Between A Surge Protector And An EMS?
Surge protectors and EMS (electrical Management Systems) are very similar in that it protects electronic equipment from surges and dips in volts. EMS’s provide an on going monitoring of the energy flow into your RIG and will shut the power off to your camper if needed to prevent any kind of damage that could result from changes to the electrical system.
Low-Cost Surge Protectors Vs Expensive Surge Protectors
There is a large spread between low-cost surge protectors at $30 to $50 and the more expensive types, $100 to $300. There really is an enormous difference in the quality of the equipment. You may be wondering if a surge protector is even worth it. Let’s look at the cost of your RV and the cost to fix a blown out electrical system, vs the cost for a good surge protector or EMS. The cost for a good surge protector is about $100 to $200, while a good EMS can cost anywhere from $300 on up to $1000.
Now let’s consider the cost of fixing your RVs electrical system and or replacing appliances that have suffered the fate of a blowout. This could cost in the thousands of dollars. You soon realize that the cost of $100 to $1000 is not that expensive for insurance.
It’s just not worth being frugal on this type of insurance to protect your Rig. Ideally, having an EMS system is the best, but as a minimum choosing a superior quality surge protector such as the Hughes Autoformer or the one from Progressive Industries is sufficient. Remember to choose the right Amps for your RV, if you want to jump to that section below click here.
Choosing A Portable Vs Hardwired Surge Protector or EMS System
When deciding on a portable of hardwired surge protector or EMS system, it is best to choose the hardwired system over a portable. However, sometimes a hardwired system is just not possible, in which case a portable is better than nothing at all.
Advantages Of A Portable EMS System
- Cost less than the hardwired systems
- Portable so they can easily be moved from one RV to the next
- They are plugged into external power without your RV
Advantages Of A Hardwired EMS Systems
Hard wired systems are better for a number of reasons.
- They tend to be more accurate as they are closer to your electrical system
- Harder to steal as they are out of sight
- You can just plug your RV in as normal
How To Use Your Portable EMS System?
When you arrive at your camping spot and you are about plug in your shore power. Here are the steps to protect your RV’s electrical system with an EMS system.
- Shut off the power to the pedestal
- Plug in your EMS system without your RV power attached
- Turn on the breaker and look at the lights to indicate that all is good.
- Turn off the breaker power
- Plug in your RV
- Turn on the breaker power
Stop and plug in your EMS system without your rig plugged in and have a look at the lights to see what lights up and it’s ok to plug your rig into the system.
How Long Does A Surge Protector Or EMS System Last?
How long a surge protector or EMS systems last are dependent on they model and manufacture you purchase your unit from. Low-cost systems use low quality parts that tend to have a shorter lifespan, some may not provide any kind of protection. Some surge protectors and EMS systems have a lifetime warranty. Such as Southwire’s Surge Guard and Progressive Industries, while Hughes Autoformers circuit breakers systems provides a 3 yr warranty, but have a replacement Surge Protection Modules.
Securing Your Surge Protector & EMS System
Surge protectors are hot commodities for those with envy eyes. So much so that the surge protectors are now coming with a metal collars to lock down your surge protector to the pedestal so someone would not walk away with it. Hughes makes a lock that fits into the metal collar on the surge protector, or opt to get a bike lock from your local bike shop or hardware store. Another option is to choose one that is internal such as this one from Hughes Auoformer or choosing an EMS system that also hooks up on the inside of your RV’s electrical system.
Can I Use A 50 Amp Surge Protector On A 30 Amp RV?
If your RV uses 50-amp power, then you would purchase 50-amp surge protector. If your RV uses 30-amp power, then you would purchase a 30-amp surge protector. Using a 50 am surge protector on a 30 am RV, may not provide the protection that a 30-amp RV would require. As an example, if your RV uses 50 amps and are at a campsite where the power 30 amps, then you would just add the appropriate adaptor to go from 30 amps to 50 amps and then plug your 50-amp surge protector into it. There is no need to purchase a 50-amp surge protector and a 30-amp surge protector.