Best RV Surge Protector & EMS For 30 Amp & 50 Amp 2021

Do You Really Need An RV Surge Protector & EMS?

If you ever start talking to full-time RVers or snowbirds who frequent RV parks and campgrounds with electrical hookups you will start to hear your fair share of stories about how the RV electrical system or an appliance got fried.

Many of the electrical appliances in RVs are sensitive to changes in voltage and power surges. Unfortunately, RV parks and campgrounds can be hotspots for bad or old wiring and a danger to your beloved home on wheels.

Do you really need an RV surge protector? Well if you ask me and many other RVers the answer is yes. We spend 95% of our days boondocking (dry camping) but we still have a 30 amp surge protector & EMS for when we stay at the occasional RV park or campground.

Related: How To Set Up At An RV Park Or Campground For Dummies

You may be wondering, what does a surge protector with an EMS (electrical management system) do? Besides the obvious surge protection, a high-quality RV surge guard with EMS will protect from reverse polarity, misfiring, low or high frequencies and voltages, and open or neutral grounds.

Some will even display the current voltage coming from the power source so you can judge whether it’s safe or not to plug in your RV.

Not all RV surge protectors or guards are made equal. If you want the best, full protection, a surge protector with an EMS is the way to go.

In this article, I’ll review some of the best RV surge protectors with an EMS along with the pros and cons to help you decide which is best for your camper.

When you decide on the brand and model (hardwired or portable) remember to get the proper size (30 amp or 50 amp).

Progressive Industries 50 Amp Portable RV Electrical Management System Surge Protector (1 MIN), EMS-PT50X , Black
Camco 50 Amp RV Power Defender Voltage Protector/Monitor with Integrated Surge Protection, Designed with Easy to Use PowerGrip Handles (55306)
Close Second
Southwire Surge Guard Portable 50-Amp 120/240-Volt Wireless Communication-Capable Surge Protector
Best RV EMS Surge Guard
Hughes Autoformers PWD50-EPO-H, 50 Amp Spike Power Watchdog with Shut Off
Joules Of Surge Protection 50 Amp
3,580J
4,200J
4,200J
4,800J
Joules Of Surge Protection 30 Amp
1,790J
2,800J
2,460J
2,460J
Display Screen
Weatherproof (Portable Version)
Hardwire Option

Progressive Industries 50 Amp Portable RV Electrical Management System Surge Protector (1 MIN), EMS-PT50X , Black
Joules Of Surge Protection 50 Amp
3,580J
Joules Of Surge Protection 30 Amp
1,790J
Display Screen
Weatherproof (Portable Version)
Hardwire Option
Camco 50 Amp RV Power Defender Voltage Protector/Monitor with Integrated Surge Protection, Designed with Easy to Use PowerGrip Handles (55306)
Joules Of Surge Protection 50 Amp
4,200J
Joules Of Surge Protection 30 Amp
2,800J
Display Screen
Weatherproof (Portable Version)
Hardwire Option

Close Second

Southwire Surge Guard Portable 50-Amp 120/240-Volt Wireless Communication-Capable Surge Protector
Joules Of Surge Protection 50 Amp
4,200J
Joules Of Surge Protection 30 Amp
2,460J
Display Screen
Weatherproof (Portable Version)
Hardwire Option

Best RV EMS Surge Guard

Hughes Autoformers PWD50-EPO-H, 50 Amp Spike Power Watchdog with Shut Off
Joules Of Surge Protection 50 Amp
4,800J
Joules Of Surge Protection 30 Amp
2,460J
Display Screen
Weatherproof (Portable Version)
Hardwire Option

Note: Scroll left/right on small screens to view all products in the table.

Best RV Surge Protector & EMS Reviews & Info


1. Progressive Industries RV Surge Protector & EMS

Progressive Industries 50 Amp Portable RV Electrical Management System Surge Protector (1 MIN), EMS-PT50X , Black

Check Price at Amazon

Progressive Industries makes some of the most popular RV surge protectors on the market today and its surge guard/EMS is a great choice for any kind of camper.

There’s the portable EMS-PT50X for 50 amp campers (shown in links above) and the EMS-PT30X for 30 amp RVs (click to view on Amazon).

If you’re an RVer who camps almost exclusively at RV parks or places with electrical hookups the Progressive Industry Hardwired surge protectors (click to view on Amazon) are a more permanent way to protect your camper.

Hardwired RV surge guards aren’t so great for those who boondock/dry camp a lot and use a generator because surge protectors can make it difficult to use certain kinds of generators without special equipment.

See Also: Use An RV Surge Protector With A Generator (Open Ground Fix)

Whether it’s hardwired or portable the protection from the Progressive Industries EMS surge guards is going to be the same.

They both have an LED screen that will show you the voltage and amps coming from the power source as well as error codes that will tell you what problems the power source may be experiencing. There is also an auto-reconnect once conditions are safe again.

Unlike regular RV surge guards which only protect from power surges, EMS surge protectors will protect from surges, high or low voltage, open or neutral grounds, reverse polarity, and other things that can be harmful to your RV’s electrical system and appliances.

Progressive Industries 50 Amp Portable RV Electrical Management System Surge Protector (1 MIN), EMS-PT50X , Black

The portable version is made with durable plastic that is weather-resistant and ok to leave outdoors. It even has a rain/weather shield for the outlet.

The 50 amp version protects from surges of up to 3,580J and is rated for 120/240V power or 12,000 watts. It works in temperatures as low as -40°F and as high as 221°F so you don’t have to worry about the temperature affecting anything.

The 30 amp surge protector has all the same weather and temperature features but only has 1,790J of surge protection and is rated for 120V or 3,600 watts. You should always get the size of surge protector that matches your RV but you can connect a different size if you have no other option and you can read more about that in this article here.

Because not every RV park or campground is totally safe the Progressive Industries RV surge protector and EMS comes with a security bracket you can use to lock it up and stop anyone from walking away with it. There’s also a handle on the plug to make pulling it out of the power pedestal easier.

If you go with the hardwire version you can either get one that has the display screen on the surge protector or one that has an external screen you can mount somewhere else which makes it easier to monitor the voltage. The hardwire version is also UL Certified.

The Progressive Industries RV Surge Protector & EMS is an excellent choice for every kind of RVer. Even if you don’t camp hooked up to power all of the time you are going to want one to keep your RV safe on the occasion that you do connect to power whether it’s at an RV park or even at home.

PROS

  • Full EMS Protection
  • Detects & Protects
  • Weatherproof
  • Hardwire & Portable Option
  • Built In Lock Bracket
  • Display Screen
  • Hardwire Version Is UL Certified
  • Auto Disconnect/Reconnect

CONS

  • Portable Version Not UL Certified
  • Surge Protection Not As High As Other Brands

2. Camco RV Power Defender RV Surge Protector & EMS

Camco 50 Amp RV Power Defender Voltage Protector/Monitor with Integrated Surge Protection, Designed with Easy to Use PowerGrip Handles (55306)

Check Price at Amazon

Camco’s RV surge guard and EMS is a simple but powerful unit that will protect your RV from electrical problems like low or high voltage, wiring issues, ground faults, reverse polarity, open neutral, and other things that may harm your RV appliances or wiring.

There is no display screen but instead LED lights that illuminate in certain patterns to indicate what problem the power pedestal may be having.

It is a bit of a downside because you can’t manually monitor the exact voltage going into your RV but the Camco surge protector will still protect just as well as others if not better in some cases.

If the surge guard shuts off the power to your camper for any reason it will reconnect automatically once conditions are safe again.

See Also: How To Connect/Plug RV Camper Into Generator (15/30/50 Amp)

Camco doesn’t make a hardwire version so if you’re looking for something you can permanently install inside your RV you will have to go with another brand.

Because it’s portable there are grips on each end which make it easier to plug in and unplug the RV surge guard. The body is made of hard durable plastic that is weather-resistant and made for outdoor use.

Like many other portable RV surge protectors, there is a bracket on it you can use to lock the guard so you don’t have to worry about anyone stealing it.

The 50 amp version offers 4,200J of surge protection and the 30 amp version up to 2,800J. Neither version is UL certified but they are CSA certified.

The Camco RV Power Defender Surge Protector & EMS looks simple on the outside but it offers all of the same capabilities as other EMS surge guards with high surge protection and smart outlet analyzing.

The only things you don’t get with the Camco is a hardwired version or a voltage display. High surge protection is a huge plus with this unit and it makes it a great option for RV use.

PROS

  • Full EMS Protection
  • Detects & Protects
  • Weatherproof
  • Built-In Lock Bracket
  • CSA Certified
  • High Joules Surge Protection
  • Auto Disconnect/Reconnect

CONS

  • Portable Version Only
  • No Display Screen/Live Voltage Info

3. Southwire RV Surge Guard & EMS

Southwire Surge Guard Portable 50-Amp 120/240-Volt Wireless Communication-Capable Surge Protector

Check Price at Amazon

Southwire is an excellent company that makes a lot of great electrical tools and equipment. Their RV surge protector and EMS is a great unit that offers protection from tons of common power pedestal problems like an open ground or neutral, reverse polarity, improper wiring, high or low voltage or frequency, and the 50A version even offers protection against elevated ground current inside the RV.

It’s one of the smartest EMS RV surge guards out there and a great option for people who are connected to power often or want the most protection they can get for their camper. After a power surge or dangerous event, it will automatically turn back on once conditions are safe again.

On the portable versions, the body is made with thick durable plastic and is weather/rainproof. There is a display screen to help you monitor the voltage as well as LED lights which indicate whether the surge protection is on or if there is a problem. There is also a thick bracket for locking the unit.

See Also: Best 12V Lithium Batteries For RV Use + How To Charge

The 50 amp version offers 4,200 joules of surge protection and the 30 amp version has 2,460 joules of protection.

We use the 30 amp portable version (click to view on Amazon) on our travel trailer and it has worked well over the years. We’ve had it protect our trailer a few times from bad outlets at old RV parks and I recommend surge guards with EMS protection to all RVers, even ones who boondock most of the time like us.

The Southwire hardwired RV surge protectors and EMS offer all the same protection as the portable versions with a 50 amp (click to view on Amazon) and a 30 amp (click to view on Amazon) option.

The hardwired surge guards have LED lights on the units to indicate whether everything is good to go or if theirs a problem and what the problem is.

If you want to know the voltage there is an optional external display (click to view on Amazon) you can install in your camper.

Surge Guard 40300 Optional Remote LCD Display for Hardwire Model 35530

The hardwired versions are UL certified and a great option for RVers who are connected to shore power most of the time.

The Southwire Surge Guard & EMS is a fantastic choice. It’s durable and offers a ton of protection. We’ve had a few close calls in sketchy RV parks and we are glad we were using our surge protector and EMS.

PROS

  • Full EMS Protection
  • Detects & Protects
  • Weatherproof
  • Built-In Lock Bracket
  • UL Certified (Hardwire Version Only)
  • High Joules Surge Protection
  • Auto Disconnect/Reconnect

CONS

  • Outlet May Not Fit Certain RV Plugs Because Of Weather Cover Placement

4. Hughes Autoformers Power Watchdog RV Surge Protector & EMS

Hughes Autoformers PWD50-EPO-H, 50 Amp Spike Power Watchdog with Shut Off

Check Price at Amazon

Hughes Autoformers RV surge guards and EMS are a little different than the others in this review.

There is a small display on the portable and hardwired units but they are also Bluetooth compatible so you can monitor your RV remotely using a smartphone.

It will even send text alerts when a problem has occurred. It’s an excellent feature so you know when there’s a problem immediately.

The hardwire and portable versions offer fantastic protection from power surges, high or low voltage, open or neutral grounds, as well as an automatic power reconnection once conditions have returned to safe for 90 seconds.

The portable 50 amp version has super high surge protection of 4,800 joules, it’s the same for the hardwired version as well. The 30 amp model (click to view on Amazon) offers 2,400J of surge protection.

See Also: Best RV Autoformer Reviewed & Everything You Need To Know

The portable versions are weatherproof/rainproof and have grips on the ends for easy unplugging. There is also a security bracket so you can lock it up.

The hardwired versions offer all of the same capabilities as the portable ones including Bluetooth. There is a 50 amp option (click to view on Amazon) and a 30 amp option (click to view on Amazon).

Another feature with the Hughes Autoformers Power Watchdog RV Surge Protector & EMS is the surge protection units are replaceable.

That means if a large power surge occurs you don’t have to buy an entirely new surge protector you just replace the unit. Huges is one of the only brands that do this.

PROS

  • Full EMS Protection
  • Detects & Protects
  • Weatherproof
  • Built-In Lock Bracket
  • UL Certified (Hardwire Version Only)
  • High Joules Surge Protection
  • Auto Disconnect/Reconnect
  • Replaceable Surge Protection Unit

CONS

  • Can Be Hard To Use Without A Smartphone

What To Look For In An RV Surge Protector & EMS

High Surge Protection

The levels of surge protection don’t just change from 30 to 50 amp surge guards. Some brands offer higher protection than others.

For small electronics like your RV television, it’s recommended to have at least 1,000 joules of protection. To guard larger appliances like the RV fridge and air conditioner you should have around 2,000 joules.

All but one of the RV surge protectors in this review have more than 2,000 joules of protection with even more for the 50 amp versions.

The Progressive Industries EMS-PT30X for 30 amp RVs (click to view on Amazon) is the only one that doesn’t go over 2,000 joules but it’s close at 1,790J.

Pedestal Diagnostics

The EMS (electronic management system) part of the RV surge guards in this review all have pedestal diagnostic features that will test any outlet you plug your camper into for unsafe conditions. Most of them can scan for high or low voltage, open or neutral grounds, reverse polarity, and other things that can damage your RV appliances.

Live Voltage Readings

While it’s not a must have, it can be nice to see exactly how many volts an outlet is putting out especially in a crowded RV park in the summertime when everyone is drawing lots of power running their AC units.

The safe voltage for campers is around 114-132 volts. It’s supposed to be around 120 volts. If your RV fridge or AC unit starts to sound weird you can check your RV surge guard to see what the volts are at. If it’s getting low you may want to consider unplugging those sensitive appliances until conditions return to safe.

The only RV surge protector in this review that won’t show you live voltage readings is the Camco.

Rain & Weatherproof

All of the portable RV surge protectors in this review are safe to have outside even in the rain so long as they are off the ground. They are not made to be submerged in water but they can be rained on.

The hardwired ones are not waterproof which is generally ok since they will be installed inside your camper.


Conclusion & My Recommendations For RV Surge Protector & EMS

Even if you only plug your camper into a power outlet a few times a year a high quality RV surge protector with and EMS is always recommended. RV appliances aren’t cheap and just one unlucky power surge could end up being a big deal.

RV surge guards may be small but they offer a lot of protection and peace of mind.

There are pros and cons to all of the ones in this review. But in the end, any one of them is a great choice for both 50 and 30 amp RVs.

It’s not a must have but I recommend getting one with a live voltage display. We have used our a lot over the years and have been able to camp safer knowing what the power situation is at different campgrounds and RV parks.

It’s even stopped us from setting up in campsites with faulty power pedestals. We plugged the RV surge guard into the 30 amp outlet before backing in our travel trailer. The voltage was very low and the caution light on our Southwire 30 Amp RV Surge Protector (click to view on Amazon) was blinking.

We were able to move to a different area where the power was more stable. It saved us a lot of time being able to check the power outlet before finding out something was wrong after taking the time to set up camp.

I have nothing but good things to say about the Southwire RV Surge Guard With EMS that we purchased a few years ago and it’s a fantastic choice but there is a more premium option that I consider the best overall pick.

Hughes Autoformers PWD50-EPO-H, 50 Amp Spike Power Watchdog with Shut Off

Best Overall RV Surge Protector & EMS – Hughes Autoformers Power Watchdog Surge Protector/EMS

After reviewing some of the best EMS RV surge guards out there the one that sticks out the most is the Hughes Autoformers. It offers the highest amount of surge protection and the replaceable surge guard unit is a nice touch.

I like the Bluetooth capabilities and although it could be a con if you don’t have a smartphone it’s a definite pro for those who do have one. Even if you don’t have a smartphone there is still a small display screen so you can monitor the power going into your RV.

See Also: Camco Sidewinder RV Sewer Hose Support Review + Homemade

If you’re going to use an RV surge protector you should get one that’s going to actually protect your RV’s electrical system and appliances.

That’s why I highly recommend going the extra mile and getting a surge protector with an electrical management system (EMS) like the ones on this list.

You never know if what you’re plugging your trailer into is safe and EMS surge protectors are a great way to diagnose RV park and campground power outlets so you know if it’s safe or not.

An RV surge protector and EMS like the one Hughes Autoformers makes is a fantastic option with all the capabilities of the surge protectors on this list and the highest surge protection rating.

The RV surge protector unit is also replaceable, which is something no other RV surge protector company offers at this time.


RV surge protector and EMS plugged into a power pedestal at an RV park
It’s recommended to always use an RV surge protector and EMS at RV parks and campgrounds.

Frequently Asked Questions About RV Surge Protectors

Do I need a 30 amp or 50 amp surge protector?

As a rule of thumb, you should always get the surge protector that matches your RV’s power rating. 50A to 50A or 30A to 30A.

That being said it’s easier to have a bigger surge protector than a smaller one. If you currently have a 50A surge protector and a 30A RV that will work better than if you have a 30A surge protector and a 50A RV.

A 50A surge protector will still allow your 30A trailer to use all the power it can but a 30A surge protector will limit the power usage in a 50A RV because it won’t let all the power you need through.

For more information on using different surge guards with different outlets and RVs check out this article on that subject here.

What is the difference between 30 amp and 50 amp campsites?

30 amp power doesn’t sound that different from 50 amp but the electricity they use is actually more than double. 30 amp power supplies a total of 3,600 watts to an RV and 50 amp power supplies 12,000 watts of power to an RV. That’s more than 3x as many watts.

The reason for this is a 50 amp plug actually supplies 100 amps of power to an RV because it’s made up of two 50 amp wires.

Usually when talking about 30 and 50 amp campsites a 30 amp campsite won’t have a 50 amp plug but a 50 amp campsite will often have a 30 amp plug.

Even if a 50 amp campsite doesn’t have a 30 amp plug you can still use an adaptor for your 30 amp RV and use all the electrical appliances normally.

On the flip side if you need to plug a 50 amp RV into a 30 amp outlet you aren’t going to be able to run as many appliances at one time as you are used to so be careful especially with the AC units as 30 amp power can barely run one AC at a time.

How do I secure my RV surge protector/guard?

Most RV surge protectors/guards like the ones in this review will come with a “security bracket” you can use to lock the RV surge guard to something so no one walks away with it.

RV surge protector and EMS locked to a power pedestal at an RV park
RV surge protectors are easy to walk away with. You should always have them locked up.

In this picture, you can see the lock is connected to the security bracket and then to a long cable I use to secure the RV surge protector to either the power pedestal or the RV.

Most of the time I’m able to secure the lock directly to the pedestal without having to use the cable. We don’t stay in RV parks very often so I haven’t invested in a better chain but if we do start camping with hookups more I’ll definitely get something beefier than the small wire cable shown in the picture above.

How do I get my RV surge protector to stop showing open ground?

EMS surge guards like the ones on this list have a power pedestal diagnosis feature that will test the outlet and make sure everything is in good shape before sending electricity to the RV.

One common problem we’ve had in RV parks and campgrounds with hookups is an open ground.

Sometimes this can be fixed by turning off the breaker and turning it back on again with the surge guard plugged into the outlet.

It doesn’t always work but if you try turning the breaker on and off or unplugging the surge guard a few times it might stop showing the open ground and start working.

What is a safe voltage for my RV?

Even though electrical hookups are supposed to supply 120V to your RV a lot of RV parks and campgrounds can’t do this because of the high electricity demands, especially if there are a lot of RVs connected to power.

We’ve been to trailer parks that have only been able to supply 114V to our RV and other parks have shown voltage as high as 124V.

As a rule of thumb only hook your trailer up to power pedestals that are supplying 114-132V of power, any more or less may damage sensitive appliances inside your RV like the refrigerator or air conditioner.

It’s more common for RV parks to be supplying less voltage than more. One way to combat this is to use an RV autoformer or step-up transformer. You can read everything you need to know about them in this article here, and the one reviewed also has a built-in surge protector so you may want to check that out before purchasing a separate RV surge protector.

What do I plug in first, the RV, or the surge protector/guard?

You should always plug the RV surge protector in first followed by the RV power cable. You want the surge guard to be a close to the power source as possible. You can still use adaptors if you are plugging your RV surge guard into a different size of outlet or your RV into a different size of surge guard.

If you have a hardwired surge protector it will be wired somewhere inside the RV and won’t be near the shore power outlet. Hardwired surge guards are made to be hooked up like this and don’t need to be plugged directly into the shore power outlet like the portable versions do.

See Also: How To Use A Surge Guard With A Generator (Open Neutral Fix)

Are RV surge guards ok to use in the rain?

Portable RV surge guards are made to be used outdoors and will be fine in the rain so long as they are hanging and not sitting on the ground where water collects. Make sure you look at the specific model you own to make sure it’s rated to be used outdoors.

Hardwired RV surge protectors are not made to be used outdoors and need to be wired somewhere safe and dry inside the RV.

How does an RV surge protector work?

An RV surge protector is a device that stops surges or spikes of electricity from passing through it and into your RV. Common sources of power spikes come from lightning, faulty wiring, and blackouts.

You never know when a surge will happen and many RVs have had their wiring or appliances like the AC or fridge fried by miswired power pedestals in RV parks or campgrounds.

Replacing electrical appliances or rewiring an RV can be costly. It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to things like that.

RV surge guards are a bit of an investment but a good one will last for years and may save your RV from disaster.

What does the EMS stand for in RV surge protector and EMS?

EMS stands for electrical management system. You may have noticed that the RV surge protectors with EMS are not nearly as affordable as standard surge protectors. That’s because and EMS protects your RV from more than just power surges.

They can evaluate the wiring in a power pedestal and protect from things like open or neutral grounds and unsafe voltage levels.

I always suggest getting a surge protector with EMS because it offers better protection for your camper.

Having to replace the refrigerator or air conditioner is going to be much more costly than getting a high quality RV surge protector with EMS that will protect those sensitive appliances from unsafe conditions.

How to tell if an RV surge protector has gone bad or isn’t working.

RV surge protectors don’t last forever and a surge may have occurred that has spent the unit. One thing you should always check is the LED indicator that will tell you if the surge protection is functioning.

Smart RV surge protectors with EMS like the ones in this review all have self diagnostic features that will test the surge guard to make sure it’s good to go.

If the light won’t turn on, there is something wrong and your camper is not being protected.

Have any more questions about RV surge protectors with EMS? Leave a comment below.

by Jenni
Jenni grew up in a small town in Idaho. With a family that loves camping, she has been towing trailers since a very young age.

1 thought on “Best RV Surge Protector & EMS For 30 Amp & 50 Amp 2021”

  1. 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.

    Reply

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