Surge Protector for Travel Trailers (Buying Guide)

Surge Protector for Travel Trailers (Buying Guide)

Just imagine: the evening is coming, dinner is cooking and you are sitting outside your RV taking in the atmosphere. Next thing you know, your temporary neighbor is having some major electronic issues. You can see the panicked look on their faces knowing it is going to cost a small fortune to fix it.

Not only is it going to cost a lot of money to fix, but it also has the potential to ruin a lovely holiday. This is our buying guide to help you get a great Surge Protector for Travel Trailers.

If it hasn’t happened to you, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep reading. You can lose all your kitchen appliances. It’s tremendous stress when you should be enjoying your vacation and relaxing. All because of some faulty wiring.

When you think about all the appliances in your RV, it would be silly not to want to provide the most amount of protection. Not everybody likes the idea of taking out expensive, extra insurance for RVs. Most electrical issues can be prevented by using a surge protector!

Before we can appreciate the benefits of a surge protector for RVs, we need to understand a little bit about the electrical systems in place.

Table of Contents

  1. How the electrical system works in an RV
    1. What does a surge protector do?
    2. How will a surge protector help my RV?
      1. What is the difference between a surge protector for my home and for my RV?
      2. Is an Electrical Management System the same?
      3. Mounted or portable
  2. How to choose the right protection
    1. How do I know which surge protector to buy?
      1. Diagnostic abilities
      2. Polarity check
      3. LED light indicators
      4. Weather-resistant
      5. Joule rating
      6. UL listed
      7. Locks
      8. Size
      9. Extra safety features
      10. Warranty
      11. EMS key features
    2. What is the price range of a surge protector and an EMS?
  3. Get the best Surge Protector
    1. Buying guide checklist
  4. More articles about Surge Protectors for RVs
  5. Final words

How the electrical system works in an RV

For the sake of this section, we are going to assume that not everyone reading is an avid RVer. If you are a pro, you might want to treat this as a refresher. Your RV will have AC and DC current. The DC current (12v) is what runs the engine. The AC current (120v) runs the appliances and outlets in the RV, just like in your house.

When you connect to a power station in a caravan park you are powering your appliances. They are known as shore powers or hook-ups and most likely have 20,30 or 50 AMP outlets. Smaller campers and trailers normally use 30amps, whereas bigger trailers use 50amps.

You must use a Hookup that meets the needs of your RV! When you power your RV from a Hookup, you are trusting the campsite owners. Can you be sure they have advertised the correct amps and that the wires are not faulty?

What does a surge protector do?

Surge protectors are what protect your appliances or in this case your RV, as well from excess power. Imagine if there is a storm and lightning strikes. The power that runs through cables and into your appliances is going to reach more than 120v.

Once it hits your appliances they are going to be either damaged or completely broken. Power surges, whether from lightning or other sources, can also burn out your RV system.

A surge protector acts as a blocker for excess electrical charge. Anything over the voltage limit is redirected to the ground. This prevents your RV and its appliances from receiving excessive electrical current.

How will a surge protector help my RV?

As a summary of the previous two sections, your RV is susceptible to the same electrical issues a house is. In some cases, there are more possible risks.

Potential lightning storms, blackouts, faulty wires, or incorrect electrical compatibility could cause extra current to pass through to your RV. The damage will most likely be expensive whether or not you can repair the RV yourself.

A surge protector is designed to block extra power. It sends the power away from expensive equipment and out to the ground. That way will protect the RV running system as well as devices inside.

It isn’t just from when you go away. You should be using a surge protector when you attach your RV to a power source at home too.

What is the difference between a surge protector for my home and for my RV?

First of all, they look very different. A surge protector for your home looks very similar to a power strip. It plugs into a mains wall outlet. Additional appliances are plugged into the surge protector.

A surge protector for an RV is a small box that gets plugged into the Hookup to test the electrical current. Once you know everything is working correctly, you can plug your RV into the surge protector.

Is an Electrical Management System the same?

An EMS (Electrical Management System) is like the big brother of a surge protector. It will protect your RV and appliances but it will also give you more information. Again, assuming we are not electricians, I didn’t know that low voltage is a problem.

It can also cause damage to the RV’s electrical system and electronic appliances. Air conditioners are a good example. Low voltage will allow the machine to work but it puts a lot of strain on the motor. Sooner or later, that motor is going to break. An EMS can tell you if the voltage at a Hookup (or your home) is too high or too low.

Mounted or portable

Both a surge protector and an EMS can be portable or mounted. Mounted surge protectors are known as hardwired. Most people choose to mount a hardwired surge protector near the transfer switch. A portable one is not fixed to any part of the RV. Both have their pros and cons.

Some prefer the portable one because it is easy to use. Others prefer a hardwired surge protector because there is less chance of it being stolen. An EMS system is generally more expensive. If you sell your RV, you will need a new EMS too.

We have read stories of people modifying portable surge protectors to make them mountable. We don’t recommend this! After all, you are talking about safety here. Any doubts and ask a professional. If you haven’t bought your RV yet, ask the dealer if it comes with a surge protector.

How to choose the right protection

Whichever type you prefer, I guess the answer is very clear by now.

Remember to make sure it has all the safety features first. There are plenty of options to buy so if it doesn’t tick all the boxes, keep looking.

How do I know which surge protector to buy?

Because there are so many varieties, you should ask yourself the following three questions first:

  • Is my RV 20amp, 30amp or 50amp?
  • Do I want a surge protector or an EMS
  • Is it going to be hardwired or portable?

Already know how to answer these three questions? Now you can start looking at the specific features of a surge charger for your RV.

Here is a list of some of the key features to look for in a surge protector:

  • Diagnostic abilities
  • Polarity check
  • LED light indicators
  • Weather-resistant
  • Joule rating
  • UL certified
  • Locks
  • Size
  • Extra safety features
  • Warranty
  • EMS key features

Let’s take a closer look at each of these key features.

Diagnostic abilities

First of all, there should be a power light. Most surge protectors will be able to detect things like open ground, neutral ground, and reversed ground problems.

Some will have an overheating light as well as a surge protection light. The more information you can get from the surge protector, the easier it is to find the problem.

Polarity check

Electrical polarity refers to the direction in the current flows in an electrical circuit. The current has to flow from the positive terminal to the negative terminal. A polarity check confirms the correct connection of the line and neutral conductors.

LED light indicators

This is a handy safety feature. It allows you to quickly and easily see where the electrical problem is coming from.


It’s a bit of a no-brainer really! If we are trying to prevent electrical accidents, we don’t want rainwater getting into the surge charger. A common solution is a plastic protection cover or weather-resistant materials.

Joule rating

The joule rating indicates the energy absorption rate. Higher joule protection means the surge protector can handle more excess power.

UL listed

This is extremely important. A product that is UL listed or UL classified means it has been tested to meet all the safety requirements.

The product is recognized for its standards for safety. UL (Underwriters Laboratories) is not the only provider of safety certificates. Make sure the surge protector has one.


Having a lock on the surge protector means you won’t have to worry about someone stealing it while you aren’t looking.

If it doesn’t come with a lock there is another alternative with this RV surge protector lockbox.


The idea of RVs and camping is to travel light. An ideal surge protector isn’t heavy or bulky.

Extra safety features

A good surge protector should be able to prevent fires and electric shocks. Some will have an alarm and/or an emergency shut-off switch.


When you invest money into a surge protector it would be nice if it comes with a warranty. Some even include connected device/equipment coverage. This covers a percentage or all of the cost if any of your appliances are damaged.

EMS key features

If you prefer to have an EMS for your RV it will have many of the key features a surge protector has. It should also have an LED display so you can see that amount of volts. This way you can check that the volts are neither too high nor too low.

What is the price range of a surge protector and an EMS?

Considering the wide range of surge protectors it is a difficult question.

A basic 30AMP surge protector will cost between $80 and $150. Meanwhile, 50AMP surge protectors might cost between $120 and $200. An EMS is unlikely to cost less than $200.

Please remember this is just a rough guide. There may be cheaper models on the market. As you know by now, this is a safety matter. That’s why I don’t recommend looking for the cheapest option.

Get the best Surge Protector

Do you need a surge protector in your RV? The answer is a loud yes. No way around it.

We aren’t just talking about financial expenses if something goes wrong. We are talking about the safety of you and your family.

A surge protector and an EMS will prevent excess electrical power from reaching your RV and the appliances you run inside it.

The cost of a surge protector will not be as much as the cost you might have to pay if there is some kind of electrical problem.

These devices will protect your RV and appliances from lightning, power cuts or power surges, faulty wiring, and incorrect voltage amounts. It will stop higher voltage from reaching the RV, and sending it out to the ground.

There are several things to consider when you are choosing a surge protector. It is easy to get bogged down by all the numbers. Here is one final list to help you remember the things that are important to you.

Buying guide checklist

  • Does it have the correct AMPS for your RV, either 20amps, 30amps, or 50 amps?
  • Would you prefer to have it hardwired into your RV or a portable model?
  • Do you need an EMS or is a surge protector enough?
  • Does it have all the necessary safety features and the UL listing?
  • Will it detect open ground, neutral ground, and reversed ground problems?
  • Does it have a polarity check?
  • Can you easily see if everything is working with LED light?
  • Does it have a high joule rating?
  • Is it a good size for you and easy to use? Can you lock it? Will you be able to leave it out in the rain?

For more information and product reviews, check out our other articles on surge protectors for RVs:

And also, take a look at our other reviews on Surge Protectors

Final words

A surge protector reminds me of a famous phrase that you surely know: better safe than sorry. That’s why you must have a Surge Protector for your RV.

Being able to identify the origin of the problem allows you to fix it before there is an accident. It also means you can attach your RV to any Hookup in any campsite or RV parking knowing that you are protected.

Knowing your RV is connected to a surge protector means you can sit back, and enjoy a hot meal and a cold beverage without blowing a fuss. Happy vacation!