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RV & Marine Surge Protector Buying Guide

Faulty power can cause severe damage to your boat or RV. This is why it's so important to have proper surge protection in place to guard against voltage spikes. But surge protectors for boats and RVs are different from the surge protectors you'd find in a home. Because of this, it can be a little tricky to find the best RV surge protector or boat electrical management system for your needs. That's why we've created this high-level buying guide to aid in your purchasing decision.

Article Contents

What is a Power Surge Protector?

A surge protector is an electrical protection device. The main function of an RV or marine surge protector is to keep your vehicle, electronics and appliances safe from sudden surges in power. Transient voltage, more commonly referred to as a power surge, is a sudden spike in voltage that is significantly above the designated level in your average flow of electricity. In the US, if your voltage rises above 120V, there is an issue.

There are two types of voltage increases you might experience:

  • A surge (when the increase in voltage lasts three nanoseconds or more)
  • A spike (when the increase in voltage lasts two nanoseconds or less)

If a surge or spike is too high, it can wear down or even damage your wires and electronics.

How Does A Surge Protector Work?

A surge protector works by safely passing the electrical current from the outlet to any electrical or electronic devices plugged into the strip. If the voltage from the outlet ever surges or spikes, the surge protector will divert the excess electricity. Surges and spikes are quite common when using more sophisticated and modern electronic devices as they're more sensitive to increases in electrical currents.

When Using Your Surge Protector

Before you plug in your RV or marine surge protector, you should always make sure the circuit breaker is turned off at the power pedestal. This prevents electrical arcing between the pedestal and your cord.

Factors to Consider

A marine or RV electrical protection device protects you from possible shore power electrical issues, including power surges, incorrectly wired power pedestals and low voltage. Simply put, if you are connected to an outside power source, you need to be using an electrical protection device.

Surge Protector By Itself vs. Surge Protector with an Electrical Management System

A surge protector prevents catastrophic damage to any connected electronics or appliances if a large voltage spike occurs (think lighting strikes). Just keep in mind that a surge protector won't guard your boat or RV from low or high voltages or open grounds, open neutrals or reverse polarities.

A surge protector with an electrical management system (EMS), on the other hand, protects you from large voltage spikes, as well as all other types of damaging power problems. An EMS is hands-down the best protection against electrical damage.

How Many Amps Do You Need?

Wondering which type of electrical protection device you need? This part is pretty simple. Just look at the plug of your boat or RV's power cord. If it has three prongs, you have a 30-amp rig. If it has four prongs, you have a 50-amp rig.

What Protection Rating Do You Need?

In doing your research, you may have noticed something called a "Joule rating." This is the maximum amount of energy that the electrical protection device can absorb and dissipate. Usually, the higher the Joule rating, the better. However, the most important factor is not, in fact, the Joule rating, but the response time. 

The response time of a surge protector or EMS is how quickly it will respond to a sudden voltage spike. And the lower the response time, the better the product. So, when shopping for your new electrical protection device, take the Joule rating with a grain of salt and focus more on the response time to find the best device for your needs and safety.

Portable or Permanent?

Portable surge protectors or EMS are plugged into shore power pedestals. These allow you to test the outlet before use and require no installation. Plus, portable models are easy to replace if needed.

Permanent surge protectors or EMS require a one-time installation inside of your RV or boat, providing increased security. They typically feature a digital readout inside the vehicle so you know what exactly is going on with your EMS system.

Popular Surge Protector Options

Now that you have a better understanding of what to look for in RV and marine surge protectors, you're probably wondering to yourself "What is the best RV surge protector?" While there is no "best" option since everyone has different needs, there are some popular and highly rated models on the market, like the Surge Guard surge protector.

Permanent Surge Protectors

If you're looking for a hardwired surge protector for your boat, the Surge Guard 35530 is a popular choice. It seamlessly monitors your shore power and shuts off when it detects any power surges or potentially damaging electrical issues. This model includes an optional remote LCD display as well as a caution indicator light.

For a great permanent RV surge protector, the Surge Guard TRC 40240 provides bumper-to-bumper protection. Installed in the bay of the coach, this electrical protection device shuts off automatically when it detects damaging power surges. It includes an easy-to-read remote unit that provides information on your vehicle's electrical status.

Portable Surge Protectors

To protect your boat from faulty pedestal power, the TRC 67030 Marine Surge Guard is a smart portable option that's compact and easy to use. This EMS continually monitors for voltage and amp draw and reverse polarity due to miswired pedestal power or elevated ground voltage.

For full protection with a convenient LCD display, the Surge Guard 34950 Surge Protector is a good option for those looking for a portable model. This surge protector offers multi-mode surge suppression against power surges, open ground, elevated ground line voltage, overheating receptacle, reversed polarity and miswired pedestals. It also features a new, brighter LCD display and a locking ring to secure the surge guard.

Find the Best RV Surge Protectors and Other Electrical Protection Devices at Boat & RV Accessories

Our priority at Boat & RV Accessories is to provide you with the best and most reliable products on the market. Shop for everything you need to protect against electrical issues, from portable marine surge protectors to hardwired electrical management systems — we have just what you need. Have a question or need additional information about our selection of electrical protection devices? Reach out today for assistance.