Saturday, February 4, 2023


RVelectricity – Just Ask Mike (J.A.M.): Watch Mike Sokol’s Hughes Power Watchdog Surge Protector review with Tony Barthel

By Mike Sokol
Welcome to my J.A.M. (Just Ask Mike) Session, a weekly column where I answer your basic electrical questions. If you’re a newbie who’s never plugged in a shore power cord (or ask – what’s a shore power cord?), or wonder why your daughter’s hair dryer keeps tripping the circuit breaker, this column is for you. Send your questions to Mike Sokol at mike (at) with the subject line – JAM. This week I discuss the necessity for an advanced surge protector for your RV.

Dear Mike,
What do you think about surge protectors? Is there really any difference between the $100 ones and the $300 ones? I’m a new RVer and keep getting all kinds of different opinions from my friends. —Julie

Dear Julie,
Great question. And the answer is YES, you really do need an advanced surge protector – also called an EMS (Electrical Management System) or EPO (Emergency Power Off).

Campground power has been stretched beyond its original design limits, and many pedestals are poorly maintained. And since RVs are demanding more and more power all the time, it’s up to you to protect your RV’s expensive electrical system from bad things that can happen from poor power.

Failure at what cost?

Remember, it’s very easy to do many thousands of dollars in damage to the RV electrical system from over-voltage issues at a campground or a nearby lightning strike.

And even if you have a $500 deductible from your insurance company, it could take months to diagnose and get the parts for your repair. So you can easily lose an entire camping season you so carefully planned out.

So what do I need to know about a surge protector?

You’re in luck. Just a few weeks ago, Tony Barthel from StressLess Camping and, “summoned” me (like a genie in a bottle) to his video podcast on advanced surge protectors. In the video I did a PowerPoint slide show detailing how surge protectors work. I also discussed operation of the Hughes Power Watchdog.

Watch this…

Just watch this video and you’ll learn the reasons why I believe that surge protectors are needed for ALL campground power, and why the advanced versions that can shut off power if the voltage gets too high or too low are preferred. There are equivalent advanced surge protectors from Progressive Industries and Southwire™ Surge Guard, all of which do a good job of protecting your RV from electrical problems. Watch my interview with Tony here HERE

OK, everyone. Remember that electricity is a useful and powerful force, so we all need to pay attention to safety precautions while using it.

Let’s play safe out there….

P.S. Here’s a picture of me enjoying a mug of coffee in my new mug. Don’t have one yet? Well, soon you’ll be able to get your own so you can have a cup o’ joe along with my JAM session.

Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 50+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.
Join Mike’s popular and informative Facebook group.
And you don’t want to miss Mike’s webcasts on his YouTube channel.

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1 year ago

How long are surge guards good for?

In 2008 we purchased a TRC surge guard. They did replace it about a year later because it basically fell apart inside. It still will trip off when the power I guess surges and will come back on after a couple minutes.

1 year ago

Just ask Mike: When is part 4 going to be released on the Hughes Autotransformer? Part 3 was released last December 2020. Looking forward to seeing the results of testing. Let’s see if NEC reverses their stance on use in campgrounds.

Mike Sokol
1 year ago
Reply to  Randy

I can’t release anything yet, but I’m finding out all kinds of interesting data about the Hughes Autoformer.

David Telenko
1 year ago

Hi Mike. Great discussion. I’m watching your presentation with Tony. You’re talking about MOV’s & that they wear out, but didn’t mention anything about what happens when they are totally gone other than some units have a indicator light that says no more MOV’s, with respect to the protection you’re using! So does the unit totally shut down or continue to run without the MOV protection?

Mike Sokol
1 year ago
Reply to  David Telenko

It will continue to work, but without surge/spike protection.

David Telenko
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Sokol

I would think that it shouldn’t continue to work. I would rather see it shut down, just my opinion!

Merl Bell
1 year ago

I agree Mike. From personal experience: We lost the neutral on the power post at a campground in Florida one time. The cheap surge protector did not shut the power down and I had 230 volts on my motorhome system. Took out the inverter/converter ($1200), one TV ($400) and four house batteries ($450) and considered myself lucky it wasn’t worse. Immediately bought a good one (Progressive IndustriesEMS-PT50C) for about $400. Fortunately, my insurance (Erie) covered all the costs except the new surge protector. BTW, the Erie claims adjuster asked about installation costs and I told her I did it myself and. she waived my $100 deductible for that. Nice people.

1 year ago

“surge protectors” are a TOTAL waste of your dollars. They do not protect you from VERY damaging power conditions. The ONLY electrical protection you should have and USE is one of the EMS systems that also includes surge protection. Plus it should be installed after the shore power cord and before your transfer switch if it is a hardwired device. If you choose the portable device then it can go either before or after the shore power cord. I use the Progressive Industries EMS-HW-50C with two displays, one in the service bay that allows me to see the quality of the power directly after hooking up to the shore power panel. Plus another display in a cabinet in the bedroom so I don’t have to go outside to view the display for any problems.

Mike Sokol
1 year ago
Reply to  Dr4Film

I agree that basic surge protectors really don’t offer the amount of protection needed in campgrounds. The Advanced / EMS (Electrical Management System) / Total Protection / EPO (Emergency Power Off) version is what you really need. Even if you’re on a 30-amp connection it’s possible for your pedestal feeder circuit to lose its neutral, and the voltage feeding your RV can easily reach 160, 180 or 200 volts. It won’t be pretty if that happens without an advanced Power Protector to disconnect you from it.

David Telenko
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Sokol

Hey Mike here’s a weird request, got any pictures of what “it won’t be pretty” situation looks like!

1 year ago
Reply to  David Telenko

All Mike could post would be a picture of a pile of a few thousand dollar bills and a pile of defective TV’s, appliances, and equipment. Or maybe a pic of a very angry, frustrated owner who had to cancel hard-won reservations and cannot find replacement equipment nowadays.

Generally there won’t be much smoke, “much” being the operative word, because eventually the internal fuses and/or breakers should do their thing.

At a brand name campground this past winter in SW FL the entire back row suffered a fault in their underground wiring known as an “open neutral”. Per the story that row had been 30-amp only but was upgraded to 50-amp.

The 30-amp RV’s just lost power and the 50-amp RV’s with a protecting EMS had their power shut off automatically. But the 50-amp RV’s without a protecting EMS had 240 volts AC applied to all of their AC equipment instead of the expected 120 volts AC. And there were several that had their stuff fried.

One fellow was very mad that his “indicating only” EMS told him all was well when he plugged in, because it was. The underground fault occurred after they had been there for six weeks. Yup, those lights on his “indicating only” EMS were all red and screaming “UNPLUG NOW!!!!!!” but they were gone for the day when the fault occurred.

1 year ago

If you do not have one, get one. Replacing electric parts is tough and expensive.

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