Wednesday, May 31, 2023


RV Gadget: Powering safety with the Hughes Power Watchdog

By Tony Barthel
You don’t need a surge suppressor. Until you do. Like a seat belt, or the limit on the bungee cord at the top of the canyon. A lot people have told me that they have been RVing for years and haven’t had a surge suppressor for their RV and everything’s fine. 

But modern RVs, like so many other things in our lives, are filled with tiny computers that monitor systems and make sure that they’re working properly. Your water heater, refrigerator, air conditioner, and so many other systems have a computer that makes them run. 

A good spike in the power coming in, or a severe brown-out or over-voltage, and those computers are done for. Your insurance will pay, you say. Nifty. But consider that Ford just announced it is slowing down its cornerstone of profit, the F-150, because a company that size just can’t buy enough computer chips. 

So what? I have insurance

Even if your insurance company agrees to buy you those new circuit boards, how many months do you think your RV will be sitting around until you can get them? There’s an old expression that says, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” And that’s true here, as well. 

All that negativity is to start out looking at the Hughes Power Watchdog PWD30-EPO, a portable power protector that I’ve been wanting for some time. Now, it’s not like I didn’t already have a power protector. My Progressive Industries EMS-PT30X RV surge protector has been a part of my RV travel experience since I first bought this trailer. Why change? 

Hit the ground running with a Power Watchdog

Hughes has really come out of the gate swinging. Their Power Watchdog models have features that are unique in the industry, including the ability to monitor the unit remotely via a Bluetooth app on your smartphone or tablet. For a nerd like me, being able to monitor power use, or even trouble reporting, from inside the rig is pretty nifty. 

Furthermore, should there ever be an event that disables the unit, the critical components of the unit are easily replaceable. So, rather than throw the whole thing away, you can just replace the components that have failed. I like this. 

As for power protection, the Power Watchdog has 2,400 joules of surge protection as well as a smart circuit analyzer that will shut down the power to the RV and protect it if a dangerous event occurs. Plus, your smartphone will be notified. 

If you have a unit with power shutoff capability like the Hughes or the Progressive Industries model I had previously, there is a delay when you first get to a power pedestal and plug it in as it evaluates the power. On the Progressive model, this seemed to be just over a minute. But the Power Watchdog seems much faster at somewhere around 20 seconds or so. 

The Power Watchdog is also IP65 rated, which means it can be out in the rain when you don’t want to be. It monitors for things like open ground, open neutral, reverse polarity, open circuit and miswired pedestals. 

My own personal power problems

And that last feature is what has helped me. A few years ago when our county was burning, it seemed everybody with an RV was gathered at what is my favorite RV park anyway, including me. We fire evacuees were all there in the heat of summer with our air conditioners running. 

This park, built in the 1950s, hadn’t seen this much business in some time. As people came in more air conditioners kicked on. But, even worse, many of my fellow evacuees were in RVs that hadn’t seen the road in a good while. So, finally someone plugged in and their RV caused the whole leg of the park that I was on to experience a failure. 

That power issue took out most of the little electronic goodies in a friend’s newer Navion – which had no surge suppressor. In my case, my surge suppressor just cut the power to my RV and I was all good until the problem was resolved. 

Portable or hard-wired Power Watchdog?

You can get these units either in portable form or hard-wired, and they’re available for both 30-amp and 50-amp rigs. But I prefer portable units, and here’s why. 

The first thing I do when I get to a campground is whip out the surge suppressor and plug it in. On the Hughes unit, there’s a picture of a dog on the outside. If the dog lights up white, it’s all right. If it’s red, it’s power you’ll dread (feel free to remember that stupid rhyme). I have pulled into a campground on several occasions and had bad power at a site. 

Usually, this is a newly wired plug in an older campground, and whoever is doing the wiring is nobody’s electrician. Campground maintenance folks are often jacks of all trades, and electricity is not something some of them understand well. 

So when I find a bad site, I go back to the office and ask for one that isn’t bad. 

My recommendation

When I write these reviews I will tell you if I would buy one and leave you to make your own decision. In this case, I would like to strongly suggest that you get a surge suppressor with power shutoff capability, and I personally feel the Hughes product is the best at this time. 

But the recommendation isn’t just mine. I got to talk to our own power master, Mike Sokol, whom I have mad respect for with electrical things. He, too, suggested that this is a very wise buy for an RVer. 

One more thing

Furthermore, since the Power Watchdog has Bluetooth functionality, you can pair it with‘s monitoring system to know if the power goes out or if you have power issues. This is great if you have pets, as it uses Wi-Fi to keep you in touch with your RV and can include the Power Watchdog in the things it oversees.

In case you’re interested, there is a 10 percent discount available on these at Hughes’ website when you use the coupon code RVTRAVEL10. 


Tony Barthel
Tony Barthel
Tony Barthel has been a life-long RV enthusiast and travels part-time with his wife where they also produce a podcast, write about RVs and love the RV lifestyle.


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Deborah Mason
9 months ago

I don’t remember the brand of our surge suppressor, but it had saved us big damage at least twice. We had an RV connection installed at me sisters. We plugged in & it reported 240 in both legs then shut down. Electrician came back, opened the panel, said hmmm! And fixed it. Happened again where we live now (different electrician, different state). Electrician installed the connection, but not correctly. The unit saved us again. It also helped when we asked the local power company to adjust the transformer near our place. Coffee pot was getting minutes a day, kitchen stove kept reporting an over voltage. When we called we could tell them the suppressor was retiring 235+ voltage. They immediately knew where to start looking.

9 months ago

Have used the Hughes Autoformer for about 20 years. I use it at home with the RV plugged in in its shed. Had really bad electrical storms a number of years ago with power outages. A surge must gave gone to the outside shed as the Hughes took the hit and saved the motorhome electronics.

I had to send the Hughes back to them for board replacement, but it was promptly repaired and returned and has been back in service ever since. Great products.

9 months ago

Our old surge protector died last year. The warranty on it was useless since the company sold out. So we got the Watchdog. Love it!
Our old unit never monitored for drawing over 30 amps. Yup, we could do that with the AC, TV, Microwave and misc outlets all kicking on at the same time. That Watchdog shuts us off to avoid overloading our wiring. I turn off the AC until done with the microwave and restart the electric via my phone. Easy!
And that glowing white dog face can be dimmed with a filter Hughes sells. I also got the lock they recommended. Happy and safer camper!

The Lazy Q
1 year ago

Bought one two months ago when my progressive died. I like the Hughes much better. It is big though and bright, which comes in handy at night on that side of the RV with no lights. I use a gun barrel slide lock to secure it to the pedestal. Worked perfect running the cable through holes in the pedestal cover my first time using.

Dan Kruger
9 months ago
Reply to  The Lazy Q

Great product….have used one for 5 years now…first one went bad after one year and they replaced it…good service for us…..we live in NW Montana so get some wild thunderstorms so it is a must….gun barrel lock is the way to go…..bungee a dark color plastic lid to the dog face to kill the light….use your phone for all info…great….you can turn on each light or appliance to see your draw….so many good things about The Dog….

2 years ago

For what an RV costs new they should have these built into the wiring.

Susan J Lundquist
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan

That is the absolute truth!

Tony Grigg
2 years ago

We have the 50 amp Bulldog hardwired inside my 5ver storage bay. Out of the weather, can’t be stolen, easy to see and read display. I just plug my power cord directly into the site pedestal and wait for that satisfying ‘clunck’ telling me the power is good and the rig is now powered. And the Bluetooth readout on the phone shows me exactly how much power is consumed by each appliance in the rig. Handy if I’m on a 20 or 30 amp connection so I don’t over draw my power source. Great product!

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