Smackdown: Advanced Surge Protector Vs Multimeter vs Circuit Analyzer?

Concerned about the quality of the power at the pedestal? In the matter of RV electrical protection, you have three options:

  1. Check manually with a multimeter.
  2. Check automatically using an advanced surge protector.
  3. Believe that all people and wiring are basically good at heart.

Which Is Better: A Multimeter or Surge Protector?

SouthWire Surge Guard RV EMS surge protector
Example of advanced EMS surge protector
A Klein CL800 digital amp/multimeter
Example of digital multimeter (DMM)

Between the first two options, you might assume, given that I am a borderline Scrooge AND a bit of a data freak, that I would award the blue ribbon to the multimeter: for about $50, you can measure just about any feature of electricity you might want to learn about, plus several you don’t. Plus, you’ll get specific, detailed numbers. In comparison, a surge protector costs about $200 and hides most of its thinking, communicating mostly via LEDs and error codes.

But truthfully, first place on the podium goes to an advanced surge protector every time. It’s for a simple reason: A multimeter informs; a surge protector protects. As a bonus, a surge protector monitors your power hookup continuously, whereas a multimeter can only read data in real time. Who’s to say the line voltage won’t drop from an acceptable 112 to a troubling 102 once everyone turns on their air conditioners?

>>> READ MORE: Can You Fix Low Voltage at an RV Campground with an Autoformer?

Uh – What Is an “Advanced” RV Surge Protector?

Now, I must interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to define the term “advanced surge protector.” Hopefully, you’ve read my introduction to RV surge protection already, and if you haven’t, grab another coffee and go read it. 

An “advanced surge protector” is also known as a “smart surge protector” or just an EMS, which stands for Energy Management System. The appellation “EMS” was coined by Progressive Industries and is technically reserved for their brand of smart RV surge protectors, but the term has become eponymous for other similar products from Hughes, Southwire, and their competitors.

Non-smart, aka “dumb” or “basic” surge protectors are the noncommital middle-ground between a multimeter and an advanced RV surge protector. Personally, I don’t recommend these surge protectors to most RVers. Basic surge protectors – well, they’re just that: a sacrificial component that lays down its life for the good of its friends. They’ll take the hit of a voltage spike or lightning strike rather than passing on that voltage. They’re quite literally a one-hit wonder. 

Is a “Circuit Analyzer” the Same Thing?

Some basic surge protectors are also circuit analyzers, but please don’t confuse circuit analysis with circuit protection! The former is passive; the latter is active. A circuit analyzer might alert you that you have an open ground, low voltage, or some other dangerous electrical problem, but it’s only an objective, detached messenger. Like David Attenborough describing the disturbing death of an antelope, a circuit analyzer will tell you why your RV is going to die, but it won’t stop it. A lot of Amazon spin-offs fall into this category, like popular brands such as Kohree, EyGyde, and GearGo.

>>> READ MORE: Proof Why You Shouldn’t Use an Extension Cord to Plug In Your RV

My Take: An Advanced Surge Protector Is Cheap Insurance!

So my advice is to cry once, buy once, and purchase an advanced RV surge protector that not only monitors but interrupts the flow of power if it detects a potentially dangerous condition. And yes, bring along a multimeter as well. You’ll find plenty of other uses for it!

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