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Surge Protector Buying Guide

Learn how to protect your home and electronics with the proper surge protector.

Surge Protector.

Purpose of Surge Protectors

Surge control is important because even small surges or spikes can eventually destroy or affect the performance of expensive electronic equipment, such as computers, TVs, DVD players, game systems, stereos and microwaves. Surges and spikes are an increase in normal electrical line voltage, often caused by a sudden change or demand for more electricity, such as turning on a larger appliance.

A surge typically measures less than 500 volts and lasts less than two seconds. A spike, by definition, is much shorter in duration – less than one-thousandth of a second – but can measure into the thousands of volts. Either type of disturbance can damage electronic equipment beyond practical repair. Damage can occur either instantaneously or over time as smaller surges cause the gradual deterioration of internal circuitry. The common use of microprocessors (chips) has increased the need for surge protection. These chips are generally very sensitive to voltage fluctuation.

How Surge Protectors Work

Surge protectors act like an electrical sponge, absorbing dangerous excess voltage, preventing most of it from reaching your sensitive equipment. Like a sponge, surge protectors have a limited capacity to absorb. Once the capacity is reached, the unit is no longer protecting your equipment and should be replaced.

Good to Know

When shopping, note the difference between a power strip and a surge protector. Power strips offer additional outlet space. Surge protectors provide protection from changes in electrical current.

Types of Surge Protectors

Types of surge protectors.

Power Strip with Surge Protector - These are your basic surge protectors. They are perfect for home offices and media rooms. They’re generally equipped with 6 to 10 outlets, depending on your electrical needs. Many also come with 360° swivel outlets to accommodate inconvenient outlet locations.

Wall-Mount Surge Protector - The wall-mount surge protector is great for kitchens and bathrooms where you have multiple devices or appliances using the same outlet. These typically come with 4 to 6 outlets, and many have 360° rotating outlets to accommodate larger plug-ins. This style may also come with USB ports.

Surge Protector Features

Features chart.

The following features are found on a quality surge protector:

Surge Protector Safety Tips

Use surge protectors indoors, in a dry location.

  • Don't exceed the electrical rating of the product.
  • Don't use surge protectors with aquariums.

If the surge protector features a power cord:

  • Uncoil the cord before use.
  • Don't not cover the cord with any material.
  • Keep children and pets away from the cord.
  • Don't plug a surge protector into an extension cord.