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  • What Is a Surge Protector?
  • How Does It Work?
  • Surge Protector vs. Power Strip
  • Benefits
  • How to Choose
  • Usage Tips
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What Is a Surge Protector?

A surge protector, also known as a surge suppressor or surge diverter, is a device designed to protect electrical appliances from voltage spikes in the power supply.

Voltage spikes, or surges, can occur for various reasons, such as lightning strikes, power outages, tripped circuit breakers, or malfunctions in the power grid. These surges can potentially damage or destroy electronic equipment that is sensitive to high voltage levels.

How Does a Surge Protector Work?

Detection and Diversion
Detection and Diversion
Surge protectors monitor the voltage flowing through power lines. When they detect a voltage exceeding a safe threshold—typically 120 volts in the United States—their internal components, such as metal oxide varistors (MOVs), activate. These components are designed to quickly respond to overvoltage by diverting the excess current from connected devices to the grounding wire.
Energy Absorption
Energy Absorption
Surge protectors absorb excess energy from voltage spikes, preventing it from reaching connected devices. MOVs can absorb and dissipate a certain amount of energy, measured in joules, a key specification for choosing a surge protector. The higher the joule rating, the more energy the surge protector can handle before needing replacement.
Protection and Indication
Protection and Indication
After diverting the surge, surge protectors continue to function as normal power strips, supplying power to connected devices. Many surge protectors feature indicator lights to show whether protection is active or if the device has been compromised and requires replacement. Some advanced models may also include an automatic shutdown feature when protection becomes ineffective, ensuring that no unprotected power reaches the devices.

Surge Protectors vs. Power Strips: How Are They Different?

Surge Protectors vs. Power Strips: How Are They Different?
Surge Protectors
Power Strips
Provide mulitple outlets and protect connected devices from power surges by regulating voltage and blocking or shorting to ground any unsafe excess voltages.
Simply offer additional outlets for multiple devices, allowing several devices to be plugged into one power outlet.
Protection Component
Contain internal components such as metal oxide varistors (MOVs) or gas discharge arrestors, designed to react to spikes in voltage.
Lack these protective components, thus offering no defense against voltage fluctuations that can damage electronic devices.
Cost and Indicators
Are more expensive than power strips due to the added technology for surge protection. They often come with diagnostic LEDs to indicate whether the devices are protected and if the unit is grounded.
Are less expensive than surge protectors.
Certification and Ratings
Are certified by independant organizations like Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and have ratings indicating their effectiveness in protecting agaisnt surges, such as clamping voltage, energy absorption (joule rating), and response time.
Do not have these ratings because they do not offer surge protection.
<h2>Why Do You Need Surge Protectors?</h2>

Why Do You Need Surge Protectors?

Electronic Protection: Surge protectors are crucial for protecting sensitive electronic devices, such as computers, televisions, gaming consoles, and home appliances, from voltage spikes.
These spikes, which can be caused by lightning strikes, power outages, or grid switches, may lead to immediate damage or gradual degradation of internal electronic components. This results in a reduced lifespan or catastrophic failure of the devices.
Financial Security: Surge protectors can help consumers avoid the potentially high costs associated with repairing or replacing damaged electronic equipment.
The investment in a surge protector is usually significantly less than the expenses related to the loss of valuable data or the cost of new electronics. This makes surge protectors an economically sensible choice for safeguarding technological investments.

How Should You Choose Surge Protectors?

Joule Rating

Choose a surge protector with a high joule rating to indicate its capability to absorb more energy from power surges. A higher rating ensures better protection and extends the lifespan of your devices.
<h3>Joule Rating</h3>
<h3>Clamping Voltage</h3>
<h3>Outlets and Features</h3>

How Should You Choose Surge Protectors?

Joule Rating

Choose a surge protector with a high joule rating to indicate its capability to absorb more energy from power surges. A higher rating ensures better protection and extends the lifespan of your devices.

Clamping Voltage

Opt for a surge protector with a lower clamping voltage, the threshold at which the protector begins to limit excess electricity. A lower clamping voltage signifies a faster response to surges.

Outlets and Features

Assess the number of outlets required and any additional features you might need, such as USB ports, phone line or cable protection, and indicator lights for grounding and protection status.
Surge Protectors Usage Consideration
Surge Protectors Usage Consideration

- If you only need to increase the number of available outlets, a power srip might suffice.

- If you aim to protect sensitive electronics such as computers, televisions, or home theater systems from voltage spikes, a surge protector is necessary.

- Always check the product details to determine whether the device is a simple power strip or a surge protector.


Q1: Are all power strips surge protectors?

No, not all power strips are surge protectors. Though they may appear similar, offering multiple outlets, only surge protectors are designed to protect electronic devices from power surges. Standard power strips merely increase the number of available outlets from a wall socket without offering voltage regulation or surge protection. It is crucial to check the specifications and labels to verify surge protection capabilities before relying on a device to safeguard sensitive electronics.

Q2: Why does my house experience electrical surges?

Electrical surges can occur in your home for various reasons. External factors like lightning strikes, power outages, or utility grid distruptions can cause unexpected electrical spikes. Internally, large appliances like HVAC systems or refrigerators drawing significant power on startup can generate surges. Faulty wiring, circuit overloads, or damaged power lines can also lead to surges. Addressing these issues promptly is vital to prevent damage to electronics and reduce safety risks.

Q3: Which appliances require surge protection?

Devices that benefit from surge protection include computers, televisions, gaming consoles, audio and home theater systems, and modern kitchen appliances such as microwaves and refrigerators. Office equipment like printers, fax machines, and networking devices also need surge protection. Essentially, any costly or essential device, especially those storing valuable data, should be protected by a surge protector to prevent potential damage from unexpected electrical surges.

Q4: Can surge protectors be used outdoors?

Standard surge protectors are not recommended for outdoor use due to their inability to withstand conditions like moisture, temperature changes, and exposure to the elements. However, surge protectors designed for outdoor use are available, featuring weather-resistant exterior, moisture-proof outlet covers, and UV protection to prevent degradation from sunlight exposure.

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