What is a Surge Protector and Why You Need One
3803 views | July 19, 2021

What is a Surge Protector and Why You Need One

This article will explain the purpose of a surge protector and why it is necessary to invest in one.

Today's modern appliances and electronic devices are much more sensitive than they used to be, and any electronic device plugged into a power outlet is susceptible to severe damage.

That is why to protect electronics from power surges and spikes; it's necessary to use a surge protector. There are so many options in the market when it comes to surge protectors, it should not be an issue to find an affordable one, and most of them are easy to use.

Ultimately, electrical surge protectors are beneficial in helping extend the lifespan of electronics. However, it's a fact that power surges put vulnerable electronics at high risk.

Power outages, lightning strikes, faulty wiring, and many other electrical problems can cause a power surge. To protect your electronics from surges and spikes; invest in a good surge protector. This article will explain the purpose of a surge protector and why it is necessary to invest in one.

What is a Surge Protector?

First and foremost, power surges happen all the time, and most of the time, they go unnoticed. But an intense power surge can cause thousands of dollars of damage within seconds, a cost outside many budgets. So, what is a surge protector? Surge protectors are devices specifically made to protect electronic equipment against voltage spikes. They handle voltage spike irregularities and maintain an even flow of power into devices.

Surge protectors are often confused with power strips. This confusion is understandable as they look alike in many ways, but a power strip only adds outlets and does not offer any protection.

A surge protector is the safer option and more beneficial than a power strip. A surge protector actively defends against voltage spikes. It's vital to know the joules rating of a surge protector to ensure it's suitable for the appliances it will protect.

The joule rating can be found in the surge protector packaging, which is another way to differentiate a surge protector from a power strip, as a power strip won't have a joule rating. Joules are the surge energy measurement that electrical devices and appliances are capable of absorbing. 1

What Does a Surge Protector Do?

Electronic devices rely on consistent electricity, but unfortunately, there's no way for power outlets to guarantee a level flow of electricity. A surge protector protects devices from voltage inconsistencies by rerouting any excess electricity, only allowing a defined amount of electricity to pass through to a device.

In most commercial and residential dwellings in the U.S., the standard voltage in electrical grids is 120 volts. A surge protector is there if the voltage exceeds 120 volts, preventing the extra voltage from destroying any electronics by sending the voltage to a grounding wire located inside the surge protector.

Types of Surge Protectors

  • Urge Protector Strips plug into standard power outlets, providing multiple device protection at one time.
  • Point-of-Energy Surge Protectors protect the entire home from any form of external power surges.
  • Uninterruptible Power Supplies create a battery backup safety net for electronic devices at all times. If a power surge occurs, this net keeps devices running without any interruption.
  • Wall-Mount Surge Protectors are cordless. They are plugged into power outlets and fit comfortably against the wall, ideal for small spaces that can't handle a power strip.

Are Surge Protectors Necessary?

The answer is yes, it's necessary because power surges can happen any time and no one's prepared for a powerful surge.

Given how power surges can occur at any time, there's no worry about electronic device damage with a surge protector. Here's the real question, what should be plugged into a surge protector?

For instance, it does not make sense to plug a lamp into a surge protector because the only thing a power surge can do to the light is burn out its lightbulb. However, there is a need for surge protection for more expensive and sensitive electronics with intricate microprocessors, such as televisions, computers, gaming consoles, and more.

In short, any expensive electronics will benefit from a surge protector. Without a surge protector, a power surge may shorten the lifespan, wipe out all the data, or destroy the entire system.

Think of it this way: which lost devices would cause the most inconvenience? Plug those devices into a surge protector. It's better to be safe than sorry. It's always recommended to use a surge protector with high-end electronic devices to extend these devices' lives.

On the other hand, not using a surge protector might seem to work fine at first, but numerous surges can slowly degrade electronic devices. Without a surge protector, electronics will inevitably have a shorter life span. And a more substantial power surge can destroy electronics.

How to Choose a Surge Protector

With so many options available, it can feel overwhelming to find a suitable surge protector that meets the needs of modern electronics. What features make a good surge protector? Are there any features that are more important than others?

Here's a breakdown of the features to consider when purchasing a surge protector.

Indicator Lights

It's important to understand that even surge protectors have a defined lifespan, depending on how hard they work. In addition, while diverting a power surge, the surge protector itself can suffer direct damage in the process.

As such, the first important feature in a surge protector is an indicator light. This feature indicated whether the surge protector is functioning well. If the indicator light stops working, it's time to invest in a new surge protector.

UL Rating

When it comes to protector power, a good surge protector comes with a UL rating. The UL certification shows that the surge protector has gone through rigorous testing and successfully met strict requirements. So don't even consider a surge protector that has no UL rating.

Clamping Voltage

The clamping voltage is the measurement that pushed a surge protector to start rerouting the excess voltage away from electronic devices. A surge protector with lower clamping will trigger much earlier and defend devices against a power surge much quicker.

Joule Rating

Joule rating is the maximum amount of energy a surge protector can absorb. If the power surge exceeds this top-level, it typically renders the surge protector useless.

The higher the joule rating of a surge protector, the more energy it can absorb. Thus a higher joule rating often indicates a longer lifespan for the surge protector.

Response Time

The response time is the time it takes for a surge protector to detect a power surge. A shorter response time means faster protection for devices attached to the surge protector. This feature reduces the amount of time that devices are vulnerable to a surge, providing better protection.


All electrical grids are bound to experience electrical surges. However, some experience spikes more frequently than others. These surges can damage expensive electronics like kitchen appliances and entertainment devices, but a surge protector can control the surge and alleviate the damage. So it's best to invest in the best surge protector for gaming PC's, mobile devices, and other vulnerable electronics to avoid having them damaged.

© 2021 FirstEnergy Home

1NEMA Surge Protection Institute. Glossary. Retrieved from https://www.nemasurge.org/glossary/
2 Underwriters Laboratories. Marketing Guidelines for UL Customers With Product, Process, Facility or System Certifications. Retrieved from https://marks.ul.com/about/ul-listing-and-classification-marks/promotion-and-advertising-guidelines/specific-guidelines-and-rules/