What to Know Before Purchasing a Surge Protector -
372 views | July 19, 2021

What to Know Before Purchasing a Surge Protector

Consider these tips before purchasing a surge protection device.

What is a Surge Protector?

A surge protector is a device that can protect a home’s electrical system at either the main electric panel or individual outlets and guards against surges, or spikes, in electricity.1 These surges can damage or destroy household appliances, entertainment equipment, and other expensive household devices. Homeowners often spend a fortune replacing damaged electrical appliances due to surges.

While it’s impossible to prevent electrical surges in the home, homeowners can quickly suppress the transient spikes in electricity that cause damage. The most affordable option is surge protectors, but consider these tips before purchasing a surge protection device.

Power Strips vs. Surge Protectors

There is often a misconception that power strips and surge protectors are the same device. While the look may be similar to a surge protector, a power strip’s only function is to allow more devices to be connected to a wall outlet. Power strips are not designed to protect devices from electrical surges. On the other hand, surge protectors are less expensive than a typical power strip, and they keep home appliances safe from electricity spikes. However, some power strips have been upgraded to offer some surge protection, so it’s important to research each product before purchasing

Terminology

Joules is the unit that is used to describe the strength of a surge protector. The higher number of joules the higher the strength of the surge protector. The higher number means that the surge protector will protect appliances from a very high voltage spike or multiple small voltage spikes. However, remember that it’s important to occasionally check whether surge protectors are working at their optimum strength; they eventually wear down and decrease function.

Claim Warranty on Your Appliance if it Gets Damaged

Some surge protectors offer warranties for appliances connected to them. However, the warranty may only cover a certain amount, so it’s important to check. It is more likely that the warranty will go unused as surge protectors are perfectly capable of protecting appliances from surge damage.

Install More Electrical Outlets

The technological world is dynamic and is constantly creating more useful products. But most of these products need a power source. And without enough outlets, the chance of overloading any particular circuit increases as electrical equipment is added.

A Surge Protector with Larger Spacing

Some appliances have plugs that look like small boxes with prongs. These are referred to as wall warts, and they convert AC power into DC power. Unfortunately, they also occupy more space than a traditional plug. So, ensure that the surge protector has more space between sockets to accommodate these types of plugs. Some surge protectors can even rotate or move around to make space for larger plugs.

Phone Lines

When considering power surge protectors for devices, we often forget about phone and cable lines. However, these are at equal risk of a power surge as other devices in our home, so make sure that cable and phone lines have surge protection. Surge protectors are also available with the connectors for phone or cable lines.

Surge Protectors with USB

Surge protectors are also available with a USB connection instead of a conventional wall plug. However, consider the amp rating before purchasing. These surge protectors are usually available in 1 or 2 amp. 2 amps is generally enough to charge your mobile devices.

Replacing Surge Protectors

Power surge protectors need to be replaced every once in a while because they eventually wear out. Some surge protectors include an alert feature when it has worn out. However, not all surge protectors come with this feature, so it’s important to check the device occasionally. The rule of thumb for replacing surge protectors is every 3-5 years, and sometimes sooner.2

Popular Surge Protectors

Finding the best power surge protector is up for debate, but listed below are a few that are popular and have good customer reviews.*

APC SurgeArrest P11VNT3

Many users think that surge protectors need to have many outlets to support the number of home electrical connections that require surge protection. This surge protector includes many connections for several appliances.

Belkin PivotPlug BP112230-08

The Belkin PivotPlug is unique because it allows large plugs to be connected as it pivots 90 degrees. It also includes a cable trap that easily hides the device and keeps the room tidy.

Tripp Lite (two outlets)

This 2-outlet plug can easily be packed into luggage because it has a three-prong plug with retractable prongs. It can offer protection up to 1,050 joules, which makes it ideal as an outdoor surge protector.

APC SurgeArrest P12U2

The APC SurgeArrest P12U2 comes with eight outlets, allowing for more devices than a traditional power strip. The best part is that it comes with safety shutters which is a good option for homes with children. It also has a rotating shoulder that prevents the cable from kinking when configuring in a particular direction.

Philips Surge Protector

The Philips Surge Protector is a good option with a space-saving design. Unlike traditional power surge protectors, this model includes an LED light as a protection indicator.

* FirstEnergy Home’s review of this product is solely opinion. FirstEnergy Home did not receive compensation for the review. FirstEnergy Home, and any FirstEnergy affiliates, are not affiliated with the manufacturer of the product, nor is there any endorsement or sponsorship between the product manufacturer of the product and FirstEnergy Home or any of its affiliates.

Final Thoughts

Power surges can happen any time, and most go unnoticed without causing damage. However, given that surge protector strips are relatively inexpensive, it's best to keep a few around the house to protect expensive electronics. Just plug them in and forget about them. Many common household items don't need protection, i.e., lamps, coffee pots, alarm clocks, blenders, and microwaves.

Modern devices like computers, tablets, TVs, gaming systems, and other entertainment devices utilize microprocessors with sensitive circuitry. As a result, these are the types of expensive devices that benefit from more protection than other everyday appliances.

Surge protection boils down to common sense. What items would be devastating to lose or cause a financial hardship to replace? It's probably not the blow dryer, but most likely that high-end electronic device.

FAQs

How often do you replace surge protectors?

The average life of a surge protector is usually 3-5 years. The better way to decide if your surge protector needs replacement is how many causes of surges have taken place. For example, if you have faulty wiring or numerous thunderstorms or power outages in your area, you need to change your surge protectors more frequently.

How do I determine what size of surge protectors I need?

Typically, a 1,000 joules surge protector is usually enough for smaller electronic equipment. For a home office with a printer, computer, router, and other equipment, between 1,000 and 2,000 joules is recommended.

Where are surge protectors installed?

Surge protectors can be installed at the main electrical panel or plugged into outlets as a mobile surge protection strip.

How many joules are needed in a surge protector for a TV?

Between 1,500 and 2,500 joules are recommended depending on the type of TV.


1Surge Protection Institute. What Are SPDs. Retrieved from https://www.nemasurge.org/what-is-spd/
2 NY Times. The Best Surge Protector.Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-surge-protector/

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