Buying a surge protector may seem to be a straight forward task, but is it really that simple? In this buying guide, we dive deep into surge protectors and the factors you should keep in mind while choosing one for yourself.
How To Buy A Surge Protector
1. Types Of Surge Protectors
The first factor to consider is the type of surge protector you need. There are basically three main types of surge protectors which are discussed below
a) Surge Protector Strips
These are the most common types of surge protectors that you can plug into any outlet and provide protection to your electronic devices. The surge protector strips look similar to a normal power strip but they aren’t the same.
A normal power strip is different from a surge protector in the way that they do not protect the connected devices against voltage fluctuations and power surges. Power strips are generally used for extension and multiple outlets but it does not provide any protection to the connected devices. On the other hand, a surge protector strip works as both, the power strip and a surge protector. Some surge protector strips also come with USB ports so you can also safely charge your gadgets with it.
b) Wall Mount Surge Protector
The wall mount surge protectors, as the name suggest are the surge protectors that mount to the wall and provide protection to all the connected devices. By wall mounting, you can fix the surge protector to one place and then connect all your devices to it. These surge protectors are a great option for home and office environments.
c) UPS Surge Protectors
The power strip surge protector and the wall mount surge protectors do not have a battery built-in. Hence after protecting your device from a power surge, a normal surge protector turns them off. While it’s fine with some devices but if you are working on your computer and suddenly it turns off due to power surge, you might end up losing all your unsaved data.
And therefore Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) surge protectors are used because they have a built-in battery and they don’t just protect your device from surges but also saves them from suddenly switching off.
If you are looking for surge protectors for your computer or any other device that may get damaged due to sudden power loss then a UPS surge protector is what you need.
2. Number Of Outlets
The number of outlets a surge protector has is a deciding factor and you should be aware of how many outlets you would require to protect all your devices. There are basically two types of surge protectors in terms of the number of outlets.
a) Single Outlet Surge Protectors
If you are looking for a portable and travel-friendly surge protector then a single outlet surge protector will do the job for you. These surge protectors are ideal for charging your mobile and other electronics safely on the go.
b) Multiple Outlet Surge Protectors
You can get the multiple outlets on the wall mount surge protectors as well as on the surge protector strips. But before buying a multiple outlet surge protector make sure the outlets have enough space between them or you will not be able to use all the outlets at the same time.
Some multiple outlet surge protectors come with a swivel design or rotating outlets which makes them ideal for accommodating multiple devices at once. Also when buying a surge protector with multiple outlets make sure it has a high energy rating, so that it can easily protect all the connected devices.
3. Surge Protector Ratings
The energy rating is one of the most important factors that one should notice before buying a surge protector. These ratings tell how effective a surge protector is against electrical power surges. There are two such ratings that you can find on a given surge protector.
a) UL Ratings
These ratings are based on the clamping voltage i.e how much voltage must go through the surge protector before it passes the electric surge to ground. The lower the clamping voltage the better is the protection. Moreover, UL ratings have 3 protection levels, 330V, 400V, and 500V. When buying a surge protector, always look for the one which has clamping voltage less than 400V.
b) Energy Ratings
The energy ratings are measured in Joules and it is a measure of how much energy a surge protector can absorb before it breaks down. The more the energy a surge protector can absorb the better protection it is going to provide. So when buying a surge protector look for one that has higher energy ratings. Overall, you should not go with a surge protector that has energy ratings below 600 Joules.
A Joule chart can help you pick up the right surge protector for your device.
4. Response Time
Almost every surge protector takes a little time to tackle the electric surges, however, that time should be as less as possible. That’s because a longer response time will expose the connected devices to the power surges for a longer period of time. This increases the risk of the device getting damaged. Hence a good surge protector should have a very less response time, ideally, in nanoseconds.
Make sure the surge protector you are going to buy must have some sort of indicator that tells you about its condition. The indicators can be LEDs or Alarm. These indicators will let you know whether the surge protector is working fine or not. If the surge protector has failed then you can replace it before your connected devices get damaged due to a power surge.
When looking for a surge protector for hard to reach places like behind a large appliance or out of sight outlets, choosing a surge protector with alarm is the right choice. As it will alert you whenever it needs to be replaced by ringing the alarm.
Some of the top surge protector brands provide insurance warranty on all the connected devices. If you are buying the surge protector for protecting your expensive electronics against power surges, then make sure the company is providing a warranty on the surge protector.
Apart from protecting your electronics, surge protectors can also protect the modems, telephones, and cable boxes from the surge that may travel through their cables and wires. When looking for a surge protector for such types of equipments, make sure it has the right port/jack for connecting the particular wires and cables. For example, this TrippLite surge protector has an RJ11 jack for protecting modems, telephones, and fax machines.
So, before buying a surge protector make sure it is compatible with the equipment you are buying it for. Or else you may end up losing your money on a wrong surge protector.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
1. What is a Power Surge?
An electrical power surge is a sudden spike in the voltage that may increase the overall electrical potential energy, which in turn increases the amount of current following through the AC outlets of our home. In this case, the devices connected to the outlet are exposed to an extremely high voltage which can damage the sensitive electronic circuitry in them.
2. What causes an Electrical Power Surge?
There are many factors that can cause a Power surge in our homes, however, the most prominent ones are.
- Faulty Power Lines: A faulty power line can cause a short circuit in the wiring of your home which can result in voltage spike.
- Lightning: Probably the most common cause of power surges is lightning. The surge caused by lightning mostly travels through the antenna wires, TV cables, and telephone lines.
- ON/Off Cycle Of Large Appliances: The large appliances such as AC and refrigerator demand high energy to turn ON and OFF its components like the compressor and motors. This energy demand causes a hindrance in the voltage flow of our home’s electrical system which causes the surge. However, these surges are not as powerful as the ones caused by lightning.
3. What devices need Surge Protection?
All most every device that is connected to the AC outlet of your home is under the threat of damage due to a power surge. However, devices with sensitive electronic circuitry like a TV, computer, smartphones, etc are more prone to damage due to voltage upsurge.
4. How does Surge Protector work?
All surge protectors have a build-in device known as the metal oxide varistors (MOVs) which absorb the excess voltage and prevent the surge from reaching the connected equipment. For more detailed info on how the surge protector work you can take the help of this video.
Surge protection is a need for every household these days and one must invest in a good surge protector to protect their electronics. However, buying a wrong surge protector without doing some research is going to hurt more than it’s going to help. And therefore we have come up with this surge protector buying guide which will help you choose the best one for your daily surge protection needs.