Surge Protector Buying Guide
Surge protectors are a great way to defend your home from a power surge during inclement weather or power spikes. Learn all about surge protector power bars in our buying guide.
Protect Your Home Electronics During Power Surges & Spikes
Surge Protector 101
Surge protectors act like an electrical sponge, absorbing dangerous excess voltage and preventing most of it from reaching your sensitive electronics. 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 it should be replaced. There are surge protectors that come with indicator lights let will let you know if it is still in working order.
Surge control is important because even small surges or spikes can eventually destroy or affect the performance of expensive electronic equipment, such as computers, phones, TVs, and microwaves. Damage can occur either instantaneously or over time as smaller surges cause the gradual deterioration of internal circuitry.
Power Surges & Power Spikes
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 garbage disposal, air conditioner, washer, or other large appliances.
- A surge typically measures less than 500V and lasts less than two seconds.
- A spike, by definition, is much shorter in duration — less than one-thousandth of a second (millisecond) — but can measure into the thousands of volts.
Either type of disturbance can damage electronic equipment beyond practical repair. In addition to a change in demand for electricity, bad weather (lightning) and everyday electric utility company switching and maintenance can produce damaging electrical surges on the power line.
Surge Protectors vs. Power Bars
When shopping, note the difference between a power strip and a surge protector. Power strips offer additional outlet space, while surge protectors provide protection from changes in electrical current.
Other Features to Look For
- UL 1449 Clamping Voltage: Underwriters Laboratories (UL) rates the clamping voltage of surge protectors. The lower the rating, the better the protection. The lowest UL rating for clamping voltage is 330 volts. UL tests household surge protectors at 500 amps. Other types such as whole-house or heavy duty, industrial models have a multitude of differences in their testing program. When comparing clamping voltages, make sure the rating reflects 500 amp test results.
- Three-Line Protection: Surges can occur between hot, neutral, and ground lines. Choose a unit that protects along all three lines.
- Response Time: This rating indicates how fast a surge protector can react. The faster, the better.
- Power Shut Down Protection: This feature shuts off power to all outlets once the unit has reached its capacity to protect. Power shut down prevents additional surges and spikes from reaching connected equipment before the surge protector is replaced. This assures you that if the unit has power, it is protecting.
- Joule Rating: A joule is a measurement of energy. The joule rating on a surge protector indicates the amount of energy that a device is capable of absorbing. In general, the higher the joule rating, the better the unit is able to protect your equipment and the longer it will last. The joule rating is determined by the total number of Metal Oxide Varistors (MOV). An MOV is a component in surge protectors that absorbs excess electrical energy and clamps the voltage to a safe level.
- Guarantee: Check the manufacturer's warranty. A data recovery program is an added bonus that will cover costs related to the task of recovering data on a malfunctioning hard drive as a result of a surge.
Surge Protector Safety Tips
- Do not exceed the electrical rating of the product.
- Surge protectors are designed for indoor use in dry location.
- Surge protectors are not intended for use with aquariums.
If the surge protector features a power cord:
- Uncoil the cord before use.
- Do not cover the cord with any material.
- Keep children and pets away from the cord.
- Do not plug a surge protector into an extension cord.
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