There are a lot of external similarities between power strips and surge protectors, but they function quite differently. Let’s take a look at their similarities and differences to understand whether you need a power strip or a surge protector.
A power strip is a simple device that you use if you want to use additional AC outlets or if you’re working in an area where the wall outlet is too far away. Many power strips have circuit breakers, but you can’t rely on them if you want to protect your appliances or devices from voltage spikes.
If you want to protect your device or appliance from voltage spikes, then what you’re looking for is a surge protector. Also known as surge suppressors and spike suppressors, these devices prevent your appliances from getting fried because of a series of power surges caused by power grid switching. Power plant maintenance, power outages, and the usual on and off cycles of ACs and refrigerators can also trigger a power surge and can damage your appliance. But keep in mind that simple surge protectors are not designed to protect your devices from voltage spikes caused by lightning strikes.
Many surge protectors use metal oxide varistors or MOVs to protect your device from power surges. Others use a type of thyristor surge protection device or a transient voltage suppression diode. Some manufacturers use a combination of these suppressor devices to protect your appliances from power surges. Keep in mind, however, that MOVs and other suppression devices can degrade after a particularly large or a series of voltage spikes, so it’s best to check if they are still intact or if they need to be replaced.
One of the first things you need to consider when choosing the best surge protector is its joule rating. This is an indicator of the amount of energy the device can hold before it finally degrades after a voltage spike.
The rule of thumb when choosing the safest surge protector is the higher the joule rating, the better it can handle a voltage spike. Moreover, higher-end appliances and devices need a surge protector with a high joule rating.
A surge protector with a 500 to 1,000-joule rating is enough for small electronic devices. You will need at least 1,000 to 2,000 joules if you’re using routers, printers, impact drivers, circular saws, oscillating multi-tools, and other power tools. Entertainment systems and desktops where you store important info will benefit from surge protectors with a 2,000-joule rating and above.
Number of Outlets
When it comes to the number of AC outlets on a surge protector, the cardinal rule is to get one with plenty of space for your current and future devices. You might not have a lot of home or office appliances now, but that doesn’t mean you won’t purchase additional ones in the future.
Look for a surge protector where the outlets are evenly spaced. Make sure there’s plenty of space for bigger plugs, and there’s no crowding when you attach multiple plugs.
USB Charging Ports
Newer and pricier surge protectors come with USB ports for charging your cell phone and other mobile devices. This feature is handy especially if you frequently lose or damage your phone charger. For faster charging, look for a surge protector with a higher amp rating (at least 2 amps).
Phone and Modem Protection
Communication lines can also be a conduit for power surges. To protect communication lines from damage caused by a power surge, look for a surge suppressor that can protect your telephone and cable lines.