The following are some of the most popular questions asked by our readers:
How to choose a good surge protector?
A surge protector is a device which protects your electronics from surges or lightning strikes. A surge protector prevents damage caused by electrical currents when there is high voltage (overvoltage) or low voltage (undervoltage). The protection offered by a surge protectors depends on its design and the type of devices it is used with. Some surge protectors provide only one level of protection. Other surge protectors offer different levels of protection depending on the kind of equipment they are connected to.
What is a lightning strike?
Lightning is a form of electric current generated by static electricity in the atmosphere. Static electricity occurs when there is not enough oxygen present in the air to generate sufficient heat, such as inside buildings or vehicles. When there is too much static electricity, lightning will occur. Lightning is dangerous because it can cause damage to electronic equipment and even kill you if you touch something that was touched by a grounded object during the flash of lightning.
Why do I need a surge protector?
When using computers, televisions, audio/video components, printers and other devices connected to the computer network, you may experience excessive power fluctuations or surges. These power surges or spikes not only damage your equipment, but can also cause loss of data and can even be fatal to the people using electronic medical devices such as an automated external defibrillator (AED).
What is a power surge?
An increase in voltage beyond the normal range is called a power surge. For example, if the voltage flowing to a 60Hz outlet is more than 167V or less than 83V, it is considered a power surge. If the surge lasts more than 200 milliseconds, it is also considered a power surge.
What is a power spike?
A short-term increase in voltage beyond the normal range is called a power spike. For example, if the voltage flowing to a 60Hz outlet is more than 167V for more than 1 millisecond, it is considered a power spike. If the spike lasts less than 200 milliseconds, it is also considered a power spike.
What is a dirty power surge?
A sudden unexpected change in the electric current or voltage, similar to a spike or surge, but at any time is called a dirty power surge. A dirty power surge can be caused by running large motors, such as an air conditioner, refrigerator or furnace, or it can be caused by lightning or power equipment turning on or off.
How do I know if I have taken a power surge?
If you have noticed any of the following then you may have taken a power surge:
Popping or crackling noises
Smoke or burnt smell
Strange odor or taste
Discoloration of objects near the outlet or Wirenut Connector , if not all of them. For example, if your equipment is black and it now has a grayish tint, then you can be sure that you are experiencing power surges.
If any of your equipment is experiencing any of the following problems then you probably have taken a power surge:
Intermittent or total loss of power.
Unexplainable loss of data.
Unexplainable loss of program.
Unexplainable loss of sound or picture.
Strange noises coming from the equipment, similar to static electricity.
Flashes of light coming from the equipment.
Popping or crackling noises coming from the equipment.
Why do I need a power conditioner and surge protector?
A power conditioner and surge protector provide protection against power surges, power spikes and “dirty” power. When these devices are installed on your home’s electrical panel they filter the power going to all your electric devices. This means that if or when a power surge or spike occurs on your line then it can be effectively absorbed, rather than destroy your computer’s motherboard.
How do I know if I’m protected?
Look for the words “MOV” on the packaging of your surge protector. MOV stands for Metal Oxide Varistor and it is a special type of resistor that can absorb many types and sizes of surges and spikes. Another effective way to tell is to look for the UL (Underwriters Laboratory) symbol. If you find this, then your surge protector has undergone rigorous testing and has proven its ability to protect your equipment.
How do I maintain my surge protector?
Surge protectors need to be cleaned every 3 months. Dirt and dust can build up on the MOV’s and prevent them from fully protecting your equipment. Unplug the surge protector from the wall and use a soft cloth dampened with a little bit of water to wipe down the outside of the unit. DO NOT submerge the unit in water or use a harsh cloth which could damage its internal components.
My surge protector is not working properly, what can I do?
If your surge protector is not working then you will need to replace it. You should periodically (at least once every 3 months) unplug the surge protector and wipe down the outside of the unit with a damp cloth in order to remove any dirt, dust or debris which can compromise its ability to protect your equipment.
What is the difference between a power strip and a surge protector?
A power strip provides multiple electrical outlets, while a surge protector also provides protection for your equipment against power surges and spikes.
What is the purpose of a power conditioner?
A power conditioner filters and cleans your power by separating and isolating electrical interference. In some cases, it can act as a surge protector, but this is not its main purpose.
What is “dirty” power and why isn’t my equipment shielded from it?
Dirty power is simply power that has a lot of electrical interference or surges. Almost all electrical equipment is shielded to protect against these problems, but sometimes the power from the electrical company is not consistent or of high enough quality.
If I take my computer in for repair and they say it burned out a component (such as the motherboard) because of a power surge, what can I do?
If you have a surge protector this is very unlikely. Make sure that the repair shop documents the surge and that it caused the problem, then contact the manufacturer of your surge protector and ask them what to do. They may request that you send them the damaged equipment so they can determine if the surge protector failed and if so, they can retrieve any information from the hard drive and possibly save your data.
Can I plug my surge protector into another surge protector?
No! This will not provide any added protection and can actually damage both units.
Why does my surge protector have so many outlets? Do I need them all?
You do not need to plug in all of the outlets to get the protection. Only plug in the items you want to protect.
What is the difference between a cheap and expensive surge protector?
There really isn’t much difference between the two, except for maybe the build quality and warranty. The best option is to go with a brand name that you trust, and buy the best model that you can afford.
Can I plug my surge protector into a power strip?
Yes, this is fine. A power strip simply breaks up the row of outlets into multiple rows so you can turn on or off groups of items. A surge protector, however, has some protection devices built in.
What is the difference between a common mode and a differential mode on a surge protector?
It refers to the type of surge that is being protected against. Common Mode is protection from surges that affect an entire area, such as when lightning strikes nearby power lines. Differential mode is when there is no surge in voltage, but there is an increase or decrease in the voltage. This can be caused by brownouts or even intentional actions by the power company.
The Best Surge Protector
Surge protectors are an important tool to have if you want to keep your expensive electronics safe from unexpected power surges. There are so many different models and types of surge protectors, but only a few of them are worth considering.
We looked at the specs and reviews of each model to find the top four surge protectors available right now.
APC P11VT3 View Features 4.6 Rating
The APC P11VT3 is a surge protector with advanced protection, an alarm system to indicate when the protector stopped working and a phone/fax line surge protection indicator. It can handle up to 1180 joules of energy and has six outlets for all of your electronics to connect.
It can also help prevent any of the current from leaking into other areas and has a long cord so you can put the surge protector anywhere you want. This is a great model to use for your TV, computer and entertainment system.
This surge protector has received rave reviews on all sites that sell it. Users love that it does exactly what is supposed to do, protect all of your expensive equipment.
They also like the long cord. Some did find that it can be a little big and bulky, but others feel that it’s so important to have this level of protection, the size is worth it.
Zonet ZSW1202 View Features 4.5 Rating
The Zenet ZSW1202 has been called a must-have for households with teenagers or anyone with lots of electronic equipment. It features a 12 outlet design with 1080 joules of surge protection.
It also has a convenient cord-length system that allows you to position the unit right where you want it and still have the right amount of cord length.
The ZSW1202 has been given great reviews on sites that sell it. Users love that it has all of the outlets they need and that it’s a great price.
They also feel that it is well-constructed, especially for the affordable cost. A few felt that it was a little bulky, but understood that in order to have this much protection, it had to be bigger.
Best High Performance:
APC P11U2 View Features 4.3 Rating
The APC P11U2 is a surge protector that also has an alarm that will let you know when the surge suppressor fails. It has a long cord and can handle up to 1080 joules of energy.
It has six outlets for all of your electronic devices.
The APC P11U2 has been given excellent reviews on the sites that sell it. Users love that it has an alarm that tells you when the protector fails.
They also feel that this is the best model for the price range. A few did feel that the indicator lights are too bright at night, but others did not seem to have this issue.
Tripp Lite TRIPP-P1-6 View Features 4.5 Rating
The Tripp Lite TRIPP-P1-6 is an 8 outlet surge protector that has a very unique design and is made out of heavy duty material so it can take a beating. It also has a safety shutters that cover the unused outlets and helps prevent dust from getting in there.
It can handle up to 1080 joules of energy and has a cord that is six feet long.
The TRIPP-P1-6 has received great reviews on sites that sell it. Users love how sturdy it is and that it can take a beating.
They also find the safety shutters to be very helpful so they don’t have to search around for the right outlet. A few did feel that the indicator light was a bit too bright.
Best for the Money:
Tripp Lite TLP1008TEL View Features 4.5 Rating
The Tripp Lite TLP1008TEL is a 8-outlet surge protector and has been given very positive reviews on sites that sell it. Users love how well it works and how great of a value it is.
They also love the long cord and that it’s heavy duty. A few did feel that it was a little bulky.
Surge protectors are an important tool to keep your electronic devices safe from power surges and even power outages. Having the right surge protector for your home or business can help prevent any damage from occurring to your devices.
The above products are five of the top surge protectors on the market today and are sure to keep your devices safe.
Sources & references used in this article:
Coordination of surge protectors in low-voltage AC power circuits by FD Martzloff – IEEE Transactions on Power Apparatus and …, 1980 – ieeexplore.ieee.org
Analysis of coordination between primary and secondary protectors by C Chrysanthou, J Boksiner – IEEE transactions on power …, 1997 – ieeexplore.ieee.org
Solid state surge protectors by TJ Smith – US Patent 5,384,679, 1995 – Google Patents
Miniature central office surge protectors by TJ Smith – US Patent 4,424,546, 1984 – Google Patents