What to Know About Surge Protectors

If you have electronic equipment (and who doesn't?), you need to protect it from damage.  There are a couple ways to do this - one of which is to use surge protectors.  There are lots of variables to choosing a good surge protector and I may bore some of you if I were to discuss all of them, so I'm going to try to narrow it down to the most important points.

All Things Are Not Created Equal

The first thing that you need to know is that a power strip is NOT the same thing as a surge protector.  A power strip does not offer protection.  It merely provides extra outlets - it's basically just an extension of the wall outlet.  Surge protectors protect your equipment against power spikes that may happen during a storm, a blackout/brownout, a blown transformer, etc. 

You Bought Me Jewelry?

The amount of protection the surge protector provides is measured in joules (no, not jewels).  A joule is the amount of energy a surge protector can absorb before it fails.  The greater the number of joules, the more protection you receive.  If the device doesn't have a joules rating, it's just a power strip.  Power spikes can come over lines other than just your computer's power cord - they can come over cable, phone and Ethernet lines also.  Many surge protectors have connections for these also and I recommend that you protect all the lines that are going into your equipment.

I'm Confused - Can You Help Me?

How do I know which one to buy, you ask?  First, assess the value of the equipment you are protecting.  The higher the value of the items, the more protection you need.  Most units have a warranty (also called Equipment Insurance) of some kind that will either repair or replace your equipment, up to the amount of the warranty, if it is damaged while connected to the unit.  Also consider whether the area in which you are located is prone to a lot of thunderstorms and lightning strikes.  Third, determine how many outlets you need and what kind of cord will be plugged into it.  As I've already mentioned, you should protect any cord that goes into the device, whether it's a phone line, network cable, coaxial cable, etc.  Many of those cords will have large AC bricks at the end and we all know how much space those take up, so assess the number of outlets you need and the type of outlet you need.  Surge protectors offer a large variety of configurations - some have widely spaced outlets, some are circular to allow room for the bricks, some have pivoting outlets, some are color coded to help you identify the cords easily, etc.  Some plug in directly to the wall, others have cords.  Choose the configuration and value that is appropriate for your situation.  (Hint - get one with more outlets than you currently need - you know you're going to get more equipment from time to time.)

How Does It Work?

After you've done that, consider how you want the surge protector to work.  Some surge protectors simply absorb the spikes over and over again (or from one giant spike) until the joules run out and then they stop working.  They may, however, continue to supply electricity to your equipment even though the protection is no longer active.  This is not a good thing.  I repeat - this is NOT a good thing.  The indicator light should tell you whether it is still protecting you.  If you can see it, that is (depending on where it's located).  When the surge protector is no longer working, it needs to be replaced.  Other surge protectors function like a circuit breaker - instead of absorbing the surge, the unit cuts the power off.  There's a button on the unit that pops out and you pop it back in after the surge is over.  This type of surge protectors generally does not wear out because it is not absorbing the energy.  These are usually the units that offer a lifetime warranty.


So there you have the basics.  If you need help deciding, give us a call at 877-795-2600 and one of our representatives will be happy to assist you!