What Is A Surge Protector And Why Do You Need One?

The most common use for a surge protector is for people with a personal computer who need to plug many cords into one outlet. Often times it is referred to as a power surge strip or a surge suppressor. If you own a desktop computer then you know your two-pronged wall outlet is unable to host all the cords from the many components of a computer. This is where a surge protection device comes in handy.

While it allows for a convenient way to plug in multiple items into one outlet, the most important use of computer surge protectors is to prevent power surges. A surge in power that overloads your wall outlet may damage your computer’s electronic equipment, or worse, cause an electrical fire in your home. One thing to note however, is that is there no benefit to having one surge protector plug into another. In fact, you can cause more damage to your equipment by doing so.

A power surge is just what it sounds like, a surge in power to your electrical supply. It sends too much energy through the electrical wiring in your home and heats up. This extra energy can damage the electrical components of your equipment over time. It could be a lightning strike that sends a surge to the power lines to your house. In this case when lightning strikes near power lines, it causes a boost in the flow of energy enough to overpower even your surge protector. It is best to turn off any equipment in the event of an electrical storm.

Protect your electrical equipment with a quality home surge protector.A typical wall outlet can take 120 volts of electricity. Anything more is considered a surge if it lasts for more than a few seconds. A more common household cause of surges is high-powered electrical equipment like air conditioners. When you turn them on it takes a great deal of initial power. This can trigger a surge and lead to overloads which can damage the equipment or even lead to fire. However, faulty wiring is the leading cause of most house fires involving power surges.

What a surge protector does is it passes the electric stream to different components plugged into it. If there is a surge it sends the extra juice to the grounding wire through a device called a metal oxide varistor, or MOV. It looks like a heavy coil and acts as a semiconductor between the house wiring and the ground wire. In normal use it allows current to each outlet supply. If the wiring in the house takes on too much electricity, when it hits the MOV, the extra electricity gets redirected to the ground wire as the normal level of energy continues to the outlets.

Where To Install A Surge Protector

Eighty percent of electrical issues around the home or in the office come from bad wiring or grounding issues. 20% are a direct result from your local service provider’s equipment. To reduce any possible damage from energy spikes or power surges, keep one simple rule in mind: Whenever you can, try to keep sensitive electronic equipment separated from the areas where your large energy-sucking appliances are plugged in.

Some of the more sensitive appliances and electronic devices include:

  • Computers, servers and modems
  • VCRs, DVD players and stereo equipment
  • Answering machines and fax machines
  • Security systems
  • Garage door openers
  • Digital clocks
  • Any equipment that needs constant, uninterrupted power

Your typical power-hungry home appliances are:

  • Laser printers
  • Photocopiers
  • Washers and dryers
  • Electric and microwave ovens
  • Hair dryers and electric razors
  • Electric tools
  • Electric furnaces and air conditioning

One flaw with surge protectors is that a strong surge, as with a lightning strike, can burn out the metal oxide varistor and essentially disable your power strip, leaving you unprotected. If you purchase just any power surge strip chances are you are buying something that will not last very long. Don’t spend money on cheap equipment. You need to spend a little money on a quality protector and it is best find one with a warning light to indicate that your unit is working properly.

Most modern electronics will benefit from surge protection.You won’t need to use one on every appliance in your home, certainly not lamps and clocks. Major energy consuming appliances like refrigerators, dishwashers, washers and dryers are where they are best used. Components within modern electronics can also be more sensitive to surges. Things like microwaves, your computer or DVD player and television. If you just need more outlet resources, a basic power strip will do the job, but for these devices you need to have a worthwhile idea of what you need when choosing a surge protector.

Let’s recap where a surge suppressor will work best in your home.

  • You do not need to use surge protection for small electrical appliances, such as alarm clocks, lamps, a clothes iron or hair clippers, although they would benefit too.
  • Use one for all of the components to your computer. You don’t want to run the risk of burning out the processor in your desktop and losing valuable data or having to replace your computer.
  • Home theater systems are items that you should run through a protector. You can find many quality home theater surge protectors in local electronic stores, but Monster is a name you can trust.
  • Entertainment center components is another area that should use a quality protector.

In the event of a power surge you want your electronic equipment to be protected from damage and having to be replaced prematurely down the road. Investing in a quality surge protector will prevent this from happening and may even prevent a fire in your home. If you are looking for power surge protector reviews, read further and you will find other informative posts and more.

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  1. Clement Lam says

    Please advise how do I know that the electric outlet (strip) that I bought is ‘surge proctected’?


  2. admin says

    Hi Clement.

    A power strip does nothing more than offer multiple outlets for a standard 2-outlet wall plug, while a surge protector can provide multiple outlets and still protect your appliance(s) from power surges. To find out which one you have you need to look on the back of your strip and see if there is a UL Listing. The UL Listing you want is UL 1449. This indicates the clamping voltage of the surge protector. The lower the rating the better protected you are. 330 is the best rating. You may also see the Joules listed on the back plate. If there is then chances are you have a surge protector and not a power strip. Joules tells you how much energy the protector can absorb before it no longer works. There may also be an indicator light on your strip that tells you if your device is protecting you. If your unit does have one and the light is off then you are not being protected and need to replace your protector. If you still have the packaging you can simply look for both the UL listing and the Joules rating there.

    I hope that answered your question.

  3. John R. Nusbaum says

    I don’t have a website. Recently, I purchased a Prime Surge Protector Model S9P802RBCA, Type3SPD, UL50E8. Previously, I purchased a SAMSUNG 46 HDTV 6300. i AM HAVING PROBLEMS. I talked with Comcast and they suggested it might be the surge protector. I have both the cable and electrical hooked up, the electrical to the the TV and the cablefrom the surge protector to the cable box for HDTV. When I turn it on, Im get a message that I need to insert a cable card. Comcast suggested I turn off the surge protector for 30 seconds and then turn on the TV. It works. I also get blackouts for about 30 seconds and then the TV program will be back on. Comcast suggested, I take the cable off the surge protector and hook the incoming cable line direct to the cable box as a test. I have not done so yet. They also suggest that I really don’t need surge protection for the cable line. What is your take on this problem? Also, do I have the right type of surge protector? I purchased this model thinking I was getting the ultimate in protection.

  4. admin says

    Hi John. You probably don’t need surge protection on the Comcast line. Sometimes commercial lines are already surge protected and this could cause a ground loop on your cable line if you attach a second surge protection device. It could be also that line noise on the cable is being picked up by the surge protector and causing the surge protector to block the noise. Line noise naturally exists to a degree that a surge protector might act to block it if it is detected. This would certainly cause disruption in service and picture distortion. Try attaching the cable to the surge protector on the other side of the cable box instead of between the cable box and the HDTV.

  5. Jim says

    I have a pellet stove that runs on 120v, with its electronic ignition, thermostat the stove cycles on and off throughout the day. Do I need surge protector, and if so, what size joules would be required?

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