Top 10 Questions About Surge Protector

Top 10 Questions About Surge Protector

While it’s great to have info on surge protectors and be able to read surge protector reviews to help you decide what product will best serve your needs, it doesn’t really benefit you if you don’t know some basic knowledge about them. There is a lot of information on this site about popular brands and equipment that requires surge protection, but the folks at thought it would be nice to break it down for people that are in the dark (no pun intended) about these devices and their importance.

We’ve compiled a list of top ten questions that readers have asked in several emails. While we try to provide as much information as possible in our surge protection reviews, we have apparently overlooked some things. So without further ado:

Is all electric outlet power surge protected?

The short answer is no. Not all outlet power is protected from surges. Unless your house is wired with a whole house surge protector then chances are none of your power lines are surge protected. That’s not to say the lines aren’t grounded, which is essential for surge protectors to function properly; but no, if you are not connected at the source then you are not protected. You will have to rely on protection at the outlet with point-of-use or wall surge protectors. Point-of-use refers to a unit that plugs into an outlet; it’s the same thing as a wall surge protector.

Can you have a faulty surge protector in the plug outlet?

Yes, you can. Surge protectors are not infallible. They are designed to sacrifice themselves to save the appliance they are connected to. The MOVs (metal oxide varistors) are what makes surge protectors work to absorb surges. When they absorb all the surge flow they can, they burn out, much like a light bulb whose coil snaps when it burns out.

Should power be turned off at the wall outlet or surge protector?

To increase the lifespan of your surge protector you can turn the power off at the wall. Simply unplug the unit once everything that is plugged into is turned off. A surge protector uses electricity even when nothing is plugged into it. It requires electricity to function, which means that even it is susceptible to power surges when it is plugged in. Unplugging it will not only increase its life expectancy, it will cut down power costs to run it.

Will a bad electronic device cause a surge protector to shut off?

Bad equipment won’t cause a surge protector to fail. A surge protection device will fail when it has absorbed all the excess energy it is designed to absorb or it can be destroyed outright by a lightning blast. There are some units that will shut off when it detects a surge, but the appliances themselves will not cause the surge protector to shut off.

How do you know when you need to replace a surge protector?

Most surge protector power strips come with faulty light indicators that tell you when the surge protector has done its job. When it can longer absorb power surges, it will cease to function. An LED indicator light will cease to be on when it is time to replace the unit.

We get this one a lot: Is it bad to plug a surge protector into another one?

Yes, it is. There is absolutely no benefit to having one surge protector plug into another. They just aren’t designed for this. It can send the wrong signal to both units and cause them to shut off, leaving your equipment vulnerable. You only need one device per wall outlet.

Do I need coaxial surge protection?

Definitely. Surges will find a way through any path that conducts electricity. If you have cable lines running into your home then you need a surge protector on coaxial connections. These are the most damaging of power surge corruptions as the central wires can be fried from the surge, destroying cable modems, your television or satellite connection. A coaxial surge protector is not expensive at all and is highly recommended. It’s a small device, probably the smallest surge protector on the market and connects between the incoming line and the cable box for your television or between the satellite dish and the coax cable coming into the house.

What type of surge protector is sufficient for a notebook laptop computer?

You have two options. For traveling, there are the Belkin universal travel surge protectors that are compatible with the 240V outlets found outside of the U.S. or you can use an uninterruptible power supply for home use. This is not exactly a surge protector, but it will most likely have surge protection built in. It’s a surge protector that stores power incase of emergency power loss. This gives you a few minutes of backup battery power so that you can shut down your machine properly.

What kind of surge protection can I use to keep from overloading an electrical outlet with TV and home theater equipment?

They make home theater surge protectors for just that scenario. These allow you to connect all of your home theater gear into one unit so that you don’t overload the circuits in the outlet wiring and cause a fire. Many people choose to use simple power strips for this, not realizing the potential loss they could cause. A power strip does not protect your line or your equipment. They only allow you to stuff an outlet with many plugs. Power strips do cause house fires all the time because they cannot take the surges that home theater surge protectors are made to handle.

How do you determine which surge protector is right for your needs?

This is relatively easy to answer. First off, there is practically a surge protector for every major piece of electronic equipment made. If you can categorize your need then you can narrow down which device will benefit you most. For example, if you have a computer in your home, it probably has lots of external components like a printer or speakers or similar plug-in devices. Anything that can be categorized with your computer would require a computer surge protector. Computer surge protectors are also considered Uninterruptible Power Supplies because they act as battery backups when power is lost. This helps keep the computer running so that you can shut it down properly without losing your work. It’s also a surge protector with backup battery and browns out protection to cover you from a loss in case of power lags or dips.

Washers, clothes dryers, refrigerators, air conditioners, garage door openers, all of these large appliances typically have their own circuit on the breaker panel. A whole house surge protector would best be used to protect this equipment. It connects to the breaker box between it and the lines going into your home or at the meter between the external power and the house lines. Some power companies can provide free installation and charge you a small monthly fee to maintain the device. This fee is usually around five dollars and acts as insurance should anything happen to the unit. For appliances like garage door openers, for instance, you should consider setting up a surge protector to prevent the garage door opener from burning out in the event of a large power surge. Whole house surge protectors aren’t better than their outlet cousins, but they do work well in conjunction with them. Think of it as double protection. Should a surge get through your first line of defense, having a wall unit is like a second line of defense?


Well, that’s it. We hope this Q&A covered the majority of your own questions and that you now know how to successfully use a surge protection device in your home. If you have any more questions you’d like answered, please contact us or leave your comments below.

About the Author Eric Williams

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