There is no question that surge protectors and power strips offer a certain level of convenience. However, if you want to use them safely, you have to learn the difference between the two. Far too often, surge protectors and power strips are mistaken for each other.
Power Strips vs. Surge Protectors
Power strips are nothing more than short extension cords with several outlets on it. There are some power strips that come with built-in surge protection, while others come with circuit breakers that shut the power strip off if it is overloaded. However, power strips that don’t have these features don’t offer any protection against a current spike.
A surge protector, which are often called surge suppressors, are a bit different. These contain circuitry that will shut the current down if it exceeds a certain level. This can help prevent power surges that may fry costly electronics.
Tips to Shop for Surge Protectors
The entity responsible for testing and rating how safe a surge protector is, is Underwriter Laboratories. Products that pass will have the UL approved label. Try to find surge protectors with labels that read “UL 1449” as this indicates it is not just a power strip.
When a surge protector is tested, it is measured in resistance or joules. The higher joules, the better the surge protector is. When you go shopping for a surge protector, make sure to look for the rating. Currently, you can find options that range from 300 volts to 4,000 volts. The lower the rating is, the sooner the device will activate.
Prevention of Power Surges
There are two methods you can use to help protect against a power surge, which include:
- Have a professional electrician install a protector to the primary circuit box in the home
- Utilize consumer grade devices to connect between your electronics and wall outlets
Keep in mind, power surges aren’t just caused by irregular delivery from the electric company or lightning strikes. Larger appliances, including AC units and freezers, can also cause a power surge.
Be Careful when Using Power Strips
Power strips are designed for convenience only. They don’t provide any real protection from power surges. However, if you use them to plug in your smaller appliances, such as lamps and hair dryers, they are much less likely to suffer damage during a power surge.
If you decide that a power strip is right for you, remember there is a rating related to the amount of power it is able to draw. Look at the device being plugged in to ensure it won’t overheat.
As you can see, there are several considerations to make when deciding if you should use a power strip or surge protector. Keep this information in mind to ensure your home and electronic devices and appliances are protected. If you have questions, contact a home electrical professional for help.