These usually have a circuit breaker (on/off switch) of some sort, but most don't offer any real “protection” from electrical issues. Some might have the barest level of protection, but they're all pretty much just like plugging into the wall direct.
There are a number of products on the market that claim to “condition” the power from the wall, promising improved performance in your gear. All electronics have a power supply that takes the incoming wall current (120v in the US), filters it for noise, and converts it into whatever the device needs.
If you want total protection, consider that phone and cable lines can carry power spikes too. Many surge protectors come with USB connections, so you can charge your mobile devices without having to use a wall warts.
Eve Systems While not offering much protection, a portable power strip might prevent marital friction, and/or invoke bliss from travel companions. Most portable power strips add two to three additional outlets, plus offer direct USB charging (see number 8).
Some will give you a warning or shut off when their protection drops below a safe level. If you know you've had a serious electrical event (like lighting blew out a transformer down the street), it's probably worth replacing your surge protector just in case.
If you live in an area with lots of thunderstorms, your gear is probably more likely to experience power surges. Even if you live in the desert, your A/C or refrigerator could kick power spikes back down the lines to your A/V gear.
We don't currently have recommendations for specific surge protectors, but you can find plenty of options for as little as $20 or less at Amazon. Note that CNET may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.
But that's what you're risking when you plug your PC, TV, stereo and anything else into an outlet that offers no protection against power surges. Case in point: For a limited time, and while supplies last, you can get this Bested 4,000-joule, 10-outlet surge protector for $20.69 shipped with promo code 2E5ZMH54.
Finally, I like the mounting holes, which you can use to attach the protector to, say, the back of a desk, the underside of a TV stand or wherever. Nearly 270 customers collectively rated this 4.5 stars out of 5, and both Fake spot and Reviewed give those reviews an overall thumbs-up.
Note, for the record, that only the power cord is UL listed -- not, apparently, the product as a whole. If you don't have your devices plugged into something like this, you're risking surge -related damage that may or may not be covered by your homeowner's insurance.
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As their name implies, surge protectors prevent voltage spikes from entering a computer (or whatever else is plugged into them). They are available in a variety of types and, to paraphrase the manual that came with a Dell server, usually provide a level of protection commensurate with the cost of the device.
You can also judge by the price, power strips are cheaper than surge suppressors. This includes the phone line, if you use dial-up or DSL, and Ethernet network cables, if the computer is on a LAN.
Lower end surge protectors only protect the electrical outlet; to get Ethernet or phone line protection, expect to pay a bit more. As a starting point, expect to pay from $20 to $35 for a surge protector.
Some surge protectors work like fuses, and when they absorb all the electricity they can, they die. Better models cut off the juice, which protects your devices and makes sure you know to replace the surge protector.
The last time I checked, the current models of both APC and Trip Lite would never provide unprotected power to your devices. You may be thinking that fuses have been replaced by circuit breakers.
When there is an overload, a circuit breaker trips, and you can easily switch it back later without having to go to the hardware store and buy a new fuse. These models are designed to cut off power in a surge rather than absorb it.
In general, both APC and Trip Lite surge protectors have lifetime warranties. For a very reasonable amount of money, you could put an almost literal firewall between your expensive (and cheap) electronics and the juice coming in from a wall socket.
A surge protector throws itself into the line of fire, sacrificing its components again and again so that your devices stay functional. The surge protector takes a hit instead of your hardware or A/V system, and it could potentially save you hundreds to many thousands of dollars, depending on what you have connected.
You want to make the modest investment in a surge protector for the same reason you want to have a backup of your data: because there’s no going back after an adverse event. This isn’t the most robust surge protector, but it does offer fast-charging USB-C (up to 45 watts) and USB-A charging ports in an attractive form factor.
Welkin’s 12-Outlet Pivotal SurgeProtector (BP112230-08) won’t cut off power when it can no longer protect your devices, but it does offer low clamping voltage (330V on all legs). APC’s Surgeries Performance P12U2 is our new favorite surge protector that automatically cuts power when protection ends.
If you don’t need those two extra outlets and the USB charging ports, the Trip Lite TLP1008TEL remains a good pick for about $14 less. APC Surgeries (model P11VNT3) A solid entry that falls short in a couple of choices about continuous power and clamping voltage.
APC’s Surgeries is only slightly less flexible than Welkin’s offering, and it won’t cut off power to your devices unless its main line-neutral protection fails. If you place tremendous value in design, the Austere VII Series surge protector is the most attractive device in this category.
With a brushed-aluminum enclosure, polished beveled edges, and braided-fabric power cord, we haven’t seen anything else that comes close in terms of its industrial design. We considered several common factors for three scenarios: a home-entertainment system, such as a TV, disc player, streaming media box, and receiver system; a home office or cubicle with a desktop computer and peripherals, including monitors and hard drives; and an on-the-go option, if you want to travel with a multi-outlet strip that also gives you piece of mind, especially in hotels and conference rooms, where you don’t know what kind of power will be provided.
Features you typically won’t find in surge suppressors such as these are alarms or networked intelligence to alert a computer (and manage a controlled shutdown), or act as an Internet of Things device, to warn about electrical anomalies or provide a status report. That’s changed dramatically over several decades, as utilities have cleaned up what’s delivered to homes and buildings.
Depending on the age of a utility’s systems and how frequently lightning strikes occur, however, surges and huge spikes might be regular occurrences. Electronics and all other electrically powered anything for a home or office can accept brief amounts of much higher maximum voltages, which you can logically determine must be true as modest surges are routine and electronic equipment in homes isn’t constantly failing without a surge protector ; it’s the big surges that need to be blocked.
Surge protectors of the category we tested use metal oxide various (Move), a kind of circuitry that absorbs voltages above the clamping level and effectively burn away over time. In an area with erratic voltage, your surge protector might wear out in months or a few years; on other electrical systems, it might last indefinitely.
You can compare surge protectors’ durability, or the period over which the Move will remain effective, by looking at the number of joules advertised for the product. Joules provide a rough basis of comparison that’s nearly impossible to test in lab conditions, as you’d have to simulate a variety of surges over long periods of time with multiple identical units of each model.
Certification from Underwriters Laboratories (UL) provides assurance that the product has been independently tested. We’ll use joules as a rough rule of thumb, as it tends to parallel differences in price and other features, too.
If you have a surge protector already in place somewhere in your house or office, go take a quick glance at it and come back. ThinkstockThe class of surge protectors reviewed here rely on Move (metal oxide various) to absorb excess voltage.
Older surge protectors were typically designed around the concern that computers had spinning hard disk drives (HDDs) inside, and that it was better to lose surge protection and keep providing power than to drop AC power when protection had failed. I confess that I only learned this in 2016; I checked mine, and had to replace one a few months later when that light suddenly disappeared.
That’s the biggest choice you’ll face, and we considered it in the six surge protectors we brought in for testing. Power comes in over line and passes through neutral, and cycles through negative and positive voltage; that’s one leg (known as L-N).
Because you can plug so much power into a multi-outlet device, it’s very easy to overload the thing into which you’re “daisy-chaining” the surge protector, which can cause product failure or even an electrical fire. You can use one of those clever 3-to-2 adapters that I know too well as the owner of an old house, in which only about half the outlets were ever upgraded to modern standards.
Some surge protectors have an LED that lights up if it’s not, or you can purchase a cheap plug-in detector from a hardware store. If you don’t follow the guidelines spelled out for plugging your surge protector into the wall, you can damage it void the product warranty and any damaged-items protection that comes with it.