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.
Welkin 12-outlet Pivotal (model BP112230-08) Pivoting outlets, a low clamping threshold, high durability, and a cable organizer combine to make this a great surge protector at a reasonable price. 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.
Advanced features, such as USB charging For travel models, how many outlets does it have while remaining compact and versatile, in addition to everything above? 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.
We’ve provided a sentence about warranties in each review, just so you’re informed, but don’t count on collecting unless you’re a good record keeper. 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. We’ve spent more than 150 hours researching and testing surge protectors, and we’re confident that the Trip Lite 12-Outlet SurgeProtector offers the best combination of protection and outlet quantity at a reasonable price.
And you don’t have to wonder whether it’s still doing its job, because once its protection has worn out, it safely cuts the power, so you know it’s time to get a replacement. It offers great protection against household surges that come from other equipment in your home or fluctuations from the power company.
However, it features prominent LEDs indicating a wiring problem, and it has just as many AC outlets as our Trip Lite top pick. In our testing, it clamped down on surges as hard as the Trip Lite 12-Outlet did, and its joule rating is about 30% higher (meaning it’s designed to last longer, but that’s just an estimate).
The APC’s shorter (6-foot) cord means you’ll have a harder time reaching faraway outlets, but we think it’s still plenty long enough for most people. It offers two USB ports and six AC outlets in a round package that’s smaller than a dinner plate.
It has an auto-shutoff mechanism, making it one of the few three-outlet options we’ve found that will disconnect power when the surge protection wears out. It performed well compared with other small options we’ve tested, blocking almost as many volts as larger models.
The PST-8 actually let less voltage through in our tests than high-end series mode surge eliminators that can cost hundreds more. Collapse all To separate fact from fiction about surge protectors, we reached out to experts in multiple fields while writing the original version of this guide.
We emailed with Jack Lucknow, an insurance pro who has been in the industry since the 1960s, and got advice on what part homeowner’s and renter’s policies play in protecting your technology investments. There’s little reason for anyone to leave their office, den, or home theater unprotected, or to hang on to old, worn-out surge protectors.
And if your home is subject to frequent brownouts or blackouts, you might want to replace your surge protectors as often as every two years. If you have a cheap, basic power strip (or the kind of multiport adapter that plugs right into a wall outlet), it most likely never had worthwhile surge -protection capabilities to begin with.
But you should replace these subpar options as soon as possible and be thankful that they didn’t catch fire or damage your electronics (PDF). That’s why we suggest looking for a surge protector with an auto-shutoff feature, which stops the device from conveying power when the protection wears out.
They can also protect against occasional surges from your utility company and are especially worth having in areas with unreliable power grids. Finally, if you want to protect equipment that could be damaged by a sudden loss of power, a hard disk drive that’s susceptible to data corruption, or critical gear that can’t ever go down (such as a CPAP machine to treat sleep apnea), you shouldn’t be looking at a surge protector at all.
Photo: Sarah Loose started our research by scanning the top results on Amazon, Google Shopping, and retailers like Walmart and Home Depot, as well as the websites of well-known brands such as Trip Lite, Ac cell, and Welkin, to compile a list of models. For our top picks, we knew we wanted something heavy-duty for use with home theater gear and game consoles in a living room (or computer equipment in an office).
We also looked at smaller units designed for kitchen outlets or bedside tables, as well as series mode and hybrid models for people who want the highest level of surge defense. Otherwise, we required, at minimum, an indicator light that will notify you when items plugged into the unit are no longer protected against surges.
In a previous round of testing in 2017, our engineer dismantled each surge protector in order to assess the components and construction. Video: Lee Johnson the next phase of our reporting, we tested some claims each company made.
According to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, no home would ever experience a power surge over 6,000 volts (PDF), and most don’t even come close. The major exception to this would be direct lightning strikes, but considering that a bolt means upwards of 1 billion volts, no home surge protector is going to save your TV from one of those.
He compared the thickness of the wiring, the size and arrangement of the Move, whether any filters or capacitors were incorporated into the designs, and the overall construction quality. For reputable brands selling surge protectors in the $15 to $50 range, the guts were so similar that the dissection yielded no useful information, so we haven’t torn down the models we’ve tested since.
To further demonstrate the importance of using a surge protector, Johnson subjected a (very old) Dell LCD monitor to a 5,000-volt surge, both with and without protection. In contrast, when he funneled 5,000 volts directly into the unprotected monitor, it promptly cried out in pain, never to turn on again.
The internal designs of the Surge (left) and ZeroS urge models (right) we tested in 2017 were very similar, including these sealed metal boxes. But when we tested several models previously (the Surge SA-15, the ZeroS urge 2R15W, and the Furman Power Station 8), we put them through the same paces as their less expensive and more common Bio-based counterparts.
We also tore apart each unit and found similar designs and construction, with only minor differences in the visible components. We’ve tested dozens of surge protectors and are confident that the Trip Lite 12-Outlet SurgeProtector (TLP1208TELTV) is the best one to use with typical living room or office equipment.
Photo: Sarah Soothe Trip Lite 12-Outlet also has dual coaxial connectors, so you can hook up your cable box, plus three telephone ports. If you’re setting up a media center with equipment that requires a coaxial or telephone connection, these extra ports are nice to have.
But since this type of surge protector commonly sits out of reach (behind a couch, desk, or TV stand) and is designed for more heavy-duty usage, we don’t think USB ports are all that important. Unlike with your run-of-the-mill power strips (or even the Hyper Tough surge protector we considered in a previous round of testing), its veneer seems built to stand up to most minor scratches and scuffs.
It’s compact enough to slide under a bed or entertainment center, and a set of holes on the back gives you the option to mount it on a baseboard. Its thick, rubberized, 8-foot cord is 2 feet longer than the one on the , making it more convenient to run underneath bookshelves and couches.
The joule rating tells you how much the surge protector can take before it’s worn out, so our top pick is unlikely to last as long as the APC model. If our top pick, the Trip Lite 12-Outlet SurgeProtector, is unavailable, get the 12-outlet APC Surgeries Performance P12U2.
This means that if either of its other two legs (L-G or N-G) breaks down first, it will continue to send power to your devices, and they could sustain damage in the event of a surge. This is the only model we considered with that design; most other surge protectors’ notification lights are the size of a pinhead.
It lacks telephone and coaxial connectors, which might be an inconvenience if you want to hook up your landline phone, dial-up internet, or cable box through your surge protector. These aren’t super useful for a media center but are nice for a home office or anywhere you have devices that can charge directly over USB.
Like our top pick, the Power Air safely shuts down once it can no longer protect your electronics, so you’ll know when you need to replace it. Even if you aren’t using it to power pricey equipment, as you might do with one of our main picks, it’s nice to have the added peace of mind.
The Power Air is sleek and compact, with a flattish shape that makes it easy to slide under an end table. Its 6-foot cord is thick, flexible, and durable, and its outlets are spaced generously around the top of the unit, giving you full access to all of them.
Lastly, its blue and green LEDs (which let you know, respectively, if the unit is powered on and protective) are well-marked and clearly visible on top. In our full guide to small power strips for travel, we recommend models with as many as four AC outlets and up to two USB ports.
It has a three-prong plug, as well as a plastic rod that fits into the bottom hole of the second outlet, ensuring a snug connection. Most people don’t need this degree of protection, but the Furman Power Station 8 (PST-8) offers the strongest surge protection of the dozens of models we’ve tested, besting even high-end series mode surge protectors that cost hundreds more.
Instead of relying on standard Move to absorb the entire surge, Furman adds extra protection: Once a surge goes over 137 volts, the entire unit shuts down to protect itself and any connected equipment (switching the unit on and off resets it). Any surge that gets through before the shutdown passes through a series of capacitors as well as a large inductor meant to filter the extra power.
In other words, very few customers have needed to repair or replace their units, and Furman says in all instances the damage was physical breakage (dents, cracks, or parts snapping off) rather than an internal failure. When the Power Station 8 (PST-8) detects extreme voltage, it shuts down entirely to protect your connected equipment.
(According to Furman, these units are often used by touring musicians and therefore subject to more wear and tear than household surge protectors, hence the comparatively short warranty.) The Welkin Surplus USB Swivel Charger (BST300bg) was by far the worst performer in our latest round of testing, letting through more than 800 of the 5,000 volts we threw at it.
The Trip Lite Sinecure used to be our also-great pick for light use and travel, but unlike our, it doesn’t have an auto-shutoff feature, nor does it have USB ports. We bought the cheapest surge protector we could find at a local Walmart (the Hyper Tough 6-Outlet PS682B_B) for a previous round of testing, and it failed spectacularly in pretty much every way.
In any case, all quality power supplies, whether internal or external, have some noise filtration built in. We suggest that you read the fine print, since often you’ll have to jump through a bunch of hoops to collect in the event of disaster.
Always replace your surge protectors after any large event (such as a lightning strike down the block or multiple outages in rapid succession), and if you’re plugging in new gear, check each outlet for burn marks or any sign of damage. If your protector delivers power even after its Move have failed, plan to replace it anytime you have a major electronics upgrade, or at least every three to five years.
The extra connections and cord length of a surge protector also add resistance that can allow heat to build up, potentially catching fire or otherwise damaging the device. We know they’re not the prettiest things to look at, but you should never cover up any part of a surge protector or extension cord with rugs, poufs, or other decorative items.
She has been a science journalist for over seven years, covering a wide variety of topics, from particle physics to satellite remote sensing. Since joining Wire cutter, she has researched, tested, and written about surge protectors, power banks, lap desks, mousetraps, and more.