How to choose the correct surge protector

How to choose the correct surge protector

Are your computers and other electronic devices safe from electrical surges? With proper protection, you can answer a confident “YES” to this question.

What is a power surge?

A power surge occurs when your office’s electrical current spikes for a brief period of time. Typically, there’s a steady amount of current running through the wires in your place of business. This current provides the power electronics need to function properly.

But, when a power surge occurs, extra current runs through the wire. This extra current causes the voltage to spike, which can cause damage to electronics.

What causes electricity to surge?

Many people naturally think of lightning strikes when naming something that causes a power surge. Lightning can increase the current in your office. Surges can also occur when the power company is working on the lines, and they switch the lines providing your power. This switch can cause a change in current that will affect all the buildings connected to the line.

Another common cause is the powering on of a large appliance, such as an air conditioning unit or a refrigerator. This sudden shift in power usage as you power on the added appliance can create a surge.

Some surges are strong enough to cause immediate damage to electronics. Others are smaller, but can cause damage when they occur repeatedly.

What kind of electronics need to be protected?

No matter the cause, a power surge can damage electronic devices. Sensitive electronic equipment is most at risk, as it was designed to work under very precise electrical specifications.

Such equipment includes:

  • Any smart technology, including smartphones
  • Computers
  • Printers and copy machines
  • Security cameras
  • Microwaves and refrigerators
  • Televisions
  • Power tools
  • Washers and dryers

How to protect electronic devices from electrical surges

All electronic devices need to be protected from power surges. Otherwise they are at risk for damage. The good news is that there are a couple of options to keep your electronics safe.

  1. Use a surge protector

    A surge protector is a simple form of protection. These are strips you plug into an outlet. Then, you plug your electronic device directly into the strip.

    If space is an issue, you can also purchase smaller surge protectors. There are also surge protectors that stay on the wall, instead of dangling down.

  2. Find a surge protector that fits into the space you have available

    Check to make sure it has enough slots for everything you need to protect, or consider buying several of them.

    If you need portable protection, you can purchase an extension cord with surge protection. This will allow you to use a power tool wherever you need to, and have confidence it won’t get damaged.

  3. The difference between a surge protector and a power strip

    Be careful when you’re purchasing protection for your electronics. Just because you can plug multiple devices into a strip doesn’t mean it’s a surge protector. Power strips are available but they don’t offer protection from an electrical surge.

    • A power strip simply provides extra outlet space for you to use. It looks very similar to a surge protector. However, power strips do not protect your electronic devices.
    • If you aren’t sure if you have a power strip or a surge protector, you’ll need to examine it closely. You’re looking for an electrical rating. This will most often be imprinted on the back of the device.
    • Surge protectors have a power rating in joules. They show how much surge protection they provide in terms of maximum voltage. A power strip will not mention surge protection, because it doesn’t provide any.
    • When you’re purchasing a new surge protector, be sure the product specifications include details about surge protection.
  4. Replace your surge protectors as needed

    Surge protectors are designed to protect against a certain number of joules. Once they’ve reached their limit, they need to be replaced.

    Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to tell how many joules are remaining on your surge protectors. If you know your power has surged, you should replace them. You should also plan on replacing them every few years, to ensure your devices remain protected.

  5. Have an electrician install a whole office surge suppression system

    If you’re looking for even more protection, you can opt for a whole office surge suppression system. These are installed at the circuit box, and regulate all the electricity. However, you will need an electrician to install this for you.

    Some people decide to use both options. They use a whole office surge suppression system, and still use surge protectors. This doubling up provides an extra layer of protection against electrical surges.

  6. Invest in an uninterrupted power supply

    Meant to provide a backup power supply to a computer or other piece of equipment, an uninterrupted power supply (UPS) also protects against power surges. These units easily connect to your computer and sit between it and the outlet.

  7. Understand that surge protectors won’t protect against everything

    Surge protectors offer a large degree of protection. However, even they can’t protect against everything.

    • A direct lightning strike is too powerful for all forms of surge protection. The sheer amount of excess electricity will overpower your systems.
    • If a thunderstorm is close, the best form of protection is to unplug your electronics until the storm passes. This way you know your electronics will be safe.
    • Direct lighting strikes are rare, however.


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