What Is A Surge Protector? What you Need to Know

Safety & Security

What is a surge protector and why do you need a surge protector to guard your precious electronics?

Important electronics like TV’s, computers, game consoles and stereo systems are sometimes some of our most valued possessions. So, as you add more electronics to your home, it is important to guarantee their continued operation by plugging them into a surge protector instead of directly into the outlet.

What Is A Surge Protector?

A surge protector, as the name implies, is a device that when connected to a power outlet, deflects and stops surges in electricity or voltage from hitting the electronic or electronics plugged into the surge protector.

These surges or spikes in voltage, most often, can be created by lightning strikes and electric storms around your home or around the power grid that your home is connected to.


These power surges can also be created by many other things like bad wiring in your home, power hungry appliances like your AC unit, sudden power outages, tripped breakers and power transformer failures.  

How Do Surge Protectors Work?

There are many different types of surge protectors that absorb and re-direct spikes in electricity in different ways.

The most common surge protectors have internal wiring and circuitry that allows them, at the time of a voltage surge, to redirect the additional voltage in electricity that would otherwise fry any electronics plugged in directly into the outlet.

Once a spike in voltage is detected by the surge protector, it then redirects the additional electricity through the grounding wire back into the home’s wiring and into the return line.

This process ensures that all of the electronics plugged into the surge protector continue to receive the appropriate amount of voltage, even when there is a power surge that has hit your home.

What to Consider When Buying a Surge Protector?

So now you know what a surge protector is, what it does and why you need one, but what surge protector should you buy?

There are many different kinds, price ranges, looks, protection levels and guarantees in the surge protector market.

For that reason, it is important to know that not all surge protectors will be the right fit for you.

A few things to consider when buying a surge protector: 

1. Joules Rating

The Joules rating describes the total amount of energy that the surge protector can receive and handle. A Joules rating of 600 is a good start for most electronics but the higher the better and the longer it will last.

2. Clamping Voltage

Unlike the Joules Rating above, for Clamping Voltage, the lower the number, the better. A good number to look for is 400 or less.

The Clamping Voltage tells the surge protector the quantity at which it should redirect a spike in electricity.

3. UL Certified

Underwriter Laboratories or UL, for short, is an independent consulting firm that rates and certifies electronics.

A UL certified surge protector means that the unit and manufacturer have been vetted for safety and usability and this ensures a better product.

4. Replacement Guarantee

Multiple manufactures not only offer a replacement guarantee on a faulty surge protector but they also offer a replacement guarantee on any electronics plugged into a faulty surge protector, up to a certain dollar amount.

Check the specs carefully to see what is covered, up to what amount and how you should proceed with a possible claim.

Best Surge Protector Reviews 

Keeping the above considerations in mind, the below are the best surge protectors we recommend to keep your electronics safe from potential power surges. 

Best Overall

Belkin 12-Outlet Pivot-Plug Power Strip Surge Protector.

  • Specs: 4,320 Joule energy rating / 6,000v maximum spike voltage / AC 15A, 125V, 1875W
  • Backed by a lifetime warranty and protected by $300,000 connected equipment warranty. Whaaa!!!
  • 12 outlet surge protector power strip with 8 feet/2.4M cord
  • Space saving combination of rotating outlets (8) and stationary outlets (4)
  • UL Certified
  • 5 out of 5 Star Rating

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Best Budget – Under $15

GE 6 Outlet Surge Protector

• Specs: 800 Joule energy rating / integrated circuit breaker / 120V, 15A and 1800W
Extra long cord – get optimal reach with the 10 foot extra long power cord with a flat plug at the end.
Functional – use the twist-to-close safety outlets to seal off outlets when not in use to avoid shock, and the surge protector can be mounted using the key holes on the back to better organize.
Automatic Shutdown Technology intuitively senses when the surge protection of your device has expired and shuts off power to the unit.
• UL Certified
• 4.7 out of 5 Star Rating

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Best Surge Protector With USB Ports

Plugable Surge Protector Power Strip with USB

Specs: 4320 Joule energy rating / Built-in EMI/RFI Filter. 2-in-1 power / circuit breaker switch / 1800W of power (120V/15A) / Clamping Voltage 330
• 12 surge protected standard US power outlets.
UL Certified
• 25′ cable for extra long reach – solves fire safety issues caused by extension cords. Built-in USB 2-port 10.5W (2.1A shared)
• 1 year limited parts and labor warranty.


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Best Alternative To A Surge Protector

Uninterruptible Power Supply Units

Nobody likes to lose their progress on that one thing you were working on your computer when suddenly the power goes out.

Adding additional benefits, an Uninterruptible Power Supply or UPS, acts as a surge protector but it also acts as a backup battery that kicks in automatically when the power goes out. The UPS then provides power to any electronics plugged into it without ever turning off.

Additionally, when the power goes out, you automatically lose your internet connection if the router loses power. Having your router connected to a UPS can ensure you have WIFI or Internet access even if the power goes out.

We Recommend

APC UPS BE600M1 Battery Backup & Surge Protector

• Specs: 600VA / 330W Backup Battery power supply
• 7 Outlets (NEMA 5-15R): 5 UPS Battery Backup with Surge Protection Outlets, and 2 Surge Protector Only Outlets
• One USB Charger Port (1.5A) for cell phones and other portable electronics
• 5′ Power Cord, right-angle 3-prong wall plug (NEMA 5-15P), wall-mountable, plus FREE Windows PC power-management software (Mac OS uses native “Energy Saver” Settings)
• 3-5 Year Battery Life. APC UPS replacement battery sold separately
• Backed by APC’s 3-YEAR warranty, plus a $75,000 connected-equipment policy

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1. Is a power strip the same as a surge protector?

No, a power strip only acts as extension to your power outlet. Giving the capability to plug more electronics to that one outlet.

On the other hand, surge protectors have internal wiring and circuitry that allows them deflect or redirect power spikes away from any electronics that are plugged into the surge protector.

2. How many Joules surge protector do I need?

The Joules rating measures the total amount of energy that the surge protector can receive and handle. A Joules rating of 600 is a good start for most electronics but the higher the better and the longer it will last. 

3. Do surge protectors last forever?

The life expectancy is based on the number of Joules that the surge protector is rated for.

This number determines how many Joules the surge protector will be able to withstand throughout its lifetime.

As the surge protector absorbs and redirects, sometimes large or sometimes small voltage spikes, the extra Joules it absorbs will start to add up as the surge protector’s internal components will start to decay with each “hit”.

There will be a time that the surge protector has had enough power spikes and it has met its life expectancy.

At that time, it will no longer be useful in deterring power surges and it is time to buy a new surge protector.

As with any other equipment in your home, it is very important to protect them from possible issues in the future. A surge protector is an inexpensive insurance to ensure that those precious electronics continue to work as we need them.

Leave us a comment if these tips helped you. we’d love to hear from you!

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