Before you buy
Ready to start protecting your electronic devices? Here’s some more information that can help you decide which of our best-rated surge protectors is right for your home.
Why you need a surge protector
As you’ve probably heard, sudden bursts of power can fry your electronic devices. A surge protector keeps this from happening. Put simply, a surge protector keeps a power surge from entering your devices, instead diverting the energy spike into itself. This is why surge protectors are often called “sacrificial.” They take the hit so your devices don’t have to.
Fortunately, a surge protector can protect against other, more common surge sources. Often, a power surge comes from within your own home—it can even be caused by your own devices. Other times, it comes from the external electrical grid. While these sources might not sound as memorable as a lightning strike, they can definitely destroy your devices.
Surge protector vs. power strip
Many surge protectors take the form of a power strip—a long unit with several outlets. However, not all power strips are surge protectors. Most power strips give you access to more outlets and maybe an on/off switch, but they don’t provide any meaningful protection from energy spikes. Though they may look similar, a surge protector will help keep your devices safe, but a plain power strip won’t.
Types of surge protectors
Power strip surge protectors are the most common. They’re affordable, they provide extra outlets, and they’re easy to use—just plug them into a wall and plug your devices in. They’re a good choice for most homes, especially if the devices you want to protect are close together.
Direct plug-in surge protectors function just like power strip surge protectors, except they don’t have a cord and usually have just one or two outlets. They’re best for on-the-go use, but they can also be useful if you need to protect only one device or if you don’t want the bulk of a power strip.
Whole-house surge protectors are wired directly into your home, usually at your breaker. This lets them protect your entire house, including items you don’t or can’t use with power strip surge protectors. Whole-house surge protectors are pricier than power strips or plug-ins, and you should have them professionally installed for safety and warranty reasons.
For maximum protection, you can double up by using a whole-house surge protector plus power strip or plug-in surge protectors. This method lets you protect all your devices while providing extra protection to any delicate or sensitive devices.
Proper surge protector usage
Use your surge protector properly to keep your home safe. Don’t plug a surge protector into another surge protector, or even a non-protecting power strip into a surge protector power strip. Chaining surge protectors can pose a fire hazard. Likewise, an old or damaged surge protector can be a fire risk, so replace your unit as needed.
Remember, surge protectors don’t last forever. A surge protector keeps your equipment safe by taking the brunt of a power spike, sacrificing its own integrity to preserve your devices. Your surge protector might survive a few surges, but it will eventually stop protecting.
That’s why all our favorite surge protectors have an LED indicator to tell you whether or not your surge protector is still working. Pay attention to that light and replace your surge protector when necessary. You might not like replacing your surge protector, but it’s much cheaper than replacing all your connected devices.