Do you have any appliances or devices plugged into a regular wall outlet? Most likely the answer is yes. And if that’s the case, did you know that they are at risk of being affected by power surges that could potentially damage them?
First, what is a power or electrical surge?
As discussed in our past article, “a power surge happens when there is an unexpected spike in the electricity, which is higher than the standard capacity of your electrical system.”
Probably the most popular cause of power surge that you know is from a lightning strike. However, there are different ways on how a power surge can be triggered, like faulty wiring, a power outage, an electrical overload, and external factors like snowstorms and animals nibbling away on wires.
There are several ways to protect your appliances or devices from power surges and one of the best ways to do this is by having a high-quality surge protector in your home.
Want to know more? Click here to learn more about power surges.
So, what is a surge protector? (also known as surge diverter, SPD, surge suppressor, spike suppressor)
First, let us clarify one of the common misconceptions that power strips and surge protectors are the same—NOT. Though they look similar, a power strip is just an acclaimed extension cord, so they provide extra outlet space and only has a circuit breaker, whereas a surge protector is specifically designed to give an extra layer of protection against power surges, thus keeping your electronics, devices, and equipment safe.
A surge protector will also provide multiple outlet options, meaning it will work like a regular outlet but when it detects that there is a sudden surge in power, it will automatically route the power into the outlet grounding wire. In addition, power surge has a joules rating (which we will quickly discuss below) and are often bigger than a simple power strip.
From the definition itself, you will most likely and hopefully get a sense of the importance of having one. To further guide you, here are the important things that you should know about surge protectors and some tips when purchasing them:
1. The measure of protection is in the form of units called JOULES.
The higher the joules of a surge protector is, the higher capacity it will have to protect your electronics from one large power spike or multiple smaller power surges.
Tip: If you need a surge protector for your computers or any major appliances, choose a joules rating with at least 2500 or more. A rating of 1000 joules can only protect small electronics.
Note that over time, the protective capacity of your surge protector will wane, and there is no way to track how much protection it has left. This is why it is important to always purchase from a reputable brand and if possible, choose a surge protector with a warranty. You can always ask your trusted electrician for recommendations before purchasing.
2. Consider the number of outlets
Treat your surge protector as a long-term investment. Aside from buying from a good brand, choose a surge protector with more outlets than your initial requirement. This is a way of foreseeing that you will have more devices in the future, so more outlets increase the cost-effectiveness of your design.
3. Some surge protector comes with a warranty
Though not a major requirement, you could consider choosing a surge protector that offers a warranty on the device connected to the surge protector. There will be of course terms to be satisfied and a certain amount that they will cover for repair or replacement of the device that the brand’s surge protector fails to protect.
4. Surge protector won’t last a lifetime
As mentioned on the joule rating, your surge protector is subject to diminished protection capabilities. It will simply wear off. The issue is there won’t be a warning for most surge protectors, so your device will still work in terms of providing extra outlets but without protection. Though some surge protectors have a light indicator that could serve as a guide on the statues and you just have to study the meaning of the lights as it varies from one brand to another.
In addition, you should always check the manufacturer, as they usually have a recommended number of years before replacement that could range from 3 to 5 years. But in case of a major electrical event, like a lightning strike, you can consider replacing your surge protector for safety.
5. Make sure that your surge protector has properly spaced outlets
When choosing a surge protector, make sure that the outlets have enough space in the case for bigger plugs. Most devices nowadays use chunky “wall warts” or plugs that convert AC power into DC power, so it will be wise to get a surge protector that could accommodate that.
6. Set your expectation — your surge protector won’t be able to protect you from major lightning strikes (those that cause home damages, fires, and power outages)
Yes, your surge protector will be a good protective device from power surges, but if a major lightning strike hits your home, it’s a different story given that lightning carries billions of joules or power. Your surge protector will be not able to withstand that high level of energy.
7. Don’t be enticed by surge protectors that offer power “conditioner”
You don’t need this as a “plus feature” of your surge protector because the reality is, most electronics already can take in incoming wall current and convert them according to their needs. So, unless you live in an area with power supply issues, then you won’t need this.
8. Consider surge protectors with a USB connection
This is a good feature for charging mobile phones. The only consideration should be the amps. You can check if it’s 1 amp or 2 amps. For faster charging, choose the 2 amps option
9. Hire an electrician for a whole house surge protector
This is when you will need a licensed electrician for installation. The ones discussed above are simple surge protectors that you can easily plug into an outlet by yourself, but a whole house surge protector involves the electrical panel. Unlike the point-of-use surge protectors, a whole house surge protector can help protect from huge energy surges and even lightning.
Need a licensed electrician to install this? Click here.
Having surge protectors, whether the simple ones or the whole house surge protector is one of the best investments that you can get for your home and appliances. As they say, prevention is better than cure. Avoid damages to appliances and protect your hard-earned money now.