If you have invested in any new electronics recently, you know how expensive these gadgets are getting. Here, we present a simple way to make sure that your new electronics last as long as possible – a lesson our friend Liam learned the hard way.
One beautiful Saturday afternoon, Liam bought himself a 40 inch-LED TV
for the ultimate gaming experience. He checked out a couple of options before choosing a TV he thought was cool. Liam, happy as a clam, stayed up all night gaming, enjoy how crisp his favorite games appeared on his new screen.
Eventually, Liam drifted off in front of the screen. Suddenly, he was awakened by a loud crash. Alarmed, Liam woke with a start and wondered what he’d heard. A car accident outside? A power surge? Another boom outside and Liam realized it was thunder. And rain. Heavy rain that could rival a hurricane. Liam’s thoughts quickly returned to the threat of a power surge. His enormous flat screen loomed in front of him. “Not today, after I just brought Liam Junior home!” thought Liam (Weird kid, that Liam. Who names his TV after himself?)
So, Liam raced to check on his precious TV, jabbing the remote’s power button as fast as he could. We will spare you the heavy tears Liam shed over his lost investment and simply tell you that the TV was no longer with us, as you might have guessed. Liam slumped back on the couch and began to lick his wounds — before he woke up and realized that he had been having a nightmare.
Of course, Liam ordered a surge protector immediately! Although Liam had to do a lot of research to learn how to choose from the different types available, we will guide you through the factors of how to protect your own electronics.
The first thing you should understand is the difference between a power strip and a surge protector. A power strip is primarily a power outlet first (even though some come with surge protection
). The main purpose of a surge protector, on the other hand, is to protect your devices from power surge, though it can supply power as well.
So, while a power strip is primarily a provider, a surge protector is primarily a protector as the name implies.
Some surge protectors will actually cut off power supply should they stop protecting your devices. It was this kind that Liam got since a TV does not need an electricity life support, i.e. it won’t hurt a TV to be out of power for a while. He already has an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) which he uses for his desktop
in his home office, necessary because he needs his computer powered constantly. If you have devices that must always have power, consider a UPS instead.
Remember that surge protectors are not made to last forever – just like your light bulbs, they are consumable. Change them at least every three to five years. Some surge protectors won’t stop supplying power when they stop protecting, but will instead turn on an LED light to inform you that your devices are no longer protected. We think of these lights as insignificant, because they are usually quite easy to overlook. A better option is to choose a surge protector that shuts down permanently should it stop protecting your devices, so that you’ll know to replace it when your TV suddenly doesn’t turn on. But at least you’ll know right away when your surge protector has died, so you won’t have a false sense of security that your electronics are safe from power spikes when, in reality, your devices are at risk. This type of surge protectors are not of lower quality – in fact, they shut down to guarantee that you know exactly when to replace them.
Generally, don’t wait till the universe sends you a signal through an eerie nightmare. Better safe than sorry. Keep reading for more details on what to look for in a surge protector.
Luckily, most surge protectors are inexpensive, some go for as low as $10, but $60 would get you a little more pizzazz (such as Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) backup for your outlets, a three-year warranty, or data recovery). Now, if you are the type to get blown away by the prices of cheap surge protectors, soon your precious gadgets will follow suit. Those things can let your cherished devices fry during a power spike, leaving you with a room full of electronics that no longer work. So, we recommend erring on the side of caution and choosing the best surge protector you can afford.
Now you’ve decided to protect your electronics from power surges, let’s discuss the features that make for a good surge protector, so that the supposed “protector” doesn’t turn out to have been the predator all along:
- Number of Ports
- Type of Devices
- Underwriter’s Laboratories Seal
- Clamp Voltage
- Care and Maintenance
Alright, let’s get into the details.
Construction and Design
Surge protectors vary in how many ports they have, some offering as many as 12 ports. Even seen a power outlet so cluttered with devices plugged in that some ports were inaccessible? Be sure that your protector’s ports well-spaced to get the most out of your protector. There’s no point in having 12 ports if you can only use six. You could have saved a few bucks by buying a six-port protector from the get-go.
We know that you might have some spare cash to throw around and you want to indulge with the best surge protector available by choosing the most expensive one. But how does this sound? You save some cash by buying a less expensive protector that is still up to industry standards and is more appropriate for the needs of your gear and get yourself a treat for the time invested in reading this buying guide. Sounds better, doesn’t it? In essence, don’t kill a fly with a sledgehammer. A surge protector for your home theatre should be the proverbial sledgehammer but your bedside lamp would only need a fly of a surge protector.
Point three: your device should be Underwriter’s Laboratories-certified and be up to their 1449 standard, which earns your surge protector the “transient voltage surge suppressor” stamp.
Be sure to consider surge protectors’ joule rating. In short, the higher the joule rating the better, because it determines how many hits your protector can take before it finally goes kaput. In every surge protector are metal oxide varistors (MOVs). Simply put, these MOVs are the martyrs of your surge protector that die a little more every time your surge protector takes one for the team. The number of hits these MOVs can take is closely linked to the surge protector’s joule rating. Invariably, the more and the better the quality of MOVs in a protector, the higher the joule rating and the better the protector’s capacity to deliver.
Important as the joule rating factor may sound, it is not the alpha and omega of factors to consider. You can also check out a device’s tolerance range, too. These appliances are hardly ever manufactured to specifics; instead, they are made to function within a range of tolerance, which increases efficiency.
Now, we want to point out that there is an option that is superior to an MOV surge protector. It’s called a series mode protector, and it beats the MOV protector in almost every way except for price – it costs hundreds of bucks! Although, it will last long if nothing happens, it’s still in the same boat as your MOV protector should lightning strike. Our advice? Save your money
#editing note – I felt bad because you started a great metaphor but then I didn’t get the second part: A surge protector for your home theatre is like the proverbial sledgehammer to your fly of a bedside lamp. So I rewrote the second part a bit to make it so the reader’s hand is held through the connection.
Performance and Ease of Use
Maintaining your protector is crucial. You must bring your A-game, keeping in mind that there is no convenient time for a power surge.
On that note, should you need more power outlets than your current surge protector supplies, please, for the love of world peace, do not daisy-chain surge protectors (you know, plugging one surge protector into the other). It’s detrimental to your protector, your stuff, and you. When you daisy-chain, you conduct the overture of an electrical fire opera. When you can easily get a new protector (or power strip — applies to power strips too), why take the risk?
Ground faults can pose threats to you and yours, so check the lights on your protector. Typically, if they don’t come on, it might be a ground fault and it would be wise to call an electrician to check it out. It is very important to check out the warranty on any device, including a surge protector, before you make any purchase. Be sure you know the procedure and save any documentation to make a warranty claim should the protector fail.
The clamp voltage is the minimum amount of voltage that will shake your protector awake and trigger the absorption of energy. 400 volts is the benchmark. If you find something lower, fantastic! That’s even better. Some protectors include response time on the information provided about the product. Of course, for this case, it’s definitely the lower the better.
Now, if a protector ticks all the aforementioned boxes and even comes with accessories like a remote or UPS-backed outlets, then the choice is yours to make. Whether or not you decide to spring for the extras, you know what to look out for to find a surge protector up to industry standards.
With the information you’ve gleaned from our buying guide, you should have little or no issues finding the right protector to cater for your electronic devices. Below are our top five surge protectors, where we hope you will discover the right one for your gadgets!
Thank you for staying till the end of this review. Go ahead and place that order. And whatever you do, don’t get blown away — literally! Ciao!