Who has ever had this happen? You’re working away on your computer, you’re down in your basement and all of a sudden your lights flicker on and off but even worse computer just dies. You’re sitting there wondering what just happened. Why is my screen black, why is computer completely dead? You head upstairs only to be met by a crashing thunder and lightning storm outside! It is then that you realize that your computer has been the victim of a major power surge. Power surges occur when something (like a lightning strike) boost the electrical charge at some point on the power grid; this in turn causes more electricity to flow through your outlet.
Lightning strikes are not the only cause either, simply starting up a power intensive appliance like a washing machine or air conditioner can cause a devastating power surge. They are no joke, a power surge can fry electronics; imagine if you have a bunch of important electronics all hooked up to one outlet when a power surge happens. Your television? Fried. Your computer? Dead. Your video game console? Ruined. A badly timed power surge can cost you thousands of dollars in ruined electronics. Thankfully, you can get a surge protector to help reduce the damage done by power surges.
Surge protectors work by detecting unnecessary voltages and blocking them or shorting to ground the unnecessary voltages. If you do not already have one, then you should get a surge protector as soon as possible, they may be expensive (a couple hundred dollars for a good one), but given that one surge protector can protect thousands of dollars’ worth of electronics, the cost is well worth it. Before you rush out to buy a surge protector, there are some things you should know first; in this article you will be given some crucial info and tips, which will make buying a surge protector much easier.
Power strips are those long, plastic electronics that are plugged into a wall outlet, and give you more outlets to use. They are sometimes mislabeled “surge protectors” by uncaring retail employees or stores; do not be fooled, not all power strips give you protection from power surges. Some power strips provide rudimentary power surge protection, but if you want good protection, you should buy a dedicated surge protector.
Surge protectors are measured in joules, which is how electricity is measured. So, if a surge protector says it offers 1000 joules of protection, that’s very good, because that is a lot of protection. The more joules, the better the surge protector, it is that simple. Finding the joule count of a surge protector is not always easy (in their infinite wisdom, many companies choose to not inform potential customers of the joule protection count of their surge protectors), so you may need to look online. Generally, for your standard entertainment system setup (television, video game console, computer, etc.) you will want at least 700 joules of protection; but of course, more is always better. You can never have too much protection.
Some surge protectors will claim to provide “power conditioning,” basically, it means that they will improve the power usage of your electronics. This is a bit of a lie on the part of the company. Pretty much all commercial electronics already provide power conditioning and use their power efficiently. So, buying a surge protector that offers power conditioning is basically just wasting money, you do not need it. Unless you have some really cheap electronics, or live in a place with very bad outlets, power conditioning is not needed.
We just finished talking about joule protection rating, so you will probably recall that surge protectors are measured based on joule protection. But, another thing to keep in mind, is that the protection offered by surge protectors decays over time. A surge protector that offers 1000 joule protection, will only offer that much protection for a couple of years, after a certain amount of time, the joule rating goes down. Most good surge protectors will inform you when they are on their last legs and need replacing, but it is still worth making a mental note of when you bought your surge protector and how often it is used (surge protectors that are used often need to be replaced quicker).
Surge protectors come in many different sizes. Some only offer one outlet, others offer 4 outlets, and some even offer as many as 12. When buying a surge protector, try and get as many outlets as your budget allows you to. Sure, a 12 outlet one will be more expensive than a 4 outlet one, but you never know when you are going to want more outlets, and it is better to buy one big surge protector, than buy two smaller ones.
So far we have only talked about how surge protectors can protect your standard electronics like your television, your computer, etc. But, many modern surge protectors allow you to protect other, non-standard electronics. So, you can get a surge protector that allows you to protect your Ethernet cable, your phone lines, your internet cables, and even your satellite receiver.
Surge protectors are one of those things that most people do not get until well after they need them. It is very easy to brush off surge protectors and say “I don’t need one, it is a waste of money.” But, that attitude almost always goes away after a power surge ruins a couple thousand dollars’ worth of electronics. So do not procrastinate, go to your local electronics store or hardware store, and get a surge protector today. You may never have to use the surge protector, but, if you are one of the unlucky people to experience a power surge, you will be glad you had a surge protector installed.