If you have a lot of expensive electronics plugged into one outlet, then you would be wise to protect those electronics with a good surge protector. A single poorly timed lightning strike can potentially damage thousands of dollars’ worth of electronics; so investing in a surge protector, while expensive in the short term, makes perfect financial sense in the long term (it should also be noted, that while lightning strikes are the most well-known cause of power surges, they can occur anytime you turn on a power heavy appliance like a vacuum cleaner or washing machine). But, there are actually a lot of different types of surge protector. So, you may be wondering “which one is right for me?” The answer, depends entirely on your own personal needs.
There are a bunch of different types of surge protectors; but generally they can be divided into two distinct types, surge protectors that protect the whole house, and surge protectors that only cover one outlet.
As you can tell from the name, these types of surge protectors are meant to provide protection to your entire household. These surge protectors are either installed on the switchboard, or installed in the inner wiring of a household. They are far more powerful than outlet based surge protectors, but they are also more expensive, bulkier, and can only be installed by a licensed electrician (this only applies to Australia, where any sort of work involving wiring can only be done by a fully licensed electrician). Since most people tend to have their important electronics plugged into only one or two outlets, it is recommended that you only get these types of surge protectors if you have a lot of important electronics installed all over your house, or you run a business where a lot of important electronics will be located all over the building.
These surge protectors are usually installed directly to a specific outlet (they are also known as “point of use” surge protectors). They are smaller and more affordable than whole house surge protectors, but they are also less powerful and only offer protection to appliances that are plugged into it. Also, because of power limitations, outlet surge protectors cannot guarantee that your appliances will be protected from every power surge (some power surges are just simply too severe for outlet surge protectors). These types of surge protector can be easily set up in any home, without the aid of an electrician. Finding out which type of surge protector you want can come down to whether you would like a plug-in or a power strip, the choice is up to you.
These are not surge protectors, but I am just going to briefly mention uninterrupted power supplies, since you will no doubt come across them when looking for actual surge protectors. Uninterrupted power supplies are extremely useful, but for a different reason than surge protectors. Regular surge protectors do not keep your appliances running when the power surge happens, they simply prevent your appliances from being fried by the power surge. Uninterrupted power supplies do provide some basic protection from power surges, but not much. The primary purposes of uninterrupted power supplies is to keep important machines, like computers, running during a power outage, so that they can be shut off properly. Although you will see plenty of uninterrupted power supplies claim that they offer surge protection, it is better to get a dedicated surge protector. That being said, there are some surge protectors that also have a battery that acts as an uninterrupted power supply. They are very expensive, but if you can afford it, then there is no reason to not get one.
As it was said at the beginning, there is no real way of answering which type of surge protector is best for you depends entirely on what your needs are and what you are concerned about.
Do you live in an area that experiences frequent storms? Darwin and the rest of the northern coast of Australia experiences is prone to devastating storms with lots of lightning. If you live in this area, your primary concern should be external power surges. These are surges caused by outside factors, like lightning. To counteract external surges, you need a whole house surge protector. Outlet surge protectors simply do not have the power to properly protect your electronics if lightning does cause a power surge.
If you live in an area where lightning storms are less severe and less common, you are still at risk of suffering a power surge, the only difference is that the problem will come from internal sources. Power surges can occur anytime undue stress is put on a power system. So, if an appliance that is particularly power heavy (power tools, washing machines, etc., are prime suspects) is started, it can cause a power surge. For internal surges, an outlet surge protector is the best option. You can get a whole house surge protector, but it is rather unnecessary if your only issue is internal power surges. Plus, whole house surge protectors do not protect from internal surges as well as outlet models.
The best course of action (but also the most expensive) is to simply get both types of surge protectors installed. With both a whole surge protector and an outlet surge protector installed, you will be completely protected from both internal and external power surges. It will be expensive at first, but consider the amount of damage a single power surge can do. A single power surge can destroy your television, gaming consoles, computers, entertainment systems, and anything else plugged into an outlet. So, when the weighing the costs of surge protectors, remember that a single surge protector can potentially cause thousands of dollars worth of damage. Suddenly the costs of surge protectors do not seem so hard to swallow. You can always check out lifehackers guide to surge protectors here or even CNET’s guide here.