10 Shocking Facts About Power Strips

With your ever-growing assortment of digital units, maybe it appears your own home by no means has sufficient energy retailers. Power strips and their extra elaborate siblings, surge protectors, supply a straightforward resolution: one plug within the wall, many retailers in your units. But wait! There’s extra to those simple-seeming merchandise than meets the attention. 

To begin, do you know that energy strips and surge protectors aren’t the identical factor? And that even inside these two classes, not all are created equal. There are a variety of costs and options to think about. Many include questionable advertising and marketing guarantees, too, so it is exhausting to determine what’s definitely worth the cash and what’s nonsense. 

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Adding extra AC retailers and USB charging ports is extremely helpful, and sometimes very important. Don’t waste cash on the fallacious one, nevertheless. Here’s every thing you want to find out about energy strips and surge protectors.

Before we dive in, take a look at what makes a good surge protector for a little bit of background. This article is the up to date successor to that one and covers the fundamentals if that is all you want. Also, we have recommendations on hiding TV wires and products that help cut cord clutter. Plus, quick tweaks that will enhance your home theater setup.

A 12-outlet power strip sits on a fake wooden floor.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

1. Surge protectors vs. energy strips

Power strips and surge protectors, additionally referred to as surge suppressors, are totally different. 

Typically, energy strips are low cost, multioutlet merchandise which can be merely an growth of a wall outlet. They’re normally small and skinny, typically becoming straight onto the outlet itself. They normally have a circuit breaker (on/off change) of some type, however most do not supply any actual “safety” from electrical points. Some may need the barest stage of safety, however they’re all just about identical to plugging into the wall straight.

Surge protectors are comparatively low cost too, however in contrast to energy strips they provide some stage of safety. As their identify suggests, surge protectors shield your merchandise from energy surges on the expense of itself. But extra on that in a second. How a lot they do that, and the way effectively varies significantly. They’re normally a bit extra elaborate, and sometimes greater, than a easy energy strip, although not at all times.

So what’s an influence surge? It’s additional energy coming into your home. This may very well be do to a problem with the ability strains in your space, or extra generally, close by lightning. This extra energy can harm your digital gear, both all at ones or little bit by little bit over time.

A man struggles with a knotted bundle of power cables.

Yeah, unsure what to do about that both, buddy.

D-Keine/Getty Images

2. Joules are a measure of safety

Surge protectors supply safety in models referred to as joules. Generally, the extra joules the higher, as this implies the gadget can deal with one massive surge, or a number of smaller surges, earlier than your gear is at risk. Over time, the elements contained in the protector put on down, decreasing its effectiveness.

Unfortunately, there is not any method to know the way a lot safety a tool has left, or if the preliminary score is even correct. Buying from a good firm, and one that features a guarantee, is a good suggestion.

3. Some include a guaranty in your stuff

Some surge protectors supply a guaranty (as much as a specific amount) on the gear related to the protector. For instance, within the US, sure Belkin fashions have as much as $300,000 in related gear guarantee, and states: “Belkin Components will restore or change, at its choice, any gear which is broken by a transient voltage surge/spike or lightning strike, (an “Occurrence”), whereas correctly related by way of a Belkin Surge Protector to a correctly wired AC energy line with protecting floor.”

You’ll most likely by no means want it, but it surely definitely would not harm to have it. Keep in thoughts, nevertheless, that simply because the guarantee exists doesn’t suggest you may ever see a dime from it. Note in that Belkin quote the time period “at its choice.” That means they’re going to provide you with any purpose to not cowl your declare. So do not use this as a alternative for house or renter’s insurance coverage.

4. Why you most likely do not want an influence ‘conditioner’

There are plenty of merchandise in the marketplace that declare to “situation” the ability from the wall, promising improved efficiency in your gear. 

Here’s the soiled little secret: Your gear already does this. All electronics have an influence provide that takes the incoming wall present (120 volts within the US), filters it for noise and converts it into regardless of the gadget wants. Almost nothing truly runs on 120 volts (or alternating present, for that matter), so until you’ve got acquired some actually wacky (or low cost) gear, and stay in an space with bizarrely insufficient energy, an influence conditioner is not one thing you want.


Don’t do that.

DonNichols/Getty Images

5. Always get extra retailers than you want proper now

You’re at all times going to want extra retailers. You’ll undoubtedly add extra gear, with out essentially eliminating your present gear. I’m not saying that if you happen to assume you want 4 retailers, it’s best to get 12 — however no less than six might be a very good funding.

Ideally, you do not need your surge protector to seem like the picture above.

A big surge protector with 11 outlets.


6. Get one with sufficient spacing for giant plugs

Most fashionable units use “wall warts” — plugs that convert AC energy into DC energy and seem like little packing containers with electrical prongs protruding. Consider getting a surge protector with wider spacing between sockets, or sockets that may be rotated or moved, to accommodate chunky plugs.

Note how the APC instance within the picture above has a number of close-spaced retailers, for small plugs, and 6 wide-spaced ones for wall warts.

A very confused dog covered in power cables.

Sorry, doggo.

Ирина Мещерякова/Getty Images

7. Power spikes can come to cellphone or cable strains, too

If you need whole safety, think about that cellphone and cable strains can carry energy spikes, too. Some surge protectors have connectors for these as effectively.

A simple surge protector from APC.


8. USB is nice, however examine the amps

Many surge protectors include USB connections, so you possibly can cost your cell units with out having to make use of their wall warts. Handy, for positive, however examine what the output amp score is. Generally, that is both 1 or 2 amps (usually labeled 1A or 2A). This is how a lot circulation you will get by way of the pipe, so to talk. You’ll need no less than 2 amps for faster charging.

Most fashionable telephones have the flexibility to fast-charge, however you may want to make use of their wall warts for that. If you needn’t shortly cost them, although, these decrease energy ports will work simply advantageous.

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9. Traveling? Get a conveyable energy strip

While not providing a lot safety, a conveyable energy strip would possibly forestall marital friction, and/or invoke bliss from journey companions. Most accommodations and hostels have few accessible retailers, but everybody has a number of units that want recharging. Most moveable energy strips add two to a few extra retailers, plus supply direct USB charging (see No. 8, above).

10. They do not final ceaselessly

Remember the joule score we mentioned earlier? This is simply the preliminary score. This will get decrease over time. In different phrases, surge protectors put on out. Some will provide you with a warning or shut off when their safety drops under a protected stage. Many will simply hold working, with out safety, and you will not understand it till an influence spike damages your gear. If you recognize you’ve got had a critical electrical occasion (like lightning blew out a transformer down the road), it is most likely price changing your surge protector simply in case. 

Most firms that promote surge protectors say they should be changed each three to 5 years. Sure, they’re motivated to have you ever purchase them extra usually, however with many fashions beneath $50, this is not an excessive value. 

Bottom line

There is not any purpose to not get a surge protector over a easy energy strip. If you reside in an space with numerous thunderstorms, your gear might be extra prone to expertise energy surges. Even if you happen to stay within the desert, your AC or fridge may kick energy spikes again down the strains to your AV gear. Either manner, some additional safety in your gear is totally definitely worth the small distinction in worth between easy energy strips and surge protectors.

One factor that is past the scope of this text, however price mentioning, are UPSs, or uninterruptible power supplies. These are like surge protectors, however have built-in batteries so the gadget by no means loses energy. At least, not till the battery runs down. They’re not essential for most individuals and most gear, but when there’s one thing in your home that will trigger critical points if it misplaced energy (CPAP machines, maybe), they’re price wanting into. Just make certain they suit your particular wants.

Or to place all of it merely: Since most surge protectors are low cost, they’re price getting (and commonly changing) simply in case.

As effectively as protecting TV and different show tech, Geoff does picture excursions of cool museums and locations around the world, together with nuclear submarinesmassive aircraft carriersmedieval castles, epic 10,000 mile road trips, and extra. Check out Tech Treks for all his excursions and adventures.

He wrote a bestselling sci-fi novel about city-size submarines, together with a sequel. You can observe his adventures on Instagram and his YouTube channel.

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