CONSUMER FILE

What You Need To Know About Surge Protectors

May 14, 2019, 6:33 PM | Updated: 6:34 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – We often link lightning strikes to power surges, but they’re not the only cause. A mishap by the power company during maintenance, or even an A/C unit or refrigerator motor can create a damaging spike in power. Surge protectors are an inexpensive way to protect your electronics from getting fried by random surges. But, they are not all the same.

“If it doesn’t say surge protector on it, it’s probably not a surge protector,” said electrical engineer John Palmer, an associate professor at the University of Utah’s Electrical and Computer Engineering department.

Palmer says many people are actually buying power strips instead of surge protectors. They look very similar and they are often sold side-by-side.

Power strips and surge protectors are often sold side-by-side and look very similar, but only the protector will guard your gear against surges.

Power strips and surge protectors are often sold side-by-side and look very similar, but only the protector will guard your gear against surges.

“All too many of us just go in and look. We see something that looks like what we want with a low price and that’s what we grab,” Palmer said. “But, the difference between them is worth taking a minute or two to read labels and understand what it is we are purchasing.”

A power strip is essentially an extension cord with additional outlets. It offers no extra protection against a spike in voltage. But a surge protector can handle that random surge in power.

“It has an added feature such that when the power system has a voltage surge on it, or a momentary increase in voltage, it limits the energy transfer so that the surge doesn’t get into your high-end electronics,” Palmer explained.

Surge protectors are rated in Joules. That tells you how strong of a punch of extra electricity it can take. The higher the number of Joules, the bigger the surge a protector can absorb.

Electrical engineer John Palmer explains why the terms ‘power strip’ and ‘surge protector” are not interchangeable.

Electrical engineer John Palmer explains why the terms ‘power strip’ and ‘surge protector” are not interchangeable.

Below a thousand Joules works great for electronics like small appliances, cell phones and battery chargers. Experts recommend at least 2,000 Joules for more expensive and sensitive electronics.

“If I’ve got a high-end stereo system that’s, you now, worth several thousand (dollars) or more, then I want to invest in a more expensive (protector) and higher Joule rating,” Palmer elaborated. “Some of the higher-end surge protectors will have as many as 5,000 Joules.”

Another thing to consider besides Joules is the protector’s clamping voltage. That is the threshold of excess voltage it takes for the protection components to go into action.

“The clamping voltage is the absolute maximum that the device will ever allow,” explained Palmer. “In general, that’s only going to be when you have the very worst surges. Usually, it (the surge protector) will hold the voltage down to less than that clamping voltage.” The lower the voltage, the better.

Also, look for the protector’s response time. Usually listed as nanoseconds, this rating shows how quickly it reacts to excess voltage. Here again, the lower the number the better the protection.

Power strips and surge protectors are often sold side-by-side and look very similar, but only the protector will guard your gear against surges. Electrical engineer John Palmer shows how a surge protector and power strip differ on the inside. Be sure to look over the label to make sure you are purchasing the right device for your electronics.

“When you have, for example, a lightning strike that may happen in your neighborhood, this pulse voltage comes in. It can be very high, but it’s a very short duration,” explained Palmer. “So, if you don’t have a good response time on your surge protector, then the initial part of that surge my actually make it through your device (surge protector) before it responds and pulls that voltage down.”

Palmer also recommended buying protectors with more outlets than you need. You should never plug a power strip or another protector into an existing protector, to get more outlets. Not only will it likely void the manufacturer’s warranty on the protector, but it could spark an electrical fire.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Consumer File

...
KSL-TV

Sunday Edition: Countdown To Election Day

This week on Sunday Edition, we count down to election day looking at Utah’s biggest race and the latest polling data.
3 months ago
Roe v Wade Utah...
KSL TV

Sunday Edition: Republican Primary Election Debates; Roe v. Wade impact in Utah; Drought Conditions outlook

Doug Wright sits down with Senator Dan McCay to discuss the Supreme Court leaked draft opinion on Roe v. Wade and about the so-called "trigger law" that would go into effect if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
6 months ago
...
Matt Gephardt and Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

GPS gadgets and other devices that can help parents keep tabs on their children

Moms and dads have all sorts of gadget options that can help their peace of mind while keeping tabs on their kids.
1 year ago
...
Dan Spindle, KSL TV

How to stream Utah college football games

Here's how you can still watch your favorite teams on the gridiron without the expensive satellite or cable package.
1 year ago
A US government agency issued an "urgent warning" for users of Peloton's Tread+ following multiple ...
Jordan Valinsky, CNN Business

Peloton Tread+ Owners Told To Stop Using Treadmill In ‘Urgent Warning’

A U.S. government agency issued an "urgent warning" for users of Peloton's Tread+ following multiple dangerous incidents with the machine, including a child's death.
2 years ago
...
Matt Gephardt, KSL TV

Gephardt: Gas Company Resumes Disconnecting Delinquents, Vows To Help Customers

Dominion Energy decided in March to cease disconnecting those who didn't pay their gas bills, but that program only runs through mid-July.
3 years ago

Sponsored Articles

vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
What You Need To Know About Surge Protectors