Guide to Power Strips and Surge Protectors

Most people find the difference between power strips and surge protectors quite mysterious. Here is answering all your questions like – Do you really need a surge protector? Are all Power strips surge protectors? Etc.

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What’s the difference between power strips and surge protectors?

They look the same, and hence people confuse between the two. In fact, many people go to buy a surge protector but bring back a power strip without knowing the difference.

The power strip is an extension cord, which only serves the purpose of providing additional outlets. A surge protector, on the contrary, has another element inside it that, talking electrically, will help ‘clamp’ the surge. Hence it will protect your device from getting damaged by taking the surge away from the device plugged in.

If your area has a lot of electrical storms or you live in a area where there are high duty appliances like furnaces, large motors, and elevators, they can send surges down the power line, thus making a surge protector an essential for you.

What should I look for when buying a power strip or surge protector?

The product you buy must be UL certified. It indicates that the manufacturer has met the safety standards set by regulatory bodies. It may seem insignificant now, but think of the electrical hazards you are inviting by being careless about not checking whether they are certified or not.

You must also check the electrical rating and then check whether the power you can draw from it is enough to power your devices. This way you will not overload the surge protector or power strip.

A surge protector also has a suppressed voltage rating ranging from 330 Volts to 4000 Volts. While you may believe that you want the one with 4000 volts, remember, that the lower the rating, the better will be the protection against power surges.

Is there a limit to what I can plug in or how many things?

You cannot plug in eight things just because there are eight outlets. How many devices you plug in depends on the type of devices and how much electricity will they draw. The total power drawn should not exceed by over 90% of the maximum load the surge protector or power strip can handle.

Overloading these can easily cause a circuit breaker trip, thereby making you have to reset it.

Using lots of power strips is caused either due to laziness or due to lack of enough outlets. You’d probably notice that the circuit breakers pop too often and you’re blowing fuses frequently. Calling in an electrical contractor may seem expensive at first, however, adding these electrical outlets will help on save greater repair cost later.

I use a lot of power strips all over my house, and I have more than one in some rooms. Is this safe?

Can power strips be a fire hazard?

You may have thought of throwing a rug over the long cord of a power strip simply to save people from tripping over it. However, you are putting yourself in danger, as soon enough, the wires in the cord will start overheating and breaking. Being covered, they may capture the heat and break out into a fire.

Though surge protectors and power strips do not come with a expiry date, you must replace them after a specified period of time of when they seem to be heating or malfunctioning. Throwing out a breaking away power strip is always better than putting yourself at a risk of electronic hazards and fire.


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About the Author: Jacklyn J. Dyer