10 shocking facts about power strips

With your ever-growing collection of electronic devices, it seems like your home never has enough electrical outlets. Power strips and their more extensive siblings, surge protectors, offer a simple solution: one plug in the wall, multiple outlets for your devices. But wait! There is more to these seemingly simple products than meets the eye.

For starters, did you know that power strips and surge protectors are not the same thing? And that even within these two categories, not all are created equal. There is a wide range of prices and features that you should consider. Many come with questionable marketing promises, so it’s hard to figure out what is worth the money and what is nonsense.

topwatchbest technical advice logo

Adding extra AC outlets and USB charging ports is incredibly useful, and often necessary. However, don’t waste your money on the wrong one. Here’s everything you need to know about power strips and surge protectors.

Before we dive in, check it out which makes it a good overvoltage protection little background. This article is the updated successor to it, and covers the basics if that’s all you need. We also have tips on hiding TV cables and products that help reduce cable clutter. Plus, quick fixes that will improve your home theater setup.

The power strip with 12 sockets is located on the wooden floor.

Tyler Lizenby / topwatchbest

1. Surge protectors and power strips

Power strips and surge protectors, also known as surge suppressors, are different.

Typically, power strips are cheap, multi-socket products that are merely extensions to a wall outlet. They are usually small and thin, sometimes they fit directly into the outlet itself. They usually have some kind of circuit breaker (on / off switch), but most of them offer no real “protection” against electrical problems. Some may have the highest level of protection, but all resemble a direct connection to the wall.

Surge protectors are also relatively cheap, but unlike power strips, they provide some level of protection. As their name suggests, surge protectors protect your products from surges at their own expense. But more on that in a moment. How much they do it and how well it differs. They tend to be a bit more elaborate and often larger than a regular power strip, though not always.

So what is a power leap? This is extra power coming into your home. This could be a problem with power lines in your area or, more commonly, with lightning strikes nearby. This extra power can damage your electronic equipment, either all at once or gradually over time.

A man struggles with a tangled bundle of power cables.

Yeah, I don’t know what to do with it either, buddy.

D-Keine / Getty Images

2. Joules are a measure of protection

Surge protectors provide protection in units called joules. In general, the more joules the better, as this means the device will be able to handle one or many smaller surges before your equipment is put in danger. Over time, the parts inside the protector wear out, reducing its effectiveness.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to know how much protection is left on your device, or whether the initial assessment is even accurate. Buying from a reputable company that comes with a warranty is a good idea.

3. Some have a guarantee on your stuff

Some surge protectors offer a guarantee (up to a certain amount) for the equipment connected to the surge arrester. For example, in the USA some Belkin Models are warranted up to $ 300,000 for attached equipment and states: “Belkin components will, at its option, repair or replace any equipment that has been damaged by a transient voltage spike / spike or lightning strike (” Event “) when properly connected. through a Belkin surge protector to a properly wired AC power line with a protective earth. ”

You probably will never need it, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have it. Keep in mind, however, that just because a guarantee exists doesn’t mean you’ll ever see a dime on it. Note that Belkin quoted the term “of your choice.” This means that they will come up with a reason not to cover your claim. So don’t use this as a replacement for home or tenant insurance.

4. Why you probably don’t need a “conditioner” for power

There are many products on the market that claim to “condition” power from the wall, promising better performance in your equipment.

Here’s a dirty little secret: Your hardware already does it. All electronics have a power supply that takes electricity from the wall (120 volts in the US), filters it for noise, and turns it into what the device needs. Almost nothing really works at 120 volts (or AC, for that matter) so unless you have really crazy (or cheap) equipment and live in an area with strangely insufficient wattage, a power conditioner isn’t something you need.

The power strip is on a wooden floor and has too many plugs.

Do not do this.

DonNichols / Getty Images

5. Always get more selling points than you need right now

You will always need more points of sale. You will undoubtedly add more hardware without necessarily getting rid of your current hardware. I’m not saying that if you thought you needed four outlets you should get 12 – but at least six is ​​probably a good investment.

Perfect, you no you want your surge protector to look like the picture above.

Large surge protector with 11 slots.


6. Get one with enough clearance for large plugs

Most modern appliances use “wall warts” – plugs that convert AC to DC and look like little boxes with electric plugs sticking out. Consider purchasing surge protectors with wider spacing between sockets or sockets that can be rotated or moved to accommodate bulky plugs.

Note that the APC example in the image above has several closely spaced outlets for small plugs and six widely spaced out for wall warts.

Very confused dog covered in power cables.

Sorry, dog.

Ирина Мещерякова / Getty Images

7. Power spikes can also occur on telephone or cable lines

If you want total protection, consider that telephone and cable lines can also handle power spikes. Some surge protectors also have connectors for them.

Simple APC surge arrester.


8. USB is great, but check the amps

Many surge protectors have USB connectors, so you can charge your mobile devices without having to use their wall-mounted nipples. Handy, for sure, but check the power of the output amplifier. Generally this is 1 or 2 amps (often labeled 1A or 2A). So much flow can be made through a pipe, so to speak. You need at least 2 amps for faster charging.

Most modern phones have a quick charge capability, but you have to use their wall warts for that. However, if you don’t need to charge them quickly, these lower power ports will work just fine.

Now playing:
Look at this:

USB-C is gaining a lot of power


9. Are you traveling? Get a portable power strip

A portable power strip, while not providing much protection, can prevent friction in marriage and / or induce bliss in traveling companions. Most hotels and hostels have few outlets available, but each has a lot of devices that need to be recharged. Most portable power strips add two to three additional outlets and also offer direct USB charging (see step 8 above).

10. They don’t last forever

Remember the joule gauge we talked about earlier? This is only a preliminary assessment. This diminishes over time. In other words, the surge protectors are wearing out. Some will give a warning or shut down when their protection falls below a safe level. Many of them will just work, without protection, and you won’t know it until a power spike damages your gear. If you know you’ve had a serious electrical incident (like a lightning bolt shot a transformer on the street) it’s probably worth replacing the surge protector just in case.

Most companies that sell surge protectors say they need to be replaced every three to five years. Sure, they’re motivated to buy them more often, but for many models under $ 50, it’s not an extreme cost.

The bottom line

There is no reason not to attach a surge protector to a simple power strip. If you live in an area with a lot of thunderstorms, your equipment is likely to be vulnerable to power surges. Even if you live in the desert, your air conditioner or refrigerator can cause power spikes back down to your AV equipment. Either way, the extra protection for your gear is absolutely worth the little difference in price between simple power strips and surge protectors.

One thing that is beyond the scope of this article but worth mentioning are UPS or uninterruptible power supplies. They are like surge protectors, but have built-in batteries so the device never loses power. At least not until the battery runs out. They are not essential to most people and most equipment, but if there is anything in your home that would cause serious problems in the event of a power loss (CPAP machines, perhaps), it is well worth taking care of. Just make sure they fit your specific needs.

Put simply: since most surge protectors are cheap, it’s worth buying (and replacing them regularly) just in case.

In addition to discussing television and other display technologies, Geoff does photo tours around cool museums and locations around the worldincluding nuclear submarines, massive aircraft carriers, medieval castlesepic 10,000 miles of road travel, and more. Cash registers Technical hiking for all his trips and adventures.

He wrote best-selling science fiction novel about city-size submarines, along with continued. You can follow his adventures further Instagram and his Youtube channel.

Leave a Comment