Three best surge protectors
Whether you're looking for a surge protector for your entertainment room, workspace, or office, it's important to know what features you will need in order to make the right decision.
The two primary features of a quality surge protector are its ability to protect electronic devices and its number and variety of outlets. One of our favorite products is the Belkin 12-Outlet Pivot-Plug Power Strip. It's great for safeguarding your valuable devices, including computers and home theater equipment.
As you shop, it's wise to have an idea of how much use your surge protector will get. If you need to plug in several large appliances that receive regular use, you will want a higher energy absorption rating to get a long and secure lifetime out of your surge protector. If you intend to use your surge protector less frequently for appliances and devices such as lamps and phone chargers, this may be less of a concern.
You'll also want to consider what types of outlets you will need and how you will organize your cables.
Considerations when choosing surge protectors
Most surge protectors have a joule rating or energy absorption rating. This is the amount of energy, measured in joules, that the surge protector can absorb within its lifetime.
Why is this important? Protection of your electronic equipment is the primary function of a surge protector -- it's also what separates them from power strips. Surge protectors prevent energy spikes (or "surges") from harming your valuable electronics. But absorbing surges eventually wears out any surge protector. This is why a higher joule rating is better.
For plugging in less-valuable items like fans or lamps, a 500-joule rating should be fine. But for expensive electronics, consider looking for surge protectors with energy absorption ratings in the 1,000 to 2,000 joules range.
In general, higher is better. But consider the value of your appliances before you invest in a 2,000+ joule rating surge protector.
The clamping voltage indicates the amount of voltage your surge protector will allow before activating. In this case, lower is better. Most surge protectors have a clamping voltage of 330V or 400V.
You should know how many outlets you need for your situation, but you should also consider whether USB outlets, AC outlets, or coaxial cable outlets will be useful. Another factor in outlets is the orientation. If you plan to plug in devices that have transformers or converters, consider outlets that can turn or move within the surge protector to make room for a larger plug.
Surge protector prices
You can find surge protectors for as low as $8 to $15, but you will of course want to check the safety features and reliability of these products.
In the $20 to $30 range, most surge protectors are reliable and offer several outlets and possibly USB ports.
Surge protectors costing $30 and above tend to have high energy absorption ratings and plenty of outlets, making them a good choice for offices or home theaters.
Q. Can surge protectors keep electronics safe from lightning strikes?
A. Generally, no. A direct lightning strike can cause a higher voltage spike than most surge protectors can handle all at once. However, surge protectors can keep your gadgets safe from distant lightning strikes.
Q. Do surge protectors save energy?
A. Not necessarily. Your devices will still use electricity as normal when plugged into a surge protector. However, by using the master switch to cut power to all devices when they are not in use, you can prevent standby power, therefore saving energy.
Surge protectors we recommend
Best of the best: Belkin 12-Outlet Pivot-Plug Power Strip Surge Protector
Our take: Twelve outlets and solid features make this an outstanding choice.
What we like: The high energy absorption rating will protect your electronic devices, and the eight swiveling outlets allow you to power bulky plugs and converters at the same time.
What we dislike: This surge protector is fairly bulky, and some customers note unexpected resets.
Best bang for your buck: Belkin 12-Outlet Power Strip Surge Protector
Our take: This is a great value for a reliable surge protector from a trusted brand.
What we like: Twelve outlets, including six BlockSpace outlets for larger converters, is more than enough for most small offices or homes, and the coaxial cable protection is a handy feature.
What we dislike: A few customers have reported faulty devices.
Our take: Bestek offers a convenient design with several popular features.
What we like: The compact design and six-foot cable make it easy to find a space for this surge protector, and the four USB ports and two AC ports are great to have.
What we dislike: This surge protector has a lower energy absorption rating than most at 600 joules, and the USB ports may malfunction.
Peter McPherson is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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