Buying a Surge Protector

A quick guide to the basics

Surge protectors can save your electronic devices from power surges, which could permanently damage your equipment. However, your average power strip may not be enough to protect high-end items such as computers, sound systems and more. Here are some things to keep in mind as you search for the right surge protector.


  • Consider how much protection you need and spend accordingly. Purchase the best surge protector you can afford. 
  • Choose the number of outlets that you’ll need to handle all the different devices you have. Five to twelve sockets is the usual range. Note: surge protection strips are good for protecting a limited amount of equipment, but there are surge protection devices that can protect an entire electrical panel.
  • Purchase a protector with an indicator to tell you whether or not it is functioning properly.

Check for:

  • Line Conditioner. This keeps a good balance of power in the cord, which benefits sensitive equipment.
  • UL rating. This indicates whether or not the product has undergone testing and qualifies as a transient voltage surge protector, which means it is less likely to fail in a surge situation. All quality surge protection strips should have a UL 1449 rating.
  • High number of Joules. Surge protectors with higher numbers can handle more electricity and offer better protection.
  • Clamping Voltage. If the UL rating is too high, the clamping voltage, or level at which a protector regulates, will not be adequate. Any UL rating above 400 V will leave your equipment vulnerable. 
  • Response time. The amount of time it takes the protector to respond to a surge. The shorter the response time, the less likely your equipment will be damaged.


  • Average surge protectors cost between $15 and $70, but these can only protect small appliances. Even your computer will not be safe at this level. 
  • Optimal protection can cost 100 or more. While it may seem like a costly investment, the right surge protector can save you thousands of dollars in the long run.

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