What is a Surge Protector?

A surge protector, also known as a surge suppressor, is a device designed to safeguard electrical and electronic devices from voltage spikes or surges in the power supply. A surge or spike can happen due to lightning strikes, power outages, or other electrical disruptions.

A surge protector normally has a power strip with multiple outlets, and it contains one or more metal oxide varistors (MOVs) or gas discharge tubes that deviate excess voltage away from the connected devices. When a voltage spike happens, the surge protector detects it and diverts the excess voltage to the earthing wire or grounding wire, inhibiting it from reaching the connected devices.

Surge protectors are generally used to protect sensitive electronic equipment such as televisions, computers, and audio systems, as well as appliances such as refrigerators and air conditioners. They can also help prolong the lifespan of electrical appliances by preventing damage from voltage spikes. However, it is significant to note that surge protectors do not protect against persistent overvoltage or power outages, for which a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) may be required.

Power Strip VS Surge Protector

A power strip and a surge protector may look alike and may both have multiple outlets, but they serve a variety of purposes.

A power strip is a device that simply expands the number of outlets available for use. It's essentially an extension cord with several outlets, allowing you to expand the number of devices that can be powered from one wall socket. It does not protect against electrical surges or voltage spikes.

On the contrary, a surge protector is built to protect connected appliances from electrical surges or voltage spikes. It consists of a built-in mechanism that detects surges in voltage and diverts the excess voltage away from the connected appliances, safeguarding them from damage. A surge protector normally has a higher joule rating than a power strip, indicating the amount of energy it can absorb before it fails.

You should be aware that not all power strips provide surge protection. Some power strips are simply extension cords with multiple outlets and no protection against power surges. When purchasing a power strip, it's important to check whether it includes surge protection if that's a feature you need.

In brief, a power strip is just an extension cord with multiple outlets, while a surge protector is a power strip with additional protection against electrical surges and voltage spikes. Although it is important to mention that not all power strips have surge protection, it is important to read the label or packaging carefully to confirm whether it includes surge protection.

Lifespan of Surge Protector

The lifespan of a surge protector can differ depending on many factors, including the quality of the device, the number of electrical surges it has absorbed, and how frequently it is used. Normally, a surge protector is built to last for many years, but it is crucial to replace it if it is damaged or has been exposed to a significant surge. On average, surge protectors can last anywhere from 3 to 5 years. However, some higher-end surge protectors can last up to 10 years or more. It's important to keep in mind that surge protectors have a limited lifespan because they absorb the excess energy from power surges, which can wear down the protective components over time.

Most surge protectors have an indicator light that shows whether the device is functioning properly. If this light is not glowing, it may be a sign that the device is no longer providing protection and should be replaced. Some surge protectors also have a reset button that can be used to restore the device to its original state.

Manufacturers normally recommend replacing surge protectors every 3 to 5 years, even if they appear to be working properly. This is because the protective parts inside the surge protector can deteriorate over time and become more inefficient at absorbing surges.

It's also important to note that surge protectors are not foolproof, and may not protect against all types of surges. It is a good idea to pair a surge protector with other protective measures, such as unplugging electronics during a thunderstorm or power outage and having an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) for critical equipment.

What Kind of Surge Protector Should I Purchase?

When purchasing a surge protector, there are a few key factors to consider to ensure that you select one that will adequately protect your electronics:

Joule rating:

The joule rating measures how much energy the surge protector can absorb before it fails. Look for a surge protector with a high joule rating, as this will provide better protection against power surges. As the joule rating increases, the surge protector's capacity to absorb energy from power surges or spikes increases. It's generally recommended to use a surge protector with a minimum rating of 600 joules for basic home or office use, but higher-end electronic devices such as gaming consoles, home theater systems, or high-end computers may require a surge protector with a higher joule rating, such as 1000 joules or more.

Clamping voltage:

The clamping voltage of a surge protector refers to the voltage level at which the surge protector will start to divert excess voltage away from connected devices and toward the ground, protecting them from electrical surges and spikes. The lower the clamping voltage, the better the surge protector is at providing protection against power surges.

Number of outlets:

The number of outlets in a surge protector is an important consideration when selecting one. Surge protectors come in various sizes with different numbers of outlets, ranging from just a few to over ten. It's essential to consider how many devices you need to connect and select a surge protector with a sufficient number of surge-protected outlets.

Type of Outlets:

Ensure there are enough outlets on the surge protector for your requirements. Some surge protectors have a mix of outlets, including regular outlets, USB ports, and coaxial connections for cable or satellite TV. Consider the types of plugs you will be using and make sure they will fit in the surge protector.

UL Certification:

Look for a surge protector that is UL certified. This means it has been tested and approved by Underwriters Laboratories, an independent organization that tests electrical devices for safety.


Look for a surge protector with a good warranty. Many surge protectors come with a warranty that covers both the device and any connected equipment that may be damaged by a power surge.

Based on these factors, a good surge protector for most people would be one with a joule rating of at least 600, a clamping voltage of 400 volts or less, enough outlets for your needs, UL certification, and a warranty.


In conclusion, investing in a good surge protector is crucial to protect your electronic devices from power surges and voltage spikes. When selecting a surge protector, there are several factors to keep in mind such as joule rating, clamping voltage, outlets, UL certification, and warranty. By choosing a surge protector that meets these requirements, you can rest assured that your devices are safeguarded from electrical damage, and you can extend their lifespan. Additionally, it's important to regularly inspect and replace surge protectors that are damaged or have exceeded their lifespan to ensure that your electronics remain protected.