The Best Surge Protectors You Can (and Should) Buy
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The Best Surge Protectors You Can (and Should) Buy

Jul 22, 2023

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Surge protectors aren't the sexiest of gadgets. But they're absolutely vital.

Power strips and surge protectors are necessities these days. You need them, simply put, because there's so much tech in your home that requires power. And in specific areas — for example, in your office or TV room or by your night stand — there's simply never enough outlets.

An important clarification: power strips and surge protectors are not the same thing. A power strip adds multiple outlets so you can power multiple electric devices from a single location; a surge protector does the same, but also offers protection against power surges. Essentially, a surge protector is a power strip ... with surge protection.

A power surge occurs when there's a spike in the electric current to a particular outlet, and thus the electronic devices connected to it receive more power than anticipated. This can damage or even destroy the electronic devices depending on the severity of the surge.

The bad news is that power surges are way more common than you'd think — they can happen dozens of times per day. The good news is that most of these are low-voltage power surges that are caused by the appliances and other "low tech" in your home, such as your HVAC system, refrigerator, washing machine or even hair dryer. These low-voltage power surges won't fry your devices, but they can potentially degrade them over time so that they don't work as well (or last as long) as they should.

High-voltage power surges aren't nearly as common, but they're not exactly rare either. They can be caused by lightning, a story that causes a power outage, a problem with a transformer or even faulty wiring in your home. And these are the things that can really damage and potentially destroy your home's electronics.

A surge protector is specifically designed to absorb or divert any excess voltage that comes with a power surge. Specifically, they house special components called metal oxide varistors (a.k.a. MOV) that divert the excess voltage away from the outlets. Some surge protectors will shut down when a surge is detected as well.

Experts recommended that you use a surge protector with almost every outlet in your home. If you're not up for it, you should definitely use a surge protector where you have either expensive or a lot of appliances or gadgets, like in your kitchen, office or TV room.

Note: the one exception is, you shouldn't plug an electronic that creates heat — like a space heater, hair dryer or toaster — into a surge protector. There will be too much resistance and heat build-up; it actually could cause a fire. For these gadgets, you should plug the appliance or gadget directly into the wall.

The more outlets a surge protector has, the more electronics it's able to power. The layout of these outlets is also important, because electronics come with various-sized powered bricks and you're going to need to arrange them so they all fit.

In addition to outlets, some surge protectors also come with auxiliary ports such as coaxial and phone ports. A lot of modern surge protectors also come with USB ports, which allows you to charge your electronics with just a cable — no power adapter.

Every surge protector worth buying will have a joule rating, which indicates that amount of energy (which is measured in joules) it can protect against before it fails. The higher the joule energy rating, the better.

The longer the power cord, the more flexibility you have to place the surge protector where you want — it's a convenience thing. The downside is, longer cords cost more. Most surge protectors are available in different lengths.

Surge protectors degrade over time. It's is recommended that you replace them after three to five years. All surge protectors come with a warranty, which doesn't protect against their energy absorption failures but will cover any kind of defect the surge protector has.

There are a lot of surge protectors out there, and we certainly haven't tested all of them. But we've tested more than enough to choose what we consider the top options for you. Below, you'll find a mix of surge protectors that we've tested as well as some options that are made by brands we trust.

This surge protector is one of favorites for home office use. It has a total of 12 outlets that are well spread out, giving you the ability to fit a variety of different sized power adapters. It has coaxial connectors and telephone ports should you need them. And it has a heavy duty power cord eight feet long, so you have the flexibility to place it where you want.

Furman's PST-8 is a beast of a surge protector that's packed with advanced circuitry and technologies. It's really designed for people looking to power and protect expensive audio or home theater equipment because it does suck a good job at delivering clean power and guarding against surges. You'll notice that it lacks a joule energy rating, but that's because it has metal-oxide varistors and an extreme voltage shutdown feature that goes well beyond most "cheap" surge protectors.

This is surge protector is a standout because of its non-conventional design; it has a total of 8 outlets spread out on three different sides, plus it has four USB ports for charging your various gadgets. It also has a woven power cord that is available in three different lengths: five feet, six feet or 10 feet. The big downside is that is a low joule energy rating and thus is is best designed for a nightstand, desk side or area when you have less-expensive electronics.

Accell makes a wide variety of surge protectors. This model, the D080B-051B, is a standout because it's less conventional design consisting of five short cables with outlets on each end. This gives you greater flexibility when connecting different-sized power adapters.

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