How to Buy the Best Surge Protector for Computers and Phones
It’s crucial to protect electronic equipment that’s expensive to replace. That mainly includes components that store essential, irreplaceable data such as financial information, business data, family pictures, and personal recordings. So I’m talking about your computer and its backup equipment.
What Should I Look for in a Surge Protector?
Many people think they can save money by buying a low-cost surge protector. However, that might provide little or no protection. Excellent protection doesn’t have to be expensive. You can select the best one merely by knowing how it works and what to look for with a surge protector.
I’ll explain everything you’ll need to know, such as clamping voltage, the importance of joules, and the causes of power surges and voltage spikes.
The purpose of a surge protector is to divert voltage spikes safely to ground rather than get into the sensitive circuits of your equipment.
Voltage spikes can come through the power line and or through the telephone line. So phone lines need to be protected too if they are connected to your equipment.
Under normal conditions, electric lines have a steady voltage (120 volts in the United States). However, in some cases, erratic fluctuations of the voltage can occur. These are spikes in the electric power that can damage equipment.
Any voltage spikes need to be re-channeled to ground. That's what a surge protector does.
What Causes Power Surges and Voltage Spikes?
Lightning is well known for creating power surges. But voltage spikes can also come from high powered equipment that is on the same circuit. These can create huge spikes in the electric line when they are turned on and off.
For example, if you have a refrigerator or air conditioner on the same line as your computer, you may get interference that can damage the machine. Sometimes it might just be an unexpected reboot, but it can also cause a hard disk crash that cannot be recovered.
The average surge protector will not protect your equipment from lightning strikes. If this is a major problem in the area where you live or work, then you need to consider full-building protection with an external lightning arrestor that diverts lightning strikes to ground.
If this is your concern, check with your power company and your telephone company. Ask what precautions they have taken to protect you and what recourse you have if their lightning protection fails.
Explanation of Clamping Voltage and Joules
What do you look for to select a good surge protector?
You need to pay attention to two things:
- Clamping voltage - needs to be low to cut off high voltages.
- Joules - needs to be high to increase the surge protector's life expectancy.
You want a low clamping voltage. This is the amount of voltage that is let through. You don't want to let through too high a voltage, as it will blow your equipment.
The standard clamping for a 120-volt line is 330 volts. Don't buy anything that allows more than that through.
You also want a protector that can absorb as much energy as possible before blowing itself out. That is measured in joules. The higher this number, the longer will be the life expectancy of your surge protector.
If this absorption rate is too low, you may only be protected for a single event. Then you will need to get a new surge protector. That's another mistake many people make. They don't realize that the surge protector is not going to protect them indefinitely.
How Many Joules Give Good Surge Protection?
Some of the cheaper surge protectors only provide protection once. It's like a fuse blowing. You do want to protect your equipment, but you also don't want to keep buying a new surge protector each time it protects you.
If you use one that has a sufficiently high joule rating, then it should last through many power surges and spikes.
I suggest a rating of over 3000 joules. With anything less, your surge protector may not survive a spike. Your equipment may not be protected if you get more than one high voltage spike before replacing the surge protector.
A single high voltage spike may destroy surge protectors that have a low joule rating. You'll need to replace these cheap protectors often. You'll end up saving more money in the long run by getting a good surge protector with the proper joule rating in the first place.
What Is a Good Recommended Surge Protector?
You can also find power strips with surge protection. If you only want surge protection, and don't need guaranteed power without interruption, I recommend the that I use to protect my expensive video and stereo equipment. It has 10 Outlets and enough room to plug in a few large transformer adapters, as shown in the image below. Tripp Lite Isobar
3570 Joules of surge protection for power and phone lines:
Phone Lines Need Protection Too
You will also want to include surge protection on your phone lines if they are connected to your equipment. The Tripp Lite Isobar power strip (shown above) also includes protected phone jacks. Another solution is to have the phone company install surge protection on each phone line coming into your premises.
Whole-House Surge Protection for All Electronics
All your electronic devices should be protected. If you have a lot of different equipment throughout your home, you may want to consider a whole house surge protector. That needs to be installed by an electrician.
It could help save everything else that wouldn't have been protected otherwise. Besides damage from lightning strikes, voltage surges from other sources can come through your electrical system too. You never know where it strikes, and protecting your entire home is the best choice when you have a lot of expensive equipment.
People Also Ask
Should I protect kitchen appliances?
Kitchen items such as a food blender or toaster oven don’t need a high level of protection. Besides, replacing these items if they ever do get damaged is cheaper than the cost of a surge protector.
How many joules of protection is needed for a clothes iron?
Surge protectors are mainly used to protect electronic equipment. I wouldn’t consider using one for ironing clothes. There is no need for that.
You wouldn’t be using your iron during a thunderstorm anyway. It would be best if you stayed away from anything connected to electrical wiring that might receive a high voltage spark from a lightning strike.
In Conclusion, Remember This
The most important thing to remember when buying a surge protector is to pay attention to the joules (the higher, the better) and the clamping voltage (basically around 330 volts).
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2010 Glenn Stok