Cell phone chargers, computers, video game consoles, holiday lights…the number of electronics we want to plug in gets pretty enormous this time of year! With limited space on your wall outlets, power strips and surge protectors are the best way to power all of your devices. You might be surprised to know that not all surge protectors and power strips are created equal, though. Here’s what you’ll need to know to choose the right one for your family!
Power Strip vs. Surge Protector: What’s the Difference?
A surge protector is similar to a power strip, but better. A power strip will allow you to plug multiple electronic devices into the same device and power all of them, increasing the number of outlets in your home. Surge protectors do this as well, but they also protect your important electronics (computers, TVs, etc.) from getting damaged by unexpected power surges and fluctuations. The surge protector will limit the voltage supplied to an electric device by either blocking or shorting to ground any unwanted harmful voltage.
This is not to say that power strips are worthless; they simply don’t provide the protection that surge protectors do. If your purpose is just to plug in more devices, then either option will work for you.
How to Choose a Good Power Strip
- Be sure to choose a power strip with outlets to spare. This way, you will be prepared if you purchase more devices in the future or move devices around to different parts of your home.
- Check the length of the power cord and the configuration of the actual strip to ensure that it will fit where you want to put it.
- Some power strips are specialized for certain types of devices. For example, a power strip designed for workbench tools will be much different than one designed for your home office. There are also power strips made especially for medical equipment and A/V equipment!
How to Choose a Good Surge Protector
- We recommend a surge protector over a power strip if you’re looking for that extra layer of protection.
- Protection granted from a surge protector is measured in joules—the more joules the better!
- Some surge protectors even offer a warranty on the gear you have connected to them. While a warranty doesn’t guarantee a replacement for a damaged device, the extra insurance can be extremely valuable if you treasure your electronics.
- Power surges can also come from cable or phone lines, so keep this in mind if you are using these ports.
- Some surge protectors come with USB ports that can quickly charge devices like a smartphone or tablet. When searching for a surge protector with USB ports, check to see what the amp output is. You’ll see 1A or 2A, meaning 1 and 2 amps, on the device. 1A is sufficient for charging your mobile phone, though you’ll want 2A for charging a tablet.
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