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Surge Protector Buying Guide

A comprehensive surge protector guide that will give you all the information you need on how to buy a surge protector.

Getting Started

After purchasing your favorite electronics, there's one thing to have that will protect your investment: a surge protector. A surge protector will protect your electronics by absorbing dangerous excess voltage, preventing most of it from reaching your sensitive equipment. One of the most common ways electronics can get damaged by electronics is from a lightning strike. Lightning can travel into the ground and find its way right into your electrical sockets, overloading the electronics with so much electricity, they fry internally. With a surge protector, it stops it before it even gets to your electronics.


When shopping for a surge protector, there are some things to consider when narrowing down which one works best.

UL 1449 Clamping Voltage

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) rates the clamping voltage of surge protectors. The lower the rating, the better the protection. The lowest UL rating for clamping voltage is 330 volts. UL tests household surge protectors at 500 amps. Other types, such as whole-house or heavy-duty, industrial models, have a multitude of differences in their testing program. When comparing clamping voltages, make sure the rating reflects 500-amp test results.

3-Line Protection

Surges can occur between hot, neutral and ground lines. Choose a unit that protects along all three lines.

Circuit Breaker

A breaker stops the flow of electricity when a circuit is overloaded and is not related to surges or spikes.

Ground Indicator Light

This light shows that the ground path is intact to provide safety.

Response Time

This rating indicates how fast a surge protector can react. The faster the better.

Indicator Light

This indicator lets you know the unit is protecting. Once the unit has reached its capacity and is no longer protecting, the light will go out.

Power Shut-Down Protection

This feature shuts off power to all outlets once the unit has reached its capacity to protect. Power shut-down prevents additional surges and spikes from reaching connected equipment before the surge protector is replaced. This assures you that if the unit has power, it's protecting.

Cable Line Protection

Coaxial cable lines can carry surges and spikes. For complete protection of your TV / DVD player, you should protect the cable line as well as the power line. To protect this equipment, select a surge protector with coax line protection.

Digital Satellite Line Protection

Digital satellite lines can also carry surges and spikes. These lines, however, can't be connected to standard coax cable jacks. Choose a surge protector with specially designed digital satellite jacks.

Phone Line Protection

Surges can occur on telephone lines. Phones, fax machines and modems can be damaged from surges on the phone lines. To protect this equipment, select a surge protector with phone line protection.


Electromagnetic interference (EMI) and radio frequency interference (RFI) are types of noise on the power line that can interfere with equipment performance and possibly cause memory loss. When comparing EMI / RFI specs, the wider the frequency range (kilohertz to megahertz) and the greater the noise reduction in decibels (dB) across that frequency range, the better the filtering.

Joule Rating

A joule is a measurement of energy. The joule rating on a surge protector indicates the amount of energy that a device is capable of absorbing. In general, the higher the joule rating, the better the unit is able to protect your equipment and the longer it will last. The joule rating is determined by the total number of metal oxide varistors (MOVs). An MOV is a component in surge protectors that absorbs excess electrical energy and clamps the voltage to a safe level.


An audible alarm lets you know the surge protector is no longer protecting and should be replaced. This feature is important when the unit doesn't feature power shut-down protection or when the indicator light is out of sight.


Check the manufacturer's warranty. A data recovery program is an added bonus that will cover costs related to the task of recovering data on a malfunctioning hard drive as a result of a surge.

Safety Tips

As long as you take care of your surge protector, your surge protector will take care of you. Be sure to follow these safety tips to get the most out of your protector and the electronics it protects.
  • Use surge protectors indoors, in a dry location.
  • Don't exceed the electrical rating of the product.
  • Don't use surge protectors with aquariums
If the surge protector features a power cord, follow these guidelines:
  • Uncoil the cord before use.
  • Don't not cover the cord with any material, that is a potential fire hazard
  • Keep children and pets away from the cord to prevent pets from chewing or children from getting electrocuted
  • Don't plug a surge protector into an extension cord. It will drastically reduce the effectiveness. Be sure you get the right length, so plan ahead/