Surge Protectors

by Roberta Piket on March 25, 2009

in Messages from the Owner, Tech Thoughts and Tips

It’s very important to keep all electronic equipment, not just your computer, plugged into a surge protector to protect it from surges and spikes on the line. I’m not an electrician, but my residential clients always assume I know about surge protectors and ask me which ones to buy, so I decided to get a bit educated on the subject. Here’s what I’ve learned.

First, not all power strips are surge protectors. Make sure the package actually says it protects against power surges. There should be a label indicating the device is UL-listed 1449.

I always thought the joule rating was a good way to tell how much protection you were getting; but according to a pamphlet I received from Allstate when I purchased my house, the methods used to establish joule rating may vary widely among manufacturers. So joule rating is not reliable.

In addition to stopping surges on the power lines, the surge protector must also cover the signal lines going into your equipment such as telephone lines, DSL lines, and cable lines. A good surge protector will have inputs and outputs for those items. If it doesn’t, any equipment that’s connected to a cable line or modem could get fried.

Also quoting from Allstate’s pamphlet:

The surge protector must have some means of letting the user know if it has failed and is no longer protecting the connected equipment. (The protector should either disconnect power from the connected equipment or have indicator lights and/or an audible alarm.)

In other words, if it’s not protecting the equipment, it should stop working altogether so you will buy a new one. Surge protectors have a limited life span because it’s their job to take the hit instead of your equipment.

For further guidance you can purchase “Surges Happen,” (Special Publication 960-6) available at the U.S. Government Printing Office  . Or you can do what I did and look for a surge protector from a reputable company that guarantees it will cover the cost of your equipment if it is damaged by a surge while plugged into their product

Disclaimer: These are general guidelines and I am not responsible if you take my advice and your equipment is damaged by a power surge or for any other reason.

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