What is a Surge Protector and Do I Need One?

Norvan Martin
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Every household around the world has some sort of electrical appliance that is needed daily. These pieces of equipment are generally quite expensive, and all run off the electrical mainframe of the house, which is connected to the power grid. This means that they will all be exposed to a power surge at some time or another. Most devices won’t survive a power surge, but this can be prevented by simply using a surge protector.

What is a surge protector? A surge protector is a device that is connected to the main power lines in your home and to which your devices can be connected to prevent damage to electronic equipment from voltage “spikes” called transients.

Do you need a surge protector? A surge protector is a very important device to prevent damage to your devices from power surges. Without a surge protector, a power surge may destroy your device, shorten the life of your device, wipe out all of your data, and so on.

Please also note that many people use the terms surge protector and surge suppressors interchangeably, even though there is a slight difference (explained below).

What is a Surge Protector?

A Surge Protector is an adaptor plug-in device used to suppress any voltage spikes in the circuit. It is these voltage spikes that usually fry the circuit boards of the electrical appliance.

What is a Voltage Spike? A voltage spike is a transient event (electromagnetic pulse) that can last anywhere from 1 to 30 microseconds and surge to over 1000 volts.

These voltage spikes can’t be prevented and happen at random times. Only a plug-in surge protector will protect your electrical device from this type of power surge.

Fighting against voltage spikes and power surges, surge protectors typically last between 3 and 5 years. However, they may become ineffective faster if your home is prone to power surges.

What Does a Surge Protector look like?

A Surge Protector is very similar looking to a power strip or multi-plug. It is usually a long multi-plug device that allows the user to run multiple plugs out of a single plug socket with the added advantage of surge protection.

power strip vs surge protector

surge suppressor

The smaller, single or double plug surge protectors are usually red in color to be differentiated from the regular multi plugs.

When Should You Use A Surge Protector?

Using a surge protector is very advisable when seeking to protect expensive electronic equipment and gadgets such as sound, heating, and entertainment-centered systems. Investing in a surge protector will work to minimize risks and prevent the issue of gadget damage due to unexpected power surges and so increase the lifespan of this equipment.

Is It Worth Getting A Surge Protector?

It is definitely a wise investment to get a surge protector for your computers. Beyond the fact that computers are very costly gadgets, they usually contain quite priceless, irreplaceable information. Also, it’s generally an unnecessary risk to leave your powerful gadgets to work unprotected until the unfortunate event of a power spike. If the neighborhood you live or work in has had a history of power surges, you should absolutely go purchase surge protectors.

Do I Need a Surge Protector for my TV

Whether or not you choose to use a surge protector on your TV is entirely up to you. The positives of having a surge protector on your TV circuit outweigh the negatives if there are any at all.

Imagine you have been saving up for that massive flat-screen TV that you know the family will love. Finally, the day comes, and you get it, have it installed, and enjoy watching it for a week or so, and it gets blown up by a power surge.

The worst of it all is it could have been prevented if you had just spent a few extra dollars and plugged it into a surge protector. Point Made?

Power surge protectors are very inconspicuous and don’t take up any extra space; these power surge protectors are very easily stuck behind the cupboard out of sight.

How do Surge Protectors and Surge Protection Work?

This may sound complicated or unnecessary to know for an average person, but it is pretty simple. Simply put, a surge protector does what a multi-plug or power strip would do and supplies power to numerous power points off one plug point.

In conjunction with this, the surge protector will protect these appliances from any voltage spike (surge) that may occur.

When an abnormal amount of electricity is detected, the surge protector simply diverts the excess power to the device’s nearest earth connection.

The earth connection is when the earth wire of the plug point is wired to the actual building (earthed). It is a standard requirement in modern households.

What does a Surge Protector Do?

A Surge Protector Plug or unit simply diverts any excess power or electricity in the circuit to the nearest earth connection.

When electricity is earthed, it simply dies out. All modern plug points and housing layout circuits are earthed for this very reason. The older households may not have this wiring done, but not to worry, it can simply be rewired by a qualified electrician.

What is a Power Surge Protector

A Power Surge Protector has two main functions. Firstly it acts as a multi-plug of power strip as it is commonly known; this allows multiple plug points to run off one plug point.

The second and most important function is the power surge protector suppresses a voltage surge and diverts the extra current out and away from your expensive appliances. The suppression of the additional charge is done by directing the current to the nearest earth.

Do Surge Protectors Work?

Surge Protectors do work, Yes. They are designed to handle a 220-volt line and suppress most surges that are below 1000 volts.

Even the cheapie one can have sufficient function to protect your electrical appliances. The only thing that a power surge protector can’t protect your appliances from is mother nature, lighting.

Lighting is the only thing that will still fry all your electrical devices, whether they were connected to a surge protector or not.

The only natural way to get 100% protection during a lightning storm is to unplug all your devices and wait for the storm to pass. By unplugging all the devices, you will completely disconnect any power supplies and possibly lighting-caused spikes.

Voltage Surge Protectors

Voltage Surge Protectors are devices that protect appliances from any sudden surge in current or voltage.

These devices use a metal oxide varistor or MOV as its referred to. This MOV diverts any extra charge in the circuit, thus keeping a constant supply of the intended voltage.

The MOV acts like a pressure value. If the power is low in the circuit, it will increase the resistance, and if the power is too high (surge), it will decrease the resistance.

Surge Protector Receptacles

The Surge Protector Receptacle is ideally suited to protect modern, expensive electrical equipment. It’s installed as a housed plug unit and can take one or two plugs.

These surge protectors provide circuit surge protection when a standard panel plug unit can’t. These surge protectors come with advanced diagnostic features, including LED lighting and ground wiring.

Surge Protected Plugs

Surge Protected Plugs are actual plug points that have the same function as a power surge protector multi-plug.

The surge protector plug is also known as a surge suppressor, spike suppressor, SPD, or surge diverter. These plug points are usually red and need to be directly wired to your appliance.

The wiring can be simply done by connecting your live, neutral, and earth wires to the appropriate terminal within the plug itself. The surge protector plug will protect the appliance from any Alternate Current AC spikes or surges. This is particularly handy when you only have one or maybe two devices needing surge protection.

Do Power Strips Protect against Surges

Your Basic Power Strip is precisely what its name suggests, basic. Its function is to house and provide numerous electrical appliances with power drawn from a single point.

Your typical power strip doesn’t provide any power surge protection unless it is stated on the packaging or has the LED indicator lights on it. Power strips are convenient when you have a few appliances all in the same area.

Such as a TV cabinet or in the kitchen. Most houses only supply one or two plug points near the TV antenna, so a power strip is the only option.

The one thing to note about a power strip is that the user should be very wary not to overload the plug socket, drawing too much power, which will cause the circuit breaker in the DB board to trip constantly. There isn’t a massive price difference between a power strip and a power surge protector, so always choose the power surge protector.

Power Strips with Surge Protection

Power Strips with Surge Protection plug units are probably the best protection device you can buy to protect your electrical appliances against any power spikes or surges

. The power strips with a built-in surge protection unit provide the user with the best of both worlds. They give multiple plug points for the user to connect numerous devices while providing sufficient protection to most, if not all, sudden spikes of voltage.

These two-in-one protection units are ideal for home use and all office areas. They aren’t that expensive, well, if you compare them to a new TV or PC monitor.

The power strip with surge protection is the number one piece of equipment recommended by most electronic stores and should be sold as a mandatory extra.

Is There A Difference Between Surge Suppressor And Surge Protector?

There is indeed a difference between surge protectors and surge suppressors. Surge protectors and surge suppressors are different in that surge protectors are basically extension cords with basic built-in protection (fuses, varistors, etc.). On the other hand,  surge suppressors, on the other hand, should be designed to clamp the voltage before any damage is done to the computer circuitry.

When Should You Not Use A Surge Protector?

For minor, inexpensive gadgets and equipment like lamps and fans, you do not need to purchase a surge protector, however, in the case of expensive gadgets that have intricate, voltage-sensitive components like TVs, sound systems, PCs, and media centers, or expensive kitchen equipment, -generally anything electronic and expensive, invest in a surge protector.

What Kind Of Surge Protector Do I Need?

Powerful tools and office electronics such as printers, copiers, and routers will be adequately protected by a surge protector with 1000 to 2000 joules. For home theatre components, game consoles, and any computer that holds significant data, look for joule ratings of 2000 or more.


So whether you’re heading out to buy your next new TV or are happy at home with your old TV, always remember it’s advisable to use a surge protector in some way, shape, or form. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive or the most powerful unit as long as it does its job and suppresses any sudden surge in power that would usually fry your electrical appliance. It’s interesting to note that you are required to have surge protectors installed in certain countries if you wish to take out any form of household or business insurance. Simply put, the insurance companies won’t process any claims if you don’t have your surge protectors in place. They don’t cost too much extra and are worth their money, especially if protecting a costly appliance or device.

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Norvan Martin is the founder of BoomSpeaker.com. He is a professional Electronics Engineer and is passionate about home theater systems and AV electronics. BoomSpeaker was created as an online hub to share his knowledge and experiences as it relates to home theaters and home audio electronics. My email: [email protected]  Connect on Pinterest and Linkedin