Surge Protectors

Why your outlet needs a surge protector

Sometimes, the voltage from an electrical outlet can spike unexpectedly, and in turn, destroy your computer. If you have invested money into reliable computer equipment, you will want to protect that investment with an outlet surge protector. Surge protectors are designed to block or ground the excess voltage before it gets to your computer, and although they are highly recommended for every computer system, each will offer different features. Here are some basic facts about power surge protectors to keep your computer safe.

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Surge Protector Features

Power surges are unavoidable. Faulty wiring, fallen power lines or even lightening can result in a burst of voltage, but surges are most commonly caused by high-power electrical devices, such as air conditioners and refrigerators. These machines require a lot of energy to switch on and off certain components, and this switch interrupts the even flow of voltage, resulting in a jolt of energy that could damage your other appliances.

A surge protector works by passing the electrical current from the outlet through a metal oxide varistor (or MOV) to several electronic devices that are plugged into the power bar, or power strip. Although the MOV should ground any extra voltage, many surge protectors are equipped with a built-in fuse that acts as a back-up plan: if the MOV doesn't stop the power surge, the fuse will take the hit and save the machine.

While it will not be crucial to hook up your floor lamp to a surge protector, computer components such as hard drives are too valuable to risk—in addition to their monetary value, they hold important and often irreplaceable information. But before you plug your electronics into your power bar, keep in mind that it will not necessarily offer any surge protection; some consumers have mistaken their power bars for surge protectors, since surge protection is a feature inside many power bars. Look for a few key features and shop with care to avoid electronic ruin.

Choosing a Surge Protector

Surge protectors range enormously in both price and performance. Cheap surge protectors often come with five or six outlets, and will provide basic protection against small surges. A Belkin surge protector is a popular choice—it will typically cost you between $15 and $60, but if you want the best protection you can get, go for a surge station or uninterruptable power supply (UPS). These devices typically cost between $50 and $200, depending on the model, and will be the best choice for any large computer or entertainment system. An indicator light is a good feature to look for in any surge protector, as it will tell you when the MOV has burnt out and needs to be replaced.