Wired.  That’s what we are.  Anywhere and everywhere.  Computers.  High definition TVs and DVD players.  Microwave ovens.  Even “smart” appliances in the bathroom and kitchen.

These advanced technologies do make our lives more efficient and more fun.  However, the components in these devices are small and delicate, and thus are more sensitive to power surges than the components in older and less sophisticated machines.  Additionally, these devices require a great deal of power to turn on and off.  So the mere act of turning these products on in and of itself can produce a potentially damaging power surge.  Power surges can also be caused by lightning, although these happen infrequently.

Technically, power surges cause an increase in voltage above the designated flow of electricity (which in a typical house is 120 volts).  When these power surges occur, worst case, they can destroy the devices.  Even if the surge does not immediately cause problems, it could put extra strain on them, resulting in shorter lives and problems over the long term.

That is where surge protectors come in.  Most people think of a surge protector as a power strip that lets you plug multiple components into one outlet.  While it is true that many power strips do provide surge protection, not all of them do.  When you buy a power strip, make sure it contains a surge protector.

Whether or not you need a surge protector depends upon the type of device you are looking to protect.  For example, it does not make sense to hook a light bulb to a surge protector.  The worst thing that will happen during a surge is that the bulb will burn out.

However, you should absolutely use a surge protector with your computer.  Best case, surges will reduce the life of your computer.  Worst case, they can destroy your system and/or wipe out your data.  You should also use surge protectors for high end electronic equipment.

What kind of surge protector should you get?  Like most things, you get what you pay for.  Basic power strips with surge protectors can cost as little as $5, but offer minimal protection.  For $15 to $25, you can get a power strip with extra ratings and better features.

Surge stations are large surge protectors that fit under your computer, and offer greater protection.  Most also have an input for a phone line, and may include circuit breakers.  These can cost as much as $100 or more.  Finally, some units combine surge protection with uninterruptable power supply (UPS).  These units convert AC power to DC power and store it on a battery.  These can cost $150 or more.

Whatever you buy, make sure the unit includes an indicator light that tells you whether the protection features are working.