A surge protector (or surge suppressor) is a device designed to protect electrical devices from voltage spikes. A surge protector attempts to limit the voltage supplied to an electric device by either blocking or shorting to ground any unwanted voltages above a safe threshold.

Surge protectors are especially important for high end electronic equipment and, especially, computers.  A power surge can destroy your computer system and/or wipe out your data.  You do not want that.

So what type of surge protector is right for you?  In this blog, we will discuss the various types of surge protectors.  Next time, we will discuss other features to look for.  Here are the four types of surge protectors.

Whole house (point of energy) surge protectors

These units are installed at your home’s main electrical panel and guard the whole house from external surges.  Whole house surge protectors guard the house from external surges by allowing in only the electricity your home needs.  It then protects your devices from surges inside the home.  These units typically cost $200 – $500.  If you are building a new home or rewiring your home, it makes sense to install a whole house surge protector.

However, it is strongly recommended that a whole house surge protector be used in combination with one of the point of use protectors described below.

Surge protector strips

These are what most people think of when they think of surge protectors.  These strips plug into an electrical outlet, and allow multiple devices to be plugged into it.  However, not all power strips also provide surge protection.  So when you buy a power strip, make sure it includes surge protection.  These can cost as little as $5, but the better ones are $25 or more.

Battery backup/uninterruptible power supply (UPS)

These provide a higher level of protection than surge protector strips.  They provide instant backup power to connected devices in case of a power outage, and usually also provide a higher level of surge protection.  That not only means devices such as your computers are protected from surges, but your battery will not drain if these is a power outage.  These can cost $150 or more.

Wall-mount surge protectors

These look and function like standard electrical outlets, but have built in surge protectors.  They provide basic protection in spots where you cannot fit a full surge protector.  These vary in price, depending on how much surge protection they provide.
Of course, the best protection is a “tiered” approach with multiple sources of protection. For a house, this would mean a whole house surge protector at the panel as mentioned above, plus smaller ones at each device you wish to protect. You only have to protect devices that would be sensitive to high voltage, like computers, stereos, videos, TVs, etc.  Items that do not need protecting include blenders, lamps, refrigerators, etc. But in today’s environment, even many electric ranges have computer chips in them. It is assumed the panel protector will take care of large appliances such as these.