Last month we discussed four different types of surge protectors.  This month we will discuss features to consider when buying a protector.

As a reminder, there are four different types of protectors:

  • Whole house surge protectors guard the house from external surges by allowing in only the electricity your home needs.  It then protects devices from surges inside the home.
  • Surge protector strips plug into an electrical outlet, and allow multiple devices to be plugged into them.  However, not all power strips provide surge protection.
  • Battery backup/uninterruptible power supply (UPS) protectors provide instant backup power to connected devices in case of a power outage, and usually also provide a higher level of surge protection.
  • Wall-mount surge protectors provide basic protection in spots where you cannot fit a full surge protector.

Here are some other things to consider.

Performance ratings

There are four performance criteria:

  • Voltage protection ratings (VPRs) measure the maximum voltage a protector will let through.  The lower the VPR the better.
  • Suppressed Voltage Ratings (SVRs) are an earlier measure of let-through voltage.  Again, the lower the better.
  • Joule rating is the highest amount of energy the protector can absorb over time.  Look for a Joule rating above 600.
  • Response time measures how quickly the protector reacts to a surge.  The quicker the better.  One nanosecond or less is ideal.

Energy saving designs

Some devices save energy by cutting power to connected devices when the devices are in standby mode or not in use.

  • Load-sensing plugs recognize a voltage drop indicating a device has entered standby mode, and cut the power to turn the device off.
  • Master/power save plugs.  One “master” smart plug controls other “power\ save” plugs.  When the device connected o the master plug shuts off, the master plug then cuts off power to that device and the devices connected to the power save plugs.
  • Remote control protectors include a wireless switch that turns select plugs on and off.
  • Occupancy sensing units cut power to plugs when a lack of motion is detected.
  • Timer surge protectors and power strips turn on and off at specified times.

Other features

  • Check the warranty to see what damage is covered if the protector fails.
  • Automatic warning devices alert you when a surge protector needs to be replaced.
  • Three-line protection (hot, neutral and ground) is critical because surges can occur on any line.
  • Power shut down protection cuts the power to a power strip’s outlets when the surge protection elements reach capacity.
  • Resettable circuit breakers shut off a power strip during a sustained power overload.
  • GFCI protection that shuts off power when it detects a short circuit.
  • Line conditioner that adjusts the electric current coming from an outlet to smooth out minor fluctuations in current in addition to actual surges.
  • A metal case to help withstand damage and heat.