PC Tip of the Month

Use Surge Protection

September 2015 – by Per Christensson

Never plug an expensive electronic device directly into a wall outlet.

It may seem unlikely that your equipment will get damaged by a power surge, but it can happen at any time. Just this past month, I had two electronic devices damaged by a brownout in my area. A few hundred dollars later, I think I might take my own advice.

The terms "power strip" and "surge protector" are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. A power strip simply allows multiple devices to be plugged into a single wall outlet. A surge protector may look the same as a power strip, but it contains electronics that diffuse voltage spikes and therefore protect your equipment against power fluctuations.

When shopping for a surge protector, the most important number to look for is the "Joules" rating. A good rule of thumb is to use surge protectors that provide protection of 1,000 joules or more. For high-end electronics, I recommended selecting a surge protector with a joule rating of 2,000 or more.

If your home or office gets hit with a power spike, the surge protector will take the hit and save your electronics. In some cases, the fuse in the surge protector will blow and you might need to replace the surge protector. However, it's a small price to pay compared to replacing a computer, TV, or other expensive electronic device.

Important: For desktop computers, I recommend using a surge protector with battery backup, also known as a "UPS." You can read more about UPSes in this previous monthly tip.

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