Value of surge protectors explained

Thursday, April 17th 2008, 7:00 pm
By: News 9

By Joel Craig, NEWS 9 Contributor

They don't get the attention they deserve - not a surprise, though. They're small, quietly work 24 hours a day for us, and most are hidden from our view.

But surge protectors are often the one thing standing between a home full of well-working electronics and a home full of fried machines that can't be fixed.

Many people think surge protectors are only for computers. The fact is most of today's electronics have computer circuits inside them. Even a lowly coffee maker can have computer circuits for the timer and brewing control.

First know the difference between a power strip and surge protector. A power strip is basically an extension cord. It offers no protection against power surges.

There are several things to look for in a surge protector but let's look at three of them: clamping voltage, response time and joules.

The clamping voltage is the voltage at which the surge protector starts to work. The lower the number- the better; 330 is the lowest- and best to buy.

Surge protectors don't kick in immediately there's a slight delay. The longer the response time the longer the connected equipment will be exposed to the surge. Buy a protector with a response under a nanosecond because it will kick in fast enough to stop the most damaging portion of the surge.

The joule rating is the number manufacturers usually put in big numbers on the package. The higher the joule rating, the more power the surge protector can absorb. You'll want a protector around 1,000 joules for most appliances, 1,500 and up for your entertainment products and 2,000 plus for your computer. Here the bigger the number the better.

These are surge protectors not lightning protectors. Nothing is going to protect your electronics if your home takes a direct lightning strike. So, unplug them during storms.

Also the protector does wear-out over time. Most units have a light that shows if the protector is working or not, check yours periodically. Even if the light shows the unit is working it is a good idea to replace them every five years.