Surge Protector Vs Power Strip: Which Is Right For You?

surge protector vs power strip

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Many people easily get confused when it comes to choosing between a surge protector and a power strip. You are thinking about which is a better power strip or surge protector and the differences between them. Yes, there are many similarities but also some significant differences.

Also, how do you know which power strip or surge protector is best for your needs? The answer to that question depends on what type of devices you will use with your surge protector or power strip.

What Is a Surge Protector?

A surge protector is a device that has a built-in surge protection system to protect your electrical appliances from damage caused by power surges.

A power surge is a sudden increase in voltage, and it can damage your appliances or even cause a fire.

It has a series of metal oxide varistors (MOVs) that absorb the excess voltage and help to protect your appliances.

whole house surge protector
The whole house surge protector in the wall box

Types of Surge Protectors

There are three main types of surge protectors:

When to Use a Surge Protector?

A surge protector helps to prevent diverting the excess voltage away from your electronics. Most people use a surge protector for their home theater system, computer, and other expensive electronics.

However, if you live in an area with frequent power surges or if you experience occasional spikes, it’s a good idea to use a surge suppressor. You can also use one if you want an extra layer of protection for your electronics.

The Importance of Surge Protectors

Now that you already know that for many reasons power surge can happen at your home. So, it is important to protect the valuable electrical equipment and appliances of your home. In that case, a surge protector can be a lifesaver for you.

Whether it happens due to nearby lightning strikes or faulty wiring, the surge protector will give your electronics a great level of protection from voltage fluctuations. Many people think that all power strips work as surge protectors which is not true.

Due to this wrongly accepted conception, many people experienced severe damage to their electronics. Your hard-earned money can be wasted for this reason. Both surge protectors and power strips indeed come with almost similar features.

They may also look like same as there are multiple outlets and control switches in both of the electric equipment. As a result, many people choose a power strip instead of surge protection.

Due to this mistake, your valuable appliance can damage. Due to the inherited characteristic of surge protection, your electronics will be safe during a sudden power surge.

Surge Protector Function

We all know, that a surge protector is an appliance designed to protect electronic devices from power surges.

Power surges can damage or destroy electronic equipment, which is a vital part of any home or office with computers or other sensitive electronics. It works by diverting the excess electricity to a grounding wire or main power supply, which dissipates the surplus energy harmlessly.

Surge protector connection and wiring diagram: image credit: Etechnog

However, surge protectors help to tell the difference between normal fluctuations in voltage and dangerous spikes. They do this by absorbing the excess energy from the spike and dissipating it safely.

It is rated in terms of joules, which is a measure of energy. The higher the joule rating, the more protection it provides. Voltage is another important factor to consider when choosing a surge protector.

Most surge protectors are designed to handle 120 volts, which is the standard voltage in the United States. However, some devices require 240 volts, so check your equipment’s voltage requirements before selecting one.

What Is a Power Strip?

A power strip is a device that has multiple sockets to plug in multiple devices. Most power strips are used only to plug in multiple devices. It typically has a switch to turn the power to the strip on and off.

Power strip working diagram
Power strip working diagram

When to Use a Power Strip

If you have multiple electronic devices to run simultaneously at a close distance, a power strip can be very useful for you. In most cases, you may not get adequate wall sockets for multiple devices.

So, if you have an extension cord or power strip, it will offer you additional options to plug in. A typical power strip has multiple outlets and an on/off switch along with a circuit breaker. So, this equipment is quite good for restaurants or similar types of businesses.

The good news is most of the power strips come with a built-in surge protector. But, in many cases, your power strip may not be designed with a built-in surge protector.

As a result, your electronics will be left vulnerable during a power surge. However, power strips are quite affordable and you will be able to afford them very easily.

What will you get From the Power Strips?

When you talk about a power strip, it is just an extension cord that comes with multiple electrical outlets. As a result, you will get you will be able to power multiple devices at the same time. One of the biggest benefits of a power strip is it comes with a very user-friendly design.

You can easily plug-in multiple devices. Besides, with the help of a built-in on/off switch, you can easily control it. Just quickly turn off the switch to save electricity. But, a power strip will not give your electronics protection from the sudden power surge.

In fact, during a power surge, anything connected to a power strip can be affected very badly. There are some devices at your home that can be severely damaged due to sudden power surges. Even a small power surge can reduce the overall useful life of your electronics.

Surge Protector Vs Extension Cord: Key Differences

  Surge Protector Extension Cord
Outlets: Surge protectors have fewer outlets than extension cords, but multiple surge protectors can be connected together. Extension cords have a single outlet.
Voltage: Surge protectors can provide a safer voltage for your devices since they have a lower “clamping voltage.” This means the voltage won’t fluctuate too much, which is safer for your devices. Whereas an extension cord may not have a lower clamping voltage.
Cable: Surge protectors typically have shorter cables than extension cords. Therefore, your devices may not be as far away from the source. Extension cords can vary in length and may have a longer cable than a surge protector.
Protection: Both surge protectors and extension cords can protect devices from power surges. Surge protectors are designed to block voltage before it reaches your devices. In addition, surge protectors provide a warranty to replace any damaged devices. Extension cords do not have this type of warranty. Extension cords do not provide the same level of protection as surge protectors.
Cost: Surge protectors are typically more expensive than extension cords. Although surge protectors vary in price, you can normally find an affordable one for under $50. Extension cords are available for as little as $3 and go up from there.

1. Protection level

The level of protection that a surge protector offers is determined by its design and the quality of its components.

Generally, a good quality surge protector has heavy-duty metal oxide varistors (MOVs) that can dissipate large amounts of energy and keep devices safe from surges. Also, you should choose one with a Joule rating of at least 700 and ensure they have a UL certification.

Whereas power strips offer a little more protection against power surges(not all power strips) than surge protectors.

This is because they can protect against significant surges but are not impervious to them. In addition, most power strips have a built-in circuit breaker that will trip and shut off the power when there is an overload of power, which will help protect your electronics.

However, if there is a massive surge or overload, it might still damage your devices.

Some power strips also have a metal oxide varistor (MOV), which is supposed to divert any power surges away from your devices. However, these can also fail over time.

2. Faulty wiring

When it comes to surge protectors, improper installation or wiring can lead to an excess voltage being drawn from the wall outlet, which could damage your electronics.

On the other hand, power strips can also be faulty if the wiring is not properly connected. This could lead to the excess current flowing through the strip, which could also damage your electronics.

Therefore, when choosing a surge protector or power strip, it’s important to ensure that the wiring in your home is properly installed and configured.

3. Overloading Capacity

Surge protector and power strip’s overloading capacity can be a problem if not used properly.

However, in general, the overloading capacity of the power strip is usually less than the surge protector. So, if you are using them improperly, they can overload and cause damage to your equipment.

Overloading both can create a fire hazard. Even melting the plug can be dangerous in your home or business. So, be sure to use them properly and avoid overloads.

4. Joules Rating

Joule’s rating of both is not equal. Surge protectors have a higher joules rating than a power strip. So more joules rating means more protection for your devices. In general, you can use at least 1000 surge protectors for general home appliances.

A power strip only offers more outlets and not joules rating. However, some power strip offers surge protector with higher Joules rating.

So it is important to choose the right one for your needs.

5. Easy To Install & Uses

Surge protectors are generally more difficult to install than power strips. Power strips can simply be plugged into an outlet.

Whereas, surge protectors require the installation of either a filter or switchgear that protects your electronics from spikes in voltage.

Level surge protector

Pricing Comparison

Surge protector:

The average cost of a surge protector for an individual is between $30 to $100. However, the price depends on quality, durability, features, or any other unique benefits it may offer.

Since there are many types of power surge protectors, such as panels, breakers, RV surge protectors, and more. So I recommend using a surge protection system when possible to minimize the damage incurred by electrical fires due to voltage spikes.

Power strip:

The average price of an electric power strip is about $15-$25, while more expensive models may be priced up to $100. So you should purchase one according to the features, benefits, and must worth of your home appliances.

Power strip

Where to Buy Surge Protectors or Power Strips?

There are many places to buy surge protectors and power strips. Some stores that sell electronic equipment, such as Best Buy or Target, carry them.

They can also be found at hardware stores, like Home Depot or Lowe’s. Online retailers, like Amazon.

However, in a word, you can find a surge protector or power strip near your electrical shop.

Pros & Cons

Power Strip Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Power strips are relatively affordable
  • Easy to use
  • Safe
  • Versatile and
  • Portable.

Cons

  • Power strips can become overloaded
  • Difficult to use in crowded areas

Surge Protector Pros & Cons

Pros

Cons

  • Bulky and take up a lot of space.
  • Difficult to connect and disconnect the cords.

Surge Protector Vs. UPS

You already know a lot of matters about a surge protector. There is no denying the fact that it will work to protect the electronics if there is a sudden power surge at your home.

On the other hand, when it comes to a UPS (uninterruptible power source) will provide you with temporary backup power. A UPS will work without any dependency to give you backup power if the main power supply fails for any reason.

One of the major characteristics of a UPS is it will give you temporary protection. Besides, you will get an instant power supply to complete your task. But, it works only for a short time.

Where Should You Use a Surge Protector or a Power Strip?

Power strips are commonly used in homes and offices to provide a convenient way to connect multiple devices to a single outlet.

Whereas, the best place to use a surge protector is near your electronic equipment. This includes your computer, television, printer, and other electronics.

It would be best to use it in your home office. You should put a surge protector in each room if you have many electronics.

Which Should You Choose?

Two main types of devices offer protection for your electronics: surge protectors and power strips. So, which should you choose?

Again surge protectors are designed to protect against sudden spikes in voltage, while power strips provide additional outlets.

So a surge suppressor is a way to go if you want protection from power surges. However, if you need more outlets, a power strip will suffice. So now you can decide which will be a better strip or a surge protector.

Final Words

At the end of the comparison, an electrical upgrade can significantly boost a home’s safety/protection and appearance.

That being said, you should use any of them according to your devices. Many people use power strips and surge protectors interchangeably these days.

Palash is an entrepreneur in the tech industry and the author of the Smart Home Protector. As a tech entrepreneur & reviewer of a home safety gadget store, his job helps customers remain on top of what's coming next in our rapidly changing world.

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