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Best Surge Protector Power Strips For Home

Tripp Lite Surge Protection StripDon’t let power fluctuations damage your sensitive home electronics, and be careful not to confuse a surge protector with a power strip. They look very similar, but a power strip provides only an extension cord and additional outlets, with no protection against surges and line noise.

A surge suppression / protector is designed to protect any device with a standard AC plug from damaging power surges and disruptive line noise transferred through the electrical wall outlet. While a surge protector may cost a few dollars more, it’s definitely worth the investment.

Here are our recommendations for the best surge protection strips for home use, and then you can read all the details below describing the devices, their key benefits, how they work and the life-time replacement / insurance protection if anything does happen.

Tripp Lite 6 Outlet Surge Protector Power Strip (TLP604)( $8.74 – 4ft Cord)
Tripp Lite 6 Outlet Surge Protector Power Strip (TLP606)( $9.43 – 6ft Cord)

We all have these around our house, in the office, garage and maybe when we are out camping or in the RV. So let’s start with some background on these ubiquitous and essential electronics.

Power strips consist of several components, such as multiple electrical receptacles, an on/off switch, a circuit breaker, a power cord and a grounded plug. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) – an independent, not-for-profit testing laboratory – refers to power strips as “Relocatable Power Taps (RPT),” defined and listed in UL 1363 . Relocatable means they must be removable without the use of a tool.

UL defines and lists surge protectors (also known as surge suppressors) in UL 1449, “Transient Voltage Surge Suppressors (TVSS).” Surge protectors have all the features of a power strip, but also have additional electronics to filter out excess voltage and/or radio-frequency (RF) noise which may damage the plugged-in electronics. As such, these are dual-listed by UL and also meet the requirements of UL 1363. UL 1363 power strips can be plastic or metal, with long cords or short, and they’re found anywhere and everywhere.If you are interested in learning more about RPT’s and the UL 1363 specification, you can access the full 70+ pages in the .pdf here.

People often wonder just how does a surge protector work. Without getting too deeply into the electronics behind it:
When the voltage rises above the accepted level, the surge protector suppresses the excess voltage to prevent it from passing though to the plugged in devices and causing harm. Specifically, internal components called metal oxide varistors (MOVs) absorb the excess voltage and divert it to the ground wire, preventing it from reaching the connected equipment. To function effectively, a surge protector must be connected to a properly wired and grounded AC outlet. Some surge protectors include LEDs that alert users to possible wiring problems as well as to indicate when the surge protection is no longer operating.

Any device that plugs into an AC outlet can benefit from a surge protector. The caveat is that most surge protection strips can only support up to about 15 Amps of current. That’s for EVERYTHING plugged into the strip. This is okay for the most vulnerable devices (e.g., those with memory and sensitive electronic circuitry) , which usually don’t consume huge amounts of current.  A surge protector is essential for:

  • PCs and computer peripherals such as printers, monitors, and routers
  • TVs, DVRs, cable boxes, satellite receivers, sound systems, and other home theater components
  • Video game systems
  • Lighting, tools, small appliances (e.g., coffee grinders, coffee makers), and other office equipment

These aren’t intended to be used with large appliances (microwaves, refrigerators, dishwashers, air-conditioners, heaters) or anything related to medical or life-sustaining. There are other devices specifically designed for these applications and requirements..

Because residential power outlets have three wires—hot line (H), neutral (N) and ground (G)—these surge protectors protect all three, covering the two protection modes: full normal mode (H-N) and common modes (N-G and H-G). They also filter out electromagnetic interference (EMI) and radio frequency interference (RFI) that can disrupt your electronics and inflict hardware damage or data loss.

In the event you do have a surge event and your electronics become damaged, Tripp Lite offers one of the best insurance and replacement policies of any vendor: $20,000 Ultimate Lifetime Insurance covers any connected components damaged by power surge. This is guaranteed lifetime protection for your equipment in case of surge damage, including direct lightning strikes. And it’s simple: Ultimate Lifetime Insurance coverage begins the moment you purchase the the power strip, with no forms to fill out or registrations to send in. Additionally, Tripp Lite surge suppressor products are backed by a lifetime product warranty and a rapid-response, no-questions-asked replacement policy that’s unmatched in the industry. A green diagnostic LED indicates that surge protection is available and working. If this PROTECTED LED ever goes out, simply return the strip to Tripp Lite for a free replacement.

Here are the key specs for our recommended surge protection strips for home use – you can get these in 4 foot and 6 foot lengths.

Tripp Lite 6 Outlet Surge Protector Power Strip (TLP604)( $8.74 – 4ft Cord)
Tripp Lite 6 Outlet Surge Protector Power Strip (TLP606)( $9.43 – 6ft Cord)

  • Both have 6 outlets with an extra large area at the end of the strip for a transformer / wall-wart type converter.
  • These can handle 15 Amps, which is better than the 10 Amps to 12 Amps of the competitors we looked at.
  • AC Suppression Joule Rating 790 (the higher the number the better, as this describes how much energy or surge the strip can handle)
  • AC Suppression Response Time < 1 ns (a “ns” or nano-second is one-billionth of a second, and the lower the number the better)
  • UL1449 Let Through Rating 500V (the lower the voltage the better, with many competitors coming in at 600V, 800V or higher)
  • UL1449 3rd Edition (AC Suppression) UL1449 3RD EDITION
  • UL1363 (Power Tap) UL1363cUL / CSA (Canada) cUL
  • Approvals Exceeds IEEE 587 category A&B specifications
  • Lifetime product warranty with free replacement
  • $20,000 Ultimate Lifetime Insurance

Before we end, just a few tips on how NOT to use power strips and surge protectors. These are the most common installation and usage violations that will get you into trouble

  • Daisy-Chaining: This is plugging one strip into another (and another, etc) to increase the length. Avoid this problem by purchasing the correct length cord for the application.
  • Improper Routing
  • Overloading: This plugging two many devices into a single strip by using multi-plugs, or devices which exceed the current capacity (e.g,, max 15A) such as refrigerators or microwaves
  • Improper Mounting: Strips should be on a flat vertical or horizontal surface, not dangling from ceilings, counter tops or desks. Where appropriate, the screw mounts should be used to secure the strip.
  • Improper Plug Connection: Plugs need to be firmly seated in the strip
  • Signs of Thermal Distress: These are intended for typical indoor residential use. Too hot and the plastic can melt, as well as causing the internal electronics to malfunction. Too cold and the plastic can become brittle and break.
  • Signs of Damage or Neglect
  • Improper Environmental Conditions: Dust, dirt, grease and other debris can adversely affect power strips. These should never be used in wet areas, near pools, water features or on boats.
  • Improper Grounding: The outlet the strip is plugged into must be appropriately grounded in order for the strip to provide protection. You can easily test your outlets as well as the power strip with an inexpensive Electrical Receptacle Wall Plug AC Outlet Ground Tester ($6.46). Also, you should never use a 3-prong to 2-prong convert to plug the strip into an ungrounded outlet. You’ll loose the benefits of having the surge protection electronics.
  • Tripping Hazards: Don’t leave strips on the floor, across open spaces or unsecured.I
  • Improper Application: Only use these for your small home electronics, and never for medical / life-sustaining equipment.
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