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How to Choose, Buy, and Safely Use a Good Surge Protector

How to Choose, Buy, and Safely Use a Good Surge Protector
Issue Time:2017-03-18

Most of us have more devices than we have plugs in the wall, which is why you'll likely find a surge protector behind most people's televisions and under our desks. However, not all surge protectors are alike, and some even put your gadgets at risk. We talked to an electrician to sort out how to tell the good ones from the bad ones, and how to use them safely.

Charles Ravenscraft (yes, that's Lifehacker writer Eric Ravenscraft's brother) is a licensed union electrician, and sat down with me to talk about how to choose the best surge protectors for your gadgets, and how to avoid accidents, electrical fires, and other dangerous situations when using them. Here's what you need to know.

Understand the Difference Between a Power Strip and a Surge Protector

First of all, not every power strip is a surge protector. It may sound basic, but it's a fundamental piece of knowledge you'll need. While a power strip just splits your outlet into multiple ports, a surge protector is designed to protect your computer, TV, and other electronics against power surges and any interference or noise on your power line. Power surges may not be an everyday event, but they're common enough that they can damage your equipment.

Choose the Right Surge Protector for Your Needs 

1.Buy the right number of ports
2.Consider the gear you'll plug into the surge protector
3.Check for the UL seal, and make sure it's a "transient voltage surge suppressor."
4.Check the surge protector's energy absorption rating, and its "clamping voltage."
5.Check the warranty.

Don't Daisy Chain Multiple Surge Protectors

Odds are you've daisy chained, or plugged a power strip into another power strip or surge protector, when you were desperate for more outlets. It's tempting, and it's easy, but it's also dangerous.

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