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Surge Protectors vs. Power Strips: What’s the Difference?

Surge protectors versus power strips. What’s really the difference? To be honest, is there a difference at all between the two? The answer is yes. There is a difference between surge protectors and power strips, as well as the purposes that they serve. Though the terms are often used interchangeably, they are not the same thing, and one may be more geared towards what you’re looking for based on your needs. With all of the devices that need to be plugged in and all of your most important information locked away in the cloud or somewhere in a file on your laptop, there is no wonder you are inquiring about a surge protector or power strip.


Why Surge Protectors and Power Strips are Important

Both of these electrical extensions provide some convenience and protection for you and your devices or appliances. As we continue to rely more and more upon electronic devices, it might prove beneficial that power strips and surge protectors be a part of your regular household items to have.


So, What’s the Difference? 

The distinction between a power strip and a surge protector is actually hinted at within their names. A power strip is an outlet extension that has many other outlets for you to use. It utilizes the same current from the outlet it is plugged into to distribute power to anything else plugged into the power strip.

Picture it. Your phone, iPad, laptop and speaker are all charging, at once, right next to you. Ah, yes. The beauty of not scouring your home for vacant outlet spots just so you can charge another device. Power strips allow you to do just that: plug up multiple devices in a single area.


Power Strips

Most houses in the United States are equipped with the standard two outlet socket (probably what you have now). While this may have been great, and most convenient for us when telephones were still attached to a cord, and iPads were considered a unicorn in the computer world, we have long since upgraded.

With a power strip, you can have a plugging station galore! You can plug in computers, audio equipment, video equipment, more lighting, network devices, power tools and more! Power strips also come equipped with an on and off switch. This allows you to conserve energy, and save on your electric bill a bit if it is not in use. Power strips supply convenience at your fingertips.


Surge Protectors

What makes surge protectors so fancy then?

Surge protectors function like a power strip, by allowing you to have more outlets, but also have a super power. So basically Clark Kent, but Superman.

Surge Protectors do exactly what the name entails: they protect your devices and appliances from surges, or spikes.


What is a Surge, or Spike?

An electrical spike, or surge, is an increase in voltage above the US standard of 120 volts. Any rise above that and your devices and appliances are at risk for some serious damage. A spike is a quick increase, usually lasting anywhere from two nanoseconds or less. A surge, however, is an increase in voltage that lasts the duration of three nanoseconds or more.

Though it is just a small difference in time, literally by billionths of a second, it can make a big difference in the damage to your devices. The mere change in time from a spike to a surge could require a complete repair for your home computer and loss of all of its data. Say goodbye to every file that’s important. Even if your devices withstand a surge or spike, it could mean that their longevity or functionality has taken a hit instead, still costing you repair money and more headaches. A surge protector, however, comes in to save the day!


Redirecting to Normal Levels

During an increase in voltage, a surge protector will redirect the extra voltage received to the ground wire so that the levels in the main wire, or hot wire (no we do not sponsor the travel site, it is really called a hot wire…because it stays hot with current), can stay at its normal levels.

Think of it like two people, you know, coexisting. One of them is a hot head, who, when they get really angry, are destructible to any and everything. This would be the surge or spike.

Thankfully, there is a mediator. They notice the hot head’s temperament and jam themselves in the middle of the situation as to keep everyone grounded.

Yes, surge protectors provide sweet peace and harmony so that all of your devices are protected and you are not stressing.


Which One is Right for Me?

Well, the cliché answer is that it depends.

If all you need are extra outlets to plug a couple more devices into, then a power strip might be your best bet. With an array of different lengths, and options with up to twenty-five extra outlets, power strips are most ideal if you only want to be able to connect and power a wide variety of things at once.

If your concern, however, lies within the protection of your devices and information, a surge protector will be your go to. A surge protector is not needed for every single device or appliance that you have in your house. We understand that you hold your coffee maker in high esteem and find it to be one of your most valuable possessions, but trust us when we say, it does not require a surge protector.

Items that utilize higher voltages and could amount to costly repairs would be most ideal to have a surge protector for. Things like your televisions and computers, which have voltage sensitive components, should be your highest priority as items to protect against a spike or surge.


Safety Precautions

Whether you’ve decided upon a surge protector, or a power strip as your electrical extension of need, both require safety precaution to be aware of. Since power strips add more outlets, it should be no harm to add another power strip on top of the one you have, right? And since surge protectors protect devices, it should mean double the protection if you plug in one on top of the other, correct?

Wrong! You should only use one surge protector or power strip at a time in a single outlet. Plugging multiple strips and protectors into each other at once is a fire hazard. Not to mention, it would defeat the purpose of the surge protector, and could overload your electrical system, causing symptoms like flickering. Knowing how to properly use your power strip and surge protector keeps you safe, and your appliances and devices running smoothly.


Stay Up to Date

Power strips and surge protectors have become essentials in our digital world today. Making sure that you know what you need, and the purposes they serve help you to understand how to better protect your electrical system.

If you are unsure about the function of your electrical system, it is always important to contact a professional electrician. They stay abreast on new electrical codes and the best safety protocols to protect you and your family during every repair and inspection.

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