What is the difference between a power strip and a surge protector?

Answered by Frank Schwing

The difference between a power strip and a surge protector lies in their functionality and the level of protection they provide for your electronic devices. Let’s dive into the details.

Power strips, also known as extension cords, are devices that allow you to connect multiple electronic devices to a single power source. They typically feature multiple outlets, allowing you to plug in several devices simultaneously. Power strips are useful when you have limited wall outlets or need to power multiple devices in one location. They simply act as an extension of your existing power source, providing additional outlets for convenience.

On the other hand, surge protectors, also referred to as surge suppressors or surge protectors with power strips, offer an added layer of protection beyond the basic functionality of power strips. While they also provide multiple outlets for connecting multiple devices, their primary purpose is to safeguard your electronic equipment against power surges.

A power surge is a sudden, brief spike in electrical voltage that can occur due to various reasons, such as lightning strikes, utility grid issues, or electrical equipment malfunctions. These power surges can potentially damage or destroy sensitive electronic devices like computers, televisions, gaming consoles, or home theater systems.

Surge protectors are designed to absorb and redirect excess voltage from power surges away from your connected devices, thereby protecting them from potential harm. They contain built-in surge protection circuits that detect when a surge occurs and divert the excess electricity to a grounding wire, preventing it from reaching your devices. This additional layer of protection helps prolong the lifespan of your electronics and saves you from the hassle and cost of replacing damaged equipment.

To identify a surge protector, look for features such as a “surge protection rating” or “joule rating” mentioned on the packaging. The surge protection rating indicates the amount of energy the surge protector can absorb before it becomes ineffective. Higher ratings generally indicate better protection. Additionally, surge protectors may also have indicator lights to show whether the surge protection is still active or if it needs to be replaced.

It’s important to note that not all power strips are surge protectors. Some power strips may resemble surge protectors in appearance but lack the necessary surge protection features. Therefore, it’s crucial to carefully read the product descriptions and labels to ensure you are purchasing a surge protector if the added protection is a priority for you.

While both power strips and surge protectors offer multiple outlets for connecting electronic devices, surge protectors provide the added benefit of safeguarding your valuable equipment from power surges. If you want to protect your devices from potential damage caused by electrical surges, investing in a surge protector with a sufficient surge protection rating is highly recommended.