They say lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place — but it doesn’t have to. A direct strike on your home can burn out every piece of electrical equipment you have connected.
Fortunately, direct strikes of this severity rarely happen, but nearby hits can still produce a surge of excess voltage that can fry the insides of your nice new plasma TV, video, DVD, sound system and computer. If it’s plugged into the wall, it’s vulnerable — and it can still be vulnerable even if the wall switch is turned off, which is why we’re advised to unplug electrical devices at the wall when there’s a storm. But even low-level surges can, over time, degrade electronic components and shorten the life of your equipment.
According to electricity suppliers, power fluctuations are inevitable. That’s where surge protection comes in. Surge protectors should let only a safe amount of electricity through, taking the excess and diverting it safely away from your valuable gear.
So, on the whole, surge protectors seem like a good idea. But there are questions to be considered:
- How big a surge will they really protect you from?
- When they take the sting out of a massive electricity surge, or even a smaller spike, how much electricity are they still letting through?
- Is this amount safe for your equipment?
- How much do you need to pay?
- Should you buy a model that includes a connected equipment warranty so you can replace your prized electronic gear if the worst happens?
- These are all important questions, so we set out to answer them — and our findings may shock you.
Please note: this information was current as of April 2009 but is still a useful guide to today's market.
- APC P5B-AZ
- ARLEC SWP-S
- Belkin F9S620au2M
- CABAC PB10SP
- Crest PRPBS6TC
- HPM D105PA6
- Jackson PT0888
- Monster AV800
- PowerGuard PGCP3906 Computer Protector
- PowerTech Plus MS4024
- PowerTech Plus MS4055
- Thor Smart Board A12F
Video: How we test surge protectors
We simulate lightning strikes on surge protectors to see if they can handle the load.