Why you need to replace your surge protector

If your surge protector(s) is more than three years old, it’s most likely unable to protect anything plugged into it. Surge protectors wear out and must be replaced. In this post I will attempt to explain why you need to replace your surge protector.

Before we continue, I have to mention that there is much more to be said about this topic and I am not an electrical engineer. I am presenting the material in a way that lay readers can gain information from.

How do  surge protectors wear out?

A surge protector is a power strip with surge protection. When the voltage rises above the accepted level, the surge protector suppresses the excess voltage to prevent it from causing harm. Internal components called metal oxide varistors (MOVs) absorb the excess voltage and divert it safely to the ground wire, preventing it from reaching the connected equipment.

Think of the surge protection, MOVs, like a cookie. The slightly surging electricity slowly eats away at the cookie. A lightning strike may eat the cookie all at once. When the cookie is gone, so is the protection. At that point, the surge protector is now just a power strip. When that limit is reached, the surge protector will no longer protect the equipment that is plugged into it, even though the outlets may be live and still supplying power.

It’s not only lightning that causes this. The electricity from the electric company comes into your building in an unrefined way. The voltage is constantly inconsistent. Spiking and dropping. Not to extremes but enough to slowly eat away at your surge protection by simply being plugged into the wall. Most electronics are not affected by this but computers can be sensitive to it.

Which surge protector is best?

Not all surge protectors are made the same. There are Chinese companies that slap together a plastic power strip and then add the least expensive MOVs (surge protection electronics). Don’t buy these.

Guarantees that your equipment will be covered for damage up to $500,000 or whatever amount are laughable. That promise is incredibly easy for the manufacturer to get out of and is rarely ever paid out. It’s best to pretend there is no guarantee.

Some companies have made a science of electrical protection, they measure their results and they work to improve their product.

How to choose a surge protector?

The surge protector must have a clamping voltage of 330 volts or less. The clamping speed is the amount of time it takes a surge protector to react when the clamping voltage is met or exceeded, the faster, the better.

A key measurement is the Joule rating which indicates how much energy the surge protector can absorb before it fails. The higher the number, the greater the protection provided.

A surge protector with up to 1000 Joules of surge protection is adequate for small electronics. Some components have sensitive circuitry requiring protection, but don’t store extensive data.

A surge protector with 1500 to 2500 Joules will provide sufficient protection for most office equipment.

Consider the highest Joule ratings which are 3000 and above, for home theater components, gaming consoles and any computer that stores important data … anything from customer lists to financial information to irreplaceable photos and favorite music.

Buying a surge protector can be frustrating but as a rule of thumb -with a good brand, the higher the Joules, the better the quality and performance overall.