Best Surge Protectors Features

Related Categories

Surge Protectors

TV & Video

Receivers & Components

Home Theater

Why You Need One

Power surges, outages and irregularities can damage or destroy the electronics in your home unless they are protected. Whether you’re living in the country and experience regular failures or reside in the city with an occasional power hiccup, every home can benefit from some level or surge protection.

I Don't Think I've Ever Had a Surge

Even if you never have a major outage, small fluctuations in your home’s power can do damage over time. If you’ve ever seen the lights flicker or dim when your air conditioner turns on, you’ve experienced a voltage drop or fluctuation. Over time, even small, imperceptible power variations can cause gradual deterioration of your audio and video systems—and larger events like major power surges can be catastrophic. A good surge protector can extend the life of your valuable equipment by absorbing these damaging fluctuations before the power reaches your electronics.

I Just Have an Occasional Blackout

Surprisingly, it’s not the loss of power itself that causes damage to your sensitive electronics. The most harm occurs when the power is turned back on and the surge of electricity travels through your home and into your gear. Unless you have a whole-house surge protector, it’s a good idea to put audio/video components, computers and all electronics on a surge suppressor or power strip.

Key Surge Protector Features

  • Power Strip: Expands outlet to 8 receptacles. No Surge Protection
  • Basic: Usually 8 outlets and has a Joule rating showing how large a surge it can handle
  • Automatic Voltage Monitoring (AVM): Includes a "protect or disconnect" circuit which cuts power when voltage is too high or low
  • Line Conditioning: Filters out RF and other noise for cleaner power
  • Voltage Regulating: Ensures connected electronics receive a constant 120 volts and will disconnect if voltage is too high or low
  • Battery Backup: Built-in battery allows time to shut down AV gear properly
  • Green: Cuts electricity to select outlets when the main component is powered down.

Now That You're Convinced You Need a Surge Protector . . .

How About That $10 Power Strip at the Grocery Store?

Cheap power strips can be found everywhere. Most have some level of surge protection, but in the event of a major, prolonged surge can actually cause a house fire. As previously explained, MOVs help absorb extra energy in the event of voltage spike. These metal oxide varistor will get very hot and may burn up or explode if the surge is big enough. In some cases, the heat can melt the plastic housing on an inexpensive surge protector and start a fire that may damage or destroy your home. Better built surge protectors will encase their MOVs in a ceramic housing that will protect the surge protector against excess heat. In Addition, better built units will have a “protect or disconnect” circuit (see below) that will cut the electricity with the voltage gets too great and only use MOVs as a second layer of protection.

What Features To Look For

What Is Dirty Power

“Dirty power” is the result of electromagnetic interference (EMI) and radio frequency interference (RFI)—collectively called “noise”—in your power signal. Think of the static lines that sometimes appear on your TV when the vacuum cleaner is turned on, or the buzzing you might hear through your audio system when the microwave is running. While these are more obvious examples, all the electrical equipment in your home introduces some sort of noise into the power system, which can affect your electronics’ performance and cause gradual deterioration.


Noise Filtration

Some areas have a very high level of noise in the power lines. Because power lines are made of metal wire, they act like an antenna and can absorb radio signals, electromagnetic distortion, and any other junk that may be floating around in the air. This can result in spots or “noise” on your TV set and popping or hissing in your audio. Some surge protectors feature a specific level of “noise filtration” to virtually eliminate EMI and RFI from the power signal to your electronics and allow your equipment to deliver a higher level of audio and video performance.

Voltage Monitoring & Disconnect

All surge protectors are designed to absorb smaller power fluctuations that can damage your electronics over time. In the event of an unsafe spike or dip in power, models with a “disconnect or protect” system completely stop the flow of electricity at the surge protector—which could save your equipment.

You may notice that surge protectors with an auto disconnect feature have lower joule ratings than those without it. (See “How is the level of surge protection measured?” above.) This is because in the event of a major surge, these models disconnect the power instead of having to absorb the excess electricity.

Battery Backup

Some AV equipment needs to be shut down and cooled off properly or it will cause premature failure. A great example is rear projection TVs and home theater projectors. These electronics have a lamp inside that gets very hot when in use and requires a fan to help cool down once the unit is turned off.

When the power is suddenly cut, the fan cannot come on to cool the lamp and the life of bulb will be shortened. A battery backup can ensure there is sufficient time for these devices to shut down and cool off while still offering surge protection to connected electronics.

Voltage Regulator

Electronics in North America are designed and engineered to operate on 120 volts of power. In some cases, there may be too little or too much voltage coming out of your power outlets causing strain on your AV components. Over time, under or over voltage can cause damage or early failure to your home theater or 4K TV. Voltage regulators will take your available power and feed a very constant 120 volts to your electronics for superior performance and longer life.

Green Surge Protectors

Common Questions

Is a surge protector’s performance guaranteed?

Each surge protector comes with a connected equipment warranty, which covers the dollar value of the devices connected to it. Should the surge protector fail and your equipment become damaged as a result, the warranty will pay for repair or replacement of the affected devices. The coverage of these warranties can range from $50,000 to $5 million.

Can a surge protector also protect my phone line and Internet connection?

Some models of surge protector feature ports for your phone line, Ethernet or coax cables to prevent dirty power from affecting your communication connections. Surges can come from any wire leading to your AV gear so it’s important to connect all incoming cables into a quality home theater surge protector.

What are “green power options?”

Even when turned off or in “standby” mode, your HDTV, DVD player, and other electronics continue to draw power. A surge protector with green power options helps you improve your home’s energy efficiency by turning off power to selected outlets when the connected device is not in use, thus avoiding the electricity “leak.”

Closing Thoughts

Although the North American power grid is very reliable, there will be power dips, spikes and outages throughout the life of your electronics. Most power companies do not reimburse homeowners for damaged equipment, especially if it’s due to storms or acts of nature.

4K TV resolution and clarity has never been better and AV receivers will immerse you in your favorite movies or video games. This amazing technology is possibly by using advanced computer processors and microchips that are far advanced from decades gone by. Delicate circuit boards and solder joints aren’t designed to handle a large power spikes or lighting strikes.

Whether you only own a TV or have a whole rack of expensive home theater equipment and speakers, it would be wise to purchase a quality surge protector to protect your investment.