POWER ON: Guarding Against a Surge

UPC power supplyPOWER ON

Guarding against a surge. All big-ticket pieces of electronic equipment are at the mercy of power spikes: your desktop computer, your big-screen TV, your audio system and more. Fortunately, surge protectors offer relatively low-cost solutions that can help keep your gear and your data safe.


The most basic models of power strips offer little surge protection. So, consider them as nothing more than multi-outlet extension cords. While often equipped with a circuit breaker, they aren’t very effective in shielding your gadgets from harm. A true surge protector comes with a rating, typically measured in joules, that shows how much energy it can absorb before failing. Generally, a strip with a higher joule rating will offer greater protection.


Surge protectors come in many shapes and sizes, ranging from a large block with more than a dozen connectors to a single-outlet travel version. Consider a joule rating of 2,000 and above for your expensive or delicate equipment. Any wire that goes into your devices
can produce a power surge, so a good surge protector for your home office will also include connections for a phone line or network cables. For your cable system or TV, some surge protectors also come with a coaxial cable connection. Surge protectors work by absorbing excess voltage, so protection will degrade over time, depending on how much voltage has been absorbed. Once that protection is gone, it’s gone. While some devices have lights that indicate they are no longer working as intended, they are impossible to see when they’re behind the furniture. So, make sure you choose a surge protector with an auto-shutoff feature. Once it is unable to provide protection, the surge protector will stop providing power.


Commonly known as a UPS, uninterruptible power supplies offer surge protection and keep your equipment working when the power goes out. A blackout won’t damage your devices, but if a sudden power outage occurs while you’re saving a computer file, it can lead to data corruption and render the file inaccessible. A UPS can buy enough time to save files and shut down equipment properly. A UPS, however, cannot take the place of a
generator for long-term use during an outage. It’s still a battery, and its cost is typically tied to its capacity for providing power. If you only need enough time to save your work or power your internet for an hour, there are options starting under $100 that can do the job. Whatever you choose, a surge protector is a wise investment that more than pays for itself.